America is a country open to immigrants. In addition to its original settlers, American people now represent cultures from all over the world. Jewish, Mexican, Spanish, French, German, Russian, African and Chinese people including those who came from provinces in China as well as Taiwan. There are also other Asians, including Japanese, Korean, Vietnamese, Malaysian, Indian and many more. Regardless of the number of races and cultures, they all mix together in the big American “salad bowl”.


The countries and regions in the world are clearly divided by boundaries just as there are distinctions among different cultures. The latter are most dangerous because the most difficult problems to deal with in this world are not between rich and poor or wise and foolish but between cultures.


Differences in geography, languages, customs and skin color are usually the cause of ethnic and racial conflicts. Even within the same culture, the gap between the rich and poor also can create tension. When so much diversity exists within so many different cultures, the complications often bring about adversity and resentment.


But we need not be led by tension, adversity and resentment. We can choose harmony. Just like when one eats a salad bowl, one can either pick out each vegetable and eat it on its own or mix them up and enjoy a mouthful of mixed flavors instead. Would you prefer eating just spinach? Or a mix of spinach, tomatoes, walnut and cranberry? Barring any food allergy, the latter would mean more flavors and enjoyment, not to mention nutrients.


For years, Buddha’s Light International Association (BLIA), the lay people organization of Fo Guang Shan Buddhist order, has been encouraging its members to be global villagers. Because we all live in the same world, we are part of an interconnected life. Therefore, only those who share the principle of coexistence with all humanity are truly qualified to be modern people of the 21st century. This message resounds with every sentient being as we all move on to the next decade.


Chinese all over the world will celebrate Lunar New Year of the Rat on Jan. 25, 2020. This year also brings the beginning of a new 12-year cycle in the Chinese calendar. New decade and new cycle, there is no better time than now to adopt a new way of life, of coexistence and harmony.


Every year my master, Venerable Master Hsing Yun, would write a new year blessing based on the zodiac animal. In the Year of the Rat in year 2020, he wrote “Every Journey in this World is a Path to Happiness.”


As a director of a Chinese Buddhist temple, I would like to make my temple as a platform for intercultural and intracultural communication. Visitors at my temple would learn the Buddha’s teaching through various cultural events and programs. The journey to my temple is a Path to Happiness. This is my New Year’s resolution. I believe that cultural events and programs serve as a solid bridge to connect people of different ethnic backgrounds to walk on the Path of Happiness.


Fo Guang Shan Xiang Yun Temple Austin, a member of its world-wide Fo Guang Shan organization, has been celebrating Chinese New Year with the Austin community for many years. We open our temple to Austinites of all ages and cultures. We celebrate by showcasing Chinese culture and other cultures. This year’s celebration on Jan. 26 is no different. From Chinese Lion Dance to Indonesian and Puerto Rican Dances, we believe in coming together and sharing joy and diversity. We believe in strength in diversity and harmony. We enjoy and trust in the taste of a mixed salad bowl.


Venerable Jue Ji is the director of Fo Guang Shan Xiang Yun Temple Austin and Dharma teacher. Doing Good Together is compiled by Interfaith Action of Central Texas, interfaithtexas.org.