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Buddhist masters rule Taiwan's religious soul back
By Leo Maliksi / Taiwan News, Supplement Writer
The Jing Si or Still Thoughts Hall. / Alex Chan
The Jing Si or Still Thoughts Hall. / Alex Chan
Siddhartha Gautama, the founder of Buddhism (佛教), was born around 500 B.C. in the Himalayan foothills in what is now southern Nepal. The son of a king of the Sakya clan of the Kshatriya (or warrior) caste, he was later known as Sakyamuni (釋迦牟尼), "the sage of the Sakyas."

Buddhist scriptures relate that at the age of 29, wishing to see more of the world, Siddhartha left the palace grounds in his chariot. During several excursions, he saw an old man, a sick man, a corpse, and a mendicant monk. From the first three of these sights he learned the inescapability of suffering and death, and in the serenity of the monk he saw his destiny. Forsaking his wife and his son, he secretly left the palace and became a wandering ascetic.

Meditation and mortification away from the extremes of self-indulgence were the main features of his asceticism. When he was 35 years old, after 49 days of meditating, he attained Enlightenment, which according to some traditions meant a complete awakening and insight into the cause of human suffering that is ignorance.


Taiwan's 4 major Buddhist temples

There are around 300 million Buddhists worldwide, the majority in Asia. In Taiwan there are 5.48 million Buddhism believers (about one in every four residents) over 20,000 Buddhist nuns and 10,000 monks, according to the Oxford Centre for Buddhist Studies.


Tzu Chi (慈濟)
Still Thought Hall (靜思堂) and Still Thought Abode (精室)

 Tzu Chi Founder Master Cheng Yen, right, with some disciples.
Tzu Chi Founder Master Cheng Yen, right, with some disciples. / File Photo

The Buddhist Compassion Relief Tzu Chi Foundation (慈濟基金會) is one of Taiwan's four major Buddhist sects. Buddhist Master Cheng Yen (證嚴法師) founded Tzu Chi on May 14, 1966, after having an experience similar to that of Sakyamuni himself. One day in 1965, she went to visit a follower at a hospital, and saw a pool of blood on the ground left by a woman who could not afford treatment for a miscarriage. The pain and compassion that she felt at this sight was the catalyst that made her establish Tzu Chi.

The Foundation's Still Thought Hall, located on Jhongyang Road in Hualien, includes a medical center, a temple, and a university. It is a 3,700 square meter (as large as 13 basketball courts) structure that represents the timeless Buddhist spirit. The Jing Si Abode, or Still Thoughts Abode, is the residence of Master Cheng Yen and her monastic disciples, the cradle of the Tzu Chi sect, and the birthplace of the Tzu Chi Foundation. "Jing" and "Si" are two Chinese words that are roughly translated to "Still Thoughts." Both structures are pervaded by a Zen-like serenity that makes you want to relieve yourself of worldly concerns and purify your spirit.

Address: No. 703, Jhongyang Rd., Sec. 3, Hualien City

Tel: (03) 856-1825

Website: http://www.tzuchi.org.tw/

On the southeastern side of Foguangshan stands a 120-meter tall Buddha statue.
On the southeastern side of Foguangshan stands a 120-meter tall Buddha statue. / Fokuangshan

Foguangshan (佛光山) (Light of Buddha Mountain)

The Tahsiungpao, Tapei, Tachih, and Dashu shrines are the main structures of Foguangshan, located to the northeast of Tashu village in Kaohsiung County. On the southeastern side of Foguangshan stands a 120-meter tall Buddha Amitaabha statue. Its main square is surrounded by 480 standing Buddhas. Foguangshan has more than 10,000 Guanyin statues, and more than a thousand large and small Buddha statues and lanterns of light rest in the 14,800 niches on the walls of the four shrines.

Venerable Master Hsing Yun is the founder of Foguangshan.
Venerable Master Hsing Yun is the founder of Foguangshan. / Fokuangshan

Venerable Master Hsing Yun (星雲大師), the founder of the Fo Guang Shan International Buddhist Order, and his disciples established this Buddhist center of southern Taiwan. Born in Jiangsu Province, China in 1927, Master Hsing Yun entered a monastery near Nanjing at age twelve. He was fully ordained in 1941, and in 1949, amid the turbulence of civil war, he came to Taiwan where he began to fulfill his long-held vow of promoting Humanistic Buddhism (人間佛教).

Humanistic Buddhism brings spiritual practices to daily life. With an emphasis on not needing to "go some place else" to find enlightenment, we can realize our true nature in the here and now, within this precious human life and this world. When we actualize altruism, joyfulness, and universality, we are practicing the fundamental concepts of Humanistic Buddhism. The Buddhist order's lay service organization, Buddha's Light International Association, has 185 branches in Taiwan and around the world.

Address: No. 153, Singtian Road, Singtian Village, Dashu Township, Kaohsiung County

How to get there

By bus:

From the bus station in front of the Kaohsiung Railway Station, take the direct Kaohsiung Bus to Foguangshan. Kaohsiung Bus: (07)312-8140

By car:

At the Sinshih section of Freeway 1 > Take National Highway 8 (through the Jhongliao Tunnel) > National Highway 10 toward Cishan and exit at the Dashu interchange > Turn right on Provincial Highway 21 > Foguangshan.


Chung Tai Chan Monastery (中台禪寺)

The main building of Chung Tai Chan Monastery resembles a person sitting in meditation.
The main building of Chung Tai Chan Monastery resembles a person sitting in meditation. / Chung Tai Chan

In 1987, Buddhist Grand Master Wei Chueh built Ling Quan ("Spiritual Spring") Chan Monastery (靈泉禪寺) as a refuge where his disciples could cultivate their spiritual lives through peaceful meditation. Master Wei taught his disciples to nurture a calm and penetrating spirit in order to "reach enlightenment to the ultimate truth-awakening the mind and the senses to see the true nature, and thus become a Buddha." This was the essence of his Dharma teachings that would help revitalize Chan (Zen) Buddhism in Taiwan. According to the Buddhist Dictionary, Dharma, Fa (法) in Chinese has the combined meanings of "phenomenon, constituent, and factor."It has come to mean "Buddhist teachings."

Soon, Ling Quan Chan Monastery was too small to accommodate the ever-increasing number of followers eager for his teaching. The Grand Master wanted to build a complete environment for those who wish to learn the Buddha Dharma, and in 1992 started working with architects to design the Chung Tai Chan Monastery. After three years of planning and seven years of construction, this landmark building opened its doors on September 1, 2001.

Address: No. 2, Jhongtai Rd., Puli, Nantou County

Tel: (049) 293-0215

Email: ctworld@mail.ctcm.org.tw

How to get there

By bus:

Take Kuokuang Bus from Taipei West Station to Puli, then take a taxi to Chung Tai Chan Monastery.

Kuokuang Bus: (02)2381-0731; Nantou Bus: (049)298-4031; Fonglong Bus: (049) 277-4609

By car:

Freeway 1 > Exit at the Daya Interchange>Provincial Highway 74 (Taichung- Changhua Expressway) >Provincial Highway 14 >Caotun ?Puli >then follow the signs to Chung Tai Chan Monastery.


Dharma Drum Mountain (法鼓山)

Master Sheng Yen of Dharma Drum Mountain.
Master Sheng Yen of Dharma Drum Mountain. / File Photo

Dharma Drum Mountain developed from Nung Chan Monastery (農禪寺) and the Chung-Hwa Institute of Buddhist Culture (中華佛學研究所), which were both founded by Venerable Master Dongchu (東初法師). Nung Chan Monastery, whose early residents dedicated themselves to the practice of Chan and grew their own food (hence its name, as "Nung" here means "to farm"), was established in 1975 when Master Dongchu decided to promote Buddhist culture in Taiwan.

In 1978, Master Sheng Yen (聖嚴法師) succeeded Venerable Master Dongchu as the abbot of Nung Chan Monastery and the Chung-Hwa Institute of Buddhist Culture, carrying on his master's vocation and popularizing the Buddhadharma by converting it into concepts and methods that everyone can understand, accept, and use. With the increasing number of devotees at Nung Chan Monastery and students at the Chung-Hwa Institute of Buddhist Studies, in 1989 a plot of land in Jinshan Township, Taipei County, was purchased.

The residence of Master Sheng Yen.
The residence of Master Sheng Yen. / Dharma Drum Monastery

Master Sheng Yen named this land "Dharma Drum Mountain," and the organization Dharma Drum Mountain was formally established.

In recent years, Dharma Drum Mountain's ideal of "Protecting the Spiritual Environment" has gained international recognition and all kinds of exchanges and dialogues have increased in frequency.



Address: No.14-5, Sanjie Village, Jinshan, Taipei

Tel: (02) 2498-7171

Fax: (02) 2498-9029


Web: www.ddm.org.tw