THE BODHI SEAL
SUNG DYNASTY VINAYA MASTER SHENG CH'ANG
CHAO CH'ING MONASTERY
COMPOSED BY THE VENERABLE MASTER HSUSN HUA
translated by Bhikshuni Heng Ch'ih
reviewed by Bhikshuni Heng Hsien
edited by Bhikshuni Heng Chen
THE MASTER'S NAME WAS SHENG CH'ANG. HIS LAY NAME WAS TSAO WEI AND HIS FAMILY NAME WAS YEN. HE WAS FROM CH'IEN TANG. HE LEFT THE HOME LIFE AT AGE SEVEN, AND AT SEVENTEEN RECEIVED THE COMPLETE PRECEPTS. IN THE CHUN HUA (990 A.D.) REIGN PERIOD OF THE SUNG DYNASTY HE DWELT IN HANG CHOU AT CHAO CH'ING MONASTERY. HE ADMIRED THE REPUTATION OF THOSE AT LU MOUNTAIN. Although he was living in Hang Chou at Chao Ch'ing Mountain, he longed to be at Lu Mountain. AND MADE PLANS TO ESTABLISH A LOTUS SOCIETY. Following in the footsteps of Great Master Hui Yuan, (see VBS #43) he made plans to establish a Lotus society so that people could come together and recite the Buddha's name. HE CARVED AN IMAGE OF THE BUDDHA OF LIMITLESS LIFE AND WROTE OUT THE "PURE CONDUCT CHAPTER" OF THE AVATAMSAKA SUTRA IN BLOOD. He carved an image of Amitabha Buddha and used his own blood to write every character of the "Pure Conduct Chapter" of the Sutra of the Dharma Realm. THEN HE CHANGED THE NAME OF THE LOTUS SOCIETY TO THE PURE CONDUCT SOCIETY. A HUNDRED AND TWENTY SCHOLARS AND OFFICIALS GATHERED TOGETHER. THEY WERE REFERRED TO AS THE "PURE CONDUCT DISCIPLES." THEY WERE LED BY THE VENERABLE WANG WEN CHENG. He was a Prime Minister and was the leader of the group of 120 laymen. THERE WERE A THOUSAND BHIKSHUS. The Pure Conduct Society also had a thousand bhikshus in its membership.
IN THE FOURTH YEAR OF THE T'IEN HSI REIGN PERIOD (1017 A.D.) THE TWELFTH DAY OF THE FIRST MONTH, THE MASTER SAT UPRIGHT AND AFTER RECITING THE BUDDHA'S NAME FOR A SHORT TIME HE CALLED OUT IN A STRONG VOICE, "THE BUDDHA HAS COME!" THEN HE PEACEFULLY DEPARTED. After saying those words he made no sound at all, but made a tranquil and silent departure from this world. THE ASSEMBLY SAW ALL THE GROUND AS GOLDEN COLORED. AFTER A TIME THE MANIFESTATION DISAPPEARED. Not everyone in the assembly saw this state. Maybe three or four or as many as twenty people saw it. Some saw it, some did not. Some felt that they saw it but they weren't sure. After a while the state disappeared, the vision vanished.
THE MASTER LIVED SIXTY-TWO YEARS. HIS DISCIPLES RESPECTFULLY PLACED HIS BODY IN A STUPA BESIDE CH'AN MASTER NIAO K'O'S. His disciples looked upon Their Master's body as a treasure and so they placed his entire body in the stupa beside the body of Ch'an Master Niao K'o.
A VERSE IN HIS PRAISE SAYS: The Venerable Master Hsu Yun wrote a verse in Master Sheng Ch'ang's praise.HE STERNLY PROTECTED
AND WAS THE HEAD
OF THE LOTUS SOCIETY,
WHICH FLOURISHED IN THE BEGINNING,
THE END, AND IN THE MIDDLE,
AND PROSPERED THROUGHOUT
A THOUSAND GENERATIONS.
FAITH, PRACTICE, AND VOWS
The Master conscientiously protected the pratimoksha, the precepts. He was master of the Lotus Society, which prospered before, after, and during his lifetime. For a thousand generations, people revered him. The three prerequisites of the Pure Land Dharma-door—faith, vows, and practice—are like a tripod that one's practice rests upon.
ANOTHER VERSE IN HIS PRAISE SAYS:
WITH PROPER FAITH HE LEFT THE HOME LIFE:
HIS GOOD ROOTS WERE DEEP.
AS A YOUTH HE ENTERED THE WAY
AND AWAKENED TO THE TRUE NATURE.
HE ADMIRED LU MOUNTAIN
AND ORGANIZED A LOTUS SOCIETY.
WITH BLOOD HE WROTE OUT THE PURE CONDUCT,
A LOFTY CHAPTER.
WHILE SITTING HE SAW THE BUDDHA COME
TO PERSONALLY ESCORT HIM.
HIS PRACTICE WAS THE SAME AS THE SAGE'S
WHO WELCOMED HIM FROM AFAR.
GREAT MASTER TSAO WEI
WAS ALWAYS COMFORTABLE.
LIVING BEINGS WHO RELIED UPON HIM
ASCENDED TO THE OTHER SHORE.
The Master left home at age seven, which means that he had very good roots. If he had not had good roots he would not have been able to leave home when he was so young. When he was seventeen years of age he received the complete precepts. Then he wanted to cultivate the Pure Land Dharma-door. Mount Lu in China is where Great Master Hui Yuan organized the Lotus Society. All day the members of the society recited the Buddha's name; they did not do other things. One hundred and twenty people joined the Master Sheng Ch'ang's society. They were all high-ranking scholars and lofty officials who were disillusioned with their positions and came to recite the Buddha's name to the exclusion of all else. With the blood of his tongue he wrote out the Pure Conduct Chapter of the "Sutra of the Dharma Realm." Those who cultivated the Pure Conduct Chapter called themselves the Pure Conduct Society, and the Master's disciples called themselves Pure Conduct Disciples. At that time there was a Prime Minister named Wang Wen Cheng who was the head of these 120 laymen who cultivated pure conduct.
One day while sitting he called out: "The Buddha is coming!" and after that he completed the stillness. His practice was like that of all the sages of the Land of Ultimate Bliss, so after his passage into extinction those sages came to welcome him. If people rely on his method of cultivation it is certain that they will reach the other shore. In the same way the modern-day Sangha relied on the Venerable Master Hsu Yun, for the Elder Master Yun revived the Sangha.
PUBLICATIONS:BUDDHA ROOT FARM
by the Venerable Tripitaka Master Hsuan Hua 74 pp, 5 ˝ x 8 ˝, perfect bound, $3.00. Dharma talks delivered by The Venerable Master Hua during a Buddha Recitation Session on Buddha Root Farm in Oregon.
RECORDS OF THE LIFE OF THE VENERABLE MASTER HSUAN HUA, VOL. I 68 pp, 5 ˝ x 8 ˝, perfect bound, $3.95.
RECORDS OF THE LIFE OF CH'AN MASTER HSUAN HUA/PART II 229 pp, 5 ˝ x 8 ˝, perfect bound, $6.95. These volumes contain a series of pieces on one of the great Buddhist masters.
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