Venerable Hsing Yun urges students to return to class

Venerable Master Hsing Yun of Fo Guang Shan monastery in southern Taiwan weighed in on the ongoing student protest at the Legislative Yuan Sunday. The respected master said the student movement has run its course and it is time for both students and legislators to return to their appointed places and resume what they are meant to do so that the rest of society can return to normal.

Hsing Yun tempered his remarks by noting that ordinarily he does not get involved in social movements that are not religious in nature. He explained that if he rushes in to give an opinion on some issue there is always the chance that someone will accuse him of trying to sow religious unrest or trying to interfere in politics. He added that there is a widespread misconception in Taiwan that only the general population should be allowed to participate in political affairs. Most people believe that those in the religious world should hold themselves apart from political parties and political issues and stick to their own affairs.

Hsing Yun expressed his hope that the people of Taiwan would focus on moderation and refrain from lying, stealing, killing or causing discord. He said people should always speak the truth. As part of that, President Ma Ying-jeou and the students protesters should engage in dialogue. Legislators should go back to the Legislative Yuan and hold meetings, and students should return to class so that the rest of society can calm down again.

The Buddhist Master also voiced his hopes that the various media in Taiwan would follow their conscience and work to serve the people of Taiwan. He said those in the media should strive to provide fair coverage of the student movement in order to serve the rest of the country.

Hsing Yun added that he believes Wang Jin-pyng and other legislative leaders should go back to meeting with each other as a part of the normal operations of the legislative body. Similarly, President Ma Ying-jeou should communicate with the students to establish a dialogue, and of course, the procedures and mechanisms in question must be discussed and studied.

He noted that the student protest began with dissatisfaction with the cross-strait trade agreement in services and escalated to occupation of the Legislative Yuan and a break-in into the Executive Yuan and associated vandalism. The Master said a student movement should be a very sacred thing because these are all young students who are naïve and passionate, with great concern for the community. At the same time, however, they also need to pay attention to the rule of law and their duties as citizens, and they must remain rational in their actions.

Hsing Yun said that in the May Fourth Movement of 1919, students called for an upwelling of patriotism to counter unequal treaties and bullying by foreign powers. He noted that students were in the van in the movement and their achievements won them a special place in history. With the Sunflower movement, the strife is internal rather than external, and it is easier to get into issues of revenge and retribution.

He said that until the students came forward no one else had spoken out on problems related to cross-strait issues. Too many people said matters of right and wrong should be left up to the scholars. But then the students came forth with energy and passion, and they were willing to face hunger and cold in the halls of the Legislative Yuan. Some got sick and many were mentally exhausted, but it has all been worth the effort. The Master said the students have done their part, but now the question is: who will pick up where they leave off?