Our People: A Civil Society
Programme participant John Skurr shares his experiences and thoughts on Session Two held at Fo Guang Shan Buddhist temple in Flat Bush.
Beauty within simplicity, enlightenment born from understanding. This is what I found as I wandered the beautiful grounds and listened to a number of inspirational speakers at the Fo Guang Shan Buddhist temple. As you arrive you are spellbound by the beauty of a facility that seems out of place within Auckland City. But after two wonderful days you understand just why it is very much at home in Auckland.
Part of our pre-reading concentrated on how to address poverty in society. One of the messages was that with monetary assistance people will create their own wealth. I personally struggled with this, having spent many years in hospitality trade witnessing hand-outs being misspent. So I entered the two days expecting to be engaged in heated debate over the topics presented.
It’s fair to say I have been enlightened. Over the two days we were given a wonderful insight into the challenges and opportunities available to the less advantaged within society. The clear message I took from our speakers was that if a catalyst was provided, the right people engaged, then communities were able to adapt to achieve their own change. From this we all took a lot of hope and a wide range of discussions occurred about how this could be adopted more widely in society.
We were challenged to consider the future of humanity if change continued at the same pace. What would the impact be of a greater reliance on robotics? Will we have more time to enjoy life? Will we become slaves to machines? Can we achieve immortality? What would that mean to the pressure we place on the planet? Are we destined for self-destruction? We were challenged by our speakers to consider if a variation of direction to a wisdom society would allow us to reset our pace and consider our environmental impact.
Auckland is now one of the most diverse cities in the world. This brings its own challenges, but also opportunities. It was wonderful to explore from an immigrant’s perspective the challenges that they face. I took away a couple of thoughts. How do we empower immigrants to feel comfortable in society and why are some races accepted where others are often discriminated against. I think as we move forward I think we need to consider one of Monique’s comments “Know your values and cultures impact on others”. Unless we understand each other’s perspective then we will struggle to live harmoniously.
One of the most memorable parts of the visit was the temple tour and time spent walking the grounds. We were made to feel extremely welcome. Vegetarian proved to be challenging for some of the crew (maybe just one), but personally I found it just another new experience that I loved. I found taking time to read the quotes hanging on the walls very inspiring and it gave me a greater sense of understanding of the Buddhist beliefs.
We were privileged to hear from three of our crew about their lives. All had faced many challenges, and it was very tough for them to share such intimate experiences with a group, who are really just strangers. It’s an experience I won’t forget. Their display of courage, self-belief and dogged determination is an example to all of us. Words can’t express the admiration and respect I have, not only for being able to share those experiences, but more for how those three have decided to rise above their challenges, grow from them and be the best they can. A truly inspirational hour.
We also took some time to reflect and develop ourselves further. Practicing and discussing our newly acquired skills within our triads. I also enjoyed getting to know the other participants more. The first session was very formal and unfamiliar. Friendships are well on their way to being built and I feel everyone is far more relaxed and open in their discussions.
I joined Leadership NZ to gain an insight and to challenge my beliefs about different cultures, practices, thoughts and experiences that I have never been exposed to. Two days at Fo Guang Shan provided a stimulating whilst still relaxed atmosphere for us all to explore and learn about the society we now live in. It seems appropriate to end this reflection with a quote from Desmond Tutu, which was shared with us at the start of the two days.
“Do your little bit of good where you are; it’s those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world”