The Bửu Sơn Kỳ Hương Faith was founded in 1849 by Đoàn Minh Huyên in That Son (seven mountains) region, now belonging to An Giang Province. After seven years of preaching, the religious sect developed in most of the region, and the religious founder was venerated as Phật Thầy Tây An, or Buddha Preceptor of the Western Peace. Ven. Đoàn Minh Huyên (1807-1856) was born in Sa Dec region, now being part of Dong Thap Province.
In Vietnamese, Bửu Sơn Kỳ Hương means "Way of the Strange Fragrance from the Precious Mountain".
Key principles and teachings of Bửu Sơn Kỳ Hương Faith consist of the practice of Four Debts of Gratitude with Studying Buddhism - Cultivating Oneself, and the incorporation of Zen Buddhism and Pure-land Buddhism.
Studying Buddhism - Cultivating Oneself
Bửu Sơn Kỳ Hương faith as well as Vietnamese indigenous religions founded later, including Hoa Hao Buddhism and Tu An Hieu Nghia faith, takes the guiding principle ‘Studying Buddhism - Cultivating Oneself’ as the religious motto. The practice of ‘Studying Buddhism - Cultivating Oneself’ shows a harmonious influence of Buddhism and Confucianism that have taken roots in Vietnam for a long time.
Buddhist studies and practices in Bửu Sơn Kỳ Hương Faith mean to learn what the Buddha has taught and do what the Buddha has led, including the understanding and observance of basic Buddhist teachings, five precepts of Buddhism and the recitation of the name of Buddha Admitabha.
For Bửu Sơn Kỳ Hương faith, cultivating oneself means to train ourselves for always doing good deeds and avoiding bad ones, in order to be human, develop human virtues and accumulate human merits. For cultivating oneself, founding master Đoàn Minh Huyên has encouraged followers to pay debts of gratitude to all those nurturing and supporting us in our lifetimes.
The practice of Four Debts of Gratitude
The Four Debts of Gratitude, the score teaching of Bửu Sơn Kỳ Hương Faith, consists of (1) the debt of gratitude to the parents and ancestors; (2) the debt of gratitude to the home country; (3) the debt of gratitude to the Buddhist Three Treasures; and (4) the debt of gratitude to all fellow countrymen and mankind.
First, with regard to the debt owed to ancestors and parents, the father and mother are those endured great sufferings and hardships in the process of pregnancy, giving birth, nurturing and bringing up their children. The great ocean is incomparable to the love your mother has given you; the vast sky and cloud is paltry as compared to the life burden your father has shouldered. So, when you come of age and take faith in Buddhism, you must first of all bear in mind these debts you owe to your father and mother and think of paying the debt you owe to your parents, as well as your grand parents and ancestors who also deserve the repay of gratitude for the same dedication and contribution.
Second is the debt of gratitude to be paid to the home country. The home country embraced you just when you were born and brought all things you enjoy and need for your maturity. To show the thankfulness to the home country, one should stay ready to serve what the fatherland requires, defend the mother country against any foreign invasion, and make the country prosperous and strong.
Third is the debt of gratitude to be paid to the Buddha, Buddhist teachings and Buddhist Sangha – the three Treasures of Buddhism. The Buddha, his teachings and his disciples’ established church are all to serve the purpose of alleviating human sufferings and attaining enlightenment. Thus, to repay the debt of gratitude to the Buddhist Three Treasures, one should observe, practice and propagate Buddhist teachings, for salvation and enlightenment of oneself as well as his/her fellow human and living beings.
Fourth is the debt of gratitude to be paid to fellow countrymen and mankind. As indicated by all religion, we are all from the one and the same original source. Additionally, Buddhist teachings reveal that, at one time or another in the past, we relate to each other as relatives, thus, in the course of all the many lifetimes and existences you have lived through, you have come to owe a debt of gratitude to fellow human beings, irrespective of color, religious or racial differences. And since this is so, you should live in brotherhood with others, especially fellow countrymen who share same racial blood, cultural and historical values.
For a period of nearly one and a half centuries since its founding, the development of Bửu Sơn Kỳ Hương faith has contributed to meet spiritual demands of a segment of Vietnam’s Southern peasants.