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  • Guoying Stacy Zhang

The Development of Chinese Buddhism in the US: Interview with Venerable Chaofan

Venerable Chaofan (超煩) is the founder of American Association of Buddhist Education (美國佛教教育協會) at Fuhui Temple (福慧寺), which is situated in Rancocas Village, Westampton, New Jersey. Originally from Inner Mongolia, Ven. Chaofan was ordained in 1981 at Mount Wutai and became one of the first graduates of the Chinese Buddhist Academy in 1986. After working for Buddhist organizations in China and pursuing further studies in Sri Lanka, he relocated to the United States in 1996. In this interview, Ven. Chaofan shares his experience of, and views on, Chinese Buddhism in the US.

Buddhistdoor Global: Since you moved to the United States in 1996, you have witnessed the development of Chinese Buddhism there. In your opinion, what achievements has Chinese Buddhism made and what difficulties has it encountered?

Venerable Chaofan: The first generation of Chinese sangha in the US arrived in the 1960s. Among them, Venerable Master Hsuan Hua (宣化) built the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas on the West Coast with his own hands. He set up Buddha images and taught a wide audience including local American disciples, which symbolizes the advent of Chinese Buddhism in America. On the East Coast, there were Venerable Shouye (壽冶), Venerable Ledu (樂渡), Venerable Minzhi (敏智), Venerable Haolin (皓霖), and Venerable Fayun (法雲). Likewise, they established Dharma centers with little support, except for the Buddhist traditions they inherited and their virtue of great compassion. The first generation of Chinese sangha united overseas Chinese and helped them to obtain social respect. They also managed to translate Chinese Buddhist classics into English, which was fundamental for Americans to delve deeper into the Buddhadharma. The harship the first generation encountered were very similar to those encountered by ancient masters during the early development of Buddhism in China.

Ven. Chaofan giving a speech at the Fifth World Buddhist Forum.
Image courtesy of Ven. Chaofan

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