Ven. Hsiendu was born in 1960, her ancestral home in Huichang, Jiangxi province of China. In 1986 she was tonsured by Ven. Master Chengyi and given the Dharma name Liaoxing 了行, with the alternate name Siqi思齊. In 1990 Ven. Hsiendu graduated from the Institute of Huayen Buddhist Studies (IHBS)—the graduate school of the Taipei Huayen Buddhist College (THBC), and received her doctorate in philosophy from the University of Delhi in 2005. She served as the sixth abbess of Huayen Lotus Society in Taipei (HLS) in 1994 and was appointed vice chairperson of the board in 2001. She held the posts as board chairperson of the Legal Foundation of HLS Taipei as well as the Avatamsaka Buddhist Lotus Society (ABLS) USA, director of Buddhist Association of the Republic of China, and executive director of the Buddhist Association of Taipei in 2009, and board chairperson of Chih-Kuang Vocational High School of Business and Technology in 2011. She served as an adviser of the Dharma Realm College of the Xingfu Temple at Changshu (Jiansu province) in 2015. She was appointed a member of the Advisory Committee on Religious Affairs in the Department of Civil Affairs of Taipei City Government in 2016. The same year she won the Global Outstanding Bhikkhuni Award on Nov. 19.
Ven. Hsiendu has specialized in the Avataṃsaka Sūtra and the Huayen literature and philosophy, focused on the Samantabhadra practice as well as the Contemplation of the Dharma Realm, and kept the Cundī practice on a daily basis. She has devoted her life to Huayen practices. 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, and engages in charitable work and social edification with the Buddhist qualities of loving kindness, compassion, empathetic joy and equanimity in the hope of improving the welfare of society at large. Each year more than 70% of the money raised by HLS is spent on the four undertakings of Dharma propagation, education, culture and charity. Ven. Hsiendu’s all-out effort in these projects has brought about remarkably fruitful results. Her specific deeds are listed as follows.
I. Dharma Propagation
1. Social Education
2. Buddhist Sangha Education
3. Buddhist Continuing Education
4. International Academic Research and Exchange
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. It has been 63 years since Ven. Master Nanting started the semimonthly Huayen Sūtra Chanting Gathering in 1954. Starting from 1957 the Huayen Sūtra Chanting has been held in two seasons, with the first half of the Avataṃsaka Sūtra in eighty rolls 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.
Ven. Hsiendu has continued this tradition since she served as HLS abbess in 1994. Moreover, she started the group practice of Cundī Repentance in 2011. Since 2012 she has also organized the Ocean-seal Bodhimaṇḍa Cultivation Dharma Service, an expanded ceremony 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”. Erected in this ritual is the Ocean-seal Shrine of Huayen’s Nine Assemblies at Seven Locations, in which the participants are led in contemplation and cultivation according to the Repentance Ritual of Samantabhadra’s Vows and Practices, so that they could think about the Buddha’s teachings while reciting the Avataṃsaka Sūtra and penetrate the reality of the dharma realm. This dharma service preserves traditions in a modern and innovative way.
In response to extreme climate change, Ven. Hsiendu expounded to monastic and lay participants in the 2016 Huayen Sūtra Chanting the connection between the Avataṃsaka Sūtra and the concern about the three realms of physical world, sentient beings and the enlightened, and pointed out the overall effect of freedom in these three realms. It was hoped that stability and harmony in each individual, interpersonal relationship and society could be extended to the entire external world, thus manifesting the inconceivably liberated state where the potentiality for perfect enlightenment is found in the sentient and insentient alike. Modern science and technology have been adopted to promote the teachings of the Avataṃsaka Sūtra, the most appropriate practical philosophy in the contemporary trend towards globalization. In the one-day meditation retreat held in 2016, Ven. Hsiendu reviewed the life of Ven. Master Yucheng, one of the Huayen masters in contemporary Chinese history as well as a Linji lineage holder, and elucidated the Linji Chan method.
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 followers to this day.
Moreover, between 2001 and 2018, in order to promote Huayen studies, she traveled as many as 76 times all around the world as the invited seminar speaker, carrying her own computer and projector for the lectures, even in the days when information technology was less advanced. She gave talks at various places in Mainland China, such as the Guangxiao Monastery at Taizhou (Jiansu province) as well as its Buddhist Seminary, the Hai-an Guanyin Temple, the Shanghai Jade Buddha Temple as well as its Buddhist College, the Buddhist College of Jinshan Temple (Jiangxi province), the Mount Jiuhua Buddha College, the Buddhist College of Min-nan, the Hangzhou Buddhist College, the Fahai Temple at Yangzhou, the Xiyuan Jiechuang Temple at Suzhou, the Zhanshan Buddhist College (Shandong province), the Huazang Temple, the Shentong Temple at Jinan, the Dharma Realm College at Changshu, the Cuifeng Temple on Mount Jiuhua (Anhui province), the Buddhist Academy of China and its branch at Qixia Temple in Nanjing, the Institute of Buddhist Culture of China, the Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies at Peking University, the School of Philosophy at Fudan University and Philosophy Department at Shandong University.
She participated in seminars held in Europe and USA by the following organizations: ABLS-USA, the Bodhi Way Association, the Mahabodhi Society of USA, the Chinese-American Mutual Assistance Association, True Family Values (sponsored by Time), the Vienna Buddhist Center in Austria, the Hungary Buddhist Center, San Jose City Council, etc. She also attended the Huayen Symposium and the Conference on Huayen Buddhism. The Southeast Asian seminar organizers who invited her to give presentations on Huayen Buddhism include the Vaidurya Buddhist Lodge at Bukit Mertajam in Penang, Malaysia, the Singapore Buddhist Association, the Malaysian Buddhist Institute, the Malaysian Buddhist Association, etc.
1. Social Education
In 2011 Ven. Hsiendu served as board chairperson of Chih-Kuang Vocational High School of Business and Technology, consisting 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. Hsiendu has taught the Avataṃsaka Sūtra since she took over the post as Dean of THBC and IHBS in 1999. She redesigned the curriculum, with the exclusive focus on the study, practice and propagation of Huayen Buddhism as the educational policy. There are three guidelines: (1) focusing on the study of teachings of the Huayen scriptures, developing one’s own innate virtuous roots and wisdom, going through the four stages of cultivation—faith, understanding, practice and realization, and realizing the One Vehicle path and its fruition; (2) focusing on Samantabhadra’s vows and practices, benefiting innumerable sentient beings with the ten perfections (of generosity, morality, forbearance, effort, concentration, wisdom, skillful means, aspiration, powers and knowledge) as well as the four means of social cohesion (i.e. generosity, kind words, helpfulness and equal recognition of the other person’s interest), and adorning the lotus-womb pure land with myriads of pure bodhisattva practices as the causal conditions; (3) focusing on the propagation of the Huayen literature and philosophy, and devoting oneself to Huayen teachings and the cultivation of Huayen scholars, so as to preserve the Buddha’s teachings and wisdom as long as possible.
There have been 22 graduating classes with 121 graduate students who have completed their three-year program at graduate school since the establishment of IHBS in 1983. 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.
Ven. Hsiendu 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. With the advent of the Information Age, she has made good use of computers and multimedia teaching materials while teaching the Dharma both at home and abroad, so that students could be guided from the understanding of basic Huayen doctrines up to in-depth research on Huayen Buddhism. The multimedia teaching materials include:
s The Origin and Development of the Huayen School華嚴宗源流
s A Brief History of the Huayen School華嚴宗史略
s Huayen Philosophy華嚴宗思想
s An Overview of the 39 Chapters in the Avataṃsaka Sūtra華嚴經三十九品概要
s Essentials of the Avataṃsaka Sūtra華嚴經要義
s Essentials of the Huayen Studies華嚴學要義
s Commentary on the Avataṃsaka Sūtra大方廣佛華嚴經釋義
s The Chapter “Ten Stages” 十地品
s The Chapter “Ten Practices” 十行品
s The Chapter “Ten Dedications” 十迴向品
s The Chapter “Ten Inexhaustible Treasuries” 十無盡藏品
s The Chapter “Ascending to the Tuṣita Heaven” 升兜率天宮品
s The Chapter “Praises in the Tuṣita Heaven” 兜率宮中偈讚品
s The Chapter “Entering the Dharma Realm” 入法界品
s Equality in Causes and Fruitions: the Chapter “Tathāgatas’ Appearances “ 平等因果位如來出現品
s Essentials of the Chapter of Ten Concentrations十定品要義
s Ten Perfections十度波羅蜜
s Perspectives on Numbers and Time in the Avataṃsaka Sūtra華嚴經中的數量和時間觀
s The Avataṃsaka Alphabet (Arapacana) 華嚴字母
s Inspiration from the Huayen Sūtra華嚴經對生命的啟示
s The Profound Conditioned Origination緣起甚深
s Huayen World View華嚴的世界觀
s Huayen Cosmology華嚴的宇宙觀
s The Connection between the Avataṃsaka Sūtra and the Concern about the Three Realms華嚴經與三世間關懷的連結
s Buddhist Caring for Life佛教的生命關懷
s Huayen Practitioners’ Perspective on Current Social Crisis華嚴行者對目前社會所面臨的危機之看法
s Exploring the Connection between Borobudur and the Avataṃsaka Sūtra探索婆羅浮屠佛塔與華嚴經的連結
s The Practice of Samantabhadra’s Vows普賢行願之實踐
s Huayen Buddha-recollection Method華嚴念佛法門
s Introduction to the Repentance Ritual of Kindness and Compassion Bodhimaṇḍa慈悲道場懺法概述
s Guanyin’s Practice Method of Great Compassion and Freedom from Hindrances大悲無礙的觀音法門
s Medicine Buddha’s Practice Method of Acting for the Welfare of Sentient Beings饒益有情的藥師法門
3. Buddhist Continuing Education
IHBS started Non-degree Learning Program as well as the School of Continuing Education in 2010, to admit university students and 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, engage in academic exchange with universities and colleges both at home and abroad, and link up with Huayen experts, scholars and practitioners around the world. The ICAS 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, signed a cooperation agreement with the College of Humanities and the Arts at the San José State University in California to promote the Huayen studies. 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.
4. International Academic Research and Exchange
Ven. Hsiendu led IHBS students to the Institute of Buddhist Culture of China in Beijing in 2005, to participate in a forum where the director Yang Tsen-wen gave a friendly reception and chaired the discussion in person. This IHBS team also went to the Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies at Peking University to attend the IHBS Academic Conference jointly organized by the said department. Ven. Hsiendu presented the paper entitled “Exploring the Connection between Borobudur and the Avataṃsaka Sūtra” in the Symposium on the Silk Road in 2011 at the invitation of the organizer the Singapore Management University. She also presented a paper in the International Huayen-Chan Symposium at the Chongren Temple in Longquan (Zhejiang province).
THBC signed a cooperation agreement with the Zhejiang Academy of Social Sciences in 2014 to jointly establish a collaboration mechanism for academic exchange. The same year HLS signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Xingfu Temple at Changshu (Jiansu province), formally launching the cross-strait educational and academic collaboration. The Xingfu Temple resumed the operation of the Dharma Realm College in 2015 with the assistance of Ven. Hsiendu as an adviser. THBC and the Dharma Realm College worked together in 2015 and 2016 to organize two consecutive international centennial conferences on Huayen Buddhism. THBC held six annual international Huayen conferences from 2012 through 2017, five international Huayen youth forums from 2013 through 2017, as well as the retrospective forum in 2015 in commemoration of the 20th anniversary of the restoration of HLS patriarchal temple, the Hai-an Guanyin Temple (Jiansu province). In 2015 THBC also co-hosted with National Chengchi University the International Conference on the Thoughts of Buddhāvataṃsaka in East Asia. The following year Prof. Lou Yulie, together with teachers and students of the Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies at Peking University, visited HLS in Taipei and attended a forum for the academic exchange with THBC.
Master Hsiendu's bibliography includes:
s Study Guide for Huayen Studies
s Turning the Dharma Wheel, Vol. I & II
s Buddhist Rules and Rituals
s Guanyin Practice Methods
s Pure Land Thoughts and Buddha-recollection Practice Methods in Huayen Buddhism
s Research on Specific Topics of Huayen Buddhism
s The Story of Sudhana’s Pilgrimage to 53 Spiritual Masters
s A Brief Commentary on the Chapter of the Wondrous Adornments of the Worlds’ Rulers, Vol. I & II
s A Brief Commentary on the Chapter of Ten Stages, Vol. I & II
s Lectures on the Avataṃsaka Sūtra I: Chapter “The Wondrous Adornments of the Worlds’ Rulers”
s Lectures on the Avataṃsaka Sūtra II: Chapters “The Buddha’s Manifestations” and “Samantabhadra’s Samādhi”
s Lectures on the Avataṃsaka Sūtra III: Chapters “Formation of Worlds,” “The Lotus-Womb World” and “Vairocana”
s Lectures on the Avataṃsaka Sūtra IV: Chapters “The Buddha’s Names,” “The Four Noble Truths” and “Awakening by Light”
s Lectures on the Avataṃsaka Sūtra V: Chapters “Bodhisattvas Ask for Clarification,” “Pure Conduct” and “Worthy Leader”
s Lectures on the Avataṃsaka Sūtra VI: Chapters “Ascending to the Peak of Mount Sumeru,” ”Praises on the Peak of Mount Sumeru,” “Ten Abodes” and “Holy Conduct”
s Lectures on the Avataṃsaka Sūtra VII: Chapters “Merit of Initial Aspiration for Enlightenment” and “Clarifying Methods”
s Study Guide for Buddhist Meditation
s Development of the Huayen School During the Tang Dynasty
Her lecture courses on the Avataṃsaka Sūtra and other topics of Huayen Buddhism are also available in DVD format, including:
s The Chapter “Wondrous Adornments of the Worlds’ Rulers”
s Chapters “The Buddha’s Manifestations,” “Samantabhadra’s Samādhi,” “Formation of Worlds,” “The Lotus-Womb World” and “Vairocana”
s Chapters “The Buddha’s Names,” “The Four Noble Truths,” “Awakening by Light,” “Bodhisattvas Ask for Clarification” and “Pure Conduct”
s Chapters “Worthy Leader,” “Ascending to the Peak of Mount Sumeru,” ”Praises on the Peak of Mount Sumeru,” “Ten Abodes” and “Holy Conduct”
s Chapters “Merit of Initial Aspiration for Enlightenment,” “Clarifying Methods,” “Ascending to the Suyama Heaven Palace” and “Praises in the Suyama Heaven Palace”
s The Chapter “Ten Practices”
s The Chapter “Ten Stages” I: Joyous Stage
s The Chapter “Ten Stages” II: Immaculate Stage
s The Chapter “Ten Stages” III: Luminous Stage
s The Chapter “Ten Stages” IV: Radiant Stage
s The Chapter “Ten Stages” V: Invincible Stage
s The Chapter “Ten Stages” VI: Manifestation Stage
s The Chapter “Ten Stages” VII: Far-going Stage
s The Chapter “Ten Stages” VIII: Immovable Stage
s The Origin and Development of the Huayen School
s Exposition of Huayen Doctrines
s Inspiration from the Huayen Sūtra
s Exploring the Connection between the Avataṃsaka Sūtra and Samantabhadra Practice Methods
s The Huayen World View
s The Avataṃsaka Alphabet
s The Cundī Practice Seminar
The simplified Chinese edition of Ven. Hsiendu’s Study Guide for Huayen Studies, published by the Religion Culture Publishing House in Mainland China in 2006, is the core textbook assigned by relevant departments of Mainland China’s universities. Moreover, in view of the fact that Dharma teaching in Chinese is limited to Chinese communities, Ven. Hsiendu courteously invited specialists to translate the Avataṃsaka Sūtra into English, showing a foresight rare among Taiwan's Buddhists.
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 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 provided winter relief since 1960, offering needy families food, winter clothing and money. As 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. HLS charitable work was recognized by the Ministry of Interior and the Taipei City Government with the annual award for the outstanding organization in charity, public welfare and social edification from 2006 through 2015.
Ven. Hsiendu believes that, to solve the worsening social problems in today’s world, we need to do more than explaining the truths about human life and the universe with unsatisfactoriness (Skt. duḥkha), its cause, its cessation and the path to its cessation. It is also necessary to explore the fact about drastic environmental changes from a scientific perspective, get prepared to cope with them, and aspire to be a bodhisattva practitioner in the human world. It is true that, since Master Taixu (1890–1947) advocated “Humanistic Buddhism,” which emphasizes benefiting self and others with the Buddha’s teachings, Buddhists have widely propagated the Buddhadharma and engaged in charitable work to this day. But for us who study and practice the Huayen teachings, as we learn to be a bodhisattva practitioner in the human world, we also need to realize that it is impossible to find anyone or anything that completely meets our standards when we aspire to renunciation as a result of dissatisfaction with someone or something. We have come to this world with the mission to transform it, turning evil to good, unwholesomeness to wholesomeness, unpleasantness to pleasantness, instead of passively waiting for the ripening of causes and conditions.
The “nature origination” in Huayen philosophy refers to the arising from the buddha nature, which all sentient beings are innately endowed with. All phenomena arise from their true nature and each sentient being should be edified according to their own spiritual potential and capacity. Shakyamuni Buddha appeared in this world simply for the purpose of disclosing and indicating to sentient beings the Buddha’s knowledge and insight as well as helping them to realize and enter Buddhahood. Therefore, everyone has the potential to become a buddha. Buddhists, and those who study and practice the Huayen Buddhism in particular, should not wait until they reach the level of great bodhisattvas. Instead, they should proactively take the responsibility for the edification of the world by vowing to put the Dharma into practice in everyday life. To put it specifically, they need to put equal emphasis on compassion and wisdom in practicing the ten perfections of generosity, morality, forbearance, effort, concentration, wisdom, skillful means, aspiration, powers and knowledge, to attain the inexhaustible collection of supramundane wisdom and requisites. They also need to develop the four boundless qualities (i.e. loving kindness, compassion, empathetic joy and equanimity), make skillful use of the five sciences (i.e. grammar and linguistics, logic, medicine, manual arts, and knowledge of the Tripiṭaka and the twelve categories of the Buddha’s word), and adopt the four means of social cohesion (i.e. generosity, kind words, helpfulness, and equal recognition of the other person’s interest), so as to help people get out of delusion and solve their problems in their life and world. Only when these guidelines are followed in the four undertakings of Dharma propagation, education, culture and charity, will Buddhism be accepted by the general public, thus benefiting sentient beings and changing the world for the better. These are the principles derived from Ven. Hsiendu’s concentrated study of Huayen Buddhism; they show a new direction in Dharma propagation and study in the contemporary society.