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Tradition and Innovation: Chinese Buddhism Beyond Asia

From Buddhistdoor Global
From Buddhistdoor Global

This year’s special issue discusses how Chinese Buddhism, one of the oldest and most influential East Asian expressions of the universal Dharma, has made homes in countries such as Australia, Canada, and the UK. Featuring contributions from Western-born Chinese Buddhists, Chinese-born residents of Western countries, and venerable nuns, our issue brings to the forefront an East-West dialogue through Chinese Buddhist eyes.

First, we visit Tung Lin Kok Yuen (TLKY) Canada Society in Vancouver, whose abbot, Ven. Tian Wen, gave an interview for this special issue. How can Chinese Buddhism (and by extension Chinese culture) be introduced to local Canadians through healthcare, meditation, and art? Our Pure Land columnist and founding editor Alan Kwan is also a resident of Vancouver. In his article he takes a look at the potential for pristine Pure Land Buddhism to be propagated in the West so that this school of Pure Land can gain momentum beyond East Asia, where it was only recently reinvigorated.

To the southeast of Vancouver is another Buddhist center: a wonderful nunnery called Po Lam, which has been part of Chilliwack since 1995. Ven. Yin Kit explains how its nuns adjusted to the needs and cultural inclincations of its local people, eventually becoming a beloved centerpiece of the community. Finally, for our North American theme, our friends at Chan Meditation Center in Flushing, New York, have offered a tribute to the international influence of Master Sheng Yen (1935–2009), the founder of one of Taiwan’s largest Buddhist groups, Dharma Drum Mountain.

We then turn our attention across the Atlantic. Alongside Pure Land Buddhism, Chan is the second stream of Chinese Buddhism that is the most influential. Eric Johns is a lifelong Chan practitioner who has travelled extensively to China and Hong Kong throughout his life. In this article he discusses how he teaches Chan to students in the UK, and how British students learn Chan best in a context removed from its original environment.

Australia is a relatively new country to be exposed to the Dharma. One of the greatest challenges for any practitioner in a Western country, including Western-born individuals who have adopted the relatively exotic expression of Chinese Buddhism, is the lack of a fellowship, a sangha, to practice with. Malcolm Hunt, a former Pure Land Buddhist monk who was born in Australia, relates the many difficulties he has encountered while trying to build a community of practice down under, and how he has found ways to work with them.

Like Australia, Africa is a continent that has only recently been exposed to Buddhism. Malawi-born Bro. Ben Xing, who in 1999 became a Buddhist, discusses how Chinese Buddhism can be diffused into African countries and how Chinese Buddhist organizations like Master Hui Li’s Amitofo Care Centre (ACC) have made a remarkable spiritual, educational, and humanitarian difference on the continent.    

We hope you enjoy the articles in this year’s special issue. Happy New Year from the Editorial Team!

Explore our Special Issue:


TLKY Canada Society. From

Tung Lin Kok Yuen Canada Society: A Warm and Venerable Buddhist Presence in the Heart of Vancouver

By Raymond Lam

Tung Lin Kok Yuen Canada is a Chinese Buddhist temple in the heart of Vancouver. In an interview with Buddhistdoor Global, abbot Ven. Tian Wen explains how Chinese culture, hospice care, and art can come together to make TLKY Canada a thriving community center.

Read more . . .

Image courtesy of the author

The Potential of Propagating Pure Land Buddhism in the West

By Alan Kwan

Pure Land Buddhism teaches devotion and reliance on the Fundamental or Primal Vow of Amitabha Buddha, the Buddha of Infinite Light and creator of the Western Pure Land. In this article, Alan highlights how the pristine Pure Land tradition could be expressed to a Western audience, and how it functions as a unique school within Pure Land. 

Read more . . .

Founding a Landmark of the Dharma in Canada

By Ven. Yin Kit

In February 1995, a nunnery called Po Lam was founded in the city of Chilliwack in British Columbia. Ven. Yin Kit of Po Lam looks back on the early days of the nunnery’s establishment, how it adjusted to the culture around it, and why locals today see it as an important and valued part of their community.

Read more . . .

Master Sheng Yen speaks at the United Nations in 2000. Image courtesy of Chan Meditation Center

Continuing the Legacy of Chan Master Sheng Yen

By Chan Meditation Center

The late Master Sheng Yen of Dharma Drum Mountain was one of the most influential Chinese Buddhist figures in the West. This tribute reflects on how he came to share Buddhism in the US and how his focus on global issues helped to make Dharma Drum respected and famous not only in Asia, but around the world. 

Read more . . .


Eric Johns inside Precious Wood meditation Hut. Image courtesy of the author

Teaching Chan in the UK

By Eric Johns

Bro. Eric has spent a lifetime studying Chan Buddhism in China and Hong Kong. He recounts how he was inspired by the teachings of Master Empty Cloud, before becoming a monk under Master Sheng Yi. A lay Buddhist teacher today, he also highlights how he guides his own students in Britain using techniques like the huatao method. This is his story.

Read more . . .


The Kuanyin statue at Nan Hai Pu Tuo Buddhist Temple and Retreat in South Australia. From

The Buddhism of Forks or Chopsticks

By Malcolm Hunt

Although he has bid farewell to his monastic life, Bro. Malcolm, formerly Ven. Zhi Sheng, has not left behind the values and beliefs that shaped his understanding of the Buddhist path. He hopes to bring Pure Land Buddhism into Australian society, and in this article he looks back on his progress and obstacles.

Read more . . .


Ben Xing, right, with a fellow practitioner. Image courtesy of the author

Nurturing the Roots of Chinese Buddhism in Africa

By Ben Xing

The continent of Africa is new to the Chinese expression of Buddhism, but already it is diffusing into countries such as Malawi, where Bro. Ben Xing was born. He reflects on how Chinese Buddhist organizations are operating in African countries and on his own journey to humanistic Buddhism.

Read more . . .

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