|Most Venerable Thích Huệ Thông. — VNA/VNS Photo
On the eve of the 9th National Buddhist Congress, Most Venerable Thích Huệ Thông, Deputy Secretary-General and Chief of Office 2 of the Central Committee of the Việt Nam Buddhist Sangha (VBS) talked to Vietnam News Agency about the event and the Sangha’s future activities.
What are the outstanding Buddhist achievements of the Vietnamese Buddhist Sangha in the past?
In the last term, the advantages were many, but there was also a lot of challenges. However, in the spirit of solidarity, harmony and fierceness of the Buddhist Sangha of Việt Nam, we were determined to complete the programme and the Resolution of the 8th National Congress.
As we can see, the achievements in the last term have been seen in most areas, especially foreign affairs. Regarding diplomacy, in the international arena, Vietnamese Buddhism has responded positively to the proposed programmes, such as organising and participating in conferences, seminars, and receiving international delegations. In particular, we succeeded in organising the Great Buddha's Birthday - Vesak 2019, which was highly appreciated by the world community for the ability and organisation of Vietnamese Buddhism.
Regarding the issues of raising awareness, preaching Dharma, education and charity work, most goals are completed as set out by the programme, bringing stability and development of Vietnamese Buddhism in the past term.
Among the nine goals set out by the 8th National Congress, the eighth goal is to improve communication and consider this as a channel for disseminating the Dharma. The Sangha focuses on applying information technology to office work, implementing electronic administration and deploying it to a number of provinces and cities. In the field of communication, the application of the results of the Fourth Industrial Revolution to lectures, teaching and meetings has brought great results. Especially since the COVID-19 pandemic, the Buddhist Sangha has been using smart technology to maintain operations effectively.
Why did the Sangha choose the theme "Discipline - Responsibility - Solidarity - Development" at this Congress? What does this mean in the context of global integration and the development of our country today?
During more than 40 years of history, from 1981, the Most Venerable Master of the Vietnamese Buddhist Sangha chooses a theme that matched each historical period.
For example, for the first time, the theme of the Congress was “Stability, Unity for Development”. We have to settle down first. Solidarity has been the consistent spirit of the Sangha since the time of the Buddha, and there is stability, unity, and development.
When it is really stable, in the second stage, the Sangha sets the theme as "Intellectual - Discipline - Integration - Development". Integrating into a multi-dimensional world, Buddhism must be led by wisdom.
Wisdom is a basic attribute of Buddhism, but using it requires a more determined manner. Using collective wisdom to illuminate and distinguish clearly. And by illuminating and discriminating like that, we will not be influenced or lose the essence of Buddhism when we integrate.
Discipline is a basic element that Buddhism has used throughout history since Buddhism appeared on this planet. Only then will we be able to develop when we integrate.
Discipline has become even more important in the current context as it covers the adherence to Buddhist commandments, other regulations set by the Buddha and predecessors, the VBS’s Charter and rules, as well as the State’s laws, including the Law on Belief and Religion.
Discipline thus, firstly, is to strengthen the spirit of Buddhist precepts among the members of the organisation. Secondly, it is to emphasise the roles and responsibilities of each member of the Sangha organisation, especially the leaders of the Sangha at all levels. Because if we are irresponsible, without discipline, surely the Sangha cannot develop sustainably or stand firm.
Discipline and the sense of responsibility are given the top priority in this tenure since without those factors, the VBS will be unable to develop sustainably or stand firm during the integration process to develop in line with the spirit of Buddhism.
At this congress, the Sangha will amend its Charter, can you tell us what contents will be revised?
In the past congresses and 41 years, the Việt Nam Buddhist Sangha has undergone six revisions of the Charter. This time, the Charter Amendment Committee has given out a number of factors.
Firstly, the amendment of the Charter must meet the needs of Buddhist monks, nuns and followers, meet aspirations, and bring legitimate benefits to members of the Sangha organisation in a clear and consistent manner and in accordance with the law.
Secondly, amending the Charter is to bring seriousness to the management of monks and nuns. Previously, we could stipulate in some other documents, but the binding nature is not high.
This amendment to the Charter will be consistent with the Law on Belief and Religion in particular and other legal provisions in general. This is the top priority content that the Charter Amendment Committee is aiming for.
This charter requires that a monastery be established at a grassroots level, for example, a temple will have a management board, which is recognised as an affiliated religious organisation. When there is a lawful affiliated religious organisation, all rights and needs will be fully met by the law, such as the construction of a new place of worship, or activities in the nature of a religious organisation.
Amendments to the Charter this period will also stipulate in more detail the relevant property issues in accordance with the Land Law, financial matters, and some more.
In addition to the achievements, it can also be seen that in the past term, there were issues within the Sangha that are pressing public opinion. So how are the regulations on appointment and ordaining in the future term revised to ensure the discipline, unity and development of the Sangha. What solutions does the Sangha have to strengthen the management of dignitaries and positions?
There is no organisation that does not have their internal problems. However, if an individual violates and affects the reputation of the Việt Nam Buddhist Sangha, the Sangha will have regulations to deal with that member.
In fact, the issue of handling such members has existed since the time of the Buddha. And over the past eight terms, the Việt Nam Buddhist Sangha has always mentioned discipline in the Charter. This is what the Sangha has done throughout the years.
Regulations on the ordination, promotion and ordination of Buddhist dignitaries have been detailed in the Charter over the terms, clearly stated in the rules of the Board of Sangha and in the regulations of the Sangha. At this Congress, the Sangha will also continue to correct previously raised issues, make more appropriate adjustments. — VNS