Bhikshuni (Gwo Ywan) Heng Syin was born in China. She came from an eminent family. Her maternal great grandfather was a famous general, Zuo Baogui, and her matel great grandmother was a daughter in a rich family. Her father was a national assemblyman. At the age of six, she moved to Taiwan and later graduated from National Cheng Chi University. In the early 70s, she immigrated to the United States.
While she was in America, a friend told her about a Buddhist temple in San Francisco. Thinking it would be like going on a field trip, she responded with enthusiasm when asked if she would like to visit that temple. She saw the Venerable Master Hua when she visited Gold Mountain Monastery (GMM). Later, she went to GMM again to participate in a weeklong meditation session.
After that, she went to GMM several times. Eventually, she purchased her own copy of the Venerable Master Hua’s Commentary on the
Wonderful Dharma Lotus Flower Sutra at GMM, so that she could study the Buddhadharma on her own. That was the turning point of her life. When she read the Sutra, she became aware of the “great matter of birth and death.” Realizing the urgency of ending birth and death, she decided to take refuge and also aspired to leave the home-life to become a monastic.
The seed she had planted during her first visit to GMM was ripening. She called up GMM to tell the Venerable Master Hua that she wanted to leave the householder’s life. However, she did not get to speak to the Master. The person who received her call, phoned her later to ask why she had called. When she expressed her wish, she was advised to go to the Sagely City of 10,000 Buddhas (CTTB). In 1984, she traveled from San Francisco to CTTB in the same car with the Venerable Master.
When she was in CTTB, she asked the Venerable Master several times for permission to leave the home life, but the Master told her to wait. Three years later she arrived at CTTB, and there were people who were preparing to shave their heads. The Master then asked her if she wanted to leave home, but she did not want to anymore. Nevertheless, around 1989, she decided to renounce the householder’s life and was instructed to enter the training for ordination.
In the early 90s, Bhikshuni Heng Syin served as the Registrar and the Director of Admissions for Dharma Realm Buddhist University (DRBU). She was part of the Venerable Master’s delegation when he toured Asia and Europe. She also traveled to China with a delegation of Bhikshus, and visited South America with a delegation of Bhikshunis. She is involved in translation projects and has taught in both the Girls’ and the Boys’ Schools in CTTB as well as at Dharma Realm Buddhist University. She was the president of the monthly journal,
Vajra Bodhi Sea (VBS), from November 1993 to October 2002. She currently takes care of the elderly nuns in CTTB and serves as coordinator for the female residents of CTTB.
Bhikshuni Heng Syin, endowed with innate intelligence and a quick mind, is fond of the Chinese classics. Her command of both Chinese and English is excellent. The Venerable Master praised her eloquence and superior judgment. He also pointed out that in her previous life she was an official who accumulated blessings from doing good deeds, which has resulted in her distinguished appearance and heroic quality. In recognition of her academic background and experience, at the first DRBA Sangha Meeting in 2003 the Sangha unanimously elected her to the DRBA Board of Directors. Despite the many positions she holds, she never tires of working on compiling, preserving and perpetuating the precious Dharma jewels given by the Venerable Master.