British scholar praises contribution of Buddhist nuns

CNA, Feb 11, 2007

New Delhi, India -- Richard Gombrich, a professor of Buddhist studies at Oxford University, praised the contributions of Buddhist nuns in Taiwan to the promotion of Buddhist doctrines, saying the influence of Buddhism has significantly increased on the island while followers of the religion have suffered from repression in many other countries.

Gombrich made the remarks in an interview with the CNA yesterday, after presiding over an international conference on Buddhism held in Bodh Gaya in Bihar Province, northeast India Feb. 4-6 to mark the 2,550th anniversary of the passing of Buddha.

During the three day conference, Master Chue Men of the Fo Guang Shan Monastery in Kaohsiung County, southern Taiwan gave a briefing on Buddhist nun's contributions in the 21st century. In his report, Chue Men said 75 percent of the around 30,000 Dharma masters in Taiwan are female, nuns, the highest ratio of any country in the world. There are eight universities and colleges, three hospitals and 28 libraries around Taiwan founded by Buddhist organizations, and the country is home to over 5.4 million Buddhists.

Chue Men indicated that most nuns in Taiwan are highly educated, with many of them holding degrees from domestic or foreign universities. He noted that in Taiwan, nuns enjoy a high social status, a fact which has drawn the attention of Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama who announced on a visit to Taiwan in 1997 his plan to study the system of training female Dharma masters in Taiwan and expressed the intention of establishing a similar system for Tibetan Buddhism.

Chue Men stated that in Taiwan, nuns are widely respected because of their diligence in studying the doctrines of Buddhism as well as their active participation in charity operations.