Thien Vien Truc Lam is one of the largest Zen meditation study centres in Vietnam. The complex was completed in 1994 with the aim of giving new life to the Truc Lam Yen Tu Zen sect, a uniquely Vietnamese form of Zen Buddhism founded during the Tran dynasty (1225-1400). Adherents practice self-reliance and realization through meditation. This is probably the largest Buddhist construction in Vietnam after 1975. There are roughly 100 monks studying Zen Buddhism at the monastery at any given time.
Thien Buddhism is the Vietnamese name for the school of Zen Buddhism. Zen is a school of Mahayana Buddhism which originated in China during the 6th century CE as Chán. From China, Zen spread south to Vietnam, to Korea and east to Japan. Zen master Thich Thanh Tu is credited for renovating Thien Truc Lam in Vietnam. He is one of the most prominent and influential figures of Vietnamese Zen masters currently alive. The other well known Zen master responsible for the increased interest in Zen Buddhism is Thich Nhat Hanh, who currently resides in France. (Thich is an honorary family name used by all Vietnamese monks and nuns, meaning that they are part of the Shakya (Shakyamuni Buddha) clan).
The shrine, the main building, is notable mainly for its simple structure and peaceful atmosphere. At the back of the temple, there is a large relief sculpture of Bodhidharma. Bodhidharma was a Buddhist monk who lived during the 5th-6th century CE. He is traditionally credited as the transmitter of Zen to China.
The statue in the main ceremonial hall is of Gautama Buddha seated on a lotus, flanked on either side by Văn Thù Sư Lợi and Phổ Hiền bodhisattvas, respectively known for their wisdom and dedication.
The scenery around the monastery,with an abundance of beautiful blooming flowers, bonsai plants and trees, has spectacular views of the nearby man-made lake, Tuyen Lam Lake, and surrounding mountains. Truc Lam can be reached by a scenic tram ride from a hilltop overlooking Dalat.
As Zen master Thich Thanh Tu said, “Life is but a dream.”