Great Master Tao Hsin
The family name of the Fourth Patriarch was Ssu
Ma, and his personal name was Hsin. During the Han and Chin
Dynasties, "Ssu Ma" was an honorable ancestral name; both the
Emperor Ssu Ma of the Chin Dynasty as well as the historian and
skilled writer Ssu Ma Ch'ien of the Han Dynasty held this name. At
an early age, however, the Patriarch renounced his name and began to
cultivate vigorously. As a Bhiksu, his new
name was Tao Hsin. He lived seventy-two years, sixty of which were
spent without lying down even once to sleep. The Fourth Patriarch's
realm of accomplishment was inconceivable.
While Tao Hsin was in the mountains cultivating
the way, a nearby city in Hu Pei province was besieged by bandits
for more than a hundred days, depriving the inhabitants of water and
supplies. Seeing the city wells dry and the lives of the people in
danger, Dharma Master Tao Hsin descended from his mountain retreat to transform the city
dwellers. He taught them all, common people and officials alike, to recite "Mahaprajnaparamita".
After they had recited for a time, the bandits fled and water
reappeared in the wells. This is the kind of magical response which
Dharma Master Tao Hsin brought forth as a result of his superior cultivation.
When the Patriarch was ready to build a temple,
he used his Buddha eye to investigate the causes and conditions. In
Hu Pei Province he saw Broken Head Mountain surrounded by a purple
cloud of energy. Observing this auspicious sign, the Master went
there to dwell, changing its inauspicious name "Broken Head" to
Double Peak (Shuang Feng) Mountain.
Using expedient Dharmas,
the Master taught stubborn Living beings, who resisted change, how
to discard their Bad habits. However,
these stubborn beings often discarded what was good, and continued
in doing bad. Nevertheless, the Master persisted, using all kinds of
expedient teachings to coax them to change
their behavior. For more than forty years, he widely propagated the
Buddhadharma, transforming a multitude of living beings greater in
number than the seedlings of rice, the stalks of hemp, the shoots of
bamboo, and the blades of grass.
One day the Fourth Patriarch told his disciple,
Dharma Master Yuen I, "You should build a Stupa
for me. I am going to go." Not long after, the Patriarch asked, "Is
"Yes," replied Disciple Yuen I, "The Stupa has been completed."
In the second year of Yung Hui, of the T'ang
Dynasty, on the twenty-fourth day of the ninth month, Patriarch Tao
Hsin, who had never been ill, unannounced, sat down and entered
Nirvana. His disciples placed the flesh body in the stone
Stupa, and sealed the tomb with iron locks
and bars. After a year, the iron locks fell away and the Stupa opened by itself. Looking in,
everyone saw the body of the Fourth Patriarch still sitting in full
lotus, appearing the same as when he was alive. Although the body of
the Master had not decayed or rotted, the flesh had dried out
completely; in order to protect it, the Fifth Patriarch Hung Jen
wrapped the body with lacquered cloth and gilded it with gold. This
true body still exists today.
The Fifth Patriarch Hung Jen, was also of the
T'ang Dynasty, His family name was Chou and he lived in Huang Mei
County near Double Peak Mountain. When he was seven he left home at
the temple on the Mountain, bowing to the Fourth Patriarch as his
master. Day after day, Master Hung Jen joined the others in the
work. He cleaned the lamps and incense before the Buddha images,
swept the floor, carried water, split firewood, and worked in the
kitchen. At age thirteen, he took the complete precepts of a
Bhiksu, and followed Patriarch Tao Hsin for thirty years, studying the Buddhadharma.
The Fifth Patriarch had a special appearance.
He was eight feet tall and very stocky. Yet in the face of the most
mean and derisive treatment, he remained silent and unmoving. When
he did speak, he did not speak of "right" and "wrong" because he did
not give rise to discrimination. When fellow Bhiksus
came to cheat or bully him, he never opposed them. His calm,
quiet manner indicated that he had realized a state of peace.
After working all day, the Master didn't rest.
Instead of sleeping, he sat in meditation, uniting body and mind in
samadhi, and thus established great concentration power.
Master Hung Jen lived in the woods of P'ing Mao
Mountain slightly east of Double Peak Mountain, so his teaching is
called the East Mountain Dharma Door, Once, while living and
cultivating on this mountain, like his master the Fourth Patriarch
before him, he saw a horde of bandits besieging a nearby city. The
leader, a Mongol named K'e Ta Ha Nu Lu, and his followers had so
tightly cut off the communications of that city that even birds
couldn't fly in and out. Observing these conditions, the Fifth
Patriarch descended P'ing Mao Mountain toward the besieged city.
When the bandits saw him, they were terrified. They saw not only the
Patriarch, but also a retinue of golden-armored Vajra King
Bodhisattvas armed with jeweled weapons, manifesting awesome virtue
and overpowering brightness. When K'e Ta Ha Nu Lu and his followers
saw these Vajra Spirits, they scattered and fled, thus ending their siege.
How was the Great Master alone able to manifest
these hordes of Vajra King Bodhisattvas holding deadly weapons?
First of all, the Fifth Patriarch had cultivated, and secondly, he
held and recollected the Shurangama Mantra. The Shurangama Sutra says
that if one is constantly mindful of this mantra, eighty-four
thousand Vajra Store Bodhisattvas will follow and give protection
from all danger.
The Fourth Patriarch, Tao Hsin, had received
three invitations to appear before Emperor Chen Kuang, and thrice he
had refused. In the fifth year of the reign period Hsien Ch'ing, the
Emperor also sent officials to request the presence of Hung Jen, the
Fifth Patriarch, at the Imperial Palace. The Fifth Patriarch also
declined the invitations of the Emperor three times, even though the
Emperor himself sent a variety of gifts, including rare medicinal
herbs, as offerings to the Great Master.
In the T'ang Dynasty, in the fifth year of the
reign of Emperor Hsien Hsiang, the Master said to his disciple.
Master Hsuan Chi, "Build me a Stupa, I'm
going." In the second month, the fourteenth day, he asked, "Is the
Stupa complete?" Master Hsuan Chi replied
that it was finished. The Patriarch said, "For many years I have
taught and transformed living beings. I have crossed over those whom
I must cross over and I have already transmitted my
Dharma to Hui Neng. Now, in addition, you
ten should become Dharma hosts, each establishing a place in which
to preserve and spread the Dharma among living beings." The ten he
addressed were: Dharma Masters Shen Hsiu, Chin Hsien, Yi Fang, Chih
Te, Hsuan Chi, Lao An, Fa Ju, Hui Tsang, Hsuan Yao, and also Upasaka
Liu Chu Pu, who had dealt with correspondence and accounting. The
Fifth Patriarch sent each of these ten people to a different place
to teach and transform living beings. Shortly thereafter, he sat
very still and his energy dispersed as he entered Nirvana. During
the seventy-four years of his life, the Fifth Patriarch Hung Jen had
accepted many disciples, and had transmitted the Dharma to the Sixth
Patriarch Hui Neng.
The Sixth Patriarch's family name was Lu, and
he was a native of Hu Nan Province. His father was sent by the
government to Canton in Hsin Chou County. Although his father was an
official, he didn't have money because he was honest, and would not
embezzle or receive bribes for his own gain.
Because the Sixth Patriarch's family was very
poor he received little formal schooling. At that time in China, one
needed money to go to school, and so, because of his poverty, the
Master could not read. In spite of his illiteracy, he had an
especially intelligent nature.
His father died young and the Master labored
constantly to support his mother. Each day he hiked into the
mountains to cut and gather firewood which he sold at the market,
and with meager earnings bought rice for his mother and himself.
When he was twenty-two, he met the Fifth
Patriarch Hung Jen, who asked him, "Where are you from and what do you want?"
"I'm from Hsin Chou," Hui Neng said, "and I
have come here to realize Buddhahood. I seek nothing else."
"Oh, you're from Hsin Chou. Those people are
all barbarians. How can you become a Buddha?"
"My body is that of a barbarian, but how is my
Buddha-nature different from that of the High Master?"
The Fifth Patriarch heard these words and knew
that this person had good roots. He wanted to speak further but he
feared that his followers would be jealous because he was speaking
with a barbarian. So he ordered Hui Neng to follow the rest of the
people in work, and for eight months Hui Neng threshed rice.
One day the Patriarch came to the threshing
floor and asked, "Is the rice ready?"
The Sixth Patriarch replied, "The rice has long been ready."
Threshing rice, the grain must be separated
from the chaff before it is ready to sift. Because the Sixth
Patriarch answered, "It has long been ready," the Fifth Patriarch
knew that his spiritual skill was fully accomplished. This skill is
derived from daily sitting meditation. How could the Sixth
Patriarch's spiritual attainment of Dhyana meditation have come from
threshing rice? The source of his skill was just there;
he heard the sound of the rice being threshed. When he pounded,
there was sound. When he didn't pound, there was no sound. His ears
heard sounds produced and destroyed, He listened and realized that
his , hearing nature, however, was neither produced nor destroyed.
In this way he had long ago opened enlightenment, and so when asked
"Is the rice ready?" he understood, "Have you opened enlightenment
or not?" In his reply "It has long been ready," he affirmed that, "I
have long since understood this principle."
The matter may be easily spoken, but in the end
it is necessary for people to have reached the same inward
understanding. Because in the minds of the Fifth Patriarch and Sixth
Patriarch there was complete mutual knowing, their questions and
answers sealed this understanding.