by Shramanerika Heng Ch'ing

      After Dharma Master Ch'ing Yen had completed the stillness for six years, his "whole body sharira" was recovered from a jar which was buried on a mountain in Taipei. His skin is amber-colored and shiny; his body sits upright with dignity. After Tz'u Hang Bodhisattva, Dharma Master Ch'ing Yen has become the second flesh body Bodhisattva in Taiwan. From 1935 to 1970 Dharma Master Ch'ing Yen quietly, removed from the public eye and without seeking renown, carried out the practices of a Bodhisattva and lived an ascetic life. The merit and virtue of his compassion, wisdom, vows, and practices is memorialized in his "whole body sharira" which is the rarest fruition of a life totally consecrated to the Bodhisattva Way.
      Dharma Master Ch'ing Yen was born in Huang Po, Hu Pei Province on December 18, 1924. He left home at the age of twelve under the Venerable Master Shen Hsiang at Ku T'an Monastery. In 1941 he took the complete precepts at Kuei Yuan Monastery in Han Yang.

In 1945 he served as the Guest Prefect at Ku Te Monastery. After the Communist regime came into power in 1949 in China, he sought asylum in Hong Kong and dwelled there in the Eastern P'u T'o Monastery. While he was living in Hong Kong he was very active in relief projects to aid other refugees from the Mainland sangha, and also at this time met the Venerable Master Hua. In 1954 he embarked for Taiwan and took up residence at Shih P'u Monastery in Taipei. Two years later he traveled to Chia Yi in the south of Taiwan and there established Vulture Peak Eternal Light Monastery. In 1961 he returned to the north and founded Sea Treasury Monastery at Pi T'an, Taipei, and at the same time organized "The Longevity Liberation of Life Association" in order to fulfill his Great Vehicle Bodhisattva spirit of liberating and converting fishes and terrestrial animals.
      Basically, in accord with the principles of conditioned existence, what is born must die; the body must eventually disintegrate and decay. However, Dharma Master Ch'ing Yen achieved the "whole body sharira" and although his breath has ceased, his body remains among humankind as a testimony to the power of the spirit over the flesh and as an expedient for leading people to believe in the teachings of the Buddha.
      His disciple Ch'ang Ming said, "When the Great Master was in the world he planned to establish a Pure Land Bodhimanda similar to the one on Ling Yen Mountain in Soochow to comply with the need of people to expediently cultivate the easy path in the Dharma-ending age. This fully reveals the magnitude of Dharma Master Ch'ing Yen's compassionate vows."


      The jar which held the body of Dharma Master Ch'ing Yen and was interred on Thumb Mountain in Taipei six years ago was opened in the presence of the public on January 21, 1976. The body was found intact. When people heard the news, they thronged to pay their respects. The Chinese Buddhist Association under the directives of Upasika Sun Kuo-an (whose biography appears in this issue in The Bodhi Lectern) made arrangements to accommodate crowds numbering in the thousands that assembled to view the flesh body. The Association was able to anticipate the reaction of the public, for seventeen years ago great numbers of people made the ascent of Hsiu Feng Mountain to gaze in veneration at the flesh body of the Great Master Tz'u Hang.
      The remains of Great Master T'zu Hang were buried behind Maitreya's Inner Court Monastery on Hsiu Feng Mountain in Hsi Chih, which is in the vicinity of Taipei. In compliance with his wishes his disciples exhumed the jar after five years and found his body in perfect condition. His skin is partially transparent, his facial features are distinct, his arms hang down at his sides, and his legs are in the full lotus posture. Since five years had elapsed since his passing when the jar was opened, the water in the body has evaporated and it therefore appears lean. The hair, which was shaved before he completed the stillness, has grown back, and his eyebrows are longer and thicker. The skin is as soft as that of a living person. The nostrils, mouth, tongue, and teeth are all intact. The condition of Dharma Master Ch'ing Yen's body is identical with that of Great Master T'zu Hang's.
      Some people assume that the flesh bodies of these two Dharma Masters are like Egyptian mummies. This is absolutely wrong. There are four peculiarities about the Egyptian mummy: 1) the five principal internal organs are removed; 2) the remains are embalmed with preservatives and spices; 3) children and lean people are suitable for mummification; 4) the mummy is stiff. The flesh bodies of Dharma Masters T'zu Hang and Ch'ing Yen display characteristics which are opposite to those of the mummy. Both of them were stocky persons of medium size. Dharma Master T'zu Hang greatly resembled Maitreya Bodhisattva when he sat down. Their remains were placed in jars; the internal organs were not removed, and the bodies were not embalmed with decay-preventing agents. After the jars were opened, the bodies were not stiff.
      As a matter of fact, there is nothing mysterious about this. There are six indispensable conditions, which enable the Buddhist adept to prevent the body from decaying. They are the following:

1) Strengthened power of precepts. There are two hundred and fifty precepts for the Mahayana Bhikshu. Four of the most fundamental precepts prohibit killing, stealing, sexual activity, and lying. Dharma Masters T'zu Hang and Ch'ing Yen left the home life when they were young. They never had close contact with women, and they therefore kept their virginity. The undecayed flesh body results from holding the precept against sexual activity and cutting off all desire.
2) Strengthened power of samadhi. By samadhi here is meant the power of concentration obtained by sitting in meditation. If the skill of dhyana concentration is deep it causes extreme, transfiguring changes in the body which occur in a manner analogous to the process of refining iron into steel. The wisdom and the spiritual penetrations described in Buddhist texts are realized through dhyana samadhi cultivated in accord with the teachings.  Dharma Master T'zu Hang foretold the date of his death ten years before it occurred. Dharma Master Ch'ing Yen knew when his time had come and one month before he died he gave instructions to his disciples to place his body in the jar and open it six years later. They attained this prescience through dhyana samadhi.
3) Strengthened power of faith. In the sutras it says, "Faith is the source of the Way and the mother of merit and virtue which nourishes all good roots." Those who cultivate and study the Buddhadharma should have lofty convictions. They should believe that the myriad of existence in the universe is imbued with true principle; that the merit and virtue of the Triple Jewel is vast and profound; that the power of good and evil cause and effect is great; and that their minds are just the Buddha. They strongly believe that if the patriarchs can keep their bodies intact after death, they can do so too. "If the mind of faith is pure and clean, the true mark is produced."  This is why the body of the Sixth Patriarch Hui Neng of the Ch'an school has stayed intact for more than one thousand years. The flesh bodies of Earth Store King Bodhisattva on Nine Flowers Mountain in An Hui, of Great Masters Shin T'ou, Tan T'ien, Han Shan and others are also the true proof of actual practice.

The flesh body of Dharma Master Ch'ing Yen.

4) Strengthened power of vows. "Vow power" in Buddhist usage is what is ordinarily called "will." Will is one of the highest faculties of the spirit; without strong will power and determination little can be accomplished. One should, always be mindful of one's vows. Where wholehearted dedication is directed, the whole world will step aside to let one by. Both Dharma Masters T'zu Hang and Ch'ing Yen had made great vows to attain vajra indestructible bodies in order to take living beings in the Saha world across. 
5) Aid from the power of the Buddhas. A cultivator can not solely rely on his own power, for it is not sufficient. He has to depend on "external" power too, the power of the Buddha. The disciple should revere his patriarch and take his teacher as a model. The power of the patriarch is imperceptibly transmitted to his disciple and gives the latter the spiritual strength which elicits the aid of the Buddhas.
6) Aid from the power of the Dharma. Sutras and mantras are Buddhadharma. If one recites sutras and mantras everyday their efficaciousness cap keep one's mind free from confusion and increase one's blessings and wisdom. Dharma Masters Tz'u Hang and Ch'ing Yen got up at midnight to meditate, and from four in the morning to nine at night they bowed to the Buddhas, recited sutras, and held mantras. They were courageously vigorous and never retreated from their resolve for the Way until they certified to the fruit.


People who cultivate can become Buddhas. If you do not cultivate you can become a ghost, an animal, or go to the hells. It is said:

Good and bad are two different roads;

You can cultivate or you can commit of tenses.

That is why it is said that becoming a Buddha is done by oneself. No one else can do it for you. It is also said that everything is made from the mind alone.

If people wish to know

The Buddhas of the three periods of time

They should regard the nature of the Dharmarealm

Everything is made from mind alone.

If you understand proper Dharma you are in a state of true suchness and are not at all upside-down. If something should not be done and you do it, that is being upside-down. If you do not do what you are not supposed to do, that is being right side up and you can come to understand the real mark of true suchness.

You should know that the false comes from the nature of truth. Falseness is basically truth. That is, when the discriminations of the conscious mind cease, your basic wisdom will appear. Just that is seeing the Buddha. That is the pure Dharma eye.

-excerpt from Avatamsaka lecture by

The Venerable Master Hsuan Hua

September 23, 1975.