The Bodhi Seal of the Patriarchs

Eighth Tien Tai Patriarch Venerable Ching Hsi Chan Jan

Commentary by Tripitaka Master Hsuan Hua

      THE VENERABLE ONE'S FAMILY NAME WAS CH'I. HIS FAMILY WAS ORIGINALLY CONFUCIAN. WHEN HE WAS SEVENTEEN HE WENT IN SEARCH OF THE WAY. ON THE RIGHT OF THE CHIANG river HE MET MASTER CHIN JUA FANG YEN WHO TRANSMITTED THE DHARMA OF STOPPING AND CONTEMPLATING. The Dharma of stopping means to stop your false thoughts. The Dharma of contemplating means to contemplate proper mindfulness. In the T'ien T'ai school there are three contemplations: empty, false, and middle. You contemplate all dharmas as being empty, all dharmas as being false, and in this way you come to realize the Middle Way.

      AT AGE TWENTY HE WENT TO STUDY WITH THE VENERABLE TSO HSI, the Seventh Patriarch of the T'ien T'ai school. HE HAD A DREAM IN WHICH HE SAW HIMSELF CLOTHED IN THE ROBE OF A LEFT HOME PERSON AND CLUTCHING TWO WHEELS UNDER HIS ARMS AS HE SWAM IN A GREAT RIVER. Sometimes dreams are just false; sometimes they are prophetic. The Buddhas and Bodhisattva don't just create visions for you and reveal their spiritual penetrations.

Well, perhaps sometimes they do, but not always. Sometimes they use dreams in order to advise you. This is because when you are asleep you are freed from a lot of your ordinary false thinking so they can reach to your one true heart and you'll be able to listen to them. They will just slip in a state to teach you something. THE VENERABLE TSO HSI SAID, "AH! DOESN'T THIS JUST MEAN YOU SHOULD TAKE THESE TWO DHARMAS OF STOPPING AND CONTEMPLATING AND HELP LIVING BEINGS ACROSS THE SEA OF BIRTH AND DEATH BY MEANS OF THEM?" Don't you think that's what it means? AFTER THAT HE TRANSMITTED THE WAY OF TEACHING CONTEMPLATION.

AT THIRTY-EIGHT HE HAD HIS HEAD SHAVED AND RECEIVED THE PRECEPTS. THEN HE PROPAGATED THE WONDERFUL DHARMA AND WAS ABLE TO INCLUDE MYRIAD KINDS OF PRACTICE WITHIN IT. HE EXPLAINED ALL THE TEACHINGS OF THE PATRIARCHS AND WAS AUTHOR OF A RECORD AND TEXT, WHICH WERE WIDELY CIRCULATED. HE USED THE SUDDEN PERFECT TEACHING OF THE ONE SPECIALIZATION. The one specialization refers to the T'ien T'ai school. THOSE WITH UNDERSTANDING SAID, "IF VENERABLE CHING HSI HAD NOT BEEN BORN, THE PERFECT PRINCIPLE I COULD HAVE DIED OUT. The sudden perfect teaching would have been lost forever. IN THE T'IEN PAU REIGN PERIOD of the T'ang Dynasty, HE WAS SUMMONED THREE TIMES BY THE EMPEROR. THRICE, HE PLEADED ILLNESS AND REFUSED THE INVITATIONS. IN HIS LATTER YEARS HE WENT BACK TO FWO LUNG AND AFTER SIGNS OF SLIGHT ILLNESS ONE DAY HE FINISHED THE DHARMA LECTURE, LAY DOWN ON A PLATFORM AND DEPARTED. THE VENERABLE PERFECT PENETRATION WAS HIS POSTHUMUS TITLE.

A VERSE IN HIS PRAISE READS:

THE TEACHINGS OF THE T'IEN T'AI SCHOOL HAP NOT ALL BEEN TAUGHT; ITS PATH HAD NOT BEEN BROADENED.

BUT ONCE THE MASTER RECEIVED THESE DHARMAS THE FUTURE LOOKED VERY BRIGHT.

HE HIMSELF CARRIED TWO WHEELS AND ROAMED ABOUT EVERYWHERE.

UNDERSTANDING ALL WHICH WAS ESOTERIC, WITH GREAT ELOQUENCE,

HE FIRMLY PLANTED THE MOST SUPREME BANNER.

ANOTHER VERSE IN HIS PRAISE SAYS:

THE VENERABLE CHAN JAN WAS CALLED CHING HSI.

ORIGINALLY HIS HOUSEHOLD WAS CONFUCIAN.

AT SEVENTEEN HE SOUGHT THE WAY WITH VIGOROUS CULTIVATION.

AT THIRTY-SEVEN HE SHAVED HIS HEAD AND CULTIVATED FOR BODHI.

HE HAD A VAST UNDERSTANDING OF THE PERFECT TEACHING.

IN THE DOCTRINE OF THE SUDDEN SCHOOL HE WAS THOROUGHLY VERSED.

HE AWAKENED TO THE PRINCIPLES THEN TAUGHT THOSE WHO WERE READY.

HE WOULDN'T RESPOND TO THE ROYAL REQUEST.

HE WAS A TRUE SANGHA JEWEL.