Setting Sail: Dharma Drum Institute of Liberal Arts
On the 28th of July 2014, the Ministry of Education held a meeting to deliberate on the merging of the Dharma Drum College of Humanities and Social Sciences and the Dharma Drum Buddhist College. The merging of the two schools into the newly-formed Dharma Drum Institute of Liberal Arts was approved; Master Sheng Yen's long-standing vow to promote education has finally come to fruition.
From here onward, doctorate, master's and undergraduate programs originally offered by the Dharma Drum Buddhist College will continue to be available for enrollment at the Dharma Drum Institute of Liberal Arts' Department of Buddhist Studies. Similarly, Dharma Drum College of Humanities and Social Sciences' programs will be offered by Dharma Drum Institute of Liberal Arts' Graduate School of Humanities and Social Sciences which will start accepting applications for the master's programs in Life Education, Community Regeneration, Social Enterprise and Innovation, and Environment and Development in Spring 2015 for the Fall 2015 term.
With the official inauguration of the Dharma Drum Institute of Liberal Arts (法鼓文理學院, DILA), let us explain the origins of the school's Chinese and English names as well as discuss the vision for the school's future.
A small but beautiful institute with an emphasis on liberal arts education
Following changes to the regulations surrounding the establishing of Colleges of Humanities and Social Sciences, an office was opened in September 1993 to start planning for the future Dharma Drum College of Humanities and Social Sciences, allowing Dharma Drum Mountain to further pursue its goal of developing Buddhist Higher Education. Yet, the gradual decline in the number of students caused by low birth rates in combination with the saturation of the higher education market (171 universities to date) have resulted in a heightened competition over resources between Taiwan's 62 public and 109 private universities. In response to this situation, Dharma Drum Mountain decided to integrate the Dharma Drum College of Humanities and Social Sciences with the existing Dharma Drum Buddhist College so as to concentrate its resources and further develop the organization's distinctive focus.
In order to bypass the requirement for Colleges of Humanities and Social Sciences to maintain over 5000 students, and as part of Master Sheng Yen's wish to create a 'small but beautiful' school which may become 'a cradle of positive change capable of training agents for the betterment of society,' the decision was made to take example on the North American tradition of liberal arts education and name the newly-formed school the Dharma Drum Institute of Liberal Arts—or Fagu wenli xueyuan in Chinese (法鼓文理學院). With a few hundred students enrolled in its various programs, the institute will be able to offer residential accommodation and small classrooms, fostering a strong sense of community and creating an autonomous and holistic learning environment conducive to the growth of future leaders and the cultivation of an interdisciplinary outlook, a caring for life and a dedication to serving society.
With its focus on graduate programs in Buddhist Studies and the aforementioned fields of study, the school has been given the English name of Dharma Drum Institute of Liberal Arts, in contrast to Liberal Arts Colleges' traditional focus on undergraduate education. With protection of the spiritual environment as its guiding principle, the Dharma Drum Institute of Liberal Arts strives to further its goal of creating a rich learning environment for the study of Buddhist teachings as well as the humanities and social sciences and help train global citizens capable of responding to the challenges of globalization with the values of compassion, wisdom, harmony, and respect.
DILA: Delighting in the Dharma
In addition to the aforementioned considerations, the name of Dharma Drum Institute of Liberal Arts (DILA) was preferred to the rather lengthy Dharma Drum College of Humanities and Social Science (DDCHSS) for its concision and uniqueness; to this day, there is in Taiwan no other Institute of Liberal Arts, nor is there a school with such a distinctive orientation. Finally, the English abbreviation of the school's name—DILA—resembles the word 'delight,' which resonates with our wish to create a campus where one may find delight in the Dharma.