True Buddha School
The True Buddha School (Chinese: 真佛宗; pinyin: Zhēn Fó Zōng; Pe̍h-ōe-jī: Chin-hu̍t-chong) is a modern Vajrayana Buddhist sect based in Taiwan and parts of East Asia with influence from Sutrayana and Taoism.
Founded in the late 1980s, the founder of this sect is Lu Sheng-yen (盧勝彥), often referred to by his followers as a tulku, a Tibetan term for a reincarnated teacher or deity. He is called the Root Guru by his disciples. Lu claims to be a fully enlightened buddha, known by his disciples as "Living Buddha Lian-sheng" (蓮生活佛). He is a writer who has written approximately 232 books to date. As of Feb of 2013, the organization claims over 5,000,000 became Buddhists through Lu.
Members of the True Buddha School emphasize the necessity to cultivate diligently for the benefit of spiritual advancement, as is practiced in general Vajrayana Buddhism. This is done through empowerment directly from the Root Guru, who himself proclaims to be an emanated being from the Pure Lands shed directly from Vairocana Buddha, then later achieving enlightenment in the human realm through his own rigorous practice and after being given several empowerments from other buddhas and bodhisattvas. A Tantric Buddhist practitioner cannot rely solely on listening or reading spiritual doctrines, or simply worshiping and paying respect to buddhas and bodhisattvas as the method to achieve the goal of spiritual liberation. All students are expected to follow the fourteen Root Tantric Vows (known as Vajrayana samaya) along with the Five Precepts that all Buddhists should follow, and to respect the Root Guru.
There is a structured curriculum to guide the student's practice, and at each level, a specific yoga is practiced. To advance to the next level, the student must achieve yogic response from the yoga being practiced in the current level and receive empowerment for the yoga of the next level.
As a beginner, there are specific yogas that are practiced to establish a strong foundation. The yoga practiced in the first stage is Vajrasattva yoga, a great repentance yoga to purify bad karma. The next level is Guru Yoga, followed by Personal Deity yoga and then the inner body practices of energy yoga.
True Buddha School has chapters across North America, Europe, Asia, Australia, and Latin America, though the size of each local chapter varies. The main temple is located in Redmond, Washington, it also served as the main residence where Lu resided while he was living in United States. He lived in Tahiti with his wife Lian Hsiang in solitude for six years before re-emerging in the US in 2006, returning to his home in Redmond.
The majority of the followers of the True Buddha School are located in Asia, and many devotees are from Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, and Taiwan. Across North America, Australia, and Europe, the majority of the students are immigrants of Asian descent.
True Buddha School's funding relies heavily on donations. This is supplemented with the income from the publication of Lu's books and videos of his sermons. The money is used to publish its teaching materials and for charity work such as the South Asian Tsunami relief effort. True Buddha School disseminates Buddhist teachings through Lu's sermons, books and articles. These materials are supplemented with sermons and articles by other acharyas (other gurus) certified by the grand master. Lu's books are mainly published in Chinese, with a limited number currently being translated into English. However, more translations are slowly being made to reach a wider audience. Many of the major True Buddha School sadhanas (liturgies) and practices are available in English.
Venerable Hsuan Hua warned his disciples about Lu Sheng-yen's claims, lamenting that many modern people lack wisdom, and dismissing Lu by saying, "I don't know what this person is. I call him a demon runt." Lu was criticized for eating meat, drinking alcohol, and "playing around with women."
Despite being the largest Vajrayana sect in Taiwan, the True Buddha School has been criticized by six Buddhist organizations in Malaysia. Although the founder has attained various Tibetan lineages, questions remained.[clarification needed]
In 2002, Lu and his temple (Ling Shen Ching Tze Temple) were sued in Washington State by a former member who alleged sexual abuse on the part of Master Lu. However, because of lack of evidence, the charges did not hold.
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- S.H.C., et al., v. Sheng-Yen Lu, et al., Respondents, 09/16/2002
- Anderson, Rick. Sex and the buddha in the Seattle Weekly, September 5, 2001.
- Casey, Noah. The True Buddha School: A Field Research Report on The Chan Hai Lei Zang Temple. Montreal Religious Sites Project.
- Lu, Master Sheng-yen (1995). A Complete and Detailed Exposition on the True Buddha Tantric Dharma. San Bruno, CA: Purple Lotus Society. ISBN 1-881493-04-0
- Mayer, H. Gregory. Sect combines Tibetan rituals, Chinese custom in Chicago Tribune, September 20, 2002.
- True Buddha School Official website in English and Chinese with online texts of many publications of the True Buddha School.
- Ling Shen Ching Tze Temple Seattle – Main temple of TBS
- True Buddha School World Wide Chapters
- The True Buddha News – True Buddha School's weekly newspaper
- Purple Lotus Society of the USA
- Padmakumara – The Buddhist Teachings of Living Buddha Lian-sheng