Fo Guang Shan

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The Fo Guang Shan emblem, used by all FGS affiliated branch temples and organizations. The standing Buddha represents the 36 metre high (132 ft) statue of Amitabha Buddha on the monastery grounds.
Buddha statue at Fo Guang Shan in Kaohsiung

Fo Guang Shan (Chinese: 佛光山; pinyin: Fóguāngshān; Pe̍h-ōe-jī: Hu̍t-kong-san; literally: "Buddha's Light Mountain") is an international Chinese Mahayana Buddhist monastic order based in the Republic of China (Taiwan), and one of the largest Buddhist organizations. The headquarters of Fo Guang Shan, located in Kaohsiung, is the largest Buddhist monastery in Taiwan. The organization 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, the order promotes Humanistic Buddhism, a modern Chinese Buddhist thought 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. While Hsing Yun is a Dharma heir in the Linji Chan (Chinese: 臨濟宗; pinyin: Línjìzōng) school, his stated position within Fo Guang Shan is that it is an "amalgam of all Eight Schools of Chinese Buddhism" (八宗兼弘), including but not limited to Chan. In this sense, it is a monastic order, and not a doctrinal school of thought per se. This is the case for much of Chinese Buddhism, as the lineage of the founder or Abbot does not necessarily dictate the thought or practices of members of the monastery.

History[edit]

Main hall of the monastery.

In 1967, 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 16 May 1967.

Fo Guang Shan embarked on many construction projects, including university buildings, shrines, and a cemetery. In 1975, Fo Guang Shan's 36-metre 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 Fo Guang Shan temples outside the order's mother monastery were also built.

Temple closing[edit]

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, President Chen Shui-bian of the Republic of China 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 a place to practice Pure Land Buddhism.

Buddha Memorial Center[edit]

Buddha Memorial Center in Taiwan

When Reverend Master Hsing Yun held the Bodhgaya International Full Ordination in India in 1998, he came to the attention of Kunga Dorje Rinpoche, a Tibetan lama who had been protecting a tooth relic of the Buddha since the destruction of Namgyal Monastery in Tibet during the Cultural Revolution. The relic has been authenticated by several Tibetan rinpoches, who advised Kunga Dorje Rinpoche to build a stupa to house it so that the public could pay their respects and make offerings. Since he was unable to do so due to old age, he and his advisors reached the consensus to donate the tooth relic to Hsing Yun, believing he had the means to build such a resting place. The relic was officially escorted to Taiwan on April 8, 1998.[1]

Building plans for the Buddha Memorial Center started immediately, with support from the Taiwanese government. The site is situated immediately adjacent to the main monastery and covers more than 100 hectares. The complex faces east and is built along a central axial line. Beyond the Welcoming Hall are eight Chinese-styled pagodas on either side of the main avenue leading up to the Bodhi Square, about which are statues of the Buddha's main disciples and of the founders of the principal schools of Chinese Buddhism. This gives onto the Memorial Hall, with its various shrines, including the Jade Buddha Shrine in which the tooth relic is located. Above the hall are four stupas that symbolize the Four Noble Truths. Standing behind but separate from it, there is an enormous seated metal Amitabha Buddha 108 meters high. The Center was opened at an international ceremony on 25 December 2011[2] and the first anniversary celebrated on Christmas Day 2012.[3]

Activities[edit]

Main entrance to the Fo Guang Shan monastery. Seen also is the BLIA logo, a statue of Maitreya, and the statue of Amitabha in far right.

Temples and organizations have been established in 173 countries throughout the world, and now encompasses more than 3,500 monastics. The organisation emphasizes education and service, maintaining universities, Buddhist colleges, libraries, publishing houses, translation centres, Buddhist art galleries, teahouses, and mobile medical clinics. It has also established a children's room, retirement home, high school and television station.

Social and medical programs[edit]

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[edit]

The educational programs of Fo Guang Shan include four Buddhist colleges, three regular colleges, and various community colleges. The Fo Guang University was established in 2000. It focuses mainly on the humanities and social sciences. The Chinese Buddhist research institute is 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.

The organisation 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[edit]

In 1972, 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. Eight members of the council are ordained monastics, and one is a layperson.

Abbots[edit]

Unlike a traditional Buddhist monastery abbot, where the incumbent selects his successor, Fo Guang Shan directly elects an abbot to head the Order and its worldwide temples.

The abbot of Fo Guang Shan is the overall head of the order, the supreme abbot of all Fo Guang Shan temples, 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 theirs 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.

Hsing Yun is the only abbot to have served as such 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 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.

As with Hsing Yun, former abbots do not leave the order when they retire. They continue to make Dharma talks throughout the world and become head teachers of the order in their later years.

Dharma propagation[edit]

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.

Objectives[edit]

  • 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

Mottos[edit]

Official motto[edit]

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[edit]

  • 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 to deep patience and equanimity.
  • May we give rise to spacious hearts and humble thoughts of gratitude.

BLIA guidelines[edit]

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

Abbots and directors[edit]

References[edit]

External links[edit]