Although well-known as the founder of Dharma Drum Mountain Buddhist Association, Master Sheng Yen says, “I am just an ordinary monk.” This modesty is genuine if somewhat misleading, since his disciples and students throughout the world see him as much more than ordinary. Indeed, Master Sheng Yen’s personal manner is that of an ordinary monk. But his ability to expound Buddhism to modern audiences in a way that is both accessible and useful places him in the lineage of great teachers going back to the Buddha.
Despite being firmly rooted in his native Chinese culture, language, and Chan Buddhism, Master Sheng Yen early in his career was determined to play a role in bringing Buddhism to the West. Starting as a 13-year old monk near Shanghai, Master Sheng Yen’s career took him from China, to Japan, and ultimately to the United States — to the Bronx and later, the Queens sections of New York City.
With practice Centers in upstate New York as well as Queens, and chapters throughout the West, Master Sheng Yen’s message has taken root. Not one to rest on his laurels, in his late seventies, Master Sheng Yen continues to present retreats, give Dharma lectures, publish books, and produce stunningly beautiful Chinese calligraphy.
In 2007, the Master was honored through the establishment of the Sheng Yen Chair in Chinese Buddhist Studies at Columbia University, in cooperation with the Sheng Yen Education Foundation.