By Tripitaka
 Master Hsuan Hua


      Tonight I will speak about the Thirty-seventh Patriarch, Dhyana Master Ling Yu.  In the Chinese lineage he is the Tenth Patriarch, and in our own school, the Wei Yang Sect, he is the first.

      His life was different from that of ordinary people. When he was a young child, he played "bowing to the Buddha". He led other small children in bowing to the Buddha, and imitated the manner of bhiksus in reciting sutras.  Most people referred to him as the "little master”.  At that time he had not yet left home.

      One day, while playing in his front yard, making temples and bowing to the Buddha, an auspicious cloud of miraculous energy manifested above his head in empty space, floating and swirling about.  It did not disperse but revolved and swirled above him; from within this cloud could be heard the sound of heavenly music, music played in empty space.  Moreover, an appearance like that of the true body of the Buddha could be seen within the cloud--there, and then not there.  It was like Ch'en Using Kuo, in Fresno, who one day saw Kuan Yin Bodhisattva.  He went to get his camera to take a picture, but when he returned, there was nothing there. He is the son of Lu My Cha; his roots are not bad.

When this auspicious cloud of miraculous energy manifested in empty space, not only did Dhyana Master Ling Yu see it, but many men, women, elders, and children also say it. It neither moved nor scattered. Just then, from one knows not where, came an elder. He looked as if he had come from the mountaintops; he also looked like a person from Yun Nan. He said, “This magical state, this auspicious cloud of miraculous energy, has been made manifest by all the Buddhas of the ten directions, and the multitude of sages. This child is a genuine son of the Buddha. In the future he will surely cause the Buddha’s teachings to shine greatly.” The child’s parents also heard this and considered it extremely strange. After the elder finished speaking, he flicked his fingers four times at the cloud of energy and disappeared. People then thought that the ‘little master” would some day certainly be a great master.

      Dhyana Master Ling Yu was from Fu Chien, Ch'ang Hsi, and his family name was Chiao. After the event described above, he did not involve himself in other matters, but returned to Fu Chou, his home, and there bowed to Vinaya Master Fa Heng as his Master.   He began cultivating bitter practices, and was extremely vigorous every day.  He was not afraid of hard work, and in fact did twice the amount of work done by the other sramanera and bhiksus.  It can even be said that his work could not be done by three other people.

      He cultivated bitter practices there for three or four years, after which he cut off his hair and left home.  At that time he was twenty years old.  When he was twenty-three he went to receive the precepts, after which he went to Hang Chou, where there was a great good knowing advisor with whom he studied the Vinaya. After studying the Vinaya he departed for Kuo Ch'ing Temple on T'ien T'ai Mountain. When he was halfway there he met Great Master Han Shan, who, in his wild way, said to him,

"A thousand mountains, ten thousand waters;
Encountering the pool, stop there.
Obtain the priceless jewel,
Bestow it on posterity."

      Dhyana Master Ling Yu did not understand what this meant. As he continued walking he thought to himself, "A thousand mountains, ten thousand waters; encountering the pool, stop there. Obtain the priceless jewel, bestow it on posterity." When he became fatigued he sat in meditation and thought of these four lines: “What principle is there in this—a thousand mountains, ten thousand waters; encountering the pool, stop there. Obtain the priceless jewel, bestow it on posterity.” He walked a while, then stopped, sat down, and reflected upon these words until he arrived at Kuo Ch’ing Temple. Upon his arrival he met another strange character, Shih Te. He told Shih Te about the person he had met, what he had been told, and that he didn’t understand what it meant.

Shih Te said, “You don’t understand? Gradually you will. Now you should cultivate—do the work.” So he investigated dhyana and practiced concentration. He had special conditions with Shih Te, and they were together every day.

      After a while he heard that Dhyana Master Pai Chang was at Ta Hsiung Mountain in Hung Chou, propagating the true pulse of Ts’ao Hsi(The Sixth Patriarch’s Bodhimandala), and so he went to sit beneath his dharma seat. When he arrived he was treated especially well by Dhyana Master Pai Chang who ordered him to be the kitchen manager. The kitchen manager tells the cook what food should be made each day. For example, if there are twenty people, he gives the cook twenty servings of rice; if there are thirty people, he gives him thirty servings. He tells the cook whether there will be people coming or not, whether there will be many people or few. The kitchen manager watches over other jobs, the holders of which must abide by his management: the cook is called the food-head, and the tea maker is called the tea-head. There are times when the tea-head goes on strike, and the kitchen manager assumes the job of tea-head. If the food-head does not get up in the morning, the kitchen manager helps prepare the food. If the fire-head is lazy, the kitchen manager must help light the fires. In tending the fires, the fire-head lights and stirs the fires. One day, when stirring a fire, Dhyana Master Ling Yu opened enlightenment and said, “Originally it’s just this way.”

      Dhyana Master Pai Chang knew that he had opened enlightenment, called for him, and said, “Ta Wei Mountain in Hunan is an extremely fine place. A Bodhimandala should be built there. I am unable to go because my dharma conditions are in Chiang His, so you should go there and propagate the Buddhadharma. Go to Ta Wei Mountain, build a temple, and continue to transmit the Dhyana School without allowing it to be cut off. Save those of posterity.”

      Master Hua Lin overheard this conversation and came to fight for the new abbot's position. He said, "I am the senior-seated master here; if there is to be a Bodhimandala opened, it should be done by me. How can a kitchen manager receive such orders? He is not the senior-seated, but only an ordinary staff member."

      What could Dhyana Master Pai Chang do?  He had told one person to be abbot, and another came to fight for the position. So he replied, "You want to be the new abbot?  If you are able to say something special to the assembly, causing them to respect and praise you, then you can be abbot."  He then pointed at a pure water bottle that was in front of the Buddha altar and said, "Without calling this a bottle, what do you call it?  What is another name for it?"

      Great Master Hua Lin thought it over and said, "No matter what, it can't be called wood."  He thought that was an answer but didn't know if it was right or not. He knew that the bottle was not made of wood, and therefore said that it could not be called wood.

Dhyana Master Pai Chang then turned to Dhyana Master Ling Yu and asked, "What do you call it?"  He kicked over the bottle and walked out.  What did this mean?

      Since basically there isn't anything, what can it be called?  It originally doesn't have a name since there isn't anything. So when Dhyana Master Pai Chang asked, "If you don't call it a bottle, what do you call it?", Dhyana Master Ling Yu knew that it was empty, that there wasn't anything.  But Master Hua Lin did not understand and answered, "I can't call it wood."  Dhyana Master Ling Yu kicked it over and walked out.  Dhyana Master Pai Chang laughed and said, "You've just lost the first-seat host position to the kitchen manager."

      So Dhyana Master Ling Yu went to Ta Wei Mountain, built T'ung Ch'ing Temple and inaugurated the Wei Yang Sect. His epitaph says:

"Kicking over the pure bottle,
The Wei Mountain waves arise.
The Water buffalo crosswise sleeps,
The green willow shades within.
With neither quiet nor leisure,
Which one knows.
One branch puts forth
The breath of spring,
Peaches and plums."

      I will now speak of his experiences at Ta Wei Mountain. Dhyana Master Pai Chang had instructed him to go to Ta Wei Mountain and be the abbot, but there wasn’t even a hut there. He hadn’t built a temple for him and then sent him to be the new abbot. No. He told him to go and build one himself. “If you build it well, you can be abbot. If you don’t build it so well, then don’t be the abbot.

      Obeying the instructions of Dhyana Master Pai Chang, he first went to Hunan, Ch'ang Sha, and then on to Ta Wei Mountain.  On first sight he thought, "This place isn't bad."  It was, however, far from the cities, and few people ever went there.  Those who did were hunters.  The mountain was a home for wild animals, wolves, tigers, bears, and leopards.  The most abundant species of animal were the monkeys.

      Dhyana Master Ling Yu found a good place on the mountain, and sat there in meditation.  Strangely enough, monkeys brought things for him to eat, making offerings to him. One would bring a peach, another a banana; they brought anything that was edible. More than ten monkeys made offerings to him, and thus he had sufficient food.  It was good play, and he received more than ten monkeys as disciples.  He spoke the three refuges for them, and they were most obedient, every day taking turns caring for him.  They took turns making offerings to him and were extremely sincere, because there were very few people there.

      After a week or so, hunters saw monkeys making offerings to the Master and they also wished to do the same. So they collected together some money and built him a small hut in which he could cultivate.

      This news eventually reached an official named Li Ching Jang in Hu Pei, Hunan, who thought, "Monkeys make offerings to this old cultivator; the wild animals do not eat him, and the monkeys become his disciples; he is certainly one with the great virtue of the Way," and went to see for himself. It was just as he had been told. There were monkeys watching the door and taking care of the old cultivator.  Upon seeing this, he too wished to help, and said to Dhyana Master Ling Yu, "You should build a temple. Wait and I will talk with Prime Minister P'ei who deeply believes in the Buddha.  I will encourage him to come and help you build a temple."

      When Prime Minister P'ei Hsiu heard of this strange matter of wild animals taking refuge, he went to see Dhyana Master Ling Yu.  After seeing the small hut in which there was not even room for two to sit, he said, “I will give you 30 pounds of silver for the purpose of building a temple.” He then put 30 pounds of silver in the grass outside the hut and left.

Prime Minister P’ei was quite busy, and it was not until three years later that he had time to return and see how the temple had been built. 30 pounds of silver was the equivalent of about three million dollars today, because at that time money was not so worthless. One or two ounces of silver could accomplish quite a bit. When Prime Minister P’ei returned he found that there was still just a small hut. “What has he done with the 30 pounds of silver?” he thought, “This is very strange.”  Then he said to Dhyana Master Ling Yu, “I gave you 30 pounds of silver and told you to build a temple. Why haven’t you done so? What have you done with the 30 pounds of silver?”

      Dhyana Master Ling Yu said, "Oh.  You gave me 30 pounds of silver?  Where did you put it?"

"I put it in the grass outside your hut."

"Then go look for it in the grass."

Minister P'ei went outside, looked, and found the 30 pounds of silver still there; nobody had moved it. He thought, "Ohhhh, this is a genuine cultivator."  So, with the Emperor's permission, he voluntarily built a temple named T'ung Ch'ing Temple for Dhyana Master Ling Yu.

      Prime Minister Ts'ui, who also deeply believed in and respected Dhyana Master Ling Yu, followed Prime Minister P'ei.  He also helped the Master to propagate the Buddhadharma.

      On the ninth day of the first month of the year Kuei Yu, in the reign period Ta Chung, the Master called all his disciples together and said, "Today I am going to leave, and I wish to say goodbye to you." After saying this he brushed his teeth, washed his face, and cleaned himself up. Then, sitting in full lotus, he closed his eyes and entered nirvana. He was 83 years old and his precept years were 59. This Dhyana Master established the Wei Yang Sect.  Later an official named Lu Chien Ch'iu erected a stone tablet in commemoration of the Master. This tablet is probably still there. After his death, his disciples put his grave on the right hand side of the mountain, in the Gardenia Garden.  His grave is still there in Hunan.

      All of you should reflect on this. Even though 30 pounds of silver is not a great deal, in three years he did not even so much as look at it. Would you not say that concentration, greedlessness, and strength of morality power such as this is worthy of the monkey’s respect? Did wild animals eat him or not? So it is said, “The lofty way subdues dragons and tigers; the multitude of virtues, ghosts and spirits respect.” In cultivation it is only feared that you will not have the virtue of the Way. If you have the virtue of the Way, when dragons see you they coil up, when tigers see you they lie down, like cats who are at ease with people. If you have virtuous conduct, when ghosts and spirits see you, they are respectful and bow. Why don’t ghosts bow to you? Because you don’t have virtuous conduct. Why don’t spirits worship you? Because you have no virtuous conduct.

      People with the virtue of the Way can receive a response, like Dhyana Master Ling Yu. Monkeys took refuge with him, and wild animals made obeisance to him. If all of the details were spoken, there would be too much, so I have told it very briefly.


     Previous translations of the SIXTH PATRIARCH’S SUTRA, in spite of their eloquence, have occasionally missed the original intention and have not penetrated the meaning. As a remedy for these failings, members of the Buddhist Text Translation Society are working together to make a complete and accurate translation. The cultivating Bhiksus and Bhiksunis, laymen, and students and scholars of Chinese are carefully editing the work and its detailed commentary. If you want to investigate the genuine Buddhadharma, this is the Sutra to study.

      Even though others may have lectured this Sutra, this is the first time the mind seal dharma-door of the Great Master, the Sixth Patriarch, has been opened and spoken clearly for the benefit of all who hear. Those who wish to cultivate, to actually do the work, do not want to miss this publication of the best translation and commentary ever compiled. Those who have not digested it have not adequately investigated the Buddhadharma.

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