Lü Dongbin is commonly known in the world as Lü Zu or Patriarch Lü. Taoism pays particular attention to patriarchs, and Taoists everywhere worship Lü Zu and even have temples dedicated to him. In reality, who is Lü Zu? He is the transformation of a Buddhist personage, namely, Guanshiyin (Avalokiteshvara) Bodhisattva. Guanshiyin Bodhisattva manifests as Lü Zu in order to convert Taoist cultivators, who usually let their hair grow long. Why did Lü Zu take refuge with the Triple Jewel then? It was an act of returning home and acknowledging his ancestors; he came back to Buddhism. He had gone outside to Taoism and manifested as a Taoist cultivator, "casting out a brick to draw in a piece of jade," so to speak. By doing so, he was actually paving the way for Buddhism. However, people all make the mistake of getting attached. When they see that he is Taoist and is called Patriarch Lü, most people fail to recognize that he is actually Guanshiyin Bodhisattva in Buddhism. He simply assumed a different appearance, but we living beings cling to our attachments and don't know what's going on.
How can we know that he is Guanshiyin Bodhisattva? Simply by the fact that he has affinities with many people in the Saha World. That is why many people now make offerings to Lü Zu, bow to Lü Zu, and believe in Lü Zu. He is gathering in all those of other faiths and sects and leading them to take refuge in the orthodox teaching, to take refuge with the Triple Jewel of the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha. Therefore we should recognize that this is Guanshiyin Bodhisattva manifesting another kind of transformation body. That is to say, "For those who should be taught and converted by a Taoist, he manifests as a Taoist and speaks the Dharma."
Lü Dongbin was extremely erudite. He had great wisdom and was able to memorize anything after reading it once. At the age of ten, he could already write essays. He lived during the Tang Dynasty and was a native of Changan in Shanxi Province. His original surname was Li, the same as that of Tang Emperor Taizong. Later, during the revolt of the Yellow Turbans, he fled to Yongle Mountain and hollowed out a cave to be his home. The cave dwelling had two doors. At that time, the Yellow Turbans were killing anyone whose surname was Li. Therefore, while looking at the two doors to his cave home, he had a flash of insight and decided to change his surname from the character Li to the character Lü, which is made up of two openings (呂). Li and Lü sound very similar. He changed his name to Lü Dongbin (Dongbin means "guest of the cave") and lived in the caves as a hermit. He also called himself by the name Lü Yan (Yan means "grotto") because he dwelled in the mountain caves. Gifted with high intelligence, he had passed the civil examination as a third degree graduate [considered equivalent to earning a doctorate]. Thus he was appointed as the district magistrate. While serving as magistrate, one day he met Han Zhongli, who had been a great general of the Han Dynasty but later saw through the affairs of the world and renounced the worldly life to become a Taoist cultivator. Han Zhongli explained various principles and reasons to him, teaching and transforming him so that he was also able to regard the wealth, honor, and glory of the world with indifference. As Mr. Zhou described in his lecture, Han Zhongli used all sorts of expedient Dharma-doors to teach and transform him. Later on, he had what the Chinese call a "dream while cooking millet"; that is, in the brief time before the millet was done, he had what seemed to be a very long dream about his entire life. And when he awoke from the dream, he knew that everything is a dream.
Because he realized that everything is a dream, he later followed Han Zhongli to cultivate the Way. Being endowed with good roots that were deep and thick, Lü Dongbin achieved the skill of being able to send an astral body out of the top of his head very soon after he started cultivating. He also wielded an invisible sword with great prowess, swinging and hacking away at goblins, demons, ghosts, and monsters. He could fly and transform himself, and his spiritual powers were considerable. Using these great spiritual powers, he rescued those in difficulty and danger everywhere. By going around saving people, he earned three thousand merits and performed eight hundred good deeds; he established merit and virtue.
One time Lü Dongbin traveled to Huang Long (Yellow Dragon) Mountain to visit Dhyana Master Hui Tang. He had noticed an aura of spiritual energy around Huang Long Mountain and knew that there was an extraordinary person there. Wishing to meet the person, who was an eminent monk possessed of virtue, he went to see Dhyana Master Huang Long (Dhyana Master Hui Tang, who is respectfully referred to by the name of the place he came from) and asked him, "What happens when a single grain of millet forms a world and the mountain streams are boiled in a half-pint kettle?" What is that state like? Hearing him say that, Dhyana Master Huang Long knew that he was still an amateur, so he retorted, "Hmpf! Your state is merely that of a corpse-guarding ghost; it's nothing special!"
→To be continued