(IBC, August 20, 2008)
Today, we are here making history in holding the first ever Convocation Ceremony of IBC. As the Chinese saying goes, "Every undertaking experiences difficulties at the beginning." IBC is a new undertaking, and its founding members, staff and students have all gone through considerable difficulties in arriving at this victorious stage. On this special occasion, while specially congratulating the first batch of graduates, I must express my heartfelt gratitude to all those who have contributed in various ways to the success of IBC: Its founding members, past and present Rectors, Vice-rectors, Chairmen and members of the IBC Council, past and present chairmen and members of the Academic Committee, all staff members, well-wishers and supporters.
Compared to the glorious days in the past, monastic institutions of all great religions in the world are experiencing spiritual decline to varying degrees. Buddhism is no exception, even if it could claim to fare better comparatively. Today, we often come across frustration expressed by the younger intelligent monks that genuine spiritual inspiration is hard to come: There are few monastic teachers who are at once great Buddhist scholars and profoundly spiritual and therefore truly inspiring. In brief, we might speak of a crisis of spiritual leadership in the modern materialistic world. The big question, then, is: How to produce a new generation of Sangha members who can at once inspire themselves as well as others learning the Dharma from them?
Such a question, no doubt, is more easily raised then answered. So far, no easy solution seems to be at sight. On the one hand, the "Sangha educators" need to understand that the younger Sangha members are living in a world which is a far cry from ancient India, and experiencing new (at least in form) psychological responses and facing new challenges. Accordingly, they cannot simply imitate the ancient conditions. On the other hand, the fundamental Buddhist values cannot be compromised. There are also various other difficulties, such as the obstacle of sectarianism which prevents mutual inspiration among worthy Sangha members belonging to the different traditions.
Nonetheless, difficult though it is, we must now make a start urgently. In the midst of our own imperfections as teachers in the monastic order, we must at least strive to make it possible for those younger Sangha members who are seeking a conducive environment to integrate both their intellectual learning and spiritual yearning, both prajñā and śraddhā.
Emulating the spirit of the great ancient Nālandā University in India, IBC was founded with the vision of establishing a unique training ground for the Buddhist Sangha. This ideal entails, among other things, the emphasis of a non-sectarian Spiritual Community -- as opposed to a mere institutionalized Group truly committed to the Triple Gems, and integrating scholarly Buddhist studies with spiritual praxis. In simpler terms, it means adding a spiritual dimension to scholastic pursuit (ancient or modern), and practicing the Buddhist ideal of kalyāna-mitratā. It is for this reason that, in addition to providing quality teachings of the university system, we specifically insist on the communal living of a harmonious Sangha, with morning and evening devotion and meditation in the total context of the spiritual life. We have no doubt a lot to learn from trials and errors, a lot of difficulties to overcome, and a long way to go. Let us all remain ever mindful of this vision and struggle together for its realization with Dharma-joy (dharma-prīti, dhamma-pīti).