Biographical Timeline

Major Events in Master Sheng Yen’s Life

This page offer a brief, chronological summary of major events in Master Sheng Yen’s life. If you are interested in learning more about the Master, please visit his website at A collection of his autobiographical accounts have also been translated in to English under the title: “Footprints in the Snow: The Autobiography of a Chinese Buddhist Monk(Publisher: Doubleday; ISBN: 0385513305 / 9780385513302)



  • Born in Jiangsu Province, China.


  • Becomes a novice at Guangjiao Monastery, Nantong, Jiangsu province.


  • Begins to study at Jing An Seminary in Shanghai.


  • Joins the army and arrives in Taiwan from Shanghai by ship during Chinese Civil War.


  • Writes his first book entitled: Commentary on the Rebuttal of the Comparative Study of Christianity and Buddhism.


  • Granted permission to be dismissed from the army at the end of the year, effective on January 1st, 1960.
  • Assumes the position of editor-in-chief for Humanity Magazine.


  • Re-ordained by Venerable Master Dong Chu, receives the Dharma name “Hui Kong Sheng Yen” .


  • Begins his six-year solitary retreat at Chaoyuan Monastery in Kaohsiung.


  • Begins his studies at Rissho University in Tokyo, Japan.


  • Earns the Master’s degree with thesis paper entitled A Study of the Mahayana Samatha-Vipassana Practice.


  • Earns the Litt.D. degree with dissertation entitled A Study of Buddhism During the Late Ming Dynasty.
  • Returns to Taiwan and attends the fourth Overseas National Scholar Council on Infrastructure.
  • Heads to the States to spread the Dharma at the invitation of Mr. Sheng Jia Zhen of the Buddhist Association of the United States.


  • Serves as the vice chairman of the Buddhist Association of the United States and abbot of the Temple of Enlightenment.
  • Receives Dharma transmission of Caodong lineage from Venerable Master Dong Chu.


  • Launches an English quarterly magazine, Chan Magazine.
  • Returns to Taiwan taking over the reins of Chung-Hwa Institute of Buddhist Culture and Nung Chan Monastery by Ven. Master Dongchu’s will.


  • Becomes the Director of the Institute of Buddhist Studies at the China Academy of the College of Chinese Culture.
  • Receives Dharma transmission of the Linji lineage from Venerable Master Lingyuan and is given the lineage name: Zhigang Weirou and the Dharma lineage chart, the Starry Lamp Record.


  • Establishes a monastery in New York named Chan Meditation Center.
  • Establishes the Three Studies Institute at Nung Chan Monastery and the school motto.
  • Launches the English monthly journal, Chan Newsletter.


  • Establishes the Dong Chu Publishing House as a tribute to Venerable Master Dong Chu.
  • Ordains first group of disciples in Taiwan, marking the beginning of the DDM Sangha.


  • Re-launches Humanity Magazine, which was discontinued in 1961.
  • First English book, Getting the Buddha Mind, a compilation of the talks given at various seven-day retreats, is published.
  • Establishes Dharma Drum Publications in New York.


  • Establishes the Chung-Hwa Institute of Buddhist Studies at the Chung-Hwa Institute of Buddhist Culture in Beitou, Taipei.


  • Leads Chan retreat at Morgan Bay, Maine on invitation.


  • Establishes Dharma Drum Mountain based on the vision of uplifting the character of humanity and establishing a pure land on earth.
  • Leads a seven-day Chan retreat in Wales, England for the first time.
  • Launches Dharma Drum Magazine.


  • Convenes the first Chung-Hwa International Conference on Buddhism.
  • Draws up the Common Endeavor of DDM monastic and lay disciples, later renamed as the Common Endeavor of Buddhists, at the Chan Meditation Center in New York.
  • Receives the Good Citizen and Good Deeds—Eight Virtues Award from the Ministry of Interior.


  • Proposes Our Common Ethos at the reunion for fundraising members held by the DDM General Association of Dharma Supporters.
  • Transmits the Bodhisattva precepts at the Chan Meditation Center in New York for the first time.


  • Proposes Protecting the Spiritual Environment as the core DDM vision.
  • Receives the Taipei Honorary Citizen Award from the Taipei City Government.
  • Spreads the Buddhadharma in Czech and Belgium.


  • Holds the Bodhisattva Precepts ceremony in Taiwan for the first time.
  • Receives the 6th Caring Heart Award from the Mr. Wu Zunxian Cultural and Educational Foundation, Taiwan.
  • Receives the 3rd Outstanding Leadership Award for Social Peace Movement from the Association for Social Movements, Taiwan R.O.C.
  • Wins the Sun Yat-sen Art and Literary Award for his book, An Intellectual Autobiography of Master Sheng Yen.
  • The Complete Works of Master Sheng Yen containing seven series and 40 volumes is published.


  • Proposes Protecting the Social Environment and promotes joint funerals, birthday celebrations for the elderly, and weddings in Buddhist spirit.
  • Establishes the Dharma Drum Mountain Buddhist Association (DDMBA) in the US.
  • The Dharma propagation TV series, the Great Dharma Drum, makes TV debut
  • Proposes the One Mission and the Three-fold Education as the focus of DDM’s works.
  • Wins the Golden Tripod Awards for Publications for his book, An Intellectual Autobiography of Master Sheng Yen.


  • Engages in dialogue with Thich Nhat Hanh on the topic of Chan and Environmental Protection at Nung Chan Monastery.
  • Establishes Dharma Drum Corporation.
  • Receives the Individual Education Movement Award from the Department of Education, Taipei City Government.


  • Receives the Religious Education Award of the 1st Distinguished Citizen Award from the Distinguished Citizens Society of R.O.C.
  • The Dharma teaching TV series, A Different Voice, makes TV debut.
  • Presides over the ceremony for DDM’s foundation laying and Underground Palace’s treasure-enshrining.


  • Meets with His Holiness the Dalai Lama in Taiwan to discuss the precepts for bhikshus and bhikshunis.
  • Leads an intensive Chan retreat in Warsaw, Poland for the first time.
  • Leads an intensive Chan retreat in Croatia for the first time.
  • Sets up the Dharma Drum Retreat Center in Pine Bush, New York.
  • Attends the 11th International Meeting People and Religions in Padua, Italy and meets with Pope John Paul II at the Vatican.


  • Selected by Commonwealth Magazine as one of the 50 most influential people in Taiwan in 400 years.
  • Holds a dialogue with the Dalai Lama, titled “In the Spirit of Manjushri: The Wisdom Teachings of Buddhism”.
  • Leads Chan retreat in St. Petersburg, Russia for the first time.
  • Makes a keynote speech at the Cross-strait Academic Conference on Buddhism in Beijing, China.


  • Receives the first National Civic Service Award from the Federation of Non-Profit Associations, R.O.C.
  • Attends the Summit between Humanities and Technology for the New Era, starting a series of dialogues with various social elites including Mr. Lee Yuan Tseh, Mr. Zheng Shi Rong, Mr. Han Pao Teh.
  • Leads seven-day Chan retreat in Berlin, Germany for the first time.
  • Proposes the Fivefold Spiritual Renaissance Campaign: A lifestyle for the 21st century.
  • Visits the disaster areas in Taichung and Nantou in the wake of the 921 Earthquakes, organizes relief program, the DDM Peace of Mind Loving Care Project in an effort to restore hope in the victims.
  • Establishes the Dharma Drum Research Grants of the Humanities and Social Sciences Foundation.
  • The second edition of the Complete Collection of Dharma Drum, containing a total of 70 volumes of Master Sheng Yen’s literature works is published.


  • Attends and makes a keynote speech at the Millennium World Peace Summit of Religious and Spiritual Leaders held at the UN headquarters in New York, representing Chinese Buddhism.
  • Receives the Lifetime Contribution to Culture Award from Taiwan’s Executive Yuan.


  • Invited to make a speech at the Symposium on Religion, World Peace, and Protecting the Spiritual Environment held in Taipei.
  • Invited to present the concluding address at the International Conference on Religious Cooperation held in Taipei.
  • Presides over the founding and school beginning ceremony for the Buddhist Seminary of Dharma Drum Sangha University at the DDM World Center for Buddhist Education.
  • Invited to attend and make a speech at the Consulting Committee of the Millennium World Peace Summit of Religious and Spiritual Leaders held in New York.
  • Invited to lead a Chan retreat in Mexico.


  • Receives the Top Rank Award from the Ministry of the Interior of Taiwan.
  • Attends the World Economic Forum in New York as a Buddhist leader.
  • Attends the World Council of Religious Leaders (WCRL) in Bangkok.
  • Receives the Sun Yat-sen Academic Award for his book, Tiantai Keys to the Mind: A Vernacular Translation of and Commentary on Ouyi’s Jiaoguan gangzong.
  • Donates and escorts the Akshobhya Buddha head statue, stolen in 1997, back to Four Gate Pagoda in Shandong province, China.


  • Attends the 1st preparatory meeting for the World Youth Peace Summit held in Kyoto, Japan, at the invitation of WCRL.
  • Makes speech at the meeting for the World Council of Religious Leaders at the UN headquarters in NY on at the invitation of the UN secretary Kofi Annan.
  • Holds a dialogue with His Eminence Cardinal Paul Shan Kuo-Hsi on Faith Values and Education in the Emerging Trend of Globalization.
  • Directs the Dharma Drum Foundation for Humanities and Social Science Research Grants to establish the Dharma Drum Lecture Series in Humanities in cooperation with Beijing University.
  • Wins the Bodhi Prize of the 2nd Presidential Cultural Award.
  • Travels to Israel and Palestine with representative religious and spiritual leaders from WCRL for religious peace movement.


  • Attends and the Seminar on Preventing Terrorism held by WCRL in New York.
  • Attends the World Youth Peace Summit Asia-Pacific hosted by WCRL in Bangkok, Thailand.
  • Presides over the ground-breaking ceremony for Dharma Drum Humanities and Social Sciences College.
  • Hosts the World Youth Peace Summit Taipei Conference, which is held in three phases.
  • Attends the board of directors meeting held by WCRL in Jordan.
  • Directs the Dharma Drum Foundation for Humanities and Social Science Research Grants to establish the Dharma Drum Lecture Series in Humanities in cooperation with National Taiwan University and Tsinghua University in Beijing.


  • Attends Leaders’ Meeting on Faith and Development organized by the World Bank in Dublin, Ireland.
  • Directs the Dharma Drum Foundation for Humanities and Social Science Research Grants to establish the Dharma Drum Lecture Series in Humanities in cooperation with National Cheng Kung University in Taiwan and Nanjing University in China.
  • Delivers speeches at Beijing University, Tsinghua University, Nanjing University, and Sun Yat-sen University, on an academic tour to China.
  • Receives honorary doctorate degree from Mahachulalongkorn-rajavidyalaya Buddhist University, Thailand.
  • Holds the Dharma transmission ceremony in which the Transmission Record of the Dharma Drum Lineage of Chan Buddhism is presented to 18 Eastern and Western disciples.
  • Inauguration ceremony for the DDM World Center for Buddhist Education, which he founded, takes place.
  • Serves as a co-chair for the World Council of Religious Leaders, leading the discussion for various administration affairs.


  • Presents a keynote speech at the first World Buddhist Forum held by the Chinese Buddhist Association, Hangzhou, China.
  • Hands over the position of Abbot President, at the Inaugural Ceremony of the 2nd Abbot President, to successor Ven. Guo Dong at the Grand Buddha Hall of the DDM World Center for Buddhist Education.
  • Leads a delegation of 15 DDM youth leaders to attend the UN Global Youth Leadership Summit at the UN headquarters in New York.
  • Presents the opening and closing speeches for the Young Leaders Peace-building Retreat, a three-day preliminary meeting at Dharma Drum Retreat Center, held by the UN Global Youth Leadership Summit.


  • Establishes Dharma Drum Buddhist College, the first mono-religious educational institute in Taiwan to be accredited by the Ministry of Education.
  • The Sheng Yen Professorship in Chinese Buddhism is formally signed and established at Columbia University, New York.
  • Initiates the Six Ethics of the Mind campaign.
  • Promotes activities for suicide prevention, establishing the “International Caring for Life Awards”.
  • Delivers a speech at the Asia-Africa Summit organized by Dharma Drum Mountain.
  • The Taipei County Jinshan Eco-friendly Memorial Garden, which DDM established at the DDM complex in collaboration with the Taipei County Government, finally starts operation after years of promoting eco-friendly burial sites.
  • Dharma Drum Mountain for the first time organizes a Great Compassion Liberation Rite of Water and Land that reflects the spirit of both Buddhism and environmentalism.


  • Receives the Cultural Contribution Award, an honorary arts and literature medal, from the Chinese Writers’ and Artists’ Association.
  • Receives the “K. T. Li Award for Outstanding Design of Economical and Social Systems” from the Society for Design and Process Science.
  • Holds a dialogue with astronaut Dr. Edgar Mitchell, the sixth person to walk on the moon.
  • Attends the Public Policy Forum—the Humanitarian Aspect: the Reproduction and Cloning of Human Life.
  • Holds a dialogue with Professor Brian Mishara, president of the International Association of Suicide Prevention, at the ICLA 2008 Forum for Suicide Prevention, discussing about strategies in suicide prevention and how Buddhism can help in the work for suicide prevention.
  • Holds a dialogue with Jane Goodall in Taipei, a leading international conservationist, entitled “The Rising Compassion: A Deep Dialogue with Lives on Earth”.


  • Passes away on February 3rd.
  • Receives posthumous honors from the President of R.O.C.