TheMaster'sname was Hongtan; his title was Lingrui. He was born into
the Su Family in the City of Zhu, Qin Province. The Master had no
particular inclinations other than the aspiration to transcend the
world. When he grew older, he became even more vigorous in this pursuit.
When High Master Songru Daomi was practicing the Way in Wo District,
the Master left home and sought to have his head shaved. One day he
approached High Master Songru. Even before he had a chance to bow,
however, Master Songru let out an imposing roar that resolved all of
the Master's doubts. Master Lingrui jumped for
joy. He then proceeded southward to visit High Master Wu at Tiantong.
High Master Wu was standing on a rock at the time. Master Lingrui drew
a circle and presented it to the High Master.As Wu observed the Master,
the Master bowed in respect. Wu suddenly struck the Master on his head,
so the Master shouted. Wu beat the Master again. The Master yelled
Afterwards, the Master left and returned to Wo District. There High
Master Songru instructed the Master to propagate the Dharma at Bao'en,
Bodhi, and Zhuoxi onasteries.
In the winter of the year xinhai during the Kangxi reign
period, the Master died while sitting in meditation. The Master was
born on the sixteenth of the eleventh month in the year renyin 
during the Wanli reign period. He lived to the age of seventy. A stupa
housing his whole body was built to the right of Bao'en Monastery.
The Master was a Patriarch of
the 71st generation of Caodong Sect.
His title was Dhyana Master Lingrui. His name was Hongtan. Tan
refers to the
night-blooming cereus. The cereus is an auspicious and rare flower,
symbolizing the rarity of this Dhyana Master.
The Master's name was
Hongtan. In Chinese the word hui, meaning to shun the use
of, is used before the
name to signify that one should avoid saying his personal name. Why was
the author afraid to mention the Master's name? Out of respect.
However, his title was Lingrui (Efficacious Portent), because
the cereus is an auspicious portent and a rare flower. He was born
into the Su Family in the City of Zhu, Qin Province. This Dhyana
Master was a native of Shandong, Qin Province. The people of Qin
Province are tough and like to fight. They have stubborn dispositions.
The City of Zhu is a town in the province. His family name was Su.
The Master had no particular
inclinations.Ever since he was born, he didn't like anything in
particular. It's not that
he had no habits whatsoever. He didn't care about much, other than
the aspiration to transcend the world. All he thought about every
day was leaving home. Nothing else was important to him. When he
grew older, he became even more vigorous in this pursuit. When he
got older, he became even more resolved and diligent in pursuing this
goal. He was not greedy for the conditions of this world. He didn't
want any of the five desires: wealth, sex, fame, food, and sleep. When
High Master Songru Daomi was practicing the Way in Wo District, the
Master left home and sought to have his head shaved. At this time,
Dhyana Master Hongtan left home and requested to have his head shaved
and become a monk.
One day he approached High
Master Songru. He headed to where the Abbot sat. Even before
he had a chance to bow, just
as he was about to prostrate, however, Master Songru let out an
imposing roar. High Master Songru Daomi let out a loud bellow,
showing his might the way lions roar. That resolved all of the
Master's doubts. That shout chased away all his doubts. He
suddenly understood everything he didn't understand before. Master
Lingrui jumped for joy. He was so happy that he practically
jumped. He didn't literally jump, but he was so happy that he looked as
if he wanted to jump.
He then proceeded southward. Then
he went to study in the south. He went to visit High Master Wu at
Tiantong.He went to Tiantong Monastery to see the High
Master there. High Master Wu was standing on a rock at the time.
Master Lingrui drew a
circle and presented it to the High Master. The Dhyana Master was
quite playful, drawing a circle and presenting it as a gift to High
As Wu observed the Master. The
Master drew a circle in thin air and High Master Wu was tricked into
checking out what he was drawing. When High Master Wu was not paying
Master knelt and bowed in respect. He prostrated to High
Master Wu. High Master Wu thought, "This person is extremely naughty;
he deserves a beating." Wu suddenly struck the Master on his head. He
took his Dhyana staff and struck the Master on his head! So the
Master shouted. Since the Master yelled, Wu beat the Master
again. The Master yelled again. Since he was beaten, he let out
another cry. That test was not easy to pass.
Afterwards, the Master left
and returned to Wo District. He went back to Wo District to see
High Master Songru
Daomi. There High Master Songru instructed the Master. At that
time, High Master Songru saw that the Master had completed his studies
and had truly understood, so he transmitted the Mind-Dharma to him. He instructed
the Master to propagate the Dharma at Bao'en, Bodhi, and Zhuoxi
Monasteries, and many other places.
In the winter of the year xinhai
during the Kangxi reign period, the Master died while sitting in
meditation. We should pay attention to this passage. Pay attention
to what? Pay attention to how he died while sitting in meditation. This
is called "sitting liberation," entering perfect stillness while
sitting. Not everyone can do this. If you usually lack skill, you can
forget sitting and dying free of disease—you can hardly lie there and
die. You feel as if you cannot die and cannot live because you're
embroiled in illness and pain. Thus, you can tell whether someone has
true skill when he is at the brink of death. If you climb on conditions
and beg from everyone, then you will lose your bearings when you're
about to die. You certainly won't know where you came from and where
you'll go. You'll have wasted your time coming to this world. Why do
monks and nuns leave home and practice in bitterness? Why do they
endure what others cannot endure, yield what others cannot yield, eat
what others cannot eat, and suffer what others cannot suffer? Why
should they not fight, not be greedy, not seek, not be selfish, not
pursue personal advantage, and not lie? Why should they be this way? To
leave the cycle of birth and death.
Leaving the cycle of birth and
death doesn't happen just with a few words. You must have true skill.
True skill is
the ability to sit and die with a smile on your face like this Master
did. He passed away while sitting in the full lotus posture and joking
with everyone. See how free and at ease he was. To cultivate is to
cultivate to the extent that you understand your own coming and going.
I know where I came from and know that I will head to a bright spot and
not a dark place. I'm not going to the three evil paths of hells,
hungry ghosts and animals. I'm also not ascending to the heavens.
Instead I'm going to the Land of Ultimate Bliss, which is the Pure Land
of Eternal Tranquility and Light.
If you want to go to the Pure
Land of Eternal Tranquility and Light and attain the most supreme
Nirvana, the Nirvana
of non-residue, then you must constantly check on yourself. You cannot
have the slightest flaw, the slightest bit of pretense. You must be
grounded in every step of studies; otherwise, your habits and flaws are
hard to correct. People always selfishly seek for things outside; for
that reason, they fight and covet things, and waste an entire lifetime.
Such a life is not particularly meaningful. You may fight for and hoard
money; but in the end, you cannot take any of it with you. Sex is empty
at death. You may covet fame, but you have to return your fame when you
die. You may have a huge appetite for tasty foods now, but when you die
you won't recognize any taste. If you're greedy for sleep now, when you
die you may hibernate underground. You may sleep forever and never
awake. Wealth, sex, fame, food, and sleep are the five roots of the
hells, and you should not be greedy for any of them.