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Sheng Yen
File:Sheng-yen xinhuanet.jpg
Religion Chan Buddhism
School Caodong, Linji
Education Rissho University (M.A., PhD)
Other names Changjin (novice name)
Nationality Taiwan
Born (1930-12-04)December 4, 1930
Shanghai, China
Died February 3, 2009(2009-02-03) (aged 78)
Taipei, Taiwan
Senior posting
Title Chan master
Religious career
Teacher Dongchu, Ling Yuan

Sheng Yen (聖嚴; Pinyin: Shèngyán, birth name Zhang Baokang, 張保康) (December 4, 1930 – February 3, 2009) was a Chinese Buddhist monk, a religious scholar, and one of the mainstream teachers of Chan Buddhism. He was a 57th generational dharma heir of Linji Yixuan in the Linji school (Japanese: Rinzai) and a third-generation dharma heir of Hsu Yun. In the Caodong (Japanese: Sōtō) lineage, Sheng Yen was a 52nd-generation Dharma heir of Dongshan Liangjie (807-869), and a direct Dharma heir of Dongchu (1908–1977).[1]

Sheng Yen was the founder of the Dharma Drum Mountain, a Buddhist organization based in Taiwan. During his time in Taiwan, Sheng Yen was well known as one of the progressive Buddhist teachers who sought to teach Buddhism in a modern and Western-influenced world. In Taiwan, he was one of four prominent modern Buddhist masters, along with Hsing Yun, Cheng Yen and Wei Chueh. In 2000 he was one of the keynote speakers in the Millennium World Peace Summit of Religious and Spiritual Leaders held in the United Nations.[2]


Born near Shanghai in mainland China, he became a monk at the age of 13. During the Chinese Civil War, he went to Taiwan in 1949 by enlisting in a unit of the Nationalist Army out of necessity.[3] He became a monk again in 1959 and from 1961 to 1968 he trained in solitary retreat in southern Taiwan. He then completed a master's degree (1971) and doctorate (1975) in Buddhist literature at Rissho University in Japan.[4]

He became abbot of Nung Chan in Taiwan in 1978 and founder of the Institute of Chung-Hwa Buddhist Culture in New York City in 1979. In 1985, he founded the Institute of Chung-Hwa Buddhist Studies in Taipei and the International Cultural and Educational Foundation of Dharma Drum Mountain in 1989.

He taught in the United States starting in 1975, and established Chan Meditation Center in Queens, New York, and its retreat center, Dharma Drum Retreat Center at Pine Bush, New York in 1997. He also visited many countries in Europe, as well as continuing his teaching in several Asian countries, in particular Taiwan. He was known as a skillful teacher who helped many of his students to reach enlightenment mostly through meditation.[5] Sheng Yen gave dharma transmission to several of his lay Western students, such as John Crook, who later formed the Western Chan Fellowship,[6] and several other Western disciples such as Simon Child, Max Kalin, and Zarko Andricevic.

Sheng Yen's health was poor in the last couple years of his life, although he still gave lectures in Taiwan.


Sheng Yen died from renal failure on February 3, 2009, while returning from National Taiwan University Hospital in Taipei. He had endured the illness for many years, but refused a kidney transplant.[citation needed][7] In accordance with East Asian age reckoning, the Dharma Drum Mountain organization states that Sheng Yen died at the age of 80.[8] Officially, according to the Western way of reckoning age, Sheng Yen died at the age of 79.

Hours after his death, tributes from eminent Buddhist monks and Taiwanese politicians and celebrities, including President Ma Ying-jeou, Vice President Vincent Siew, DPP Chairwoman Tsai Ing-wen, kung fu star Jet Li, and actress Brigitte Lin, began to pour into Dharma Drum Mountain monastery. As stipulated in his will, Sheng Yen forbade the use of extravagant funeral services, including the construction of memorials or monuments. Sheng Yen received a simple Buddhist ritual attended by the President and dignitaries, and was buried in the Life Memorial Garden near the monastery. His ashes were divided into five sections, with each section filled by the Abbot, senior disciples, President Ma, Vice President Siew, and other laity.[9][10]

Dharma heirs

Monastics: Monks:


Western Lay practitioners:

In the Chan lineage of Sheng Yen, a "Dharma heir" receives the dharma transmission based on his or her selfless administrative contributions to Dharma Drum Mountain and practice of Chan.[11] However, a Dharma heir may not have had a personal experience of self-nature or Buddha-nature, the nature of śūnyatā, in which case the person would also receive yinke (Jp. inka shōmei), the seal of approval. Among the Dharma heirs, there are only a few who have both Dharma transmission and yinke.

Among Sheng Yen's senior disciples, there are also those who have received yinke but no dharma transmission for various reasons.[12]


In alphabetical order of the books' title:

  • Sheng Yen, A Journey of Learning and Insight, Dharma Drum Publishing Corp, 2012. ISBN 978-957-598-580-6
  • Sheng Yen, Attaining the Way: A Guide to the Practice of Chan Buddhism. Shambhala Publications, 2006. ISBN 978-1-59030-372-6.
  • Sheng Yen, Complete Enlightenment - Zen Comments on the Sutra of Complete Enlightenment. Shambhala Publications, 1998. ISBN 978-1-57062-400-1.
  • Sheng Yen, Dharma Drum: The Life & Heart of Ch'an Practice. Shambhala Publications, 2006. ISBN 978-1-59030-396-2.
  • Sheng Yen, Faith in Mind: A Guide to Chan Practice. Dharma Publishing, 1987. ISBN 978-0-9609854-2-5.
  • Sheng Yen, Getting the Buddha Mind: On the Practice of Chan Retreat. North Atlantic Books, 2005. ISBN 978-1-55643-526-3.
  • Sheng Yen and Dan Stevenson, Hoofprint of the Ox: Principles of the Chan Buddhist Path As Taught by a Modern Chinese Master. Oxford University Press, 2002. ISBN 0-19-515248-4.
  • Sheng Yen (ed. John Crook), Illuminating Silence: The Practice of Chinese Zen. Watkins, 2002. ISBN 1-84293-031-1.
  • Sheng Yen, Orthodox Chinese Buddhism. Dharma Drum, 2007. ISBN 1-55643-657-2. Online text
  • Sheng Yen, Ox-herding at Morgan's Bay. Dharma Drum, 1988. ISBN 0-9609854-3-3.
  • Sheng Yen, Setting in Motion the Dharma Wheel. Dharma Drum Publications, 2000. ASIN B001HPIU4K.
  • Sheng Yen, Shattering the Great Doubt: The Chan Practice of Huatou. Shambhala, 2009. ISBN 978-1-59030-621-5.
  • Sheng Yen, Song of Mind: Wisdom from the Zen Classic Xin Ming. Shambhala, 2004. ISBN 1-59030-140-4.
  • Sheng Yen, Subtle Wisdom: Understanding Suffering, Cultivating Compassion Through Ch'an Buddhism. Image, 1999. ISBN 978-0-385-48045-1.
  • Sheng Yen, The Infinite Mirror: Commentaries on Two Chan Classics. Shambala, 2006. ISBN 978-1-59030-398-6.
  • Sheng Yen, The Method of No-Method: The Chan Practice of Silent Illumination. Shambhala, 2008. ISBN 1-59030-575-2.
  • Sheng Yen, The Poetry of Enlightenment: Poems by Ancient Chan Masters. Shambala, 2006. ISBN 978-1-59030-399-3.
  • Sheng Yen, The Six Paramitas: Perfections of the Bodhisattva path, a commentary. Dharma Drum, 2002. ASIN: B0006S8EYU.
  • Sheng Yen, The Sword of Wisdom: A Commentary on the Song of Enlightenment. North Atlantic Books, 2002. ISBN 978-1-55643-428-0.
  • Sheng Yen, There Is No Suffering: A Commentary on the Heart Sutra. Dharma Drum, 2002. ISBN 1-55643-385-9.
  • Sheng Yen, Things Pertaining to Bodhi: The Thirty-seven Aids to Enlightenment. Shambhala, 2010. ISBN 978-1-59030-790-8.
  • Sheng Yen, Zen Wisdom. North Atlantic Books, 2002. ISBN 978-1-55643-386-3.

Autobiography of Master Sheng Yen:

  • Sheng Yen, Footprints in the Snow: The Autobiography of a Chinese Buddhist Monk. Doubleday Religion, 2008. ISBN 978-0-385-51330-2.

See also


  1. [1]
  2. "Chan Master Sheng Yen". Dharma Drum Mountain. 2006-01-10. Retrieved 2009-02-08.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. "Reviewing Master Sheng Yen's Talk: The Strength to be at Peace". Business Weekly Taiwan. 2009-02-09. Retrieved 2009-02-09.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. Chronology of Master Sheng Yen,
  5. Biography of Master Sheng Yen,
  6. Western Chan Fellowship
  7. Struck Like Lightning: the Life of Master Sheng Yen
  8. "Announcement of Master Sheng Yen's death". Dharma Drum Mountain. 2009-02-03. Retrieved 2009-02-05.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>[dead link]
  9. "The Will of Master Sheng Yen". Dharma Drum Mountain. 2009-02-05. Retrieved 2009-02-08.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  10. 聖嚴法體燒出舍利子舍利花
  11. 交付傳持佛法的任務
  12. 交付傳持佛法的任務


External links