Bodhi Seal of the Patriarchs

MASTER FA SHUN 
THE FIRST PATRIARCH OF THE AVATAMSAKA SCHOOL

--Composed by the Venerable Master Hua

      --Translated by Disciple Bhiksu Heng Shou


      Master Fa Shun of I Shan Monastery in Yung Chou was born into the Tu family and a citizen of Ch'ang An in Wan Nien County. He left home at the age of eighteen, and upon receiving full ordination devoted his life to the study and practice of the principles in The Avatamsaka Sutra. His rare spiritual abilities were abundant, for he could drive insects away from the crops, tame the fiercest beasts, expel all evil forces, and restore health to the sick. He even caused the deaf to hear and the mute to speak.

           Once Master Shun and his entire following wished to ford the swollen current of the Yellow River. Suddenly the flow ceased, and the waters parted. Then, when the entire party had safely reached the opposite shore, the river surged on once again. Such were the manifold miracles performed by Patriarch Fa Shun.

The T'ang Dynasty Emperor T'ai Tsung often sought the presence of the Master at court, and gave him the name Ti Hsin, "The Imperial Mind." In the year 641 C.E., the Master assumed the full lotus posture and departed, leaving his body appearing as if it were still alive. It then perfumed the room with a rare and wonderful fragrance.


      Once a disciple left the Master's company to undertake a long pilgrimage to Wu T'ai Mountain hoping to personally worship Bodhisattva Manjusri. Upon inquiring into the whereabouts of the sage when he arrived, an old man confided, "The Bodhisattva Manjusri left Wu T'ai Mountain some time ago, and now he dwells at Chung Nan Mountain where he is known as Master Fa Shun. Startled and ashamed, the disciple hurriedly returned to continue serving his teacher, but was disappointed indeed, for when he returned he found that the Patriarch had just entered Nirvana.


      This patriarch poured all of his energy into cultivation of The Avatamsaka Sutra's doctrine, and wrote The Dharma realm Contemplation as well as The Contemplation on Return to the Source. He transmitted the Dharma to disciples Chih Yen, Hsien Shou, and others.

A eulogy states:

The Flower Garland's teachings reach

Afar like endless seas,

Whose water's vast expanse and depth

Defy our reckoning.

Had his wisdom been too shallow, how

Could he view the ocean floor?

The Master explored the Dharma realm

And showed how to return,

Hence know our Master Shun to be

The sagely Manjusri.


Another verse in praise of the Great faster Ti Hsin says:

When Manjusri transformed and appeared as the Venerable Elder Master Fa Hsun,

A flood of seething waters ceased--ah! The respect of spirits and ghosts.

Juggling the sun and tossing the moon, he took it all as his usual work,

Shaking the earth inverting the heavens, he managed affairs in the space of a laugh.

Dragons and tigers sought his refuge, responding to his meritorious light,

      Disease was purged by his steady virtue, vanquished by his strength in the Way.

      Oh, how pitiful, that stupid disciple, who, to the end, failed to recognize him

      And went off the pray at Wu Tai Mountain to bow to the dirt of that lofty peak.