Bodhi Seal of the Patriarchs

--Written by Tripitaka Master Hsuan Hua
--Translated by Disciple Bhiksu Heng Shoou

      The Master's lay name was Chao. When he first shaved his head and donned the dark robes, he followed the custom of the Indian bhiksus, seeking aid from above to select the sutra, which he would make the basis of his cultivation. He wrote the names of various sutras on slips of paper and put them in a bowl. Then, kneeling before the Tripitaka and beseeching guidance, he drew the name of the Avatamsaka Sutra, which he then proceeded to study day and night.
      Later the Master drew near the High Master Tu Shun, heard the teaching, and obtained the doctrine. He then lectured and transmitted the dharma of the Dharma Realm Contemplation.
      He once encountered a strange monk, who indicated that he should practice the Section on the Six Aspects, found in the Chapter on the Ten Grounds of the Avatamsaka Sutra. Doing so, the Master penetrated its meaning and suddenly understood; because of this he is also known as Chih Hsiang, "Upon Arriving at the Aspects." He lectured the Avatamsaka many times and also caused the fame of the Dhyana School to resound greatly throughout China.
      In the first year of the reign year Tsung Chang (668 C.E.), he told his close disciples, "I shall soon leave for the Pure Land." Within a month, while speaking Dharma, he died. The Master was seventy-two years of age.

His eulogy says:

Not only the elder son of Ti Hsin,1

But also the true master of Hsien Shou.

As to the mysterious doctrine of the Avatamsaka,

He exhaustively understood it all.

Although he practiced still contemplation and dhyana samadhi,

He was not blind, nor was he dumb.

He understood and shattered the Dharma realm

Grinding empty space to dust.

Another eulogy in praise of Patriarch Yen says:

The Venerable Chih Hsiang recited the Avatamsaka,

By chance he met a strange monk who pointed out the mysterious page:

In the Ten Grounds, the Six Aspects preach the profound mystery,

The nine assemblies and seven places disclose the actual meaning.

The white clouds along the horizon have no place in which they dwell,

And the bright moon reflected on the ocean's surface, what words does it have to say?

Coming and going, going and coming, its all paramita,

Exhaust birth and cast off death; this is the great Nirvana.

1 Another name for Master Fa Shun, who is also known as Tu Shun, first Patriarch of the Avatamsaka School.