The Master was born in Wutang of Jiaxing, a son of the Chen family. When he first read the Shurangama Sutra and reached the part that says, "Just as you, Manjushri," his body, his mind, and the world merged into oneness. Afterwards, he heard Dhyana Master Yunmen speak Dharma from the high seat, saying, "Put it down." The Master rejoiced. He presented a verse, "If you understand the meaning of casting and reeling in the fishing line, then you know that the fish you liberate are those that have been caught." Master Yunmen rebuked him. Then he met a monk who raised the topic of Dhyana Master Dahui peeling lichee. Hearing it, the Master had a great awakening. From then on, he became very quick at verbal combat. Dhyana Master Yunmen gave him a verse. In the year of xinwei of the Chongzhen reign period, he became the abbot of Xiangtian Monastery. Later he also became the abbot of Xiansheng (Manifest Sage), Yuhang, Baoshou (Precious Longevity), Xuefeng (Snowy Peak), and Changqing monasteries. He served as the abbot at more than ten monasteries in all.
At the end of winter in the year of dinghai during the Shunzhi reign period, he suddenly said to the assembly at Fori (Buddha Sun) Monastery, "There is no peace in the world. It would be better to go." The following year, on the third day of the first month, he ascended to the high seat and earnestly bid farewell to everyone. On the seventh, he went to Longmen (Dragon Gate) Monastery. On the eighth, he passed into stillness. When they searched for sharira after his cremation, they found that his teeth had not been burned. A stupa was erected at Longmen Monastery for him.
Dhyana Master Shiyu Mingfang was another patriarch of the seventieth generation in the Caodong Sect. The Master was born in Wutang of Jiaxing, which is in Hangzhou, a son of the Chen family. His lay surname was Chen.
When he first read the Shurangama Sutra and reached the part that says, "Just as you, Manjushri," his body, his mind, and the world merged into oneness. He became as if one with the Shurangama Sutra as soon as he saw it. In the section of the Sutra that says, "Just as you, Manjushri," the point is that there is not a true Manjushri and a false Manjushri. If there were a true one and a false one, then there would be two Manjushris. In fact, there is the one and only Manjushri! How could there be a true Manjushri and a false Manjushri? When he reached that part of the Sutra, he became enlightened.
What was he enlightened to? "His body, his mind, and the world merged into oneness." At that point, he was not aware of the body or mind or the external world. The body, mind, and world had fused into one. Therefore he had no mark of a self, no mark of people, no mark of living beings, and no mark of a life span. Nor did he have any mark of being intimidated by the awesomeness of the assembly. He had "swept away all dharmas and left behind all marks." Why are you too nervous to come up and speak when I ask you to? It's because your mark of self is too heavy! You become so self-conscious that presses down on you until you can't even move; your body and mind have not merged into one with the world. If you have merged into oneness so that you become the same as empty space and the Dharma Realm, then how could there be any "you" or "me" or "him"? There wouldn't be any you, me, or him. There is a you, me, and him, but you are not attached to them. That's what's meant by merging into oneness.
Afterwards, when he was living there he heard Dhyana Master Yunmen speak Dharma from the high seat, saying, "Put it down." Earlier Mr. Zhou already explained that when the Buddha held the flower in his hand, someone offered another flower to the Buddha and the Buddha told him to put it down. He put this down and that down, and yet the Buddha still told him to put it down. He had nothing left, so what could he put down? Then he understood. That was also a case of there being no body or mind within and no world outside; he had put everything down.
Upon hearing the words "Put it down,"the Master rejoiced. He was very happy, because he understood that everything was false. When you can't put it down, it's false. When you're able to put it down, the truth reveals itself.
He then presented a verse, meaning he hadn't really put it down. If he had truly put it all down, why would he want to present a verse? He just wanted to let everyone know that he was enlightened. He wanted to do some publicity for himself. Basically, he'd been right, but he still couldn't put it down; he still wanted to advertise himself. To whom? To someone who was in the business, to someone who had an experienced eye. He felt that Dhyana Master Yunmen was such a person and would recognize him for what he was worth. He wanted to climb on conditions and try to impress someone. Because he had truly put everything down, he had nothing whatsoever. There was nothing he could grasp onto and he was drifting through the air--a very dangerous state. And so he wanted to find someone to talk to, someone who recognized his state and knew his heart. That's why he displayed his spirit and showed off his skill by composing a verse.
The verse went, "If you understand the meaning of casting and reeling in the fishing line, then you know that the fish you liberate are those that have been caught. When we buy creatures so that we can set them free, we should realize that those creatures were caught by people in the first place." He said this to show that he understood everything.
Who doesn't know that the fish we liberate are those that have been caught? Everyone knows, but they don't say it. He wanted to be creative, to "add a head on top of the head he already had" and make such a statement, "If you understand the meaning of casting and reeling in the fishing line, then you know that the fish you liberate are those that have been caught." The fish that are set free are bought by people who kill fish. The fish are caught and then liberated. That's how worldly people are: when they have nothing to do, they look for something to do.
Master Yunmen rebuked him. When Master Yunmen heard him, he thought, "You rascal! You've gone insane! You aren't able to keep your talents hidden until the right time. Showing yourself off like this, how can you be considered a vessel of the Way?" And so he rebuked him. That doesn't mean he was wrong. He might have been right, but just because he thought he was right in every way, Master Yunmen deliberately said he was wrong. Master Yunmen was a real expert and knew how to put him to the test: "I say you're wrong. Let's see how you take that! Let's see if you really understand or not." At that point, he became a bit confused. He was rather at a loss after such a scolding. "Am I right or not?" he wondered. "Is it the way I understand it to be?" He started going down a fork in the road. He went astray and couldn't find his way back home. Now, was Master Yunmen harming him? No, he was telling him to see the road more clearly and not be so reckless.
Then, he was quite lucky, for he met a monk who raised the topic of Dhyana Master Dahui peeling lichee. In front of whom did Master Dahui peel the lichee fruit? [Disciple: The Fourth Patriarch.]
After hearing that, he truly understood. He truly became enlightened. This time, he didn't go wild, looking for someone to whom he could brag about his skill. He didn't dare to try out his new skill. Since he had truly understood, he didn't need to test out his skill. Dhyana Master Yunmen had scolded the Master when he submitted a verse in the past; now, probably out of compassion and in order to console him, he composed a verse for the Master. By this time, the Master had smashed the black barrel of ignorance; he was like a big boulder that had hit the ground. He had no more doubts, and he knew that he was on the right path.
Hearing it, the Master had a great awakening. He was enlightened after hearing the story of peeling the lichee. From then on, he became very quick at verbal combat. Why was this? Since he was no longer fond of showing off and debating with others, his true ability manifested. Little by little he saved up his energy, and gradually his skill matured. Dhyana Master Yunmen gave him a verse.
In the year of xinwei of the Chongzhen reign period, he became the abbot of Xiangtian Monastery. Later he also became the abbot of Xiansheng (Manifest Sage), Yuhang, Baoshou (Precious Longevity), Xuefeng (Snowy Peak), and Changqing monasteries. During his lifetime, he served as the abbot at more than ten great monasteries in all.
At the end of winter in the year of dinghai, probably right before New Year's, during the Shunzhi reign period, he suddenly said to the assembly at Fori (Buddha Sun) Monastery, "There is no peace in the world. It would be better to go. Since the world is not a peaceful place, it would be better not to live here." The following year, on the third day of the first month, he ascended the high seat to speak Dharma and earnestly bid farewell to everyone. He very sincerely said, "Goodbye to all of you, for now we must part."
On the seventh, he went to Longmen (Dragon Gate) Monastery. "On the seventh" could mean "on the seventh day of the month," or "after seven days had passed" (that is, the tenth of the month). Perhaps if he had a biographical record, we could find out which one was right. but as of now, it could be interpreted either way. On the eighth, which could mean either the eighth day of the month or eight days after the third (the eleventh), he passed into stillness while seated in full lotus posture. The author of the "Lives of the Patriarchs" probably didn't think of the confusion that the ambiguous phrasing of the dates would cause.
When they searched for sharira after his cremation in order to count them, they found that his teeth had not been burned. A stupa was erected at Longmen Monastery for him. Stupa is Sanskrit and means "square grave." They built a stupa to hold his sharira and bones at Longmen Monastery.
A verse in praise says:
There are not two Manjushris;
Oneness is realized.
Take off one's shirt;
Turn the fishing pole around.
With a mouth like the ocean and a tongue like a ship--
He swallowed the lichee whole.
The Udumbara Flower blooms once in a thousand years.
There are not two Manjushris; / Oneness is realized. There is not even one, much less two. If you have the concept of one, you're still attached to marks. "Oneness is realized" means everything throughout empty space and pervading the Dharma Realm becomes one. There isn't any true Manjushri or false Manjushri, nor any true Universal Worthy or false Universal Worthy.
Take off one's shirt. Take off your dirty clothes. As Mr. Chou said, this means emptying the five skandhas--form, feeling, cognition, formation, and consciousness. Seeing them as empty is like taking off one's shirt.
Turn the fishing pole around. Don't use the fishing pole to fish anymore. Turn it around. To where?
With a mouth like the ocean and a tongue like a ship. His mouth was like a vast sea, and his tongue was like a great ship ferrying people across the sea. "A tongue like a ship" refers to how he spoke the Dharma and taught living beings.
He swallowed the lichee whole. When people eat lichee fruit, they like to savor its taste. He wasn't into tasting things, however. He didn't get caught up in forms, sounds, smells, tastes, sensations of touch and mental dharmas. To him, it was the same whether he ate delicious or bad-tasting food. He wasn't like ordinary people, who spend all their time indulging in good food and drink, fine houses, and fancy clothes. All day long they feast on delicious gourmet food, but once the food is in their stomachs it turns bad just the same. What meaning is there in it?
The Udumbara Flower blooms once in a thousand years. This Dhyana Master was as rare and exceptional as the Udumbara. Such a one as he may appear only once in a thousand years.
Another verse says:
The wonderfully deep Dharani, the Shurangama King
Causes the heavenly demons and those of outside ways to flee far away.
It strikes terror in the li, mei, and wang liang ghosts;
Leaving no place for the cow-ghosts and snake-spirits to hide.
It gives rise to innumerable sages and worthies
And extends our limited lifespans indefinitely.
Shiyu gave us solid proof and set a fine example to follow.
Such a one is met only once in a thousand years—a most auspicious event.
The wonderfully deep Dharani, the Shurangama King. Since he became enlightened upon reading the Shurangama Sutra, this verse begins by praising that Sutra. This line is based on the line from the Sutra that says, "Wonderfully deep dharani, unmoving Honored One." I changed "unmoving Honored One" to "the Shurangama King," which is easier to understand. People might think "unmoving Honored One" refers to a Buddha. "The Shurangama King" refers to the Shurangama Sutra.
It causes the heavenly demons and those of outside ways to flee far away. When they hear the Shurangama Sutra, they run far away and dare not show themselves.
It strikes terror in the li, mei, and wang liang ghosts. These ghosts will fight with anyone, but despite their ferocity and evil natures, even they fear the Sutra.
Leaving no place for the cow-ghosts and snake-spirits to hide. The Shurangama Sutra acts as a demon-spotting mirror. When the cow-ghosts and snake-spirits are reflected in this mirror, their true form is revealed.
It gives rise to innumerable sages and worthies. Infinite numbers of Buddhas and Bodhisattvas are born from the Shurangama Sutra. And extends our limited lifespans indefinitely. Our lifespans have a limit, but if we study the Shurangama Sutra, we will know the way to gain eternal life, which is even better than being born in the heavens.
Shiyu gave us solid proof and set a fine example to follow. Dhyana Master Shiyu Mingfang was an excellent example and model for all of us. Such a one is met only once in a thousand years--a most auspicious event. His presence in the world was a most fortunate thing, for such a person appears perhaps only once in a thousand years. We are now extremely fortunate to hear about this Dharma Master's life and deeds.
Something that I ate today made me feel pretty dizzy, but I still roused my spirits and lectured for all of you. My mind is as strong as can be, and I'm not afraid of anything. However, everything should be done in moderation.