Humanistic Buddhism

Humanistic Buddhism (Chinese: 人間佛教; pinyin: rénjiān fójiào) is a modern philosophy practiced by new religious movements originating from Chinese Buddhism which places an emphasis on integrating Buddhist practices into everyday life and shifting the focus of ritual from the dead to the living.


Taixu, a Buddhist modernist activist and thinker who advocated the reform and renewal of Chinese Buddhism, used the term Buddhism for Human Life (Chinese: 人生佛教; pinyin: rénshēng fójiào). The first two characters, "human" and "life", indicating his criticism of several aspects of late Qing dynasty and early Republican Chinese Buddhism that he wished to correct namely an emphasis on spirits and ghosts ("human") and funeral services and rites ("life"). His disciples continued this emphasis.[1]

Taixu also used the term Buddhism for the Human World, or popularly humanistic Buddhism (Chinese: 人間佛教; pinyin: rénjiān fójiào). It appears that at first the two terms were largely interchangeable. One of Taixu's disciples, Yin Shun, used the term humanistic Buddhism to indicate a criticism against the "deification" of Buddhism, which was another common feature of much of Chinese Buddhism, in his articles and books. It was Yin Shun and other disciples of Taixu who brought both of these two terms to Taiwan in the wake of the Republicans' defeat during the civil war against the Communist Party of China. It was in Taiwan that the term humanistic Buddhism became the most commonly used term, particularly amongst the religious leaders who originally hailed from China.[1]

Temple Nan Tien definition

Temple Nan Tien outlines the principles of humanistic Buddhism as integrating Buddhist practices into everyday life based on the nature of Sakyamuni Buddha achieving Buddhahood while bound in an earthly form. Humanistic Buddhism is based on six core concepts, namely humanism, altruism, spiritual practices as part of daily life, joyfulness, timeliness and the universality of saving all beings. From these principles, the aim of humanistic Buddhism is to reconnect Buddhist practice with the ordinary and places emphasis on caring for the material world, not solely concerned with achieving delivery from it.[2]

Soka Gakkai definition

According to Daisaku Ikeda, head of the Soka Gakkai new religious movement:

The essence of Buddhist humanism lies in the insistence that human beings exercise their spiritual capacities to the limit, or more accurately, without limit, coupled with an unshakable belief in their ability to do this. In this way, faith in humanity is absolutely central to Buddhism.[3]

Another aspect of manifesting the teaching of Humanistic Buddhism is the interfaith dialogue and the study of the common tenets of non-violence.[4]

Soka Gakkai International teaches that “the Lotus Sutra that leads all people to Buddhahood and we ordinary human beings are in no way different or separate from one another[5] and viewed the Buddha as a role model for all humanity: "The purpose of the appearance in this world of Shakyamuni Buddha, the lord of teachings, lies in his behaviour as a human being".[6]

Buddhism and new religious movements in Taiwan

Yin Shun was the key figure in the doctrinal exposition of Buddhism and thus humanistic Buddhism in Taiwan. However, he was not particularly active in the social or political spheres of life. This was to be carried out by a younger generation such as Hsing Yun, Sheng-yen, Wei Chueh and Cheng Yen. These four figures, collectively known as the Four Heavenly Kings of Taiwanese Buddhism, head the Four Great Mountains, or monasteries, of Taiwanese Buddhism and Buddhist new religious movements, namely Fo Guang Shan, Dharma Drum Mountain, Chung Tai Shan and Tzu Chi.[1]

History of Chinese Buddhist ritual practice

Humanistic Buddhism originated in China at the beginning of the 20th century. The movement emerged as a collective attempt to emphasize the importance of serving the living in Buddhist practice, rather than placing focus on the traditional Buddhist rituals for the dead. After the Ming dynasty, penance for the dead had become more widespread, replacing rituals focused on meditation. A possible cause for this was Emperor Zhu Yuanzhan's Buddhist Orders issued in 1391. These created three categories of the sangha, or monastic class: meditation monks, teaching monks and yoga monks. These yoga monks were responsible for performing rituals for the dead. This led to certain monks taking on the roles of monks on call who performed rituals to earn their livelihood. These monks on call made up a majority of the sangha by the end of the Qing dynasty. Another possible cause of the increased rituals for the dead was the spread of tantric Buddhism following the Yuan dynasty which promoted ritual practice.[7]

Fo Guang Shan

Fo Guang Shan is one of the most popular humanistic Buddhist organizations in present-day China. They have done work to reform and re-invent more traditional ritual practices. They strive to highlight Dharmic aspects of ritual and tailor their practices and worship to benefit the living, rather than the dead. Fo Guang Shan are known for their Recitation Teams, which they send to hospitals and hospice care facilities to assist the dying and their loved ones in performing humanistic Buddhist ritual practice. Humanistic Buddhists believe that death is not an end so much as the beginning of a new life and therefore rituals at the end of life should comfort and pacify the dying individual. They also hold ceremonies that celebrate marriage and the happiness of married couples which are popular worldwide.[7]

Master Hsing Yun

Master Hsing Yun, born in 1927, is a leader in the humanistic Buddhist movement in China and was an early founder of Fo Guang Shan in the 1960s. He wrote Rites for Funerals, a work outlining the Dharmic elements of these rituals and reforming them to place emphasis on the living participants and worshipers. He also wrote The Etiquettes and Rules, which outlines the practices of traditional Buddhism from a humanistic perspective.[7]

Gender equality in humanistic Buddhism

One controversy of humanistic Buddhism is the role of women in society. Master Hsing Yun, the founder of the Fo Guang Shan humanistic Buddhist movement, holds a conservative perspective as to the position of women and has published a variety of articles for men on how to maintain a functioning household and for women on how to provide proper companionship and please their husbands. Despite this perception, women have earned themselves a solid position in the Chinese workforce. While Master Hsing Yun does not advocate for women being forced out of workplaces, he cautions men about the problems that might arise in a household if a woman is not at home to keep things in order. However, Buddhist nuns have been gaining a place as of 1998 in which 136 women from a variety of Buddhist traditions were ordained into the Fo Guang Shan tradition in China. Taiwan has also had ordination available to Buddhist nuns for centuries.[8]

As did Nichiren, on whose reform of Buddhism the Soka Movement was founded, the Soka Gakkai International upholds the principle of fundamental equality of men and women, clergy and laity.

See also


  1. ^ a b c Bingenheimer, Marcus (2007). "Some Remarks on the Usage of Renjian Fojiao 人間佛教 and the Contribution of Venerable Yinshun to Chinese Buddhist Modernism". In Hsu, Mutsu; Chen, Jinhua; Meeks, Lori (eds.). Development and Practice of Humanitarian Buddhism: Interdisciplinary Perspectives (PDF). Hua-lien (Taiwan): Tzuchi University Press. pp. 141–161. ISBN 978-986-7625-08-3.
  2. ^ "What is Humanistic Buddhism?". Nan Tien Temple. Retrieved 22 February 2016.
  3. ^ "Toward a World of Dignity for All: The Triumph of the Creative Life" (PDF).
  4. ^ "Gandhi and Mahayana Buddhism". University of Idaho. 1996. Retrieved 22 June 2015.
  5. ^ The Heritage of the Ultimate Law of Life
  6. ^ WND1, p. 852.
  7. ^ a b c Yu, Xue (2013). "Re-Creation of Rituals in Humanistic Buddhism: A Case Study of Fo Guang Shan". Asian Philosophy.
  8. ^ Chandler, Stuart (2004). Establishing A Pure Land On Earth. University of Hawaii Press. pp. 85–91.

Further reading

  • Guruge, Ananda Wp (2003). Humanistic Buddhism for Social Well-Being: An Overview of Grand Master Hsing Yun's Interpretation. Buddha's Light Publishing. ISBN 0-9717495-2-3.
  • Ho, Jacqueline (2008). "The Practice of Yin Shun’s Ren Jian Fo Jiao: A Case Study of Fu Yan College, Dharma Drum Mountain and Tzu Chi Buddhist Compassion Relief". MA thesis. University of Calgary. ISBN 978-0-494-44221-0
  • Hughes Seager, Richard (2006). Encountering the Dharma: Daisaku Ikeda, Soka Gakkai, and the Globalization of Buddhist Humanism. University of California Press. ISBN 0-520-24577-6.
  • Gier, Nick. "The Virtues of Asian Humanism". Moscow, Idaho: University of Idaho. Retrieved 22 June 2015.
  • Ikeda, D. (15 October 2010). A New Humanism. ISBN 978-1848854833.
  • Pittman, Don Alvin (2001), Toward a Modern Chinese Buddhism: Taixu's Reforms, University of Hawaii Press
Buddhism in Hong Kong

Buddhism is a major religion in Hong Kong and has been greatly influential in the traditional culture of its populace. Among the most prominent Buddhist temples in the city there are the Chi Lin Nunnery in Diamond Hill, built in the Tang Dynasty's architectural style; the Po Lin Monastery on Lantau Island, famous for the outdoor bronze statue, Tian Tan Buddha, which attracts a large number of visitors during the weekends and holidays.

Buddhist organizations and temples in Hong Kong have long been involved in social welfare and education. The Hong Kong Buddhist Association operates a dozen primary and secondary schools, and elderly homes as well as centres for youth and children in Hong Kong.Under the leadership of the former Chief Executive Tung Chee Hwa, the Hong Kong government formally recognised the influence of Buddhism in Hong Kong. In 1997 the government designated Buddha's Birthday as a public holiday, which replaced the Queen's birthday holiday. Tung himself is a Buddhist and participated in major, widely publicised Buddhist activities in Hong Kong and China.

Academic studies and research of Buddhism in Hong Kong have thrived over the past decades. The University of Hong Kong has a Centre of Buddhist Studies. The Chinese University of Hong Kong also has a Centre for the Study of Humanistic Buddhism.

Buddhism in Taiwan

Buddhism is one of the major religions of Taiwan. Taiwanese people predominantly practice Mahayana Buddhism, Confucian principles, local practices and Taoist tradition. Roles for religious specialists from both Buddhist and Taoist traditions exist on special occasions such as for childbirth and funerals. Of these, a smaller number identify more specifically with Chinese Buddhist teachings and institutions, without necessarily eschewing practices from other Asian traditions. Around 35% of the population believes in Buddhism.Taiwanese government statistics distinguish Buddhism from Taoism, giving almost equal numbers for both. In 2005, the census recorded 8 million Buddhists and 7.6 million Taoists, out of a total population of 23 million. Many of Taiwan's self-declared "Taoists" actually observe the more syncretistic practices associated with Chinese traditional religion which is based on Buddhism. Self-avowed Buddhists may also be adherents of more localized faiths such as Yiguandao, which also emphasize Buddhist figures like Guanyin or Maitreya and espouse vegetarianism.

Distinguishing features of Taiwanese Buddhism is the emphasis on the practice of vegetarianism, the influence of Humanistic Buddhism, and the prominence of large centralized Buddhist organizations. Four Buddhist teachers who founded institutions that are particularly influential are popularly referred to as the "Four Heavenly Kings of Taiwanese Buddhism", one for each cardinal direction, with their corresponding institutions referred to as the "Four Great Mountains". They are:

North (Jinshan): Master Sheng-yen (聖嚴, d. 2009) of Dharma Drum Mountain (法鼓山)

South (Dashu): Master Hsing Yun (星雲) of Fo Guang Shan (佛光山)

East (Hualien): Master Cheng Yen (證嚴) of the Tzu Chi Foundation (慈濟基金會)

West (Nantou): Master Wei Chueh (惟覺, d. 2016) of Chung Tai Shan (中台山)Following the Chinese Civil War, Buddhism experienced a rapid increase in popularity in Taiwan, attributed to Taiwan's economic miracle following the war and several major Buddhist organizations promoting modern values such as equality, freedom and reason, which was attractive to the country's growing middle class. Taiwanese Buddhist institutions are known for their involvement in secular society, including the providing of a number of public goods and services such as colleges, hospitals and disaster relief.

Buddhist modernism

Buddhist modernism (also referred to as modern Buddhism, modernist Buddhism and Neo-Buddhism) are new movements based on modern era reinterpretations of Buddhism. David McMahan states that modernism in Buddhism is similar to those found in other religions. The sources of influences have variously been an engagement of Buddhist communities and teachers with the new cultures and methodologies such as "western monotheism; rationalism and scientific naturalism; and Romantic expressivism". The influence of monotheism has been the internalization of Buddhist gods to make it acceptable in modern West, while scientific naturalism and romanticism has influenced the emphasis on current life, empirical defense, reason, psychological and health benefits.The Neo-Buddhism movements differ in their doctrines and practices from the historical, mainstream Theravada, Mahayana and Vajrayana Buddhist traditions. A co-creation of Western Orientalists and reform-minded Asian Buddhists, Buddhist modernism has been a reformulation of Buddhist concepts that has deemphasized traditional Buddhist doctrines, cosmology, rituals, monasticism, clerical hierarchy and icon worship. The term came into vogue during the colonial and post-colonial era studies of Asian religions, and is found in sources such as Louis de la Vallee Poussin's 1910 article.Examples of Buddhist modernism movements and traditions include Humanistic Buddhism, Secular Buddhism, Engaged Buddhism, Navayana, the Japanese-initiated new lay organizations of Nichiren Buddhism such as Soka Gakkai, the New Kadampa Tradition and the missionary activity of Tibetan Buddhist masters in the West (leading the quickly growing Buddhist movement in France), the Vipassana Movement, the Triratna Buddhist Community, Dharma Drum Mountain, Fo Guang Shan, Won Buddhism, Tzu Chi, and Juniper Foundation.

Cheng Yen

Master Cheng Yen (Chinese: 證嚴法師; pinyin: Zhèngyán Fǎshī) is a Taiwanese Buddhist nun (bhikkhuni), teacher, and philanthropist. She was a student and follower of Master Ying Shun, a major figure in the development of Humanistic Buddhism in Taiwan. In 1966, Cheng Yen founded the Buddhist Compassion Relief Tzu Chi Foundation, ordinarily referred to as Tzu Chi. Cheng Yen started Tzu Chi as a group of thirty housewives who saved money to help needy families. The organization later became one of the largest humanitarian organizations in the world, eventually becoming the largest Buddhist organization in Taiwan.

Cheng Yen is considered to be one of the most influential figures in the development of modern Taiwanese Buddhism. In Taiwan, she is popularly referred to as one of the "Four Heavenly Kings" of Taiwanese Buddhism, along with her contemporaries Master Sheng-yen of Dharma Drum Mountain, Master Hsing Yun of Fo Guang Shan and Master Wei Chueh of Chung Tai Shan.


Clericalism is the application of the formal, church-based, leadership or opinion of ordained clergy in matters of either the church or broader political and sociocultural import.

Engaged Buddhism

Engaged Buddhism refers to Buddhists who are seeking ways to apply the insights from meditation practice and dharma teachings to situations of social, political, environmental and economic suffering and injustice. Finding its roots in Vietnam through the Zen Buddhist teacher Thích Nhất Hạnh, Engaged Buddhism has grown in popularity in the West.

Fo Guang Shan

Fo Guang Shan is an international Chinese Buddhist monastic order based in Taiwan that practices humanistic buddhism. The headquarters of Fo Guang Shan, located in Dashu District, Kaohsiung, is the largest Buddhist monastery in Taiwan. The organization is also one of the largest charity organizations in Taiwan. The organization's counterpart for laypeople is known as the Buddha's Light International Association.

Founded in 1967 by Hsing Yun, the order promotes Humanistic Buddhism and is known for its efforts in the modernization of Chinese Buddhism. The order is famous for its use of technology and its temples are often furnished with the latest equipment. Hsing Yun's stated position for Fo Guang Shan is that it is an "amalgam of all Eight Schools of Chinese Buddhism" (八宗兼弘).

In Taiwan, Hsing Yun is popularly referred to as one of the "Four Heavenly Kings" and Fo Guang Shan is considered one of the "Four Great Mountains" or four major Buddhist organizations of Taiwanese Buddhism, along with Dharma Drum Mountain, Tzu Chi, and Chung Tai Shan.

Fo Guang Shan Temple, Auckland

The Fo Guang Shan temple is a temple and community centre of the Fo Guang Shan Buddhist movement in the East Tamaki/Flat Bush suburb of Auckland, New Zealand. The temple and complex were built over seven years It was designed in the architectural style of the Tang Dynasty. The temple also includes a large Buddha statue and a two-tonne bell.Opened in late 2007, the mission of the new temple is to promote Humanistic Buddhism. But it is also intended to benefit (and is open to) non-Buddhists, "through education and teaching people how to lead good lives." Even before its official opening, the temple had provided community courses such as Chinese calligraphy, Chinese language, yoga and martial arts, as well as providing a venue for crime prevention talks and meetings.

Hsi Lai Temple

Fo Guang Shan Hsi Lai Temple (Chinese: 佛光山西來寺; pinyin: Fóguāngshān Xīlái Sì) is a mountain monastery in the northern Puente Hills, Hacienda Heights, Los Angeles County, California. Completed in 1988, it is one of the largest Buddhist temples in the Western Hemisphere. The name "Hsi Lai" means Coming West.

Hsi Lai Temple is affiliated with Fo Guang Shan, a Buddhist organization from Taiwan. It is the order's first overseas branch temple, and serves as the North American regional headquarters for Fo Guang Shan. Hsi Lai Temple was the site of the founding of Buddha's Light International Association, established in 1991. The temple, like its mother temple in Taiwan, practices Humanistic Buddhism.

Hsing Yun

Hsing Yun (born on August 19th, 1927) is a Chinese Buddhist monk. He is the founder of the Fo Guang Shan Buddhist order as well as the affiliated Buddha's Light International Association in Taiwan. Hsing Yun is considered to be one of the most prominent proponents of Humanistic Buddhism and is considered to be one of the most influential teachers of modern Taiwanese Buddhism. In Taiwan, he is popularly referred to as one of the "Four Heavenly Kings" of Taiwanese Buddhism, along with his contemporaries: Master Sheng-yen of Dharma Drum Mountain, Master Cheng Yen of Tzu Chi and Master Wei Chueh of Chung Tai Shan.

IBPS Manila

The International Buddhist Progress Society of Manila, Philippines (also known as Fo Guang Shan Manila) (Chinese: 菲律賓馬尼拉佛光山) is the main branch way-place of the Taiwan affiliated Fo Guang Shan Buddhist Order in the Philippines. As do all branch temples, way-places, and organizations of Fo Guang Shan, the branch follows Humanistic Buddhism, a modernized style of Buddhist teaching as propagated by Venerable Master Hsing Yun, spiritual founder and teacher of the order.

Islamic monarchy

Islamic monarchies are a type of Islamic state which are monarchies. Historically known by various names, such as Mamlakah ("Kingdom"), Caliphate, Sultanate, or Emirate, current Islamic monarchies include:

Kingdom of Morocco

Kingdom of Bahrain

Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan

Kingdom of Saudi Arabia

Sultanate of Oman

Monarchies of Malaysia

Nation of Brunei, Abode of Peace

State of Kuwait

State of Qatar

United Arab Emirates

Jingak Order

The Jingak Order (Korean: 大韓佛敎眞覺宗, 대한불교진각종), is a South Korean Esoteric (Vajrayana) Buddhist sect founded in 1947 by Grand Master Hoedang (Kyu-Shang Sohn, 1902-1963). The order places more emphasis on Vairocana rather than Sakyamuni Buddha, and the sect's guiding doctrine is Dharmkaya-Mahavairocana Buddha, which is described as "The oneness who is immanent in the world, which includes three stages of existence." Its esoteric doctrines are based on a revised form of the teachings of Shingon Buddhism and include the dual mandalas of Garbhadhatu and Vajradhatu. Their chief mantra is the Korean version of the Six-Syllables Mantra: "Om Ma Ni Bhan Me Hum."

The Jingak Order falls within the realm of Engaged Buddhism or Humanistic Buddhism in that it seeks to apply Buddhist principles and teachings towards improvement of the saha world. To that end, the order runs its own Social Welfare Foundation. In addition to "parishes" in South Korea, the order also has parishes in China, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Canada, and the United States.

The order observes different rituals from other Buddhists. Monks may marry and grow their hair, and married couples may preach together.

List of writers on Buddhism

This is a list of writers on Buddhism. The list is intended to include only those writers who have written books about Buddhism, and about whom there is already a Wikipedia article. Each entry needs to indicate the writer's most well-known work. Multiple works should be listed only if each work already has a Wikipedia article.

Religion in Hong Kong

Religion in Hong Kong is characterized by a multi-faith diversity of beliefs and practices.

Most of the Hong Kong people of Chinese descent practice Chinese folk religion—which may include Confucian and Taoist doctrines and ritual traditions—or Buddhism, mostly of the Chinese variety.

According to official statistics for the year 2016 among the Hong Kong people who belong to an organised religion there are: over 1 million Buddhists, over 1 million Taoists, 480,000 Protestants, 379,000 Catholics, 300,000 Muslims, 100,000 Hindus, 12,000 Sikhs, and other smaller communities.The great majority of the population mostly follow Chinese traditional religions, which comprehend the worship of local gods and ancestors, in many cases not declaring this practice as a religious affiliation in surveys. The traditional Chinese religiosity was generally discouraged during the British rule over Hong Kong, which favoured Christianity. With the end of the British rule and the handover of the sovereignty of the city-state to China, there has been a renewal of Buddhist and Chinese folk religions.

Religious police

Religious police is the police force responsible for the enforcement of religious norms and associated religious laws.

While most police enforcing religious norms in the modern world are Islamic and found in Muslim countries such as Saudi Arabia or Iran, some are not (for example in Vietnam, the religious security police monitor “extremist” religious groups, detaining and interrogating suspected Dega Protestants or Ha Mon Catholics).

Religious socialism

Religious socialism is any form of socialism based on religious values. Members of several major religions have found that their beliefs about human society fit with socialist principles and ideas. As a result, religious socialist movements have developed within these religions. Such movements include:

Buddhist socialism

Christian socialism

Hindu socialism

Islamic socialism

Jewish socialism

Sinhalese Buddhist nationalism

Sinhalese Buddhist nationalism is a political ideology which combines a focus upon Sinhalese culture and ethnicity with an emphasis upon Theravada Buddhism, which is the majority belief system of most of the Sinhalese in Sri Lanka. It mostly originated in reaction to the colonisation of Sri Lanka by the British Empire and became increasingly assertive in the years following the independence of the country.


Woodenfish Foundation, previously known as "Woodenfish Project," is an international Buddhist educational NGO with operations in the United States and China. Yifa founded the "Woodenfish Project" in 2002 at Fo Guang Shan in Kaohsiung, Taiwan. The initial flagship program, "Humanistic Buddhist Monastic Life Program" aims to allow students from around the world to authentically experience Humanistic Buddhism for one month each summer within a monastic context.

In the past 13 years, Woodenfish program alumni and Yifa have driven the organizational growth to expand into programming in the United States and mainland China. Woodenfish Foundation became a registered 501(c)(3) organization in California in 2007. Between 2009 and 2015, Woodenfish has run 13 programs in mainland China. In 2015, Woodenfish opened New York City headquarters and hired its first full-time staff.

The Woodenfish Foundation was granted special consultative status with the United Nations through ECOSOC in July 2016.In its second decade, Woodenfish continues to build its base within China and the United States, aiming to fulfill its mission to the greatest extent and offer opportunities for scholastic inquiry and collaboration, and contemplative and cross-cultural peace training.

The namesake comes from the wooden fish instrument, the most common religious musical instrument used in East Asian Buddhism.

Topics in Buddhism
The Buddha
Key concepts
Major figures

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