2009年1月1日 星期四


A Large Unreached People Group: Taiwan’s Buddhists (edit. A.Haudenschild)

1. Buddhism in Taiwan: One major Religion
Buddhism is with 7 to 15 percent one of Taiwan’s major religions. Statistics provided by the Interior Ministry show that Taiwan's Buddhist population grew from 800,000 in 1983 to 4.9 million in 1995. Additionally, in the same period the number of registered Buddhist temples increased from 1,157 to 4,020, and the number of monks and nuns was up 9,300 monks and nuns, up from 3,470 in 1983. This trend can be attributed to the activity of various charismatic teachers. – However, if the same strict rules for counting are applied as for evangelical Christians, from those numbers only clerical and Buddhist supporters / members would be numbered. In their bigest event ever, on the Taipeis Chiang Kai-shek Memorial place (Liberty Square), just 35,000 were gathering, while evangelical Christians had 56,000 attendees on one evening and nearly 200,000 over four days at the same place at their Taipei Franklin Graham Festival in Fall 2008. About 70 percent of Taiwan's people are practiconers of Chinese folk religions which easily integrates certain Buddhist elements in a basically animistic-taoist worldview. Of these, a smaller number identify more specifically with Chinese Buddhist teachings and institutions, without necessarily divorcing themselves from the folk practices. Vegetarianism is an important practice which distinguishes this "pure" form of Buddhism.

2. Buddhist Leadership in Taiwan
Buddhist leaders are often very influental and live very money oriented. Their influence grows through education, a busy networking agenda and several humanitarian projects. Some of their most succesful leaders formerly went to Christian churches and then founded their own sects. In recent years a few Buddhist leaders and teachers found Christ and now teach church leaders how to face the challenges from Buddhism, but there is still no particular group who would really try to reach those real Buddhists. People with such a burden could be a blessing!
In general there are four local Buddhist teachers, whose institutions are especially significant, are popularly likened to the "Four Heavenly Kings of Taiwanese Buddhism." They are:
• North (Jinshan, Taipei): Master Sheng-yen (聖嚴) of Dharma Drum Mountain (法鼓山)
• South (Dashu, Kaohsiung): Master Hsing Yun (星雲) of Fo Guang Shan (佛光山)
• East (Hualien): Master Cheng Yen (證嚴) of the Tzu Chi Foundation (慈濟基金會)
• West (Nantou): Master Wei Chueh (惟覺) of Chung Tai Shan (中台山)
Several of these have been influenced by the Humanistic Buddhism (人間佛教) of Master Yin Shun (印順), a theological approach which has come to distinguish Taiwanese Buddhism. (Yin Shun was inspired by Taixu 太虛, who is less often remembered in Taiwan.) These institutions have branches all over the world and, in a reversal of the traditional relationship, have begun supporting the revival of Buddhism in China.

3. Characteristics of Taiwan Buddhism
Marshall describes how the rise of literacy and of the middle class around the world has allowed ordinary believers of many religions to read the scriptures of their faith for themselves and understand their beliefs in a purer and more accurate form. As a result Orthodox Buddhism has grown in Taiwan. But, claims Marshall, ‘Chinese still see a contradiction between Buddha’s idea of compassion and the family practices of the Buddha. They usually choose, therefore to interpret Buddhism in terms of Chinese culture, not the other way around. Taiwan Chinese have built more Buddhist temples per capita than anyone else in the world but when surveying Taiwanese beliefs Marshall found most Taiwanese, ‘had positive feelings towards Siddhartha’ but ‘when asked the purpose of life, few if any said “to escape suffering” “to attain detachment” or “to enter nirvana”. When asked, “What happens after death,” few even mentioned reincarnation. The only part of the Four Noble Truths that seem to have stuck in most minds was the idea of right conduct, thought and attitude, which in any case Chinese believed long before Buddhism came to China.’
Wang Jung-Chang describes how from the 1970’s Taiwan saw the development of a different emphasis in Buddhism from the meditation of Chan and the chanting of Pure-Land. Rather than an emphasis on the internal Taiwanese Buddhists shifted their focus to external charitable acts and involvement in society. Rather than being a religion concerned only with the individual the emerging new Buddhist leaders called for building a “Pure Land” in this world. They placed a strong emphasis on involvement in humanitarian works in society such as relief and medical work. This has changed the image of Buddhism and resulted in many becoming regular donors to Buddhist funds despite having little interest in or understanding of Buddhist teaching.
The Tsu Chi foundation has been particularly noted for this emphasis (see below). In addition to charitable work and involvement in society Taiwan Buddhism has actively sought to encourage the study of Buddhism. Buddhist Universities where secular subjects may be studies in a context where Buddhist teaching is actively promoted, Prominent teaching conferences attracting international Buddhist speakers, and small group studies at a local level have all been used as strategies to promote Buddhist teaching. Buddhism is studied at Doctoral level at the various Buddhist universities and top Buddhist scholars often gain graduate degrees at prestigious foreign Universities in Religious Studies Departments. In contrast many Christian academics obtain their Doctoral degrees from North American Seminaries whose Academic qualifications are often not accepted by Taiwan’s secular academia. Various Buddhist groups have extended their teaching strategy to involve the popular media. In addition to many free magazines and newsletters, Radio and most prominently cable TV channels are used to promote Buddhist teaching. Buddhist groups employ top professionals in management roles and through careful image management in the media have achieved recognition and approval by the Taiwanese public .

4. Grassroot People Belief and Buddhism in Taiwan
The Majority of Taiwan’s grassroots people believe in a host of gods arranged in a heavenly hierarchy similar in structure to the ancient Chinese court. Folk religion, which mixes ancestor worship in the home, offerings to ghosts, temple worship and the use of spirit mediums, is behind most of the significant festivals in Taiwan. Many adherents mix Buddhist ideas with a folk religion worldview seemingly unconcerned by the contradictions. Many in Taiwan will call themselves Buddhists when in fact their real belief are in folk religions for which no adequate term exists in Chinese to describe adherence. One of the roots of this confusion may lie in the Japanese attempt to suppress Chinese religions during the 50 years that they governed Taiwan. At this time to prevent closure many folk temples installed Buddhist statues and called themselves Buddhist temples . In many homes today it is common to see a Buddhist statue alongside the ancestor tablets with pictures of Folk gods in the background. This syncretism makes it hard to define who is a true Buddhist in Taiwan. Nann Sugg point out:
“The average Chinese worshipper will identify himself as a Buddhist even though the temple where he most frequently worships doesn’t have a single Buddhist statue in it”

Without doubt Buddhism is growing in Taiwan and Taiwan Buddhist organizations are playing a significant role in the promotion of Buddhism worldwide. Fifty years ago as most people in Taiwan looked to the West as the source of all progress Buddhism had the low image of the poor uneducated monk with nothing to offer a society looking to modernize. Today Buddhist organizations are affluent and are sending priests to gain PhD’s in philosophy at prestigious universities in the west. They are making impressive use of media and information technology and have even adapted such traditional Christian activities as weekend retreats for lay people, children’s camps and cell groups for their own use. Taiwan is the only Asian country where ordination of women as Buddhist nuns is fully accepted and as a result women play a prominent role in Taiwan’s Buddhism. Since 1990 Tantric Buddhism has grown in popularity and monks exiled from Tibet have moved here as missionaries (some even training at the same language school used by Christian Missionaries).

6. Three Notable Buddhist Organizations in Taiwan:

6.1 Fo Guang Shan (Buddha Mountain of Light School)
Founded by Master Hsin Yun with the aim of spreading Buddhism worldwide. They now have 100 chapters in 60 countries. This has been described as ‘humanistic’ Buddhism where followers are directed towards the suffering of people in the world and participation in concrete social welfare activities to relieve suffering. There are currently around 1000 nuns and 300 monks studying at the Fo Guan Shan College. Many are from overseas including significant numbers from traditionally Theravada or Tibetan Buddhist lands. These include women seeking to be ordained as Bhiksuni (see below) before returning to their own lands.

6.2 Tsu Chi Foundation
Founded by the Buddhist Nun Master Cheng Yen who in 1996 was nominated for a Nobel peace prize. Tsu Chi is involved in charity work in Nepal, Thailand and North Korea. They have 3 hospitals and a medical and nursing college in Taiwan and free clinics in the Philippines and the US. They are noted for their response to disasters all over the world and very prominent in Taiwan. Tzu Chi runs a 750-bed hospital in Hualian that is the largest hospital in Eastern Taiwan. Tsu Chi is a global organization with its headquarters in Hualien, E.Taiwan but 78 offices in the US and over 4 million supporters worldwide. Many of these supporters belong to a small network set up by Tsu Chi disciples each donating around 100NT$ (US$4) per month towards Tsu Chi’s charitable works. The supporters themselves may have little other interest or involvement with the organization but generate large amounts of funds to support the work.

6.3 Dharma Drum Mountain (DDM)
Established by Master Sheng Yen in 1989 this organization was founded for the spread of Chan Buddhism Their mission statement is “to promote comprehensive Buddhist education”. Sheng Yen is a noted international Buddhist teacher and within Taiwan DDM are in the process of building a Buddhist global education complex which will include a research center, a University, a monastery, a museum and international conference hall. The organization is also known for its emphasis on environmental protection and reduction of waste in daily life.

Wang Jui-Chen identifies a number of key factors responsible for the growth in popularity of Buddhism in Taiwan:
- Aggressive propagation based on methods learned from Christianity.
- Social involvement, not simply in relief of poverty and suffering but also involvement with political issues, environmental protection, education and public welfare. Again much of this has been ‘learned’ from the Christian churches in Taiwan. Chen-Yang, the leader of Tsu Chi claims to have been influenced in her thinking by the work of pioneer missionaries to Taiwan Mackay and Landsborough.
- Non-Religious Approach: modern Buddhism in Taiwan is promoting meditation, not simply as a Buddhist religious activity, but as a beneficial act providing the key to personal peace, relief of stress, release of personal energy, adjustment of mood and personality etc. This in turn helps a person in their family and work life to achieve balance and harmony in relationship and release personal potential. Workshops and retreats involving a few days of teaching on meditation are being held by a number of Buddhist organizations throughout Taiwan. Indeed attending such retreats is perhaps the major distinctly Buddhist activity in which the average person would be likely to consider participation. In Taiwan’s high stress urban society it is easy to see the appeal of this approach, indeed it has strong resemblances to New age teaching in the West, allowing individuals to select religious beliefs and activities that bring personal benefit without the need to make long term commitments to religious organizations, activities or codes of moral behavior. Taiwan’s grassroots workers are less likely to have the time or finance to participate in such activities, though an increasing number of elderly retirees join the highly stressed white-collar workers in spending time at such retreats on one of their more than 600 camps per year.

7. The significance of Women in Taiwan Buddhism

Among Taiwan’s 30,000 ordained monks and nuns the females outnumber the males almost 3:1. Apart from the college at Fo Guan Shan monks tend to live alone or in smaller communities whereas there are numerous large communities of Nuns around the island Women leaders have played a prominent role in establishing Buddhism in Taiwan. Among these the most notable include: Dharma Master Cheng Yen, who established Tsu Chi, Ven. Hsiao Yun the first Buddhist to establish an accepted university in Taiwan, Sakya Chao Fei, a prominent animal rights activist, Ven. Heng Ching Shih a scholar at the National Taiwan Normal university and Ven. Wu Yin, founder of the Luminary International Buddhist society.
Women seeking to become nuns (ni gu) in Taiwan first undergo a 3-6 month period as untonsured novices. After a possible further period of up to 6 months they become sramanenka, novices with observer status. Two years later they may be eligible for ordination as bhiksuni after which they may participate in ceremonies, hold the position of Abbess and vote on Buddhist affairs. Up until around 1 year ago there were almost no bhiksuni outside of Taiwan, most nuns in other Buddhist countries having to be content with sramanenka status. In contrast from 1953 when Taiwan’s first ordinations were held, in all but one year the number of women being ordained has exceeded men. At Fo Guang Shan under the Ven. Hsin Yun and the Dharma Drum Temple under Master Sheng Yan, nearly all the assistants under the temple director are women. At Fo Guan Shan the heads of all 5 councils are female bhiksuni.
The lack of bhiksun ordination in the rest of the Buddhist world has been a major topic of debate in world Buddhism, a debate in which Taiwan Buddhism has played a prominent role. In 1990 Fo Guan Shan held an ordination ceremony for India to help local Buddhist societies re-establish bhiksuni ordination there. In 1997 the Dalai Lama sent a special envoy to Taiwan to study the role of women in Buddhism there with a view to establishing an organization for Tibetan Buddhist nuns.
A number of factors have led to the prominence of women in Taiwan’s Buddhism. Ven. Kuan Chen claims that they are attracted by the challenge and opportunities to succeed or make significant achievements as nuns, which would be denied to them by the sexism still present in secular career paths. Escape from the strong pressures within Taiwan’s society to marry and have children may also be a factor. Ven. Wu Ying adds, ‘today’s nuns come to Buddhism full of ideas and enthusiasm. They themselves are highly independent and haven’t been pushed to become nuns by some unpleasant event in their external lives’. Taiwan has a lot of unmarried woman. They are more easily attracted by this new model of gaining prestige and contribute their lives to a “meaningful services”.

8. Conclusion
At the time of it’s greatest growth in Taiwan, Christianity had the advantages of a positive progressive image combined with a large amount of funds (from overseas churches) which were spent on social projects (building hospitals and relief work) and education, particularly the founding of Universities. At the present time Buddhism has a done much to popularize and modernize its image and has large amounts of funds available which it is spending on medical and social work and education. It is not surprising then that Taiwan has become a significant center for Buddhist world mission. However, many grassroots people in Taiwan, whilst considering Buddhism to be part of their culture have little understanding or interest in it’s philosophical teachings. Such people are likely to regularly donate money to Tsu Chi but unlikely to make any attempt to understand any of the free Buddhist literature that is widely available in Taiwan. Buddhism is a serious challenge to Christianity for the minds of educated Taiwanese yet faces the same challenge in reaching the grassroots but perhaps with many advantages over Christianity due to the Buddhist ideas and thinking that have been incorporated into traditional folk religions. Whilst many grassroots people consider Christianity to be “foreign” they recognize Buddhism as being “local” even if they don’t really grasp its teachings or give it a prominent role in their lives.