Modern Buddhism and Stupas

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Modern Buddhism and Stupas

Postby Indrajala » Sun Feb 14, 2010 12:18 pm

Last month I was in Taiwan and I visited Foguangshan 佛光山 just outside of Gaoxiong in the south and I got to see the passive stupa project under construction in the neighbouring valley. It will house a Buddha relic. Behind it there will also be a massive Buddha statue that will be stuffed with countless heart sutras (I think one of mine I did the calligraphy call will be placed in it too!).

It is a modern Buddhist monument. I think it also reveals the economic success of the Buddhist movement in Taiwan. Chinese Buddhism in general was in a state of rapid decay until around the 1950s. The communists certainly did a lot of damage in the following decades, but Buddhist venerables like Zhenhua, Xingyun and Sheng Yen amongst others successfully transplanted Chinese Buddhism to Taiwan and within a few decades several major organizations were thriving and active on the island. Not only that, but in recent years they've gone overseas as well.

From a scholarly point of view this is also interesting to monitor as right now in the western world the popular schools are Tibetan, Theravadan and Zen. Chinese Buddhism, despite its evident ability to successfully harness resources, seems largely reserved for immigrants or the already existent Chinese communities in western countries.

Anyway, here are some photos of the stupa and eight pagodas under construction:

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Incidentally, Dharma Drum Mountain up on the north coast is also quite active and prosperous.

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It is interesting to see how these organizations could start from basically nothing and work their way up to what they are now in a few decades. Perhaps much of this has to do with the existing customs already in place within Chinese culture -- most notably where the laity give quite generously.

I wonder if western Buddhist organizations couldn't learn from the model. How many little dharma centers struggle just to pay the rent? It goes without saying money isn't the purpose of Buddhism, but it takes capital to build Buddhist universities and publish books.


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Sorry for the lengthy post. I felt like writing and posting photos. :coffee:
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Re: Modern Buddhism and Stupas

Postby Devotee » Sun Feb 14, 2010 3:20 pm

Speaking from experience, Chinese monastics are very willing to teach Dharma. They do so with zeal and vigour.

What prevents them from teaching to non-Chinese is their lack of linguistic variety; it's only now that Chinese monastics are learning non-Chinese languages, but even then, they are very few. But, if you talk to monastics of older generations through the help of an interpreter, you'd be surprised at how generous they are with their time and effort.

A lot of older Chinese immigrants are culturally cut-off, preferring to keep to themselves. It's slowly changing, though.

BTW, who is the group responsible for the building of stupas? Is it Dharma Drum? Looks very massive. :tongue:
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Re: Modern Buddhism and Stupas

Postby Indrajala » Mon Feb 15, 2010 5:41 am

Devotee

The stupa project is being done by Foguangshan. It is actually within walking distance of the main temple complex. You just go out the back, through the garden, past the zoo, down the gravel road and around the corner and you're in the neighbouring valley where the project is under construction.

Or just follow the highway from the main gate. :smile:
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Re: Modern Buddhism and Stupas

Postby Huifeng » Mon Feb 15, 2010 5:48 am

Thanks Huseng for posting these pics. Thanks too for your comments, and Devotee's too, on the situation of Chinese Buddhism in it's present vibrant form in Taiwan.

As for the language issue, the first batch of monastic graduates from the Masters in Buddhist Studies program at Foguang Uni have already started to be assigned places overseas. A few recent appointments in North American centers now also has English fluent teachers leading the monastery / center in a couple of places.

Like the economy, and some other issues, certain "centers of gravity" are shifting. Welcome to the 21st century everyone.
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Re: Modern Buddhism and Stupas

Postby Indrajala » Mon Feb 15, 2010 5:55 am

BTW, about Chinese teachers being generous with teachings -- I've had similar experiences.

When I was going to visit the monkeys in the nature preserve in Gaoxiong (see photo below), I passed by this little tent sandwiched between two shops where a bhikusuni was sitting with a mountain of sutra booklets and sutras being sung from a stereo. She looked at me and I said, "Amituofo!" as is the common greeting. She chatted with me a bit (I speak a bit of Mandarin) and handed me a sutra booklet. She instructed me on the benefits of reciting the Heart Sutra along with other scriptures contained in the booklet.

At my university I know another Venerable who has spent many many hours helping me with my Mandarin and discussing various things about Buddhism (particularly the ups and downs of Taiwanese Buddhism). Whenever I get the chance I buy some pastries and give them to her as an offering.

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Re: Modern Buddhism and Stupas

Postby Indrajala » Mon Feb 15, 2010 6:01 am

Huifeng wrote:Thanks Huseng for posting these pics. Thanks too for your comments, and Devotee's too, on the situation of Chinese Buddhism in it's present vibrant form in Taiwan.

As for the language issue, the first batch of monastic graduates from the Masters in Buddhist Studies program at Foguang Uni have already started to be assigned places overseas. A few recent appointments in North American centers now also has English fluent teachers leading the monastery / center in a couple of places.

Like the economy, and some other issues, certain "centers of gravity" are shifting. Welcome to the 21st century everyone.



Venerable, I hope you don't mind me posting your speech, but I think people might find it useful as it is directly related to what is being said here.

The site is in Chinese, but Venerable Huifeng's speech here is in English. He outlines the challenges and progress of Chinese Buddhism going overseas:

http://big5.fjnet.com/gate/big5/news.fj ... _76367.htm

:applause:
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Re: Modern Buddhism and Stupas

Postby Huifeng » Mon Feb 15, 2010 7:33 am

Huseng wrote:
Huifeng wrote:Thanks Huseng for posting these pics. Thanks too for your comments, and Devotee's too, on the situation of Chinese Buddhism in it's present vibrant form in Taiwan.

As for the language issue, the first batch of monastic graduates from the Masters in Buddhist Studies program at Foguang Uni have already started to be assigned places overseas. A few recent appointments in North American centers now also has English fluent teachers leading the monastery / center in a couple of places.

Like the economy, and some other issues, certain "centers of gravity" are shifting. Welcome to the 21st century everyone.



Venerable, I hope you don't mind me posting your speech, but I think people might find it useful as it is directly related to what is being said here.

The site is in Chinese, but Venerable Huifeng's speech here is in English. He outlines the challenges and progress of Chinese Buddhism going overseas:

http://big5.fjnet.com/gate/big5/news.fj ... _76367.htm

:applause:


No problem, I hadn't seen the vid myself before!

This vid is for a group of 200-300 Chinese Buddhists, mostly Vens, who were there to find some English language talent for further training. It was in Shanghai a couple of years ago, at Yufo Si (Jade Buddha Monastery, the one where some of Master Hsu Yun's famous Chan talks were given).

One point though, is that I am very "two-faced". The talks I give to Chinese on this is one thing, but the talks I give to westerners is quite different. Both aim at overcoming misunderstandings about the "other side".

When I talk, I try to phrase it in terms of "The 'other side' is like so-and-so, don't expect them to change, we have to do the changing." I put it like this, because our usual egotistical habit is to expect others to conform to us, not the other way around.

So if a western sees this speech, which was intended for Chinese, it may actually have the result of enforcing that habit of the ego, because I make a few criticisms about the Chinese attitude here. Difference is, is that I can get away with it, but most other people probably can't. This vid doesn't have the next part, when the adjudicator got me to do a summary and answer questions in Chinese. That was a bit predictable, wasn't it? :tongue:
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Re: Modern Buddhism and Stupas

Postby Huifeng » Mon Feb 15, 2010 7:48 am

Huseng wrote:...
When I was going to visit the monkeys in the nature preserve in Gaoxiong (see photo below), ...


The (in)famous "monkey mountain" of Gaoxiong city!
A few friends have some crazy stories about the psychotic monkey's there.
Seems like Huseng has the special "Dr Doolittle abhijna", however. :tongue:
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Re: Modern Buddhism and Stupas

Postby Indrajala » Mon Feb 15, 2010 9:16 am

It wasn't just me who had problems with the monkeys?! :rolling:

This one stole my bag of peanuts:

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I'm not kidding! He just ran up my pant leg, snatched it, hung onto it for a few moments and when I dropped it he ran away with it screaming as all the other monkeys ran trying to get their share of the stolen goods!!!

He was the alpha male I bet, so I didn't want to try and confiscate the peanuts. Ah well. It was funny. :smile:


One point though, is that I am very "two-faced". The talks I give to Chinese on this is one thing, but the talks I give to westerners is quite different. Both aim at overcoming misunderstandings about the "other side".


I can imagine there are a lot of misunderstandings.

Well, heck, from my side and experience so far interacting with Chinese Buddhists I've misunderstood a lot of things. Mind you, I also have the experience of dealing with a lot of Japanese Buddhists in Japan too (and there is no language barrier problem because I'm fully functional in Japanese), so I can sort of see how cross-cultural issues arise, though it is often, as you pointed out, often a problem with egos. Perhaps more prominent is the "group mentality" of "us" versus "them".

That being said though there are a lot of aspects of Chinese Buddhism that just won't find much popularity amongst westerners. What comes to mind is devotionalism to Bodhisattvas, lengthy recitation of sutras and to some degree merit making activities (like making a donation and having your name on TV which is 功徳無量)!
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