I. Facts and Figures
The world's media is flourishing and it seems to quickly reach its saturation peak within a few decades. From many monotonous websites of this millennium started with images and poor audio and video files had to be waited for ages to watch the content, nowadays there are countless "magics" of the Internet, allowing users to access all sources of information fully alive with sound and pictures, and especially capable of immediate broadcast while the events are taking place. Websites are built extremely rich in content and forms, and also take advantage of the advanced technology that allows display to be responsive across all devices with different screen widths, from a very large screen to a smart phone that just fits in the palm of the hand ... It all can display the appropriate content of a standard website properly designed. It is technically said that the transmission of information today on the Internet seems like it cannot be easier, faster and more convenient, because everything seems to have reached its perfect.
And how about the quality of content? This is an important thing to note. While the transmission and showing techniques being rapidly developed with dizzying speed, changing from hour to hour, day to day, the people who use these techniques seem unable to catch up with all the new systems to take advantage of them. This has led to many of the websites having impressive forms but poor content – most of them are repetition and lack of creativity - to be constructed, and therefore do not meet the real needs of the end users, even sometimes causing the viewer to "get lost" in the forest of unselected information, instead of finding exactly what they need.
Theoretically, in such an environment of diversity and richness, users need to "upgrade" themselves to a higher level to be able to take advantage of circumstances. However, among billions of internet users, not everyone is capable or qualified to do that. And most of the time they may feel lost or overwhelmed between the "internet forest".
Discussing this issue would be a too big category if not quite vague and elusive, so our comments here will be limited only to the Buddhist media – especially Vietnamese Buddhist media, because that is what we have been thinking over for years.
Currently there are over 500 Vietnamese Buddhist sites worldwide. Each day there are dozens of new articles, hundreds of Buddhist news are reported, spreading over the Internet through these websites. However, with the gaps between webmasters' knowledge and new technologies, many of these sites do not really take advantage of the advanced techniques and by no way properly selected information to make it easier for users to access. The biggest difficulty for users is that they almost always must access to a massive amount of information which is strangely similar in structure and content. In other words, the current common drawback of the Buddhist communication network is that we are missing properly selected and useful information. Although the information is spreading largely in quantity, and rich in content, but it almost is not selective nor codified in a reasonable manner.
From a different perspective, Buddhist communication over the Internet is opening up an amazing ability to spread the Dharma. While important Dharma talks or retreats for Buddhists remain limited in the major cities and some regions, the online communication via internet network increasingly narrows the previous limit. Internet traffic is increasingly universal and easily obtained, from the high-speed fiber-optic network to 3G systems (and some places have 4G) introduced everywhere. This has created conditions for most people that can access the Internet, even in some remote areas. In addition to this, the development of a variety of connected devices such as iPhone, iPad, laptop or even very cheap smartphones... has opened access to the Internet for those with low incomes in society. Vietnamese population using the Internet official statistics in mid-2012 is more than 30 million people. With ultra-fast speed of development during the last 5 years, this figure today (2016) would have grown to many times higher. And with the number of Vietnamese people living globally, in areas where technical and economic conditions are better than in the country, the proportion of Internet users is certainly much higher. Because of this, the use of the Internet as a means of spreading the Dharma not only is an advantage of the times, but also has become an essential need to be able to give the Buddha's teachings to everyone.
We are very happy and praise the undeniable effect of great retreats held on a large scale. Many Buddhists want to listen to Dharma and spend a lot of time and money to attend the retreats. Each retreat of Hoang Phap Pagoda (Hoc Mon) has thousands of people from many provinces in the country attending. Some Vietnamese Buddhists come to Thailand to take part in the retreats held by the Plum Village every year. And over the world there are many Buddhists that must travel hundreds or thousands of miles to attend retreats in large Dharma centers or monasteries... However, we need to look deeper into issues to realize a truth: how many Buddhists can afford that? Time and costs are always very difficult barriers to overcome for many people. Moreover, such retreats do not happen often, while the demand for learning Dharma is a need that must be met in everyday life.
From the above perceptions, through years of restless concern, we always think of a form of organization that can make the most of the advantages of modern information technology to meet the learning needs and practice of Buddhist Dharma everywhere, while also combining those activities to contribute to building community in the spirit of service. And such an organization also needs to create the ability to connect all Buddhists in the spirit of service, so that everyone can contribute to the service of others selflessly, but through the contribution to others, each person also receives benefit from a general community which is built and developed better and better.
And this is a prerequisite for giving birth to the United Buddhist Foundation, with its Vietnamese name of "Liên Phật Hội".
From the above statements, the United Buddhist Foundation proposes the following purposes:
- Taking advantage of the Internet to bring the Buddhist Dharma to everyone, including sutras, Buddhist books, Dharma talks from teachers... providing everyone with the use of dictionaries to look up Buddhist terminologies, to study the Dharma... through advanced techniques and reasonable selected and organized information. The United Buddhist Foundation uses all means and capabilities available to target a specific goal: Wherever there's Internet access, anyone can learn and practice Dharma.
- Applying Dharma right into our daily lives, sharing the values of material and spiritual in the spirit of altruism as the Buddha's teaching. Using the organization of online courses, the social philanthropy, support of education, health care volunteers, Dharma books... to connect people to the Buddhist spirit of service in the community. In general, all the United Buddhist Foundation's activities will always aim at: When each person thinks about everyone, everyone will benefit.
The United Buddhist Foundation attempts to reach its purposes through a unique principle, and that is connecting and dedicating.
Connecting because, per Buddhist teachings, the essence of this world already is an interdependent relationship of everyone. Each one cannot act alone in pursuit of benefits or peace and happiness for themselves. Connecting together, each of us will have more strength, will get the support from the community, and thus can more easily complete efforts to serve ourselves and others.
Dedicating is also per the Buddha's teachings, for anyone who serves others is serving oneself. Through the service of others in a spirit of selfless altruism, we will cultivate the qualities of compassion as the Buddha has taught, and that is the only true method so that each person can attain lasting peace and happiness.
Connecting without serving, these connections will not be sustainable, because they do not really bring joy and benefits for both parties.
Serving without connecting then, no matter how strong your wish to serve is, it is very difficult to realize because there are not enough conditions to implement.
Thus, the principle of the United Buddhist Foundation is connecting and dedicating, and this will continue in the future.
According to the principle of connecting, the United Buddhist Foundation welcomes the participation of all individuals and organizations with the purpose of serving others, spreading the Dharma irrespectively of regionals, sectarians or practice traditions. The Foundation's members are operating independently to serve under the direction and their own way, in accordance with the principles of the Foundation, but there's absolutely no dependence or dominating over one another. The only purpose of connecting is to help and support each other.
According to the principle of dedicated serving, all activities of the United Buddhist Foundation are absolutely non-profit, not only in the online communication activities, but also all offline activities. The United Buddhist Foundation serves the community with self-reliance of its members and will not organize fundraising.
For the purposes and principles set out, the United Buddhist Foundation will take the appropriate direction of action from time to time, so that it is always in line with the guiding principles of the Foundation and has the highest efficiency in achieving its goals.
According to the current reality and the availability of the Foundation, the following orientations will be undertaken:
1. Use of the official websites of the Foundation (https://lienphathoi.org and http://unitedbuddhist.org) as storing and transmitting channel to spread Dharma in many different forms. Taking advantage of the existing database of the Open-Heart Community (https://rongmotamhon.net) to continue to develop.
2. Developing existing audio books of the Open-Heart Collection to increasingly serve the need of Buddhists listening to the Dharma. This section also includes the implementation of any content necessary for the practice of Buddhists and the United Buddhist Foundation can resolve the copyrights.
3. Selecting and publishing sutras and Buddhist books relevant to the practice of the Buddhists, especially for Buddhist beginners. The publishing works may be periodical or on festive occasions during the year, depending on the capabilities and convenience.
4. Participating in organized philanthropy, promoting and supporting the activities of social charity and other individuals. This section also includes connecting and supporting other Buddhist sites if required.
5. Organizing Dharma talks and spreading the contents, and connecting to other Buddhist societies to help spreading their Dharma talks if possible. This section also includes the invitation of other teachers to give Dharma talks and for recording and broadcasting the contents.
6. Organizing offline activities (retreats, courses...) annually at the right time to create a platform to promote online activities more efficiently.
With the six basic scopes of working outlined above, the United Buddhist Foundation will leverage resources and capabilities available to a reasonable allocation for each activity. The expansion or change in the foregoing depending on the actual situation and needs the approval of the full discussion of the Executive Board.
This document has been reviewed and approved by the Executive Committee to be implemented from the date of adoption.
I. Facts and Figures