Venerable Master Hsing Yun was born in 1927 in Jiangdu, Jiangsu Province, China. Having grown up in a poor household with both parents working, Venerable Master Hsing Yun never received formal education and was left in the care of his maternal grandmother. After the Sino-Japanese War broke out, while accompanying his mother to search for his missing father, who had most likely lost his life in the war in 1938, he was tonsured by eminent Master Zhi Kai in Qixia Temple, Nanjing, with Dajue Temple in Yixing, Jiangsu, as his ancestral temple. In 1947, Venerable Master Hsing Yun graduated from Jiaoshan Buddhist College, where he underwent a complete Buddhist education of Ch’an, Vinaya, doctrinal traditions, and later became the principal of Baita Elementary School, editor-in-chief of Raging Billows Monthly and abbot of Huazang Temple in Nanjing.
He arrived in Taiwan in 1949 and became the dean of the Taiwan Buddhist Seminar as well as the editor-in-chief of Human Life Magazine. In 1953, he became the guiding teacher for the Buddhist Chanting Association of Yilan, and subsequently established the Buddhist Cultural Service Centre in Taipei, in 1957. In 1964, he founded Shou Shan Temple and Shou Shan Buddhist College in Kaohsiung; and then founded the Fo Guang Shan (Buddha’s Light Mountain) Buddhist Order in 1967. With the objectives: to propagate the Dharma through culture; to foster talents through education; to benefit society through charity, and to purify people’s minds through spiritual cultivation, he has dedicated his efforts to propagating Humanistic Buddhism. Additionally, he integrated tradition and modernity in establishing the rules and regulations which were drafted and published into the Rules and Regulations of the Fo Guang Shan Buddhist Order, bringing Buddhism into a new milestone of modernization.
Having been a monastic for over seventy years, Venerable Master has successively established over three hundred temples around the world, among which Hsi Lai Temple
in the United States, Nan Tien Temple in Australia, Nan Hua Temple in South Africa, and Zulai Temple in Brazil, each being the largest in the country. He also founded sixteen Buddhist Colleges, twenty-four art galleries, libraries, several publishing companies, bookstores, fifty Cloud and Water Mobile Libraries, fifty Chinese schools, as well as Chih-Kuang Commercial and Industrial Vocational High School, Pu-Men Senior High School, Jiun Tou Elementary and Junior High School, Junyi School for Innovative Learning, and several kindergartens. Other education institutes were also established in the United States, Taiwan, Australia, and Philippines such as Hsi Lai University (now University of the West), Fo Guang University, Nanhua University, Nan Tien Institute, and Guang Ming College respectively. In 2006, University of the West became the first university established by a Chinese organization to be accredited by WASC (Western Association of Schools and Colleges).
Beginning in 1970, he successively established a children’s home, the Fo Guang Senior Citizens Home, the Cloud and Water Mobile Clinic, the Fo Guang Clinic, helped the Kaohsiung government establish a senior citizen’s home, and together with the Fu Hui Foundation. In addition, he established multiple Fo Guang middle and elementary schools and hospitals in China. He has also donated wheelchairs and combination houses, provided emergency relief aids, educated the young, provided for the elderly, and supported the poor and needy around the world.
With over two thousand disciples from around the world and over a million devotees around the world, Venerable Master has spread the teachings far and wide. His Dharma heirs, numbering more than a hundred, come from provinces across China, as well as Japan, Korea, Hong Kong, Singapore, and Australia. These Dharma heirs include Venerable Longxiang (President of Nanjing Buddhist Association), Venerable Zhenguang (President of Baoding Buddhist Association), Venerable Daoji (President of Jinzhou Buddhist Association), and Venerable Daojian (Standing Executive Board Member of the Buddhist Association of China). In 1991, Buddha’s Light International Association (BLIA) was established and he was elected president of the World Headquarters. To this day, over 170 chapters have been established over the five continents, making it the largest Chinese organization around the world; allowing “the Buddha’s Light shining over three thousand realms, and the Dharma water flowing continuously through the five continents.
Venerable Master’s great and deep compassionate vow has created countless Buddhist events. In November of 1988, Hsi Lai Temple
, which is the largest North American Buddhist temple, was inaugurated and an International Triple Platform Full Ordination Ceremony was held, becoming the first time for the transmission of full monastic ordination in a western country. At the same time, the Sixteenth World Fellowship of Buddhists Conference was held, marking the first time that cross-strait representatives attended a conference at the same time; it also marked Buddhism’s first exchange between cross-straits. In 1989, under the invitation of the Buddhist Association of China, the Dharma Propagation and Homecoming Tour Group visited China and met with the Chinese President Yang Shangkun and the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) Chairman Li Xiannian at the People’s Congress Hall.
Due to Venerable Master’s lifetime efforts, Buddha’s Birthday was declared a national holiday to be held every lunar April 8th by the Legislative Yuan of Republic of China in 1999. In 2000, the first Buddha’s Birthday was celebrated nationally in conjunction with the celebration of the 2,000th anniversary of Buddhism’s spread into China. In October of 2001, he personally visited Ground Zero of the September 11th attack to pray for the victims. In December of the same year, he was invited to deliver a speech titled “The Direction to Work On in the Future” at the president’s office. In January 2002, he reached an agreement with China on the basic principles for the Buddha’s finger relic Taiwan tour: “Hsing Yun to make the initiation; united effort in the escort; enshrinement and worship as one; safety as top priority.” He founded Taiwan’s Buddhist Organizing Committee for the Buddha’s Finger Relic Tour, which went to Famen Temple in Xi’an to escort the finger relic to Taiwan for a tour of thirty-seven days. An estimated five million people paid respect to the relic during the tour. Throughout his lifetime of propagating Humanistic Buddhism, Venerable Master Hsing Yun has indeed contributed tremendously to the systematization, modernization, humanization, and internationalization of Buddhism development!