Overseas News


Continuing Master Sheng Yen’s Aspirations in the West

In 2006 when Shifu stopped coming to the US, I went back to Taiwan to see him and promised him that I would build a Chan practice center to honor him and continue his legacy. In 2009 when he passed away, I started a meditation group as a way to repay my gratitude to him, but I didn’t know how I was going to build a center to fulfill my vow. After a few years the small meditation group grew to an extent that we needed a larger space. So we started to look for a suitable land, raise money, and plan the construction.

Finally, in October of 2017, I established this new center, Tallahassee Chan Center, which I personally call the “Sheng Yen Chan Academy,” to fulfill my vow to Shifu and continue his original vow of spreading Chan Buddhism in the West.

Introducing Chan Buddhism to the West

In retrospect of the process for planning the construction, I don’t see “difficulties”—I see manifestations of karma and causes and conditions and opportunities for me to learn. We never had great “difficulties” like financial burden, only my own karmic obstruction and how to relate and share Chan teachings in the west.

Originally I was ordained under Master Sheng Yen, but later I left monasticism and returned to the secular world. One of the reasons I left monasticism was the challenges I faced with the incongruence between the traditional Buddhist monastic culture and my own hybrid-westernized values and upbringing. Buddhism in the west is largely lay oriented. I felt it was not possible to “plant” Buddhism in the soil of America wholesale; it needed to adapt and change.

In order to bring Chan into the lives of Americans, I needed to face my own struggles and understand the real life problems of people. For example, how to truly face, embrace, work through, and let go of the ways that my family dynamics have shaped me; my own marriage relationships, work situations, and connecting with students. The more I teach the more I feel grateful to Shifu for all those years that he taught me and really put up with this idiot, immature disciple (me). I see my own Chan students’ struggles and I’m reminded of myself and my own learning process.

Practitioners at Tallahassee Chan Center are mostly westerners, and I’m usually the only Chinese. In Tallahassee we have Korean Son (Zen), several Tibetan Buddhist traditions, and Thich Nhat Hahn sitting group. Our center has the largest number of practitioners—usually double or triple of other groups. We have around 40 people come to regular week night sittings. Most of them are intellectuals, students, and government workers (Tallahassee is the capital of Florida). They are all very sincere in their Chan practice.

Besides the regular weekly meditation group practice, we also offer sutra explanation, guidance for meditation, workshop, tea meeting, and half-day/one-day Chan retreat. Tallahassee Chan Center has an aim to not only bring Chan into mainstream American culture, but also engage in Dharma social work, in order to adapt to the changing environment in society.

A few years ago, I suddenly realized that many of Shifu’s longtime western students are getting old. Originally I wanted to take care of them, but now I want to take care of all 2nd generation Dharma practitioners in America. So my long term plan for the next 10-15 years is to build an “evergreen” community, right behind our Center. With our existing program of Chan meditation, stress reduction training, I hope to partner with Florida State University Nursing School, FSU College of Social Work, and FSU Department of Religion (with which I am affiliated), as well as the Department of Elder Affairs in Tallahassee, to provide an affordable, independent, and assisted living for the elder practitioners and those who wish to live the last phase of their life with dignity, compassion, and wisdom.

Each of us, in our own lives, can find ways to repay the gratitude. What I’m doing in Tallahassee is just my way. In order for DDM to move forward, we cannot live in the past, in what Shifu has already created. We have to look to the future and in our own lives. Shifu has given us a principle: inheriting the richness of Han Chinese and inspiring the future. As long as we don’t betray this principle, it is our responsibility as Shifu’s disciples. It is our way to repay gratitude, which is the true meaning of dharma transmission.

Edited from Guo Gu’s sharing in a paper interview –
Translation: Frances, Liu (劉珮如)
Editor: Chang, Chia-Cheng (張家誠)

| More
Back to news list

Your are here : OverSeas News > The Story of Tallahassee Chan Center, Florida