Back to Index


327 BUDDHISM IN TAIWAN Chapter Six. The Period of Pluralization


Chapter Six





I. Background
     A. Chronology
     B. Factors That Contributed to Pluralization
II. The Chinese Buddhist Lay Association
III. Fo Kuang Shan
     A. Biography of Ven. Xingyun
     B. The Founding and Elaboration of Fo Kuang Shan
     C. Developments in Fo Kuang Shan after 1989
     D. "Fo Kuang Buddhism" as a New Form of Chinese Buddhist Sectarianism
     E. Conclusions
IV. The Buddhist Compassion Relief Tzu Chi Association
     A. Ven. Zhengyan and the History of the Buddhist Compassion Relief Tzu Chi Association
     B. The Association as a Lay Organization
     C. The Religious and Moral Vision of the Tzu Chi Association
     D. The Tzu Chi Association as a Women's Religious Phenomenon
     V. Other New Buddhist Organizations



     The Buddhist Association of the Republic of China commanded an almost-complete monopoly in. the field of Buddhi5t organizations for the first few decades after Retrocession. This is not the case today, however: the World Directory of Buddhist Organizations, updated annually and published by the Dharma-Wheel Publishing Group [Falun Zazhi She 法輪雜誌社], has seventeen entries under the rubric "Nationwide Buddhist Organizations," and four of these are marked as revised entries since the previous year's edition.(1) The BAROC appears in this list as first among equals, and one notices many groups whose names suggest functions similar to those fulfilled previously by the BAROC alone. For instance, one may see the "Chinese Buddhist Temple Federation" [Zhonghua Fosi Xiehui 中華佛寺協會], the "Buddha's Light International Association, R.O.C." [Guoji Foguang Hui Zhonghua Zonghui 國際佛光會中華總會], the "Contemporary Buddhist Studies Association of the R.O.C." [Zhonghua Minguo Xiandai Fojiaoxue Hui



328 BUDDHISM IN TAIWAN Chapter Six. The Period of Pluralization

華民國現代佛教學會], the "Chinese Buddhist Sangha Association" [Zhongguo Fojiao Sengqie Hui 中國佛教僧加會|, not to be confused with the World Chinese Buddhist Sangha Council discussed earlier] and so on. Some of them list high functionaries within the BAROC as their chief executives, but many do not.

     Such a situation would have been impossible only a short time ago. This chapter will be concerned with when and why this pluralization [duoyuanhua 多元化] took place, and what it means for Buddhism in Taiwan. After these general considerations, it will move on to an examination of the two largest alternative Buddhist organizations on the island: Fo Kuang Shan and the Buddhist Compassion Relief Tz'u-Chi Association.



I. Background:

     What does the term "pluralization" signify? On the surface level, it refers to the proliferation of other Buddhist organizations and groups on Taiwan after Retrocession, in particular those that directly challenge the BAROC's hegemonic claim of representing Buddhists in the Republic of China nationwide. Looking below the surface, it refers to the divergent ideals that these organizations represent and here one distinction becomes apparent. Some of these groups, represented in this chapter by Fo Kuang Shan, do not necessarily deviate from the ideals promoted all along by the BAROC, but merely provide an alternative route for their realization. Others, represented here by the Buddhist Compassion Relief Tzu Chi Association, articulate a new vision of Buddhist life and practice explicitly



329 BUDDHISM IN TAIWAN Chapter Six. The Period of Pluralization

adapted for Taiwan's current social and religious needs.

     A. Chronology. As for the time frame, many scholars in Taiwan follow the lead of the sociologist Yao Lixiang 姚麗香 in dating the "period of pluralization" to the early 1970s.(2) This is the time period when these two largest and most important rival groups were founded. Although this periodization may be useful in some respects, it must be treated carefully for two reasons. First, one must be careful not to infer from it that the BAROC enjoyed complete hegemony over Buddhist affairs before 1970. As we shall see, at least one splinter organization pre-dates 1970, albeit by only a few years. More importantly, one must bear in mind the complaints raised by Dongchu and Nanting about the grudging participation and dues delinquency that plagued the BAROC during the early years. This would appear to indicate the presence before 1970 of a significant population of Buddhists for whom the BAROC was irrelevant, despised, or both.

     Second, Prof. Yao's writings on the subject of Buddhist pluralization predate some very important political developments of the late 1980s that opened the floodgates for the establishment of alternative organizations. In her articles to date, "pluralization" generally points to the existence of a handful of rival organizations. Because of these political developments, which will be discussed



330 BUDDHISM IN TAIWAN Chapter Six. The Period of Pluralization

below, the years since 1987 could be said to represent a new phase of increased pluralization.

     Thus, it would be more useful to take dates such as 1970, 1987, and 1989 as signposts demarcating periods of increasing intensity in the process of pluralization. The early complaints of the BAROC leadership appear to indicate that the seeds of this movement were present from the early 1950s, but remained underground because of such factors as poor communications, political turmoil, economic uncertainty, and Martial Law. The tendency towards pluralization first came to concrete expression in 1968 with the appearance of the first alternative organization, gathered steam during the 1970s when Fo Kuang Shan and the Buddhist Compassion Relief Tz'u-Chi Association took root, and came to maturity in the late 1980s and early 1990s with the establishment of groups that competed directly with the BAROC in all spheres.

     B. Factors That Contributed to Pluralization. Several factors combined to break the BAROC's monopoly as an organization. Some of these factors existed within the BAROC itself, and others were external to it.

     1. Internal Factors. In a real sense, the BAROC contributed to its own loss of hegemony in several ways, some of which came up for discussion in the previous chapter. For example, we have seen that the BAROC charter explicitly excludes the laity from occupying more than one-third of the leadership positions, whether in the National Congress, the Board of Directors, the Board of Supervisors,



331 BUDDHISM IN TAIWAN Chapter Six. The Period of Pluralization

or any subunit of the BAROC.(3) This is justified by traditional Buddhist concepts of hierarchy and deference, which place laymen above laywomen, nuns above laity, and monks above everyone. However, one of the hallmarks of Buddhism in the twentieth-century has been the increased involvement of laity in spheres of activity previously reserved to clergy, and many laity now demand greater participation in the life and vision of the Buddhist religion.(4)

     Another internal factor already noted above is the extremely dosed circle of leadership at the top of the BAROC hierarchy. A5 the years went by and it became more and more evident that only a small clique enjoyed access to real executive authority within the upper echelori5 of the Association, more and more of the rank and file became disaffected with it and sought other avenues for activity.

     Coupled with these two factors which appear to be built in to the very structure of the BAROC, there are other, more amorphous influences at work as well. Prof. Yao reports that many Buddhist clergy resigned their membership in the BAROC after the electoral improprieties of the Eighth National Congress in 1974.(5) Another factor at work is the continued tension between "Taiwanese" and



332 BUDDHISM IN TAIWAN Chapter Six. The Period of Pluralization

"mainlanders" in society. As we shall see, many of those who flock to join the Buddhist Compassion Relief Tzu Chi Association are drawn by the founder's humble origins in Taiwan village society and her appeal to nativist sentiments. Finally, despite the BAROC's claims to represent all of Chinese Buddhism, in fact it does not represent even the Buddhism in the one province over which it maintains any jurisdiction. In the last chapter we took note of Ven. Dongchu's complaints that the arbitrary apportionment of seats in the National Congress made a fiction of the BAROC's claims to representation, and this claim is further undermined by the refusal of many Buddhists in Taiwan to join. In 1967 Ven. Shengyan noted that, of Taiwan's estimated six to eight million Buddhists, only 45,000 actually belonged to the BAROC.(6)

     2. External Factors. While the above factors, both tangible and intangible, sowed the seeds for schism within Taiwan Buddhism from an early date, the real flowering of pluralization came only in the late 1980s with two government decisions that transformed the political landscape within which Buddhism operated. The first was the lifting of Martial Law in 1987, and the second was the passage of the Law on the Organization of Civic Groups in 1989.

     (a). Lifting of Martial Law, 1987. Martial law was a feature of life in the Republic of China for over fifty years. Initially declared in 1934, it was applied over Taiwan in December 1949 by order of the Executive Yuan and activated by an emergency decree issued by President Chiang Kai-shek. Even though Taiwan



333 BUDDHISM IN TAIWAN Chapter Six. The Period of Pluralization

may well be the only area of "greater China" untouched by actual combat with Communist forces, it was still declared a combat zone, and the provisions of the Martial Law remained in effect until July, 1987.

     Martial Law superseded the constitution of the Republic of China during the period of mobilization against the Communist rebellion, and had the practical effect of putting the civilian government under military supervision. Many criminal offenses could be tried in military courts, in direct violation of the constitution, and elected civil officials at all levels reported directly to local military commanders-in-chief. In 1970, the Defense Ministry promulgated further restrictions, among which were the suspension of the rights to a free press, to privacy of correspondence, free speech, free assembly, to petition the government, to give academic lectures, and to practice religion. Enforcement of these provisions fell to the Taiwan Garrison Command, which acted upon this extraconstitutional authority to regulate travel to and from Taiwan, customs inspections, and to enforce the above restrictions on political rights and freedoms.(7)

     As detrimental as all this may seem to the free practice of religion, it actually worked to the advantage of the BAROC. As we saw in the previous chapter, until 1989 the government looked to the BAROC for verification of clergy



334 BUDDHISM IN TAIWAN Chapter Six. The Period of Pluralization

wishing to study abroad, which gave the organization effective control over access to higher education in America or Japan. Since the BAROC and other eminent monks in Taiwan during the period from the 1950s to the 1970s saw no benefit from foreign study, very few clergy went, and the majority of these found their own way.(8) Again, since the government looked to the BAROC to certify all applications for clergy wishing to travel abroad for any reason, the BAROC exerted tremendous control over Taiwan Buddhism's international image. In all spheres of activity, the BAROC maintained a unique role as the official liaison between the Buddhist world and the government. It is no wonder, then, that during the 10th National Congress held in December 1982, the delegates passed a resolution condemning calls for the lifting of Martial Law and the legalization of new political parties as "ridiculous."(9)

     (b). 1989 Revised Law on the Organization of Civic Groups. While the lifting of Martial Law in 1987 undermined the BAROC's rights to act as a liaison body between Buddhists and the ROC government and paved the way for Buddhist temples, lecture halls, and individuals to bypass it and deal with the government directly, the 1989 Revised Law on the Organization of Civic Groups had the



335 BUDDHISM IN TAIWAN Chapter Six. The Period of Pluralization

complementary effect of permitting the formation of other groups that could compete directly with the BAROC to fulfill these functions. This law, originally intended to allow for the organization of opposition political parties, opened the way for organizations in other spheres of social and civic life to proliferate, and religion was no exception.(10)

     Before this bill was passed, ROC law stipulated that there could be no more than one organization filling any "niche" in ROC society. In other words, only one organization could exist with any given set of functions, area of jurisdiction, or sphere of membership. Thus, under the old system, no other organization could compete with the BAROC to be a nationwide organization of Buddhist temples and individuals, or to act as an intermediary with the government, or hold nationwide ordination sessions, or recruit members among Buddhists throughout the ROC. In addition, because the BAROC was organized at the provincial, county, and metropolitan levels as well, no other group could compete in these more limited spheres. As a result, while Martial Law gave BAROC certain necessary functions as a liaison between Buddhists and their government, the old restrictions on civic organizations ensured that only the BAROC could legally fulfil those functions. Martial Law gave the BAROC work to do, and the old laws on civic organizations eliminated the competition.

     However, the revised law changed the situation drastically. After 1989, the central government gave up the task of restricting the establishment of civic



336 BUDDHISM IN TAIWAN Chapter Six. The Period of Pluralization

groups and political parties; the only remaining requirement was that such groups register with the Ministry of the Interior. The government no longer forbade the establishment of new groups based on the pre-existence of another group fulfilling the same functions in the same geographical area and recruiting members from among the same constituency. The result of this law has been even more dramatic than the ending of Martial Law, and has engendered a rapid expansion in the number of Buddhist groups in Taiwan, some of which have narrowly-defined purposes, and some of which compete directly with the BAROC in all its functions.(11)

     With this background in mind, we will now turn our attention to three examples of organizations that arose and flourished on Taiwan since the late 1960s. The two largest and most influential of these, Fo Kuang Shan and the Buddhist Compassionate Relief Society, arose before the lifting of Martial Law and the passage of the Revised Law on Civic Organizations, and so we will pay particular attention to the strategies they employed to justify their existence under the old system.

     First, however, we will look at the earliest organization to challenge the BAROC's hegemony: The Chinese Buddhist Lay Association.



337 BUDDHISM IN TAIWAN Chapter Six. The Period of Pluralization


II. The Chinese Buddhist Lay Association [Zhonghua Fojiao Jushi Hui 中華佛教居士會]

     This organization came into being as a protest. We have already noted two aspects of the BAROC that served to keep executive power away from a majority of members: the deliberate exclusion of laypeople from leadership roles and the concentration of authority in the hands of a small, dosed group. However, the BAROC had within its membership laypersons of proven administrative ability and leadership qualities, and these members quickly tired of being kept out of decision-making circles. One of these, a retired head of the National Police Administration named Li Qian 李騫, led a group of like-minded laypeople out of the BAROC to form their own organization in 1968 for laypeople only.

     Although the CBLA was intended as another nationwide organization of Buddhist devotees, it stayed within the restrictions of the law by aiming its recruitment exclusively at laypeople. (One may speculate that the founder also had the high-level connections necessary to ensure smooth relations with the government.) Over the years, the CBLA has appealed mainly to active and retired government workers, and has devoted its energies primarily to social welfare work.(12)

     The BAROC was not happy with this situation. Besides their firm belief that Buddhist laity ought to be subordinate to the clergy in all matters, they also resented the competition for membership. While it is true that the two



338 BUDDHISM IN TAIWAN Chapter Six. The Period of Pluralization

organizations, both corporate members of the World Fellowship of Buddhists, could cooperate in combating PRC influence within, that international body, relations between the two remained cool at home. In 1982 the BAROC Newsletter reprinted an editorial by the layman Tang Xiangqing 唐湘清 concerning the CBLA. Despite the editor's disclaimer that this opinion piece did not necessarily represent the views of the editorial board, it is still interesting for the sharpness of its criticism of the CBLA.

     In this article, Mr. Tang reports that historically, Buddhist lay associations existed on the mainland from the earliest years of the Republic, and many exist in contemporary Taiwan. All, however, have joined the BAROC as corporate members and submitted themselves to monastic oversight, as is proper according to Buddhist doctrine. All laymen and laywomen who take refuge in the Three Jewels perforce take refuge in the Sangha, and ought to submit to the supervision of the clergy. To set up an organization that excludes clergy and to compete with the BAROC for members is contrary to the spirit of Buddhism, just as much as if a group of Catholic laity set up an organization to sidestep the authority of the church and the Pope.

     Tang goes on to recount some of the controversy surrounding the establishment of the CBLA. At the time of its foundation, a Legislative Committee member named Dong Zhengzhi protested vigorously and called upon the new organization to change its name to "The Lay Buddhist Study Society" [Jushi Xuefo Hui 居士學佛會] and join the BAROC. The CBLA ignored both suggestions,



339 BUDDHISM IN TAIWAN Chapter Six. The Period of Pluralization

and actively competed with the BAROC for leadership within ROC Buddhist circles. Because of this recalcitrance, Tang holds the CBLA responsible for a schism within Taiwan Buddhism.(13)

     Tang concludes his editorial with three specific criticisms of the CBLA. First, he chastises them for using a misleading name. The name, "Chinese Buddhist Lay Association" may imply that the organization is nationwide in scope and membership, but in fact nine-tenths of the membership resides in Taipei.(14) Second, without the safeguard of BAROC supervision, it would be all too easy for the group to fall into heresy. As a cautionary, Tang brings up the example of the new religious movement called Yiguandao, which began by "liberating" the laity from clerical oversight in the name of bringing salvation to householders, but which ended as a non-Buddhist, heretical teaching.(15) Finally, he said that there



340 BUDDHISM IN TAIWAN Chapter Six. The Period of Pluralization

was within the BAROC a truly nationwide lay association, the Universal Gate Cultural Treasury [pumen wenku 普門文庫], an organization at least five times larger than the CBLA and distributed more evenly over Taiwan. If the CBLA can call itself a nationwide organization, he observes sarcastically, then the Universal Gate Cultural Treasury must be a worldwide lay association!(16)

     If Mr. Tang was afraid that the CBLA would evolve into another heretical group like zhaijiao or Yiguandao, his fears were unfounded. Lay Buddhism in Taiwan since 1945, especially within the educated class, has always been more orthodox in outlook. After 1949, the BAROC depended upon allies within the government such as those who interpellated before the legislature when crises arose. One could argue, then, that this first expression of the new pluralization arose from the BAROC's own insensitivity to the need for greater inclusivity in its leadership and dogmatic insistence upon monastic hegemony on decision-making authority.

     Li Qian and his followers constituted the vanguard of groups that sought new ways to practice Buddhism in Taiwan. We will now turn our attention to two alternative organizations that did manage to attain nationwide influence during the period of Martial Law: Fo Kuang Shan and the Buddhist Compassion Relief Tzu Chi Association.



341 BUDDHISM IN TAIWAN Chapter Six. The Period of Pluralization


III. Fo Kuang Shan 佛光山.(17)

     A. Biography of Ven. Xingyun. In order to understand either Fo Kuang Shan or the Buddhist Compassion Relief Tzu Chi Association, one must begin with their founders, as it is their vision, energy, and charisma that enabled their respective organizations to grow and elaborate as they have. The founder of Fo Kuang Shan is the Ven. Xingyun 星雲 (or Hsing-yun), a monk of extraordinary fame and popularity under whose leadership a single temple in the southern part of Taiwan developed into a worldwide network of subtemples, foundations, social welfare agencies, and other auxiliary organizations. We encountered him once already as a young refugee monk struggling to find a place in Taiwan in 1949. We will now take a more detailed look at his life and work.

     Xingyun was born in Jiangdu, Jiangsu Province in 1927(18) to a very poor family. This was the time of the Northern Expedition in which Chiang Kai-shek's Nationalist forces brought the local warlords to heel and unified China. Because of this and the subsequent War of Resistance against the Japanese, Xingyun's childhood was spent almost entirely among the stresses and uncertainties of war. In scattered autobiographical remarks, he tells of eating almost nothing but rice gruel with sweet potatoes day after day, both before and after joining the sangha.(19) He believes these continuous hardships tempered him for a life of work and



342 BUDDHISM IN TAIWAN Chapter Six. The Period of Pluralization

struggle, and at the same time imbued his character with a spirit of generosity and charity.

     Xingyun left the household life at the age of twelve under the Ven. Zhikai 志開 of the Dajue Temple 大覺寺 on Qixia Mountain 棲霞山 near Nanjing.(20) He went on to receive the full precepts there in 1941, and remained at Qixia Mountain to study at the Qixia Vinaya School [Qixia Lüxue Yuan 棲霞律學院]. Later he went for further study to the Jiaoshan Buddhist Studies Institute [Jiaoshan Foxue Yuan 焦山佛學院] After completing his courses, he embarked on a busy career of educational, journalistic, and administrative work, becoming a magazine editor, a high school principal, and abbot of the Huazang Temple 華藏寺 in Nanjing in rapid succession.

     The fall of the mainland in 1949 impelled him to leave Nanjing for Taiwan, and, as recounted in a previous chapter, he had to struggle for the first few months until he found lodgings. At first he stayed at the Yuanguang Temple 圓光寺 in Chungli, but as more and more people within Buddhist circles came to know of his seemingly boundless energy and capacity for hard work, he found himself more in demand to take on various projects and responsibilities. He worked for a time as editor-in-chief of Rensheng 人生, Ven. Dongchu's Buddhist periodical, for which he contributed articles under the pen name "Mojia." In 1951 he was named Chief of Educational Affairs for the Taiwan Buddhist Lecture



343 BUDDHISM IN TAIWAN Chapter Six. The Period of Pluralization

Society. In 1952 he relocated to the eastern coastal town of Dan to live in the Leiyin ("Sound of Thunder") Temple 雷音寺, and during his tenure there he organized a Buddha-Recitation Society, a Dharma-Propagation Society, a Buddhist choir, and a Buddhist Student's Association. At the same time he helped to establish a Buddhist Sunday School, a kindergarten, and Taiwan's first Buddhist dharma-propagation radio program.(21) Most surprising to him was his election to the BAROC Board of Directors and its Standing Committee after the Second National Congress in 1952, which he declined out of embarrassment over his own perceived youth and inexperience. He was 25 years old at this time.(22)

     It appears that the keys to his popularity and success during this early period were his deep and genuine love for Buddhism and his willingness to put up with any hardship to see it prosper in his new environment. Like other monks who fled to Taiwan from the Zhejiang and Jiangsu areas, he was dismayed at the state of Buddhism as he found it in Taiwan and determined to do what he could to improve it. As soon as his life stabilized, he went to work propagating orthodox Chinese Buddhism all over Taiwan. He took any money that he received in donations and used it to purchase Buddhist books to distribute to people. He accepted any and all invitations to preach the dharma, and rode whatever conveyance necessary to reach the lecture venue: ox-carts, coal cars, and rickshaws as well as buses and trains. Through this early period, the deprivations he suffered as a child stood him in good stead since he frequently had to forego



344 BUDDHISM IN TAIWAN Chapter Six. The Period of Pluralization

meals and do without basic necessities in order to finance his evangelistic enterprises.(23)

     His activism on behalf of Buddhism enabled him to develop many contacts and gather many disciples, and he quickly began receiving invitations to preach and lecture from all over Taiwan. After a tune his followers began asking him to found permanent institutions closer to their homes, and so in 1955 he founded the Kaohsiung Buddhist Hall; in 1957 the Buddhist Cultural Services Center in Taipei; in 1962 he returned to Kaohsiung to found the Shoushan ("Longevity Mountain") Temple 壽山寺, in which he also established the Shoushan Buddhist Studies Institute (this was the forerunner of the present-day Eastern Buddhist College).(24) He eventually accepted election to the BAROC Board of Directors Standing Committee, and held this position into the early 1990s. Although he attended meetings and participated actively, he does not appear to have regarded this body as a significant part of his endeavors.(25)



345 BUDDHISM IN TAIWAN Chapter Six. The Period of Pluralization

     B. The Founding and Elaboration of Fo Kuang Shan. The turning point in Xingyun's career came when he used some of the royalties from his publications to purchase a bamboo-covered mountain overlooking the Ta Shu Rural District 大樹鄉 in Kaohsiung County in order to construct a new temple to be called Fo Kuang Shan. which he hoped would serve to fill Taiwan's need for a true "public monastery" [shifang conglin 十方叢林]. Within a short time, Xingyun put the new temple on a firm financial basis by diversifying sources of income: 1. royalties from his own publications, 2. agricultural rental income, 3. surplus donations to his social welfare enterprises, 4. income from dharma-meetings [fahui youxiang 法會油香], 5. surpluses collected at Fo Kuang Shan's subtemples, 6. surplus contributions to Xingyun personally or any of Fo Kuang Shan's managers, 7. voluntary donations from domestic and overseas devotees, and 8. membership dues.(26)

     From its official founding [kaishan 開山] on May 16th, 1967, Fo Kuang Shan has expanded continuously. The original temple now covers the entire mountain and serves as a pilgrimage site for Buddhists all over Taiwan, and its



346 BUDDHISM IN TAIWAN Chapter Six. The Period of Pluralization

facilities house an enormous range of activities: Buddhist Studies Institutes offering courses in Chinese, English, and Japanese; a high school; a public library; several bookstores and gift shops; conference facilities capable of accommodating large-scale international gatherings; a museum; audiovisual and multimedia facilities; classrooms for teaching flower arranging, martial arts, vegetarian cooking, and calligraphy in addition to traditional Buddhist subjects; places for intensive Buddhist practice such as Seven Day Buddha-Recitation Retreats and other forms of group cultivation as well as individual practices such as meditation and sealed confinement; the list goes on and on.(27)

     In addition to the original temple, Fo Kuang Shan has branched out to establish subtemples all over Taiwan and in several foreign countries. In Xingyun's own recollections of this outward expansion, new subtemples arose not from his own desire to extend his religious empire, but from his own continuing popularity islandwide. For example, he tells the story of an engineer whom he had engaged to help design the Great Shrine Hall at Fo Kuang Shan. This engineer, a member of the Hakka minority, one day burst out, "Why do you only build temples in Hokkien areas? Why don't you build any in Hakka areas?" This caused Xingyun to resolve to begin seeking ways to establish a branch temple around Taoyuan, Hsinchu, Miaoli, and Toufen counties, areas of high Hakka concentration. The necessary funding came from the local devotees who would benefit directly from



347 BUDDHISM IN TAIWAN Chapter Six. The Period of Pluralization

the presence of the temple.(28) Xingyun states that the founding of all Fo Kuang Shan subtemples happened in this way, even the overseas branches. As of 1992, Fo Kuang Shan had a total of fourteen temples around Taiwan along with twenty-two lecture halls and lay practice establishments. In addition, it has thirty-seven overseas branches in Japan, Hong Kong, the Philippines, Malaysia, India, the United States, Canada, Brazil, the United Kingdom, Germany, France, Australia, New Zealand, and the Republic of South Africa.(29)

     In addition, Fo Kuang Shan sponsors social welfare activities all over Taiwan. One of the earliest programs was the Fo Kuang Clinic, founded at Shoushan in 1976 and moved to Fo Kuang Shan itself two years later. This facility offers free medical care, primarily to residents of Fo Kuang Shan but also to indigent members of the local community. In 1985, the organization established the "Cloud and Water Mobile Clinic," a system of vans equipped with medical supplies and driven by trained staff that travels to remote areas in order to deliver regular medical care. Fo Kuang Shan also sponsors an annual Winter Relief Program, an Emergency Aid Program, a Friendship and Care Brigade that visits residents of its senior citizens' home, an Organ Donor Bank, a children's home, a retirement home for Fo Kuang Shan's retired staff and supporters, a cemetery, and the Kuan Yin Life Conservation Group for purchasing and freeing captured fish and birds.(30)



348 BUDDHISM IN TAIWAN Chapter Six. The Period of Pluralization

     All of these activities took root during the period of Martial Law and prior to the liberalization of the laws on civic organizations. During this time, Xingyun was able to establish a large Buddhist organizational network by adapting to the prevailing legal environment. Even during the most repressive periods of the ROC's history on Taiwan, the government has never actively interfered with the establishment of Buddhist temples; it has only regulated the proliferation of civic organizations. Thus, by concentrating on founding temples, subtemples, and lecture halls, all of which existed as discrete organizations arid all of which registered as corporate members of the BAROC, there was no danger of running afoul of the pre-1989 laws.

     C. Developments in Fo Kuang Shan After 1989. The passage of the Revised Law on Civic Organizations in 1989 opened the way for Fo Kuang Shan to expand their activities in two ways: they could now engage in activities that competed more directly with the BAROC, and they could begin setting up a single, large-scale Buddhist umbrella organization.

     The most obvious example of activities in which Fo Kuang Shan competes with the BAROC is the staging of monastic ordinations. Fo Kuang Shan entered the rotation for the annual BAROC-sponsored ordination soon after its foundation, and held its first ordination session in 1971 or 1977.(31) The next ordination did not



349 BUDDHISM IN TAIWAN Chapter Six. The Period of Pluralization

take place until 1990. However, after that: the pace quickened tremendously, with other ordination sessions in 1991, 1992, and 1993.(32) In keeping with Xingyun's desire that Fo Kuang Shan emulate the mainland public monasteries of the past and with his early training at the Qixia Vinaya School, the ordination sessions at Fo Kuang Shan have generally been longer in duration than those arranged by the BAROC, and have exposed the ordinands to larger numbers of teachers and elders. For example, the 1991 session lasted over three months, in contrast to the four-week period that has been the standard for BAROC ordinations over the years. However, this competition for ordination sessions does not seem to have alienated the leadership of the BAROC, as many of them came to participate in the session, either standing alongside Xingyun as an ordaining elder or aiding in the training of the ordinands.(33)

     In fact, this new competition may have spurred the BAROC to institute some reforms in its own ordinations. During the 1993 ordination session at the Guangde Temple 光德寺 in Kaohsiung County, the Ven. Jingxin 淨心 had an unusual opportunity to control the proceedings as he was simultaneously the



350 BUDDHISM IN TAIWAN Chapter Six. The Period of Pluralization

BAROC president, the abbot of the host temple, and the preceptor. He took advantage of this opportunity to introduce six specific reforms into the ordination intended to provide better training within a more solemn and religious environment. Two of these reforms were to lengthen the ordination session to six weeks, and to hold separate sessions for monks and nuns, rather than housing them together and training them all at the same time.(34) It is my own speculation that these reforms were inspired at least in part by the increased competition made possible by the dissolution of the BAROC's monopoly on monastic ordinations.

     The second change that the 1989 law brought to Xingyun's activities was that he now had a free hand to unify his many followers and organizations into a single, large-scale, nation-wide body, a privilege previously reserved to the BAROC under the old, "one niche, one organization" rule. Accordingly, Xingyun began the very next year to plan for this new body. He called a meeting at the Fo Kuang Shan subtemple in Taipei, the Pumen Temple, on August 10, 1990 in order to settle on a name and discuss the proposed organization's objectives and regulations. After the groundwork had been laid, the founding meeting of the "Buddha's Light International Association, R.O.C." [Guoji Foguang Hui Zhonghua Zonghui 國際佛光會中華總會] took place on February 3, 1991 in the Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall in Taipei.

     Chapters of the BLIA rapidly arose in all countries where Fo Kuang Shan



351 BUDDHISM IN TAIWAN Chapter Six. The Period of Pluralization

branch organizations existed, and more were proposed in other countries such as Holland, Thailand, and Singapore. With this rapid expansion, the leadership decided to hold a second organizing conference to include representatives from countries other than the Republic of China. This second meeting took place in October, 1991, at Fo Kuang Shan, and during this meeting it was decided that the first BLIA General Conference should take place outside the ROC. Accordingly, this conference convened May 16-20 at the Los Angeles Music Center. The second General Conference was held October 16-20, 1993 back at Fo Kuang Shan itself.(35)

     D. "Fo Kuang Buddhism" as a New Form of Chinese Buddhist Sectarianism. Pluralism is not just a matter of institutions competing for members and resources. From a religious standpoint, the concrete growth and elaboration of Fo Kuang Shan as an institution is not as significant as the vision that drives it. This vision, which Xingyun refers to as "Fo Kuang Buddhism," marks Fo Kuang Shan as an example of pluralism within Taiwan Buddhism and inspires believers to join and contribute. Fo Kuang Buddhism has two aspects: the rationalization and standardization of Buddhist life and practice, and the articulation of the religious beliefs and values which inspire this life and which these practices enact.

     1. Standardization. Some modern critics of Taiwan Buddhism have identified lack of unity as one of its main problems. For example, Lan Jifu, a prominent historian of Buddhism in Taiwan, points to the absence of a centralized structure of discipline and authority as an impediment preventing Buddhism



352 BUDDHISM IN TAIWAN Chapter Six. The Period of Pluralization

from adapting to the rapidly-changing conditions of Taiwan society in the 1970s and 1980s. Because the BAROC has no coercive authority over any of its members in matters of practice and ideology, every individual and corporate member is free to pursue their own goals and ideals with no need to cooperate. Even when faced with gross misconduct on the part of clerical members, the most that the BAROC can do is revoke their ordination certificates (if they were ordained at a BAROC ordination session) and expel them from the organization, a move which hardly amounts to laicization. Furthermore, the BAROC has no authority whatever to oust them from their temples, or to compel their disciples to seek spiritual guidance elsewhere. In the case of lay members, the BAROC has no recourse other than to revoke their membership.(36)

     The complex of temples, organizations, and activities subsumed under the name Fo Kuang Shan constitutes a different kind of organization from the BAROC. The BAROC is an umbrella organization providing government liaison and other services to its members. Fo Kuang Shan, it may be argued, is a religious order based on the thought and charisma of Ven. Xingyun. Like the Chogye Order of Korea or any of the Japanese schools of Buddhism, members subscribe to a more



353 BUDDHISM IN TAIWAN Chapter Six. The Period of Pluralization

detailed ideal of the Buddhist life than do members of the BAROC, and Fo Kuang Shan is able to enforce adherence to this ideal more effectively through a variety of sanctions. This has enabled Fo Kuang Shan to achieve a much greater degree of unity than has Taiwan Buddhism as a whole.

     This unity operates at a variety of levels. Here is an example of one of the simplest: Every so often, debates arise about standardizing monastic garb throughout the ROC.(37) However, these debates invariably prove inconclusive, simply because there is no agreed-upon body to set and enforce standards. Therefore, to this day monks and nuns may wear clothing of any cut or color, constrained only by the provisions of the vinaya and by the practical boundaries of what they could wear and still be recognized as a monk or nun by their fellow citizens.(38) At Fo Kuang Shan, on the other hand, monastic robes have been standardized to the extent that they function as uniforms. Once one knows the system, one may know whether a monk or nun is a novice, a student, or a fully-ordained cleric simply by looking at their robes.

     Another example of this standardization on a higher systemic level is the ranking of clergy. Because Fo Kuang Shan is a large, complex organization



354 BUDDHISM IN TAIWAN Chapter Six. The Period of Pluralization

involving hundreds of clergy, such human resource issues as the maximum utilization of each cleric's skills and talents, evaluation of job performance, and individual advancement cannot be left to the vagaries of personal relationships and recommendations. The possibilities for factionalism and grievances would be too great. Therefore, Fo Kuang Shan relies on more modern and impersonal management techniques. The clergy are divided into grades and ranks based partly upon seniority, but also on "personal cultivation, job skills, and scholastic achievement, with consideration given to contribution and attitude."(39) The Board of Directors holds an annual evaluation meeting in which they render decisions on whom to promote. As with the military, eligibility for certain jobs within the Fo Kuang Shan system depends upon attaining a certain rank. For instance, the Senior Monastics Department has supervisory authority over all activities within Fo Kuang Shan. Only clergy of grade three or higher may vote in the elections to this department.(40) In this way, Fo Kuang Shan attempts to provide a fair, impartial, and open forum for deciding upon issues of evaluation and promotion.

     In and of itself, this is not an innovation. Holmes Welch reports that the great public monasteries of the past, facing similar needs for order and fairness, also divided resident clergy into ranks which determined the jobs they could legitimately volunteer for as well as their order of precedence in seating and processions. Furthermore, the senior monks of these temples met twice annually to recommend certain clerics for promotion.(41) However, Fo Kuang Shan uses a



355 BUDDHISM IN TAIWAN Chapter Six. The Period of Pluralization

different system of grades and ranks than did the old public monasteries, dispensing with the traditional division into "Eastern" and "Western Ranks" and inventing a new terminology. From bottom to top, these are:

1.Pure Grade [qingjing shi 清靜士]: six ranks altogether, each rank one year

2.Study Grade [>xue shi

3.Practice Grade [xiu shi 修士]: three ranks altogether, each rank four years

4.Open Rank [kai shi 開士]: three ranks altogether, each rank five years

5.Master [da shi 大師] or Elder [zhanglao 長老](42)

More substantively, the Fo Kuang Shan system relies upon a formal board who decides promotions based upon recommendations received from below and evaluated according to standard written policies, whereas the old system relied upon a more informal gathering of senior officers who based their decisions upon personal observation. In this sense, the Fo Kuang Shan system operates more like a military review board than like the monastic system of the past.

     2. Religious Dimensions. However, being a "Fo Kuang Buddhist" is more complex than this. Over the years, Ven. Xingyun has articulated a set of principles designed to produce a kind of Buddhism able to operate within the modern



356 BUDDHISM IN TAIWAN Chapter Six. The Period of Pluralization

world. These principles have been collected in a set of books entitled How to Be a Fo Kuang Buddhist.(43) Some of the most important of these principles are:

     1. The "Fo Kuang Buddhist" commits him or herself completely to the organization and to wider society. In opposition to the "cloud and water" monk of the past, the Fo Kuang Buddhist accepts Fo Kuang Shan's vision of the Buddhist life and remains within the Fo Kuang Shan system loyally to the end. They place the sangha, the work of the temple, and the cause of Buddhism above the self.

     2. "Fo Kuang Buddhism" aims at this-worldly goals rather than at goals in other worlds or future lives. In elaborating upon this topic, Xingyun takes as his starting-point the Mahayana Buddhist doctrine of the Two Truths, the worldly (Skt. samvrti-satya) and the absolute (Skt. paramārtha-satya). The first of these refers to truth as conventionally perceived by ordinary consciousness, the second to the realization that all of these conventional perceptions have no absolute basis or permanence, but rather are constructed from the ever-changing causes and conditions of the mind and the world it regards. Through the ages, realization of the second truth comes only with enlightenment, and so it has received more emphasis as an object of philosophical reasoning and meditation. However, Xingyun seeks to revalue conventional truth in order to enable the Fo Kuang Buddhist to act effectively and compassionately within the present world. He explicitly rejects pessimistic evaluations of this world as a "flaming house" or a prison. He says:



357 BUDDHISM IN TAIWAN Chapter Six. The Period of Pluralization

Undeniably, the main cause of the decline of Buddhism today is its excessive concern with attaining supramundane liberation and its failure to reach out to the people. Consequently, people mistakenly believe that Buddhism is negative and pessimistic and do not know that the spirit of Mahayana Buddhism is to serve society. (p. 12)

Based on this line of reasoning, Xingyun urges his monks and nuns to become active within society, and pursue training in service occupations such as medicine and teaching. Liberation from the cycle of birth and death must be held as a long-term goal to be achieved gradually through thorough study and practice; the immediate goal is to develop the virtues of compassion and morality (p. 15-16).

     Coupled with this emphasis on the conventional world over the transcendent is a stress on the present life over future lives. This is a direct effort to re-orient Chinese Buddhism. During Xingyun's childhood arid early years as a monk, Chinese Buddhist monks and nuns frequently found themselves drawn more and more into the business of conducting funerals; some became quite dissolute because the amount of time they devoted to this lucrative pursuit stymied their religious cultivation.(44) Many early reformers, such as Taixu and Yinguang, as well their later heirs in Taiwan such as Yinshun decried this practice as a major cause of Buddhism's decline into mere commercialism and its poor image before the public. Consequently, under the banner of "Buddhism for Human Life" [rensheng] or "Buddhism in the Human Realm" [renjian 人間], they called for a new orientation towards the teaching and transformation of living human beings



358 BUDDHISM IN TAIWAN Chapter Six. The Period of Pluralization

rather than dead ones.(45) Xingyun, who quotes both Taixu and Yinguang in support of his vision of Buddhism, echoes them here as well. Funerals, when performed correctly and in the correct spirit, can be of benefit to both the deceased and their survivors. However, a greater portion of a Fo Kuang Buddhists' time and energy must go into improving the life of the living, both in terms of their present material needs and their spiritual edification (p. 14).

     3. Privatism in any form is another target of Xingyun's reform ideals. As noted earlier, one of his goals in founding Fo Kuang Shan was to recreate a public monastery for Chinese Buddhism worldwide. The distinguishing feature of a public monastery is that it serves as a center of monastic ordination for the sangha as a whole. In order to keep the ordination system impartial, a public monastery of the past on the Chinese mainland did not permit its resident clergy to privately accept disciples.(46) We have already seen that the BAROC prevents any possible tonsure-family nepotism by effectively burning the host temple into a temporary public monastery for the duration of the ordination session by providing the ordaining masters and training personnel itself. Xingyun, in founding Fo Kuang Shan and then moving to establish it as a permanent ordination center in its own right, needed a different solution. Thus, although Fo Kuang Shan technically should be considered a hereditary temple, Xingyun has decreed that monks and nuns within the Fo Kuang Shan system will not privately accept disciples, in conformity with the rule of the great public monasteries of the past.



359 BUDDHISM IN TAIWAN Chapter Six. The Period of Pluralization

     In passing this rule, Xingyun's intent was to raise the quality of both monastic and lay disciples at Fo Kuang Shan. He quotes the early Republican period Pure Land revivalist Yinguang, who saw the ease with which monks accepted disciples as a cause of Buddhism's moral decline. In order remove this cause, Xingyun insists on a collective system of accepting disciples based strictly on seniority. Thus, if any layperson comes to a member of the Fo Kuang Shan clergy wishing to seek tonsure or to become a lay disciple, that cleric may grant the request, but only on behalf of the most senior clerical member of his or her generation. That entire generation then becomes the collective master of the new disciple.

     This has several effects besides the prevention of favoritism during ordination sessions. It keeps clergy from competing for disciples. It prevents undue attachments between individual masters and disciples from forming. It prevents cliques based on master-disciple alignments from taking root within the Fo Kuang Shan community. Finally, it reinforces the idea that the sangha as a whole is a source of refuge representing the third of the Three Jewels, and not just one individual master, however charismatic (p. 20-21).

     Xingyun inveighs against other forms of privatism as well. He forbids his clergy to save money privately, except for specific purposes, and then only in their temple's treasury. Otherwise, all their income is to be used freely toward the propagation of Buddhism. He does not allow them to build their own temples, as this would entangle them too much in the pursuit of funding, and would



360 BUDDHISM IN TAIWAN Chapter Six. The Period of Pluralization

ultimately strand them in a small temple with much administrative work and little prospects for study, cultivation, or dharma-propagation. Finally, he discourages his clergy from becoming involved in special relationships with any devotees or donors, as this would also encourage selfishness and cliquishness (p. 21-27).

     4. Xingyun has sought in many ways to involve the laity more deeply in the Buddhist life, frequently blurring the distinction between the clerical and lay realms. Thus, not only are laypeople involved in the day-to-day operation of Fo Kuang Shan in specific jobs as secretaries, janitors, hosts, gift shop clerks, and so forth, but Fo Kuang Shan also houses an order of lay female celibates as well.(47) While Fo Kuang Shan shares these characteristics in common with other temples in Taiwan, it does have one program that is unique to my knowledge. This is the "Short-term Novitiate Program," in which interested persons may live the monastic life for a specified period of time without committing themselves to remain in the sangha for life, as is usually the expectation within Chinese Buddhism.(48)

     In the heading to this section, I called "Fo Kuang Buddhism" a new form of Chinese Buddhist sectarianism. This is not to say that Fo Kuang Buddhism qualifies as a "sect" in the technical sociological sense, as it does not conform to the necessary conditions for such a designation.(49) In this study, I use the term



361 BUDDHISM IN TAIWAN Chapter Six. The Period of Pluralization

"sectarianism" simply to indicate a consciousness that within the overall context of Chinese (or even Just Taiwan) Buddhism, the ideals and practices of ones group are unique to it, and that these are not transplantable to or practicable within other Buddhist groups. Thus, according to the evidence adumbrated above, one may view Fo Kuang Shan as a sectarian phenomenon based on the following considerations:

     1) It is based upon a comprehensive religious vision as articulated by the founder, Ven. Xingyun. Furthermore, both he and his followers see this vision as sufficiently different from Buddhism as practiced elsewhere in Taiwan that it may only be actualized within the context of Fo Kuang Shan or one of its subsidiaries; one may not practice "Fo Kuang Buddhism" in other temples. 2) The disciples who join the Fo Kuang Shan system do so because of their own conviction of the value of this vision, and they generally remain within Fo Kuang Shan for life. Although there are cases of clergy ordained at Fo Kuang Shan who subsequently left and went their own way,(50) such instances are rare. 3) It is a new form of sectarianism because it breaks with many aspects of traditional Chinese Buddhism in order to adapt to modem circumstances, such as in the rationalization of the evaluation and promotion-system and the deliberate blurring of boundaries between the clergy and the laity.



362 BUDDHISM IN TAIWAN Chapter Six. The Period of Pluralization

     E. Conclusions. The visitor or pilgrim to Fo Kuang Shan is struck by a number of things: the immense Buddha-image overlooking the plain below the mountain, the Pure Land Cave with its life-sized diorama of the preaching of the Lotus Sutra complete with statues of the 1250 arhats in attendance, and the sheer size of the temple community. A somewhat closer examination reveals the complex and highly-ramified organizations and enterprises administered within the sprawling facilities and its satellites. However, I believe that the real significance of Fo Kuang Shan within Chinese Buddhism lies in its articulation of a religious vision rooted in the reforms initiated early in the twentieth century by the Ven. Taixu, and in its establishment of a monastic/lay cooperative structure to actualize that vision within a society that is rapidly moving from the industrial age to the information age. The casual visitor may be impressed by the amount of money and resources required to construct and maintain Fo Kuang Shan's physical plant and corporate infrastructure, but I suggest that it is impossible to understand how it can command such a high level of contributions without understanding the vision that motivates people to give. This vision, combined with Xingyun's personal energy and charisma, have allowed Fo Kuang Shan to grow and diversify to an astonishing extent, both during and after the period of Martial Law.



IV. The Buddhist Compassion Relief Tzu Chi Association

     The second of the two great successes of the period of pluralization is the



363 BUDDHISM IN TAIWAN Chapter Six. The Period of Pluralization

Buddhist Compassion Relief Tzu Chi Association(51) [Fojiao Ciji Gongde Hui 佛教慈濟功德會], founded by the nun Zhengyan 證嚴 (Cheng-yen). This organization is larger than Fo Kuang Shan, and it occupies a vastly different niche in the modem world of Taiwan Buddhism. However, like Fo Kuang Shan, it cannot be understood apart from its founder, and so we will begin our discussion with a consideration of her life and the history of the Association.

     A. Ven. Zhengyan and the History of the Buddhist Compassion Relief Tzu Chi Association.(52) In 1937, a young girl was born in Qingshui village, Taichung county to a family named Wang, and her parents named her Jinyun 王錦雲. She was the first child born to the household, and as other brothers and sisters arrived, she helped to take care of them. Her mother ran the house, but was ill much of the time. Her father operated several movie theaters, and his work took him away from the house for long periods. Jinyun's early childhood was spent during the Sino-Japanese War and World War Two, and she quickly learned to run for cover when she heard the air raid sirens. At this time, there were many mixed Buddhist-Daoist temples to which she and her fellow villagers resorted for comfort, and the name of the bodhisattva Guanyin was on everyone's lips.

     She was a model filial daughter, and also prone to visionary experiences. Once in 1952, her mother fell seriously ill with a perforated ulcer, and needed



364 BUDDHISM IN TAIWAN Chapter Six. The Period of Pluralization

emergency surgery. For three days, Jinyun prayed to Guanyin and vowed that, in order for her mother to recover, she would trade twelve years of her own life and begin eating a vegetarian diet. During those three nights, she dreamed the same dream: she saw a small Buddhist temple with a large door in the middle and a smaller door on either side. There was an altar with a large Buddha-image upon it, and her mother was stretched out on a bamboo pallet in front of it. Jinyun saw herself kneeling by a small fire near the pallet, attempting to prepare some medication. As she did so, she suddenly felt a warm breeze coming from one of the smaller doors, and when she looked up, a white cloud floated into the temple with a beautiful woman seated within it. Jinyun instinctively knelt in front of the woman, who tipped a bundle of medicines from the bottle she carried into Jinyun's outstretched hands. Jinyun took the bundle, opened it, and gave it to her mother, at which point the dream faded. After three days of prayers and vows and three nights of this dream, her mother recovered completely without surgery. Jinyun subsequently kept her vow and began eating a Buddhist vegetarian diet.(53) At some point the family moved from Qingshui to Fengyuan.

     As she continued to grow, she divided her time between helping run the household and traveling with her father as he attended to his theaters. From this she acquired some competence in business as she helped him balance the books and collect accounts. However, in 1960 her father suddenly collapsed in his office and complained of a severe headache. She arranged for a car to come and



365 BUDDHISM IN TAIWAN Chapter Six. The Period of Pluralization

take them along a bumpy road to their home in Fengyuan. A doctor came and found his blood pressure excessively high, but he died before any treatment could be given.

     Jinyun was torn by her father's death for a long time. On the one hand, she blamed herself for making him endure the rough ride home instead of seeking medical help immediately. On the other hand, as she contemplated his corpse and realized that he was no longer there, a persistent question formed in her mind: "Where is my father?" She asked herself this question over and over for many days, until her maternal grandmother finally took her to see a shaman [jitong]. who told them he had descended to the "Hell of Those Who Died Wrongful Deaths" [wangsicheng 枉死城].(54) This answer left her unsatisfied. Later, she picked up a book on Buddhist doctrine from a local temple, which stated simply, "Where there is birth, there is also death," and this answer solved the question for her. As for the guilt she felt, she resolved this by going with a friend to the Ciyun Temple 慈雲寺 in Fengyuan to perform repentance rituals. Afterwards, she became a frequent visitor to the Ciyun Temple and in particular became friendly with Ven. Xiudao 修道, a nun who had studied in Japan during the Japanese colonial period. Her contact with Xiudao and the other nuns led her to consider for the first time the possibility of seeking ordination herself.

     However, this was not a practical option at this time. With her father dead and her mother ill, she took over most of the responsibilities of running the



366 BUDDHISM IN TAIWAN Chapter Six. The Period of Pluralization

family business, raising her younger siblings, and managing the household. One day, while purchasing vegetables at the market, she felt a compulsion to go to the temple again, and so she directed the produce vendor to deliver the food to her family, while she herself proceeded directly to the temple. While there, she had the following conversation with the Ven. Xiudao:

"What kind of woman is the most fortunate?"

"The one that can lift a vegetable basket."

"How strange! I lift a vegetable basket every day, so why am I so unfortunate?"

"When you find the answer, then come back!"

     She returned home perplexed by this exchange, but her subsequent reflections upon it led her, through various lines of reasoning, to the vow that if she ever were ordained, she would devote her life to easing the suffering of sentient beings. She committed herself entirely to Buddhism, and decided she would find a way to benefit society as effectively as if she were a man.

     She made her first attempt to leave the household life in 1960. After obtaining a recommendation from Ven. Xiudao, she boarded a train heading north, and went on to the Jingxiu Hall 靜修院 in the Taipei suburb of Hsi-chih 汐止 (which, as the reader may recall, had also been the refuge of Ven. Cihang). However, her mother found her within three days, and compelled her to return home.

     Even as she resumed her household responsibilities, she continued to



367 BUDDHISM IN TAIWAN Chapter Six. The Period of Pluralization

frequent the Ciyun Temple near her home. She found herself more and more dissatisfied with the nuns' reliance on "funeral Buddhism" for their livelihood, and made another set of vows that she would observe if she were ever ordained. First, she would accept no alms from lay supporters, but would instead live by Baizhang Huaihai's dictum, "A day without work is a day without food." Second, she would find ways to extend the spirit of Buddhism to all levels of society.

     She finally left the household for good in 1961. One day, while harvesting rice alongside the nuns of the Ciyun Temple, the Ven. Xiudao abruptly asked her, "Do you want to go seek ordination?" Jinyun was so startled that she could only stare at the nun. Ven. Xiudao continued, "Certainly you do, and right now!" At that point Jinyun found her resolve strengthened, and she agreed, "Yes, right now!" They dropped their tools, and, without returning home first and without carrying anything but the clothing, jewelry, and money she had at that moment, Jinyun went with Xiudao to the train station. Leaving their fortunes to destiny, they took the first train to arrive, which happened to be southbound, and proceeded to the southeastern city of Taitung [taidong 台東].

     As destiny would have it, Xiudao had two elder brothers living in Taitung, and so they lodged with one of them for the first night. However, the next day an old family friend spotted Jinyun on the street, and she knew that she would be discovered if she remained in Taitung. Therefore, she and Xiudao again went to the train station and took the first train, and this time the train took them to the small village of Luye 鹿野 ("Deerfield"). They asked the local inhabitants if



368 BUDDHISM IN TAIWAN Chapter Six. The Period of Pluralization

there were a temple nearby, and were directed up a mountain to what turned out to be a small Japanese-era shrine [jinja 神社] called the Wangmu Miao 王母廟 ("Queen Mother Shrine"). It had a single inhabitant who welcomed them to stay, but no electricity or running water, and no place to sleep.

     Nevertheless, they accepted the offer of lodging, and remained together at the shrine for the next two months performing austerities [kuxing 苦行]. In keeping with her previous vow, Jinyun accepted no alms, but supported herself by gathering wild herbs on the mountain, and by going down into the fields to glean peanuts and sweet potatoes.(55) She and Xiudao alternated wearing the latter s monastic robes, although Xiudao did not give Jinyun the tonsure, and Jinyun was technically still a layperson. After a while, Xiudao developed stomach troubles, and, taking Jinyun's gold necklace to pawn for money, took the train back to Taitung to buy some medicine. While there she encountered two of her former disciples from the Ciyun Temple who had been looking for her ever since she had fled with Jinyun. The three returned to Luye, and lived together with Jinyun at the Queen Mother Shrine.

     One amusing anecdote has come from this period in Luye. One day, Xiudao and one of her former disciples went to Taitung to purchase some food. On the train, they met a "strange man" who told them that there was an immortal dwelling on nearby Orchid Mountain. His home lay behind a thin crack in the rock, but with a sincere mind, even an obese person could slip through easily.



369 BUDDHISM IN TAIWAN Chapter Six. The Period of Pluralization

They dismissed this all as myth at first, but when they returned to the shrine and related the encounter to Jinyun and the other nun, they all decided to climb Orchid Mountain and search for this immortal.

     They made arrangements to meet the "strange man," and went with him to an obscure train station. From there they went to the ford of the Xinwugong River, which was chest-deep and two kilometers wide. Holding hands, they all waded across, and then spent the next ten hours making their way up the mountain. Suddenly, they came to a clearing dominated by the biggest banyan tree they had ever seen, whose branches shaded an entire hectare of land. Off to one side, they found two small thatched huts. Their hair standing on end, they approached the huts, but all they found were two old workers collecting rattan and medicinal herbs to sell in the town. Disappointed, they spent the night on the mountain and returned to Luye the next day. Having ruined their clothing, they went from there to Taitung and again called on Xiudao's brothers, who scolded them severely for going on such a foolish and dangerous hike, and told them to go home.

     With only two sets of clothing between them and the weather getting colder, this seemed like good advice, but rather than return to the Ciyun Temple in Fengyuan, as Xiudao's two disciples wished her to do, Xiudao and Jinyun went to lodge in the Qingjue Temple 清覺寺 in the resort town of Chih-pen [zhiben 知本]. The other two disciples, disappointed, returned to Fengyuan and information Jinyun's mother of her whereabouts. Her mother promptly came with one of Jinyun's uncles and demanded that she return home. This time, Jinyun



370 BUDDHISM IN TAIWAN Chapter Six. The Period of Pluralization

refused. She went with her uncle back to the pawn shop and borrowed money from him to redeem the gold necklace. Then she took off her ring and earrings and other jewelry, and, keeping only a wristwatch and her dress, she gave everything back to them and told them she would remain in the temple. Thus she finally broke with her family and her former responsibilities.

     After a time, some devotees invited Jinyun to go to Hualien 花蓮, a town on the east coast known mainly for its marble quarries and attractive scenery. She stayed for seven days, and then returned to Taitung briefly, but by 1962 she had returned to Hualien. Although she did not know it at the time, she would make this town her home thereafter.

     On her second visit, she went to a small temple called the Puming ("Universal Brightness") Temple which honored the bodhisattva Ksitigarbha [Chin: Dizang Pusa 地藏菩薩]. Jinyun was amazed when she first saw it, because it was the temple she had seen in her dream many years before when her mother was ill. This temple was managed by a committee of laypeople, and one of these, Mrs. Xu 許太太, developed an affection for Jinyun. She arranged to have a small room built onto the back of the temple for her to live in, and witnessed as Jinyun shaved her own head and picked for herself the dharma-name Xiucan 修參.

     In early 1963, the annual BAROC ordination session was to take place at the Linji Chan Temple in Taipei, and Jinyun felt that the time had finally arrived for her to become a nun. She took the train to Taipei, and arrived at the temple during the registration period. However, during her registration interview (which



371 BUDDHISM IN TAIWAN Chapter Six. The Period of Pluralization

was conducted by future BAROC president Ven. Jingxin), a problem arose: she did not have a tonsure-master, having shaved her own head, and so she was ineligible. Dejected, she went to the Huiri Lecture Hall 慧日講堂, thinking that she would buy a set of The Collected Works of Ven. Taixu to take back to Hualien to read.

     It so happened that the Ven. Yinshun 印順, an active participant in many BAROC ordinations and the center of the controversy surrounding Pure Land Buddhism recounted in chapter four, was in residence at the lecture hall at the time. Yinshun greeted her and learned of her situation, for which he offered his sympathy. As she was preparing to leave, she suddenly turned to the cleric who was to drive her to the train station and begged him to ask Yinshun to be her tonsure master. The cleric declared this was an impossible request, as Yinshun did not know her, and he had only taken four disciples his entire life. Nevertheless, she approached Yinshun with the request, and Yinshun gave his consent, saying that he also felt a strong sense of affinity with this young woman. As he tonsured her, he gave her an exhortation that has been her maxim ever since: "At all times do everything for Buddhism, everything for sentient beings!" [Shishikeke wei fojiao, wei zhongsheng 時時刻刻為佛教,為眾生]. He also gave her her new, official dharma-name: Zhengyan 證嚴. She raced back to the Linji Chan Temple and arrived during the last hour of registration, and was ordained at the end of the thirty-two day session. At this time she took three more vows for herself: not



372 BUDDHISM IN TAIWAN Chapter Six. The Period of Pluralization

to be a dharma-master [fashi 法師], not to be the abbess of any temple, and not to take tonsure disciples. She was twenty-six years old.

     The newly-ordained Ven. Zhengyan returned to Hualien and took up residence in her new room behind the Fuming Temple. During the first years she engaged in a serious study of the Lotus Sutra, as well as the practices of copying it over by hand and burning incense scars on her forearm, dedicating the merit to living beings. Her life was especially difficult at this time because of her vow not to accept alms. She began a brief career of lecturing on the Sutra at various venues, and attracted to herself a core group of thirty female lay devotees who loved her earnestness and compassion.

     Beginning in May 1963, she again took up the practice of austerities, eating only one meal a day and worshipping the Buddha. At this time, a strange phenomenon was noted: every night, from the police dispatcher's station behind the temple, a light could be seen coming from the roof of her small room and around the doorframe. This light was especially bright one day each month, and shone in all directions. One evening, a police dispatcher came over and knocked on her door to ask about it. She came out, turned around, and stared in wonder at the sight; she herself had been completely unaware of it.

     She was also unaware of the controversy she was causing among the temple's lay committee. Some were disturbed by the light and attributed it to demonic influences. Others thought that her room ruined the geomantic properties [fengshui 風水] of the temple site. When she finally did find out about the



373 BUDDHISM IN TAIWAN Chapter Six. The Period of Pluralization

disputes within the committee, she voluntarily moved out of the temple and took a room at Mrs. Xu's house. She did, however, maintain contact with the temple, often leading groups of devotees back there for religious practice. Besides her vow not to accept alms, she developed three more guiding principles for her emerging community: not to perform funerals, not to put on dharma-meetings [fahui 法會, a major source of income for most temples], and not to go out and seek donations.(56) She and her disciples took up manufacturing candles and baby booties in order to support themselves.

     The seeds for the Buddhist Compassion Relief Tzu Chi Association were sown in 1966 by two events that altered the course of her life. One day, she went to a small private hospital in Fenglin to visit one of her disciples who was ill. On her way out, she saw a pool of blood on the floor of the lobby, and asked the other people there where it had come from. They explained to her that it was the blood of an aboriginal woman who had had a miscarriage. Her kinsmen had spent eight hours transporting her to the clinic, but the doctor refused to see her unless they could pay a deposit of NT$8000 (about US$200 at that time). They did not have the money, and so had no choice but to take the woman back out again. She subsequently died of the blood loss.

     While thoughts of this incident were still preying upon her mind, three Roman Catholic nuns came to see her in order to convert her. They talked about



374 BUDDHISM IN TAIWAN Chapter Six. The Period of Pluralization

many things, but the most significant topic for Zhengyan was that of social action. The nuns pointed out that Christian groups in Taiwan were engaged in many different kinds of social-welfare work, whereas Buddhism appeared to be doing nothing to benefit people in society. Zhengyan gave a lot of thought to the plight of the poor in eastern Taiwan and to the nuns' words.

     She decided to leave Hualien and go to Yinshun's temple in Chiayi in order to be with him for a time. However, when her disciples heard of her plans they came in a group and begged her to stay. After some discussion, she agreed to stay on the condition that they help her to carry out an idea she had. She asked them each to get a bamboo cylinder to use as a kind of savings bank. Every day, before they went to the market to buy food, they were to put five cents (about one-fifth of an American penny) into the bank for the poor. At the same time, she and her disciples would make one extra pair of baby booties each day, and set aside the proceeds to add to the fund. She hoped in this way to raise enough money each month to be able to put up the deposit required for one indigent person to receive medical attention. Her followers agreed to this plan, and Zhengyan consented to stay in Hualien.

     These thirty followers put the plan into action, and word of their activities quickly spread among their friends in the market. Other people liked the idea, and they also began to participate. Sensing the need for an organization to collect and administer the funds, Zhengyan met with all the participants in her program on March 24, 1966 and formally organized the Buddhist Association for



375 BUDDHISM IN TAIWAN Chapter Six. The Period of Pluralization

the Merit of Overcoming Difficulties and Compassionate Relief [Fojiao Kenan Ciji Gongde Hui 佛教克難慈濟功德會]. All monies collected were subsequently deposited under the Association's name.(57)

     At this point, Zhengyan's story becomes the story of the Association, and so it is appropriate to pause and note some of the patterns of her early life that have influenced the Association's growth and orientation.

     First, we see that Zhengyan had the opportunity in her youth to develop some business skills. She began early in her childhood to help her father manage his movie theater business, and she took this over completely after his death. This put her in a good position to run her temple's cottage industries, and to attend to the management of the Association in its early phase.

     Second, many of her most formative experiences had to do with issues of medical care. At different points in her early life, she was traumatized by her mother's illness, her father's sudden death her attendant grief and guilt at not having gotten him to a doctor in time, and the death of the anonymous aboriginal woman who died because her family lacked the funds to obtain treatment for her. The dream she dreamed for three consecutive nights during her mother's illness involved her futilely attempting to prepare medicine on her own and then receiving medicine directly from a Guanyin-like figure.

     Third, she was given to making and keeping a series of difficult vows, and she showed herself willing and able to undertake severe ascetical practices. She



376 BUDDHISM IN TAIWAN Chapter Six. The Period of Pluralization

also made the very filial prayer that she would exchange twelve years of her own life in order for her mother to recover from her ulcer. These things demonstrate her remarkable ability to deny her own gratification in the pursuit of larger goals, as well as her determination to achieve those goals.

     Finally, she appears surprisingly modern in several respects. Even while she was so attracted to Buddhism, she actively rebelled against many aspects of traditional Chinese Buddhism that she found distasteful, such as the excessive dependence on funeral rites and alms. In addition, it is significant that when she wanted to purchase reading materials for further study at the time that she thought she would have to delay her ordination, she chose the works of Ven. Taixu, and that she felt such a deep (and mutual) affinity for Taixu's direct disciple Yinshun- In later years she, like Xingyun of Fo Kuang Shan and many others, has made use of Yinshun's modification of Taixu's "Buddhism for Human Life" [rensheng fojiao 人生佛教] into "Buddhism in the Human Realm" [renjian fojiao 人間佛教].

     After the founding meeting in 1966, the Association grew quite rapidly, and within the space of a year the Puming Temple 普明寺 proved too small to handle the stream of devotees who came to visit, the business of administering the Association, and the work of publishing its monthly newsletter. Thus, in the fall of 1967, she approached her mother directly to purchase the land necessary for the foundation of a new temple, to be called the Still Thoughts Pure Abode



377 BUDDHISM IN TAIWAN Chapter Six. The Period of Pluralization

[Jingsi Jingshe 靜思淨舍].(58) The main shrine hall was completed in 1969.

     This may appear to be a breach of her vow not to solicit donations. However, the success of the Association forced her to rethink many of her previous vows. Rather than abrogate them completely, she decided that she would be willing to do things on behalf of the Association and its work that she would not do for herself or her temple. For example, the Association attracted many young women who asked her to take them as tonsure-disciples. She consented to this on the strict condition that they join the Association and participate actively in its work. All of her disciples, lay and ordained, take as their motto, "The Master's resolve is my resolve, the Buddha's mind is my mind" [Yi shi zhi wei ji zhi, yi fo xin wei ji xin 以師志為己志,以佛心為己心]. Similarly, the founding of the Still Thoughts Pure Abode was for the purpose of giving the Association adequate space to manage its operations, and she became its abbess for the sake of the Association. Zhengyan and her nuns continued to refuse all donations for their own upkeep, opting instead to pursue their livelihood through handicrafts. They have also steadfastly refused to perform funerals or hold dharma-meetings.

     The Association took its first client in April 1966, a mainland Chinese widow who was unable to walk and who had no one to take care of her. Deciding on a policy of providing complete relief services, the Association sent volunteers out to dean her house, take her to medical appointments, and provide for her until she died. As collections increased, the Association took on more clients,



378 BUDDHISM IN TAIWAN Chapter Six. The Period of Pluralization

providing them the same level of service and the same promise that aid would not be cut off halfway.

     Another turning point for both Zhengyan and the Association came in 1978, when she suffered her first attack of angina pectoris. At this time, friends advised her to make out her will and put her affairs in order, and from that point she needed to keep medication dose at hand at all times. The following year, she had another attack in the middle of the night and was unable to find her medication, an event that led her to realize that she might die at any moment and that the Association was not prepared to carry on its work without her. Thus, she began thinking about ways to put the Association on a firmer foundation for the future.

     She decided that the solution was to have the Association collect funds to construct its own hospital in Hualien. In the first place, Hualien had no modern medical facilities, and many of the people the Association sought to serve died during the long and uncertain (rip to Taipei. In the second place, the Association was locally dependent on small and dingy clinics that required large deposits and could not provide adequate care in many instances. In the third place, many times the Association was forced to send patients to Christian missionary hospitals, which raised the possibility of alleviating the patient's illness at the cost of losing him or her to Christianity. With a hospital of their own, this possibility could be averted, there would be no further need to waste resources supporting inferior facilities, and more money could be ploughed back into supporting the Association.

     Thus when her master Yinshun came to spend the summer in 1979, she



379 BUDDHISM IN TAIWAN Chapter Six. The Period of Pluralization

broached the idea with him and he agreed to serve as the chairman of the board to direct the enterprise. The first donation, fifteen liang 兩 of gold, came from a professor at Tung Hai University, and Zhengyan also received a lot of aid from sympathetic government officials, especially then-provincial governor Lin Xianggang, in surveying possible sites and expediting the paperwork. At one point, a Japanese businessman offered to donate eight billion New Taiwan dollars, the equivalent of US$200,000,000, which would have been enough to complete the project without further fund-raising. However, for reasons that will become dear in the discussion of the Association's religious values below, Zhengyan refused the offer, insisting that her followers in Taiwan raise the money themselves.

     After the Association had raised enough money to begin work and settled on a site, they held the formal groundbreaking on February 2nd, 1984, with Ven. Zhenhua 真華 as master of ceremonies and several government officials, inducting Lee Teng-hui, the future president of the ROC, in attendance. Lee, although himself a Presbyterian, was sufficiently impressed with the work of the organization that he donated NT$30,000 and joined the Association on the spot.

     However, the hospital was far from completion, and further difficulties lay ahead. The Association had, over the five years since Zhengyan conceived the project, raised only NT$30 million of the estimated NT$800 million needed to complete it. More seriously, the military unexpectedly intervened and declared the site of the groundbreaking a security zone, and no amount of intervention by friends in the government could persuade them to permit construction to proceed.



380 BUDDHISM IN TAIWAN Chapter Six. The Period of Pluralization

The Association moved quickly to find another site, and the second groundbreaking took place on April 24, 1984. The excitement generated by the formal commencement of construction stimulated increased donations, and the first building, a five-story medical facility with 250 beds, came to completion two years later. In 1987, the Association broke ground for a second building with an additional 350 beds.

     Throughout the process of building, staffing, and equipping the hospital, Zhengyan insisted that everything meet the most stringent medical standards. Thus, she negotiated an arrangement with the National Taiwan University Medical Center to provide medical personnel on rotation, and many NTU medical students go to Hualien for their internships. A significant number of them stay on as part of the permanent staff. NTU Medical Center staff and administrators currently make up about one third of the hospital's Board of Directors, which also helps to ensure that the quality of care available at the Tzu Chi Buddhist General Hospital is as high as any other hospital in Taiwan.

     The exchange relationship with the NTU Medical Center guarantees that there are enough doctors to meet the Tzu Chi General Hospital's needs, but soon after the completion of the second building, the Association found it increasingly difficult to keep enough nurses on staff. In addition, Zhengyan was particularly concerned that the staff provide nursing care with the compassionate attitude that the Association seeks to foster, and she called attention to the symbolism of the white nurse's uniform, reminiscent of the popular image of the "white-robed



381 BUDDHISM IN TAIWAN Chapter Six. The Period of Pluralization

Guanyin." [Baiyi Guanyin 白衣觀音] In order to meet these two needs, she determined to establish a nursing college in Hualien and began to raise the funds for this as soon as the hospital was completed. The Buddhist Tzu Chi Nursing School opened its doors in 1989, and of the first graduating class of one hundred, about one half joined the hospital staff. After that, Zhengyan proposed the construction of a medical school, which broke ground in March, 1992, and opened in 1994. It currently enrolls about 200 students. The Association is now planning to construct an entire university around the medical school, which will offer a complete educational curriculum for the people of the east coast.

     Since she became nationally prominent, Zhengyan has acquired a saintly image throughout Taiwan and East Asia, and has often been dubbed the "Mother Teresa of Taiwan" in the press. However, her operations and methods have not remained free from controversy. In 1991, areas in eastern and central China experienced some of the worst flooding in a century, which left thousands dead and tens of thousands homeless and destitute. Zhengyan immediately mounted a campaign to raise funds for mainland flood relief, and within six months had collected NT$412 million (over US$15 million). She obtained the cooperation of mainland authorities to send over a team of volunteers, all of whom traveled at their own expense, to oversee administration of the funds and the reconstruction efforts in Anhui, Jiangsu, and Henan provinces. As laudable as these efforts were to the many contributors, Zhengyan suffered some attacks in the press for "giving comfort to the enemy" and for sending aid abroad when there was



382 BUDDHISM IN TAIWAN Chapter Six. The Period of Pluralization

continuing need for relief work at home.

     Since its founding in 1966, the growth of the Association has been staggering. At its inception, it had thirty members, and it raised NT$28,788 (about US$720) during the first year. By 1986, the numbers had grown to over 80,000. By 1990, the Association broke the one-million-member mark, and by 1992, this number had more than doubled. As of 1994, the Buddhist Compassion Relief Tzu Chi Association has about 3,500,000 members, including those in its international branches in the United States, Japan. Canada, England, Malaysia, and Singapore, with the U.S. branch the fastest-growing. This means that in Taiwan, about one-tenth of the population belongs to the Association.(59) The relief fund in 1994 stood at NT$1.7 billion.(60)

     Zhengyan continues to devote herself entirely to the Association's work. Although her own health continues to be fragile (she suffers from stomach and liver problems in addition to angina), she still eschews the after-lunch rest break customary throughout Taiwan in order to receive visitors, she travels to all the Association's branch offices both at home and abroad, writes columns for the Association's monthly magazine and semi-monthly newsletter, and meets every morning with volunteers who stay at the Still Thoughts Pure Abode during their three-to-seven-day work shifts at the hospital. As is the case with Fo Kuang Shan, members of her organization still look to her to provide focus and guidance, and she is still very much the Association's center.



383 BUDDHISM IN TAIWAN Chapter Six. The Period of Pluralization

     B. The Association as a Lay Organization. As noted above, Fo Kuang Shan is, first and foremost, a large temple housing literally thousands of monks and nuns, and it is administered as a large, highly diversified corporation. Its most conspicuous symbol is the large, gold Buddha-image visible throughout the surrounding countryside. The Buddhist Compassion Relief Tzu Chi Association, on the other hand, is not especially identified with the Still Thoughts Pure Abode, which has not grown appreciably since its establishment in 1967. The only expansions it has undergone have been in order to accommodate the Association's increased need for workspace and the greater number of overnight lay visitors. The main shrine hall is still very small and simple, and the small group of resident nuns continues support itself through handicrafts. When the Association establishes branches in other cities or countries, they are uniformly lay associations, not branch temples. Far from being a corporation, the Association functions as a family.

     The center of the family is Zhengyan herself, who, I believe to a greater degree than Xingyun, relies on her own charisma to lead. Scholars in Taiwan have offered various explanations to account for the source of her appeal. Jiang Canteng 江燦騰 points out that she is an extremely eloquent speaker in the Taiwanese dialect, which would make her the only national-level Buddhist leader in Taiwan (at least until 1989, when Jingxin became president of the BAROC) to embrace Taiwanese culture.(61) Lu Huixin 盧蕙馨 points out that her grassroots



384 BUDDHISM IN TAIWAN Chapter Six. The Period of Pluralization

support comes almost entirely from the native Taiwanese and Hakka populations, and that the success of her Association engenders pride in the people's ability to dispense with foreign (particularly American) aid in favor of self-help.(62)

     While acknowledging Zhengyan's appeal to native Taiwanese cultural pride, Prof. Lu goes further and presents a very detailed analysis of her charisma and leadership style as a way of understanding her broad attraction. At the base of her appeal Prof. Lu pinpoints two elements: her appropriation of archetypal parental imagery and her unquestioned moral integrity.(63) As to the first of these factors, Prof. Lu dies several testimonials culled from the Association's publications that show that many people, far from simply joining the organization, may be said to convert to it. For example, one man who had spent much time in and out of prison came to the Still Thoughts Pure Abode and heard her speaking in gentle tones of the need for people to help the Association bear its heavy responsibilities. He immediately began crying and confessing his faults. Afterwards, he gave up smoking, drinking, and gambling, and went into business selling fruit by the roadside. He contributed to the Association from his profits and subsequently introduced over 5000 new members into it.

     In another case, Zhengyan received a visit from the wife of a wealthy household who, by her own account, found no satisfaction in all that she had, but was perpetually unhappy. Zhengyan advised her to accompany one of the Association's members while she went to call upon poor families. As they



385 BUDDHISM IN TAIWAN Chapter Six. The Period of Pluralization

proceeded, she too broke into tears and realized that she had never known how fortunate she was and how little she had cared for the needs of others. She later credited Zhengyan with "cleansing her heart," and went on to say, "I am grateful to the Master that a group of disreputable women like me, who only knew how to gossip and hang around department stores, could become useful people giving ourselves to social work."(64)

     The reason Zhengyan has this effect on people, according to Prof. Lu, is that she simultaneously embodies the strict father and the kind mother. On the one hand, she is uncompromising in her challenge to greed and materialism and in her call for people to open their hearts to those unrelated to them. On the other hand, she speaks in soft and kind words and exhibits an unaffected concern for even the most wayward visitor. According to the testimony of several Association members, meeting her is like finding a long-lost relative, or like finding someone in whom one can take refuge for life. One male disciple, who had been dissolute and by his own account had no interest whatsoever in listening to Buddhist lectures, acquired a tape of Zhengyan lecturing and listened to it sixty or seventy times. He said. "The Master speaks softly and gently, like a mother calling her lost child to come home."(65) Stories such as this and the two described above are far from rare.

     The second factor, her absolute moral integrity, is another key element in her leadership style. Considered objectively, she has very little upon which to



386 BUDDHISM IN TAIWAN Chapter Six. The Period of Pluralization

base her credibility. Even though she came from a middle-class family, she is still a village woman by upbringing and temperament, and she has received little education. She has made a study of the Lotus Sutra as indicated above, and she has a solid basis in Confucius and Mencius, but beyond that she has very little in the way of Buddhist education, ironic for a disciple of Yinshun, arguably the most influential Buddhist intellectual in Taiwan.

     However, her integrity allows her to lead by example, and her compassion allows her to affect people deeply with few words. Because she supports herself through her work, lives simply, works very hard on behalf of the Association, and makes and keeps many vows, she elicits immediate trust. The fact that she has accomplished so much in her life despite physical frailty and the social handicap of being a woman inspires her followers to exert themselves to the utmost. Perhaps more than any other Buddhist leader in Taiwan, her followers seek to emulate her in accordance with her dictum, "The Master's resolve is my resolve, the Buddha's mind is my mind." Many identify with her to the extent that they place more importance on their relationship with her than with their own families, and some make vows to follow her from one rebirth to the next.

     Her charisma is such that her followers frequently attribute to her deliverance from calamity and the healing of physical or mental illnesses. The stories of her early austerities and supernatural displays of light are well known, which lends added credibility to these stories, although she herself attributes such phenomena to the effects of following her program and not to any personal



387 BUDDHISM IN TAIWAN Chapter Six. The Period of Pluralization

power. All of the above considerations point to a leadership style that relies very heavily on Zhengyan's personality and character, and indicate potential problems when she passes from the scene.

     Below her in the organizational structure are three vice-presidents, all laypeople, each with responsibility over one of three aspects of the Association's work: medical care, education, and cultural work. Below them is a group simply called the Committee [weiyuanhui 委員會], which currently consists of about 4000 members scattered throughout all the branches. They form the nucleus of the Association. The Committee evolved from the original thirty women who agreed to join Zhengyan in her charitable work, and during the early stages of the Association's growth, tended to consist of homemakers aged forty and above. However, after construction of the hospital began, men began joining (many following introduction into the Association by their wives), the average age dropped, and the average educational level rose. Today, the Committee is still about 75% female, and takes care of such diverse activities as fundraising, preaching, giving talks on the Association and its work, recruiting new Committee members, accompanying people to the Still Thoughts Pure Abode or the hospital, performing volunteer work at the hospital, and so on. Before the founding of the men's auxiliary, they also handled traffic and security for the Still Thoughts Pure Abode and the hospital. For many of these people, their work within the Association amounts to a full-time job.(66)



388 BUDDHISM IN TAIWAN Chapter Six. The Period of Pluralization

     The women of the Committee wear a uniform designed by Zhengyan herself. It is a blue traditional Chinese gown [qipao 旗袍] which she calls the "suit of gentleness, harmony, and forbearance" [rouherenruyi 柔和忍辱衣]. These uniforms have achieved wide recognition all over Taiwan, and frequently taxi drivers will refuse to take fares from women wearing them. Prof. Lu's evaluation of this phenomenon is ambivalent. The women receive much respect based on their work, but the gown also explicitly symbolizes moral values traditionally associated with women in Chinese society: humaneness, gentleness, compassion, and harmony. She believes this demonstrates how much of Zhengyan's success stems from her recommendation of conservative values for her female followers.(67) We will return to this point later.

     The men's auxiliary, called the Compassion Sincerity Team [cichengdui 慈成隊], came into being in 1989 in response to the increasing work of the Association and the greater number of male members. The Compassion Sincerity Team's role within the organization is not as great, for the simple reason that men have less free time to devote to it. Nevertheless, the Association has channeled the men's available energy and time into such "masculine" tasks as directing traffic, maintaining security, and the kind of hospital volunteer work that requires more strength and stamina than compassion and kind words.

     From the above description, it is apparent that the Buddhist Compassion Relief Tzu Chi Association's organizational scheme is considerably simpler than



389 BUDDHISM IN TAIWAN Chapter Six. The Period of Pluralization

that of Fo Kuang Shan. This is because it has a much more dearly focused mission than the latter. Whereas Fo Kuang Shan attempts to provide a comprehensive program providing opportunities for all aspects of Buddhist work and cultivation, the Tzu Chi Association engages primarily in medical and social welfare work, and in encouraging the virtue of giving. Accordingly, it does not require the complex organizational infrastructure necessary at Fo Kuang Shan.

     It is equally dearly a lay Buddhist association. Even though Zhengyan provides the leadership even more emphatically than Xingyun, the backbone of the organization is still the lay members. As far as I can determine, the nuns of the Still Thoughts Pure Abode are few in number and primarily occupied in their handicraft industries and with seeing to the needs of the visitors to the temple. In addition, the Pure Abode itself is very small and does not serve as the main symbol of the organization; that role is reserved to the white marble hospital buildings.

     Finally, the Association found a way to thrive and grow even during the period of Martial Law. It did not compete with the BAROC as a general-purpose service organization for Buddhists, but found its own niche as a nationwide social-service agency. Some critics have also stressed that the Association posed no challenge to the government or the social order, but provided an outlet for rich industrialists to salve their consciences with their contributions.(68) Still, it is clear that the Association located an unfilled need in society and proceeded to fill



390 BUDDHISM IN TAIWAN Chapter Six. The Period of Pluralization

it with great success. Also, like Fo Kuang Shan, it is apparent that the Association's growth accelerated greatly after the lifting of Martial Law and the liberalization of the law on civic groups, although in this case the connection may not be significant.

     C. The Religious and Moral Vision of the Tzu Chi Association. As with Fo Kuang Shan, the Buddhist Compassion Relief Tzu Chi Association relies upon the religious and moral vision of its founder in order to provide a rationale for its members' continued involvement beyond the effect of Zhengyan's personal charisma. This vision is articulated in the Master's speeches and articles, and has been synthesized in a book entitled Still Thoughts.(69) This book is reminiscent of the "recorded sayings" genre in Chinese Buddhist literature, and its influence has been enormous: it had been through 100 printings as of 1992, and in 1990 was number three on the Taiwan bestseller lists.(70) In addition, many elementary and middle school teachers have selected it for use as a supplementary text on ethics for their students.(71)

     Zhengyan's ethical-religious synthesis is a blend of Confucianism and Buddhism, the traditional and the modern. As noted above, she is familiar with both the Analects of Confucius and the Mencius. and her thinking reflects Confucian concepts in two primary ways: in the exaltation of the virtue of filial piety [xiao 孝] and in her belief that individual moral rectification leads outward to rectification of the family, the society, and the nation.



391 BUDDHISM IN TAIWAN Chapter Six. The Period of Pluralization

     Zhengyan calls filial piety "the root of becoming a buddha," and members of the Association frequently find that engaging in relief work leads them to reflect on the quality of their family relationships. More than one follower has noted the irony of going out to call upon poor families, and helping them in such ways as cleaning their houses, bathing the elderly and infirm, and running errands for them when they do not do these things for their own parents and in-laws. For example, one woman, when bathing an elderly man, realized the import of the Master's teaching that this was the way to "bathe the Buddha."(72) She also recalled the Master's words that "one's mother and father are Living buddhas," and repented and confessed at the next meeting of the Association, vowing to improve her treatment of her parents.(73)

     However, Zhengyan's teachings on filial piety go beyond the simple evocation of traditional injunctions. In response to the recent prevalence of the nuclear family over the older-style extended family, she emphasizes marital harmony as one of the foundations of true filial piety. Many members of the Association reform their own attitudes after engaging in its work among the poor and hearing the Master's words. They then report that their spouses notice the difference in their demeanor and gain introduction into the Association based on this. The result is frequently the ending of affairs, or the husbands begin spending more time at home, and often go so far as to help with the household



392 BUDDHISM IN TAIWAN Chapter Six. The Period of Pluralization

chores. The result is increased family harmony. Sometimes the entire family goes on to join the Association.(74)

As to the second, the Master has written:

Every woman with a spiritual philosophy should cultivate her mind and body so she is like the moonlight, merciful and soft. ...Illuminate the whole family, or even the whole society and everyone who comes in contact with you, like the cool and refreshing moonlight. This way, we can create a world where mutual love and care exist. (p. 51)

Like Confucius and his followers, Zhengyan believes that the key to solving the ills of society lies in the personal cultivation of the individual. As we have seen above, this frequently does lead to concrete improvements in the moral atmosphere of the family, and Zhengyan believes this leads in turn to the rectification of the society and the world.

     In terms of specifically Buddhist teachings, Zhengyan takes the social work of the Association as both metaphor and method in order to re-interpret traditional Buddhist teachings and to prescribe new ways of practice suited to the life of contemporary lay society. For example, the term daochang traditionally denotes a temple or meditation hall where one works on spiritual cultivation. However, in Still Thoughts, Zhengyan calls upon her disciples to think their everyday workplace as a daochang, a "place of the way." (p. 119) When her followers take the work of the Association and export it far and wide, she praises this as "expanding their shentong 神通," using a Buddhist term that normally refers to supernormal



393 BUDDHISM IN TAIWAN Chapter Six. The Period of Pluralization

powers which one acquires as the fruit of spiritual practice. When one has rendered charitable service to the poor and needy, the happiness one brings them and the sense of ease one feels are "dedicating the merit."(75)

     In order to emphasize that hers is a path of practical action as opposed to study or meditation, she points out that the scriptures of Buddhism embody the way [dao 道] and the way is a road that must be trodden.(76) Thus, wisdom is not to be found by study and meditation, but by realizing the nonduality of the donor and the recipient in the transactions of charity. Meditative stabilization [Skt.: samādhi] may be attained not only in seated meditation, but in going about one's work with an undivided mind concentrated upon the recipient of one's good deeds. In consonance with this emphasis on practical action in the world, the Still Thoughts Pure Abode offers no program of religious practice or cultivation beyond holding Morning Devotions; apart from this, there are no other liturgical observances, no space set aside for the practice of meditation, no lecture hall, and soon.

     In a similar manner, Zhengyan interprets the traditional six perfections of Buddhism in light of the Association's social welfare work. One begins with the perfection of giving by setting aside one's resources of time and money in an attitude of love. In this way, giving becomes religious self-cultivation. This is why Zhengyan refused the offer of the Japanese businessman to completely underwrite the construction of the hospital: if taken, such an offer would rob



394 BUDDHISM IN TAIWAN Chapter Six. The Period of Pluralization

Association members of this opportunity for religious practice. Likewise, this is why she stressed from the outset of her work setting aside a small amount each day, as opposed to giving a larger sum once a month or once a year. By giving smaller amounts each day, one develops the mind of charity and enhances its constancy.

     However, the real perfection of giving involves the other perfections as well. Businessmen who donate millions of NT dollars to the Association still work in the hospital carrying trash or directing traffic, and many members at large collect funds for the Association by going to local trash heaps and picking out items for recycling. Having to endure the opprobrium that Chinese society still attaches to such work develops the perfection of forbearance. Keeping to one's vow to set aside money daily and to do the work of the Association develops the perfection of precepts. Maintaining one's efforts over a lifetime develops the perfection of effort. As pointed out above, concentrating one's mind while serving the poor or working at one's daily occupation encourages the perfection of concentration. Finally, one develops the perfection of wisdom as one engages in compassionate bodhisattva conduct and slowly lets go of all afflicted thoughts. The perfection of wisdom completes the circle, for once one goes to perform one's charitable work with the purified mind of wisdom, then giving is also perfected.(77)

     Zhengyan has also consciously adapted traditional Buddhist precepts for the needs of modem society. When men join the Association, they typically take



395 BUDDHISM IN TAIWAN Chapter Six. The Period of Pluralization

on the traditional Five Lay Precepts of Buddhism: not to kill, steal, engage in sexual immorality, lie, or drink intoxicating beverages. However, to these Zhengyan adds five more: they are to give up smoking, chewing betel nut, gambling (which includes video games and the stock market), they are to be filial sons and good family men, and they are to buckle their safety belts when driving a car or wear a helmet if driving a motorcycle.(78)

     The final piece of this brief sketch of Zhengyan's religious-ethical synthesis is her insistence that one approach life from a basic stance of perfect gratitude and perfect love. Of the first, she says, "Feel grateful when confronted with adverse circumstances." (p. 63), and "Others scold me, misunderstand me, slander me, and I am grateful. I thank them for giving me a state of cultivation." (p. 67) The love she advocates is neither romantic nor particularistic, but the expansive, pure love of the Buddha:

A man who was suffering because of love asked, "Can love be ended?" The Master said, "Love is difficult to end. The Bodhisattva path is to realize love, not to end love. The Buddha also does not end love, but the Buddha's love is universal and undefiled. While personal love and personal desires bring suffering to living beings, only great and long-term love can liberate living beings from pain." (p. 191)

In order to illustrate the importance with which she views these basic attitudes, one may look at some advice that she gave to a woman whose life was torn by her husband's long-standing affair. When she asked Zhengyan for advice, the



396 BUDDHISM IN TAIWAN Chapter Six. The Period of Pluralization

latter instructed her to feel gratitude for this opportunity to reflect upon impermanence, and to generate pure love not only for her husband, but for the woman he was seeing as well.(79)

     The above represents only a brief look at the religious and moral underpinnings of the Tzu Chi Association's work and rapid growth. It shows Zhengyan as very skilled at taking traditional Confucian and Buddhist moral teachings and re-interpreting them not only for modem society, but specifically for the needs of the laity who make up the backbone of the organization and its mission.

     D. The Tzu Chi Association as a Women's Religious Phenomenon. Finally, we must consider the significance and special features of the phenomenal success of this organization founded by a group of women, headed by a woman, and still dominated by women.

     According to Lu Huixin, who has observed the Association both as a woman scholar and as a member of the organization, the success of the Association among women in Taiwan rests upon a paradox. The Association dearly gives women meaningful work to do outside the confines of the traditional Chinese home, and their dominance in the organization gives them a sense of ownership not commonly found among civic organizations in Taiwan. One may see this from the fact that, unlike most civic groups run by men with a "women's auxiliary" playing a subordinate role, the Tzu Chi Association has a men's auxiliary, the



397 BUDDHISM IN TAIWAN Chapter Six. The Period of Pluralization

"Compassion Sincerity Team," which only came into being twenty-three years after the founding of the Association in response to increased male membership. Also, one may observe that only the female Committee members have uniforms; male members do not.

     However, the Association has achieved this level of success by not threatening traditional conceptions of men's and women's roles in society. While women in the organization have the opportunity to work outside the home, the work that they do reflects moral values traditionally associated with women: caring, compassion, humility, gentleness, and harmony. As the reader will recall, this is the reason that female Committee members in uniform receive such widespread respect. They do not seek to change the social order or call for any fundamental reforms either in gender roles or in societal relations. Those who advocate a more thoroughgoing modernization of Taiwan Buddhism have sometimes criticized Zhengyan and her Association on this point.(80)

     However, it is dear that the Tzu Chi Association provides a refuge and a place of healing for the women who are comfortable with these traditional values and roles, and whose lives have been transformed by the technological and social changes that give them increased leisure time and discretionary income. In it they find a group modeled after the ideal family, with Zhengyan as both mother and father. Zhengyan in turn gives them teachings geared not only towards helping them develop wisdom in the Buddhist sense, but also towards helping



398 BUDDHISM IN TAIWAN Chapter Six. The Period of Pluralization

them reconcile to and fulfil their traditional roles. For example, the book Still Thoughts has an entire section devoted to a perennial problem of Chinese women, that of poor relations between mothers- and daughters-in-law.

     The Association has also given its female members a sense of unity of purpose, and led them to a previously unheard of level of empowerment through the pooling of resources. All of the women in the organization are aware that what is now an international body that moves vast sums of money to bring help where it is needed began its existence as a group of thirty village women who decided to donate a pittance each day. Because of this sense of unity and empowerment, many women have found an escape from the dissatisfaction of living in a materialistic, selfish culture, and have learned to find happiness in giving up their own ego-gratifications for a larger religious purpose. This is what Zhengyan, through her charisma and vision, has brought about for them.



V. Other New Buddhist Organizations

     This chapter has been devoted primarily to a consideration of the two largest organizations that emerged during the time which Yao Lixiang characterizes as Taiwan Buddhism's "period of pluralization." However, as I indicated at the beginning of the chapter, this period has brought about a multitude of new Buddhist groups, especially since the lifting of Martial Law and the liberalization of the laws on civic organizations.

     For example, Ven. Shengyan 聖嚴, another member of the second generation



399 BUDDHISM IN TAIWAN Chapter Six. The Period of Pluralization

of monks to achieve eminence in Taiwan since Retrocession, has in recent years been actively expanding and promoting Dharma Drum Mountain [Fagu Shan 法鼓山], a planned complex near the northeast seacoast that, when completed, will include the Chung Hwa Institute of Buddhist Studies, a university, a high school, an international Chan meditation center, a scholarly publishing and translation bureau, international conference facilities, and a temple. Working through a network of lay people incorporated as the Dharmapala Organization of Dharma Drum Mountain. Ven. Shengyan hopes to raise the NT$580 million (over US$23 million) necessary to bring the project to fruition. Besides benefitting from the open climate for new civic groups, the establishment of the Dharma Drum complex also takes advantage of the recent liberalization of the education laws, a topic to be taken up in the next chapter.(81)

     This organization, along with the BAROC and the two examined in detail in this chapter, appear to be the most stable and well-supported as of this writing. New Buddhist organizations are being founded at a great rate, which means that the hopes harbored by some that Taiwan Buddhism may one day achieve some measure of unity seem to be farther away than ever. It may be that such diversification is inevitable when a society makes the transition from authoritarian rule under a dominant, Leninist-style party to a true representative democracy, but I tend to believe that, ever since the Buddha on his deathbed refused to name a successor as Master of the Teachings and instructed his disciples to be lights



400 BUDDHISM IN TAIWAN Chapter Six. The Period of Pluralization

unto themselves, Buddhism has always lacked a mechanism to achieve institutional unity. What unity Buddhism in Taiwan has enjoyed since 1945 has been artificial, fostered in the environment of Martial Law and KMT rule. As democratization proceeds, I believe we will see further pluralization until a new equilibrium is achieved.




(1) Despite its ambitious title, this is primarily a directory of temples and other Buddhist organizations in Taiwan, with a few pages in the back devoted to international listings. The revised entries are not just new organizations; the mark can also mean that there has been some change in the entry since the last edition. In fact, one of those marked is the BAROC itself, probably because of the election of Ven. Jingxin as president. See Shijie Fojiao Tongxun Lu (World Directory of Buddhist Organizations), 1994 ed. (Taipei: Falun Zazhi She, 1994), p. 261-262.[back to text]

(2) Yao Lixiang 1988, p. 236-237. Prof. Yao divides post-Retrocession Taiwan Buddhist history into three periods: 1) the Period of Japanization, 1945-1952, during which the BAROC was occupied with putting its own infrastructure in place and had not yet effectively addressed the de-Japanization of Taiwan Buddhism; 2) the Period of Rebuilding, 1953-1970, during which the BAROC pursued its reformation of Taiwan Buddhism as the sole institutional agency representing Buddhism on the island; and 3) the Period of Pluralization, 1970-present, in which other groups arose to compete with the BAROC for loyalty, representative authority, resources, membership, and vision for the future.[back to text]

(3) BAROC charter, Section 4, Article 23. The charter is reproduced in Lin Jindong, ed. 1958, p. 233-239. As late as 1985, this was still perceived by the BAROC leadership as a problem. The BAROC Newsletter at this time carried a report of a meeting of the Youth Committee in which the BAROC secretary-general Ven. Liaozhong complained of excessive lay leadership among Buddhist youth and called for more clergy to take over the top positions. See Zhongfohui Kan (BAROC Newsletter), no. 36 (August 26, 1985), p. 4.[back to text]

(4) See chapter seven for a more detailed discussion of the actual processes and implications of the development of lay Buddhism in Taiwan.[back to text]

(5) Yao Lixiang 1988, p. 243. As we saw in the previous chapter. Prof. Yang Human also commented on the increased level of alienation this incident produced among both clerical and lay members. See Yang Huinan 1991, p. 36.[back to text]

(6) Zhang Shengyan 1979, p. 172.[back to text]

(7) Tien Hung-mao 1989, p. 110-112. Scholars of modern Chinese history note that another set of laws, called the Provisional Amendments for the Period of Mobilization of the Suppression of Communist Rebellion (or "temporary provisions" for short) and passed on the mainland in 1948, gave the president sweeping emergency powers and contributed as much as Martial Law to the repressive political situation before 1987. As of 1993, these provisions were still in effect (See Copper 1993, p. 91). However. I have come across no evidence that these laws had any effect on either the BAROC's early hegemony or on the pluralism of the later period, and so I have chosen not to discuss these provisions here.[back to text]

(8) For example, Ven. Hengqing 恆清 (Heng Ch'ing), now a member of the Philosophy Department at National Taiwan University, originally went to America to study education. She was ordained a nun in Los Angeles under the Chinese Buddhist missionary monk Xuanhua 玄化 (Hsuan Hua) in 1975 after she had already earned a Master's degree. She remained in America and earned a doctorate in Buddhist Studies at the University of Wisconsin in 1984, and then returned to Taiwan. Since she went to study abroad while still a layperson, she applied for foreign study through the Education Ministry as an ordinary citizen and not through the Ministry of the Interior as all "religious figures" were required to at the time. For her story, see Lan Jifu 1993a, p. 47. Another example is Ven. Shengyan (Sheng-yen), who went to Japan for further study in 1969 with no support from the BAROC his home temple, or his master. He went, he says, "almost as a protest." See Zhang Shengyan 1993, p. 96-97.[back to text]

(9) Zhongfohui Kan (BAROC Newsletter), no. 18 (January 1. 1983), p. 1.[back to text]

(10) Copper 1993, p. xxv, 71.[back to text]

(11) Jiang Canteng 1994.[back to text]

(12) Yao Lixiang 1988, p. 242-243; Nakamura Hajime et al., ed. 1976, p. 181.[back to text]

(13) Interestingly, Mr. Tang went ahead and joined the CBLA while retaining his own individual membership in the BAROC. He states that he hoped in this way to prod the CBLA from within towards joining the BAROC and respecting monastic leadership, but that his efforts over ten years proved fruitless.[back to text]

(14) This would be natural for a group composed primarily of government officials and retirees, and so I believe it is a credible statement.[back to text]

(15) Yiguandao 一貫道 (frequently translated as the Way of Great Unity) is an offshoot of the Xiantian Sect of Zhaijiao, but did not evolve directly from the Xiantian Sect on Taiwan. Rather, it is the product of the fragmentation of the Xiantian Sect on the mainland into a number of regional offshoots. Yiguandao arose from the Shandong Province lineages, and the name Yiguandao was originally applied to the group in 1886 by the sixteenth patriarch Liu Qingxu. It became a nationwide religion under the leadership of Zhang Tianran, who took control of the organization in 1930.

     Yiguandao is a syncretistic religion that combines the "Five Teachings" (Daoism, Buddhism, Confucianism, Christianity, and Islam) into one coherent system of salvation. Its ultimate object of devotion is the Unborn Venerable Mother [wusheng laomu 無生老母], a dynamic, creative personification of the Dao. Humanity became estranged from her through excessive attachment to the "red dust" of the material world, and she has worked through the ages via the sages of all religions to bring them back. Thus, it regards the scriptures of all five religions as its own, alongside scriptures composed by its own patriarch and matriarchs.

     Neither the BAROC nor the central government of the ROC has had much love for this religion. It was banned from open proselytizing until 1987 when it was finally legalized, and the BAROC Newsletter frequently ran editorials inveighing against it. See Zheng Zhiming 1989, p. 67-108, 151-156. See also the account of the religion in Overmyer and Jordan 1986.[back to text]

(16) Tang Xiangqing 1982, p. 4.[back to text]

(17) Fo Kuang Shan [foguangshan] means "Buddha's Light Mountain," but in their own extensive English-language literature they prefer to use the Chinese name in Wade-Giles Romanization and not a translation. I have followed this preference here for the sake of consistency.[back to text]

(18) This is according to FG 3837b. Other Fo Kuang Shan literature gives his date of birth as 1926.[back to text]

(19) Shi Xingyun 1994b, p. 206.[back to text]

(20) This was a very large and famous temple site on mainland China before 1949. Holmes Welch draws on it for examples of many aspects of pre-Communist Chinese Buddhist life in The Practice of Chinese Buddhism, 1900-1950 (romanized therein as "Ch'i-hsia").[back to text]

(21) FG 3837c.[back to text]

(22) Shi Xingyun 1952, p. 2-3.[back to text]

(23) Shi Xingyun 1994b, p. 7, 208.[back to text]

(24) FG 3837c.[back to text]

(25) In the course of my field research in Taiwan, I tried through many channels to ascertain the basic nature of Fo Kuang Shan's and Xingyun's relationship with the BAROC. It appears that there have been problems, but eliciting concrete information proved extremely difficult, given my status as an outsider and the tendency within Chinese culture to put the best face on things.

     Records of BAROC Standing Committee meetings contained within the magazine Chinese Buddhist Monthly from the 1950s and early 1960s show Xingyun as a regular attendee and an active participant, constantly putting motions out for consideration. However, very few (if any) of his suggestions were ever taken up for action. Two possible reasons come to mind for this. First, according to the testimony of other witnesses at that time such as Shengyan and Nanting, almost all other officers of the BAROC were very spotty in their attendance and inactive when they did attend. It is likely that very few motions ever came to fruition, no matter who suggested them. Second, as we shall shortly see, Xingyun belonged to the reformist camp: his writings on his religious ideals contain frequent quotations from Taixu and references to "humanistic Buddhism," which was one of Taixu's reform slogans. The BAROC, on the other hand, has been controlled by the conservatives since the 1950s.

     Since those early days, it is clear that Xingyun, while retaining his position on the Standing Committee, has invested most of his energy and resources into his own pursuits. Some of my informants pointed out to me that Xingyun, alone of all the mainland monks, set up his base of operations in the south of Taiwan. This was, they said, to escape from the BAROC's sphere of influence in the north. On the other hand, informants within Fo Kuang Shan and other sources indicate that relations between the two are good, pointing out that Xingyun has been an active contributor to the BAROC's efforts to establish a Buddhist university within the ROC education system (See Our Report, p. 10; and BAROC Newsletter, no. 85 (May 25, 1990), p. 1). A personal communication from Jiang Canteng dated March 9, 1995 indicates that although there was personal friction between Xingyun and Baisheng, Fo Kuang Shan and all its subtemples and auxiliary organizations have remained corporate members of the BAROC.[back to text]

(26) Foguangshan Zongwu Weiyuanhui 1979, p. 43.[back to text]

(27) The interested reader may consult the English publication Fo Kuang Shan Committee on Religious Affairs 1992 for a more complete listing of activities and facilities available at Fo Kuang Shan.[back to text]

(28) Shi Xingyun 1994b, p. 7-8.[back to text]

(29) Fo Kuang Shan Committee on Religious Affairs 1992, p. 46-47 contains a directory of all branches.[back to text]

(30) Fo Kuang Shan Committee on Religious Affairs 1992, p. 32-35. Further information in this section came from Fo Kuang Shan Committee on Religious Affairs, Wanfo Santan Dajie Tongjielu (Ten Thousand Buddhas Triple Platform Ordination Yearbook) (Kaohsiung: Xingyun, 1979), p. 43-44.[back to text]

(31) Fo Kuang Shan Committee on Religious Affairs 1992, p. 25 gives 1971 as the date of the first ordination session at Fo Kuang Shan. However, there is a discrepancy with the 1992 Gazetteer, which state that the 1971 ordination took place at the Cishan Temple in Taichung- Since the English version of the Fo Kuang Shan Committee of Religious Affair's report conflates ordinations held at Fo Kuang Shan itself with those held at its overseas branches, I checked the Chinese version, which states very clearly that the 1971 ordination took place at Fo Kuang Shan. On the other hand, the 1992 Gazetteer state that the First ordination at Fo Kuang Shan took place in 1977, and I have in my possession a copy of an ordination yearbook published at Fo Kuang Shan in 1979. Also, unlike most other entries in the 1992 Gazetteer's listing of ordinations, the information under the 1977 ordination is very incomplete; it only lists Ven. Baisheng as the master of ceremonies, omitting the other two ordaining masters, and gives only a rough estimate of the number of ordinands. Thus, even so straightforward a matter of when and where an annual ordination took place can mire the researcher in contradictions![back to text]

(32) Another ordination took place at the Xilai Temple in Los Angeles, a Fo Kuang Shan subtemple, in 1988, but this does not affect the general discussion here.[back to text]

(33) Zhongfohui Kan (BAROC Newsletter), no. 96 (May 15, 1991), p. 4. Xingyun acted as the preceptor through the entire event. Other ordaining elders included BAROC president Ven. Wuming, who acted as "honorary mentor" [mingyu daoshi 名譽導師], BAROC secretary-general Ven. Liaozhong ¤F¤¤ who served as master of ceremonies for the monk's ordination, and Ven. Pumiao 普妙, president of the BAROC Kaohsiung Branch Association, acted as master of ceremonies for the novice's ordination.[back to text]

(34) Zhongguo Fojiao Yuekan (Chinese Buddhist Monthly), vol. 37, no. 10 (October 1993), p. 8-9.[back to text]

(35) Fo Kuang Shan Committee on Religious Affairs 1992, p. 45; Buddha's Light International Association 1992, p. 7-3.[back to text]

(36) Lan Jifu 1987, p. 51. It should be noted that, about two years before this article was written, the BAROC decided to take a more proactive stand by establishing a subcommittee to investigate applicants for BAROC membership in order to prevent heretical or fraudulent groups from gaining admittance under the guise of orthodox Buddhism. See Zhongfohui Kan (BAROC Newsletter), no. 36 (August 26, 1985), p. 1. Also, in the matter of individual clergy, we have already seen that the BAROC scrutinizes ordinands closely during their ordination sessions and eliminates those whom it feels would harm Buddhism by their conduct or views.

     It might also be argued that this criticism is groundless simply because Buddhism has never had a central authority exercising coercive power in matters of doctrine and discipline in accordance with the Buddha's refusal to name a successor to head the sangha after he died. The highest level of control that any Buddhist group can exercise is expulsion from the group, which does not amount to expulsion from Buddhism or even from the monastic order.[back to text]

(37) See for example the opinions collected in Zhongguo Fojiao Yuekan (Chinese Buddhist Monthly), vol. 9, no. 9 (May 1965), p. 10-25.[back to text]

(38) There is an informal rule operating in Taiwan to the effect that only a monk of recognized eminence may wear a robe of bright yellow or orange. For example, at the Xilian Temple near Sanhsia, only the founder-abbot wears orange; all the seventy other monks and nuns wear dull blue or grey. During my entire two and a half years of research in Taiwan, I never knew a nun to wear these colors except for formal occasions. Once someone told me that a nun she knew received a set of orange robes from a devotee, but never dared to wear it, saying it made her too uncomfortable, and she eventually gave it away. Ven. Huimin, the vice-abbot of the Xilian Temple, told me that orange robes were favored by monks who traveled, especially in the Theravada countries, where saffron is the normal color for monastic garb. He went on to say that he once traveled in southeast Asia in his grey robes, and no-one knew that he was a monk.[back to text]

(39) Fo Kuang Shan Committee of Religious Affairs 1992, p. 43-14.[back to text]

(40) Fo Kuang Shan Committee of Religious Affairs 1992, p. 43.[back to text]

(41) Welch 1967, p. 36-46.[back to text]

(42) Foguangshan Zongwu Weiyuanhui 1994, p. 94.[back to text]

(43) Shi Xingyun 1987. In this section, page numbers in parentheses refer to this work.[back to text]

(44) Chen-hua 1992, p. 14-16. 80-88.[back to text]

(45) See discussion of these terms at the end of chapter four.[back to text]

(46) Welch 1967, p. 132.[back to text]

(47) Fo Kuang Shan Committee of Religious Affairs 1992, p. 3.[back to text]

(48) Fo Kuang Shan Committee of Religious Affairs 1992, p. 26-27.[back to text]

(49) According to Bryan Wilson, there are eight such conditions: 1. Sects are exclusive and do not admit of dual allegiances; 2. they claim to have a monopoly on truth; 3. they are lay organizations with an anti-sacerdotal bias; 4. they reject any spiritual "division of labor"; 5. they are voluntaristic, meaning that members choose to join and must meet certain criteria before they are accepted; 6. they set standards for members and provide sanctions for the wayward or inadequate; 7. they demand total allegiance; and 8. they originate as protest groups. See Wilson 1982, p. 91-92. It is clear that Fo Kuang Shan may not be considered a sect according to these criteria.[back to text]

(50) For example, the Ven. Xindao 心道 (Hsin Tao) left Fo Kuang Shan, spent several years in ascetic practices, and subsequently attracted many followers of his own who built him a temple in the Fu Lung area of the northeast coast of Taiwan. See Hsin Tao 1992, p. 2-3.[back to text]

(51) This is the English rendering used in the Association's own literature, and will be adopted here to maintain consistency and avoid confusion. However, a more accurate translation might "The Buddhist Compassionate Relief Merit Association."[back to text]

(52) The material for this section comes from the following sources: Chen Huijian 1994, p. 143-190; Jiang Canteng 1993a, p. 91-95; Lu Huixin 1994; Lu Huixin 1992; and Meikuei Chen 1994, p. 68-79.[back to text]

(53) That is, one that not only precludes meat but also the five members of the onion family: onions, scallions, garlic, leeks, and chives.[back to text]

(54) On this term, see Morohashi 6:222c.[back to text]

(55) This of course resonates with Daoist ascetical practices such as living on a mountain abstaining from eating grains, and performing austerities.[back to text]

(56) The term for this is huayuan 化緣, and it is distinguished from accepting alms in that it denotes the active solicitation of donations, whereas the second term refers to accepting alms given voluntarily. Thanks to my colleague Miss Huang Yi-hsun for explaining this to me.[back to text]

(57) The current name of the Association was made official in 1980, when it registered as a civic organization with the government.[back to text]

(58) Still Thoughts Pure Abode" is the translation employed in the Association's own English literature.[back to text]

(59) Lu Huixin 1992, p. 6-7.[back to text]

(60) Lu Huixin 1994, p. 5.[back to text]

(61) When I met her at the Still Thoughts Vihara in the summer of 1991, the first question she asked me was, "Do you speak Taiwanese?" See Jiang Canteng 1993a, p. 94.[back to text]

(62) Lu Huixin 1994, p. 19-20.[back to text]

(63) The following considerations are summarized from Lu Huixin 1994, p. 9-13; and Lu Huixin 1992, p. 8-11.[back to text]

(64) Lu Huixin 1994, p. 11.[back to text]

(65) Lu Huixin 1994, p. 11.[back to text]

(66) Lu Huixin 1994, p. 14.[back to text]

(67) Lu Huixin 1992, p. 18-19.[back to text]

(68) Jiang Canteng 1993a, p. 95.[back to text]

(69) Shi Zhengyan 1991. Page numbers in the text will refer to this edition.[back to text]

(70) Lu Huixin 1992 p. 5.[back to text]

(71) Lu Huixin 1994, p. 22.[back to text]

(72) This is a radical reinterpretation of a common Chinese Buddhist ceremony in which, on the birthday of Sakyamuni Buddha, people come and pour scented water over an image of the infant Buddha as a way of obtaining merit and blessing.[back to text]

(73) Lu Huixin 1994, p. 12.[back to text]

(74) Lu Huixin 1992 p. 22.[back to text]

(75) Lu Huixin 1994, p. 8.[back to text]

(76) Lu Huixin 1994, p. 6.[back to text]

(77) Lu Huixin 1992 p. 11-21.[back to text]

(78) Lu Huixin 1992, p. 16.[back to text]

(79) Lu Huixin 1992, p. 19.[back to text]

(80) For example, see Yang Human 1993, p. 34.[back to text]

(81) The above information was taken from several promotional pamphlets issued by the Dharmapala Organization of Dharma Drum Mountain.[back to text]




Chapter 1 Chapter 2 Chapter 3 Chapter 4 Chapter 5 Chapter 6 Chapter 7 Chapter 8


Back to Index