The 卍 Explained by Sheng Yen:
Sheng Yen (聖嚴; Pinyin: Shèngyán, birth name Zhang Baokang, 張保康) (January 22, 1931 – 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).
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 a progressive Buddhist teacher 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, popularly referred to as the "Four Heavenly Kings" of Taiwanese Buddhism. 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.
Born as Chang Baokang on January 22, 1931 in Nantong, Jiangsu 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. After leaving the army Sheng Yen became recognized as a Dharma Heir in both the Linji and Caodong traditions and became a monk again in 1959. From 1961 to 1968 he trained in solitary retreat in southern Taiwan at Chao Yuan Monastery. Sheng Yen became a lecturer at Shan Dao Monastery in Taipei and then completed a master's degree (1971) and doctorate (1975) in Buddhist literature at Rissho University in Japan. At the time Sheng Yen was the only major Buddhist figure in Taiwan to have earned a doctorate from a reputable foreign university.
Sheng Yen received full transmission in the Caodong tradition in 1975 and the Linji tradition in 1978.
Sheng Yen 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.
Sheng Yen 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.Sheng Yen gave dharma transmission to several of his lay Western students, such as John Crook, who later formed the Western Chan Fellowship, 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. In accordance with East Asian age reckoning, the Dharma Drum Mountain organization states that Sheng Yen died at the age of 80. 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.