The Master was from the family of Yin in Changxing, Zhachuan. At age twenty-one, he went to visit the Venerable Kegui of Ye Mountain. One day the Venerable One asked him, "The bright sun crosses the sky in the daytime. The bright moon shines in the windows at night. Without the illumination of the sun and moon, it would be hard for living beings to see. How would you explain the phrase, 'not discriminating between light and dark'? I say, 'Tonight we will have the common tea, and the next morning we will worship the sages.'" The Master submitted a verse:
The sun is in the sky; the moon shines in the windows.
From the distant past until the present day, we have just danced in the air.
When light and dark both disappear, what does one see?
If space is smashed, who would know how to mend it?
If someone could mend it, that would startle a wooden doll into beating a stone drum.
After his verse was certified, he went to Hanyang and built Guiyuan (Return to the Source) Monastery. On the twenty-fifth of the twelfth month in the guihai year of the Kangxi reign period, the Master announced that he was entering the stillness. The assembly requested a verse. The Master wrote a verse saying, "I came to Chu thirty years ago. My bad name has spread all over the place. Some say good things about me, but they are not my fellow cultivators. They may say they are, but it's not so! If they want to be my fellow cultivators, they must have this kind of skill." He threw the brush down and passed away at age 79, with 42 years in the precepts. His stupa was built on the south side of the monastery. His instructional talks were compiled in two volumes.
This is the first patriarch in the 73rd generation of the Caodong School. His name was Baiguang (White Light), and because of the light, he was also called Dhyana Master Deming (Brilliance of Virtue).
The Master was from the family of Yin in Changxing, Zhachuan. His lay surname was Yin. He was a son of the Yin family. At age twenty- one, he went to visit the Venerable Kegui of Ye Mountain. There was a monk by the name of Kegui living at Ye Mountain. One day the Venerable One, Master Kegui asked him, "The bright sun crosses the sky in the daytime. The bright moon shines in the doors and windows of every home at night. Without the illumination of the sun and moon, it would be hard for living beings to see. No one would be able to see anything. How would you explain the phrase, 'not discriminating between light and dark'? Not discriminating means not being attached to light and dark. I, Venerable Kegui, say—this is my answer—'Tonight we will have the common tea.' Today it's time for everyone to have tea together. In large Chinese monasteries traditionally, usually on the fourteenth and the thirtieth of the lunar month, everyone comes to a common tea in the evening. It's a gathering for casual conversation, where people can express their opinions. Usually monastics concentrate on their individual practices and have no opportunity for conversation. As a result, they are not mutually acquainted. They don't even know each other's name. That's why it became a tradition for everyone to get together every half a month to chat. Such a gathering is called a common tea. Tea is made, and refreshments, such as peanuts, or chocolate, or candy, are served. For example, if people like candy, then candy may be served. People can chat about ordinary daily-life matters at the common tea, and everyone is welcome to attend. Everyone who lives in the monastery can join the tea gathering. Anyone can come; there's no need to be invited. That's why it's called a common tea.
Venerable Kegui said, "This evening it's time for the common tea, and the next morning, which would either be the first or the fifteenth of the lunar month, we will worship the sages by chanting the Incense Praise." Here at the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas, we recite the Incense Praise every day during the Meal Offering Ceremony and the morning and evening ceremonies. In Chinese monasteries, however, they only recite the Incense Praise when they hold the Large Meal Offering on the first and fifteenth. On other days they recite a Small Meal Offering right in the dining hall. They don't do a Meal Offering in the main Buddha hall. "Worshipping the sages" refers to reciting the Incense Praise during the special ceremony for the first and the fifteenth days of the lunar month. Four sages in particular are worshipped: Weituo, Qielan, Jianzhai, and the Patriarchs. On the first and fifteenth, the assembly recites the Jeweled Censor Praise to worship the sages.
The Master submitted a verse. Master Deming heard Venerable Kegui's answer and saw that it did not explain "not discriminating light and dark." Venerable Kegui simply said, "I say that tonight there will be a common tea, and tomorrow we will worship the sages." That was just his own opinion. And so Dhyana Master Deming presented a verse. It says,
The sun is in the sky; the moon shines in the doors and windows of every home. From the distant past until the present day, we have just danced in the air. In the past and present, we have let the time go by in vain, as if dancing in the air. We haven't had any worthwhile achievements.
When light and dark both disappear, what does one see? When the light and darkness are both gone, what can you see? At that time, you won't be able to see anything. This is a natural state of affairs.
If space is smashed, who would know how to mend it? If, having nothing better to do, you crushed and shattered space, who would be able to put it back together again? If someone could mend it and really patch up the parts that were broken, that would startle a wooden doll into beating a stone drum. Actually the wooden doll and the stone drum are both hypothetical and don't exist; they represent an impossible situation.
After his verse was certified: After the Master spoke his verse, Venerable Kegui saw that he understood the principles of the universe and Nature, and their connection with his own self-nature, so Venerable Kegui transmitted the Dharma to him. Thereupon he went to Hanyang in Hubei Province and built Guiyuan (Return to the Source) Monastery in the guihai year of the Kangxi reign period. On the twenty-fifth of the twelfth month in the guihai year (1683 A.D.) of the Kangxi reign period, the Master announced to everyone that he was entering the stillness.
The assembly requested a verse. Virtuous, accomplished cultivators generally speak a verse before they pass away. It's a kind of unnecessary flourish, but the assembly asked for one, so the Master wrote a verse saying,
I came to Chu thirty years ago. Chu refers to the ancient state of Chu, which is the present-day Hunan and Hubei Provinces. He said he had been in Chu for thirty years.
My bad name has spread all over the place. He wasn't being polite, and he didn't have an inferiority complex, as someone had explained. Even if he had a good reputation, he himself considered it a bad one. There was no distinction between good and bad; they were all the same to him. He didn't praise himself and disparage others, saying, "I have such a good reputation!" He called his name a bad one, which was telling everyone not to be attached to name, to get rid of their desire for a good name. [The tape did not record the rest of the lecture. The following commentary was recorded by Upasika Guo Jie Chan, who was present at the time of the lecture.] It's only because you have problems and attachments that you are afraid people won't believe you or will look down on you. Then you become all afflicted and start to argue about rights and wrongs. This Master must certainly have been very lofty to be able to "throw the brush down and pass away."
Some say good things about me, but they are not my fellow cultivators. They are not on a par with me. They may say they are, they may claim to be equal to me, but it's not so! It can't be. If they want to be my fellow cultivators, if they want to be the same as I, they must have this kind of skill." He threw the brush down and passed away at age 79, with 42 years in the precepts. His age in the precepts, which is the same as his age in the Sangha, was forty-two. His stupa was built on the south side of the monastery. His instructional talks were compiled in two volumes.
To be continued
Venerable Master's Dharma Words
♦When you venerate the Buddha, and the Buddha accepts your veneration, your blessings and wisdom will increase. That is to say, when you pray by bowing to the Buddha and the Buddha responds by receiving your bow, the prayer and response are said to be "intertwined in the Way."