Education and Recruiting
When the BAROC set up an office in Taiwan in 1948, the two major components of the mission that they set for themselves were to reform the ordination system in order to combat laxity in the observance of the preceptsd to provide opportunities for Buddhist education for both clergy and laity in order to redress the ignorance, syncretism, and "childishness" they found. We have already looked at their efforts to remold the ordination system to conform with the standards of their mainland homes. In this chapter we shall look at the means by which they and others on the Buddhist scene pursued the second goal, that of elevating the educational level of the island's Buddhists.
I. BUDDHIST SEMINARIES AFTER VEN. CIHANG
A. General Characteristics and Problem. The Taiwan Buddhist Academy [[[Wikipedia:Taiwan|Taiwan]] Foxue Yuan 台灣佛學院], founded in 1948 by Ven. Miaoguo 妙果 of the Yuanguang Temple 圓光寺 in Chungli and superintended by Ven. Cihang
慈航, was the first of the Buddhist seminaries to come into being after Retrocession. As narrated in the section on the life of Ven. Cihang, a number of problems plagued this seminary and prevented it from staying open after its first class graduated: lack of funds, difficulty in recruiting teachers, lack of appropriate teaching materials, an environment of social disorder, and so on. Since this first effort, many Buddhist seminaries have arisen in Taiwan, several of which operated only a short time before dosing down. The 1992 Gazetteer states that about sixty seminaries existed at one time or another around the island between 1945 and 1985, and the accompanying chart provides information on forty-one of these, showing that fourteen have suspended operations.(1) The eminent Buddhist educator Lan Jifu 藍吉富 counted about thirty in operation as of 1991,(2) and the 1994 World Directory of Buddhist Organizations lists eight "graduate schools" [yanjiusuo 研究所] and twenty-five seminaries [foxueyuan 佛學院], of which six entries are marked as having been revised since the previous year.(3) The largest is the Tsung Lin University [Conglin Xueyuan 叢林學院] at Fo Kuang Shan, which enrolls approximately 200 students in four separate programs: research, practice, English, and Japanese. The smallest, the Miaolin Pāli Buddhist Graduate School 妙林巴利佛教研究所, only enrolled five students in spite of offering the largest stipend of any institution, and closed down after a short time.(4)
Lan lists four major characteristics of these educational institutions. First, they are invariably attached to a temple or some other religious establishment [daochang 道場) such as a lecture hall, from which they receive facilities and support and to which they are accountable for their program. Second, most are very modest in scope. The graduate schools generally enroll about twenty students at any given time, and the seminaries only fifty or less. Third, most accept both lay and clerical students, offering them free room and board and a stipend that varies according to the resources of the school and its sponsor temple. The Fa Kuang Institute of Buddhist Culture in Taipei, one of the best-endowed, offers its students US$200 per month for living expenses. Fourth, the Ministry of Education does not recognize any of the diplomas granted by these institutions.(5)
There have been several attempts over the years to identify the reasons for the instability of these seminaries and graduate programs, and the consistency of their diagnoses leads the researcher to conclude that many of the basic problems that caused the Taiwan Buddhist Academy to dose its doors in 1949 have yet to be adequately addressed. Ven. Shengyan 聖嚴, in his 1967 critique of Buddhism in Taiwan, cited the following problems:(6)
number and quality of resident clergy. At that time, Shengyan says that most clergy still came from rural villages and saw ordination as a way of improving their chances at receiving an education. This meant that a temple with a seminary stood a better chance of attracting and retaining new talent. By and large, this strategy worked: after two years in any seminary program, about one-third of its graduating class would be likely to become the principal's disciples and stay on at the host temple. Because of this, temples all over Taiwan rushed to establish seminaries without giving adequate thought to curriculum, teacher recruitment and other logistical issues.
2. Lack of lay patronage: Shengyan observed that most lay Buddhist donors at that time sought "instant merit" for their contributions, and thus were more willing to subsidize new temple construction, new image-carving, or sutra-recitations than they were to give money towards clergy education. The effect of this was to force temples to pay the expenses of running a seminary out of their own general operating funds.
3. Lack of inter-school cooperation: In addition to Shengyan. Lan Jifu and the 1992 Gazetteer also cite this as a major factor contributing to the poor performance of most Buddhist seminaries in Taiwan. All of these schools operate in complete independence of each other, with no inter-institutional communication and no umbrella organization to help them coordinate their efforts. Shengyan laments the fact that, in the twenty-two years between Retrocession and his critique, there had been no conference on Buddhist education or cooperative
ventures of any kind. Lan Jifu echoes this criticism, and says that because of this lack of coordination, all seminary programs are highly idiosyncratic, reflecting the preferences of their founders or host temples.(7)
4. Lack of a unified curriculum: Because of the lack of coordination, all seminaries are forced to devise their own teaching materials and set their own course of study. At one point, the BAROC tried to take the lead in this area, and asked Shengyan himself to compose a set of textbooks on Buddhism from the elementary to the graduate school levels. However, Shengyan found the task too complex to pursue on his own. and the BAROC was unwilling to supply additional money or personnel to help, and so the project came to a halt. Meanwhile, the lack of standardization meant that teachers had a free hand to teach whatever they wanted or were good at, which meant that the arrival of a new teacher might mean a complete change in a seminary's curriculum, regardless of its published syllabus. An article in the December 1993 issue of Chinese Buddhism Monthly indicates that, twenty-six years after Shengyan's essay, these problems persist. In this article, the Ven. Jingxing 淨行, head of the Lingshan Lecture Hall [Lingshan Jiangtang 靈山講堂] and a Ph.D. in literature, identifies the lack of a standard curriculum, the lack of good teaching materials, and the inconsistent quality of teachers as the major problems with the seminary system.(8)
Another effect of this lack of cooperation and coordination, according to Lan Jifu, is that credit gained at one seminary or graduate program does not
necessarily transfer to any other. Under ideal conditions, a student graduating from a seminary, which teaches at the undergraduate level, could apply for admission to a graduate program. However, in real terms, such is not the case. As Lan points out, the two types of institutions have very different visions of the scope and purpose of Buddhist education. Seminaries exist to provide a traditional Chinese Buddhist education to believers, and maintain very conservative views on such issues as the authenticity of Mahayana scriptures, the relative values of Hinayana and Mahayana teachings, and the credibility of esoteric teachings. Graduate programs have been more influenced by modern scholarly views and methods, and tend to be more critical on such issues. This discrepancy in basic academic outlook makes the transition from one kind of institution to the other very difficult, and defeats the purpose of forming students into strong preachers and teachers. What is the effect of an educational environment, Lan wonders, in which a young cleric recites the Diamond Sutra during morning devotions only to learn in class later the same day that it is probably not the word of the Buddha?(9)
The Ven. Dr. Huimin 惠敏 warns of an even more detrimental effect of this dichotomy between the perspectives of scholarship and piety, and that is the prospect of a complete divorce between Buddhist scholars and the average lay or clerical believer. He reports that, during the time he spent studying in Japan, he noticed that the high level of Buddhist scholarship he saw there did not filter down to temples and the believers that frequented them. Quite the opposite, the
temple and the university had become two insular spheres with no intercourse between them. Therefore, Huimin sees the need for Buddhist education in Taiwan to follow a different developmental course, one in which study and religious practice reinforce one another rather than conflict with one another.(10)
Besides problems such as those listed above, which are "internal" to the schools themselves. Lan points out other, "external" problems inhibiting the growth and development of Buddhist seminaries and graduate programs. One is the paucity of job prospects for graduates of these institutions. One cause of this problem is the government's refusal to accredit degrees gained at these institutions, which restricts the opportunities open to seminary graduates. However, even if this were corrected, the job market for specialists in Buddhist studies is very small. In 1993 Lan published a survey of all the people in Taiwan who had any record of research or publication in Buddhist studies (excluding purely propagandistic works). He found only sixty such people in all of Taiwan, and of these, only thirty-nine worked full-time in Buddhist research, teaching, or publication.(11) This situation has the effect of keeping many prospective students from enrolling in seminaries, especially laity who have no temple to fall back upon should a full-time job fail to materialize.(12)
A second problem external to the seminaries themselves is a lack of preparation on the part of incoming students. Lan notes that no major college or university has a program or department of Buddhist studies, which means that
prospective students usually have no background knowledge of Buddhist topics. Thus, even the graduate programs find themselves under the necessity of offering basic, introductory courses to their new enrollees. This, according to Lan, is a major reason why students of Buddhism in Taiwan have generally been very weak in learning canonical languages (such as Sanskrit, Pāli, or Tibetan); most students embark on the study of these languages only after arriving in a Buddhist graduate school, and most seminaries do not teach them at all. This weakness is the main reason that scholars of Buddhism trained in Taiwan find it difficult to engage in academic exchange with the international scholarly community.(13) This lack of preparation also hampers efforts to study abroad: in 1980, Satō Tatsugen reported that partly because no university in Taiwan had a program of Buddhist studies at that time and partly because the governments of both the ROC and Japan did not recognize degrees from Buddhist seminaries, Taiwan students who wished to pursue Buddhist studies in a Japanese university had no alternative but to begin at the introductory level.(14)
To summarize, an analogy may help make dear how seriously detrimental to Buddhist education this situation is. In the West Christian and Jewish seminaries exist financed by large fundraising networks within denominations or other
inter-church/inter-synagogue groups, and accredited by regional boards of theological education. To understand the Taiwan Buddhist situation, one must imagine that all of these seminaries were run by individual churches, which undertook complete responsibility for providing facilities, recruiting staff, and locating or creating teaching materials. One must further imagine that each church or synagogue established and maintained its seminary entirely on its own from its own general operating budget, set its own curriculum without oversight from any accrediting body, was constrained to explain and defend its educational mission to a congregation that might view it as irrelevant or impious, and operated with no cooperation or pooling of resources with any other seminary. Under these circumstances, it is easy to foresee the instability and poor quality that would result.
In spite of these handicaps, some Buddhist seminaries and graduate programs have been quite successful. We will pause here to look briefly at two of these, the Chung-Hwa Institute of Buddhist Studies, and the Fa-Kuang Institute of Buddhist Culture.
Fruition of the efforts of two monks, Ven. Dongchu 東初 and Ven. Dr. Shengyan 聖嚴, both of whom have appeared several times in this narrative as actors in and commentators on the story of Buddhism in Taiwan. Ven. Dongchu (1908-1977) had been an eminent monk on the mainland before his arrival in Taiwan. He received the full monastic precepts in the strict a atmosphere of the Baohua Temple, and studied in Ven. Taixu's Southern Fujian Buddhist Seminary [Minnan Foxue Yuan 閩南佛學院], where he was deeply influenced by Taixu's reformist ideals. Between 1935 and 1949, he spent two years as the abbot of the Dinghui ("Samadhi-Wisdom") Temple on Jiaoshan, published Zhongliu Yuekan 中流月刊 ("Middle Stream Monthly"), and traveled around Nanjing and Shanghai lecturing and preaching.(16)
When the BAROC reconstituted in 1947, he became involved and quickly won a seat on the Standing Committee. As pointed out in the chapter on the BAROC, he came to Taiwan in this capacity in the spring of 1949 (ahead of the Nationalist retreat) in order to set up a BAROC office in Taipei. His arrival did not proceed smoothly; evidently he had neglected to apply for a permit to enter Taiwan, and so when the ship docked in Keelung harbor, the authorities did not permit him to disembark. Only after Li Zikuan 李子寬, the legislator an fellow disciple of Taixu, intervened on his behalf was he able to leave the ship and proceed to the Shandao Temple 善導寺 in Taipei. He worked for a short while as the BAROC's chief functionary in Taiwan, and founded the magazine Rensheng
人生, at the time one of only three Buddhist journals in Taiwan.(17) However, in the spring of 1950, one year after he arrived, he went into a three year sealed confinement at the Facang Temple in the Peitou [Beitou 北投] district in the north or Taipei.
During his time in confinement, he reflected upon the things he had seen while touring the island on behalf of the BAROC, and on how little knowledge there was of orthodox Chinese Buddhism in an island where a majority of people claimed to be Buddhist When he emerged from his retreat, he rented a few acres of mountain land and set about raising funds to construct a Buddhist academy to promote orthodox Buddhism as he understood it. In 1955, he officially opened the "Chung-Hwa Institute of Buddhist Culture" [Zhonghua Fojiao Wenhuaguan 中華佛教文化館] as a base from which to organize cultural activities and undertake social welfare work. He himself devoted the rest of his life to religious cultivation, organizing and directing the reprinting of the Taishō Tripitaka, and scholarly research and publication.
In late 1959, Dongchu received a communication from a young soldier surnamed Zhang 張. This soldier had been a monk before in Dongchu's native Jiangsu province, but had returned to lay life in 1949 to serve in the army. After ten years of military life, this soldier was ready to retire his commission and
return to the Buddhist sangha. Even while In the army, he had maintained a vegetarian diet and had continued to study and write about Buddhism, and had even had a major spiritual breakthrough under a Chan master named Lingyuan 靈源禪師, a disciple of Xuyun 虛雲禪師, shortly before retiring from the military. He had heard about Dongchu and his Chung-Hwa Institute of Buddhist Culture, and thought it would be the perfect setting for him to continue striving after a Buddhist education. Dongchu accepted the young man as his disciple, shaved his head for a second time, and gave him the dharma-name Huikong 慧空, and the style Shengyan 聖嚴.(18) After this, Shengyan worked for two years as editor-in-chief of Dongchu's Rensheng magazine. He received the triple-platform ordination at the Haihui Temple 海會寺 in Keelung 基隆 in August 1961.
After his re-ordination, Ven. Shengyan returned to Peitou and his master Dongchu, but within a week, he took his leave and headed to the southern part of the island. He found a place in a remote, quiet temple on a mountain in Kaohsiung county, where he had time to meditate, study the scriptures and the vinaya, and write. During this period he spent three years in sealed confinement, and passed the days reading books sent to him by friends, including many written in Japanese. He gained a reading knowledge of Japanese from these, and also became more and more convinced that he should pursue further education in Buddhist studies to prepare himself for a career in educating his fellow Buddhists,
and to answer the attacks on Buddhism then coming from Christian missionaries in Taiwan. He had not originally thought of going to Japan for study, since in his experience most male clergy that went there for further cultivation ended up disrobing and returning to lay life instead, victims of a form of Buddhism that in Chinese eyes was corrupt.(19)
However, he now saw the value of a degree from a Japanese Buddhist university, and so after emerging from sealed confinement in 1968, he went back to Taipei and spent a year studying Japanese more intensively, lecturing, and writing. His master Dongchu opposed his plans to study abroad, as a result of which some of the support that he had already arranged now demured, and so when he finally left for Japan in March 1969, it was, he says, "almost as a protest." After his arrival in Tokyo, he enrolled as a student at Risshō University 立正大學, where he worked for the next six years under the direction of Prof. Kanakura Enshō 金倉圓照. He graduated with the M.A. and Litt.D. degrees in 1975.
He returned to Taiwan as the first Chinese monk since Retrocession to obtain a doctorate, and found that the Buddhist establishment did not know what to do with him. While some were proud of his accomplishment, especially among the laity, others openly wondered what was the good of a monk with an "empty" degree? Finding no immediate opportunities, he headed back to Tokyo. However, soon after his arrival there he received an invitation from a Chinese shipping magnate who had migrated to America to come and lead a Chinese
In 1977, Ven. Dongchu passed away, and in his will he specified that Shengyan should return to Taiwan and take over the abbotship of the Nongchan Temple 農禪寺 and the operations of the Chung-Hwa Institute of Buddhist Culture.(20) The following year. Dr. Zhang Qiyun 張其昀, the founder of the Chinese Cultural Academy [Zhongguo Wenhua Xueyuan 中國文化學院] invited Shengyan to join the philosophy faculty and to serve as the director of the Institute of Buddhist Studies under the Academy's China Scholarly Graduate School [Zhonghua Xueshu Yuan Foxue Yanjiusuo 中華學術院佛學研究所]. The Institute began enrolling students in 1981. However, in 1984, the Ministry of Education approved a plan to elevate the Academy to the status of a university, which, under then-current ROC law, could not offer courses in religious studies. Shengyan resigned his post, and began looking for ways to continue promoting scholarship in Buddhist studies.(21)
Since he was already the director of the Chung-Hwa Institute of Buddhist Culture, the most obvious solution was to use its buildings and facilities as a base for a new school. Thus, in 1985, Shengyan formally established the "Chung-Hwa Institute of Buddhist Studies" [Zhonghua Foxue Yanjiusuo 中華佛學研究所], and in 1986 opened the new facilities in space provided rent-free by the Chung-Hwa
Institute of Buddhist Culture. The government registered it as a legal entity in 1987, and it began employing full-time faculty in 1988. As of 1990 the Institute had 10 full-time faculty members, five of whom had doctorates.
The program of studies is very selective and demanding. Five to ten students enroll each year for the three-year course of studies. In order to earn the Master's degree, students must complete thirty-six credits, which does not include required language courses, and they must submit a Master's thesis. The Institute has also taken steps to compensate for some of the problems raised by Lan Jifu in the above section. Because universities in Taiwan did not have programs in Buddhist studies at the time of the Institute's founding, the faculty offer remedial, introductory courses that students take as needed and which are outside the required thirty-six credits. The Institute also offers special scholarships to students enrolled in other universities in order to encourage Master's and Doctoral dissertations on Buddhist topics.
Also as of 1990, the Institute offered a total of thirty-four courses. About one-third of these are language courses covering both canonical and modern scholarly languages. The remainder are divided into courses in methodology and bibliography, Buddhist history, and "special topics", a category which includes courses in specific texts (such as the Agamas or the Abhidharmakosa) or particular schools of Buddhism. The Institute also encourages students to participate in scholarly exchanges whenever possible, and helps arrange for the publication of their graduation theses. In addition, it also publishes the Chung-Hwa Buddhist
Journal once a year with articles in both English and Chinese.
In order to maintain contact with the international scholarly community, the Institute, in cooperation with other agencies, hosts an international conference in Taiwan every other year. Each conference centers around a particular topic generally related to Buddhism and society. To date, there have been three such conferences, drawing participants from several countries including France, India, the United States, Japan, and the People's Republic of China. The Institute also has ongoing cooperative agreements with several foreign universities for exchange of research fellows, students, publications, and for mutual assistance in conference planning. These institutions include Bukkyō and Risshō Universities in Japan; The Universities of Hawaii and Michigan, Ann Arbor in the United States, and the Dhammakaya Foundation in Thailand.
As the above makes dear, the Chung-Hwa Institute of Buddhist Studies has expanded very rapidly into an internationally-recognized school that participates actively in the scholarly community and provides a rigorous program for its students. However, before 1992. it was still unable to overcome the main difficulty facing all such religious schools, which was the lack of recognition for its diplomas by the government After 1992, with the liberalization of the education laws which now permits religious bodies to establish universities which include humanities and social sciences within their overall curriculum, the Institute has been freed to pursue further growth.(22)
To this end, Shengyan arranged for the purchase of an eighty-acre tract of mountain land near the northeast coast called Dharma Drum Mountain [Fagu Shan 法鼓山), which will serve as the site for a new university/temple complex. Taking advantage of the newly liberalized laws, it will include a Humanities Department offering courses in Buddhism and other religions as well as religious studies methodology. This project will require an estimated total of NT$580 million (about US$22.3 million), and will include classrooms, dormitories, conference facilities, offices, a library, and space for religious worship and cultivation. As of 1993, the application for the new university was still pending.(23)
C. The Fa-Kuang Institute. Besides the Chung-Hwa Institute, the other Buddhist studies graduate school that Lan Jifu singled out as worthy of recognition is the Fa-Kuang ("Dharma-Light") Institute of Buddhist Culture [Faguang Fojiao Wenhua Yanjiusuo 法光佛教文化研究所]. The Fa-Kuang Institute was the last of a long line of educational endeavors established by Ven. Ruxue 如學 who was dose to eighty years old at the time of its founding.(24)
Ven. Ruxue was born the eldest daughter of a well-to-do family surnamed
Zhang 張. Highly intelligent, she showed an aptitude for Buddhist doctrinal study from an early age, and sought ordination in 1932 as soon as she graduated from the Hsinchu Girl's Middle School. She received tonsure at the hands of Ven. Xuanshen 玄深 of the Yitong Temple 一同寺, and thus entered the fifth generation of the Caodong Chan lineage from Ven. Jueli, one of the eminent Taiwan monks of the Japanese period. She saw a great need for Buddhist education in modern society, and so the following year she went to Japan to study at Komazawa University駒沢大学. During this time she came under the influence of the Sōtō master Sawaki Kōdō 澤木興道, and through him became familiar with the religious thought of the Japanese Sōtōshū founder Dōgen Zenji.
Upon her return to Taiwan in 1940, she accepted an invitation from Ven. Derong 德融, the abbot of the Lingquan Chan Temple 靈泉禪寺 in Keelung, to teach in the seminary attached to the temple. She did not remain there for long, but soon embarked upon her own career of founding temples and educational programs. In 1944, her father purchased the Bishanyan ("Blue Mountain Rock") Temple 碧山巖寺, a small temple in Nantou 南投, from its lay managing committee, in order to give her a proper place for practice and study. She might have remained there for the rest of her life had the temple not been destroyed by floods in 1959. She and her thirty nuns escaped unharmed, but they were now homeless and in dire straits. That year, a group of followers in Taipei invited her to come north and found a new temple in the capital, and thus she began laying
plans for the construction of the Faguang ("Dharma Light") Temple 法光寺. The Great Shrine Hall was completed in 1961.
During this period, she also pursued the reconstruction of her original temple in Nantou, and began the construction of the Zhiguang ("Light of Wisdom") Temple 智光寺 on a plot of land given to her by a layman, also in Nantou. She finished the rebuilding of the Bishanyan Temple in 1966, but the Zhiguang Temple took much longer. She wanted this temple to be built on a grand scale, and so she first put her efforts into purchasing more land to enlarge the original property, and designed the buildings herself. This temple finally opened in 1984 with a solemn ceremony attended by many luminaries of Taiwan Buddhism and a conferral of the Lay Bodhisattva Precepts.
Education had been part of her vision from the time she sought ordination under Ven. Xuanshen. In 1962, she opened the Fa Kuang Buddhist Studies Lecture Series [Faguang Foxue Jianxiban 法光佛學講習班] at the Faguang Temple, held a public sutra-lecture on the twenty-ninth of each month called the Medicine Buddha Sutra-Lecture Dharma-Meeting [Yaoshi Jiangjing Fahui 藥師講經法會], and hosted group Chan meditation practice every weekend. Five years later, she added free classes in English and Japanese at the temple. In 1969, she set up the Nanguang Female Seminary [Nanguang Nüzhong Foxueyuan 南光女眾佛學院] at the Bishanyan Temple in Nantou.
During this time, she was also envisioning an institution of higher learning
that would serve to engage people in advanced Buddhist research and prepare them for careers teaching in public universities and Buddhist seminaries. She took the first concrete step toward this goal in 1987 when she established the Fa Kuang Cultural and Educational Foundation [Faguang Wenhua Jiaoyu Jijinhui 法光文化教育基金會] as a legal corporation to collect and manage funds for the proposed new school, and also to recruit teachers and plan the curriculum. Two years later, her plans came to fruition and the Fa-Kuang Institute of Buddhist Culture officially opened its doors on September 2,1989. The president of Coca-Cola Taiwan came to cut the ribbon and open the new, seven-story building at the side of the Faguang Temple.
Although Ven. Ruxue was the prime motivating force behind the establishment of the Fa-Kuang Institute, she strove to maintain a behind-the-scenes presence at the Institute and entrusted its academic affairs completely to the Institute's first director, the Ven. Dr. Hengqing 恆清. Hengqing is another native Taiwanese nun, born in 1943 in Tainan, and a graduate of the English department of Dongwu University. She went to America to pursue a degree in education, but while there, she received the tonsure from the Buddhist missionary-monk Xuanhua (Hsuan-hua) 玄化 in California in 1975. After returning to Taiwan for a few years, she traveled back to the United States and pursued doctoral studies at the University of Wisconsin under Prof. Kiyota Minoru, earning her Ph.D. in 1984 with a dissertation on Chan-Pure Land syncretism in China. She thus became the first Chinese Buddhist nun ever to earn a Ph.D. in America. When
she returned to Taiwan after this, she joined the faculty of the Philosophy department at National Taiwan University.(25)
She received the invitation from Ven. Ruxue to assume the directorship of the Fa-Kuang Institute in 1986, and from the Institute's opening until she resigned this post in 1992 divided her time between the two institutions.(26) While there she oversaw the recruitment and training of teachers, library acquisitions, setting of graduation requirements, and all other academic affairs. Ven. Ruxue confined herself to looking after the Institute's financial affairs. Like the Chung-Hwa Institute, Fa-Kuang seeks to overcome lack of government recognition for its diplomas by providing financial assistance for graduates to pursue further training overseas. Also like the Chung-Hwa Institute, Fa-Kuang also plans to take advantage of the liberalization of the education laws and expand into a fully-accredited college.
However, prospects for the Fa-Kuang Institute appear more uncertain than for the Chung-Hwa Institute as of this writing. Ven. Ruxue was considerably older than Chung-Hwa director Ven. Shengyan, and passed away in January
1992, when the Institute had been in operation less than three years. A short time later, Ven. Dr. Hengqing resigned as director in order to devote her energies to the fledgling Buddhist Studies program in the Philosophy department at NTU. She was replaced by Ven. Changuang 禪光, one of Ven. Ruxue's disciples and a nun with a more traditionally-oriented Chinese Buddhist education and lower attainments in terms of modern scholarship, which presages a change in direction for the Institute.
These two institutions, the Chung-Hwa Institute and the Fa-Kuang Institute, share certain characteristics along with the two programs at Fo Kuang Shan considered in the previous chapter, and these characteristics contribute to their success relative to other seminaries and graduate programs and provide a means to look into the future of Buddhist education in Taiwan. First, all three represent transitions from traditional to modern scholarly methods. The founders -- Ven. Dongchu, Ven. Ruxue, and Ven. Xingyun -- all come from an earlier generation of clergy who received and subsequently utilized methods of Buddhist education that were somewhat but not fully modernized (Dongchu and Xingyun in Taixu's seminaries on the mainland, Ruxue at Komazawa University in Japan). Yet the programs they founded -- the Chung-Hwa Institute, the Fa-Kuang Institute, and the Tsung Un University and Eastern Buddhist College at Fo Kuang Shan -- came under the direction of and recruited teaching staff whenever possible from people with doctorates from modern universities, and furthermore have sought to establish programs that will allow people to earn fully-accredited doctorates within Taiwan,
especially since the new educational laws took effect. Although these pioneering figures have had to overcome resistance among Buddhist believers and the Buddhist establishment, their style of Buddhist education continues to receive increasing support from a progressively better-educated stratum of Taiwan Buddhists.(27)
Second, although all are associated with temples, they have support networks that extend beyond their temples' lay clientele, ensuring more stable support and academic freedom. Shengyan relies on the Dharmapāla Organization of Dharma Drum Mountain, an island-wide network of support groups, to raise funds for his educational efforts. As Ruxue's biography makes dear, she was born into a relatively wealthy family, and had a talent for finding wide-spread support from beyond her immediate geographic environs. Xingyun, of course, is able to marshal! the massive financial resources of Fo Kuang Shan and the Buddha's Light International Association for support.
Finally, all have found ways to overcome the difficulties caused by lack of government recognition for their diplomas. Students who complete the Master's degree in these institutions are eligible to apply for scholarships to study for the Ph.D. abroad. Since degrees from secular institutions in Japan and the United States do receive government recognition, this assures students the opportunity
to pursue advanced studies in Buddhism and gain government accreditation for their educational accomplishments.(28) All have held their own international scholarly conferences in order to make contact with scholars abroad, and have entered into cooperative agreements with foreign universities for mutual sharing of resources and manpower.
D. Buddhist Seminaries. One must keep in mind that these three institutions are the largest and most successful Buddhist schools in Taiwan by far, and do not represent the average Buddhist seminary in either scope or orientation. Most seminaries consist of a few rooms or a small freestanding building directly connected with a temple, have limited resources and facilities, offer a narrowly-defined curriculum that usually does not include either languages or modern scholarly methods, and leans toward a more traditional conception of the means and purposes of Buddhist education, which they offer primarily to clergy in order to make them more effective teachers and propagators of the religion.
Typical of this sort of school is the Hai Ming Seminary [Haiming Foxueyuan 海明佛學院] associated 海明禪寺 with the Haiming Chan Temple founded by Ven. Wuming 悟明 in Shulin 樹林. It has as its stated purpose "to offer a traditional Chinese monastic education and to raise up talent for dharma-propagation with excellence in both virtue and study, in order to promote Chinese
Buddhist culture." Its three-year program of study and religious practice is open to clergy and laywomen with at least a middle-school education under 36 years of age, and offers a curriculum consisting of the following courses: Mahayana and Hinayana Tripitaka; Vinaya Studies; Chanting; History of Chinese Buddhism; History of Indian Buddhism; History of World Buddhism; Training in Chan Meditation; The Dharma-Gate of Guanyin;(29) Chinese; International Languages; Special Topics; and field trips. As with most seminaries, it offers free room and board, and provides financial assistance for promising students.(30)
Another example is the Pure Enlightenment Seminary (Jingjue Foxueyuan 淨覺佛學院] which currently operates out of the Guangde Temple 光德寺 in Kaohsiung County. It was founded in 1967 as a seminary for the resident clergy, but later began accepting students from outside as well, although it does not advertise widely. It enrolls only one class at a time for its three-year residential program, and does not admit new students until the previous class has graduated. Thus, in its thirty-year history it has only graduated eight classes. It also moved from the Guangde Temple to the Taipei Lotus Society [Taibei Fojiao Lianshe 台北佛教蓮社] for a time, but was moved back to the Guangde Temple when the annual BAROC ordination was held there in 1993 in order to provide an educational opportunity for the new ordinands.
Like the Hai Ming Seminary, it accepts students with a middle-school
diploma or the equivalent under age 35. In the words of its director, temple abbot and BAROC president Ven. Jingxin 淨心, the seminary's purpose is to
...place equal emphasis on religious practice and understanding, and to study in order to put what one has learned to use. Because of this [[[Wikipedia:emphasis|emphasis]]], our graduates go on to assume positions of responsibility within their temples and to propagate the dharma. A seminary education is an education that nourishes monks and nuns of excellent character. With this sort of education, this seminary hopes to impart the fundamentals of Buddhism, and train clergy in every kind of necessary skill.
The Pure Enlightenment Seminary has a faculty of twelve clergy (inducting Ven. Jingxin, who is probably absent much of the time owing to his other duties), and offers the following courses: Introduction to Buddhism; the Precepts and Deportment of the Novice; History of Indian Buddhism; four courses on specific texts; Chanting; and Guided Readings in English. It also offers free tuition, room and board, and free textbooks to all students as well as scholarships and stipends for those with the most potential.(31)
Although institutions such as these are smaller and have less impact, their mission and methods are generally more acceptable to the majority of Buddhists in Taiwan, and they receive generous support, especially if their founder has a good reputation for teaming and religious attainments. With increasing economic prosperity and a greater base of lay support. I speculate that the instability that these schools have suffered heretofore will ameliorate, and the seminaries that
survive will find surer foundations.
While seminaries and graduate schools are important in providing a specialized education for those who can arrange their schedules to accommodate full-time study, there are other educational programs available for laity whose lives are occupied by other pursuits. One of the most important of these avenues for study in terms of its impact on the educational level of the clerical ranks, has been the establishment of campus Buddhist study groups in virtually all of Taiwan's colleges and universities. We will now turn to an examination of these organizations.
According to the account rendered in the 1992 Gazetteer, the campus Buddhist study group movement began with an elderly layman, Mr. Zhou Xuande 周宣德. In 1958, he took all of the gift money that he had received on the occasion of his sixtieth birthday and used it to print 1000 copies of a small book containing a Buddhist scripture. "The Sutra on the Enlightenment of the Twelve Great Men Preached by the Buddha" (Fo Shuo Ba Daren Jue Jing 佛說八大人覺經] and an apologetic work by Liang Rengong entitled "Buddhism's Special Character and Value" [Fojiao zhi Tese yu Jiazhi 佛教之特色與價值]. He distributed these free of charge to colleges, universities, and technical schools, and immediately began receiving mail from students describing their reflections
upon having read it. He collected these letters and edited them into a series of four books called "Collected Essays on Buddhism by College and Technical School Students" [Da-Zhuan Xuesheng Foxue Lunwen Ji 大專學生佛學論文集].
Sensing that college students needed greater opportunities to pursue the study of Buddhism (remember that the law at that time forbade colleges and universities to offer religiously-oriented courses in the subject), Mr. Zhou, in cooperation with Ven. Nanting, Ven. Yinshun, and the layman Qiushang Hanping, organized the "Board of Managers for the BAROC International Cultural-Educational Scholarship Fund" [Zhongguo Fojiaohui Guoji Wenjiao Jiangxue Jijin Dongshihui 中國佛教會國際文教獎學金基金董事會], whose purpose was to arrange scholarships to encourage students to pursue studies in Buddhist topics. Since this was difficult in the current educational climate, students began organizing study groups [foxue shetuan 佛學社團] in order to organize their own opportunities to pursue Buddhist studies. The first such group established itself at National Taiwan University in the spring of 1960, the second at National Taiwan Normal University the following October, and soon thereafter they began forming on the campuses of universities, colleges, and technical schools all over Taiwan. According to statistics compiled by the Mahayana Buddhist Scriptural Press, by 1981 there were forty-eight such groups throughout the island.(32)
The compilers of the 1992 Gazetteer themselves conducted an investigation via questionnaire in 1985, and found study groups in fifty-nine campuses, a fact
that demonstrates the continued vitality and growth of these fellowships. Ironically, the largest among those who returned the questionnaire was located at Tung Hai University [Donghai Daxue 東海大學] in Taichung, a Christian school. This group had 250 members. While membership statistics were only available for twenty-nine of these organizations, it appears that normal membership tends to run from fifty to150.
This development has had an enormous impact on clergy recruitment, and not just because it provides an avenue for college students to gain an exposure to Buddhist doctrine. Although these groups refer to themselves as "study groups," their activities also include participation in Buddhist religious practices. For example, they may go to public meditation sessions on weekends, or organize extended retreats during the breaks between semesters, such as a Seven-Day Buddha-Recitation Retreat [foqi 佛七] or a Seven-Day Chan Meditation Retreat [chanqi 禪七]. All of these practical activities require that the study group arrange in advance for an appropriate setting, and the most convenient way to do this is to establish a formal relationship with a temple. Thus, all of the study groups in the chart in the 1992 Gazetteer which answered the questionnaire list a temple with which the study group affiliates itself.
The practical effect of this is that students, during the course of their college education and beyond, have the opportunity to develop a long-term relationship with a particular temple and its resident clergy. This prolonged exposure gives them a chance to feel at home in the temple, and to find out
whether or not they find the temple's mission and orientation compatible and its resident clergy congenial. If so, then the student may very well decide to seek ordination through the temple upon graduation. Others, provided they do not move out of the area, will remain as loyal supporters and donors for the temple. Thus, establishing a formal relationship with a campus study group has proven very beneficial to the affiliate temples over the years, and has raised the educational Level of both the clerical and lay ranks.(33)
The best illustration of this phenomenon is the Xilian Jingyuan ("Pure Garden of the Western Lotus") 西蓮淨苑, a temple located on the outskirts of the town of Sanhsia 三峽 in Taipei County. According to the chart in the 1992 Gazetteer, this temple has six college study groups associated with if more than twice as many groups as any other temple. This temple is also known throughout Taiwan Buddhist circles for having a large population of college-educated resident clergy, and this reputation is well-deserved. Because the temple kindly granted me access to Its resident clergy personnel files, I was able to determine that at least twenty-one monks and nuns of its total clerical population of sixty-two had university or technical school degrees.(34)
A glance at this temple's magazine and newsletter reveals that this is not a coincidence: in August, 1987, issue 15 of the temple magazine, Xilian Wenyuan 西蓮文苑 reported that a former member of its college fellowship from Ming
Chuan University had just been ordained (p. 31), and the May 1988 issue reported that two former collegians had been ordained, while three more were preparing for ordination (p. 40). Even earlier in this temple's history, a young man named Guo Huifang, who had been a member of the Buddhist study group at Taipei Medical College where he graduated in 1978, received the tonsure and the monastic name Huimin at the temple in August 1979, and the full precepts four months later. In 1982 he entered the Chung-Hwa Institute, graduating three years later. In 1986 he went to Japan to pursue a doctorate at Tōkyō Daigaku-in, which he completed in 1992. Upon his return to Taiwan, Xilian Jingyuan founding abbot Ven. Zhiyu 智諭 named him vice-abbot, and he undertook a regular series of Sunday-afternoon lectures on Buddhist doctrine that has proven very popular with students from the affiliated study groups.(35)
This demonstrates in a concrete way the effect that the rise and growth of college and technical school study groups has had on the educational levels of the clergy, but it is not the only factor. Taiwan now has many more institutions of higher learning than it had in 1945, and this must also have contributed to this phenomenon under the principle that "a rising tide raises all boats." However, it is undeniable that the establishment of campus fellowships, and more especially their affiliation with particular temples, has had the salutary effect of enabling the sangha to recruit from a more educated and sophisticated population.
III. EFFORTS TO FOUND A BUDDHIST UNIVERSITY
As may be guessed from the accounts of Fo Kuang Shan, the Chung-Hwa Institute, and the Fa-Kuang Institute, one of the fondest hopes cherished by leaders in Buddhist education is to establish a Buddhist university in the Republic of China. This hope, which has become a reality only during the early 1990s, was long obstructed by government policies which were implacably hostile to allowing religious education within the public school system at any level, and the process of its realization represents, along with the controversy over Japanese-era temples, another area in which relations between the government and the Buddhist world deteriorated into open conflict.
A. Motivations for Establishing a University. The reasons for wanting to establish a Buddhist university relate to goals which could not be fulfilled by existing Buddhist educational institutions such as seminaries and graduate programs alone. The most basic motivation appears to stem from the widespread perception among Buddhists in Taiwan that the ROC educational system, in the name of church-state separation, is actively hostile to religion and effectively promotes an agnostic or anti-religious outlook. During my field research in Taiwan, every Buddhist with whom I had occasion to discuss the issue of Buddhist education expressed the view that the curriculum and textbooks of the ROC's public school system denigrated Buddhism and held up clergy for ridicule. It
may be for this reason that the report of the 1982 Symposium on Buddhist Education organized by Ven. Xiaoyun 曉雲, the founder of the Hwa-fan College of Humanities and Technology, asserted as an ideal a Buddhist educational system that began in kindergarten and proceeded from there to elementary school, middle school, college, and graduate school. Such a system would provide an education centered on Buddhist principles and offered within a Buddhist environment.(36)
Many people in Taiwan see the government's unyielding exclusion of religion from the public school system as harming not just the religions themselves, but society at large as well. For example, in 1990 a group of middle school teachers sent a set of suggestions for the improvement of education to various government agencies. Among their other recommendations, they stated their view that religion ought to be included within the curriculum because it could help combat a variety of social evils. Teaching about religion, they said, would bring about an increase in religious belief, and this could greatly benefit society.(37) An editorial in the China Times newspaper that same year also argued for the inclusion of religious subjects, but for different reasons: according to the writer, one constantly sees advertisements for religious paraphernalia such as rosaries and Buddha-images which, the advertisers claim, are "essential" for the practice of Buddhism. However, Buddhism existed for its first few centuries without any Buddha-images at all. Therefore, the educational system ought to provide some basic information about the faith which people say they profess in order to prevent
fraud and promote true understanding of religious issues. In addition, this editorial, like the letter sent by the teachers, asserts that religious education within the schools would help prevent the deterioration of social mores.(38)
The arguments adduced above relate not just to the founding of a Buddhist university, but also to the larger issue of including religion within the sphere of public education, and the BAROC and others deployed them in a variety of other controversies, from teaching Buddhism within the public schools to gaining government accreditation for Buddhist seminaries and graduate programs. Buddhists in Taiwan, and the BAROC in particular, had other arguments more specifically related to founding a university. One such reason was a sense of envy that they tried to communicate to the government. They saw that in Taiwan, Christian groups had long been allowed to establish universities privately, the two examples most often cited being the Catholic Fu Jen University and the Protestant Tung Hai University. Looking abroad, they also saw that other Asian nations such as Japan, Korea, and Vietnam all had privately-established Buddhist universities which enjoyed full accreditation within their countries' educational systems. Even the United States, which also adhered to the principle of church-state separation, allowed Buddhist studies in public universities, a fact which the ROC's governing elite, most of whom had studied abroad, could not have failed to notice.(39)
Another reason was their fear of falling behind other nations and other
religions in educational achievement. Several articles in the BAROC Newsletter refer to a study done in 1985 by the China Polling Association [Zhongguo Minyi Ceyan Xiehui 中國民意測驗協會], which demonstrated that the majority of Buddhists tended to be concentrated among less-educated groups in society. According to the worries of many Buddhists, if educational levels continued to rise, then Buddhism might slowly die out. The answer to this was to provide a university, in which the educated classes of the future could gain exposure to more sophisticated, less superstitious, and more modernized forms of Buddhist thought and practice, while at the same time pursuing a higher education within a government-accredited institution.(40) A university would be more effective in this regard than a seminary, which attracts the already-convinced and does not provide a government-recognized degree.
B. The BAROC's Efforts to Found a University. Within Taiwan, the first call for the establishment of a Buddhist university came in 1965 when the first General Congress of the World Chinese Buddhist Sangha Council passed a resolution to begin actively working toward this goal. However, nothing came of this resolution for two main reasons. First, as was apparent in the chapter on the BAROC's activities, the WCBSC was a very casual association of ethnic Chinese clergy which had no ongoing programs, headquarters, or staff.(41) This meant that
no mechanism existed to carry out any of the Council's resolutions. Second, the government at that time prohibited the establishment of any private universities whatsoever, whether religious or not. This restriction remained in effect until 1985s.(42)
Eighteen years later, the BAROC came to feel that conditions were somewhat more propitious for this endeavor, since, even though the government ban on private universities was still in effect, the Ministry of Education had loosened restrictions on privately-established technical schools offering religion classes.(43) During the Tenth National Congress held December, 1982 in Taipei, the delegates unanimously passed a motion to set up a five-member working group to begin actively pursuing this goal. The monk who originally presented the motion, Ven. Shengkai, had a seat in this working group as did Ven. Xingyun 星雲 of Fo Kuang Shan, Ven. Wuming 悟明, Ven. Chengyi 成一, and Ven. Liaozhong 了中, the BAROC Secretary-General. However, at the next National Congress in 1984, the committee reported almost no progress because of a lack of general support from the rank and file of BAROC, and because all five of these monks had many other affairs to attend to and simply had no time to pursue the large and complex process of founding a university.(44)
In order to remedy this, the BAROC leadership decided to create a larger committee which would include smaller subunits to deal with different facets of the task. Thus, on October 14, 1985, they convened the first meeting of the "Committee for Expediting the Foundation of the Buddhist University" [Choushe Fojiao Daxue Cujin Weiyuanhui 籌設佛教大學促進委員會] with over one hundred people present. From those attending, they fanned three subcommittees: Land Acquisition, Financial Planning, and Public Relations. Baisheng himself assumed the chairmanship of the Committee, and Jingxin and Liaozhong accepted the posts of vice-chairmen although, as time went on, the project became more and more Liaozhong's to manage. These three headed up an eleven-member Executive Committee, to whom the other three subcommittees were to report at regular intervals.(45) Within a month of the Committee's opening meeting, necessity impelled them to set up a fourth subcommittee to deal with government relations and to oversee the flow of paperwork involved in the formal application process.(46)
The Subcommittee on Public Relations sought to overcome the lack of general support lamented by Ven. Liaozhong in two ways. The first was by soliciting funds through BAROC-sponsored television and radio programs, most notably the program "Bright World" [Guangming Shijie 光明世界]. Other fundraising activities included a Plenary Mass [Shuilu Fahui 水陸法會), which included the sale of ancestral tablets and tablets to avert disaster for the living, as
well as a Release of the Flaming Mouths performance,(47) and an auction of mainland Buddhist art and religious paraphernalia confiscated from smugglers and given over to the BAROC for disposal.(48) The second was by allowing readers of the BAROC Newsletter to submit suggestions for naming the university, a move that proved enormously successful in raising public awareness of the project. Within a very short time the BAROC received hundreds of letters containing suggestions.(49)
The Committee itself became a legal entity when the Ministry of the Interior accepted a file copy of its charter and bylaws on August 27, 1986, which entitled it to set up bank accounts and receive donations in its own name.(50) Further impetus for the project came later in 1986, when the Executive Committee of the World Buddhist Sangha Council voted to support the BAROC's efforts and gave the first in a series of monetary donations to help the work go forward. It seems that the WBSC itself had plans for a Buddhist university, and saw the BAROC's planned school as a possible starting-point which could later be expanded into an international institution of Buddhist scholarship.(51) This support may have helped the BAROC in articulating their long-range international vision for the university.
Meanwhile, the Land Acquisition Subcommittee found their work frustrated at several turns. One of their first decisions was to concentrate their search in the
northern end of the island, despite the fact that land was relatively affordable and abundant in the south. The reason, they said, was that the BAROC maintained its headquarters in Taipei, and most of the people whom they wished to recruit as teachers and administrators lived there as well. Thus, they decided to search exclusively in the area north of Hsinchu, although they would be glad to accept donations of tracts in the south for possible extension campuses in the future. They surveyed over thirty potential sites, but in general found that the most suitable sites were unaffordable, and the affordable sites unsuitable. A few abbots came forward with tracts of temple land which they were willing to donate, but always with conditions that the BAROC found unacceptable.(52)
In 1988 their efforts appeared to bear fruit, although not without many difficulties. They originally contracted for a site near Hsinchu in 1987 after meeting with all of the local landowners. However, one landowner had been away on vacation at the time. His relatives had given assurances that he would have no objections to having a Buddhist university for a neighbor, but when he returned, he raised a number of conditions which the BAROC could not tolerate, and they withdrew from the negotiations. The local magistrate then introduced them to another site in the Xinfeng Rural District [Xinfeng Xiang 新豐鄉] which had an independent access road and was adjacent to a number of other schools. The Subcommittee found this site acceptable and signed a contract for it.(53)
On May 6,1988, the Ministry of Education sent out a team of inspectors to
survey the site which included delegates from the Ministry of the Interior, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Ministry of Defense, and various provincial and local government agencies. The Ministry of Defense noted that the site was too dose to a military firing range, and declared it unsafe for the proposed school, although, as the BAROC noted in their protests, several other schools sat even closer to the range. The next few months saw a volley of letters back and forth between the BAROC and the government, but by November, the Ministry of Education bluntly directed the Committee to find another site.
At that point, the Land Acquisition Subcommittee began its search once again, and this time settled on another site within the Hsinchu city limits, which, despite the urban location, was in fact a 17-hectare tract of forested mountain land which the Subcommittee felt was entirely suitable for educational use. Once again, the Ministry of Education assembled the inspection team which made two trips to the site, and charged the BAROC with the responsibility of engaging an engineering firm to file the requisite land surveys, environmental impact statement water and slope conservation plan, wetland protection plan, and so on. This time, the Subcommittee was successful, and the Ministry of Education gave its approval for the site on June 27,1989.(54)
As tedious and frustrating as the search for land had been, it was the process of applying for permission to found the school itself that eventually provoked the BAROC to an uncharacteristic outburst of temper and caused several
sympathetic legislators to interpellate with the government.
In order to incorporate the proposed university in a legal manner, the BAROC setup up the "Chinese Buddhist Cultural and Educational Foundation" [Caituan Faren Zhongguo Fojiao Wenhua Jiaoyu Jijinhui 財團法人中國佛教文化教育基金會] in September, 1987, with the intention that it would be the legal corporation in charge of the university until its founding, at which time governance would be taken over by a Board of Trustees.(55) In March 1988, when they thought they had formally contracted for the first site in Xinfeng Rural District, the Foundation submitted its formal application to establish, not a university as expected, but a technical institute.
An editorial in the April 1988 BAROC Newsletter explains the reason for this change. The BAROC had been in communication with government officials since the beginning of the project trying to obtain permission to establish a full-scale university which would encompass, among other schools, a School of Humanities within which would be a Department of Religion. However, after several letters and two petitions, the only response they ever received was an officious "We'll think about it." Thus, the laws regarding the establishment of private institutions of higher learning remained unchanged despite their protests.
As mentioned earlier, these laws had been liberalized somewhat in 1985, before which the government simply prohibited the establishment of any private colleges whatsoever, whether religious or not. After 1985, however, the
government, in response to perceived educational needs, opened the process a little, and allowed for the private foundation of three kinds of schools: medical, industrial, and technical. The BAROC, after reflecting on the other schools in the Hsinchu area, available teachers, greatest areas of national necessity, and other factors, decided to found a technical school. They were not happy about having been forced to make this choice, but decided that it would be better to go ahead and begin building the school at that point and install a non-accredited Buddhist seminary on its campus in order to position themselves to take advantage of any further liberalization that might come down in the future.(56)
The Ministry of Education gave its formal permission in July, 1989, about the same time that it also told the BAROC to find another site for the school. Finally, in November 21, 1989, with both official permission and a site in hand, the BAROC held the official groundbreaking ceremony, with many prominent Buddhist leaders and government envoys in attendance. By this time, the BAROC and the Chinese Buddhist Cultural and Educational Foundation had settled on a name: Xuanzang Technical College.(57) Regrettably, Ven. Baisheng had passed away some seven months earlier, and never saw his dream of Buddhist higher education reach its first concrete realization.
BAROC president Ven. Winning, in his address to the crowd assembled for the groundbreaking, took advantage of the opportunity to express once again the BAROC's frustration at having been forced to found a technical school in denial of their explicit wish to foster Buddhist higher learning. In surprisingly blunt terms, he castigated the officials present for educational policies designed to keep religion out of public education and for constantly obstructing all calls for change. He intimated that the government was thwarting the will of the Buddhists in Taiwan, which he claimed included half of Taiwan's population of 20 million. At the same time, he vowed that this school, when allowed to reach its stated goal of providing training for future generations of Buddhist scholars, would be the common property of Buddhists all over the world, and would be open to anyone from any nation who wanted to pursue research into Chinese Mahayana Buddhism.(58)
The leaders of the BAROC were dearly very impatient at having their plans stymied by government intransigence, but the conflict finally reached its peak in March, 1990 because of an apparently unrelated issue. At that time, the government was pursuing one of its periodic crackdowns on illegal foreign workers by suspending the residence visas of anyone earning money in Taiwan without a work permit Unfortunately, this provision affected overseas Chinese who had come to study in many of Taiwan's Buddhist seminaries; their stipends constituted illegal income, and their visas were revoked, forcing many of them to give up
their studies and return home. When the BAROC intervened with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the latter responded with a list of conditions under which the students could regain their residence visas. However, the provisions of this list were ill-conceived and unworkable, which reinforced the BAROC's feeling that the government was not just resistant, but actively hostile to Buddhist education.(59)
This turn of events provoked the BAROC Secretary-General Ven. Liaozhong to publish a sharply-worded editorial in the Liberty Times [Ziyou Shibao 自由時報], a leading Taipei newspaper, called "I Have Something to Say" [Wo You Hua Yao Shuo 我有話要說] In it, he decried the Ministry of Education which, he said, never provided any reasons for refusing permission to found a true university with a Humanities School as the BAROC had wished, but always replied that such an institution would violate "policy." When pressed to change this policy, the only reply that they ever gave was, "We'll think about it." This, said Liaozhong, showed that they were not dealing with the people in good faith, but rather in an autocratic and high-handed manner. Furthermore, the fact that those who wished more than anything else to pursue research into religious history, doctrines, and related issues were forced instead to become teachers of printing, advertising, and electronics made them the butt of jokes all over the island. "Only it isn't the Buddhists who are laughing; it's the people who hold the power of life and death in their hands over at the Ministry of Education."
The government's refusal to recognize diplomas granted by even the most
academically rigorous Buddhist graduate schools, their refusal to permit the founding of Xuanzang University as requested, and their imposition of impossible requirements for overseas Chinese who wished to study at Buddhist seminaries was not only ungracious, it was ungrateful. The BAROC had been a stalwart supporter of the Nationalist government over the years, and had at the government's request taken on many projects for the advancement of social mores and social welfare. "All that we ever get for the hundreds of millions of New Taiwan Dollars' worth of charitable contributions we raise every year is a few certificates of appreciation in a purely perfunctory manner."
The biggest source of frustration, according to Liaozhong, was the lack of a dear channel of communication with the government as a result of a confusion of jurisdictions. The government viewed religious education as a purely intra-religious affair, which puts it under the Ministry of the Interior's area of responsibility.(60) Therefore, whenever the BAROC or any other Buddhist educational agency applied for permission to found a school or sought accreditation for its diplomas from the Ministry of Education, they would refer the case to the Ministry of the Interior, which would then declare it an educational issue and send it back to the Ministry of Education. In this way, the problem simply moves from desk to desk, and never reaches any clear resolution. In his frustration, Liaozhong asks"...can it really be that Buddhist education is to be forever held in
concubinage, bullied in remaining underground, never to see the light of day?"
Liaozhong ends his editorial with a dire warning to the government:
Ever since Martial Law was lifted, there have been demonstrators out in the street marching for all kinds of causes great and small just about every day, affecting the peace and order of society. Although there have been some people in BAROC's National Congress who have suggested that we might consider doing the same, I have always counseled against it for the sake of Buddhism's traditionally good image. But today, when I consider the motley assortment of problems, I understand why some people take to the streets. Perhaps one day, when large numbers of Buddhists come to realize the futility of cool, calm calls (for reform], they too will not be able to avoid thinking about new ways of protest and struggle. ...One day, millions of Buddhists will find it hard to keep on enduring long-term repression and will begin everywhere to let their dissatisfaction be known, maybe not in the streets, but in some way that will influence the government's mandate. In a democratic age, any government policy that continues to thwart the will of the people will be done away with by those people.(61)
This editorial had an immediate effect. Within three months, Legislative Committee member Zhao Zhenpeng 趙桭鵬, one of Liaozhong's refuges disciples, interpellated with the Executive Yuan regarding the government's polices on religious education. He began by pointing out that the government's words with regard to the role of religion in society conflicted with its policies. How on the one hand, could the government say it supported religion as a wholesome force helping to uplift society while, on the other hand, suppressing all forms of religious education? He then asked directly why the government was actively opposing Ven. Liaozhong's efforts to found a Buddhist university and gain recognition for
other institutions of Buddhist education through setting obstacles, stone-wailing, and foot-dragging. He pointed out that there were millions of Buddhists whose patriotism was unquestioned and who had made great contributions to the common weal, and warned that undesirable consequences might follow if the government continued to turn a deaf ear to their wishes: street demonstrations, loss of voter support for the Nationalists, and so on. He concluded by stating that the BAROC's requests were both reasonable and practicable, and suggested that the authorities liberalize the laws on religious education in order to improve the ROC's international image as a free, democratic state and in order to meet the people's perceived needs.(62) Much of the text of Rep. Zhao's interpellation consists to direct quotations from Ven. Liaozhong's editorial.
Shortly thereafter, the Ministry of Education called a meeting between Buddhist educational leaders with representatives of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of the Interior in order to solve the problem of overseas Chinese students studying at Buddhist seminaries.(63) More significantly, in 1991 the premier of the ROC, Hau Bei-tsun responded directly to Rep. Zhao's interpellation. In his response, the premier announced that the Ministry of Education had been instructed to study Zhao's concerns. Although this might appear to be another instance of the government replying "We'll think about it," the Ministry of Education reported that plans were already under consideration to legalize the establishment of humanities programs and religion departments
in privately-established universities, as well as to allow agencies involved in scholarly research in religion or religious training to legally incorporate.(64)
Meanwhile, in June, 1991, one and a half years after the formal groundbreaking ceremony, the Chinese Buddhist Cultural and Educational Foundation finally obtained a building permit, and construction began on Xuanzang Technical College. The delay had been caused by the necessity of conducting further surveys for water and slope conservation and by the paperwork involved in applying for the permit.(65) About one month later, Ven. Chengyi met with representatives of other religious bodies in Taiwan, including Protestants, Catholics, Daoists, Muslims, Tenrikyō 天理教, and Tiandijiao 天地教, in order to make common cause in pressing the government for further liberalization of the education laws so as to create a climate more favorable to religious education. The result of this meeting was the founding of the "Religious Education Federation of the Republic of China" [Zhonghua Minguo Zongjiao Jiaoyu Xiehui 中華民國宗教教育協會].(66)
The final reform measures passed the Ministry of Education in 1992, at which point the BAROC immediately submitted a new application to establish Xuanzang University. Other Buddhist universities centered around pre-existing seminaries or technical colleges are, as of this writing, in the planning stages at Fo Kuang Shan, the Buddhist Compassion Relief Tzu-Chi Foundation (which
already had a medical and a nursing school), and Dharma Drum Mountain. However, the first to make the transition and open up a religious studies program was Hwa-fan College of Technology, which was renamed Hwa-fan College of Humanities and Technology in February 1, 1993. This college, the brainchild of Ven. Xiaoyun, includes within its system an Institute of Oriental Humane Thought which offers courses such as Seminar on Buddhist Arts, Seminar on Indian Buddhism, Studies in Tiantai Philosophy, and Seminar on Chinese Buddhist Classics.(67) As the other schools are being planned by clergy of proven fundraising and administrative ability, other universities should be in operation in the near future.
As should be apparent from the foregoing discussion, the issues involved in Buddhist education are complex and operate at a variety of levels and in a variety of educational settings. We shall try here to untangle them in order to view them more systematically.
At the most basic level, I feel that Buddhists are motivated to set up their own educational enterprises because they are alienated by a public school system they see as inimical to the religious outlook generally, and to Buddhism in particular, and which produces graduates who reject religion in favor of an entirely
secular worldview. This feeling leads many to dream of a system of private schools which can provide a complete education from kindergarten through graduate school based on Buddhist principles and produce educated people dedicated to spreading the dharma at home and abroad. Another expression of this alienation has been efforts on the part of teachers and activists to reform the public school system so as to include some level of religious studies within the regular curriculum.
During the time that it was not possible to study Buddhism as a part of the regular college and university curriculum, interested students banded together in study groups and enlisted educated clergy to teach them and lead them in religious cultivation. On many a Sunday afternoon, I attended Ven. Dr. Huimin's weekly lectures at the Xilian Jingyuan Temple for the benefit of such study groups. The students I have met are very serious about pursuing Buddhist learning, and treat this extracurricular activity as if it were one of their regular courses.
At another level, one encounters Buddhist seminaries, which, while ostensibly accepting students from both lay and clerical orders, provide curricula aimed primarily at clergy. Since their main focus is on training newly-ordained monks and nuns to function effectively in temples, their courses generally provide a traditionally-oriented monastic education concentrating on important sutras, vinaya studies, and temple management sometimes accompanied by courses in languages and Buddhist history. For these institutions, relations with the government are largely unproblematic, as the lack of government accreditation
does not seriously impair their mission.
Graduate programs such as the Chung Hwa and Fa Kuang Institutes are much more concerned about government accreditation for three reasons. First, they have been more influenced by modern scholarly methods and see their "product" as more in line with contemporary academic standards than do seminaries. Government accreditation would validate this claim before the public. Second, because they are trying to attract high-quality college graduates, they wish to be able to offer a government-recognized diploma as an incentive to enroll. Such a diploma would serve as an endorsement of their graduates' academic achievements and carry some value on the Job market. Third, these institutions wish to cultivate more international scholarly contacts, and government accreditation would put their graduates on an equal footing with holders of equivalent degrees from foreign universities. For these reasons, they have been more active in pursuing government accreditation in cooperation with the BAROC.
Finally, many Buddhists feel the need for a full-fledged Buddhist university so that students who may not necessarily want to specialize in Buddhist studies can still gain a fully-accredited degree in a setting that offers the option of taking courses in Buddhism as electives or as part of a minor. The BAROC, as the primary Buddhist government-liaison organization, has been the most active in this field, and spent ten years, from the organization of the five-member working group in December, 1982 until the final liberalization of the education laws in 1992 in planning, lobbying, surveying sites, and conducting studies in order to
make this dream a reality. One issue that remains to be negotiated is the question of how much leeway the government will grant to the administrators of future Buddhist universities in on-campus dharma-propagation, officially-sponsored or funded religious practice and ceremonies, and related issues. The government has not, to my knowledge, abjured the principle of church-state separation, and will probably continue to set limits on the extent to which education in religion becomes active proselytization.
My own guess is that many of these institutions have analogues in the West, from small, unaccredited Bible colleges to religious fellowships at major universities; from regionally-accredited seminaries to departments of religious studies in secular colleges. Although there is one major difference in the situations of Taiwan and the United States -- the fact that the ROC government is the agent of accreditation in Taiwan while in the U.S. it is done by regional educational associations, a circumstance which makes church-state relations a somewhat less contentious issue -- the basic issue seems to remain the same. That is, any given agency of religious education must decide how much of its religious orientation and goals it is willing to give up in order to obtain recognition, inclusion in scholarly exchange, accreditation, or other, more secular ends. As seen in the case of Buddhism in Taiwan, different groups and different schools find different points of balance.
(1) 1992 Gazetteer, p. 163-167.[back to text]
(2) Lan Jifu 1991, p. 112.[back to text]
(3) Shijie Fojiao Tongxunlu 1994, p. 266-270. According to Lan Jifu, a "graduate school" is one that only admits students with college or technical school diplomas, while "seminaries" are those programs that admit students with high school diplomas. A small minority will admit students without requiring a high-school education. See Lan Jifu 1991, p. 112.[back to text]
(4) Lan Jifu 1991. p. 113.[back to text]
(5) Lan Jifu 1991, p. 112-113.[back to text]
(6) Zhang Shengyan 1979, p. 160-164.[back to text]
(7) Lan Jifu 1991. p. 114.[back to text]
(8) "Qiantan Foxueyuan Jiaoyu" 1993, p. 18.[back to text]
(9) Lan Jifu 1991, p. 115.[back to text]
(10) "Qiantan Foxueyuan Jiaoyu" 1993, p. 19.[back to text]
(11) Lan Jifu l993b, p. 42-44.[back to text]
(12) Lan Jifu 1991, p. 115.[back to text]
(13) Lan Jifu 1991, p. 116. There are some exceptions to Lan's blanket statements. As will be described below, the Chung Hwa Institute originated in a Buddhist Studies program located within the Chinese Culture College in Yangmingshan which the college subsequently abolished. See Chung-Hwa Institute. "The Chung-Hwa Institute of Buddhist Studies," promotional flyer (Taipei, the Institute, n.d.). Also, in January 1995, National Taiwan University granted permission for the establishment of a Buddhist Studies Program within the Department of Philosophy. Personal communication from Prof. Shih Heng-Ching, April 3, 1995.[back to text]
(14) Satō 1980, p. 35.[back to text]
(15) Unless otherwise noted, the information in this section has been synthesized from a variety of promotional flyers, informational brochures, manuscripts, and news articles given to the author by informants at the Chung-Hwa Institute and the Nongchan Temple. Unfortunately, the articles were given to the author in photocopied form without the bibliographic information appended, and so cannot be properly documented.[back to text]
(16) FG 3296b.[back to text]
(17) The other two were Haichaoyin 海潮音 ("Sound of the Ocean Tide") and Taiwan Fojiao 台灣佛教 ("Taiwan Buddhism"). The name Rensheng literally means "Human Life," but it had added significance since it was the term Taixu used to designate his vision of Buddhism adapted for modern times. Elsewhere in this dissertation 1 have translated Taixu's term rensheng fojiao 人生佛教 as "humanistic Buddhism."[back to text]
(18) Zhang Shengyan 1993, p. 52-54. Ven. Shengyan is the only Chinese monk or nun that I am aware of who chooses to retain his secular surname rather than change it for the traditional "Shi."[back to text]
(19) Zhang Shengyan 1979, p. 165.[back to text]
(20) Zhang Shengyan 1993, p. 150-155.[back to text]
(21) Zhang Shengyan 1993, p. 150-158.[back to text]
(22) We will examine the impact of the new laws in more detail below in the course of discussing the BAROC's efforts to establish their own Buddhist university.[back to text]
(23) Zhang Shengyan 1993, p. 192. In my experience, university professors and administrators frequently assume that in the United States as in Taiwan, the government is responsible for accrediting institutions of higher learning and recognizing their diplomas. Once, while interviewing a scholar on the subject of Zhaijiao in Taiwan, I discovered that he was on the curriculum-development committee for Dharma Drum Mountain. When I informed him that in the U.S., accreditation is done through regional associations and not by the government, he leapt up, ran to the telephone, and had a brief but very animated conversation with someone. I am not sure what the outcome of this was, but it showed me that sometimes the researcher in the field influences events even as he or she studies them.[back to text]
(24) The information for this section comes from Chan Master Ruxue Commemorative Volume Editorial Committee, ed. 1993.[back to text]
(25) Lan Jifu l993a, p. 47.[back to text]
(26) In an electronic mail transmission to me dated April 20, 1995, Ven. Dr. Hengqing told the story of how she came to accept the directorate of the Institute this way: "We [i.e., Hengqing and Ruxue] met at the Fa-Kuang Temple the first time in 1986. Ruxue asked me to help establish a school in Wu-ku where she had a temple. I was not ready to accept the offer, so I made an excuse by telling her that the location of Wu-ku was not convenient for teachers to come to teach. She then said if that was so, she would build a seven-story building in Fa-Kuang Temple. I said "Sure", thinking that she was not necessarily serious. But as you know, she was serious and really built a very nice building in a short time. I could not refuse any more. Besides, I really want to make some contribution to Buddhist education." It is interesting to reflect that, if Ven. Dr. Hengqing had not shown her initial reluctance to accept the post, the Fa-Kuang Institute might not have had the new, modern facilities in the capital city that it now occupies. As Hengqing remarks in the same transmission,"She was really a very remarkable master."[back to text]
(27) As examples of the resistance these figures encountered to their pursuit of modernized higher education, one may review Shengyan's efforts to study in Japan as reported above. See Zhang Shengyan 1993, p. 96. Hengqing also acted on her own in pursuing graduate work at Wisconsin. This kind of resistance is still not uncommon; in a private interview, Ven. Dr. Huimin, the fourth Taiwan clergy to earn a Ph.D. abroad, informed me that his own master, a monk who himself is very active in Buddhist education in Taiwan, opposed his efforts to go to Japan for study, insisting that modern scholarly methods were detrimental to real Buddhist education.[back to text]
(28) It should be noted that this only applies to academic degrees granted by secular institutions. The government does not accord recognition to degrees granted by religious seminaries such as the Master of Divinity. See remarks by Minister of Education Zhu Huisen reported in Zhongfohui Kan (BAROC Newsletter), no. 55 (August 31, 1987), p. 1.[back to text]
(29) This course reflects founder and director Ven. Wuming's special personal devotion to the bodhisattva Guanyin. See his biography in Chen Huijian 1994, p.121-142.[back to text]
(30) From an advertisement placed by the seminary in Zhongguo Fojiao Yuekan (Chinese Buddhism Monthly), vol. 38, no.7 (July 15, 1994), p.44.[back to text]
(31) From articles in Zhongguo Fojiao Yuekan (Chinese Buddhism Monthly), vol. 38, no. 3 (March 15, 1994). p. 46; and vol. 38, no. 4 (April 15, 1994), p. 41.[back to text]
(32) 1992 Gazetteer, p. 167.[back to text]
(33) 1992 Gazetteer, p. 170-173.[back to text]
(34) I say "at least" because many of the monks and nuns chose to leave blank the space provided on their file form for their educational background.[back to text]
(35) Information on Ven. Dr. Huimin derived from personal interviews, personnel files from the Xilian Jingyuan, and his biographical notice in Lan Jifu l993a, p. 63-64.[back to text]
(36) Zhongfohui Kan (BAROC Newsletter), no. 10 (April 30, 1982), p. 2-3.[back to text]
(37) Zhongfohui Kan (BAROC Newsletter), no. 87 (July 31, 1990), p. 1.[back to text]
(38) Zhongfohui Kan (BAROC Newsletter), no. 91 (November 30, 1990), p. 2.[back to text]
(39) This argument appears Shi Liaozhong 1990, p. 2.[back to text]
(40) Zhongfohui Kan (BAROC Newsletter), no. 40 (February 8, 1986), p. 4.[back to text]
(41) See editorial by Ven. Kaizheng, Zhongfohui Kan f BAROC Newsletter), no. 25 (January 1, 1984), p. 2.[back to text]
(42) From proceedings of a meeting between Buddhist educators and Ministry of Education officials reported in Zhongfohui Kan (BAROC Newsletter), no. 51 (march 15, 1988), p. 1.[back to text]
(43) Zhongfohui Kan (BAROC Newsletter), no. 2 (August 5, 1981), p. 1. While religious groups could not set up universities, which have multiple schools such as law, medicine, humanities, and so forth, they could set up individual schools within narrowly-prescribed limits. This issue will become clearer in the following discussion.[back to text]
(44) On the Tenth National Congress, see Zhongfohui Kan (BAROC Newsletter), no. 18 (January 1, 1983), p. 1. On the progress of the working group, see BAROC Newsletter, no. 27 (April 30, 1984), p. 1; and no. 38 (November 20, 1985), p. 1.[back to text]
(45) Zhongfohui Kan (BAROC Newsletter), no. 38 (November 20, 1985), p. 1.[back to text]
(46) Editorial," - Zhongfohui Kan (BAROC Newsletter), no. 39 (January 1, 1986), p. 1.[back to text]
(47) Zhongfohui Kan (BAROC Newsletter), no. 70 (December 31, 1988), p. 1.[back to text]
(48) Zhongfohui Kan (BAROC Newsletter), no. 92 (December 31, 1990), p. 1.[back to text]
(49) Zhongfohui Kan (BAROC Newsletter), no. 39 (January 1, 1986), p. 4. Page four of issue no. 41 (March 25, 1986) was completely taken up with printing suggestions received to that date.[back to text]
(50) Zhongfohui Kan (BAROC Newsletter), no. 45 (October 1, 1986), p. 4.[back to text]
(51) Zhongfohui Kan (BAROC Newsletter), no. 47 (December 25, 1986), p. 4.[back to text]
(52) Zhongfohui Kan (BAROC Newsletter), no. 46 (November 15,1986), p. 4.[back to text]
(53) Zhongfohui Kan (BAROC Newsletter), no. 60 (February 25, 1988), p. 1.[back to text]
(54) Zhongfohui Kan (BAROC Newsletter), no. 78 (September 30, 1989), p. 3.[back to text]
(55) Zhongfohui Kan (BAROC Newsletter), no. 56 (September 30, 1987), p. 1.[back to text]
(56) Zhongfohui Kan (BAROC Newsletter), no. 62 (April 15, 1988), p. 1.[back to text]
(57) Interestingly, this name was not among those received in response to the BAROC's open solicitation of suggestions. At first on the principle that they did not want a name of overt religious significance, they had settled on the name "Zhonghua College" [Zhonghua Daxue 中華大學]. However, during the application process, the Ministry of Education informed them that another school named "Zhonghua Industrial College" already had an application pending, and so the Foundation quickly decided on the new name. See Zhongfohui Kan (BAROC Newsletter), no. 78 (September 30, 1989), p. 3.[back to text]
(58) Zhongfohui Kan (BAROC Newsletter), no. 80 (December 8, 1989), p. 1.[back to text]
(59) Zhongfohui Kan (BAROC Newsletter), no. 83 (March 25, 1990), p. 1.[back to text]
(60) In an article printed in the BAROC Newsletter in August, 1987, Education Minister Zhu Huisen is quoted as saying, "If the purpose of a school is simply to train people for religious occupations, then it cannot be recognized as part of the regular educational system, but must be seen as a religious activity, which puts it under the purview of the Ministry of the Interior." See Zhongfohui Kan (BAROC Newsletter), no. 55 (August 31, 1987), p. 1.[back to text]
(61) Shi Liaozhong 1990, p.2.[back to text]
(62) Zhongfohui Kan (BAROC Newsletter), no. 86 (June 30, 1990), p. 1.[back to text]
(63) Zhongfohui Kan (BAROC Newsletter), no. 88 (August 31, 1990), p. 1.[back to text]
(64) Zhongfohui Kan (BAROC Newsletter), no. 95 (April 15, 1991), p. 4.[back to text]
(65) Zhongfohui Kan (BAROC Newsletter), no. 98 (July 20, 1991), p. 4.[back to text]
(66) Zhongfohui Kan (HA ROC Newsletter), no. 99 (August 15, 1991), p. 4.[back to text]
(67) Personal communication from Prof. Chü Hai-yuan, April 26, 1995.[back to text]