Growing Future Dharma Teachers
Chung-Hwa Institute of Buddhist Studies (CHIBS)
Education has always the major concern of Dharma Drum Mountain, as the founder Master Sheng-Yen has demonstrated a variety of approaches and perspectives for fulfillment of Buddhism via education. Among such attempts, the Chung-Hwa Institute of Buddhist Studies (CHIBS) should be considered as the starting point officially for the Master’s devotion in higher education in Buddhism.
The Chung-Hwa Institute of Buddhist Studies was established by Master Sheng Yen in 1985, succeeding the former Institute of Buddhist Studies in the College of Chinese Culture for which the master had served as director since 1978. CHIBS was originally positioned in Beitou, Taipei. Then in 2001, CHIBS relocated to the Dharma Drum Mountain World Center for Buddhist Education in Jinshan. Since then, the branch of academic education in the threefold education of DDM has reached an advanced stage of progress.
The objectives of the Institute are "to enhance Chinese culture, promote international Buddhist scholarly research, foster a high standard of Buddhist education, and develop ministering talents." The founder has composed a verse as the institutional principles for CHIBS, translated into English as:
Rooting in the Chinese, branching out to the global.
Specializing in Buddhism, upholding the Dharma.
To sustain comprehension and practice reciprocally,
and to engage compassion and wisdom simultaneously.
Practicality as the priority, and altruism as the emphasis.
The institute was granted formal recognition by the Ministry of Education, ROC in 1987. Starting in 1992, Prof. Fang, Ningshu served as adjunct director and Prof. Wu, Kuan served as associate director. Then in 1996, Prof. Li, Zhifu began to serve as the director of the institute. In the same year, Venerable Huimin, an outstanding alumnus of the institute with a doctorate degree from the University of Tokyo, was asked to serve as the associate director. In 2004, Venerable Guozhao was invited to serve as the second associate director and then served as the interim director in 2006 after Prof. Li's retirement. Earlier in the same year, CHIBS successfully passed the criteria of the Ministry of Education to be granted to establish the first officially accredited Buddhist college in Taiwan. At the end of 2007, Venerable Guojing came to serve as the director till now.
In 2006, CHIBS admitted the last class of graduate students, then transferred that instructional duties to the newly established Dharma Drum Buddhist College in 2007. Since then, CHIBS has transformed into a research-oriented institute. With the passing away of Master Sheng Yen in February 2009, CHIBS has continued to concentrate on the role of a global advocate for the academic study and research of Chinese Buddhism, thereby fulfilling one of the main concerns of the late Master.
During CHIBS's years as an instructional institution, its educational structure primarily involved a three-year intensive Buddhist Studies program. There were three divisions in the Buddhist Studies program: Indian Buddhism, Tibetan Buddhism, and Chinese Buddhism, along with a Digital Studies program in Buddhist informatics. In its Buddhist Studies programs, CHIBS stressed on solid development in the major canonical languages, i.e., Sanskrit, Pali, classical Buddhist Chinese, and Tibetan. Students were required to take at least two of these Buddhist canonical languages. Most students also opted for courses in Japanese and English as well. A Master's thesis was required for the graduate, and the thesis would be written in either Chinese or English.
Along the history of the institute, one of the strengths is that students have been provided with access to international professors and scholars in Buddhist studies, along with a wide variety of research resources.
Regularly, CHIBS also hosts international conferences on Buddhism. For example, the theme of the first Chung-Hwa International Conference was “Buddhist Ethics and Modern Society”, followed by “Traditional Buddhist Precepts and the Modern World” for the second, “The Earthly Pure Land and Contemporary society” for the third, “The Role of Buddhism in the 21st Century” for the fourth, and “Bodhisattva Avalokitesvara and Modern Society” the fifth. In addition, one of CHIBS innovative programs was the Chinese-Tibetan Buddhism Cultural Exchange Program, co-sponsored by the Mongolian and Tibetan Affairs Commission and the Buddhist Seminary of Dharma Drum Sangha University.
The International Conference Hall in the Education and Administration Building has been built to incorporate state-of-the-art multi-media electronic equipment. The library, now renamed The Library and Information Center, consists of five floors with a total area of 2,785 square meters. It houses over 50,000 volumes and subscribes to 518 periodicals, making it one of the largest collection in Buddhist Studies in Asia. It also holds one of the world's largest collections of canonical editions, more than 70 editions of Tripitaka in various scripts and languages. The Buddhist Studies Information Network Center provided researchers of Buddhism with effective access to the entire Tripitaka as well as twelve separate collections of scriptures. CHIBS also sponsored the Chinese Buddhist Electronic Text Association (CBETA) in converting the Taisho Tripitaka and the Xuzangjing (Zokuzokyo), as well as numerous other academic research projects, into electronic text formats. In total, over 100 million words have been digitized.
CHIBS now employs its full range of talent and resources to encourage research and propagation of Chinese Buddhism both domestically and abroad. One very successful application of CHIBS's resources has been a co-operative publishing venture with Columbia University in New York City, whereby CHIBS locates and finances excellent research projects on aspects of Chinese Buddhism from the Sung dynasty to the Republican Era, and assists Columbia University and the Columbia University Press in their publication. As well, research works in Chinese will be published by Dharma Drum Publishing Corp. In addition, CHIBS provides exchange students and scholars with assistance in pursuing their researches with Chinese Buddhism. Finally, CHIBS continuously publishes its internationally-renowned Chung-Hwa Buddhist Journal in English and the multi-lingual journal Chung-Hwa Buddhist Studies, showcasing the research talents of graduate students.
On the 28th of July 2014, the Ministry of Education held a meeting to deliberate on the merging of the Dharma Drum College of Humanities and Social Sciences and the Dharma Drum Buddhist College. The merging of the two schools into the newly-formed Dharma Drum Institute of Liberal Arts was approved; Master Sheng Yen's long-standing vow to promote education has finally come to fruition.
From here onward, doctorate, master's and undergraduate programs originally offered by the Dharma Drum Buddhist College will continue to be available for enrollment at the Dharma Drum Institute of Liberal Arts' Department of Buddhist Studies. Similarly, Dharma Drum College of Humanities and Social Sciences' programs will be offered by Dharma Drum Institute of Liberal Arts' Graduate School of Humanities and Social Sciences which will start accepting applications for the master's programs in Life Education, Community Regeneration, Social Enterprise and Innovation, and Environment and Development in Spring 2015 for the Fall 2015 term.
With the official inauguration of the Dharma Drum Institute of Liberal Arts (法鼓文理學院, DILA), let us explain the origins of the school's Chinese and English names as well as discuss the vision for the school's future.
Following changes to the regulations surrounding the establishing of Colleges of Humanities and Social Sciences, an office was opened in September 1993 to start planning for the future Dharma Drum College of Humanities and Social Sciences, allowing Dharma Drum Mountain to further pursue its goal of developing Buddhist Higher Education. Yet, the gradual decline in the number of students caused by low birth rates in combination with the saturation of the higher education market (171 universities to date) have resulted in a heightened competition over resources between Taiwan's 62 public and 109 private universities. In response to this situation, Dharma Drum Mountain decided to integrate the Dharma Drum College of Humanities and Social Sciences with the existing Dharma Drum Buddhist College so as to concentrate its resources and further develop the organization's distinctive focus.
In order to bypass the requirement for Colleges of Humanities and Social Sciences to maintain over 5000 students, and as part of Master Sheng Yen's wish to create a 'small but beautiful' school which may become 'a cradle of positive change capable of training agents for the betterment of society,' the decision was made to take example on the North American tradition of liberal arts education and name the newly-formed school the Dharma Drum Institute of Liberal Arts—or Fagu wenli xueyuan in Chinese (法鼓文理學院). With a few hundred students enrolled in its various programs, the institute will be able to offer residential accommodation and small classrooms, fostering a strong sense of community and creating an autonomous and holistic learning environment conducive to the growth of future leaders and the cultivation of an interdisciplinary outlook, a caring for life and a dedication to serving society.
With its focus on graduate programs in Buddhist Studies and the aforementioned fields of study, the school has been given the English name of Dharma Drum Institute of Liberal Arts, in contrast to Liberal Arts Colleges' traditional focus on undergraduate education. With protection of the spiritual environment as its guiding principle, the Dharma Drum Institute of Liberal Arts strives to further its goal of creating a rich learning environment for the study of Buddhist teachings as well as the humanities and social sciences and help train global citizens capable of responding to the challenges of globalization with the values of compassion, wisdom, harmony, and respect.
DILA: Delighting in the Dharma
In addition to the aforementioned considerations, the name of Dharma Drum Institute of Liberal Arts (DILA) was preferred to the rather lengthy Dharma Drum College of Humanities and Social Science (DDCHSS) for its concision and uniqueness; to this day, there is in Taiwan no other Institute of Liberal Arts, nor is there a school with such a distinctive orientation. Finally, the English abbreviation of the school's name—DILA—resembles the word 'delight,' which resonates with our wish to create a campus where one may find delight in the Dharma.
Master Sheng Yen's calligraphy work urging the students to “Make a great compassionate vow, and build a pure land.” The Sangha University nurtures monastic talent for modern society in a Chaninspired environment of the DDM complex.
In the fall of 2001, the Dharma Drum Sangha University Buddhist Seminary officially opened, another endeavor of DDM in education following the establishment of Chung-Hwa Institute of Buddhist Studies for training Buddhist researchers. The seminary aims to nurture monastics both in virtue and learning, study and practice, as well as religious sentiment and spirit, to undertake the task of purifying society.