在建築裡看見佛法 姚仁喜與農禪寺水月道場

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2013 / 12月

文‧朱立群 圖‧莊坤儒


建築的形式、宗教的內容,兩者完美結合,讓台灣近年新建的宗教建築,散發與以往截然不同的迷人樣貌。

最近的例子是法鼓山農禪寺水月道場。建築物的倒影映在水池上,實體與虛像共生,有如「水中月、空中花」,用建築語彙說出「不可說」的佛法,獲2013年「台灣建築獎」肯定。


位於新北市金山區、2005年落成開山的法鼓山,是台灣佛教禪宗重鎮之一,創建者是2009年圓寂的聖嚴法師。它也是漢傳佛教著名的佛法教育團體,在台灣北、中、南、東各區都設有分院、精舍,在美國紐約也有兩處弘法地點。

但若說起法鼓山的起源地,則必須回到位在北投大業路巷道裡的農禪寺,創辦人是原籍江蘇泰縣,1949年來台後,即在北投設立佛教文物館、辦雜誌宣揚佛法的東初老人。

聽法者眾,農禪寺一度成為鐵皮道場

1965年,東初老人在關渡平原購置一塊土地,準備成立中華佛教文化館分館。1975年,兩層樓的開山農舍落成,東初老人取法百丈禪師「一日不做、一日不食」的農禪精神,將其命名為農禪寺。

1977年東初老人圓寂,聖嚴法師自美返台接任住持,到2009年之前,這裡一直都是聖嚴法師弘法的主要道場。

之後,隨著學佛信眾的人數越來越多,兩層樓的農舍很快不敷使用,鐵皮屋因而陸續搭蓋、擴建,農禪寺當時儼然成了一座鐵皮叢林寺院。興建正式大殿的想法,一直放在聖嚴法師心中。

然而,台北市政府1986年公告成立「關渡平原自然保留區」,位在區內的農禪寺幾度面臨必須拆遷的困境,遑論興建新的大殿建築。

幸而在信眾奔走爭取之下,2004年台北市政府通過將農禪寺登錄為歷史建築,兩層樓農舍,以及在聖嚴法師構想之下,在農禪寺入口興建的「入慈悲門」牌樓,均受到保存,其他鐵皮屋則允許改建。因為這個轉機,大殿的興建計畫才重現曙光。

聖嚴法師晚年,把農禪寺大殿的新建工程,交由與佛法結緣甚早,曾經翻譯宗薩蔣揚欽哲仁波切所著《近乎佛教徒》一書的建築師姚仁喜設計。

台灣建築獎、國家文藝獎得主姚仁喜,受命建大殿

姚仁喜,東海大學建築系畢業、加州柏克萊大學建築碩士,1985年成立大元聯合建築師事務所。2013年之前,他曾4度奪下台灣建築獎,其中尤以台灣高鐵新竹車站建築案最受矚目。

由中華民國建築師公會主辦、旗下《建築師》雜誌社承辦的台灣建築獎,每年評選對台灣社會文化與建築藝術做出貢獻的建築。姚仁喜數度奪此獎,並於2007年成為國家文藝獎建築類得主,堪稱台灣近10年最重要的建築師。

日前他接受廣播訪問,開玩笑地說:「我拿到的建築任務,就只有『水中月、空中花』6個字!」

佛曰:「不可說。」單是一句6字言,對受命擔任農禪寺大殿工程總指揮的姚仁喜來說,是對建築專業與佛法體悟的雙重考驗。

水中月,空中花,意會勝言傳

台灣多數的廟宇建築,充其量只是舉辦法會的場所,因而在建築美學上,忽略了對周遭景觀的考量,也少了對精神靈性的體察。聖嚴法師生前表示,農禪寺不要再蓋這樣的大殿,而是要蓋一座「景觀道場」。

聽到聖嚴法師這麼說,姚仁喜心裡想到的參考座標是日本京都的龍安寺。這座建於1450年,以枯木山水與石庭聞名的佛寺,據說園中所隱含的結構,可刺激參觀者潛意識的敏感度,加深對佛法的體悟;1975年英國女王伊麗莎白二世造訪時,亦大表讚嘆。

在向聖嚴法師請教理想中的大殿樣式時,法師悠悠地描述禪定之中見過的大殿面貌:「水中月、空中花」,並將其命名為「水月道場」。

姚仁喜認為,水月、空花,虛實交錯,只能意會,不能言傳,卻道出了建築的真相,但以他的能力很難做出。

「我無法從禪定中看到我的設計,我只能從夢中看到我的設計。」姚仁喜告訴聖嚴法師,同時也畫好建築草圖,徵詢法師的意見。

草圖上畫著:大殿前方有水池,池水之上有大殿的倒影,殿內有幾根巨大的柱子,柱子與柱子之間有金色的布幔,風吹過時,布幔飄動,倒影晃動,虛、實交錯難分。

「水中月、空中花,乍聽很抽象,但卻是強而有力的方向。」姚仁喜明白了聖嚴法師定中所見影像的內涵:「建築是實體的東西,但師父在說的,是一個幻像。照理說,所有的東西都是幻像,只是我們不知道而已。」

牆上鏤刻〈心經〉、〈金剛經〉,佛之以光

設計初稿完成後,姚仁喜想到一個把佛教經文鏤空刻在牆壁上的點子,用穿過字體的光線來呈現經文。他告訴聖嚴法師,這是「佛之以光」,佛的話,用光線傳進來,加強了水中月、空中花的幻像。

於是,姚仁喜在道場大殿內部西面的牆上,加上〈心經〉的鏤空刻字,讓隨時都在變化的光線射入後,在大殿其他三面的玻璃門窗及牆上,投映出經文虛幻的一面,也讓硬梆梆的建築,呈現無常的空相。

2010年5月,水月道場正式動土,2012年12月落成。聖嚴法師2009年2月圓寂,沒能見到水月道場的問世,彷彿是以身教開示世人,世事虛幻無常,當如空花水月,毋須執著。

配合水月道場新建工程,農禪寺在往關渡的大度路上設置進入道場的入口,訪客進入之後,首先映入眼簾的是長80公尺、寬40公尺的「水月池」,然後是由22根廊柱支撐的水月道場大殿,視野的終點則是蒼翠的大屯山;這三者由前至後、由近至遠、由矮至高,層次分明,構成了「景觀道場」的主視覺。

大殿後方連接一棟L型建築物,裡頭是禪堂與法堂。這棟建築物外牆上,鏤空刻有五千多字〈金剛經〉經文,與大殿內的〈心經〉相映,宣說直指人心的禪宗佛理。

除了新建工程之外,包含兩層樓的開山農舍與入慈悲門在內,周邊的平靜田園景色都被完整保留,並置出姚仁喜所說的「無秩序的秩序」、一種「說不出道理的可愛的混亂」,以及一種「詩的語言」。

「農禪寺早年是一塊田、一個小小的房子,這些都是可以濃縮起來的故事。水月道場,就是這些元素的綜合,」姚仁喜解釋。

水月道場的建築超越了空間的局限,讓自身成為含攝時間與空間的宇宙,水中月是月也不是月、空中花是花也不是花,姚仁喜在這裡完成建築的修行,聖嚴法師交下來的功課,他做到了。

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近期文章

EN

Kris Yao’s Architectural Revelation: The Water-Moon Dharma Center at Nung Chan Monastery

Sam Ju /photos courtesy of Chuang Kung-ju /tr. by Scott Williams

By perfectly integrating architectural form and religious function, Taiwanese architects are giving recent religious structures a visual charm that their predecessors lacked.

The new Water-Moon Dharma Center at Dharma Drum Mountain’s Nung Chan Monastery is a case in point. The buildings reflected on the pool’s surface evoke “the moon on the water and flowers in the sky,” beautifully juxtapositing the real and its image. The center won a 2013 Taiwan Architecture Award for its brilliant use of the architectural vocabulary to express the “inexpressible” dharma.


Opened in 2005 in New Tai­pei City’s Jin­shan District, the Dharma Drum Mountain (DDM) compound is one of the most important Chan Buddhist facilities in Taiwan. The DDM organization itself was founded by the Venerable Master­ ­Sheng Yen, who passed away in 2009. Renowned for its teaching of Buddhism in the Chinese tradition, DDM has branches and schools throughout Taiwan, as well as a number of chapters in the US.

But DDM’s origins go back much further, to Bei­tou’s Nung Chan Monastery and its founder, Venerable Master Dong­chu. A native of Tai­xian, ­Jiangsu Province, Master Dong­chu came to Taiwan in 1949, establishing a Buddhist cultural center in Bei­tou and beginning the publication of a Buddhist magazine.

Outgrowing the farmhouse monastery

In 1965, Master Dong­chu bought a piece of land on the ­Guandu Plain and began work on the ­Chung-Hwa Institute of Buddhist Culture. When he opened the Nung Chan Monastery in a two-story farmhouse in 1975, he introduced adherents to the Tang-Dynasty Master Bai­zhang’s ethos of “no work, no food.”

When Master Dong­chu passed away in 1977, Master Sheng Yen returned to Taiwan from the US and took over management of the institute and monastery, making them the base of his efforts to spread the Dharma until his own death in 2009.

With the monastery attracting ever greater numbers of disciples, it quickly outgrew the original farmhouse. Expansions and the addition of a number of corrugated metal outbuildings gave the Nung Chan of the day a haphazard look, causing Master Sheng Yen to frequently mull the construction of a more stately main hall.

When the Tai­pei City Government announced the creation of the ­Guandu Nature Reserve in 1986, the monastery began facing repeated threats of removal that made the construction of a new main hall seem unlikely.

Fortunately, disciples were able to persuade the city government to declare Nung Chan a historic site in 2004. The designation preserved both the original farmhouse and the “Way to Compassion” gateway at the entrance to the site, and permitted the replacement of the metal-clad outbuildings. The change of fortune revived the plans for a new main hall.

An award-winning architect

In his waning years, Master Sheng Yen placed the main hall project in the hands of Kris Yao. In addition to being an award-winning architect, Yao also happened to be longtime follower of Tibetan Buddhism who had translated Dzong­sar Jam­yang Khyen­tse Rin­po­che’s book What Makes You Not a Buddhist.

A Tung­hai University graduate with a master’s degree in architecture from the University of California, Berkeley, Yao founded Artech Architects in 1985. Prior to the 2013 award, he had already won the Taiwan Architecture Award four times, and was best known for his design of Taiwan High Speed Rail’s Hsin­chu Station.

The Taiwan Architecture Awards (TWA) are organized by the National Association of Architects, ROC, managed by the NAA’s Taiwan Architect Magazine, and awarded annually to projects judged to have contributed to Taiwanese society and the art of architecture. Yao’s numerous TWAs and his 2007 National Award for Arts in the architecture category mark him as one of the most important Taiwanese architects of the last decade.

Yao found the Nung Chan main hall project to be a test of both his professional skill and his Buddhist understanding. As he joked in a recent interview: “My brief for the project consisted of just six Chinese characters!”

Intuiting rather than articulating

Many of Taiwan’s Buddhist temples are little more than spaces in which to conduct religious rituals. Their designs rarely take their surroundings into account and typically lack any sense of spirituality. Before Master Sheng Yen passed away, he said he wanted something different: he wanted them to build a “landscape hall.”

Hearing that, Yao thought of Kyo­to’s Ryō­an-ji, a Zen temple renowned for its rock garden and Kyo­yo­chi Pond. When he inquired as to what Master Sheng Yen thought would be the ideal style for the DDM hall, the master said he had been meditating on a structure that looked like “the moon in the water and flowers in the sky,” and that he’d named it the “Water-Moon Dharma Center.” Yao had his architectural brief.

To Yao, the moon in water and flowers in the air represented an intertwining of the real and its image. He saw it as something that could not be put into words, that had to be intuited. But he worried that he might not be up to the task of bringing the building they were speaking of into being.

Yao told Master Sheng Yen: “I can’t see the design when I meditate; I only see it in my dreams.” Yao then asked the master for his opinion on some sketched ideas.

Yao’s sketches showed a reflecting pool in front of the main hall. He had also surrounded the hall with columns, and hung golden curtains between them. Any wind would cause the curtains to undulate, making the reflection in the pool shimmer and blurring the line between the real and the image.

“‘The moon in the water and flowers in the sky’ sounded very abstract at first, but it gave me a strong sense of direction.” Yao grasped the essence of Master Sheng Yen’s vision. “Buildings are real things, but the Master was speaking about illusion. From the standpoint of Chan Buddhism, every­thing is illusion. We just don’t realize it.”

A “heart” and “diamond” façade

After completing the initial drafts of the design, Yao had another inspiration: putting sutras on an open fretwork façade so that the light passing through would illuminate the text. He told Master Sheng Yen that this would be the “light of the Buddha,” that the light passing through the words would enhance the moon-water, sky-flower illusion.

Yao added a Heart Sutra façade to the west side of the main hall so that the changing light shining through it into the interior would cast images of the text onto the other three walls, creating a sense of impermanence to contrast with the building’s physical solidity.

Construction of the center began in May 2010 and was completed in December 2012. The finished complex highlights the impermanence of both the real world and of illusion, showing people that the “real” and the illusory are as ephemeral as flowers in the sky and the moon in water, and that there is no point in clinging to either. Unfortunately, the Venerable Master passed away in February 2009 and was unable to see his vision come to fruition.

Yao built a new entrance to the monastery complex as well. On entering the site from Guandu’s Dadu Road, visitors see the 80-meter-long, 40-meter-wide Water-Moon Pool, the columned main hall itself, and then Mt. Datun rising behind it. This three-step progression from foreground to background, from near to far and from low to high gives visual form to Master Sheng Yen’s “landscape hall.”

An L-shaped structure containing the complex’s Chan and Dharma Halls links to the back of the main hall. The building’s exterior façade incorporates the Diamond Sutra to echo the main building’s Heart Sutra façade and guide visitors to a better understanding of Chan Buddhism.

The juxtaposition of the new buildings with the original monastery building, the “Way to Compassion” gateway, and the surrounding grounds gives rise to what Yao describes as “orderless order,” “appealing chaos,” and “poetic language.”

“The original Nung Chan Monastery was simply a tiny house and a plot of farmland,” says Yao. “The Water-Moon Dharma Center retains and integrates these elements.”

Architecture can transcend the limitations of space in ways that enable it to contain the universe within itself. The moon in the water is both the moon and not the moon. Flowers in the sky are both flowers and not flowers. With the Water-Moon Dharma Center, Yao has achieved an architectural version of spiritual enlightenment and fulfilled the mission that Venerable Master Sheng Yen entrusted to him.

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