Protecting Life is the Original Intent of the Buddha
Director FGS Buddha Museum Shi Ru Chang
This album is a compilation of Master Hongyi’s calligraphy, Feng Zikai’s paintings, and Feng Yiyin’s artworks. Before releasing this book, I browsed through these artworks and felt a deep connection with the works. The exterior sides of the covered walkways at the Buddha Memorial Center (BMC) are sculpted with the reliefs of the Life Protection Murals. Whenever I see these murals, the images of Sakyamuni Buddha, Master Hongyi, Feng Zikai, Feng Yiyin, and even Venerable Master Hsing Yun would come to my mind.
Two thousand six hundred years ago, Sakaymuni Buddha became enlightened under the Bodhi tree. His first words were, “How rare! How rare! All sentient beings possess the wisdom and virtues of a Tathagata, but have yet to attain enlightenment because of their delusions and attachments.” These words point out the fact that all lives are equal in their Buddha nature. They could all become enlightened. In 1928 when Master Hongyi celebrated his 50th birthday, Feng Zikai gifted the Master 50 pieces of artwork from his own collection. The inscriptions on these artworks were later penned by Master Hongyi. Ten years later, Feng Zikai gifted Master Hongyi with another 60 pieces of artwork to celebrate his 60th birthday. The inscriptions on these artwork were again penned by Master Hongyi. After Master Hongyi passed away, Feng Zikai continued to create art. By Master Hongyi’s 100th posthumous birthday, Feng Zikai had created 450 pieces of art, and compiled them into a six-volume Protecting Lives Collection. Feng Zikai mentioned in his preface that, “Those who protect lives, protect their own hearts”… “Be rid of cruelty, let compassion grow, and treat others with compassion.”
When Venerable Master Hsing Yun built Fo Guang Shan in 1967, he started promoting Humanistic Buddhism. His views toward the environment were “protecting lives allows one’s compassion to grow… Buddhism advocates the ideas of no killing and protecting lives. Refraining from killing and protecting lives is a way to show respect for all sentient beings. And thus, Buddhist precepts play a proactive role in protecting animals.”
Once I guided a mother and son when they visited the BMC. The seven-year-old son arrived at the mural depicting Ants Move Home. He clumsily read out the words:
A group of ants at the foot of the wall was moving to the southern hill,
The leader acted as the guide while the commoner ants carried their food and rations,
They formed a long line that extended a long way, cutting across the middle of the road.
I moved small benches to cover their trail, and built a temporary veranda for them.
The ants moved underneath the veranda, fearless of anything untoward or calamitous.
Even though he did not recognize the characters, he still managed to finish reading. His mother explained what the words meant. Her son was fascinated by this concept and after a while declared, “Mommy, when our ants want to move house, you have to build a veranda for them!” His mother only smiled. He repeated his words and she nodded, but her son was adamant and repeated it a third time. This time she replied, “All right!” The boy was mollified and beamed with joy.
As I watched them leave, the incident brought back memories of a short video that I had seen online. The video showed a Portuguese boy who was at a dining table. When he saw the octopus on his plate, he refused to eat and asked, “This octopus isn’t real, right?” After his mother explained the concept to him, he asked if the octopus was still living in the ocean with only its head. When his mother explained that animals consumed by humans will be killed, the boy finally understood. He exclaimed, “So…all the animals we eat will die! These animals…we shouldn’t eat them, we should be protecting them!” When his mother heard this, she wept.
Apart from the Protecting Lives Collection, other pieces include verses from the Avatamsaka Sutra, Protecting Lives Poetry, and letters that Master Hongyi wrote to Feng Zikai. Artworks by Feng Zikai and his daughter, Feng Yiyin, integrate both poetry and painting, allowing the viewer to admire both art forms at the same time. These artworks are representations of the original intentions of the Buddha. They are ideal educational resources about valuing life and epitomize Humanistic Buddhism.