The Chan tradition began with the story of Śākyamuni Buddha twirling a flower and smiling, and transmitting the dharma to Mahākāśyapa. In India, the transmission continued for twenty-eight generations, and the twenty-eighth patriarch, Bodhidharma, established the Chan lineage in China. From Bodhidharma, the first Chan patriarch, to Huineng, the sixth Patriarch, the Chan school continued the single-transmission tradition, and after Master Huineng, the Chan school expanded like a blossoming five-petalled flower. Since then, Linji, Caodong, Weiyang, Fayan and Yunmen became the five dominant lineages of Chinese Chan. From the Song Dynasty and beyond, Linji and Caodong became the dominant lineages, and were introduced to Japan, becoming the Rinzai and Sōtō schools, respectively.
Master Sheng Yen was a dharma-heir of both Linji and Caodong traditions. He received the Linji dharma transmission from Master Lingyuan and the Caodong dharma transmission from Master Dongchu. In addition to teaching Linji’s huatoumethod of Chan meditation, he was also instrumental in reviving and transmitting Caodong Silent Illumination meditation in modern Buddhism. After mastering these two methods, Master Sheng Yen consolidated the teachings of various Indian and Chinese Buddhist traditions, consulted what had been practiced in Korea, Japan, and Vietnam, included the samatha of Southeast Asian Buddhism and the gradual method of the Tibetan tradition to establish the Dharma Drum School of Chinese Chan in 2005. Master Sheng Yen transmitted his dharma lineage to about twenty monastics and lay practitioners. Across the globe, these dharma-heirs continue to propagate Buddhism and the Chan methods of Master Sheng Yen.