Bodhi Seal of the Patriarchs
MING DYNASTY DHYANA MASTER HAN SHAN TE CH’ING
by Tripitaka Master Hua
MING DYNASTY DHYANA MASTER HAN SHAN TE CH'ING
WAS FROM CHIN LING IN CH’UAN CHAO PROVINCE in Southern China. HIS FAMILY
NAME WAS TS’AI; HIS FATHER’S NAME WAS YEN-KAO; HIS MOTHER WAS FROM THE
HUNG FAMILY. SHE HAD A DREAM (in those days people were superstitious and
believed in dreams) IN WHICH A GREAT BODHISATTVA BROUGHT A CHILD IN THE
DOOR OF HER HOME. How great was the Bodhisattva? He was neither great nor
small, but was just like everyone else. The only difference was, he was a
Bodhisattva. It was probably Kuan Yin Bodhisattva. The Master's mother had
a dream in which she saw a Bodhisattva leading a small child by the hand
into her house, AND SHE TOOK THE CHILD AND HUGGED IT.
AFTER THAT SHE WAS PREGNANT AND GAVE BIRTH TO A CHILD WRAPPED IN LAYERS OF "WHITE CLOTHES." That is, Dhyana Master Han Shan was born in a caul, just like the Venerable Elder Master Hsu Yun. Only Bodhisattvas of the eighth stage and above are born in cauls. So if you know anyone in America who was born in that way, you should help him leave the home life. AT THE TIME OF HIS BIRTH A RARE AROMA PERFUMED THE AIR. It was the fragrance of an extraordinary kind of incense.
THE CHILD LEFT THE HOME LIFE TO REPAY THE KINDNESS OF HIS PARENTS. When his mother saw that she had given birth to a lump of flesh, she did not realize it contained a child and was horror-stricken, thinking she had produced a monstrosity and ruined herself. The shock killed her, just as it had Hsu Lao's mother when she gave birth to him in a caul. So when Dhyana Master Han Shan left home, he did it on behalf of his parents to try to repay their kindness.
HE STUDIED WITH DHYANA MASTER HSIAO YEN AND DELVED INTO AN INTENSIVE INVESTIGATION OF DHYANA. Master Yen was famous for his severity. He allowed his students no freedom at all, and continually beat them with the incense board and berated them.
AFTERWARD HE BUILT A HUT AT DRAGON GATE CAVE ON THE NORTHERN FACE OF WU T'AI MOUNTAIN. ONE MORNING AFTER TAKING SOME GRUEL HE WENT FOR A WALK AND SUDDENLY ENTERED SAMADHI. People who have left the home life are not supposed to eat after noon. Here we eat only once a day, but if you feel that it is impossible to continue this practice, you can eat a little rice gruel or bread in the morning. We've eaten only once a day for about six years here, but we can change it now if necessary. We don't have to be attached to that old practice, because there are people now who can't take it. Besides, did you know that rice gruel has ten advantages for those who cultivate? It is very beneficial. So from today on, whoever wants to can take rice gruel in the morning. (No one did.--ed.)
However, everyone knows now that here at Gold Mountain we only eat once a day, and personally I cannot change, so if you do decide to eat breakfast, I'll just go somewhere else and find disciples who eat once a day. If you cannot take it, we will relax the rules, but you should remember that eating once a day is a lot less trouble. For one thing, you don't have to go to the toilet as often. If you start taking gruel in the morning you'll have to go to the toilet at least once more each day, and besides, it makes more work. Figure out how you want to manage the refectory, because as far as I'm concerned, "Everything is OK." However you want to do it is fine.
The earliest you can eat is when you can see the lines on your hand or the cracks in the walls by the light of the sun-no electricity. Why? Because if you could eat while it was still dark, pretty soon you'd be having midnight snacks, or would take to eating very early so your gruel could thoroughly digest and leave you more room for lunch. In other words, greed would take over. Whenever you eat you should be mindful of the five contemplations.
After Master Han Shan had his morning gruel on that particular day he went for a stroll and suddenly entered samadhi. HE PERCEIVED NEITHER BODY NOR MIND BUT ONLY A SINGLE RADIANT STOREHOUSE OF LIGHT, PROPOUND AND COMPLETELY STILL LIKE A GREAT PERFECT MIRROR. The magnificent brilliance extended in all directions to the boundaries of space. Inside there was no body and mind, outside there was no world. When everything disappears, when the body and mind are gone, how can one get angry or annoyed? You should realize that your body is a prison in which you live day in and day out. You are not free. You should cultivate to get out of it and become independent.
all the meritorious practices he had diligently maintained became
perfected and he experienced the great perfect mirror. HE SPOKE A VERSE:
ABRUPTLY IN A SINGLE THOUGHT THE MAD MIND CEASED. The Surangama Sutra says, "When the mad mind ceases, that ceasing is Bodhi." There are those who claim that the Surangama Sutra is phony. They cannot understand it, so they say it is fraudulent. Occasionally you may meet people who have read a few books on Buddhism and take it upon themselves to pass judgement on the Surangama Sutra. Those who say the Sutra is counterfeit will certainly fall into one of the eight great hells. This is not just a manner of speaking; it is the retribution for confused people who cause others to become confused.
THE GREAT VOID SMASHED. This is very important. It is the door of birth and death. If you can shatter empty space, then how can the world continue to exist? There is no need to blow it up with an atomic bomb; if you yourself are able to obliterate the great void, what could be left? Nothing, there would be no place to put the world.
THE MYRIAD IMAGES IN THEIR GLORY QUIT THE ENDLESS CYCLE. There are two ways to look at this line. You could say that Dhyana Master Han Shan had "quit the cycle." That is to say, the cycle of nature went on without him. Things arose and fell of themselves and had nothing to do with him. However, since empty space was smashed, you could also say that the mountains, rivers, the whole of nature lost its job and everything was extinguished.
IN THE MIDST OF THE MASTER'S EFFORTS TO PROPAGATE THE DHARMA, HE WAS ENMESHED IN WORLDLY TROUBLE, BUT THIS ONLY SERVED TO HEIGHTEN HIS PERFECTION OF THE WAY. When the Venerable Han Shan was propagating the Dharma and building temples, he probably forgot about the details, and when someone said he had built a temple without the proper authorization, he was thrown in jail for not having a building permit. But it didn't matter. He cultivated in jail, sitting in meditation. He was given his meals and in between he sat for long periods in dhyana concentration, perfecting his enlightenment. He had already become enlightened, but now he penetrated deeply into a state where there is no great and no small, where all obstructions have vanished and there is nothing whatsoever. In spite of the fact that he was thrown in jail, his Way became ever higher. Difficulties are the most important part of the practice. It is the annoyances along the Way that lead to achievement of the Way. If someone scolds you or accuses you falsely, just take it. Don't be moved.
IN THE YEAR KUEI HAI OF THE REIGN PERIOD T'IEN CHI, AT TSAO HSI, HE SAT AND DEPARTED. HE WAS 78 YEARS OLD. HE COMPOSED A COLLECTION CALLED "ROAMING IN A DREAM", WHICH CIRCULATED IN THE WORLD.
He was eventually released from jail when the emperor realized that he hadn't done anything wrong. He went to the temple where the present-day Nan Hua Monastery stands and entered nirvana, but before he left, he announced his departure. The most important moment of cultivation is the moment of death. If you at that moment are not upside down, but very clear, if you are not scattered, but have samadhi, then you will be able to leave your body very comfortably. Dhyana Master Han Shan was able to do it.
HE MET WITH DIFFICULTY,
Both Master Han Shan and the Sixth Patriarch left their "flesh bodies" behind at Nan Hua, and each shines forth to illumine the other. They are like two lamps in a single room, which do not fight and say, "you cannot shine on me. Take your light somewhere else, this is my spot," but harmonize and blend their light instead.
VERSE ABOUT THE MASTER SAYS:
The wounds from dark arrows refer to the jealous people who attacked him and "stabbed him in the back", as it were. He had no fear of them, but gave his life for the Dharma.
The original Chinese text for the preceding article, which appears on the following page, is printed in boldface type above. That which does not appear in boldface is the Venerable Master's oral commentary on the text.