DDM Celebrates for the Inauguration of Dharma Drum Buddhist College
The Dharma Drum Buddhist College (DDBC) was officially unveiled on the morning of 8 April 2007 at Dharma Drum Mountain World Center for Buddhist Education in Jinshan Township, Taipei, following the approval of Dharma Drum Mountain’s application by Taiwan’s Ministry of Education (MOE) on 14 August 2006.
In the opening address, Founder of Dharma Drum Mountain, Venerable Master Sheng Yen emphasises that “Buddhist education is paramount to our society today, and I have waited for this moment to come true for almost thirty years…because Buddhism would have no bright future if there was no commitment to further Buddhist education.”
“With the establishment and legal authorisation of Dharma Drum Buddhist College, we can now focus on cultivating Buddhist talents who possess the aptitude in both academic research and moral practice.”
Venerable Hui Min, the first-appointed principal of DDBC, added that a distinctive feature of DDBC is that it aims to discover and educate Buddhist talents in accordance with the needs of present times. Based on the foundation of Chung Hwa Institute of Buddhist Studies, students will gain a well-rounded understanding and perspective of the international community, become adept in applying technology and demonstrate strong sense of compassion.
DDBC is Taiwan’s first religious college to offer post-graduate education in Buddhist studies, and offers a Master Degree fully recognised by the Ministry of Education.
Venerable Master Sheng Yen asserts that “based on the efforts by our teachers and students, it is an honour for Dharma Drum Buddhist College’s students to be the first group of students awarded the Master Degree in Buddhist students.”
Religious groups in Taiwan have been pushing for the legal recognition of mono-religious colleges in the past. The establishment of DDBC marks a tremendous step in acknowledging Buddhist studies in the higher education system in Taiwan.
The study of religion was originally treated differently from ordinary higher education by Taiwan’s Ministry of Education. In 1987, the Ministry approved the establishment of the Department of Religion and the Graduate School of Religious Studies in both private and public universities. Nevertheless, there were no relevant regulations endorsing the foundation of solely mono-religious colleges.
For those passionate about Buddhist studies, the universities’ Department of Chinese Literature and Chinese Philosophy became the only avenues through which they could pursue their interests. Hence, the Huafan College of Humanities and Technology founded by Venerable Master Hiu Wan in 1990, and the College of Medicine founded by Venerable Master Cheng Yen in 1994 were places at which Buddhist studies were available. As a result, the development of Buddhist studies was relatively confined and narrow.
Theology and religious studies have been recognised by other countries in higher education for many years. For instance, Japan has dedicated much effort to the development of Buddhist education, and universities founded by different sects of Buddhism are common throughout the country. Amongst them are institutions such as Rissho University, which has its roots in the Nichiren sect of Buddhism, and Ryukoku University, which has the roots of Nishi Hongwanji of Buddhism.
Venerable Hui Min, the Principal of DDBC and the Rector of Dharma Drum Mountain, said, “In Taiwan, Buddhist education in the past focused solely on academic research, due to Taiwan’s educational authorities’ suspicions towards the model of ‘amalgamated education ’ of theory and practice. But in reality, the success of religious studies can only be reached through such a model, where neither theory nor practice can be ignored.”
The Graduate School of Buddhism of Dharma Drum Buddhist College thus adopted four faculties to pursue Buddhist studies deriving from the academic structure of the Chung Hwa Institute of Buddhist Studies. They are Chinese Buddhism, Tibetan Buddhism, Indian Buddhism and Buddhist Informatics – a section specifically established for the cultivation of skills applied towards the digitalisation of Buddhist scriptures.
At DDBC, students not only enjoy high-quality teaching on Buddhism given by honourable professors from countries including Japan, Germany, India and United States, but also receive valuable training in familiarising themselves with foreign languages such as English, Japanese, Indian, Sanskrit and Pali.
(Translated and reported by Jin Yang/Edited by Shu Min, Abbey Wong and Jessica Chow)