The Master was a son of the Xia family of Shouchun Prefecture. At the moment of his birth an auspicious light filled the house. At fourteen he left the home-life under Master Jing Zhao (Pure Illumination) at Zhisheng in Jiahe. Master Zhao cited the interchange between Dhyana Master Liang Sui and Dhyana Master Ma Gu. Then he asked, “How did Liang Sui come to an understanding?” Master Zhi Zhe immediately had an awakening.
Afterwards he received the Mind-Seal Dharma from Master Xin of Changlu and was appointed by imperial edict to be Abbot at Jiao Mountain Monastery.
A monk asked him, “Who is the Buddha?” The Master replied, “His yellow face is not gilded with true gold.”
The monk asked further, “In what way will the Buddha take one step forward?” The Master replied, “Every arrow pierces a lotus.”
The monk bowed, the Master snapped his fingers thrice.
Afterwards the Master moved to Lingyan Mountain of Suzhou Province. Then he retired to Bao Mountain and entered the stillness there. His stupa was erected behind the monastery.
The Master had an unusual background. He was a
son of the Xia family of Shouchun Prefecture in Anhui province.
At the moment of his birth an auspicious light filled the house. It encircled the room.
At fourteen he left the home-life under Master Jing Zhao at Zhisheng Monastery in Jiahe. Master Jiao brought up a public Chan record; he
cited the interchange between Dhyana Master Liang Sui and Dhyana Master Ma Gu. Then he asked, “How did Liang Sui come to an understanding?” What made him understand? This was the question he brought up to Master Zhi Zhe.
Master Zhi Zhe immediately had an awakening. Upon hearing the question, he understood.
Afterward he received the Mind-Seal Dharma from Master Xin of Changlu and was appointed by imperial edict to be Abbot at Jiao Mountain Monastery. Because he had some virtue in the Way, the emperor appointed him abbot of that monastery. Where is Jiaoshan [Jiao Mountain]? (Disciple: At Zhenxiang in Zhejiang province. In the Yangzi River, there are two islands facing each other: Jinshan and Jiaoshan.) After he was stationed there, many monastics went there to live.
A monk asked him, “Who is the Buddha?” The monk was a busy.
The Master replied, “His yellow face is not gilded with true gold.” Basically the monk was mischievous. Of course he knew who the Buddha is, but he wanted to challenge the Abbot to see if he had any true learning. And the Abbot’s reply was, “The Buddha has a yellow face, but the yellow is not from true gold.
The monk asked further, “In what way will the Buddha take one step forward?” This is classic language in Chan repartee. It means, “In what way can one make further progress in Chan cultivation?” Taking one step forward means ascending, not falling behind. It means being courageous and vigorous.
The Master replied, “Every arrow pierces a lotus.” An arrow is very fast. One meaning of this line is, “You should be as sharp and fast as an arrow and the lotus is your target.” An arrow is straight and does not take turns. There is an idiom that describes someone being “as straight as an arrow.” This means in your cultivation you have to be quick and straightforward, direct and honest. An arrow is straight; it cannot bend. That is to say, one must not be crooked and sloppy and certainly one cannot compromise.
The monk bowed in thanks.
The Master snapped his fingers thrice. This was his way of certifying that the monk had understood.
Afterward the Master moved to Lingyan Mountain of Suzhou Province. He moved from Jiaoshan to Suzhou.
Then he retired to Bao Mountain and entered the stillness there. His stupa was erected behind the Bao Mountain Monastery.
A verse in praise says:
Upon his emergence from the womb,
An auspicious light shone.
When it was pointed out to him,
He immediately knew.
He was not inhibited about bringing up his past roots.
He gave the young ones a helping hand,
His compassionate mind reaching all.
At the summit of Lingyan, his perfect sound still lingers.
Upon his emergence from the womb, an auspicious light shone. Right at the moment of his birth, this very lucky portent appeared.
When it was pointed out to him, he immediately knew. When someone pointed out the Way, the truth, to him, he immediately understood.
He was not inhibited about bringing up his past roots. He knew about his past conditions, and he was not shy about bringing them up.
He gave the young ones a helping hand. He especially liked to groom the younger generation, often giving them a helping hand in understanding the Buddhadharma.
His compassionate mind reaching all, his kindness was all-encompassing.
At the summit of Lingyan (Magic Cliff),
his perfect sound still lingers. The perfect, non-obstructive sounds of his Dharma still linger in Lingyan Mountain. Probably his lectures were recorded. Nobody saw the recording going on. The tape recorder and cassettes were probably located in empty space. Those who have opened their five eyes will be able to see and hear this Dharma assembly that is still going on.
Another verse says:
An auspicious light encircled the room.
He had penetrating knowledge of his past lives.
His eloquence and wisdom were great and expansive;
He took refuge with the Triple Jewel for his entire life.
Aspiring toward the superior vehicle,
He sought to complete his work in this very life.
Master Xin sealed his mind and passed on to him his robe and Dharma.
His students among the Sangha were entrusted to strike the morning bell.
Promoting the younger generation,
He taught without ever tiring.
Donning the armor of courage,
He presided over Lingyan’s summit.
An auspicious light encircled the room. / He had penetrating knowledge of his past lives. This knowledge reached back to his former lives. This proves he had an unusual background.
His eloquence and wisdom were great and expansive. Most people could not compare to him. His sound was resonant and far-reaching, and his wisdom was lofty.
He took refuge with the Triple Jewel for his entire life. From age fourteen he set forth from the home-life. His entire life was dedicated to the Triple Jewel.
Aspiring toward the Great Vehicle, he sought to complete his work in this very life. He focused on the most advanced, most superior method of cultivation and wanted to accomplish the Way in that very life.
Master Xin sealed his mind and passed on to him his robe and Dharma. Master Xin of Changlu transmitted to him the mind-seal and bequeathed his robe and bowl and Dharma.
His students among the Sangha were entrusted to strike the morning bell. By way of a prediction and passing on the mandate, he bade his close disciples to strike the morning bell and evening drum so as to awaken the people of the world, to teach and transform them.
Promoting the younger generation, he taught without tiring. He liked to support the younger generation so that they could perpetuate the lamp of the Buddha’s mind. He made sure there were talented and promising people to continue the Buddha’s lineage. At no time did he feel tired. He never paused to rest.
Donning the armor of courage, like a great mighty general,
he presided over Lingyan’s summit. At the top of Magic Cliff Mountain, he spoke the Dharma.