Bodhi Seal of the Patriarchs
MING DYNASTY VINAYA MASTER TING AN TEH CHI OF PAO HUA MOUNTAIN
by Tripitaka Master Hua
The Master was a native of Wu and the son of the Lin family. As a youth, he quit eating meat and pungent plants. After the death of his parents he went to Pao Lin Monastery in Soochow where he had his head shaved and donned the dyed garments. Be received the complete ordination from Vinaya Master Chieh Yueh who entrusted him with the Dharma.
He endured hardships in his cultivation and was oblivious to sleep and food. When he first obtained the Vinaya's Mysterious Doctrine he realized the interaction of the three studies. He hosted the Dharma at Pao Hua and tasted the bitter and the sweet along with the assembly doing the wearisome work himself. Once he bowed to the sarira pagoda day and night for seven days and nights. Suddenly the top of the pagoda emitted a glowing light.
As the time of his death approached, he picked up his pen and wrote the following; "In seven days I am leaving." When the time arrived he bathed, dressed, and without an illness, left this world. A verse in his praise says:
The living pulse of the Buddha's life,
Pure precepts are our master.
A sigh—as the ending-age comes in,
Who will support the Proper Dharma?
We pray the Master will pass it along
And reform the present world.
The glowing light gives witness as
We accept with faith and practice in accord.
As a youth, before age eighteen, he quit eating meat and pungent plants. Beef, lamb, seafood, and poultry cloud the brain and under their influence people neglect things they should do, and become involved in things they should not. For example, intoxicated by-meat and liquor, politicians may take bribes and children may beat their parents. Pungent plants such as onions, garlic, leeks, seal lions, and shallots cloud the mind. Eating these plants increases desire and, as a consequence, stirs up confused and stupid behavior, which arises out of ignorance. If you had no ignorance, even in the most ridiculous situations you wouldn't behave stupidly.
After the death of his parents, since he had no relatives, he had his head shaved, unlike hippies, and donned the dyed garments. He wore no bright attractive clothes, but only garments the color of ash, or ones dark in color.
He received the complete ordination from Vinaya Master Chien Yueh, who you remember, ran away from the Monastery where he was manager three times. When accused of stealing three hundred pounds of silver, he couldn't stand it and returned to clear himself (see V.B.S. # 48 p. 2.). This Vinaya Master transmitted the Dharma to the Master Ting An.
He endured hardships in his cultivation and was oblivious of sleep and food. Bhiksu Ting An didn't consider overeating a bitter practice. He bowed repentances, worshipped the Buddha, and recited Sutras. He was so "stupid," he didn't even know whether or not he had eaten or slept. He wasn't like the Old Patriarch recently recovered from an illness, who complained on one occasion, "They won't give me any food." Vinaya Master Ting An didn't know if he had been given food to eat. The height of stupidity! Truly a case of:
Growing up to be a big dolt, one becomes
If you asked him whether he had slept or eaten he would just say, "I don't know..." He's not like some who say, "I didn't sleep last night...better rest more today."
Eating everyday, but not taking a grain
So I say that he is really stupid. You're intelligent; don't imitate him.
When he first obtained the Vinaya's Mysterious Doctrine he realized the interconnection of the three studies. The "Mysterious Doctrine" refers to subtle, wonderful points, which are not apparent. The Three Studies are Elementary School, High School, and College. Right? What are you laughing at? Precepts are like Elementary School, samadhi is like High School, and wisdom like College. I didn't explain them wrong. You thought your teacher didn't understand the Buddhadharma and couldn't even explain the three studies correctly, but I was right! Any further rebuttal? Interaction means that they include each other; precepts are Just samadhi and wisdom; wisdom is just samadhi and precepts; samadhi is Just precepts and wisdom. The three are one and one is three. There is no distinction: they interconnect.
"But I understood precepts, samadhi, and wisdom long ago," someone is thinking, "what is all this interconnecting about?" You may have understood, but you haven't been able to interconnect. If you have precepts, you have samadhi and wisdom. If you have samadhi, you have precepts and wisdom. If you have wisdom, you have precepts and samadhi. You must bring them to life.
He hosted the Dharma at Pao Hua Mountain, at Lung Ch'ang Monastery. Tasted the bitter and the sweet along with the assembly. Chinese High Masters often take on the attitudes of a high ranking official. Being an Abbot in a Chinese Monastery is more or less like being an Emperor. They eat the best food and do the least work. They don't do servile work or work in the fields. We are not talking about the old Abbots, but of Abbots who are not limited by advancing age. Young Abbots even in their early 30's, tend to over-emphasize their position. T'an Lau Fa Shih's young disciple at Prajna Temple in Shen Yang, was not yet thirty but he walked three inches off the ground with his nose in the air so that he didn't see anyone at all. He had to eat the best and do the least work. When the offerings came in, he got the largest share and the assembly divided the rest. If each person received $20.00 he got $2,000.00. So "to taste the bitter and the sweet along with the assembly" is to be on equal terms with everyone. Abbots are just like army officers. Some of them stay in the ranks with their men, but others can't take it. Vinaya Master Ting An shared the good and the bad right along with the assembly.
the wearisome work himself: he pitched in and did the difficult things
Suddenly the top of the pagoda emitted a glowing light. Everyone saw it.
As the time of his death approached he picked up his pen and wrote. He called for his brush and ink. His disciples thought he was going to paint a picture or write something and ran to get his brush and ink. He shut his eyes and very deliberately wrote:
"In seven days I am leaving!" Where was he going? He didn't say.
The living pulse of the Buddha's life, the most important pulse of the Buddha's life are the rules of conduct. The pure precepts are our master. We take the clear, pure Brahma conduct, the moral precepts, the Pratimoksa, as our Master, and reform the present world. We request, Great Master, that you will forever preserve the Vinaya School dharmas so that they pass without interruption from generation to generation and never become extinct. We also hope that you will rectify the faults in it at present.
The glowing light gives witness. The light emitted from the pagoda was to certify the Master.
We accept with faith and practice in accord. We should now faithfully accept and practice in accord with the Vinaya Master's cultivation.
From his youth a vegetarian and not by accident. This was not something an ordinary person would do; he was extraordinary.
He received the seal of the Vinaya. He obtained the mind seal from Vinaya Master Chien Yueh.
An adept who truly upheld the practice of fearlessness: It was all very natural. He took his brush and wrote, "I'm leaving" and without the slightest nervousness he left the world. He wasn't afraid of difficulty. In other words, "Dying of hunger he wouldn't beg." So what if I die of starvation? One of my disciples said she wanted to cultivate here, but was afraid without the Master present she would starve to death. Starving to death is the very best! Whoever can leave the home-life and then starve to death for Buddhism is my "robe-and-bowl" disciple; I'll transmit the Dharma to him. I transmit the "starving-to-death Dharma. Whoever can starve to death is my true disciple. If you can't...slowly, slowly.
He saved, those hung upside-down. Living beings, hanging with their heads at the bottom and their feet in the air, are upside-down. Suffering, wouldn't you say? So Vinaya Master TehChi released them. We are upside-down and he turns us right side up.
text of this article has been printed in italics to distinguish it from
the Master's oral comments.