• Document: Buddhism, Health, and Healing in a Chinese Community. Hongyu Wu
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Buddhism, Health, and Healing in a Chinese Community Hongyu Wu Introduction speech, and good intentions. If a person is suffering Through fieldwork conducted among members of from bad luck, he should not complain; the bad luck the Greater Boston Buddhist Cultural Center, this was in fact caused by his past misdeeds. He should project explores the relationship between people’s examine his own actions and try to mend his behav- religious practice, health, and healing. I address how ior through generosity, compassion, diligence, and the Center members’ religious beliefs influence their patience. On the other hand, if a person enjoys good views on health; how they interpret illness within luck, he should appreciate what he has and radiate the vocabulary of their religious beliefs and their what he has to other sentient beings through giving, culture; and what the whole repertoire of healing caring, and compassion. Therefore, Master Xingyun provided by their religion and culture is. The advocates that people practice Buddhism in daily Buddhist Cultural Center, established three years life and for the present world. If everyone is com- ago, is a branch of Foguangshan (Buddha Light passionate, patient, diligent, and ready to give, the Mountain) Temple, one of the largest Buddhist Pure Land can be realized in this world. (One point institutions in Taiwan. I want to clarify is that this Buddhist community Master Xingyun, the founder of Foguangshan, is belongs to the Mahayana tradition; therefore, it is an ardent advocate of Humanistic Buddhism. In his different from Tibetan Buddhism and from view, a Buddhist should not withdraw from the Theravada Buddhism in Southeast Asia.) world. Instead, a Buddhist should focus on being In recent years, the Humanistic Buddhism advo- engaged in the world—on caring for the living cated by Master Xingyun has become very popular rather than the dead; benefiting others rather than among Chinese people around the world. His benefiting oneself; and aiding others rather than speeches about Humanistic Buddhism have been practicing Buddhism for one’s own salvation.1 translated into English, French, and Spanish. In contrast to many other Buddhist sects, Master Foguangshan has established many branches all Xingyun teaches that the Pure Land that is free from over the world to meet the religious demands of suffering and full of happiness exists not only in the Chinese immigrants, as well as to promote Western World of Amitabha Buddha or the Eastern Buddhism. The Greater Boston Buddhist Cultural World of the Medicine Buddha, but in this world as Center at 950 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge, is well. Although suffering is one of the Four Noble such a branch. Approximately fifty people attend Truths that Buddha taught, the ultimate aim of this center on a regular basis. Many of them are Buddhism is to teach people how to liberate them- from Taiwan, and there are also some students and selves from suffering and gain happiness. The pri- scholars from Mainland China, some Vietnam-born mary teaching that people should absorb concerns Chinese, some Euro-Americans and Jewish the importance of karma, that is, the law of cause Americans. Meditation classes for adults are offered and effect. As the saying goes, “A bodhisattva every Tuesday and Thursday evening, and a medita- (enlightened being) cares about the cause, while lay tion class for children is held every Wednesday people care about the result.” If a person wants a night. Herb teas and vegetarian food are also served good result, he should create a good cause; there- at the Center. fore, every one should observe the Five Precepts (no During 2001–2002 I conducted structured inter- killing, no stealing, no sexual misconduct, no lying, views with nineteen people who frequent the Center and no intoxication). In this way people can estab- and in-depth interviews with the two Center priests. lish good ties with other people and all sentient Not all of the nineteen informants identify them- beings through their proper behavior, amiable selves as Buddhists. Two are Catholic, and one was 40 / Religious Healing in Boston born Christian but converted to Buddhism a few they reacted to the outside world. One told me that months before this project began. Although some she had suffered from stomach aches since she was were born into families with Buddhist traditions, nineteen, and her bad temper would make her they explain that they have made their own choice stomach ache much worse. After she had adopted a to believe in Buddhism. Most of the informants B

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