Discover Chung Tai
THE CHUNG TAI TRADITION
The Dharma is vast and profound. Our founder Grand Master Wei Chueh captured the essentials of a comprehensive spiritual practice and Dharma teaching with the following principles: “The Three Links of Cultivation,” “The Four Tenets of Chung Tai,” and “The Five Directions of Spreading Buddhism.” They form the foundation of the Chung Tai tradition.
The Three Links of Cultivation:
Integrated Spiritual Practice
Integrating the disciplines of service, scripture studies and meditation is the guiding principle for spiritual practice at Chung Tai. Each discipline complements and reinforces the other two: giving service brings merits that help one to progress on the path; studying scriptures cultivates the right understanding and insight into the Dharma; and meditation calms, clears and awakens the mind. Integrating the three ensures proper progress on the path to buddhahood.
The Four Tenets of Chung Tai:
Put Buddhism into Daily Practice
The Chan (Zen) teachings, although subtle and profound, are inseparable from the way we conduct our lives. The Four Tenets of Chung Tai are guidelines for practicing mindfulness in daily life:
To our elders be respectful:
Overcome arrogance with respect
To our juniors be kind:
Counteract anger with kindness
With all humanity be harmonious:
Dissolve violence with harmony
In all endeavors be true:
Eradicate deceit with truthfulness
The Five Directions of Spreading Buddhism:
Bring Buddhism into the New Century
Adapting to today’s multifaceted society, the Grand Master introduced a modern approach of disseminating the Dharma: connect Buddhism with academia, education, art, science and daily living to enable people from all walks to explore and discover the purifying benefits of Buddhism.
The architecture of Chung Tai Chan Monastery harmoniously integrates elements of art, culture and technology with the Dharma, and serves as a demonstration of the “Five Directions of Spreading Buddhism.” It was awarded the “Taiwan Architecture Award” in 2002, and the “International Award for Lighting Design” in 2003, writing a new page in 21th century Buddhist architecture.
Viewed from afar, the main building of Chung Tai resembles a cultivator in sitting meditation, surrounded by mountains, majestic and serene. The architecture itself serves to convey the Mahayana concept that “sudden enlightenment” and “gradual cultivation” are complementary paths to attaining buddhahood. At the building’s central axis, three buddha halls located on successive floors align with the Golden Dome on the apex of the building, symbolizing sudden enlightenment, the most direct path to the ultimate truth: “awaken the mind and see one’s true nature; seeing the true nature one becomes a buddha.” The three buddha halls feature the statues of the “Transformation Body Buddha” (on the 2F), “Bliss Body Buddha” (on the 5F), and “Dharma Body Buddha” (on the 9F), known in Buddhism as the “threefold body of the Buddha.”
On each side of the building, pilgrimage stairways leading to a bodhisattva hall represent the path of gradual cultivation. Out of selfless compassion, bodhisattvas vow to enlighten oneself as well as all beings, practicing step by step until buddhaood is attained.
CHUNG TAI TOUR
The Hall Of Four Heavenly Kings
On the four corners of the first floor stand the 12-meter high statues of Four Heavenly Kings (guardians of the heavens), which are among the largest in the world. Each statue has the faces of all four kings, symbolizing the idea of “one in four and four in one”—that each king embodies the others’ vows to look after all the beings in the universe. It demonstrates the ingenious integration of artistic expression, the Buddhist teaching, and architectural problem-solving. Other notable sculptures include Maitreya Bodhisattva (the future buddha), Wei Tuo Bodhisattva (the temple guardian), and the 18 arhats (saints).
The Great Majestic Hall
The Great Majestic Hall on the second floor enshrines the statue of Shakyamuni Buddha, known in Buddhism as the “Transformation Body Buddha,” the historical Buddha who manifested in this world thousands of years ago. The contrast of the red granite Buddha statue and the grey stone surrounding of the hall symbolizes the Buddha’s compassion to liberate all beings in this world of suffering. With great virtue, wisdom and power, the Buddha can subdue all evil and harm; therefore, he is known as the “great majestic one.”
The adjoining halls on the sides are the Patriarch Hall, enshrining the statue of Bodhidharma, the first Patriarch of Chinese Zen Buddhism; and the Sangharama Hall, with the statue of Sangharama Bodhisattva, the protector of the monastery.
The Chan Halls(Meditation Halls)
The Zen meditation hall, Chan hall in Chinese, is the most important space in a Chinese Zen (Chan) monastery. Likened to a furnace that forges the enlightened mind, this hall is where practitioners let go of all concerns in life to focus intently on understanding their own mind. The Great Chan Hall on the 5F and the Upper Chan Hall on the 9F form the heart of the Chung Tai architecture. Directly facing the Halls are magnificent buddha statues: the golden “Bliss Body Buddha” on the 5F, and the purely white “Dharma Body Buddha” on the 9F. This design conveys the concept of causality in Buddhism: the diligent meditation practice in the Chan Hall to see into one’s true nature is the “seed” for attaining the “fruit” of buddhahood, which embodies all the virtues of the “threefold body of the Buddha”—infinite compassion, wisdom, and true reality.
The Great Magnificence Hall
The Great Magnificence Hall on the fifth floor enshrines the golden statue of Rocana Buddha, whose appearance is the result of completing the cultivation of virtue and merit on the bodhisattva path, and is known in Buddhism as the “Bliss Body Buddha.” The ceiling is hand-painted in intricate patterns resembling those found in the Dunhuang Caves in Gansu, China. Thousands of miniature bronze buddha statues cover the surrounding walls, representing the perfection and splendor of the buddha land.
The adjoining halls on either side enshrine the statue of the Medicine Buddha of the Eastern Pure Land of Lapis Lazuli, and statue of Amitabha Buddha of the Western Pure Land of Ultimate Bliss.
The Great Enlightenment Hall
The Great Enlightenment Hall on the ninth floor enshrines the purely white statue of Vairocana Buddha, known in Buddhism as the “Dharma Body Buddha,” who represents the pure nature intrinsic in all beings. The fiber optic lighted ceiling resembles a starry sky, a symbol of the Buddha’s attaining supreme enlightenment when gazing upon the stars in the night sky three thousand years ago. The adjoining halls enshrine the statues of Manjushri Bodhisattva of Great Wisdom and Samantabhadra Bodhisattva of Great Action.
The Hall Of Ten Thousand Buddhas
More than ten thousand hand-cast miniature copper statues of the Medicine Buddha cover the walls of this unique space on the 16th floor. In the center is a seven-story teakwood pagoda, with an exterior constructed using a traditional dovetail joint technique (which does not require the use of any nails).
The pagoda design embodies the Three Jewels in Buddhism: the Buddha, Dharma (the Buddha’s teachings) and Sangha (Buddhist monastics). Inside the pagoda are enshrined seven statues of the Medicine Buddha (the Buddha), and the wooden reliefs of 500 arhats (the Sangha). The exterior wall of the pagoda is engraved with the text of the Diamond Sutra, one of the most well-known Mahayana scriptures (the Dharma).
The Hall has two 30-meter high frameless tensile glass windows that provide an open view of the pagoda even from afar. They can oscillate 43.9 centimeters in their capacity to resist earthquakes and fierce winds. In the evening, through the lotus-petal-shaped glass windows, one can see the light from the pagoda shining like a beacon, calling those lost in delusion to return home to our original pure nature.
The Golden Dome
The Golden Dome on the apex of the monastery represents a precious mani-pearl, a symbol of the perfect original nature in all beings. The outer structure is covered in golden titanium. The ceiling inside features the “Chung Tai holds up a flower” logo surrounded by colorfully painted lotus patterns. The walls are lined with titanium etchings depicting scenes from the Jataka tales, past-life stories of the Buddha practicing the six paramitas (charity, moral conduct, tolerance, diligence, meditation, and wisdom) to attain buddhahood.
The Bodhisattva Halls
Flanking the main monastery building are two broad stairways symbolizing the path of “gradual cultivation” to buddhahood through the practice of the six paramitas. They also serve as the path for the “mountain pilgrimage” ritual: practitioners climb the stairs taking one step at a time while chanting the Buddha’s name and making prostrations. It is a training in mindfulness, tolerance, repentance, and subduing arrogance, as well as a metaphor for the journey to reach our inner spiritual peak.
On one side, the stairways lead to the Guanyin Bodhisattva Hall. “The Universal Gateway of Guanyin”, a chapter in the Lotus Sutra, is engraved on the wall, describing Guanyin’s great compassion to answer every cry for help from all suffering beings. On the other side is the Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva Hall. Engraved on the wall is the Sutra of the Original Vow of Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva, narrating the Bodhisattva’s great vow to delay his own buddhahood until all beings are liberated.
ORGANIZATION OF CHUNG TAI
Chung Tai has built a well-organized and regulated sangha (community of Buddhist monastics) based on the principle of Sixfold Harmony set up by the Buddha: reside in the same community for physical harmony, free of dissension for verbal harmony, joy in harmony of minds, observe the same precepts for moral harmony, mutual understanding for harmony in views, and equal distributions for harmony in sharing benefits.
Resident Monastic Units:
Holding the Dharma and the Sangha Together
Chung Tai is like a self-sufficient microcosm where members of the sangha serve harmoniously on different areas of the monastic system. Through the discipline of service, practitioners put Chan (Zen) into their daily living: “Walking is Zen; sitting is Zen; in speech or silence, in motion or stillness, the mind is at peace.”
Examples of the Chung Tai monastic units: Office of Monastic Affairs, Office of Ceremonial Affairs, Office of Dharma Education, Office of Research and Development, Reception Office, Secretariat, Center for Publication and Learning, Library, Communications and Information Systems, Kitchen, Dining Hall, Vestments, Laundry & Bedding, Construction Office, Design Department, Landscaping, Environmental Services and Protection, Security, Transportation, Auto Repair, General Affairs, Ceremonial Supplies Room, Hardware Storeroom, Daily Supplies and others.
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 provides graduate and undergraduate level programs to train and develop the sangha. They are central to preserving the true Dharma and continuing the Chan lineage.
Reaching Deep into Communities Worldwide
Chung Tai has established more than 90 Zen (Chan) meditation centers to serve local communities all across Taiwan, as well as a dozen overseas in the United States, Australia, Italy, Japan, the Philippines, Hong Kong and Thailand. Each branch center is supported by its Dharma Support Association formed by local lay volunteers.