THE BODHI SEAL OF THE PATRIARCHS
THIRD PATRIARCH OF THE T'IEN T'AI SCHOOL, VENERABLE GREAT MASTER CHIH CHE
Commentary by Tripitaka Master Hsuan Hua
GREAT MASTER CHIH YI WAS THE SON OF THE CHAN FAMILY IN CHING CHOU. AT AGE EIGHTEEN HE WENT TO KUO YUEN MONASTERY TO LEAVE THE HOME LIFE AND STUDIED AND PENETRATED DHARMA FLOWER. He penetrated the Lotus Sutra. HE THEN WENT TO GREAT SHU TO BOW TO HUI SSE. At that time the Great Master Hui Sse was at Great Shu Mountain. UPON SEEING HIM, SSE SAID, "IN THE PAST WE LISTENED TO THE DHARMA FLOWER TOGETHER ON VULTURE PEAK. When the Buddha was in the world, we both heard him speak the Wonderful Dharma Lotus Flower Sutra Vulture Mountain." That's just like at present all of you are listening to the Surangama Mantra explanation here at the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas. And if you are not confused about your nature, even after thousands of years when you meet again, you'll still remember this. THIS IS DUE TO THE CATCHING UP OF PAST CONDITIONS. Why do some of us meet and feel immediately at home with each other? It is because of past affinities that are deep, so we gather together again in this lifetime. "SO YOU HAVE COME AGAIN!" Master Hui Sse said, "You've come again!"
THEREUPON HE INSTRUCTED HIM ABOUT THE WAY-PLACE OF UNIVERSAL WORTHY. Master Hui Sse instructed him in the Dharmas which Universal Worthy Bodhisattva cultivates. AND HE SPOKE THE FOUR EASY AND HAPPY PRACTICES FOR HIM, that is he spoke the "Comfortable Conduct Chapter" of the Lotus.
ONE DAY, WHILE RECITING THE SUTRA, COMING TO THE PHRASE "THIS IS TRUE VIGOR..." This is the passage which describes Medicine King Bodhisattva burning his body as an offering to the Buddhas. Nowadays we can't bear to part with this or with that, but Medicine King Bodhisattva, an emperor, renounced his royal but worldly position and aspired to the Buddhadharma instead. Further, he was willing to burn his body as an offering to the Buddha. Who is willing to do this nowadays? I have made a vow that if I live to be a hundred years old, I will burn my body as an offering to the Buddhas. After all, by the time you're that old there's nothing much you can do with your body. What better thing than to burn it as an offering to the Buddhas? This is just my wish, I don't know whether I can fulfill it. Time will tell.
The passage from the Lotus continues: "THIS IS CALLED MAKING OFFERINGS TO THE TATHAGATAS IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE PROPER DHARMA." This is the right way to make offerings to the Buddhas. ALL OF A SUDDEN HIS BODY AND MIND OPENED UP IN BRIGHTNESS. All of a sudden his body and mind just vanished. There was no more of anything. At this point:
Inside you contemplate your mind but there is no mind;
Outside you contemplate your shape but there is no shape;
Looking afar you contemplate objects, but there are no objects.
There was nothing whatsoever left. IN STILLNESS HE ENTERED CONTEMPLATION. He entered samadhi. THE CAUSES FOR UPHOLDING DEVELOPED IN SILENCE. During this time, the causes with which he upheld the Lotus Sutra developed in silence. Even in samadhi he was reciting the Lotus Sutra all the way from "Thus I have heard" in the beginning to "bowed and withdrew" in the end. In waking he was reciting the Sutra, in dreaming he was reciting the Sutra. Walking, standing, sitting, and reclining, he was immersed in the Sutra. ABOUT TO CERTIFY, HE ASKED MASTER SSE. At this point, whether in talking, being silent, in moving, or being still he was totally immersed in reciting the Dharma Flower Sutra. So he went to ask Master Hui Sse about this. He related the states to which he had certified.
SSE SAID, "HAD IT NOT BEEN YOU, NO ONE ELSE COULD CERTIFY TO THIS." That is, if it were someone else, they wouldn't have certified to this state. "HAD IT NOT BEEN ME, NO ONE ELSE WOULD RECOGNIZE THIS. Even if you had certified to this state, if it had not been me, no one else would have recognized this state you had attained to. THE SAMADHI YOU ENTERED IS THE DHARMA FLOWER SAMADHI. THE FORMER WAS THE EXPEDIENT, THAT WHICH BROUGHT FORTH THE MAINTENANCE WAS THE REVOLVING DHARANI. This refers to the Dharani of the Lotus Sutra, which keeps on revolving non-stop. At all moments he was immersed in this dharani. Even in his dreams he was reciting the Dharma Flower Sutra.
IN HIS OLD AGE HE ENTERED T'IEN T'AI, he retired to T'ien T'ai Mountain. EMPEROR YANG OUT OF REVERENCE TITLED HIM TOE WISE ONE, ON HIS DEATHBED HE PRAISED THE NAMES OF THE TRIPLE JEWEL. At the time he was about to enter the stillness, he sang the praises of the Triple Jewel, "Homage to the Buddha, Homage to the Dharma, Homage to the Sangha," AND ENTERED THE TRANSFORMATION. He entered the stillness.
HIS POSTHUMUS TITLE WAS DHARMA EMPTINESS JEWELED ENLIGHTENMENT MAGICAL WISDOM VENERABLE ONE. A VERSE IN HIS PRAISE SAYS,
ENTRUSTED TO COME, NOW THEY MEET AGAIN.
OBTAINING TOE HERITAGE OF NAN YAO, HE QUICKLY BECAME CLEAR AND ENLIGHTENED.
SOLELY MANIFESTING TOE KING OF SUTRAS, TOE DHARMA RAIN CAME DOWN IN PROFUSION.
PROPAGATING AND MAINTAINING LIKE HIS MASTER, HE DID NOT FAIL TO LIVE UP TO HIS TRUST.
Both Great Master Chih Che and Great Master Hui Sse were entrusted by the Buddha with coming to China. Master Chih Che personally obtained the transmission of the Dharma from Great Master Hui Sse of Nan Yao. He solely upheld the Dharma Flower Sutra, the King of Sutras, and obtained samadhi from it. The rain of Dharma was abundant. He did not fail to live up to the Buddha's intent and came to China to propagate the Buddhadharma.
A VERSE OF PRAISE BY THE ABBOT HUA:
TOGETHER THEY LISTENED TO THE DHARMA FLOWER ON VULTURE MOUNTAIN.
IN A WHILE THEY MET AGAIN AND THIS WAS NO COINCIDENCE.
HAD IT NOT BEEN YOU, NO ONE ELSE COULD CERTIFY, AND I ALONE RECOGNIZE THIS.
THIS WAY SHOULD BE CULTIVATED THIS DHARMA ALSO NEED AFFINITIES.
THE ATMOSPHERE AT NAN YAO IS STRICT AND PRECARIOUS.
THE SCHOOL OF T'IEN T'AI PERVADES THE GREAT THOUSAND WORLDS.
THE SCHOLARS WHO FOLLOWED TOE TEACHING UNDERSTOOD THEIR ORIGINAL NATURE.
LOOKING UP AT IT, IT GROWS HIGHER, PROBING INTO IT, IT GROWS FIRMER.
In India on vulture Mountain they listened to the Dharma Flower Sutra together so now in China they meet again. This was no chance meeting; the affinities were set up a long time ago. "Only you could have certified to this state, and only I could have recognized it. Nobody else could have done this," was the seal of Sse.
The Way has to be cultivated, if you don't cultivate, how can there be the Way? Virtue has to be created, if you don't create virtue, where can virtue be found?
The teaching under Master Sse of Nan Yao was strict and lofty. Afterwards, Great Master Chih Che propagated the T'ien T'ai School and it was popular all over China.
Those who actually practiced the teaching of the T'ien T'ai School understood their minds and saw their natures. However, if you do not follow the teachings, then the more you look at them, the higher they get; the more you bore into them, the more solid they become so you can't drill through.
The T'ien T'ai School was founded around the teachings of the Dharma Flower Sutra.
A VERSE IN PRAISE OF THE SECOND PATRIARCH GREAT MASTER HUI SSE SAYS:
A CHILD PRODIGY OF GENIUS CALIBER HIS COMPREHENSION WAS KEEN.
HE FELT FOND REGARD FOR THE DHARMA FLOWER THAT WORLD TRANSCENDING TEXT.
HOLDING THE SUTRA HE WEPT IN LAMENT THAT IT IS SO HARD TO MEET.
THE CITY WALLS WOULD NOT STAND; HE LEFT TO AVOID TOE FALL.
THE RENOWN OF NAN YAO'S WAY CROWNED THE TRIPLE REALM.
STUDENTS OF THE T'IEN T'AI WILL BRIGHTEN TEN THOUSAND SPRINGS.
HE CALLED HIS CLOSEST DISCIPLES TO TELL THEM ALL TOE NEWS.
THE GREAT ASSEMBLY WAS SILENT EXCEPT FOR TOE SOUND OF TEARS.
-By Master Hua
The Master's commentary on the verse:
Great Master Hui Sse, the Second Patriarch of the T'ien T'ai School, was endowed with exceptional intelligence. His understanding transcended the ordinary. The sutra he liked best was the Wonderful Dharma Lotus Flower Sutra. He shed tears over it because he realized how difficult it is to encounter the Buddhadharma. He was residing the Northern Ch'i but knew that the dynasty was about to change hands. He foresaw the fate of that country and went to Nan Yao Mountain to live in a grass hut. The cultivation at Nan Yao was reputed as rare in the Triple World. The people who study the T'ien T'ai School will be many indeed. In continuous succession without interruption, there will be many, many scholars.
Great Master Hui Sse called together ill of his "room entering" disciples to let them know he was about to die. He wanted eighteen people to cultivate the Dharma Flower Repentance, but the general attitude among his disciples was, "Die, if you're going to, but we don't intend to bow the repentance." His disciples were quite bold and heroic, weren't they? No one in the assembly spoke. No one answered his request. That just indicates that everyone was crying. The reason they didn't answer was because they didn't want to cultivate. Even if it meant their teacher's death, they weren't going to cultivate. Such filial disciples!
EARLY PUBLICATIONS FROM BTTS:
THE AMITABHA SUTRA, paperbound, 204 pages.
THE VAJRA SUTRA, paperbound, 192 pages.
THE DHARANI SUTRA, paperbound with woodcuts, 352 pages. A vital Secret School Sutra.
THE SUTRA OF TOE PAST VOWS OF EARTH STORE BODHISATTVA, hard cover and paperbound, 235 pages.
THE SIXTH PATRIARCH'S DHARMA JEWEL PLATFORM SUTRA, hard cover and paperbound, 380 pages.
THE WONDERFUL DHARMA LOTUS FLOWER SUTRA, VOLUMES I, II, III, IV, cover the first three chapters of the Sutra. Known as the "Sutra for Accomplishing Buddhahood," the LOTUS is filled with stories, verses, biographies, traditional definitions of terms, lists, mind ground instructions, and Real Mark Teaching in the commentary spoken by Venerable Master Hua. The timeless principles of this King of Sutras are essential to the practice of the Way. VOLUME V available early 1980.
MORE FROM BTTS
Sutra, Volumes I, II, III.