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Buddhadharma : Summer 2008
67 summer 2 00 8 buddhadharma: the practitioner’s quarterly HSUMINGCHIANG Reviews The global reach and growing influ- ence of the three Taiwanese Bud- dhist organizations featured in Richard Madsen’s new book, Democ- racy’s Dharma: Religious Renaissance and Political Development in Taiwan, will come as news to some American Buddhists. Others will recall them in different contexts. Do you remember Vice President Al Gore’s visit, during the 1996 presidential campaign, to the Hsi Lai Temple near Los Angeles— the largest Buddhist temple in North America—when a substantial campaign donation led to congressional hearings into possible improper connections between the Democrats and the temple’s sponsor, Buddha’s Light Mountain of Taiwan? While some fundraisers were prosecuted, neither the party nor the temple were charged with wrongdoing. Three years later, college students orga- nized campus benefit concerts across the country for the Tzu Chi Buddhist Com- passion Relief Association following the devastating earthquake in Taiwan on September 21, 1999. Within months, Tzu Chi raised more than $250 million worldwide to support the work of the 200,000 volunteers who provided medi- cal treatment and temporary housing for tens of thousands of victims. Closer to home, a neighbor of mine told me that he drives from Massachu- setts to New York once a month to attend meditation retreats with Chan master Sheng Yen, the founder of the Dharma Drum Mountain temple in Queens. My friend confided that his Buddhist practice had restored his health and connected him to Chan stu- dents in Taiwan, where Dharma Drum is based, and to the group’s charitable projects around the world. While these Taiwan-based Bud- dhist organizations may not yet have the visibility in the U.S. of mainstream Vipassana, Zen, and Vajrayana groups, Richard Madsen, a sociologist at the University of California, San Diego, argues that the “Humanistic Buddhism” (renjian fojiao) of Taiwan—reflected The New BuddhisTs Democracy’s Dharma: religious renaissance and Political Development in Taiwan By richard madsen university of california Press, 2007 191 pages; $21.95 (paperback) reviewed by chrisToPher Queen Christopher Queen is a lecturer on the study of religion at harvard university and president of the Barre Center for Buddhist studies. he is the author of Engaged Buddhism in the West and co-editor of Engaged Buddhism: Buddhist Liberation Movements in Asia and Action Dharma: New Studies in Engaged Buddhism. Tzu Chi volunteers take part in a humanitarian relief effort for Indonesia