Who Is Master Sheng-yen

Born near Shanghai in l931, Master Sheng-yen became a monk of Guang Jiao Monastery in the Wolf Hills of Nantung at age thirteen. At age 16 he was transferred from the countryside to a branch of the monastery, Ta-sheng Monastery, in Shanghai. Later on he studied at the Buddhist Academy at Ching-an Monastery in Shanghai, where he was inspired by the teachings of Ch'an Master Xu Yun (Empty Cloud) and Master Tai Xu on their visits to Shanghai.

In 1949, during the Communist takeover of China, he joined a unit of the Nationalist Army and went to Taiwan and served as a wireless telegraph operator, a telecommunications officer, and a warrant officer. Continuing his studies nonetheless, he wrote his first book in 1956 and numerous articles during a sick leave from military service. At age 28, sojourning at various monasteries in the area, he had the deepest spiritual experience of his life. His experience was later recognized by masters in the two main lineages of Ch'an (Chinese Zen) Buddhism: the Lin Ji (Japanese: Rinzai) and Cao Dong (Japanese: Soto), and he became the Dharma heir in these two traditions.

After ten years of service, he retired from the army and entered monastic practice again in 1959 at the Buddhist Culture Center in Peitou, Taipei. From 1961 to 1968 Master Sheng-yen practiced a solitary retreat at the Chao Yuan Monastery in the mountains of Taiwan. As a lecturer on Buddhism at Shan Dao Monastery in Taipei, he went to Japan where he received a Master's Degree (1971) and Doctorate (l975) in Buddhist literature from Rissho University. In 1975 he formally received transmission from Ch'an Master Dong Chu of the Cao Dong tradition of Ch'an, and in 1978 he received transmission from Ch'an Master Ling Yuan of the Lin Ji tradition. In 1977 he traveled to the United States where he served as the Abbot of The Temple of Enlightenment in New York.

In 1978 he became a Professor at The Chinese Culture University and President of the Chung-Hwa Buddhist Cultural Institute in Taipei. In l979 Master Sheng-yen became the Abbot of Nung Ch'an Monastery in Taiwan, where close to 100 ordained monks and nuns currently reside. In the next year, he founded the Ch'an Meditation Center and The Institute of Chung-Hwa Buddhist Culture in New York. In 1985 he founded the Chung-Hwa Institute of Buddhist Studies in Taipei, a graduate school and conference center, and in 1989 the International Cultural and Educational Foundation of Dharma Drum Mountain. A Buddhist University and monastery are scheduled to open at Dharma Drum Mountain in 2000. Currently he has 3000 students in the US and more than 300,000 students in Taiwan.

Master Sheng-yen has published more than ninety books, available in English, Chinese, Japanese, Vietnamese, Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, German, and French. He has lectured at more than forty universities in the United States and continues to lecture in Taiwan, Hong Kong, Singapore, Europe, and the US. He has led more than 140 week-long intensive Ch'an meditation retreats in the US, England, and Europe.

Responsible for the revival, dissemination, and expansion of Ch'an practice in China and the West, Master Sheng-yen is also active as an environmentalist. In August, 2000 Master Sheng-yen was one of the keynote speakers at the Millennium World Peace Summit of Religious and Spiritual Leaders at United Nation, and in the environmental protection workshop at Waldorf Astorial Hotel. He has received many other government awards for his humanitarian, cultural, and scholarly activities.

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