Bodhi Seal of the Patriarchs


--Composed by Tripitaka Master Hua

--Translated by Disciple Bhiksuni Heng Ch’ih

Master Chih Huan, "Understanding Illusions," knew that everything is empty and illusive. He held the precepts. The Master was from Chiang P'u County. His family name was Chiang. He was commonly called Dhyana Master Fei Buo, "Flying Bowl," because his bowl could fly. If you obtain spiritual penetrations, anything car fly. Even clubs can fly around and beat people up. Understand?

He left the home-life when he was 50 years old and received the complete precepts at Ling Ku Temple in Chin Ling. Those who leave the home-life at even earlier ages may have flying legs or flying heads in the future, not to mention flying bowls. Chin Ling is Nanking.

He went on a pilgrimage and made a vow, "If I do not tread the Ts'ao Hsi road, I dare not return to my old hometown." The ancients often made such vows and traveled around studying at various places. He might have been saying, "If I don't make it to Nan Hua Temple," or it could mean, "If I don't become enlightened." He wasn't like those of you who study for two and a half days, decide you can't take it, and want to run away. He said, "I dare not return to my old hometown."

You don't dare return to Seattle or to New York, or to Boston, or to wherever it is you came from. Why don't you dare return? Because you haven't become enlightened. What meaning would there be in going back to see your family without having become enlightened? You dare not face your family and friends. You dare not go back for the holidays--even Thanksgiving or Christmas! Why? When you go back you should have something to show people. Your enlightenment, perhaps, or your spiritual penetrations, or the ability to emit light and move the earth. However, if you have these powers, you can go.

Investigating the wordless topic, he cleared up the mind ground. What did he investigate? Nothing. He investigated nothing at all. What is nothing?  What is not understood? What is not yet understood? No words. What is not understood? There isn't anything at all. But there is something—that which is not yet understood. When the ancients cultivated they applied single-minded effort. They didn't solely go around striking up idle thoughts and fantasies like "leaving the home-life is too much suffering. I can't stand it. It's pathetic. Nobody even knows I'm here. Even if I died nobody would know." My only comment to this is, "A living person can think up notions of death, but a dead person can't strike up idle thoughts about life." I just made that up but it is worth considering. The Master Chih Huan investigated the wordless topic and became enlightened, that's what's meant by "he cleared up the mind ground."

During the Chung T'ung Reign Period he traveled north. The Emperor demanded an audience and bestowed a purple robe upon him. On imperial command he established a Vinaya precept platform, and upon imperial request he explained the Dharma. In the fourth month the precepts were transmitted.  This doesn't mean that his instruction lasted for four months, but that on the eighth day of the fourth month, the Anniversary of Sakyamuni Buddha's Birth, the Bodhisattva Precepts were transmitted, completing the precept platform. This became an annual event.

The Master had a mound on the crown of his head. The protrusion on the Vinaya Master's head was not a horn, however. When the Emperor saw him he found it strange and named him "Dhyana Master Phoenix Head," to which the Master replied, "I'm just a goose head, how would I dare be compared to the phoenix?" He was just being polite. The Emperor admired his modest virtue and bestowed upon him the name "Ten Thousand Years."

A gatha in his praise says:

Speaking is easy, practicing hard.

The precepts are the source of the Way.

He continued the Wu Nan Mountain Dharma.

His tread was firm and sure.

Is a dog without a nature?

Kissing is of no interest.

On his forehead was the form of a perfect gem.

His spiritual influence was known far and wide.

He continued the reputation of Vinaya Master Tao Hsuan of Ling Nan Mountain.  His feet were strong and he didn't fall or retreat. He continually progressed. You should think it over. Is your tread firm? Are you likely to turn back? After leaving the home-life will you feel you can't take it and return to lay-life? If so you've got weak feet.

The Ch’an topic he investigated was, "Does a dog have the Buddha-nature?" He didn't have any emotion. The kissing which occurs between men and women is an expression of emotion...without emotion then, it is not necessary. But without emotion does one become a stick? No. Does one become a vegetable? No. One is neither grass, wood, metal, or stone. The Master was very splendid, like the Buddha with his flesh cowl.

Another gatha of praise says,

Adding a head on top of a head, there is yet another praise of this Patriarch. Basically our praises won't please the Patriarch, but neither will our lack of praise displease him. As descendents it is good that we offer praises to the former patriarchs, so here is another gatha in praise of the Master Chih Huan.

If he did not reach Ts'ao Hsi, He vowed not to return.

His powerful vows pierce the heavens his courage knew no precedent.

"Dhyana Master Phoenix Head"--a gift from the Emperor.

A virtuous minister at Vulture Peak, he was saluted by people.

A vigorous and severe maintainer of precepts, 

      he was revered by
dragons and spirits.

By doing the work of cultivating dhyana samadhi, 

      he abated the
tiger's brashness.

With a true heart he sought the Dharma 
and constantly met with

He was like a huge mountain, which everyone admired, 
A teacher
among the multitudes.

If he didn't become enlightened and drink the water of Ts'ao Hsi, he vowed not to return.

      The determination he displayed penetrated the heavens. His unprecedented will and courage made him determined to do the things that other people cannot do. He was an official of Sakyamuni Buddha's at Ling Chiu Mountain. Because he held the precepts, people held him in regard. Since he held the precepts and didn't have any idle thoughts, the gods, dragons, and others in the eight-fold division respected him.

When people die and are eaten by a tiger, an efficacious transformation can occur whereby the tiger takes on the appearance of a person. It then walks about in a clearing and attracts people who see the form of a person and say, "Look! there's a man up there, certainly there aren't any wild animals in that area." Thoroughly deceived, they climb to the spot and then the tiger pounces and mauls them to death.

If you forget yourself for the sake of the Dharma you are bound to make progress. Vinaya Master Chih Huan was like a majestic mountain, which everyone revered. He was a master among the multitude of Sangha members.


      Several years ago, in April 1970, The Vajra Bodhi Sea Publication Society brought out the first issue of Vajra Bodhi Sea to become the only monthly journal of Buddhist Studies in English in the Western Hemisphere. To commemorate five years of successful publication, a special anniversary issue is planned for the spring of 1975, a double issue which will contain a wide variety of special features.