Buddhism came into Taiwan in the latter part of the 16th century when the Chinese began to immigrate to this land. From that time, Buddhism has taken many forms, like for example the Japanese Buddhism became quiet common during the Japanese control. At that point of time, a number of Buddhist communities associated themselves with Japanese sects for protection. However, despite this they did not abandoned the Chinese Buddhist practices.
With the retreat of Japan, Taiwan saw te coming in of the mainland monks, including some of the most renowned ones of the previous decades, such as Master Yinshun. It was during this period that the CBA or the Chinese Buddhist Association gained enhanced importance and became a dominant Buddhist organisation till the end of the martial law when the government mandated monopoly drew to its end.
Since the 1980s, the number of people recognising themselves as Buddhists has increased tremendously. Also, a number of large Buddhist organisations are based in and operate from Taiwan throughout the world. Primary amongst these are Dharma Drum Mountain, Buddha's Light International and Tzu Chi Foundation.
Today, apart from Chinese Buddhism, other forms of Buddhism have also found recognition in Taiwan. Tibetan Buddhism and the Vipassana movement led by S.N. Goenka is a great example of this.
Buddhism and the People
Around 93% of Taiwanese recognise themselves as Buddhists, Taoists, or practitioners of Chinese folk religion. A number of people follow Buddhism alone, though it is not quiet uncommon to find people practising a combination of three faiths. The Taoist, specially, mix Taoist religious practices with that of Buddhism and folk traditions. A Taoist and Buddhist temple can be seen in close proximity or even under the same roof. Small outdoor shrines on road sides, parks, and neighborhoods in the cities and towns of Taiwan is also quiet common sight.
Buddhism - Growing Popularity
In Taiwan, Buddhism is attracting more and more people towards it with every passing year. Buddhism has become an integral part of the life of the people of Taiwan. A large number of people in Taiwan accept to become nuns and monks. Further proof of the growing popularity is the marked increase in the attendance of the school children, teenagers, college students and teachers in the Buddhist camps organised. There are more than 100 Buddhist camps that are backed by local temples and education authorities all through Taiwan each summer. Additionally, a number of periodicals and other media efforts contribute to increase the popularity of Buddhism in the country.
Visits of The Dalai Lama
The 14th Dalai Lama first visited Taiwan in the year 1997 on the invitation of Master Jing Sin of the Buddhist Association to Taiwan. Back then, he held two public talks and a Buddhist consecration ceremony along with meeting the religious leaders. He concluded his five-day visit to Taiwan by meeting with former President Lee Teng-hui. This was followed by the establishement of the the Tibet Religious Foundation of His Holiness the Dalai Lama a year later.
The second visit of the Dalai Lama came about in April 2001. A two day ceremony was organised in which he imparted the teachings of Buddha to around 20,000 people. The Dalai Lama met up with religious leaders like Master Cheng Yen of the Buddhist Compassion Relief Tzu Chi Foundation, Master Sheng Yen of the Dharma Drum Mountain and Master Hsin Tao of the Ling Jiou Mountain Buddhist Foundation and the Museum of World Religions during the ten-day trip. Additionally, he also held conversation with President Chen Shui-bian, Vice President Lu Hsiu-lien, former President Lee Teng-hui, and other important political figures. His meeting proved successful as he managed to extract positive response for more number of Tibetans to study Mandarin, receive vocational training and obtain employment in Taiwan.