Chan Master Sheng-Yen (1930-2009)
is recognized by the Buddhist community as the foremost and influential clerics in contemporary Chinese Buddhism. For the past 30 years, the impact of his writings, social engagement, and revival movement, have been felt throughout Asia and the West.
Born in Shanghai and ordained as a Buddhist monk at an early age, the journey of his self-actualization culminated at age 28 in an awakening experience followed by a six-year long solitary retreat in the mountains of Taiwan. His subsequent attainment in Japan, receiving a master's degree and a doctorate in Buddhist literature within six years, has placed him as one of the most important contributor of Chinese Buddhism's intellectual resurgence. In late 70's he also received two "Dharma Transmissions" (recognition of spiritual authority) from both existing schools of Caodong and Linji lineages of Chan (Zen).
Among his many achievements is his establishment of Dharma Drum Mountain World Center for Buddhist Education in Taiwan, home of a combined Sangha and lay person university, graduate institute for Buddhist studies, monasteries and meditation facilities, to foster his life long vision: "To refine the character of humankind and realize a Pure Land on Earth." As one of the few responsible for the revival of Chinese Buddhism, he is now internationally recognized for his achievements.
International Religious and Spiritual Leader
Among his many international activities of leading Chan meditation retreats in the West, Chan Master Sheng-yen has engaged in a unprecedented dialogue with His Holiness the Dalai Lama in 1998 and, at the invitation of His Holiness Pope John Paul II, participated in a world religion dialogue in Rome in 1997, and had a privileged dialogue with Chan Master Venerable Thich Nhat Hanh during his visit to Taiwan in 1995. Furthermore, in 2002, Chan Master Sheng-yen has become one of nine co-chairs of the World Council of World Peace Summit of Religious and Spiritual Leaders in the United Nations.
Reformer and Educator
Chan Master Sheng-yen's originality of "Buddhist philanthropic work" such as programs for environmental and spiritual protection and emphasis on the rationalism and humanism of Buddhism in Buddhist practice and education has allowed Chinese Buddhism to engage in invigorating dialogue with modern critical Buddhist studies as practiced in the West and Japan. Through his over 90 books in both Western and Chinese languages and the course of the groundbreaking efforts he has done, he has, more than anyone in his time, rescued Chinese Buddhism from intellectual doldrums and spiritual decay. He has also plotted a course for Buddhism future development that will allow its robust engagement with modern world without fording the severance of its traditional roots.
- "Even if empty space is limited, my great vows are boundless.
What I have not accomplished in this life, I vow to continue to carry out in future countless lives.
What I myself have not accomplished personally, I beg everybody to collaborate to fulfill together."
~ Chan Master Sheng-Yen