One of the Institute’s most unique features is its location next to the Dharma Drum Monastery on the slopes of the lush Jinshan valley. This relative isolation from the hustle and bustle of the nearby Taipei urban center provides the students with a quiet environment conducive to both diligent study and fruitful contemplative practice. This remarkable setting reflects DILA’s particular emphasis on the equal importance of academic study and spiritual practice, with students enjoined to participate in regular meditation retreats as well as daily sittings. It is certainly this integration of theoretical study and personal practice which sets DILA apart from other Buddhist studies departments or colleges.
Students are encouraged to live on campus in the dormitory where they usually share their room with another roommate. The campus is located next to the Dharma Drum Mountain monastery complex, allowing students to take part in the various religious activities and ceremonies conducted throughout the year, such as the Water and Land Ceremony (水陸法會), the New Year celebrations, the yearly ordination ceremony (剃度典禮), etc. In daily life, students eat at the dinning hall (齋堂) located within the nearby monastery where vegetarian food is served for breakfast, lunch and dinner at 6:40 am, 12:00 pm, and 17:00 pm respectively. For the bravest students, the day begins with a forty minutes seated meditation session (早坐) at 5:20 am followed by the communal morning service (朝課) held in the Great Hall (大雄寶殿) with all other monastic and lay members of the community. The service consists in reciting in unison a collection of ancient mantras (咒), sutras and liturgy. Another service is held in the evening at 8:00 pm (晚課) before the evening’s sitting meditation session (晚坐). As part of the program, students are required to attend a certain number of times, while still being given the freedom to choose which time of the day is most congenial to their habits and daily schedule. Students are encouraged to engage in some form of practice everyday to take advantage of the facilities, guidance and group energy to develop a strong habit of daily cultivation.
For entertainment, a variety of clubs (社團) organize weekly activities for students and faculty. Those activities include traditional Chinese calligraphy and painting (書法、國畫), yoga, racket sports, etc. Other clubs offer activities closer to the spirit of Buddhist cultivation which focus on community service and meditation. For physical exercise, the institute’s Fitness Center (揚生館) offers various indoor fitness equipment as well as tennis, basketball, squash and badminton courts.
Off-campus, students have a wide array of destinations to pick from for excursions, ranging from a quick stroll down the narrow alleys of neighboring Jinshan’s famous night market (夜市), a hike up the nearby Yangming volcanic mountains (陽明山), a weekend expedition to the capital or a longer trip to one of the numerous spots on the island.
Overall though, the general consensus among students is that classes and practice usually keep them pretty busy!