The Master was
born in Jianyang as a son of the Feng family. When he read to the
sentence now that the seeing is without seeing” in the Shurangama
Sutra, he had an insight. He went to seek the advice of Dhyana Master
Shouchang, who rebuked him and gave him a scare. Then when he read the
sentence mptiness has no attendant” in the Lankavatara Sutra, he
suddenly experienced an awakening, but was not completely at ease. When
he read the sentence,ne must hit the ball quickly by the swift waters”
in the Verse of Perfect Enlightenment, his doubts and impediments were
forever eradicated. And then he went to ask Master Chang, saying,came
especially to seek instruction from the High Master in this matter.”
Chang said,hat evidence do you have for this matter?” The Master
snapped his fingers. Chang said,suspect that you still have a sense of
self.” The Master then presented a verse. Chang asked him further, and
the Master answered loudly. Chang gave him a verse. The Master accepted
it and bowed. In the year of wuwu, he went to Dongyuan Monastery.
One day in the
autumn of the year gengwu (1630), during the reign of Emperor
Chongzhen, he pointed to the cliff and said to a cultivator,can be
buried at that place.” The cultivator said, fter you are dead and
buried, then what?” The Master said with a smile, "It will be just
right.” The cultivator asked again, but the Master had already passed
away. A pagoda was built at the cliff he had designated.
I said that I would recite the
text once and then explain it for you, and I wasn’t lying to you. I’m
determined to live up to my words. In the future, if you want me to bow
to you, then you can refuse to come up and talk. I will bow to you
every day, and keep bowing until you are no longer able to remain mute!
This is the Sixty-ninth
Generational Patriarch of the Caodong (Soto) Sect,
Dhyana Master Huitai Yuanjing. “Hui” means dim and unlit, and
“tai” means platform. Yet “yuanjing” ("original mirror") implies that
the mirror is originally bright and doesn’t need to be wiped or brushed
The Master was born in
Jianyang as a son of the Feng family. Where is Jianyang? In
Fujian Province. I’m completely unfamiliar with the geography of China,
and that’s just fine with me, because I don’t want to be a geography
teacher! The Master’s lay surname was Feng.
When he read to the
sentence “know that the seeing is without seeing” in the Shurangama
Sutra, he had an insight. The Shurangama Sutra says we should
realize that the seeing, in itself, has no seeing or awareness of its
own. Seeing cannot see itself. You should know that the seeing is apart
from the seeing. What is it that can see the seeing? The self-nature.
If the seeing could perceive the seeing, then what color would this
seeing be, and what color would that seeing be? However, there is only
one thing that can perceive, namely, a kind of awareness. It is the
nature that perceives. The seeing is like a camera that can take
pictures of other people, but not of itself. Thus, one should know that
the seeing, in its fundamental substance, has no seeing.
Suppose you dig your eyes out;
what would they be able to see then? If you cut off your ears, what
would they be able to hear? If you chopped off your nose, it wouldn’t
be able to smell. If you tried to use the nose by itself, it wouldn’t
function, just as a single engine part cannot make the motor run by
itself. Thus, the seeing has no substance of its own; it is only a
nature. Therefore, “know that the seeing is without seeing"; don’t be
attached to the seeing, for it has no substance or appearance.
When he got to that sentence in
the Sutra, he was a bit confused. He seemed to understand it, and yet
he thought, “What is this talking about? I think I’ve eaten this “food”
before, but I’ve forgotten what it tastes like.” He was like Piggy [in
the Journey to the West] eating ginseng: Piggy heard that ginseng was
good-tasting, and so he swallowed it down in one gulp. Then he asked
Monkey, “Brother Monkey, what does it taste like?” He didn’t know what
it tasted like after he’d eaten it, so he had to ask Monkey. The
Master’s case was similar to Piggy’s. He had attained something without
knowing quite what it was, just as Piggy had eaten ginseng without
tasting its flavor.
Therefore, he went to seek out a
Good and Wise Advisor. He went to seek the advice of Dhyana
Master Shouchang, who was a well-known teacher at the time.
But Master Shouchang rebuked him and gave him a scare. When
one has not genuinely understood, one cannot “make tea with cold
water"--one cannot say that one understands what one does not
understood. He didn’t truly understand, and yet he dared to go and
blurt out a lot of nonsense. That was why Master Shouchang was irate
and scolded him and really let him have it, giving him a good scare.
Then later on when
he read the sentence “Empy and without an attendant” in the Lankavatara
Sutra, he suddenly experienced an awakening, but was not completely at
ease. Being empty, how could one still have an attendant?
Upon reading to that part in the Sutra, the Master understood a bit,
but he was still a little hesitant. It was not like he’d seen the
daylight or had had a great enlightenment that he could rejoice about.
To be continued