Human Domain, Practice Field and Deconstruction:
Master Sheng Yen on How to Build a Pure Land in Modern Society
Master Sheng Yen had devoted himself to promoting the ideal of “building a pure land on earth”. The ideal emphasizes that “human domain” is the key concern of Buddhist soteriological enterprise, and that our modern society is the main field of Buddhist practices. Moreover, as the method of building a pure land on earth, “spiritual environmentalism” implies the deconstruction of polluted fields to rebuild pure fields through spiritual purification with loving kindness for our society.
The essay will firstly argue that the humanistic Buddhist ideals of Master Sheng Yen are aimed at the modern transformation of Chinese Buddhism which is not to secularize Buddhism, but to reorient it towards the “human domain”, holding true to the original intents of Buddha, so that Buddhism could continue its soteriological enterprise in our secular modern society.
Secondly, the essay will suggest that the ideal of “building a pure land on earth” is to be realized in modern society (especially industrialized and urbanized capitalist society), taking it as the main field of humanistic Buddhist practices. Facing the social field structures developed by modernization, Master Sheng Yen observes and analyzes the causes of suffering in modern lives, and provides “spiritual environmentalism” as a solution. The essay will then investigate into how “spiritual environmentalism” deconstructs the polluted fields to rebuild our modern society into a pure land on earth.
In conclusion, the essay will point out that because of its emphasizing the “human domain” and the deconstruction of social fields, the ideal of “building a pure land on earth” has left the pursuit of the modernization of Chinese Buddhism behind and entered the contexts of post-modern Buddhist practices.