Bodhi Seal of the Patriarchs



--Composed by Tripitaka Master Hsuan Hua

--Translated by Disciple Bhiksuni Heng Ch’ih

      From the Ming Dynasty to the present, Vinaya Master Chien Yueh is the most renowned among those who have propagated the Vinaya School.

The Master was from the Hsu Family of Ch'en Nan (Yun Nan), Pat Lu Prefecture. His father's name use Kin Tsang and Ms mother's maiden name use Wu. She gave birth to the Master in response to an unusual dream. His mother had a dream in which a monk who came to beg from their home indicated that he wanted to dwell in their house. When she awoke from the dream she gave birth to Vinaya Master Chien Yueh.

When he grew up he was by nature prophetic and intelligent. As he matured he developed the unusual talent of being able to predict future events. He was very smart, and could work well with figures. Furthermore, he became an accomplished painter of images of the Mahasattva Kuan Yin, so much so that people fought for these treasures. A layman would see one of his paintings and offer him $5000.00 for it, whereupon another would up the bid to $10,000.00 followed by another of $20,000.00 and so forth. It was as if they were bargaining for some rare gem---a diamond or pure gold.

His parents died when he was young. When he was twenty-seven years old he became a Taoist. Three years later he met an old member of the Sangha who gave him a copy of the Avatamsaka Sutra. Upon examining it he became enlightened. When he got to Pau Hua Mountain he bowed to the Abbot Liang Ju, and asked to have his head shaved and leave the home life.

      One day Abbot Liang had a dream in which someone in a sanghati robe was guiding a multitude of people, all who saw him wished to be saved by him. The Abbot was delighted to see that it was the Master Chien Yueh and, in the dream, shaved his head. Immediately afterwards, in accord with the dream, the Abbot shaved the Master's head.

Later, the Master went to Chin Ling and received the Mind Seal from Vinaya Master Samadhi Still Light and expansively propagated the Vinaya School. He wrote TWO MEANS OF MAINTAINING THE VINAYA: STOPPING AND DOING which has been published in the Tripitaka.

The dream the old Abbot had about the Master wasn't necessarily a dream. It might have been a vision he had while sitting in Dhyana. But since some people don't believe when told of visions that occur while one is sitting in meditation, the Abbot said it was just a dream. If people believed it, it was a dream; if they didn't believe it, It was just a dream and it didn't matter anyway. So it is said that often the great virtuous ones lied about things.

A verse in his praise says:

Rejecting Taoism, he honored the Sakyans;

In a dream he donned the sanghati.

He raised up the tripod of the three studies,

To spread the Buddha's teaching.

Stern and pure in the Vinaya,

He exemplified the deportment of stopping and doing;

He was a vast model for the three realms,

A compassionate boat on the sea of suffering.

Another verse in his praise says:

Fully explaining the Vinaya School,

He expounded two means of maintaining;

A thousand Buddhas praised him well

With true and actual words.

"A Single Dream, a Profusion of Words,"

Illumines those present and past.

Full three times he slipped away—-

Tests of sincerity.

His precepts shining bright like jewels

Connected with the Mind Seal.

His pure and wonderful conduct

Joined the holy heritage.

He planted the proper Dharma Eye

In the Dharma Ending Age.

Beings of the ten directions

Look up to him as Lord.

Because Vinaya Master Chien Yueh was the way he was, the thousand Buddhas all praised him, speaking actual truth, speaking it thus, without any falseness. They said he was the finest kind of person.

Chien Yueh wrote a book called A Single Dream, a Profusion of Words, which moved many people to cultivate the Way. Its Influence was profound.  For instance, Vinaya Master Hung I of this age became enlightened upon reading it and decided to leave the home life.

Vinaya Master Chien Yueh was the manager of the monastery on Pao Hua Mountain. He was reliable and competent in his work, and, among other tasks, was able to see that the more than 1,000 residents of the monastery were served flavorful food every day. But because he did his job so well, many of the monks were jealous of him and wanted to coust him. This went on until eventually he ran away.

Sometimes monks are very unruly. One should not suppose that every monk is obedient. Chien Yueh stole away without even telling his Master. When someone ran away in China he had a lot of choice in places to go because there were many monasteries where one could get temporary lodging. It's different in America. Even if you wanted to run away you wouldn't have any place to go. That's the reason I can be impolite to you. I'm not afraid you will run away. Although America is a big country, people who have left the home life don't have anywhere to go. If you go somewhere you need a letter of introduction to get in, and then you can only stay for three or four days.  If you live there longer they'll probably want at least $30.00 a month and you haven't any money. However, you Americans have ways.  Perhaps you could write to Mama and have her mail the money.

When Chien Yueh's Master heard that Chien Yueh had run away, he said in public, "Oh, he's run off with my money. He's swiped three hundred pounds of silver," and berated him unmercifully before the entire great assembly.  "He's incorrigible. He's broken the precepts."                           

Shortly after that another monk left the monastery and in his travels he ran into Chien Yueh. "Boy, the Abbot is really put out with you," was the monk's greeting. "He says you're rotten through and through. You stole over three hundred pounds of the temple's silver."

"I didn't!" gasped Chien Yueh. "I'd better go back and set him straight." He immediately made his way back to Pao Hua Monastery, got an appointment with the Abbot, stated his case, and defended his name at length.     Thereupon, the Abbot said softly, "OK...go back to work...and don't run away again." Suddenly Chien Yueh knew what Good Knowing Advisors were all about.  If his Master hadn't accused him of stealing the money he wouldn't have come back. But as soon as he heard it rumored that he had run off with the temple funds, he hadn't "put it all down" and so he immediately wanted to clear his name. So he went running back to find that basically it was all a shuck. The poem says, "three times he slipped away" because that's basically what happened. He ran away three times while he was at Pao Hua Mountain. His true heart was being tested.


      The Amitabha Sutra with the Master’s explanation is being readied for publication in book form. You may subscribe to it from the Vajra Bodhi Sea Publication Society at a prepublication discount (about one half off).