The Huayen Lotus Society (HLS) Taipei was founded on Dec. 21, 1952 for the purpose of propagating the Buddha’s teachings, purifying the mindset of the general public, protecting the state and benefiting all sentient beings. Ven. Master Zhiguang 智光 (1889–1963) held the post as the 1st abbot. In 1977 Ven. Master Nanting 南亭 (1900–1982) established the Legal Foundation of HLS and served as the 1st board chairperson, succeeded by Ven. Master Chengyi (1914–2011) as the 2nd board chairperson in 1982. Ven. Hsiendu served as the 6th abbess in 1994. In her effective management HLS monastic community was established and both the interior and exterior of the building were remodeled. Now HLS has become a traditional Buddhist propagation and practice center with modernized facilities. It provides the monastic and lay assemblies with a better place to study and practice the Buddha’s teachings.
Since Ven. Hsiendu served as the 3rd board chairperson of HLS Taipei in 2009, she has made great efforts to engage in charitable work and social edification. With the Buddhist qualities of loving kindness, compassion, empathetic joy and equanimity, HLS has strived for the welfare of society at large for more than 65 years. Each year more than 70% of the money raised by HLS is spent on the four undertakings of Dharma propagation, education, culture and charity. The all-out effort in these projects has brought about remarkably fruitful results. HLS charitable work has been recognized by the Ministry of Interior, winning the annual award for the outstanding organization in charity, public welfare and social edification ten years in a row (from 2006 through 2015). The specific deeds are listed as follows.
I. Dharma Propagation
1. Social Education
2. Buddhist Sangha Education
3. Buddhist Continuing Education
IV. Charity and Public Welfare
I. Dharma Propagation
HLS is one of the few Taiwanese organizations which have been exclusively devoted to the study, practice and propagation of Huayen teachings. HLS Dharma services epitomize the Huayen tradition. The Sunday Huayen Sūtra Chanting Gathering has continued since Ven. Master Nanting started this group practice in 1954. Starting from 1957 the Huayen Sūtra Chanting has been held in two seasons, with the first half of the eighty-roll Avataṃsaka Sūtra recited in the spring service and the second half in autumn. The Seven-Day Huayen Buddha-recollection Retreat is held at the end of the year. Since 1960 the Buddha’s Birthday Dharma Service, the Qingming Ancestor Memorial Service, the Yulanben Memorial Service and Sangha Offering Ceremony have been conducted on a regular basis. Since 2010 HLS has also organized the Ocean-seal Bodhimaṇḍa Cultivation Dharma Service, a ceremony for cultivation and realization in accordance with the Huayen Ritual Manual for Cultivating the Practice of Samantabhadra’s Vows by the northern Song master Jinshui Jingyuan, generally known as “Huayen Revival Patriarch”. Moreover, the group practice of Cundī Repentance started in 2011.
It has been more than sixty years since Ven. Master Nanting gave Dharma talks on Ming Pen Broadcasting Station in 1950, the very first on-air Dharma propagation in Taiwan, and Ven. Hsiendu has continued this task by expounding the Avataṃsaka Sūtra on radio. Starting from 2001, Ven. Hsiendu began the television lecture course on the same sūtra, a Buddhist TV series broadcast to the general public to this day. Moreover, she traveled as many as 58 times all around the world from 2001 through 2016, in order to promote Huayen studies or give Dharma talks. She won the Global Outstanding Bhikkhuni Award on Nov. 19, 2016. She values modern technology in training intellectual Dharma teachers and thus enables the Buddhist organization to fully perform its edification function and achieve the purpose of enlightening and benefiting the world.
1. Social Education
In the early 1965, following the government’s policy on the extension of compulsory education, Ven. Master Nanting founded Chih-Kuang Vocational High School of Business and Technology, as well as its Affiliated Supplementary School five years later. It consists of eight academic divisions: Data Processing, Information Management, Restaurant Management, Tourism Industry, Multimedia Design, Electronic Engineering, Mechanical Engineering and Performing Art. The students amount to 3,000, and they have won in the National Student Technological and Commercial Skills Competition 86 Golden Hand Awards and 111 Merit Prizes, among which there are 39 first through third prizes. It has been assessed as a high-quality vocational school in the national evaluation by the Ministry of Education.
2. Buddhist Sangha Education
Ven. Master Chengyi founded the Taipei Huayen Buddhist College (THBC) in 1975 in commemoration of the founder Master Zhiguang, who followed the Huayen teachings in study and practice throughout his life. The Huayen doctrine of the conditioned origination of the dharma realm in particular accords with the trend of thought in the age of democracy and science. THBC was also founded to improve Buddhist Sangha education and train monastic talent who can propagate the Dharma in the modern world. With rapid scientific advance around the world, the standard of Buddhist Sangha education has to be raised accordingly so that Buddhist monastics can accommodate themselves to the trend of the times.
THBC curriculum includes the core courses in the Huayen scriptures and literature, as well as other courses in literature, history, philosophy, language and other Buddhist schools. It is hoped that the students can study broadly and put what they have learned into practice. Its graduate school, the Institute of Huayen Buddhist Studies (IHBS), was established in 1983, aiming to cultivate Dharma teachers who are exclusively devoted to the study, practice and propagation of Huayen teachings. The students are trained to study profound Buddhist doctrines with modern academic spirit and acquire more specialized qualifications to share the Buddha’s teachings with the world in the 21st century. Until 2017 there were 121 students graduated from THBC, and 21 graduating classes with 91 graduate students who completed their program at IHBS. A graduate credit program was offered jointly by IHBS and Huafan University in 2013. Those graduate students who successfully complete 12 credits of the accredited IHBS courses in this program could earn in four years their Master’s degree recognized by the Ministry of Education.
3. Buddhist Continuing Education
IHBS started Non-degree Learning Program in 2010 to admit university students and the general public. The School of Continuing Education also started in 2010 for the general public. The Buddhist and Creative Arts courses were added to the community adult learning in 2012, under the Taipei City Government's "Lifelong Learning Passport Project".
The International Center for Avatamsaka Studies (ICAS) was established in 2014 to promote academic studies. The annual International Huayen Conference was held six years in a row to engage in academic exchange with universities and colleges both at home and abroad. ICAS links up with Huayen experts, scholars and practitioners around the world and aims to systematically propagate the Huayen teachings, studies and contemplation, educate qualified teachers of Huayen Buddhism, research and develop Huayen teaching plans and materials, and translate Huayen canonical works. It is hoped that the Huayen Buddhism could become a prominent school in the 21st century with the successful training of young talent in Huayen studies, practice, education and propagation.
The ICAS-USA, founded in 2015 to promote the Huayen studies, signed a cooperation agreement with the College of Humanities and the Arts at the San José State University in California. It has also established the Education Fund of Huayen Study and Practice and organized bilingual Huayen symposia, striving to promote the Dharma throughout the world in a modern way.
For Buddhist culture to have a real impact on the general public, HLS has published the All Ways monthly magazine since 1985. The Complete Works of Venerable Master Nanting has also been published in succession since then. The publishing department was established in 1996 to publish series of Huayen-related works, including the Huayen Patriarchs, the Huayen Studies, the All Ways, Venerable Master Chengyi’s Works, the Anthology of Essays by College Student Scholarship Recipients and Multimedia Teaching Materials of Huayen Buddhism. It also published the 20-volume New Revised and Enlarged Edition of Chengguan’s Commentary and Sub-commentary on the Avataṃsaka Sūtra in 2001.
Since 2010 there have been exhibitions of Chinese calligraphy and painting, photography, books and sutra papercutting. In 2013, THBC collaborated with Dharma Drum Institute on the Digital Archives Project to jointly offer digital Huayen courses, produce 13 e-books from Ven. Hsiendu’s works, and create the digital archive of the said new edition of Chengguan’s commentaries.
In order to promote Huayen teachings and expose more young people to Buddhism and the Avataṃsaka Sūtra, the Huayen Golden Lion Award was established in 2015. Since then it has been bestowed upon senior high school, vocational school and college students who successfully integrate the Huayen teachings into daily life in the form of micro movie, prose, verse, graphic design, Chinese calligraphy, painting, photography or music composition. It is hoped that Buddhist teachings can influence society more deeply.
IV. Charity and Public Welfare It has been 60 years or so since HLS’s charitable work began with the establishment of the College Student Buddhist Studies Scholarship in 1958, in the hope of encouraging young people to understand and study Buddhism. HLS has also been providing winter relief since 1961, offering needy families food, winter clothing and money. Ven. Master Chengyi established the Huayen Charity Foundation in 1984 to help the economically disadvantaged cases registered by the Social Welfare Department of Taipei City Government. Three years later, in response to the actual effect of the charitable work, the foundation was enlarged to include 22 divisions. As current board chairperson of HLS, Ven. Hsiendu has devoted herself to charity. She spares no effort to join the government relief efforts every year, including winter relief, caring for orphans and the disadvantaged, disaster relief, and so on. She has also organized and improved HLS charitable work to provide services for different groups, such as the elderly, children, orphans, the needy, victims of natural disasters or people in times of crisis, and students who need financial aids, which embodies Buddhist bodhisattvas’ compassion and altruistic spirit.