A Brief Introduction to Buddhist HongShi College
Buddhist Hong Shi College:
◎ Our Objectives
佛教弘誓學院（Buddhist HongShi College）係一提供四眾弟子研修佛法之園地，研習印順導師（Ven. Yin Shun）思想，以「提倡智慧增上，入世關懷，激發積極勇健之菩薩（Bodhisattva）精神，推展契理契機之人間佛教」為辦學宗旨。故依大乘菩薩行門之四大弘願，在僧信教育與社會教育的領域中作育僧才，推廣佛法。
Buddhist Hongshi College provides the four “vargas” - namely Bhiksu, Bhiksuni, upasaka, upasika with a wonderland for learning Buddhadharma. They are offered a chance to explore the thinking of Ven. Yin Shun, taking the following as our objectives in running this college: “Advocating further attainment of wisdom; Bringing care into the earthly world; Encouraging the positive and zealous Bodhisattva’s spirit; Generalizing Buddhism for human beings that best fits in this critical moment.” For these reasons, we shall comply with the “Four Universal Vows” as spelt out in “the Path of the Mahayana bodhisattva”, nurturing Sangha of talent in the spheres of Sangha education and social skills, as well as to popularize Buddhadharma.
◎ The Course of Building Up the College
1986年十月，有幾位好樂佛法的居士，基於對法的歡喜學習，想要有系統地深入佛法義理，遂由陳志超（慈弘）居士提供家中場地，以「弘誓協會」之名，禮請性廣法師（Ven. Shing Kuang）開班授課，講授《成佛之道》。
In October 1968, a few lay disciples who were keen in learning Buddhadharma wished that they could explore into the core of Buddhadharma systematically. Lay devotee Mr. Chen Zhichao （Cihong）, therefore offered his residence as a classroom, and formed a study group named “Hong Shi Association.” He invited Ven. Shing Kuang as the lecturer, conducting classes on “The Path to Buddhahood”
此後，這個名為「弘誓」的學佛班，不斷維持佛法之講授，歷二十年而不輟，前後期學生總計約有兩千人之譜。其間由昭慧法師（Ven. Chao Hwei）與性廣法師在班上主講的課程，業已製成教學有聲出版品而廣為流傳，在教界深得口碑。
Thereafter, this study group, “HongShi Association”, maintained its lectures on Buddhadharma continuously for as long as twenty years, having accumulated a register of approximately 2000 students. Within which, discourses conducted by Ven. Chao Hwei and Ven. Xing Guang were transcribed into audible teaching publications for free distribution, and have won favorable comments in the Buddhist circle.
In September 1992 the class began its second semester, and the school system changed into two years, with an enrollment of about 400 students in that semester. December of the same year the venue for the class shifted to a rented place at NTU Alumnus Club House, and the study group was then renamed “Buddhist Hongshi College”. The name of this inter-monastery Buddhist educational institution then gradually spread in the Buddhist circle.
For the sake of nurturing teachers that are fit to educate Sangha and lay disciples, as well as talents who are keen in doing research in Buddhist studies, in October 1993 BHC started a Research Department at Shuanglin Temple in Taoyuan Kuanyin Village, offering the Sangha who already possessed basic knowledge of Buddha’s teaching a chance to further their studies. The Research Department provided the graduated Sangha a path whereby they can take care of their daily duties, and at the same time, further their studies in Buddhadharma. Ever since the launching of the college, the Buddhist circles as well as the householders have been giving very positive comments about it. Not only that, the number of students is increasing and the quality of the students is also improving.
For the sake of supporting Sangha education in the long run, as well as promoting Buddhist cultural undertakings, our college started Hongshi Cultural and Educational Foundation in June, 1997. This Foundation not only supports the educational affairs of our college, but also supports the cultural undertakings of “Fa-jie Publication”. Since year 2000, Hongshi Cultural and Educational Foundation and our college have started to organize a large scale joint seminar on “The theory of thoughts and practice of Venerable Yin Shun”
As the number of students increases, the classrooms, living quarters, and meditation hall can no longer cater for their use. Since both teachers and students earned good relationships in Kuanyin Village, they have gained much support there. After much consideration regarding time, space and humans factors, our college finally bought over two plots of land beside Shuanglin Temple, which comes to a total of over 4,795 square meters （1,450 pings）, and started construction on 29th July 1998 under the guidance of Guang De Construction Company. During the subsequent year, the construction of two dignified and elegant buildings has been accomplished under the kind support of benevolent Sangha and lay devotees of the ten directions.
The new school building was already completed on 9th October 1999 and is named “Sarnath” （Luye Yuan） to commemorate Sakyamuni Buddha’s First Turning of The Wheel, The Four Noble Truths Dharmacakra in Sarnath, Varanasi. From Sarnath to Shuanglin Temple symbolizes a commemoration to Buddha’s unceasing preaching of dharma – the First Turning of the Dharmacakra until the final teaching. From this, we can more or less feel the intention of the owner to “honor Right Dharma, propagate Right Dharma”, which is indeed “walking the path （of promoting Sangha education）, （we are） consistent from beginning to end”.
In September 2000, We setup a Buddhist Study Department to cater for the needs of the Sangha who were unable to enroll themselves into Buddhist College. With the setting up of this department, they can then take good care of both their daily duties in the monasteries and studies concurrently. In the Department, there is no restriction as to the academic background of the students, but after their graduation 3 years later, they are required to enroll themselves in the Buddhist Research Department. Some students in the Buddhist Study Department are graduates of senior high school. Some even hold either a basic degree or a master’s degree, and they are here particularly to learn Buddhadharma.
Ven. Jian An, an outstanding student of BHC, who is also the abbot of Kaohsiung Fayin Teaching Hall, spends his time in southern Taiwan and Malaysia mostly. During the meeting he reported that he is going to establish a “Dharma teaching branch centre” in Fayin Teaching Hall, Kaohsiung.
Starting from August 2006, the college started to collaborate with with Hsuan Chuang University （HCU）. Credits shall be given to all the students who take their courses in either our Special Department or Research Department which are similar to those found at HCU. In this way, students enrolled in our college shall ultimately subsume into the path of a normal university.
Due to the increase of lay candidates in the college, we started a Extension Education Department in August 2006 for the lay students who intend to renounce （their lay status） in the near future. The main objective of this department is to encourage the lay students to place emphasis on Buddhist education.
■ Important Achievements
◆ Educational Achievements
For the past thirteen years, the education works done by both the Research Department and the Special Department have won much trust and positive acclaim in Buddhist circles. Students came from more then 50 Buddhist monastery all over Taiwan, some student even from oversea. Till now, there are a total of 155 graduates and more than 160 students studying in the college. In 2007 alone there are more than 70 candidates applying for the college. Everyone here is showing much enthusiasm in their learning! At present, most Buddhist colleges are having difficulties in recruiting students due to the popularization of universities, nevertheless, applications to our college are showing an incremental increase instead of a decrease.
By 2007, there are 31 lecturers and students from our college who enrolled themselves in either Master’s Degree or Doctorate Degree programs in Religious Study in other universities. Out of the 31, 9 have won championships in the university where they are studying. All these have proven that BHC is showing devoutness in running the school, and has acquired much trust from the Buddhist circle. The fellow members of the college will definitely show conscientious care in training up Sanghas of talent, so as to fulfill the expectation of both the lecturers and the students!
◆ Meditation Retreat
Other than conducting classes, our college also holds summer retreats, summer Buddhist Discourses, winter and summer 7-day meditation retreats. The 7-day meditation retreat is instructed by Ven. Xing Guang, Dean of the college. Every time, students are showing much enthusiasm in signing up for the meditation retreat, and most of the time, there are bound to be students who are unable to get enrolled into the retreat, and that is a real regret! In Sarnath, the discussion about meditation is unceasing, music and song non-stop; everywhere is filled with brisk, solemnity, peace, warmth and fragrance.
Since 2000, “Hongshi Cultural and Educational Foundation” has started a “Theory of the Thoughts and Practice of Venerable Yin Shun” large scale joint symposium within our college, and has published 12 new books, 90 dissertations, and 23 introductions to the symposium. We should not belittle the achievements that are being accumulated. Through the many years of research, the research on “The Study of Yin Shu” is gradually taking shape, and has won high praise from both the Buddhist circle and the academic circle.
Most Venerable Yin Shun has passed away （attained parinirvana） in June 2005. For such an eminent monk who possessed unsurpassed wisdom, whether to express birthday wishes in the past, or to commemorate the day of his parinirvana, the most meaningful thing is none other than “dharmapuja” （offering made in the form of dharma）. We gathered for literary activities; delivered speeches on, or listened to the related Buddhist topics or Buddhist theses. These are said to be the best ways to make dharma offerings, and is also one of the best ways to show our gratitude to our teachers.
◆ Protecting Buddhism Campaign
Walking across the path of Taiwan Buddhism for 20 years, the lecturers and students of BHC not only take the learning and practicing, and propagating of Buddhadharma as the primary objectives, but also personally participated and practically experienced to prove the actual effects of “Buddhism for human beings”, as well as the bright perspective of the Bodhisattva’s Path of Mahayana Buddhism. The Mahayanist sentiments which “cannot bear to see the declining of sacred religion, cannot bear to see the sufferings of sentient beings” causes these sons and daughters of the Buddha （young Buddhists） to devote themselves to a course of protecting Buddhism and protecting lives courageously, one time after another.
As in the aspect of safeguarding lives, both the teachers and students have striven their best by forming a Buddhist Association ROC, Protecting Buddhism Corps in June 1988. In late 1988, they triggered, boycotted and created a furor in the incident of the public performance of the drama “Longing for the Ordinary”. Also, they have changed the prejudice which the public had with regard to monks and nuns （bhikkhu and bhikkhunis） in their repeated exercise of protecting Buddhism. In 1994, they fought against persecution from the joint political power and paganist influence in order to retain the Kuanyin statue at Da’an National Park. In 1999, they joined forces with the Buddhist circle, fighting for “a public holiday on Vesak Day” and have made the day the first religious commemoration day in Taiwan.
On 31st March 2001, which is also the day for the “Theory of the Thoughts and Practice of Venerable Yin Shun” second seminar, they initiated an “Abolishing the Eight Chief Rules Campaign” （Attha Garu Dharma） which made a splash countrywide and roused attention internationally. Under the calling of Ven. Chao Hwei, BHC formally abolished the so-called Eight Chief Rules in which man is always the superior and woman the inferior, building up a Bodhisattva’s Sangha Corps with equality between gender and equality between monks and the laity.
◆ Safeguarding Lives Campaign
In the aspect of safeguarding lives, they initiated to setup Life Conservationist Association, and became involved in the eco-conservation and safeguarding animals rights movements one after another. Their activities induced two acts that are related to the safeguarding of animals – Wildlife Conservation Law, and Animals Protection Act – which are highly acclaimed by both the Taiwan society and internationally. They also effectively boycotted the consortium from lobbying illegally to the related act - “Legalization of Horse Racing and Gambling”, and have successfully impelled the act that stops circuses from bringing in cradling animals to perform acrobatics shows. Let’s put it this way: For the past 20 years, both the lecturers and students of the BHC have participated in the “Taiwan Buddhist History” establishing works, and have personally proven that the “Bodhisattva Path” is not merely obsolete words and expressions from scriptures, but is a bright and easy path that you can trace; and that the concept of “Buddhism for Human Beings” which Venerable Yin Shun has brought out is not mere theory, but something that you can put into practice. However huge our shared karma is, it can be transformed by our common wish. Therefore, “Pure Land” is really a concept that we can practice in this earthly world.
◆ Library Management
All that discussed above relates to the ideal of nurturing Sangha of talent, and running Sangha education shall herewith be simplified into specific planning for our fields of research. Other than having carried out substantial research into the Buddhist Tripitaka and provided training on contemporary Buddhist thinking, we shall also base on the special features of the college’s curriculum, as well as the achievements which both the lecturers and students have attained from their past campaigns and academic researches to establish our fields of study that are full of thematic attributes. For example, the workshop based on “Buddhism for Human Beings” as the central theme; the topic about safeguarding lives （including protecting the ecosystem, eco-conservation, and animal rights, and so on）, themes about precepts （sila）, and discussions about women. And in the college’s Library cum Information Centre, other than collections on Buddhist Tripitaka and all related sutras and shastras, monographs, and dissertations, we also conjugate and collect all related materials of all the above-mentioned themes, hoping to establish a library cum information centre with distinguishing features under limited resources.
■ Looking into the Future
◆ The peaceful ancient path, the reliance of all sentient beings
Educational pursuit requires persistent dedication. Today, with regard to Buddhist education, BHC is making each and every move firmly and cautiously. BHC provides teachings to lay devotees, offers them the principal and subsidiary cause to listen to and practice Buddhadharma, hoping to “upgrade the quality” of Buddhists. By running Sangha education, the college hopes to nurture Sangha of talent to propagate Buddhadharma, spreading the seeds of Buddhadharma to as many places as they can; hopes that through acquiring the “Three Studies” （namely sila [discipline], samadhi [meditation], and prajna [wisdom]）, they can be unshaken, remain in possession of their religious sentiments and remained steadfast. In fact, this is merely related to our so-called pessimistic expectations; in a more positive prospect, the college hopes that Buddhism can spread even further and wider, and benefit even more sentient-beings.
Religious masters require self-education and self-training for their entire lives so as to walk their path of enlightenment steadfastly, and to propagate Buddhadharma rightfully. Therefore, in the future, BHC shall strive for the best in offering education for the Sangha, hoping that with the philosophical thinking of Venerable Yin Shun as the foundation, they can study the Tripitaka dedicatedly. Also through their path of learning, BHC hopes that they can broaden their perspective, sharpen their mind, and deepen their exploring ability. Furthermore, BHC hopes that they can research and think independently with regard to the meaning and logic of Buddhism, hopes that each and everyone of them can become a pillar （man of great ability） of Buddhism, the Nagar （great saints） of the Darmaparyaya （Dharma-doors）.