The Master was a native of the Wei Prefecture. From his birth he knew about the Way and had unimpeded eloquence. He was a room-entering disciple of Dhyana Master Fayan. Once he presided over the Dharma Hall and declared, “My original intent was to live in the mountains and hide my light, recuperate from my illness as I pass the time. However, my teacher had some unfinished business. And so I have come out to finish it on his behalf.
At that time a monk asked him, “What was your teacher’s unfinished business?”
The Master hit him. He said, “Because the life-pulse of the Patriarchs has not been cut off, it entails a lot of trouble for their sons and grandsons.
The monk asked, “Where does the mistake lie?”
The Master answered, “The mistake lies in my getting you involved in this trouble.”
When the King of Jiangnan heard about this, he also asked the Master, “What was the unfinished business of your teacher?”
The Master replied, “I am right now in the process of clarifying the issue.”
Another monk asked, “What is the secret meaning that came from the west?
The Master answered, “Suffering!”
“What is the great intent of the Buddhadharma?”
The Master retorted, “First, ask about the small intent. Then I will show you the great intent.”
This Patriarch belongs to the Fayan (Dharma Eye) School of Chan. There are five schools of Chan in China, and they are compared to five petals of a single flower. The Five Schools are: Linji, Caodong, Yunmen, Weiyang, and Fayan.
In Buddhism we have the saying: The Lin Ji school filled half the sky. The Caodong had one corner. Yunmen and Fayan had only a small following.
The Caodong School had about one quarter of the entire Chan population, whereas Yunmen, Fayan and Weiyang each had small followings. The Linji School had the greatest following. That is because all the Patriarchs of that school had to undergo beatings. As a result, the descendants in that line are many. The other Chan schools did not have such large followings.
Dhyana Master Fa Deng (Dharma Lamp) of Jinling, present-day Nanjing, is the forty-third generational patriarch in the Fayan School.
The Master was a native of the Wei Prefecture, in Henan Province. There are hidden dragons and crouching tigers in Henan. That place has all manner of people. From his birth he knew about the Way. Dharma Master Fa Deng had an impressive background. From the time he was born, he knew how to cultivate the Way. He was born with knowledge, which means he was the most superior kind of person. It is said:
Those born with knowledge are superior.
Those who gain knowledge through study are less lofty.
Those who learn only under duress are more inferior.
Those who refuse to learn even under duress are the most inferior kind of people.
People who know how to cultivate from the time they are born are sages or perhaps Bodhisattvas who have come again. They are blessed with superior faculties and keen wisdom. Those who gain knowledge after study are of a lesser calibre. And those who only study because they have endured hardships are an even lesser grade of people than the previous kind. Those who refuse to study even when they are in the midst of poverty and hardship are the lowest kind of people.
This Dhyana Master knew about the Way from the time he was born.
And he had unimpeded eloquence. You should know where eloquence comes from. Why is it that some people are born intelligent, while others are born stupid? Further, there are two different kinds of intelligent people. The first kind of intelligent people are those who have deeply steeped themselves in
prajna. They have recited Great Vehicle Sutras and especially investigated the
prajna texts. Because they have deeply entered the Sutra treasury, they gain sealike wisdom. That is the wisdom derived from study of Buddhism. Not only are such people intelligent, they always walk on the straight and open path. Everything they do is upright, bright, and public. They are not the least bit casual or perfunctory. They never resort to any trick in order to gain fame or profit. Because they come from a proper path, their actions are proper. Such people act as models for others. Their intelligence is gained through a proper course.
There is another kind of intelligence that is gained through deviant paths. Such people are actually goblins, strange ghosts, and demons who have reincarnated in the world in human form. Such people may be essences such as li,
mei, or wang liang ghosts, cow-ghosts or snake spirits, and so forth. They possess supernatural powers and a kind of ghost-like intelligence. You can’t fool them in the least. They know everything, but they do not do proper things. Instead, they engage in killing, arson, theft, and robbery, or other harmful acts that contradict heavenly principle. Everything they do injures others and is crooked. They walk on precarious paths and are always on the lookout for an opportunity. They do not tread a straightforward path. Instead they take side roads. For example, people who gamble and take dope are quite intelligent. Why do they walk such twisted paths? It is because their intelligence is used in cunning and sinister ways. That being their nature, although they know that wholesome deeds are good, they refuse to do good. Although they know that evil deeds are bad, they still engage in evil deeds. That’s the difference between those who walk on proper paths and those who take deviant paths. Those who tread deviant paths are mostly mountain essences, water spirits,
li, mei, and wang liang ghosts and other freaks. These strange creatures are also very intelligent. But don’t assume that intelligent people are all alike. Not only are they not the same, there are actually thousands of different kinds. Because these people do not walk on proper paths, you can surmise they come from a shady background, and so they are prone to improper conduct. You can base your judgment on their background and the path they take.
Now, this Dhyana Master had unimpeded eloquence and proper knowledge and proper views. Because he had a good foundation in philosophy, he acquired unobstructed eloquence. Something may seem to appear unreasonable, but after he discussed it, he would shed light on the entire matter and make it reasonable.
He was a room-entering disciple of Dhyana Master Fayan. He received the Dharma-transmission of the Fayan School.
Once he presided over the Dharma Hall and declared, he introduced himself this way,
“My original intent was to live in the mountains and hide my light. I wanted to live in the mountains instead of staying in a busy city. I wanted to
recuperate from my illness as I pass the time. What kind of illness? The illness of my habits and faults.” Recuperating from the illness means getting rid of one’s faults. It does not mean one intensifies and nurtures the illness. Rather, it means one nourishes one’s spirit and drives out the demon of sickness. “That was the way I hoped to pass my time. As it’s said, ‘I only wish to preserve my life during these troubled times, but do not wish to seek fame and wealth from the princes.’ That was my aspiration.
However, my teacher had some unfinished business. I had no choice but to come out from the mountains. My teacher hadn’t completed his work.”
What kind of unfinished business was this? Dharma Master Fa Deng wished to fulfill his teacher’s wishes. For instance his teacher might have wanted to lecture on a certain Sutra but did not get to do it, and so now the disciple will lecture on it. Perhaps his teacher had wanted to do something, such as build a monastery, but did not manage to do it, and so now the disciple fulfills his master’s wishes by building a monastery. I believe this “unfinished business” refers to the task of propagating the Buddhadharma. Because his teacher had not completely finished his job, Dharma Master Fa Deng said,
“And so I have come out to finish it on his behalf. Instead of staying in the mountains, I have not feared the trouble and have come out to the hub-bub of the city to fulfill my Master’s wishes.”
At that time a monk asked him... Since Master Fa Deng did not give any further explanation, a monk recklessly broached this subject,
“What was your teacher’s unfinished business?”
The Master hit him. Without saying anything, without making any further elaboration, the Master simply hit the monk. Then
he said, “Because the life-pulse of the Patriarchs has not been cut off, it entails a lot of trouble for their sons and grandsons. Because the pulse of the Patriarchs has not been severed, it adds a lot of trouble and gives a lot of work to the generations to come afterwards.”
To be continued