Dharma Panel: Finding Our Way Out of Crisis—Part 1

Thank you for helping us reach 1000 subscribers on FGS English Dharma Services YouTube Channel. To celebrate this milestone, we will be holding our first LIVE streaming. 

2020 has been a very challenging year. Crisis of increasing scale are affecting human lives as we know it, forcing us to stop and rethink about the impact of human actions. In times like this, we need the light of the Dharma to show us the ways out of crisis. 

Here is the transcript of the Dharma panel. If you have any questions or comments, feel free to leave it in this blog.

Panel Topic: Finding Our Way Out of Crisis

Ven. Chueh Fan, Abbess of FGS Toronto
Ven. Juewei, Director, Humanistic Buddhism Centre, NTI
Ven. Miao Guang, Deputy Chancellor of FGS Institute of Humanistic Buddhism

Ven. Zhi Yue, FGS Institute of Humanistic Buddhism


Auspicious blessings to our viewers across the world. Welcome to this session of Fo Guang Shan English Dharma Services Live. Before we begin, we’d like to take this moment to thank all of our viewers for supporting this channel. Because of your support, this channel has grown to 1000 subscribers, and as promised, we have organized this live session to celebrate this milestone.

Before the panel, we would like to start with a brief chanting session.
The procedure is as follows:

  1. Ode to Triple Gem
  2. Triple Invocation of Namo Sakyamuni Buddha
  3. Heart Sutra
  4. Taking Refuge
  5. Dedication of Merits

The procedure and the text will be shown on the screen so that everyone can follow along. Without further ado, let us join our palms and join the Dharma chanting. Let’s begin!



That concludes our chanting session. For our live panel today, we have three of our Dharma teachers at Fo Guang Shan joining us, spanning from three different time zones. Let’s welcome them:

1. Venerable Chueh FanVenerable Chueh Fan is from Canada. She is the abbess of Fo Guang Shan Toronto. 

2. Venerable JueweiNext from down under in Australia, we have Ven. Juewei, who is the Director of the Humanistic Buddhism Centre at Nan Tien Institute.

3. Venerable Miao GuangLast but not least, FGS headquarters in Taiwan, we have Ven. Miao Guang, the Deputy Director of Fo Guang Shan Institute of Humanistic Buddhism, and the Personal Interpreter to Ven. Master Hsing Yun, the founder of Fo Guang Shan.

A big welcome to all three of our panelists.

Also here with us live, we have some special guest audience:

  1. Ina (Orlando, FL)
  2. Chris (Australia)
  3. Priscilla (Australia)
  4. Calvin (Hong Kong)
  5. Pauline (Hong Kong)

Thank you for being with us today.

Though we come from different parts of the globe, this year, 2020, has been very challenging no matter where we come from. In times like this, we need the light of the Dharma to show us the ways out of crisis. Therefore for this session, we will invite each of our speakers to speak on their personal practice of the Noble Eightfold Path and the Buddhist Response to the Current World.

In addition, we will also invite our Zoom guest audience, our practitioners from across the world to give some comments and questions in response to our panelists.

Question 1

The Buddha taught us the Noble Eightfold Path as a way to alleviate suffering and guide practitioners towards tranquility. As practitioners of the Dharma, we often talk about the different “Ways” or “Paths” that allow us to navigate ourselves towards Buddhahood and enlightenment. So the first question goes to Venerable Miao Guang:

What is the Noble Eightfold Path and why did the Buddha teach this? 
What do you find so inspirational about this?

Venerable Miao Guang:

Thank you Ven. Zhi Yue for the questions. Good morning to our venerables in North America, in Australia, from around the world, and our bodhisattvas. Thank you for joining us in this session. First of all, I would like to thank everybody for making the effort to come together online. This connection to me is extremely meaningful for the fact that we are still able to see each other, feel each other’s presence, and to share each other’s wisdom. That’s why in the past three months we’ve made an effort to keep everybody connected through Dharma on this particular channel, Fo Guang Shan English Dharma Services. We hope you have found it fulfilling, as we have too.

Back to the question raised by Venerable Zhi Yue about finding our way out of crisis. I feel that throughout the past three months we have continued to search for a way to maintain our peace or to sustain our lifestyle despite the changes. Allow me to begin with the more theoretical part before we begin with the more practical aspects by everybody else.

When we speak of “way,” we think of a direction, a method, or a path that we are treading in order to reach our goal. This is something that the Buddha has done and also achieved. Therefore, he turns around and goes, “I’m going to point out a way for you to also follow and try.” But I feel that at this moment when we look at these global crises, “way” also means “order,” which needs to be followed by the collective global community in order for us to sustain our lifestyles in a very different light. Not only do we hope to find a way out of the global crisis, I feel that in this moment the Dharma also paves a path for us to think about how we lead ourselves to a “normal.” “Normal” can be regarded by people in a very different light. For some, they feel “normal” is life as it is, how life goes on. But when we put ourselves under the lens of the Dharma or reality, we also realize that the whole idea of normal is more than just life as it is. But with an ideal or vision, we see life as it should be.

Life as it should be lies under the guidance of the Buddha and allows us to think about how we should think, reflect, and act. In other words, when we come back to this path pointed out by the Buddha in order for us to find a way to end all of this suffering, we now look at this method of recovering from the impact of COVID-19, recovery from job loss, from isolation, from uncertainty, from a life that has been put on halt. I feel that we are all experiencing these, yet the experience differs individual from individual.

Last week, we had an online session with the young adults in North America. Because of the shelter in place order, everybody has to stay home. This lack of connection with other human beings seems to have an immense impact. Just the opening of “How is everybody?”, the fifty or sixty youths online started to well up. That’s when I felt the huge importance to find a way to make sure everybody is actually connected and everybody can stay hopeful in spite of all of these crises.

In simple words, when we talk about the Buddhist way out of crisis, including the crisis of COVID-19, the crisis of life that has been put on halt, the crisis of normal that has been taken away from us and where we are being asked to readjust, I see the Noble Eightfold Path not only as a teaching, but as a gateway for transformation.

How do we ensure that this transformation happens smoothly, and in a positive way that helps us get through all of these, either as a way, a path, or a method? It’s really up to every individual, but the Noble Eightfold Path puts it into simple words in a way.

I. Think Wisely: Right View and Right Thought

First of all, when we look at this, it allows us to think wisely. How do we think wisely in the face of COVID-19? It begins with right view. In a simple definition, right view means a clear and objective assessment, not of what’s happening, but what has caused it to happen. For example, what has caused COVID-19 to happen? Think about this, instead of blaming one another or finding a quick solution. 

First of all, right view allows us to realize we are all in this together. Remember, no one is exempted. We are experiencing this on different levels. Maybe one way or another we are all being a part of the cause of this outbreak, either as a result from a lack of respect for the ecological system, a lack of respect for all forms of life on earth that carries this virus that somehow should be isolated from human transmission, but the way we consume animal products may have been a cause or a result of this global connection in which we take convenience for granted. This quick connection not only enables us to find a quick solution to our goals but at the same time, it has created a quick path for transmission and all the problems as well. Right view allows us to think about if we have been a part of this cause, this means we can also be a part of this cause that can bring everybody out of this. So we are all in this together. Anything that we do can have an effect on this. There is never an act too small. There is never a person who does not make a difference. This is right view.

Second, right thought, based on right view, asks us to process all of this information without being led by the nose by personal emotions and benefits only, because the solution is a chain, so no links should be missing. A quick conclusion on how we can think wisely is, first, start from the perspective that we are all connected. We are all in this together, therefore, we can all create a cause to the solution together. After thinking wisely is, second, to take disciplined actions that start from the self. Going from right view and right thought, how do we make meaningful changes, and how do we regard all of this with humility. This is really a wake-up call for humanity. How do we respond in a respectful and considerate way for the dignity of all lives on earth? This is something that we need to think about wisely.

II. Take Disciplined Actions: Right Speech, Right Action and Right Livelihood

Having thought about this wisely, now we take actions that are disciplined and start from the self, which involves right action. We feel that this world already has too many blames, lies, words of discouragements, or divisions. Right speech guides us in the direction of allowing us to speak with words of gratitude, to thank everybody who is making an effort, thank everybody who is trying to inspire a better change, to thank everybody for being a part of this. At the same time, speak words of encouragement so that we don’t lose hope. At this point, having gone through the pandemic for three months, what we need now are words of hope and encouragement.

Following right speech, we have right action, which is similar to right speech. How do we act in a way that speaks to our true character of kindness and compassion? Furthermore, right livelihood. We have to rethink the way we sustain our economic life. Money does not come first anymore. Profit, convenience does not come first anymore. So how do we reshape our careers in a way that maintains the structure of resilience and togetherness? That’s something which right livelihood asks us to think about.

III. Focus on New Traits of Change: Right Mindfulness and Right Concentration

The third part of the Noble Eightfold Path is asking us to stay focused on the new traits of change in our lives. Following right view and right thought—establishing a new attitude, and then discipline our actions, so we maintain a sense of respect for all lives. Now, how do we stay lock-in on this mindset? It is quite easy for us to lose our focus. After one day or two, we tend to fall back into that lethargic pattern. It’s very hard to work from home, making sure we are diligent, so right mindfulness asks us to always stay in the here and now. Focus with a clear and undistracted mind so that as we come across all the incidents and information on the COVID-19, you need to think about, “What is the goal of your action?” “What is the means you are adopting to really achieve that goal?” and “Are you mindful of each moment as you adopt the method?” Finally, always think about whether your actions are in accord with the Buddha’s teachings. Right mindfulness allows you to always stay in that momentum, which is right concentration. So that in every moment of life, whether in fear, joy, or uncertainty, check if you are aware and clear on what you are focusing on.

Iv. Stay Alert and Resilient: Right Effort

The fourth part of the Noble Eightfold Path is to stay alert, stay resilient, which comes through the teaching of right effort, which means to protect all good causes, inspire and transform unwholesome ones whenever we detect and are aware of these negative emotions that are creating more fear. Remember, we are all trying to find a way out of this. What happens when we find ourselves lost? What happens when we can’t find a way out of this? We are stuck at home, we are not sure whether we will have a job tomorrow. In times when this happened, one thing we can remember is, even if we can’t find the way now, we can always trust in our compassion and kindness that lies at the bottom of your heart. Just as Venerable Master Hsing Yun once said, “We can be without anything but we can never be without compassion. Where there is compassion, there is a way.

Thinking wisely through right thought and right view
Acting discipline through right speech, right action, right livelihood
Remain focus on the new traits developing from right mindfulness and right concentration
Stay alert and stay resilient through right effort

Hopefully, this explanation of the Noble Eightfold Path, in a nutshell, can point us in some kind of direction out of crisis and into a new order.