Ven. Guo Dong, Former Abbot President of Dharma Drum Mountain
Ven. Guo Dong was born in Keelung, Taiwan, in 1955, and was ordained in 1993 under Master Sheng Yen, founder of Dharma Drum Mountain, and given the Dharma name Guo-Dong Zheng-Jiao （果東正皎）. The venerable was recognized as one of the Master's Dharma heirs in 2005. He has served as the second, third, fourth, and fifth abbot president of DDM between 2006 and 2018.
Through his devoted Buddhist mother, the venerable came into contact with Buddhism at an early age. As he grew up, his quest to understand why human beings fail to enjoy ease and true freedom and his search for the meaning of life prompted him to visit Nung Chan Monastery in Taipei City for the first time in 1991, where he started learning the Dharma with Master Sheng Yen.
In January, 1992, the venerable attended his first seven-day Chan retreat at Nung Chan Monastery led by Master Sheng Yen, where he heard the Master say that “the Bodhi Mind means to perform meaningful things for the benefit of others by giving of oneself.” It was these words that changed the course of his life and inspired him to decide to become a monk. Towards the end of March in the same year, he attended a seven-day Amitabha chanting retreat, which further deepened his resolve to lead a monastic life. In August he first moved into Nung Chan Monastery to join the novitiate as a postulant, and then in September 1993 he officially became a monastic.
Highly praised and valued by Master Sheng Yen since becoming a monk, the venerable has served as Monastic Advisor for the End-of-Life Caring Group and Association of Dharma Supporters, Director of the Social Care Department, and Managing Director of the Bhikshu Sangha, among other positions in charge of devotee care and outreach. He has frequently shed light on DDM's core value of Protecting the Spiritual Environment as taught by Master Sheng Yen, and always upheld the principle of Protecting the Social Environment in carrying out DDM's social care efforts. He has made significant contributions to promoting Buddhist style funerals featuring pure profoundness and simple solemnity by applying the Buddhist spirit of caring for the dead, greatly improving the conventional funeral practice in Taiwan.
On September 2, 2006, DDM’s Sangha Council elected him Abbot President, and subsequently in 2007 he was appointed the President of Dharma Drum Sangha University. He was continuously reelected abbot president in 2009, 2012, and 2015, respectively serving as the third, fourth, and fifth abbot president of DDM, for a total term of 12 years.
By following Master Sheng Yen's teachings, Ven. Guo Dong has always urged himself to give of himself for the benefit of all, purify human minds and build a pure land on earth, bring monastic and lay practitioners together, and make full use of expertise and collaborative efforts. As for charity work, he has enthusiastically devoted himself to many activities of emergency and disaster relief either in Taiwan or overseas to give caring assistance to the victims.
Besides his ceaseless visits to devotees, Ven. Guo Dong has traveled frequently to many parts of the world, such as the United States, Canada, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Mainland China and Hong Kong, to propagate the Dharma. In many large-scale seminars, campus lectures, or Dharma talks for businesses, communities, and non-profit organizations, the venerable can often be found to share the Dharma with his own unique style of humorous witticism, vividly conveying the expedient Buddhist wisdom that connected to the audiences. Their often enthusiastic responses reflect his ingenious approach to introduce Buddhist teachings.
During his terms as DDM's abbot president, the venerable has been most popular with devotees through his words of wisdom distilled from his life. For example, he urges people to embrace a tender mind by “cherishing each and every opportunity of encounter with each other, and appreciating all the changes and twists and turns in our life.” Borrowing from his 12 years of experiences in leading the DDM sangha, he often liked to share his personal adage that reads: “Understand the phenomenon, tolerate the situation, keep on communicating, and improve our own practice.” His authored books, including Make Vows, Not Complaints; Forgive and Let Go, to Form and Live in Favorable Conditions; and Building a Family of Blessings and Wisdom reflect his personal philosophy on how to help ourselves and others enjoy a peaceful body and mind, good health, well-being, and happiness.
He upholds harmony and sincere honesty in dealing with people and things, and he is a person of principles, always happy to reach out to communicate with people. After leaving his position, Ven. Guo Dong will help the newly elected abbot president with DDM's Dharma endeavors, by carrying out Master Sheng Yen's teaching that “Wherever there is a need, I will go and give of myself, to serve,” to continue his commitment in Buddhist social care and exchange with various fields of society.