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Commentary on The Lives of the Patriarchs


67th Generational Patriarch Dhyana Master Changzhong of Yunkong

虛雲老和尚集 Composed by the Elder Master Yun
宣化上人講於一九八五年六月七日 Commentary by the Venerable Master Hua on June 7, 1985








The Master visited the Venerable Shu, also called Xiaoshan, at Shaolin Monastery. At that time Xiaoshan happened to go out. The Master ran into him and asked, "Where is the stone wall that Bodhidharma faced?" Xiaoshan pointed and said, "Over there in that dark and gloomy place. The Master asked, "Why do you point to the east and talk about the west?" He said, "Fake Chan meditators are as many as sesame and millet." The Master said, "Hey, you! Are you imitating a demon and trying to confuse people in this place?" Shan then hit him. The Master did labor for three years. After receiving his instructions, he returned to Yu to live in seclusion at Mount Conggu. Every day, all he did was sit in meditation. So he built a hut and hid in Bingshan for twenty years. He did not have any contact with the world.

In the year of Wuzi in the reign of Wanli, he suddenly told the assembly, "There is something I must finish. You all have to know." Holding his fist up, he asked, "Understand?" The assembly was silent. Again he rapped on the desk once and said, "Hong! Hong! I have finished it for you." Then he entered the stillness. His stupa was built at the foot of the mountain. He lived to be seventy-five.

The 67th generational patriarch is Dhyana Master Changzhong of Yunkong (Skandhas Emptied). It does not explain when this Dhyana Master emptied the five skandhas, nor does it say when they were not yet empty. Now I have some evidence which shows when he had not yet emptied them. Before he asked the question about the stone wall, he hadn't emptied them, but after he was hit, he emptied them. All of you can think about: does this make sense? Surely, it must be that he understood only after being hit. If he hadn't been hit, then he wouldn't have understood.

The Master visited the Venerable Shu, also called Xiaoshan, at Shaolin Monastery. "The Master" refers to Dhyana Master Yunkong, who was also known as Dhyana Master Changzhong. He went to draw near Dhyana Master Xiaoshan, also known as Dhyana Master Zongshu. At that time Xiaoshan happened to go out. Was it the case that when he first arrived at Shaolin Monastery, Xiaoshan was not there? Or was it that right when he got there, Xiaoshan happened to walk out? This is a question. The text doesn't say clearly whether he had already gone out or was just about to go out. The Master ran into him. Does this mean that the Master met Xiaoshan as Xiaoshan was returning from outside, or as he was just coming out of the temple? It's enough if we get the general idea. We don't need to ask whether he was returning from outside, or just going out, since the meaning is not clear. And there's no need for clarity here, either. As you can see, there are some loopholes in this essay.

If Master Xiaoshan was just returning from outside, then of course the Master would have known him. If Master Xiaoshan was just coming out from the temple, then would the Master have met him before? If not, then the Master wouldn't recognize him. Even if the Master had met him, he still might not have asked his question. Why not? Because it was a very rude question. As soon as they met, the Master asked, "Where is the stone wall that Bodhidharma faced?" (Editor's note: Bodhidharma, the Indian Patriarch who brought the Chan School of Buddhism to China and was China's first Patriarch, went to Shaolin and sat in meditation facing a stone wall for nine years.) What does the stone wall that Bodhidharma faced have to do with you? Do you want to go there? Isn't this a superfluous question? You will gradually find out where the stone wall that Bodhidharma faced is located. Why are you asking about Bodhidharma's stone wall when you have just met me? What is your meaning, ultimately? If you stay here for awhile, you'll gradually find out. Why do you have to ask? This question is meaningless. So, the verse later on says, "Making trouble out of nothing, you asked about a stone." Here, you have to investigate why he would ask this. Did he want to take a tour and see the famous attraction? Did he want to know how many pounds Bodhidharma's stone wall weighed? Was it square or round? Was it black, yellow or red? These questions are totally meaningless.

If you want to know my point of view, I think that the Master had just arrived and hadn't gone in yet. Seeing a person coming out, and not knowing who he was, for he didn't necessarily recognize Xiaoshan, he asked rudely, "Where is the stone wall that Bodhi-dharma faced?" He was just like a traveller who went there to visit the tourist attraction, don't you think? Does the way I explain it make sense to you? Since the essay doesn't explain the situation clearly, we have to gain an intuitive understanding.

→To be continued


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