In July of 2018, I was again invited to the UNESCO peace conference that I had attended the previous year in Paris. My old associate, Mark and another volunteer I had met, Hui Rong, asked if I would help create a series of videos to be played at the conference this year. My bosses, Yitsen and David, offered to sponsor my trip as well.
A theme of the conference that year was the importance of restoring religion as education, something I found very intriguing. Today, many people think that religion is superstitious due to the overemphasis placed on forms and rituals. But at the core of every religion is teaching people how to love.
Last year, UNESCO gave master Chin Kung an office at UNESCO called the Association of Master Chin Kung’s Friends at UNESCO. Its purpose is to serve as a platform for people who want to create world peace. This year, they published their first book: God Loves All Beings. The book is a compilation of quotes from scriptures of 11 of the world’s major religions. Its purpose is to show the similarities between each faith’s wisdom.
For the video I was to create, I wanted to incorporate some passages from this book. Below are some of the quotes which stuck out to me.
True peace and tranquility will only be realized when every soul will have become the well-wisher of all mankind. – The Tabernacle of Unity 1:9
The bodies of all Buddhas are just one reality-body; one mind, one in wisdom, the same in power and fearlessness. -The Avatamsaka Sutra
One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in all. -The Bible, Ephesians 4:6
The benevolent regard heaven, earth and all beings as one. Everything is a part of oneself. -The Collection of Works of Chenghao and Chengyi
All faces are His faces; all heads, His heads; all necks, His necks. He dwells in the causal hearts of all beings. He is the all-pervading Bhagavan. Therefore He is the omnipresent and merciful Lord. -Shvetashvatara Upanishad
We made you into nations and tribes, that you may know each other. -The Holy Qur’an
Just as you do not like misery, in the same way others also do not like it. Knowing this, you should do unto them what you want them to do unto you. -Bhagavati Aradhana, 780
Thou shalt love they neighbor as thyself: I am the Lord. -The Bible, Leviticus 19:18
The True One is pervading each and every heart. He Himself unites us in Union with Himself; the True Mansion of his Presence is close at hand. – SGGS, p. 20
The Universe is ever changing, and everything is interrelated as One. Once we realize the oneness, there will be nothing we do not know. But if we do not realize the oneness, there will be nothing that we truly know. -Wenzi
To them, the Pure Mind, who is united in God, through his power replied: associate closely with Truth. Be good and unite Right-Mindedness. Hold fast unto them. -Yasna 32:2
To me, each quote seemed so similar, like it could come from any of the 11 faiths. And that was the point of the book after all, to show how all religions are the same wisdom and that they all teach peace and love. They use different words that all point to the same thing.
I spent weeks poring over footage of Master Chin Kung meeting with ambassadors discussing how to realize world peace through religion as education. Some of the most insightful thoughts I found are below.
“All saints are manifestations of Buddha. The language and method of teaching used is different depending on the place. Therefore all beings can receive the teachings of the saints and sages. We don’t realize that in reality it is actually one being delivering teachings in different forms. Why is this? It’s because the wisdom of each is the same.” – Master Chin Kung
This really resonated true for me, and I had always thought that the teachings of different saints and sages like the Buddha or Jesus are actually very similar.
“The biggest problem a country has is exactly in the factor of the family. And by not having families in a good state, the country is sick. And you’re creating leaders that don’t have a good base. So therefore they cannot govern well. So instead of trying to fix things separately, countries must think of families.” -Ambassador
I thought this was a very wise assessment, and it makes a lot of sense. Parents are the primary teachers in most people’s lives, if the examples they set are not sound, how can the children learn what is right and decent?
Master Chin Kung and Ambassadors
“It just occurred to me, that the establishment of the office (Master Chin Kong’s Friends at UNESCO) here was probably arranged by the God of all religions. …Education, science, and culture are still indispensable. The grand cohesion of education, science, and culture will be able to bring stability and harmony to the world. Therefore I believe that this office was bestowed upon us by God. Let us all unite. All these ambassadors have been chosen by God.” -Master Chin Kung
I believe that God works through each one of us, so it seems natural that He/She would work through people at an organization like UNESCO. Education, science, and culture are the wisdom we have accumulated over the centuries to bring us to where we are today. They’re very important.
I worked on three separate movies, but in the end it was too much work to produce all three to a high level of quality. So I worked with Hui Rong and another volunteer to produce one video welcoming everyone to the peace conference. Unfortunately, for reasons unknown to me, it was never shown. But here it is for your viewing pleasure:
I arrived at the conference one week in advance. I stayed with Mark and Big Bear at a nice little hotel near the Arc de Triomphe. Each morning I would wake up and have breakfast at a cafe near the hotel and then work on the movie; I worked on it right up until the day before the conference. After that, I would walk with Mark and Big Bear to Master Chin Kung’s Friends at UNESCO office, where I met some of the team who worked there.
There were about three or four people close in age to Big Bear and I, including one guy who was a fellow videographer. He had produced the below video for the Friends at UNESCO office. It’s a bit abstract but very well done and has great cinematography.
Mark, Big Bear, and I
Outside the hotel
A few days before the conference, Yitsen took the Chunnel train from London to Paris so that we could go meet Yitsen’s friend, Andrea, who owned a distribution company that distributed Akasa’s products. It was Yitsen’s hope that one day I would return to the US and set up a similar distribution facility there. We arrived early at the restaurant where we were to meet, so we found a bench near a small river to sit and wait. While we were waiting, Yitsen told me the story of how she had started Akasa.
Many years ago, she had worked in sales for a Taiwanese manufacturer of computer fans. One of their customers was in England and so she would make business trips there. Eventually, in expansion efforts, her company set up an office in England. The office received its first shipment but at the same time, her company ended up having to close. Yitsen was left with a choice: she could close down the office or continue to run it but on her own. She chose the latter, and Akasa was born. “The best plan is no plan,” she often said. “Everything comes together and works out for the best.”
I don’t remember much of what we talked about at the restaurant with Andrea and her colleague, but I recall it was a pleasant meeting. At one point Yitsen said to Andrea, “Nick has a present for you.” “I do?” I thought. Yitsen had had me bring a box of mooncakes from Taiwan to Paris without telling me why. Apparently it was a gift for Andrea and it was from me. I gave it to her.
The conference was a similar format to the previous year in that many ambassadors and religious leaders spoke about how world peace could be achieved and is being achieved. Many speakers mentioned various peace projects they had been a part of or witnessed. I recall one French priest talking about his work in the Middle East building a church or other structure. Also, like last year, an ancestral remembrance ceremony was held.
Venerable Wu Xing
My dream job – UNESCO conference interpreter
I recognized a lot of the same people there from last year. Professor Hughes, the vice chancellor the the University of Wales Trinity Saint David, whom I had met in Fuzhou the previous year, was there. “Hello!” he said to me excitedly when he saw me. “Is Big Bear here too?” Venerable Wu Dao and some of the venerables and employees of Hwadzan were also there. Venerable Wu Dao greeted me happily as he always did.
Stefanie and Amy, two of my old interpreter colleagues at Stratus Video and fellow volunteer translators who had worked with me on the translations of Governing Principles of Ancient China, were also at the conference serving as volunteers.
Like last year, in addition to working on the video welcoming people to the conference, I was to create another video on my impressions of the conference. I spent much of the conference collecting footage with Big Bear for this video. As part of the same endeavor, I interviewed many people on what their definition of love was. Below is the final video containing the interviews.
Like the previous year, there was a table set up in the lobby with many free books on religion, traditional Chinese culture, and other similar topics. My attention was drawn to a short publication entitled “Symbols of Wisdom: A Compilation of Scholars’ Comments on the Value of Chinese Characters and Classical Chinese.”
Its pages were filled with insights on the Chinese characters and Classical Chinese from such scholars as Swedish sinologist, Bernhard Karlgren (1889–1978), a pioneer in the study of Chinese characters in the West, Göran Malmqvist, a Swedish linguist and student of Mr. Karlgren, Arnold Toynbee, a British historian, Joseph Needham, a British sinologist and scientist, and even Gottfried Leibniz (1646–1716), a German mathematician and philosopher—apparently he had a passion for the Chinese language and culture.
Classical Chinese is a written form of Chinese that has existed for more than 3,000 years. It has been used as the written Esperanto in China for centuries and makes it possible for people speaking different languages (say Mandarin and Cantonese) to understand one another through writing. This phenomena may very well also have contributed to China remaining united throughout the centuries, a claim few other, if any, countries today can make.
The publication emphasized the importance of preserving Classical Chinese and the achievements and insights of westerners who had spent their lives dedicated to studying it. For both ancient Chinese scholars and modern day sinologists, the pursuit of learning Classical Chinese and the Chinese classics, was a lifelong endeavor. Passing on this knowledge and wisdom accumulated over the centuries to future generations was practically a sacred mission.
Confucius said, “A dedicated scholar must be resolute because he carries such an important social responsibility and there is a long way for him to fulfill his duty. To take it upon oneself to benefit others and impart everyone with the virtue of benevolence, is it not essentially important? Fulfilling his duty to the last breath of his life, is it not a long way to go?”
Mr. Karlgren and Mr. Malmqvist experienced hunger, danger, and homelessness in their pursuit of studying Classical Chinese. Mencius has said, “When God is about to confer a major mission on a person, HE will first test the chosen one’s will power and endurance. Therefore, the person will be subject to extreme hardships of destitution and harsh physical and mental challenges so he will become resolute and be able to rid of worldly desires.”
Classical Chinese fascinated me, this book had struck something deep inside of me. Thoughts of learning it stayed with me over the next several weeks, and when I got back to Taiwan, I began to study it.
Besides attending the conference and working on the video, I spent most of my time hanging out with friends. My first day in Paris that year was also my birthday, and I met up with my buddy Peter who took me out to dinner for my birthday. We had known each other ever since our time as English teachers in China eight years ago. In that time we had hung out on three continents: Europe, Asia, and North America. I think he is the only person I can say I have done this with.
One evening after the conference, the Australia contingent of Pure Land volunteers took a cruise down the Seine river. Peter, Stefanie, and I joined in and afterwards grabbed dinner. It was a wonderful evening.
David had also come to Paris to attend the conference and after it was over, I arranged a meeting between he and Yitsen and Mark and Big Bear, since they had never met before. The five of us met at a cafe and Mark, David, and Yitsen were immediately engrossed in conversation. They talked about volunteering for Master Chin Kung, Akasa, and the conference. There was also talk of Mark and Big Bear possibly working for Akasa.
My former Chinese teacher whom I had in Jiaxing, Ruby, was also living in Paris. It was the first time I had seen her since 2013 when I left Jiaxing. One night, she showed me a good French restaurant and then we explored the streets of Paris, including a bookstore and gelato stand.
For the second time, I met Master Chin Kung. Mark, Big Bear, and I were invited to his home in Paris for dinner one evening. There were lots of other people there, mostly other volunteers and some people who worked at UNESCO. During our dinner the topic of President Trump was brought up. Master Chin Kung asked me what my thoughts were on him. I responded with something like, “I don’t really watch the news or follow politics.” But I wish I had said something like, “He’s a hooligan and a terrible role model.” This would have been closer to how I actually felt about him.
After dinner Master Chin Kung took a walk outside in the courtyard. Many of the volunteers, including us, joined him. At one point his neighbor came home and Master Chin Kung greeted him. One of the volunteers gave some Buddhist prayer beads to Master Chin Kung to give to the neighbor.
After the walk, Master Chin Kung returned home to his living room and watched a history documentary. Mark, Big Bear, and I sat with him on the couch watching TV for a while before leaving.
Master Chin Kung’s apartment
Master Chin Kung’s apartment
Walking in the courtyard with Master Chin Kung
While the conference was again interesting, it didn’t have the same weight for me as it had the previous year when everything was so new. This year, what really stuck out to me was working on the videos, seeing familiar faces, stumbling onto Classical Chinese, Yitsen telling me the story of Akasa’s founding, and seeing Master Chin Kung again.