THE BODHI SEAL OF THE
THE EIGHTH PATRIARCH OF THE
THE EIGHTH PATRIARCH OF THE LOTUS SOCIETY, who lived in THE MING DYNASTY, was GREAT MASTER LIEN CH’IH () whose monastery in Hang Chou was named YUN CH’I ().
To start with he had been called Chu Hung while his name upon coming of
age was Fo Hui
"Birth and death are grave concerns; Impermanence comes quickly."
You never know what day you are going to die. Thereupon HE TRAVELED TO PEKING TO MEET HSIAO YEN. He went to Peking, and sometimes on the way he would bow every third step to Dhyana Masters Pien Yung() and Hsiao Yen(), who were Peking residents. WHEN HE SOUGHT INSTRUCTION, when he requested that Dhyana Master Hsiao Yen instruct him, YEN SAID, Master Hsiao Yen then said, "OH, FROM OVER THREE THOUSAND MILES YOU HAVE COME TO GIVE ME INSTRUCTION!" He said, "It is over three thousand miles from Hang Chou to Peking. By having enough sincerity to come from as far away as three thousand miles, you are actually instructing me.
"WHAT INSTRUCTION DO I HAVE?" What do I have to instruct you in? I have no instructions for you." That is what he said. THE MASTER WAS SUDDENLY ENLIGHTENED. Because Great Master Lien Ch'ih had great good roots, he thereupon was enlightened. He remembered everything that had happened in the past. This refers to his having an awakening, comparable to waking up from a dream.
THE MASTER HURRIEDLY REQUESTED PERMISSION TO RETURN. He
asked leave to return to Hang Chou. WHILE PASSING BY TUNG CH'ANG, as he was
going past the village-district of Tung Ch'ang
HE SPOKE THE FOLLOWING VERSE. He pronounced the verse that follows. He said,
THE PREVIOUS TWENTY YEARS EVENTS WERE PROBLEMATIC.
FROM THREE THOUSAND MILES AWAY TO MEET SUCH A ONE IS RARE.
LIGHTING INCENSE, CASTING SPEARS, COUNT AS IDLE MATTERS.
DEMONS AND THE BUDDHA WAGE EMPTY WARS OF RIGHT AND WRONG.
He said, "I came from over three thousand miles away and I met a true and actual Good Knowing Advisor who instructed me so that I now understand this principle." What principle did he understand? It was "Whether I burn incense or whether I take up a lance or spear and make war on people, these are both ordinary activities. DEMONS AND THE BUDDHA WAGE EMPTY WARS. There is really no difference between the Buddha and demons. Demons help the Buddha get people to cultivate the Way. It's just that the methods they employ to cross people over are not the same. So it says, "Demons and the Buddha wage empty wars of right and wrong." That is, most of the time their battles of right and wrong are cases of, "when there is nothing to do, finding something to do." OF RIGHT AND WRONG. What is right and what is wrong? Right and wrong really have no great meaning. They wage empty wars of right and wrong. It's all empty.
IN THE FORTY-THIRD YEAR OF WAN LI, of the Wan Li Reign Period of the Ming Dynasty (1615 AD,) the forty-third year, IN THE SEVENTH MONTH THE MASTER WAS ABOUT TO MANIFEST STILLNESS. Great Master Lien Ch'ih was on the point of completing the stillness, i.e. dying. PRIOR TO THIS HE SAID TO THE ASSEMBLY...He addressed the great assembly, in advance, saying, "IN TWO WEEKS I SHALL GO ELSEWHERE." He said, "Half a month from now I'm going on a pilgrimage. I'm going somewhere else." WHEN IT CAME, when the two weeks were up, HE SHOWED SLIGHT ILLNESS. He appeared to be slightly sick, but not with a grave illness, just a minor one. HE FACED THE WEST AND DEPARTED. He looked towards the West, sat up, recited the Buddha's name, and went off to rebirth...just that freely he completed the stillness.
HIS WRITINGS INCLUDE THE AMITABHA COMMENTARY. He wrote a commentary to the Amitabha Sutra, a very well written commentary, as well as the Mi T'o Yao Chieh which is also of great literary merit. THE YUN CH'I DHARMA ASSEMBLY, the books he wrote, were compiled, and they SPREAD THROUGHOUT THE WORLD.
HIS EULOGY SAYS, Great Master Hsu-yun's verse in praise of him says,
EARNEST IN RECITING THE BUDDHA'S NAME,
NOT AVAILING HIMSELF OF THE UNCANNY;
NOT AWAITING PERFECT PENETRATION,
RIGHT WHERE HE WAS HE SEIZED VICTORY FROM DEFEAT.
AT THE TAMBOUR'S SINGLE SOUND,
THE TAR-TUB WAS UNFIT.
IF YOU MUST ASK MORE ABOUT IT,
GO THREE THOUSAND-MILES AND OVER!
Throughout his life he earnestly recited the Buddha's name. He did not make use of strange and uncanny events. He did not wait for perfect penetration; he already had perfect penetration. "Right where he was he seized victory from defeat. That is, he already recognized all states. A tambour is a particular kind of drum. Having heard the sound of the tambour just once, the black-ch'i barrel was broken, and, once broken, it couldn't be used anymore. It was done for. If you want to know more about the black-ch'i barrel and how to break it, you can travel over three thousand miles!
ANOTHER EULOGY RELATES:
"BIRTH AND DEATH ARE GRAVE CONCERNS"
WAS SUSPENDED FROM HIS BROWS.
IMPERMANENCE COMES QUICKLY;
HOW CAN ONE KEEP ON SEEKING?
A FIERCE TIGER, TAKING REFUGE,
BECAME HIS BEGGING HOST.
RECITING BUDDHA MADE IT RAIN,
SO PEOPLE WERE DELIGHTED.
HE VALUED RECITATION.
CLEAR AS TO CAUSE AND RESULT.
STERN HE WAS AND PURE IN VINAYA
WITH RULES AND COMPORTMENT PERFECT
HE DILIGENTLY CULTIVATED THE THREE KARMAS,
AND ASCENDED THE SUPERIOR GRADE.
AMITABHA'S AMPLE VOWS
COMPREHENSIVELY RECEIVED HIM.
The verse says that Great Master Lien Ch'ih understood that birth and death are grave concerns, that he always had that phrase hanging down from his eyebrows. How did he get it to hang there? You can try it out. If you manage to suspend the words from your eyebrows, then you yourself will know. For people, the ghost of impermanence, i.e., the time to die, comes quickly. You never know when it's going to come, and it's coming fast. With impermanence soon upon you, how can there still be anything you can't put down? You seek fame and profit, but since you're soon to die, what does your quest amount to? That was Great Master Lien Ch'ih's motto.
Later on, Great Master Lien Ch'ih lived in Yun-ch'i, a place which had man-eating tigers. These tigers often ate people. He held a ghost-feeding ceremony there, and afterwards not only did the tigers stop eating people, they even came and took refuge with him and became his disciples. Since there were no other people to help him, his tiger disciples helped him with the work. Once he had a tiger, which went out begging for him. But who would dare give a tiger money or rice? People who saw the tiger were so frightened that when they saw its shadow they ran away. They would run away from the tiger, and because they knew he had a tiger disciple, they were afraid to come near the Master as well. Eventually Great Master Lien Ch'ih taught his tiger disciple to walk backwards, to advance with its tail in front and its head behind. If they didn't see the tiger's head, people weren't so scared. There were saddlebags on the tiger's back for people to put offerings in. They would put money, rice, and the like into the bags. The tiger became his "begging host." Actually, when there are a lot of people living in the same temple, they need several begging hosts who go out begging, but they do not beg out of greed, nor is their begging for themselves. They go out soliciting funds to support their teachers and the great assembly. They may go wherever they please soliciting funds. The tiger did that for his Master. It just went begging for its master alone, but later on when a great number of monks arrived, the tiger acted as begging host for them too, and begged everywhere.
In Hang Chou there was a period of years when the dragons all fell asleep and it didn't rain. The citizens hoped for rain but to no avail, and so they sought out Great Master Lien Ch'ih and said, "There's no rain even though we've prayed for it to fall. What are we going to do?"
Great Master Lien Ch'ih said, "All right, everybody should recite the Buddha's name!" They recited Namo 0 Mi To Fwo, Namo 0 Mi To Fwo, for as few as ten minutes and it started to rain. When it rained, they all said, "That Dharma Master is really virtuous. He can recite the Buddha's name and make it rain." As a result of this event, they had a lot of faith in him. So all of you, if you don’t cultivate it won’t work, but if you do cultivate, everything you do will generate a response. If you have virtue, things will certainly happen the way you want them to.
What he valued, what he liked most, was lecturing and reciting Sutras, and his regular practice was to recite Sutras morning and evening. He cultivated the Vinaya, that is the precepts and regulations, and the maintenance of comportment. Whether it was maintaining rules or maintaining comportment, he cultivated it perfectly, so it says “perfect.” He diligently cultivated not committing offenses in any of the three karmas of body, mouth, and mind. He was mindful of the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha, and ascended to the highest level of the superior grade of the lotus divisions. The great vows of Amitabha Buddha take in and receive all living beings, and they also received Great Master Lien Ch’ih to be reborn in the Land of Ultimate Bliss.
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