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About Master Sheng Yen
Master's Footprints.
  International Development
HomeAbout Master Sheng YenInternational Development  
Chan Practice
Peace Building
Young People

Throughout his life Master Sheng Yen advocated “uplifting the character of humanity and building a pure land on Earth”. He was convinced that seeking a pure land need not wait until we are reborn to another world, but that we can realize it right here in our world. Any place in our human world carries the possibility to realize a pure land on Earth. Therefore, the Master seized each opportunity and created favorable causes and conditions, employing all his ingenuity and all manner of convenient means to launch him on his path of the international popularization of Buddhism.


Aspects of international popularization of Buddhism: Chan practice, religious interaction, world peace, and nurturing young talent


In 1976 Master Sheng Yen went to the United States to spread the Buddhadharma. In response to the needs of his students, he began offering guidance on Chan practice. Because of his clear and straightforward Chan teachings and through his simple and practical approach, the Master gradually established himself as a leading Chan master in the international arena. The Master not only dedicated himself to promoting Chan practice in all the Dharma Drum Mountain practice centers at home and abroad, but was also invited to teach Chan meditation in the UK, Germany, Czechoslovakia, Poland, Switzerland, Russia, Croatia, and Malaysia, as well as throughout Europe, Asia, North America, and Australia. After many years of careful cultivation and tutelage the Dharma lineage has since been transmitted to many of the Master’s disciples in the East and West, and so Chan Buddhism has gradually started to spread and take root around the globe.


In 1997 the Master attended The 11th International Conference on Religion and Peace, held at the Vatican. After the conference the Master met with Pope John Paul II, which was a sign that Chinese Buddhism had entered the international religious arena, opening new opportunities for Buddhism to participate in global affairs. In 1998, the Master participated in a dialogue with His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama at The Roseland in New York City. The dialogue was entitled “In the Spirit of Manjushri: the Wisdom Teachings of Buddhism,” and signified the turning of a new page in the history of Buddhism in terms of interaction between Chinese and Tibetan Buddhism. Once again Chinese Buddhist wisdom and Master Sheng Yen’s deportment drew the eyes of the world.


In 2000 Master Sheng Yen attended the Millennium World Peace Summit of Religious and Spiritual Leaders. This event was the first of its kind held since the establishment of the UN in 1945. In his opening address the Master earnestly advocated the ideals of building a pure land on Earth and protecting the spiritual environment, gaining resounding approval from the participants. Master Sheng Yen was invited to join the consulting committee for the World Council of Religious and Spiritual Leaders on the spot. Subsequently the Master regularly received invitations to take part in all manner of international meetings, where he would offer up words of wisdom advising on the issues in question at various meetings, working tirelessly to facilitate interfaith interaction and world peace. Moreover, since world peace requires continuous promotion and efforts from generation to generation, from 2003 onwards Master Sheng Yen, in his capacity of religious leader, became active as a participant and advocate of international youth conferences and events to provide a bridge for communication for young people from different ethnic groups and religious faiths, to broaden their global vision, stimulate their compassion to care for the world, and to instill the future of the world with fresh hope and a new impetus.


A pure and persistent ideal: from a pure land on Earth to world peace


Retracing Master Sheng Yen’s footprints in popularizing Buddhism internationally, we can see the figure of a Chinese Chan master on his path to ultimately becoming a religious leader promoting world peace. His entire life’s journey was dedicated to realizing a pure land on Earth, this ideal that he so deeply believed in.


Realizing a pure land on Earth is a universal hope, but its completion requires hard work from everyone. That is why Master Sheng Yen invited leaders from all religions and faiths to first build Heaven or the Buddha pure land in this world, working together towards world peace, as a reflection of the value and meaning of religion. He also pointed out the fact that while material poverty threatens people’s livelihood, mental and spiritual poverty cost people their peace and happiness. So he hoped that everyone would seriously consider the issue of spiritual poverty, emphasizing that eradicating poverty and solving our environmental problems once and for all would only become possible if we start from the purification of every person’s mind. This is precisely the ideal of Protecting the Spiritual Environment.


Peace does not distinguish between ethnicity or amongst religions; it is the wish of each and everyone. However, when our hopes clash with those of others, there can be no true peace and harmony. Therefore, Master Sheng Yen further urged that people from different ethnic groups and religions should learn to seek common ground while tolerating differences, to respect each other, and to accept multicultural values. On the other hand we all must establish the following shared, global ethical values; to respect every living being, to acknowledge that every individual has the right to live, and that it is our duty and responsibility to protect and cherish all other people. Only then can the world enjoy universal and lasting peace.


Master Sheng Yen invigorated the spirit of the Chinese Chan tradition, inherited and continued the Dharma transmission of Chinese Buddhism. His influence has spread beyond borders and ethnic groups, while the purification of the spiritual environment, as he advocated, transcends cultural and religious differences. Through interaction, dialogues, and cooperation, he always hoped to resolve opposition between people, and to reconcile conflicts, in order to accomplish a pristine, peaceful, and harmonious pure land on Earth. This is the wish from which the Master set out to popularize the Buddhadharma and take it internationally.


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