Following the INEB conference, many of the participants joined a study tour. The bus departed from Hongshi College early in the morning of 3 September with the first destination being Dharma Drum Mountain (法鼓山) in Jinshan. During the visit to Dharma Drum Mountain we had a tour of the facilities and short symposium followed by lunch.
Soon after he arrived in Taiwan Ajarn Sulak asked me to contact his old friend Prof. Cheng Chen-huang (鄭振煌教授). They met each other during the visit to Dharma Drum Mountain. Prof. Cheng told Ajarn that he was working on a project about Ajarn Buddhadasa Bhikkhu.
After leaving Dharma Drum Mountain the bus headed south to Hsuan Chuang University (玄奘大學) in Hsinchu. Ven. Chao Hwei (昭慧法師) is a professor at the university and they were a sponsor of the conference. Ajarn Sulak noted that the first book he ever wrote was a translation from English to Thai about Xuanzang, after whom the university was named. We went on a tour of the campus and the library was most impressive.
The bus then travelled to Taichung were we went to a branch of the Keng Tu Yuan (耕讀園) for dinner. The owner of Keng Tu Yuan is a Buddhist and this has influenced the way he runs his business. In particular the choice to use organic food in the restaurant. After enjoying an organic vegetarian dinner we then had a tea ceremony. I was at a table with a group of monks and acted as the translator. The monks asked a lot of very interesting questions about tea.
The next morning we visited the Bodhisattva Temple (菩薩寺) in Taichung. We were welcomed by the abbot Ven. Hueiguang (慧光法師). On entering this temple one is immediately impressed by its design. It was designed by an architect and includes a number of very interesting features. The bare concrete walls have a brushed appearance which makes them look like something more than just concrete. There is a large glass window behind the Buddha image in the main hall which has a big tree behind it.
At the temple we had a discussion and enjoyed tea and a delicious vegetarian lunch. The visit to this temple helped everyone better understand how small Buddhist organisations operate in the community. Most foreigners already know about large Buddhist organisations like Fo Guang Shan and Dharma Drum Mountain, but these only make up one part of Buddhism in Taiwan.
The final stop for the day was Fo Guang Shan (佛光山) near Kaohsiung. Fo Guang Shan is such a huge place that we didn’t really have time to see all of it. We split into groups and had a tour. In the evening there was symposium. The photo above shows Ajarn Sulak with Master Xin Pei (心培法師), the abbot of Fo Guang Shan, during the symposium.
The next day the bus returned to Taipei. A report on the final part of the study tour will follow soon.