Chan Master Sheng Yen (cont)

Novice Changjin

Guo Gu Master Sheng Yen was born in 1930 to a farming family in a village near Shanghai, China. He entered Guang Jiao Monastery with a fourth grade education at age 13. As Novice Changjin, he carried out the traditional duties required of monks in China's Buddhist monasteries at that time. "The local monastery I entered, like most others in China, was called a Chan temple. But, in fact the theory and practice of Chan was almost never discussed there. As young monks, most of us did not have any clear idea of what Chan practice really was. Our training simply consisted of the rigorous discipline prescribed for monks—everyday activities such as washing clothes, working in the fields, cooking and performing daily services. Chinese Buddhism did not provide a systematic education for monks. A monk's training was usually completed gradually and imperceptibly through the experience of everyday life."

At age 16, because of Communist opposition in the area, he was transferred from the countryside to Da Sheng Monastery in Shanghai with his fellow monks. Here Changjin heard of a seminary where young monks could acquire a Buddhist education, the Buddhist Academy at Jing An Monastery. He ran away from Da Sheng (a decision later approved by his master) to study at the academy. There he was inspired by the teachings of Chan Masters Xuyun (Hsu-yun, Empty Cloud) and Tai Xu on their visits to Shanghai. The seminary was founded by a student of Master Taixu, one of the great revivers of modern Chinese Buddhism. Taixu himself was much influenced by Great Master Ouyi (1599-1655). The seminary also emphasized physical exercise with instruction in Tai Ji and in Shaolin boxing from a teacher from Shaolin Monastery.

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