Known as the Grand Master of Chung Tai Chan Monastery, Venerable Wei Chueh is a successor to the Linji Chan (Zen in Japanese) lineage; he has been instrumental in revitalizing Zen Buddhism in Taiwan in the late 20th century and early 21st century. Grand Master Wei Chueh was born in the late 1920s in Yingshan, Sichuan Province, China. In his youth, he was educated in the Confucian classics and delved deeply into the study of Buddhism. In 1963, he was ordained under Master Linyuan at the Shifang Dajue (“Great Enlightenment”) Chan Monastery in Keelung, Taiwan. There he would get up before dawn everyday to clean the Buddha hall and courtyard. While others were resting after lunch, he remained in the Buddha Hall and prostrated mindfully. In all his daily duties and interactions, he was always devoted, considerate, and diligent. To further his Zen practice, Venerable Wei Chueh went into solitary practice for over ten years in the mountains near Wanli, a suburb of Taipei. Over time, as the area became more accessible, more and more people came to seek spiritual guidance and were impressed by the wisdom of this eloquent Buddhist Master. His followers then asked him to come out from his mountain retreat to spread the Dharma. In 1987, the Grand Master responded by building the Ling Quan (“Spiritual Spring”) Chan Monastery at the very place of his retreat. Soon the monastery was too small to accommodate the ever-increasing number of followers, all eagerly seeking the Master’s teachings. Following the Grand Master’s compassionate vow to provide a complete environment for all who wish to learn the Buddhist teachings, the design work for the construction of Chung Tai Chan Monastery began in 1992. Chung Tai is located in the town of Puli in central Taiwan. This landmark monastery eventually opened its doors on September 1, 2001, beginning a new era for the propagation of Buddhism in Chung Tai. In adhering to the Buddha’s aim of teaching the Dharma, to point the way to lasting joy, and in order to promote peace, the Grand Master established close to 100 Chan meditation centers all over Taiwan, as well as branches overseas in the US, Hong Kong, Japan, Australia, Thailand, Europe, and the Philippines, bringing compassion and enlightenment across the world. He is the spiritual head of Chung Tai, which a community of over 1,200 monastics call home and where hundreds of thousands of lay people learn their Buddhist practice. He is frequently invited to lecture at universities and various organizations, and conducts seven-day meditation retreats every year to help participants realize their intrinsic perfect nature. In order to preserve the teachings for future generations, the Grand Master emphasizes the importance of education for Buddhist monks and nuns, by establishing the Chung Tai Buddhist Institute to train knowledgeable and qualified teachers of the Dharma. He also founded the Pu Tai Schools (from elementary to high schools), where the values of respect, compassion, and moral integrity in the education of the youth are underscored. Furthermore, to promote traditional culture and preserve the Buddhist heritage, the Grand Master also founded Chung Tai Museum. In August of 2012, the Grand Master launched his plans for a new and bigger museum measuring 9 hectares. By properly housing and displaying the precious Buddhist artifacts, the Grand Master not only wants to preserve the rich Buddhist heritage of the past, but also to inspire and teach future generations about the timeless ideals of Buddhism. Beginning at Ling Quan(靈泉寺) and now continuing in Chung Tai Chan Monastery, Grand Master Wei Chueh has provided his vision and guidance, and has inspired hundreds of thousands of followers, monastics and lay people alike. Under his leadership, the essence of Chan teachings has been deeply and widely planted and is now propagating the fruits of serenity and wisdom to the world.
The Buddha Dharma is vast and profound. For all disciples to be effective and well-rounded in their spiritual practice, the Grand Master organizes training at Chung Tai to adhere to the following three frameworks: “Three Links of Cultivation,” “The Four Tenets of Chung Tai,” and “The Five Approaches of Propagating Buddhism.”
Three Links of Cultivation
A Principle for Complete Spiritual Practice Integration of three disciplines (scriptural studies, deeds of beneficence, meditation) is Chung Tai’s guiding principle for a well-rounded Buddhist practice, each being an inseparable link that complements and reinforces the other two. Scriptural studies establish right views and insight. Deeds of beneficence involve performing good deeds and services to the monastery and to the public; for example, the Grand Master has led the Sangha and lay disciples in relief efforts for such natural disasters as the 2004 tsunami by conducting blessing dedication and memorial services for the victims. Meditation calms, clears and awakens the mind. Integration of these three disciplines ensures proper progress on the path to Buddhahood.
The Four Tenets of Chung Tai
Concrete Guidelines for a righteous way of living The Chan (Zen) teachings, although profound, are intimately connected to daily living. The Four Tenets of Chung Tai are concrete guidelines for practicing mindfulness in daily life: To our elders be respectful: Respect subdues arrogance. To our juniors be kind: Kindness dispels anger. With all humanity be harmonious: Harmony overcomes rudeness and violence. In all endeavors be true: Truthfulness eradicates deceit.
The Five Modern Approaches of Propagating Buddhism
It is crucial to preserve the essence of the Buddhist teachings while adapting them to changing environments and modern societies. The Grand Master emphasizes the importance of making connections in the following areas: Buddhism in Academic Research, Buddhism in Education, Buddhism in Culture and the Arts, Buddhism in Science, and Buddhism in Daily Living. These five approaches accommodate the needs and interests of different people and cultures, opening many doors for the discovery of the benefits of Buddhism and the attainment of true liberation.
Venerable Master Jiandeng (見燈和尚) In May of 2005, in the presence of an assembly of the Sangha, the Grand Master appointed his disciple, Master Jiandeng, as the new abbot of Chung Tai, entrusting him with the Chung Tai seal, to help continue the responsibilities and tasks of preserving and spreading the Buddha Dharma. During Master Jiandeng’s acceptance of the abbotship, he said: “I take the Grand Master’s vows as my own; I vow to follow in his footsteps. With the solid foundation (built by the Grand Master), I shall continue to lead all cultivators in advancing forward. Now that spreading the Buddha Dharma has become my responsibility, I encourage all disciples to improve in their practice. May all never regress in the Bodhisattva’s way, which is benefiting oneself and others.” Master Jiandeng continues to take on the Buddha’s vows to spread the Mind Teaching, by leading Chung Tai’s monastic and lay disciples in Taiwan or overseas. Under his direction, Chung Tai continues to spread its roots and benefit all beings. We can see that from the humble beginnings at Ling Quan(靈泉寺) to the complex advancements at Chung Tai, the Grand Master has steadfastly guided and extended the reach of the Buddha Dharma. Always remembering his ideals and instruction, the Chung Tai system will surely flourish for always.