In 1987, the Grand Master Wei Chueh built Lin Quan (“Spiritual Spring”) Monastery in response to his disciples’ needs for a place of spiritual cultivation and refuge. Soon it became apparent that, in this small mountain monastery, a rare Buddhist master and great teacher has emerged. With an inimitable aura of calmness, a penetrating mind, and the ability to clearly elucidate the profound wisdom of the Buddha, the Grand Master was instrumental in revitalizing Chan (Zen) Buddhism in Taiwan. Soon Lin Quan Monastery was too small to accommodate the ever-increasing number of followers eager for his teaching.
In the Grand Master’s compassionate vow to provide a complete environment for all who wish to learn the Buddha Dharma, the design of Chung Tai Chan Monastery began in 1992. After three years of planning and seven years of construction, under the Grand Master’s leadership and the devotion and generous support of disciples and friends, this landmark building opened its doors on September 1, 2001, initiating a new era for the propagation of Buddhism at Chung Tai.
The Chung Tai Tradition
The Buddha Dharma is vast and deep and offers many possible paths. To properly bring into focus one’s spiritual practice, Grand Master WeiChueh applies these three concepts: “Three Links of Cultivation,” “The Four Tenets of Chung Tai,” and “The Five Approaches of Propagation Modern Buddhism.”
Three Links of Cultivation—A Principle for Complete Spiritual Practice
Integration of three disciplines—cultivation of merit, scriptural understanding, and meditation—is Chung Tai’s guiding principle for a well-rounded Buddhist practice, each being an inseparable link that complements and reinforces the other two links. Cultivating merits involves performing good deeds and service to the monastery and to the public (dana). Diligent study of the Dharma establishes right views and insight. Meditation calms and clears the mind. Integration of the three disciplines ensures proper progress on the path to Buddhahood.
The Four Tenets of Chung Tai—Concrete Guidelines to Practice the Dharma
The inconceivable and profound Chan (Zen) teachings are intimately tied to daily living. The four tenets of Chung Tai are concrete guidelines for practicing Buddhism in daily life:
“To our elders be respectful: respect subdues arrogance
To our juniors be kind: kindness dispels anger
With all humanity be harmonious: harmony overcomes rudeness and violence
In all endeavors be true: truthfulness eradicates deceit. “
The Five Approaches of Propagating Modern Buddhism
Buddhism also needs to adapt and respond to the environment and culture of modern societies. The Grand Master advocates “The Five Approaches of Propagating Modern Buddhism—Buddhism in Academic Research, Buddhism in Education, Buddhism in Culture and the Arts, Buddhism in Science, and Buddhism in Daily Living.” The Five Approaches accommodate the needs and interests of different people and cultures, opening a multitude of doors for the discovery of the benefits of Buddhism and the achievement of true liberation.
The architecture of Chung Tai Chan Monastery expresses a harmony of the arts, culture, science, and the teachings of the Buddha, and is a wonderful example of the application of Buddhism in the Five Directions. Soon after the Monastery’s completion, it was awarded “The 23rd Annual Taiwan Architecture Award” in 2002, and “The 20th International Award for Lighting Design” in 2003. Receiving extensive acclaims and recognition, the monastery is a landmark of 21st century religious architecture.
Special Features of the Monastery
Viewed from afar, Chung Tai resembles a cultivator surrounded by mountains, sitting in meditation, majestic and serene. The entire structure reflects the Dharma, embodying the unification of sudden enlightenment and gradual cultivation. The three central Buddha halls rise vertically to the golden dome on top, symbolizing sudden enlightenment to the ultimate truth—“awaken the mind and see the true nature; seeing the true nature one becomes a Buddha.” The pilgrimage stairways on both sides of the monastery represent the bodhisattvas’ gradual cultivation of the six paramitas (perfections); each step leading to the attainment of Buddhahood not just for oneself but for all beings.
On the first floor, the Hall of the Four Heavenly Kings enshrines Bodhisattva Maitreya (the future Buddha), Bodhisattva Wei Tuo (temple guardian), and 18 arhats (saints). Supporting the hall are the Heavenly Kings in four corners, each 12 meters high and among the largest in the world. Each king’s head has the faces of all four kings. This “one in four and four in one” design is a seamless unification of Buddhist symbolism, art, and ingenious design.
The Great Majestic Hall
On the second floor is the first of the three Buddha Halls. The red granite sculpture of Shakyamuni Buddha represents “the transformation Buddha,” the historical Buddha perceived by ordinary people. His virtue, wisdom, and power can subdue all demons and heresies; therefore he is known as “the Great Majestic One.” The red granite Buddha statue and grey stone surrounding give an ambience of calmness and serenity, as well as reflecting the Buddha’s compassion in this world of suffering. Adjoining this hall, on either side, are the Patriarch Hall and Sangharama Hall that enshrine the first Patriarch of Chan Buddhism, Bodhidharma, and the protector of the monastery, Bodhisattva Sangharama.
The Great Magnificent Hall
The Great Magnificence Hall on the fifth floor enshrines Rocana Buddha, the golden shining bliss body of the Buddha as seen by enlightened bodhisattvas. Intricate patterns from the Dung Huang Caves (in Gan Su Province, China) grace the hand-painted ceiling. The hall is surrounded by walls with thousands of Buddhas, representing the infinite perfection and magnificence of the Buddha Lands. The Medicine Buddha of the East and Amitabha Buddha of the West sit serenely on either side, welcoming beings to their Pure Lands.
The Great Enlightenment Hall
In the Great Enlightenment Hall on the ninth floor sits Vairocana Buddha, the Dharma body of the Buddha that symbolizes the intrinsic pure nature of all beings. The four-story, all white statue seated in profound serenity under the starry night ceiling reminds us of the Buddha’s complete enlightenment 2500 years ago when he observed the morning star before the coming of dawn. Bodhisattva Manjusri of Great Wisdom and Bodhisattva Samantabhadra of Great Conduct accompany the Buddha in the adjoining halls.
The Chan Meditation Halls
Since Chung Tai’s primary emphasis is on Chan (Chinese Zen) meditation practice, the Chan meditation halls comprise the heart of the monastery. They are the furnace that forges the enlightened mind of the Buddha. The Great Meditation Hall and Upper Meditation Hall are located on the 5th and 9th floors, forming a causal relationship with the facing Buddha halls. Diligent practice in the meditation hall is the seed; awakening to the original mind and completing the Buddha path is the fruit. Thus the Chan halls and the three Buddha halls unify sudden enlightenment and gradual cultivation into a complete path to liberation.
The Hall of Ten Thousand Buddhas
On the 16th floor, this unique hall has 20,000 statues of the Medicine Buddha on its walls, all meticulously hand-cast in bronze. In the center is a seven-story pagoda, constructed of teakwood without the use of a single nail. Inside the pagoda are statues of 7 Medicine Buddhas and classic wooden reliefs of 500 arhats. With the Diamond Sutra engraved on its outer walls, the Three Jewels－Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha－are unified in this pagoda. The enormous 30-meter high frameless glass curtains on both sides of the pagoda are precision-engineered and can flex 43.9 centimeters under force, to be resistant to fierce winds and earthquakes. Through the glass curtains, the pagoda can be seen from a great distance at night, with the light from the pagoda emanating like a beacon, calling those in the mundane world to return to the luminous nature of their original mind.
The Golden Dome
The golden dome on the apex of the monastery represents the priceless mani pearl, a symbol of the perfect and luminous nature inherent in all sentient beings. Titanium-coated plates give the dome its gold color and protect it from the elements. The ceiling design is the hand of Chung Tai holding up a flower in the center, surrounded by concentric layers of elegantly lined lotus blossoms. Circling the wall are Han Dynasty-styled etchings that depict Buddha’s diligent practice through many lifetimes. These etchings illustrate the bodhisattva’s six-fold perfection of charity, moral conduct, tolerance, diligence, meditation, and wisdom, to ultimately realize our pure original nature and its infinite potentials.
The Bodhi Art Gallery
On the basement floor, a 50-meter long mosaic tile fresco vividly portrays the eight stages of the Buddha’s life. The spacious hallway doubles as the Bodhi Art Gallery; its 12 pillars inscribed with carefully selected Buddhist sutras transcribed by the Grand Master and famous calligraphers. These and other renowned works on display are another expression of the wondrous teaching of Buddhism.
Surrounding the monastery are three beautiful gardens: Deer Park, commemorating the place where the Buddha first turned the Dharma Wheel; Hua LinGarden, which is filled with a plethora of rare flowers and trees, and Bodhi Park, with its collection of Buddha statues from all across Asia. Two bell pavilions stand within the parks for people to make their sincere vows. Visitors can immerse themselves in the serene atmosphere and awaken their mind to the crisp, pure sound of the bell.
Chung Tai adheres to the sixfold harmony dictated by the Buddha—physical harmony in communal living, oral harmony in having no dissentions, mental harmony by mutual rejoicing, moral harmony in observing the same precepts, harmony of views and doctrinal understanding, and economic harmony in sharing goods. These are the guiding principles in the regulation and organization of a harmonious Sangha.
Resident Monastic Units: Sangha Administration and Dharma Services
Chung Tai is like a self-sufficient microcosm where the Sangha work harmoniously, practicing in the Chan tradition: “Walking is Chan, sitting is Chan; in speech or silence, in motion or stillness, the essence is at peace.” The resident Sangha units include: Office of Monastic Affairs, Office of Ceremonial Affairs, Reception Office, Secretariat, Center for Publication and Learning, Library, Chung Tai Buddhist Institute, Cultural Exhibits Center, Communications and Information Systems, General Affairs, Construction Office, Kitchen, Dining Hall, Merit Field (Organic Farm), Vestments, Laundry, Metal Shop, Carpentry, Repair Shop, Design Department, Landscaping, Environmental Protection, Security, Transportation, Auto Repair, Ceremonial Supplies Room, and so forth.
Chung Tai Buddhist Institute: Training Ground for the Sangha
The Chung Tai Buddhist Institute for Monks and the Chung Tai Buddhist Institute for Nuns each consists of graduate, college, and high school level programs. They are central to preserving the true lineage of the Dharma.
Meditation Centers: Reach Deeply Into Communities Worldwide
Over 80 Zen (Chan) meditation centers have been established in Taiwan. Zen centers have also been established in the United States, the Philippines, Thailand, and Hong Kong. Each branch monastery or Zen center has a Dharma Support Association consisting of lay volunteers.
Sangha Education, Social Education, and School Education
Grand Master Wei Chueh, deeply aware of the importance of education, integrates the Dharma teaching into three fronts: Sangha education, social education, and school education. His first priority is to nurture qualified monastics to propagate the Dharma. He then establishes meditation centers and holds Dharma lectures and services to bring Buddhism to local communities. He currently devotes his efforts to building Pu Tai Elementary, Junior High, and High Schools to provide a well-rounded education for the youth. Through Sangha, social, and school education, important Buddhist merits such as compassion, peace, and wisdom may now reach all walks of life.
To carry on the Buddha Dharma for future generations, proper Sangha education is essential. The Grand Master applies the “Three Links of Cultivation”— Merits, Scripture Understanding, and Meditation—as the overall framework for a well-rounded Buddhist practice. In this way, the monastics will have the right understanding of the teaching and can integrate it with their daily cultivation.
Scripture Understanding—To Establish Right Views
Through study and practice of Buddhism and meditation methods, the Sangha delves deeply into the sutra treasury, and establish right understanding of the Dharma, firmly grounded in morality, meditation, and wisdom. Furthermore, by practicing the mind-Dharma of Chan, they hope to achieve sudden realization of their true nature and awaken to the Buddha mind. To expand their knowledge and skillful means to propagate the Dharma, the Sangha also have the opportunity to study the Chinese classics, foreign languages, computer applications, and so forth.
Cultivation of Merits—Provisions for the Spiritual Journey
The Sangha members apply the Buddhist training in daily living by performing monastic chores, Dharma services and teaching, and all acts that benefit sentient beings. Such good karma are provisions that make the spiritual journey smoother and is an integral part of the bodhisattva’s practice to become a Buddha.
Meditation—To Illumine the Nature of the Mind
“All pure wisdom arises from samadhi.” The practice of breath counting, observing the hua tou (a way to probe the source of thought), middle way reality, and other meditation methods are part of the Sangha’s routine during the morning and evening meditation sessions. Longer, intensive 7-day retreats are held each summer and winter to delve more deeply into these practices. In addition, the Sangha may apply for year-round meditation in the Upper Chan Hall. By cultivating stillness of the mind, delusions will be illuminated and the truth can be seen.
“The Buddha Dharma is here in this world; there is no enlightenment apart from the world. ”To establish a Pure Land on earth, Chung Tai is actively involved in bringing the wisdom of the Buddha to the local communities.
Establishing Meditation Centers to Promote the Chan Way of Life
To enable the busy people of today to benefit from Buddhism, the Grand Master responds to their pleas and establishes meditation centers across Taiwan and overseas. These urban centers offer adult and youth meditation classes, conduct regular Dharma services, as well as programs in Chinese calligraphy and painting, flower arrangement, vegetarian cooking, and choir. Chung Tai has also built libraries for the community to enrich their spiritual lives.
Multiple Avenues to Benefit from Buddhism
Each year, Chung Tai Chan Monastery conducts not only 7-day meditation retreats, but also various Dharma ceremonies and services. It has established a “Chung Tai World” website and publishes Chung Tai’s monthly magazine, as well as books on Buddhism for free distribution to the public. It has held symposiums and meetings on world religions, cultural exchange, Buddhist studies, and the arts, thus opening many avenues for the public to come to know Buddhism.
Based on the Buddhist spirit of equality and liberation of all beings, the Grand Master has guided the Sangha and lay disciples to take action in various relief efforts to help those impacted by the devastation of natural disasters, such as the severe 1999 earthquake in central Taiwan, and the South Asian tsunami disaster in 2004. Chung Tai also provides hospice and funeral services, dedications to the deceased, establishes education funds for aborigines, and makes donations to schools, public services and communities. This reflects the spirit of “bodhisattva practice in this world.”
Establishing Pu Tai Elementary and Junior High School and Pu Tai High School
To nurture citizens with both knowledge and character for future generations, the Grand Master has devoted his efforts in establishing the Pu Tai boarding schools (1-12 grades). After six years of painstaking planning, the Pu Tai Elementary School opened in August of 2004.
Long range education with a commitment to operate continuously.
Academic excellence in a curriculum with international perspective.
The Pu Tai School Motto
To our elders be respectful;
To our juniors be kind;
With all humanity be harmonious;
In all endeavors be true.
Educational Principle—Integration of Three Areas of Learning
Chinese classics as the core: Develop wholesome and upright character with the Confucian ethics at the core.
Buddhism as the foundation: Grounded on meditation practice and understanding the principle of causality, students develop a sound mind and develop their intrinsic wisdom.
Worldly knowledge as the application: Nurture students’ knowledge in science and technology, languages, computer applications, humanities and the arts, while acquiring an extensive world-view.
Four Notable Features
Picturesque, peaceful, and comfortable, the park-like school grounds and unique architecture are abound with natural beauty and humane character, presenting a safe and multi-faceted environment for learning.
- Exceptional Curriculum
In addition to the required subjects specified by the Board of Education, additional emphases are placed on the Chinese language and classics, four foreign languages: English, Japanese, French, and Spanish, meditation instruction, arts and crafts, and horticulture. The curriculum is well balanced, scientifically designed, and thoughtfully managed.
- Great Facilities
The modern and comprehensive facilities include a language learning center, planetarium, gymnasium, swimming pool, computer lab, library, art exhibit hall, sheltered walkways, general and specialized classrooms, and dormitories for all the teachers and students.
- Experienced Teachers
Pu Tai’s teachers are highly experienced and enthusiastic. They value the heuristic method of teaching that actively involves the students in the learning process. Inspired to teach with compassion, wisdom, and samadhi in applying the school’s education principle, they help Pu Tai set a new standard in education.
Chung Tai Chan Monastery
2 Chung Tai Road, Puli, Nantou 54544 Taiwan, R.O.C.