Dharma Drum Mountain, while based in Taiwan, has retreat centres internationally, each with their monastics and lay teachers who conduct retreats and deliver the Dharma. Annually some of these travel to those countries where DDM retreat centres have not yet been founded in order to bring Ch’an meditation and the Dharma to eager participants. Below is a brief biography of the late Ch’an Master Sheng-yen and of his Dharma heirs who are seen regularly in Europe.
Ch’an Master Sheng Yen 聖嚴法師 (1930–2009), founder of Dharma Drum Mountain, was born in China and was a novice in Shanghai when in order to escape the advance of the Red Army, he joined the Nationalist Army in 1949 which fled the mainland to Taiwan. After serving ten years he became the disciple of Ven. Master Dong Chu who ordained him. His study of Mahayana Buddhism and of Ch’an in combination with his attainment under his Master, convinced him of the need to educate the west in the deep Dharma of Chinese Ch’an. After obtaining his PhD in 1975, he went to the USA where his work then and subsequently to introduce and cultivate the Buddhadharma bore fruit. Due to both his cultivation and his academic attainment he was in high demand such that he travelled almost continually around the world giving instruction in meditation and lecturing in universities. In Taiwan the organisations that he led had outgrown the space allotted and plans for Dharma Drum Mountain (DDM) were prepared which was first realised in 2005. He devoted his time to the development of DDM organisations internationally to promote Ch’an meditation and Mahayana Buddhism which is little understood in the west. Master Sheng Yen embodied the Ch’an Master in that his humility spoke to the degree of his attainment. His grasp of the deep Dharma was such that he could explain difficult concepts simply to audiences of differing understanding. His focus was to enable people to apply the Dharma in everyday life and his vows were to bring make Chinese Mahayana and Ch’an accessible to both Eastern and Western audiences.
Guo Yuan Fa Shi 果元法师 (Venerable Guo Yuan) (1950- ) was born in Vietnam. He was a senior disciple of renowned Ch’an Master, Venerable Sheng-yen 圣严法师 of Taiwan. In 1983 he first encountered Master Sheng-yen’s teachings while attending a seven-day retreat in New York. He then decided to become a disciple before finally leaving his job in Toronto, Canada, to become a monk in the Ch’an/Chinese Buddhist tradition. He was ordained in 1987 in Taiwan.
He studied Theravada Buddhism for a year in Thailand in 1991. Upon returning from Thailand, he was elected abbot of Dharma Drum Ch’an meditation center in Queens, New York and Dharma Drum Retreat Center in Pine Bush, New York. His responsibilities included attending inter-faith services, teaching meditation, and giving lectures on Buddhism. For over 20 years, he also accompanied and became translator to Master Sheng-yen in various Ch’an meditation retreats in the United States, the Britain, Germany, Switzerland, Russia, and Mexico.
After several years of service in the United States, he is currently the director of the International Ch’an Retreat Center in Dharma Drum Mountain, Taiwan. He is fluent in Mandarin, Vietnamese, and English.
Chang Sui Fashi — Assistant Teacher Chang Sui Fashi is currently the director of Male Students’ Affairs at Dharma Drum Mountain Sangha University. Earlier, from 2004 till 2008 he studied at this university. Venerable Chang Sui Fashi holds also Civil Engineering B.A. and M.S. Degree from National Chung Hsing University.
Venerable Chang Zhan , a disciple of Master Sheng Yen, graduated from Dharma Drum Sangha University, completed Chan Seminary Program in 2013. He is also a graduate of MA in Fine Art from the University of Arts London in 2000. He has led numerous retreats in Taiwan, Hong Kong, Mainland China, US, Indonesia and Mexico. He is currently the Vice Director of DDM Hong Kong Centre.
Ven Chang Wu is a Buddhist monastic in the Chen/Zen tradition. In the past 15 years, she delivered regular classes in Buddhist philosophy and meditation, to a wide range of people from different background and age group. She led regular intensive meditation retreats to seasoned practitioners in Toronto and Vancouver, Canada; various meditation centres in The USA, such as DDRC and CMC in New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Texas, Chicago, Pittsburgh; as well as Mexico and Taiwan.
Apart from leading meditation retreats, she was a teacher on Buddhism and meditation practice at the Sheng Yen Academy and Dharma Drum Sangha University in Taiwan. In addition, she played an active role in organising and participating in scholarly conferences and interfaith dialogue around the world. Ven. Chang Wu is currently the Abbess of Dharma Drum Vancouver Centre, a monastery in Richmond, BC, Canada. September 2016 will be her first visit the UK.
Guo Gu is one of Master Sheng Yen’s senior and closest disciples, and assisted the master in leading activities at the Chan Meditation Center, Dharma Drum Retreat Center, and Dharma Drum Mountain in Taiwan, and other parts of Europe and Asia.
Guo Gu’s first learned meditation when he was four years old in 1972. He studied with one of the most respected Chinese meditation masters and ascetics living in Taiwan, Master Guangqin (1892-1986). In 1981, due to his family’s relocation, Guo Gu moved to the United States.
In 1982, he began learning meditation from Master Sheng Yen, who was residing in New York at the time. Beginning in 1989, Guo Gu began to attend intensive Chan retreats with him. After the first retreat Master Sheng Yen gave him the Dharma name, Guo Gu, which means, “results from being the valley.” After college, in 1991, Guo Gu was ordained as a monk and became the Sheng Yen’s first personal attendant who traveled with the master wherever he went. In 1995, he received inka (the seal of approval) for his first Chan experience, and was given permission by the master to teach Chan independently. He has subsequently received inka in 1996, 1997, and 2007. He began to represent the master to lead retreats in different parts of the world, such as Sweden and Taiwan. In a chance meeting in June 2007 he also received inka from the Rinzai Zen master, Roshi Noritake Shunan, of the Myoshin-ji lineage.
In 2000, Guo Gu left monasticism and re-entered the world. In 2008, he received his Ph.D. in Buddhist Studies from Princeton University and began teaching Buddhism and East Asian religions academically as an Assistant Professor at Florida State University. In 2009, he founded the Tallahassee Chan Group. He is also the guiding teacher for the Western Dharma Teachers at the Chan Meditation Center and the Dharma Drum Lineage. He leads retreats in different parts of the United States and Taiwan.
Zarko Andricevic began his practice in the 70s, later in 1996 he further his practice under the guidance of the late Master Sheng Yen, founder of Dharma Drum Mountain (DDM) Taiwan. Later in 2001, he received Dharma transmission from the Master. Since, he spends almost all his time in promoting Chan in the lineage of DDM, and is now an increasingly popular and sought after Chan teacher with a track record in leading annual retreats in DDM in Taiwan, DDRC (Dharma Drum Retreat Centre) in Pine Bush, New York, USA, Vancouver, Canada, Melbourne, Australia, Germany, Norway, Serbia, Slovenia and Croatia. He is the founder of Dharmaloka, a Buddhist community in Zagreb, Croatia, also the Chairman of the Committee for Buddhism and Society of the European Buddhist Union.
Chan Meditation DDMBA London UK was founded by Orca Liew and Richard Story.
Orca Liew, founder of our organisation, is a practicing Buddhist of more than 20 years, in 2010, encountered the Ch’an teaching of Chan Master Sheng Yen fashi whose mission was to make awareness of Ch’an teachings in the West. She was immediately struck by his ability to convey complex Ch’an teachings in a simple, understandable approach. Finding common sympathy with his vows and his method of teaching, Orca felt that this wonderful Buddhist teaching was right for the non-Chinese here in the UK. Since the death of Master Sheng Yen, she had discussions with the Abbot President Guo Dong Fashi as well as the Ch’an Hall Director Guo Yuan Fashi in DDM Taiwan, seeking advice on starting an organisation which will bring delights to those who wish to know and learn about Ch’an. She also travelled to Florida with Richard Story, to meet one of Master Sheng-yen’s closest disciples, Guo Gu, who become our regular teacher. In addition, she also travelled to Croatia to meet with Zarko Andricevic, thus enriching the resouces of Chan teachers for DDMBA London.
Richard Story has a great interest in Chinese Mahayana Buddhism which he has been studying for nearly 10 years. He became a supporter and co-founder of Chan Meditation London at its foundation and contributed to much of the literature and classes previously. He continues to support DDMBA London and Master Sheng Yen’s vow in making Chan available to the West.