Master Sheng Yen

Our organization was founded by the late Chan Master Sheng Yen (1930-2009) who taught Buddhism in the West for over thirty years. His footprints have spread all across the United States, in various provinces in China, as well as Hong Kong, Singapore, the Philippines, Japan, Malaysia, Russia, the United Kingdom, Poland, Germany, Belgium, Italy, the Czech Republic, Croatia, Argentina, Costa Rica, Brazil, and other countries. He was selected by Commonwealth Magazine as one of the 50 most influential people in Taiwan in 400 years. In 2000, he was one of the keynote speakers in the Millennium Religious Summit held in the United Nations.

He wrote more than a hundred books in Chinese and more than a dozen in English. Many of his books have been translated into Italian, Japanese, Portuguese, Finnish, German, French, Spanish, Polish, Dutch, Russian, Vietnamese, and Indonesian, among other languages.

The Master had a weak physique and was prone to illness since childhood. After becoming a monk in the Wolf Hills in China, he went through years of having to perform deliverance rituals day and night for a living, then served in the military, and was finally re-ordained. Thereafter, whether on solitary retreat, studying in Japan, spreading the Dharma in America, or founding Dharma Drum Mountain, he has always been able to find a way forward when there seemed no way out. In his hardships, his compassionate vows strengthened, and through his perseverance, his wisdom shined. To him, life is a process of realizing the Buddha Dharma.

To raise the status of Buddhism and the quality of monasticism in Taiwan, at the age of forty, Master Sheng Yen resolutely went to Japan to study at Rissho University in 1969. After obtaining a doctorate, he began to propagate the Buddha Dharma in both the United States and Taiwan, and, as a Dharma heir in both the Linji and Caodong lineages, traveled around the world to teach Chan practice, ushering numerous people, both Eastern and Western, into the world of Chan. In order to spread the Dharma through language and concepts accessible to modern people, the Master continued to write despite his tight schedule, and has published over one hundred books.

An erudite scholar, the Master established the Chung-Hwa Institute of Buddhist Studies and Dharma Drum University to cultivate first-class researchers. He also engaged in public dialogues with leading figures in the fields of technology, art, and culture, and has even collaborated with other denominations and religions. His expansive mind and international outlook earned him recognition from people in various fields both at home and abroad. Under his guidance, Dharma Drum Mountain had established its bases in Taiwan and its roots in Chinese Buddhism while steadily progressing toward greater internationalization and diversification.

The late Chan Master Sheng Yen liked to call himself “an itinerant monk pressing forward in snow and wind.” His life was full of trials, tribulations, and twists. In order to promote World Peace, Master Sheng Yen attended many international conferences and meetings, such as:

  • the Millennium World Peace Summit of Religious and Spiritual Leaders in 2000, where he was the only representative of Chinese Buddhism to deliver a keynote speech,
  • the 2001 Advisory Council for Millennium World Peace Summit of Religious and Spiritual Leaders held in New York, where he delivered a speech,
  • the 2002 World Economic Forum annual meeting in New York, as the sole Buddhist leader invited,
  • the 2002 Inaugural Meeting of the World Council of Religious Leaders in Bangkok, Thailand,
  • the first planning session in Kyoto, Japan, for the World Youth Peace Summit, in 2003, at the invitation of the World Council of Religious Leaders, to discuss the summit’s theme and agenda with religious and youth leaders from around the world,
  • the 2004 World Council of Religious Leaders held in Jordan,
  • the 2005 Leaders’ Meeting on Faith and Development organized by the World Bank in Dublin, Ireland.

Master Sheng Yen passed away in 2009.

To learn more about him and his books in English, please visit the following pages:

For more information on Master Sheng Yen’s Chan Philosophy, please click here
For more information on Dharma Drum Mountain, please click here