Fo Guang Shan

Fo Guang Shan

Fo Guang Shan is an international Chinese Mahayana Buddhist monastic order that has gained a worldwide presence, and has chapters around the world. The headquarters of Fo Guang Shan, located in Kaohsiung, is the largest Buddhist monastery in Taiwan. The organisation itself is also one of the largest charity organizations in Taiwan. The order also calls itself the International Buddhist Progress Society.

Founded in 1967 by Venerable Master Hsing Yun, a renowned Chinese Buddhist monk and scholar, the order promotes Humanistic Buddhism, a modern Chinese Buddhist philosophy developed through the 20th Century, and made popular by this and other modern Chinese Buddhist orders. Humanistic Buddhism aims to make Buddhism relevant in the world and in people's lives and hearts. Like most modern Chinese Buddhist organizations, the ordination lineage is from the Rinzai Zen school. However, Fo Guang Shan declares clearly that it is an "amalgam of all Eight Schools of Chinese Buddhism" (八宗兼弘), including but not limited to Pureland. In this sense, it is a monastic order, and not a doctrinal school of thought per se.

History

In 1967, Master Hsing Yun purchased more than 30 hectares in Dashu Township, Kaohsiung County as the site for the construction of a monastery. The groundbreaking ceremony was held on May 16th.

During the time that was spent clearing the mountains, the endless toiling away, wave upon wave of physical strain, the planning that carried on into all hours of the day, the barrage of floods and other natural disasters, and the belligerent mobs that surrounded the mountain were all quite beyond description. On windy and sunny days, the workers clothes would be soaked in sweat, dried up, and then soaked up again. They would be discussing throughout the day and go to bed late at night, and then as soon as the sun came out, they would work again. However, in the momentum of an incomparable courage, and by the blood and sweat of the laborers, the vast wilderness was transformed into the scenic Fo Guang Shan that exists today.

From 1967 and on, Fo Guang Shan embarked on many construction projects, including university buildings, shrines, and a cemetery. In 1975, Fo Guang Shan's 36-meter tall statue of Amitabha Buddha was consecrated. In 1981, 15 years after its establishment, the Great Hero Hall was built. During these times, many other FGS temples outside the order's mother monastery were also built.

Currently, a giant tower is being built for a tooth sharira of the Buddha, which was a gift presented by Tibetan lamas in 1998. The tower commemorates the life of the historical Gautama Buddha. No recent developments have been made since the announcement to build the tower.

Temple closing

In May 1997, Hsing Yun announced that he would close the mountain gate of Fo Guang Shan to the general public. His reason in closing the monastery was to give monastics the cloistered atmosphere they need for their Buddhist practice. In practice, many Chinese monasteries have also closed their mountain gates to give a cloistered atmosphere to the temple residents. At the end of 2000, ROC President Chen Shui-bian and government officials from Kaohsiung visited Fo Guang Shan bringing with them the wish from their constituents that Fo Guang Shan re-open its mountain gate.

After due consideration, Fo Guang Shan decided to re-open the monastery to some extent, thereby providing the public with a Pure Land environment in which to practice Buddhism.

Innovations

Fo Guang Shan today has been extraordinarily successful; in the past several decades, temples and organizations have been established on five continents in 173 countries, and now encompasses more than 3,500 monastics. Fo Guang Shan emphasizes education and service, maintaining public universities, Buddhist colleges, libraries, publishing houses, translation centres, Buddhist art galleries, teahouses, and mobile medical clinics worldwide.

The order has also established a children's home, retirement home, high school and television station.

Social and medical programs

The social and medical programs of Fo Guang Shan include a free medical clinic with mobile units that serve remote villages, an annual winter relief program organized to distribute warm clothing and food supplies to the needy, a children's and seniors' home, wildlife conservation areas to protect living creatures, and a cemetery for the care of the deceased.

Educational programs

The educational programs of Fo Guang Shan include four Buddhist colleges, three regular college, and various community colleges. The Chinese Buddhist research institute is further subdivided into four separate departments; a women's and men's college, and an international and English Buddhist studies department. Tuition fees and lodging are provided by Fo Guang Shan, free of charge.

With the many colleges and universities, Fo Guang Shan also operates Pu-Men High School in Taipei, Jiun Tou Elementary and Junior High School, Humanities Primary and Junior High School, which provides regular curriculum for students. Fo Guang Shan also has nursery schools, kindergartens, and Sunday schools for children.

Religious Affairs Committee

In 1972, Master Hsing Yun established a nine member council, known as the Fo Guang Shan Religious Affairs Committee. These nine members govern the monastery and the order. The members are elected prior to the resignation, death, or the ending of a term of an abbot. Once elected by members of Fo Guang Shan, the votes are openly counted. The nine members then nominate their next abbot.

Abbots

Unlike a traditional Buddhist monastery abbot, where the incumbent selects his successor, Fo Guang Shan uses the modern ideals of democracy to choose the abbot.

The abbot of Fo Guang Shan is the overall head of the order, and is the chairperson of the RAC, serving a term of six years, with one reappointment by popular vote and under exceptional circumstances, a second reappointment by two thirds of the popular vote. The abbot is elected by all members of Fo Guang Shan through public vote. The abbot-elect then begins to use their "inner name", in place of his/her own dharma name, with the first character being Hsin ("心" , xin, or heart). In fact, all monastics of Fo Guang Shan have such a name, and several Elders also use their publicly. At the beginning of the year, the abbot-elect is inaugurated as the new director of Fo Guang Shan through a dharma transmission ceremony, receiving the robe and bowl.

Master Hsing Yun is the only abbot to have served as the abbot for more than two terms, and was not elected by the RAC. In the case of Venerable Hsin Ping (who was originally Venerable Zhizong), he was also not officially elected, as he was Master Hsing Yun's designated heir apparent. After Hsin Ping died, the vice director of Fo Guang Shan, Hsin Ting (originally Venerable Zhidu), was immediately elevated to serve the remaining years of Hsin Ping's term. Abbots have been elected according to FGS's constitution since then.

Like Master Hsing Yun, on retiring, former abbots do not leave the order forever, Rather, by the end of their term of service, former abbots will go on making Dharma talks throughout the world at any time they can, and eventually become head teachers of the Order in their later years.

Order of precedence

The Fo Guang Shan order of precedence is a sequential hierarchy of nominal importance of monks, nuns, and laity. One's position in an order of precedence is not necessarily an indication of functional importance, but rather an indication of ceremonial or historical relevance. In particular, length of monastic ordination, a notion relevant to Buddhism as a whole.

  1. Founder and Head Teacher (Venerable Master Hsing Yun)
  2. Abbot (Most Venerable Hsin Pei)
  3. Former Abbots
    1. Most Venerable Hsin Ping (Although Hsin Ping died in 1995, he is still respected as Master Hsing Yun's heir apparent, so therefore he is still higher nonetheless.)
    2. Most Venerable Hsin Ting (Considered to be the successor to Hsing Yun as head teacher)
  4. Members of the FGS-RAC
  5. Most senior monastics (In order of age)
    1. Ven. Tzu Chuang
    2. Ven. Tzu Hui
    3. Ven. Tzu Jung
    4. Ven. Tzu Chia
    5. Ven. Tzu Wu
    6. Ven. Yi Yen
    7. Ven. Yi Kung
    8. Ven. Yi Hua
    9. Ven. Yi Fa
    10. Ven. Yi Chun
    11. Ven. Yi Heng
    12. Ven. Yi Hong
    13. Ven. Yi Chao
    14. Ven. Yi Lai
    15. Ven. Hui Long
    16. Ven. Hui Kai
    17. Ven. Hui Chuan
    18. Ven. Hui Ri
    19. Ven. Hui Kuan
    20. List goes on to younger executive monastics
  6. Abbots and Abbesses of their respective temples (who are later elevated to the fifth in succession)
  7. Members of the Board of Directors of BLIA World Headquarters
  8. Presidents of their respected BLIA chapter
  9. BLIA members

Dharma propagation

Dharma programs of Fo Guang Shan include lectures given in prisons and factories; programs on television and radio, large-scale public lectures in Taiwan and overseas, and the five precepts initiation given twice a year at the monastery.

All branches of Fo Guang Shan organize pilgrimages to bring devotees to the monastery from different parts of Taiwan and overseas. Once pilgrims arrive, they are free to make use of all of the different activities that are open to the general public.

Criticism

Over the years, Fo Guang Shan has endured much criticism, primarily during their efforts to build more branch temples and establish new BLIA chapters, because some visitors felt that they were expected to give donations for this purpose. Also, some critics dispute whether some money that had been given to members of the order constituted gifts given personally to them, or donations to the organization, which requires that all donations to the order be accounted for.

Critics have also said repeatedly that branch temples of Fo Guang Shan have been noted to be huge and extravagant (such as Nan Tien Temple in Australia, Nan Hua Temple in South Africa, Zu Lai temple in Brazil and Hsi Lai Temple in the United States), which contradicts the Buddhist thought of not being attached to material things. The order responds by stating that modern people require modern facilities, and without these new facilities, few people would be drawn to the practice of Buddhism. The quarters of the monks and nuns themselves, are in fact very simple and unpretentious. It should also be noted that these criticisms are commonly raised with regard to many successfully modernizing Buddhist institutions.

Objectives of Fo Guang Shan

  • To propagate Buddhist teachings through cultural activities
  • To foster talent through education
  • To benefit society through charitable programs
  • To purify human hearts and minds through Buddhist practice

Fo Guang Shan Mottoes

Official Motto

"May the Buddha's Light shine upon the ten directions. May the Dharma stream continuously flow towards the five great continents."

The Four Verses of Fo Guang Shan and BLIA

  • May palms in every world be joined in kindness, compassion, joy and generosity.
  • May all beings find security in friendship, peace and loving care.
  • May calm and mindful practice give rise of to deep patience and equanimity.
  • May we give rise to spacious hearts and humble thoughts of gratitude.

BLIA Guidelines

  • Offer others confidence
  • Offer others joy
  • Offer others hope
  • Offer others convenience

Abbots and Directors of Fo Guang Shan

List of Fo Guang Shan affiliates

Branch Temples

Asia

North America

South America

Europe

Australia

Africa

New Zealand

Branch Schools

  • University of the West (formerly Hsi Lai University)
  • Nan Hua University
  • Fo Guang University
  • Tsung Lin University (former Tsung Lin Buddhist College)
  • Shou Shan Buddhist College
  • The Fo Guang Shan Nan Hua Temple African Buddhist Seminary
  • Pumen High School
  • Jiun Tou Elementary and Junior High School
  • Humanities Primary and Junior High School

Publications and Media

  • Merit Times
  • Buddha's Light Publishing
  • Universal Gate Magazine
  • Beautiful Life TV (BLTV, only available in Taiwan)

External links

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