The Bodhi Seal of the Patriarchs

The Sixteenth Tien Tai Patriarch Venerable  Fa Ch ih

by Venerable Master Hua
Translated by Bhikshuni Heng Ch'ih
 Reviewed by Bhikshuni Heng Tao

      The Venerable One was named Chih Li. He was from Sse Ming and his family name was Chin. His mother dreamed that a Holy Sanghan came leading a child by the hand and bestowed him upon her saying, "This is the Buddha's son Rahula." Thereupon she was with child. The boy was blessed with an exceptionally clear and spiritual nature. At fifteen years old he received the complete precepts. He studied the T'ien T'ai teachings and contemplations with Master Pau Yun.

      His father once had a dream that Master Yun took a vessel and poured water into the boy's mouth. From then on the youth immediately understood and received the essence of the Perfect Sudden Teaching.

      After Master Yun entered the stillness, the Venerable Chih also dreamt that he himself bore two holes in the head of Venerable Yun, put a string through it, and carried it around on his left arm. The Venerable Chih himself interpreted the dream this way: "First it represents the propagation of the reception and practice. Second, it symbolizes the grasping of the 'head' of the wisdom of all modes and carrying it throughout the world to teach and transform."

      He expansively explored questions of a transcendental nature and discovered the orthodox principles of the T'ien T'ai, which subsequently flourished greatly and which were the source of his renown.

      In the sixth year of the T'ien Shen reign period he made his departure while reciting the Buddha's name. After two weeks the casket was opened to reveal his countenance which was fresh as if alive. Upon cremation, his tongue did not burn, and uncountable numbers of five-colored sharira were found in his ashes.

A verse in his praise says:

The T'ien T'ai school was hampered and crippled
Not long after its resurgence.
It relied upon a
True Son of the Buddha
To grasp the 'head'
of the wisdom of a11 modes.
He brushed away the reckonings of heterodox ways
And emitted the lion's roar.
With but a single perfect word
He quieted the many mouths.

Another verse in his praise says:

Like a dragon was the lad
named Chin from Sse Ming.
The stupid were taught by seeming
illusions of three dreams.
"Covering Obstacle" was born again in the Saha world.
The Holy Sanghan escorted him, with repeated enjoinments.
Sweet Dew anointed his mouth,
opening him to sharp wisdom.
His vast and long tongue
flowed forth the Dharma's sound.
Five-colored sharira
could not be counted to the end.
Arriving at this,
the T'ien T'ai teaching flourished.