Our Founder

Master Sheng Yen (1930-2009)

Master Sheng Yen liked to call himself “an itinerant monk pressing forward in snow and wind.” He was once selected by the magazine Commonwealth as one of the 50 most influential people in Taiwan in the past 400 years. Looking back, his life was full of challenges, tribulations, and turning points.

The Master endured frail health since he was young and became a novice monk in Langshan of Jiangsu, China at the age of 14. Afterwards, he spent years performing deliverance rituals, then serving in the army, before returning to monastic life at the age of 30, ordained by Master Dongchu. Whether it was during the time of his six years of solitary retreat, studies in Japan, spreading the Dharma in the USA, or founding Dharma Drum Mountain (DDM), the Master had always been able to find a way out when there seemed to be none. His compassionate vows glowed clearly through hardships, and his Chan wisdom manifested his perseverance. Life to him was a journey of living the Buddhadharma.

In order to raise the status of Buddhism and the quality of monastics, at age 40 Master Sheng Yen decided to go to Japan for further studies. After receiving a Doctor of Literature degree from Rissho University in Tokyo in 1975, he served as a professor at Chinese Culture University, Soochow University, and other universities and colleges. He also served as the director of the Institute of Buddhist Studies at the China Academy of the College of Chinese Culture, vice president of the Buddhist Association of the United States, director of the Institute of Tripitaka Translation supported by the Buddhist Association of the United States, and founder of the Chung-Hwa Institute of Buddhist Studies,  Sangha University, and Dharma Drum College of Humanities and Social Science In addition, he launched the Chung-Hwa Buddhist Journal and Chung-Hwa Buddhist Studies, served as advising professor for doctoral and master’s students at National Chengchi University, Chinese Culture University, and other higher education institutes, and gave more than 200 lectures or speeches at more than 100 universities or colleges around the world.

In 1989, the master founded Dharma Drum Mountain with a vision to establish it as a world center for Buddhist education dedicated to academic research, Dharma practice and propagation, and social charity. Over time, it has developed into an organisation that endeavour in Dharma propagation and popularization, promotion of Chan practice, culture, and education, and social charity in Taiwan and overseas. Currently, branches of DDM Buddhist practice and meditation centers have been set up in Taiwan and other countries in Europe, Asia, America, and Australia. For a long period of time Master Sheng Yen traveled between Taiwan and the United States to spread the Buddhadharma and visited other countries around the globe to offer guidance on Chan practice, and was recognized internationally as a prominent Chan master. With the formal transmission of both the Linji and Caodong lineages of the Chan school, the Master was able to penetrate the Buddhist canon and integrate various Buddhist traditions to offer guidance and teachings suitable for people from different cultural backgrounds in a natural and vivid manner, thereby incorporating and influencing numerous people in both the West and the East.

Master Sheng Yen was devoted to spread the Buddhadharma with a language and perspective accessible to a broad audience in modern time. Despite his hectic schedule, he nonetheless dedicated himself to writing and authored more than 100 books. Other than publications in Chinese, English, and Japanese, many of his books were translated into other languages and published worldwide. Moreover, he won various prestigious honors in Taiwan, including the Sun Yat-sen Art and Literary Award, the Sun Yat-sen Academic Award, the National Culture Award, and the President Cultural Award.

In more recent years, in order to carry out his ideals of promoting culture, education, the Buddhadharma, and spiritual practice, the Master held dialogues with prominent figures in technology, fine arts, and culture, and collaborated with other religions. Thus reflected his greatness of mind and global perspective and won him universal recognition. The Master initiated the concept of Protecting the Spiritual Environment and advocated the ideal of “uplifting the character of humanity and building a pure land on Earth.” With his basis in Chinese Buddhism, the Master made incessant efforts to bring multiple aspects of Buddhism into the modern world, thereby carrying out a sublime mission of inheriting tradition and aspiring to a better future.

Source: Sheng Yen Education Foundation

For more details, please refer to Master Sheng Yen's Biography