History of Zen in China


By Kaiten Nukariya [1913].

1.   Origin of Zen in India.

Today Zen as a living faith can be found in its pure form only among the Japanese Buddhists.  You cannot find it in the so-called Gospel of Buddha anymore than you can find Unitarianism in the Pentateuch, nor can you find it in China and India any more than you can find life in fossils of bygone ages.  It is beyond all doubt that it can be traced back to Shakya Muni himself, nay, even to pre-Buddhist times, because Brahmanic teachers practiced Dhyana, or Meditation, from earliest times.

“If a wise man hold his body with its three parts (chest, neck, and head) erect, and turn his senses with the mind towards the heart, he will then in the boat of Brahman cross all the torrents which cause fear.

“Compressing his breathings let him, who has subdued all motions, breathe forth through the nose with the gentle breath.  Let the wise man without fail restrain his mind, that chariot yoked with vicious horses.

“Let him perform his exercises in a place level, pure, free from pebbles, fire, and dust, delightful by its sounds, its water, and bowers; not painful to the eye, and full of shelters and eaves.

“When Yoga, is being performed, the forms which come first, producing apparitions in Brahman, are those of misty smoke, sun, fire, wind, fire-flies, lightnings, and a crystal moon.

“When, as earth, water, light, heat, and ether arises, the fivefold quality of Yoga takes place, then there is no longer illness, old age, or pain for him who has obtained a body produced by the fire of Yoga.

The first results of Yoga they call lightness, healthiness, steadiness, a good complexion, an easy pronunciation, a sweet odor, and slight excretions “(Cvet. Upanishad, ii. 8-13).

“When the five instruments of knowledge stand still together with the mind, and when the intellect does not move, that is called the highest state.

“This, the firm holding back of the senses, is what is called Yoga.  He must be free from thoughtlessness then, for Yoga comes and goes” (Katha Upanishad, ii. 10, 11).

“This is the rule for achieving it (viz., concentration of the mind on the object of meditation): restraint of the breath, restraint of the senses, meditation, fixed attention, investigation, absorption-these are called the six fold Yoga.  When beholding by this Yoga, be beholds the gold-colored maker, the lord, the person, Brahman, the cause; then the sage, leaving behind good and evil, makes everything (breath, organs of sense, body, etc.) to be one in the Highest Indestructible (in the pratyagatman or Brahman) “ (Maitr.  Upanishad, vi. 18).

“And thus it has been elsewhere: There is the superior fixed attention (dharana) for him; if he presses the tip of the tongue down the palate, and restrain the voice, mind, and breath, he sees Brahman by discrimination (taraka).  And when, after the cessation of mind, he sees his own Self, smaller than small, and shining as the Highest Self, then, having seen his Self as the Self, he becomes Self-less, and because he is Self-less, he is without limit, without cause, absorbed in thought.  This is the highest mystery—viz., final liberation “ (Maitr. Upanishad, vi. 20).

Amrtab. Upanishad, 18, describes three modes of sitting-namely, the Lotus-seat (Padmasana), the sitting with legs bent underneath; the mystic diagram seat (Svastika); and the auspicious-seat (Bhadrasana);--while Yogacikha directs the choice of the Lotus-posture, with attention concentrated on the tip of the nose, hands and feet closely joined.

But Brahmanic Zen was carefully distinguished even by early Buddhists as the heterodox Zen from that taught by the Buddha.  Our Zen originated in the Enlightenment of Shakya Muni, which took place in his thirtieth year, when he was sitting absorbed in profound meditation under the Bodhi Tree.  It is said that then he awoke to the perfect truth and declared: “All animated and inanimate beings are Enlightened at the same time.” According to the tradition of this sect Shakya Muni transmitted his mysterious doctrine from mind to mind to his oldest disciple Mahakacyapa at the assembly hold on the Mount of Holy Vulture, and the latter was acknowledged as the first patriarch, who, in turn, transmitted the doctrine to Ananda, the second patriarch, and so till Bodhidharma, the twenty-eighth patriarch.  We have little to say about the historical value of this tradition, but it is worth while to note that the list of the names of these twenty-eight patriarchs contains many eminent scholars of Mahayanism, or the later developed school of Buddhism, such as Acvaghosa, Nagarjuna, Kanadeva, and Vasubhandhu.

The first twenty-three patriarchs are exactly the same as those given in ‘The Sutra on the Nidana of transmitting Dharmapitaka,’ translated in A.D. 472.  King Teh Chwen Tang Iuh (Kei-toku-den-to-roku), a famous Zen history of China, gives two elaborate narratives about the transmission of Right Dharma from teacher to disciple through these twenty-eight patriarchs, to be trusted without hesitation.  It would not be difficult for any scholar of sense to find these statements were made from the same motive as that of the anonymous author who gives a short life, in Dirghagama-sutra, of each of the six Buddhas, the predecessors of Shakya Muni, if he carefully compare the list given above with the lists of the patriarchs of the Sarvastivada school given by San Yin (So-yu died A.D. 518) in his Chuh San Tsung Ki (Shutsu-san zo-ki).


2.   Introduction of Zen into China by Bodhidharma.

An epoch-making event took place in the Buddhist history of China by Bodhidharma’s coming over from Southern India to that country in about A.D. 520.  It was the introduction, not of the dead scriptures, as was repeatedly done before him, but of a living faith, not of any theoretical doctrine, but of practical Enlightenment, not of the relies of Buddha, but of the Spirit of Shakya Muni; so that Bodhidharma’s position as a representative of Zen was unique.  He was, however, not a missionary to be favorably received by the public.  He seems to have behaved in a way quite opposite to that in which a modern pastor treats his flock.  We imagine him to have been a religious teacher entirely different in every point from a popular Christian missionary of our age.  The latter would smile or try to smile at every face he happens to see and would talk sociably; while the former would not smile at any face, but would stare at it with the large glaring eyes that penetrated to the innermost soul.  The latter would keep himself scrupulously clean, shaving, combing, brushing, polishing, oiling, perfuming, while the former would be entirely indifferent to his apparel, being always clad in a faded yellow robe.  The latter would compose his sermon with a great care, making use of rhetorical art, and speak with force and elegance; while the former would sit as absolutely silent as the bear, and kick one off, if one should approach him with idle questions.


3.   Bodhidharma and the Emperor Wu.

No sooner had Bodhidharma landed at Kwang Cheu in Southern China than he was invited by the Emperor Wu, who was an enthusiastic Buddhist and good scholar, to proceed to his capital of Chin Liang.  When he was received in audience, His Majesty asked him: “We have built temples, copied holy scriptures, ordered monks and nuns to be converted.  Is there any merit, Reverend Sir, in our conduct?”  The royal host, in all probability, expected a smooth, flattering answer from the lips of his new guest, extolling his virtues, and promising him heavenly rewards, but the Blue-eyed Brahmin bluntly answered: “No merit at all.”

This unexpected reply must have put the Emperor to shame and doubt in no small degree, who was informed simply of the doctrines of the orthodox Buddhist sects.  ‘Why not,’ he might have thought within himself, ‘why all this is futile?  By what authority does he declare all this meritless?  What holy text can be quoted to justify his assertion?  What is his view in reference to the different doctrines taught by Shakya Muni?  What does he hold as the first principle of Buddhism?’  Thus thinking, he inquired: “What is the holy truth, or the first principle?”  The answer was no less astonishing: “That principle transcends all.  There is nothing holy.”

The crowned creature was completely at a loss to see what the teacher meant.  Perhaps he might have thought: ‘Why is nothing holy?  Are there not holy men, Holy Truths, Holy Paths stated in the scriptures?  Is he himself not one of the holy men?’  “Then who is that confronts us?” asked the monarch again.  “I know not, your majesty,” was the laconic reply of Bodhidharma, who now saw that his new faith was beyond the understanding of the Emperor.

The elephant can hardly keep company with rabbits.  The petty orthodoxy can by no means keep pace with the elephantine stride of Zen.  No wonder that Bodhidharma left not only the palace of the Emperor Wu, but also the State of Liang, and went to the State of Northern Wei.  There he spent nine years in the Shao Lin Monastery, mostly sitting silent in meditation with his face to the wall, and earned for himself the appellation of ‘the wall-gazing Brahmin.’  This name itself suggests that the significance of his mission was not appreciated by his contemporaries.  But neither he was nor they were to blame, because the lion’s importance is appreciated only by the lion.  A great personage is no less great because of his unpopularity among his fellow men, just as the great Pang is no less great because of his unpopularity among the winged creatures.  Bodhidharma was not popular to the degree that he was envied by his contemporary Buddhists, who, as we are told by his biographers, attempted to poison him three times, but without success.


4.   Bodhidharma and his Successor the Second Patriarch.

China was not, however, an uncultivated land for the seed of Zen—nay, there had been many practitioners of Zen before Bodhidharma.  If we are not mistaken, Kumarajiva, who came to China A.D. 384, made a valuable contribution towards the foundation of Zen in that country, not merely through his translation of Zen sutras above mentioned, but by the education of his disciples, such as Sang Chao (So-jo, died A.D. 414), Sang Shang (So-sho, whose writings undoubtedly influenced later Zen teachers.  A more important personage in the history of Zen previous to the Blue-eyed Brahmin is Buddhabhadra, a well-known Zen master, who came over to China A.D.  406.  His translation of Dharmatara-dhyana-sutra (which is said to have been preached by Bodhidharma himself when he was in India) and that of Avatamsaka-sutra may be said without exaggeration to have laid the corner-stone for Zen.  He gave a course of lectures on the Zen sutra for the first time in China in A.D. 413, and it was through his instruction that many native practitioners of Zen were produced, of whom Chi Yen (Chi-gon) and Huen Kao (Gen-ko) are well known.  In these days Zen should have been in the ascendant in India, because almost all Indian scholars-at least those known to us-were called Zen teachers-for instance, Buddhabhadra, Buddhasena, Dharmadhi, and some others were all Zen scholars.

Chinese Buddhist scholars did no less than Indian teachers toward the uprising of Zen.  The foremost among them is Hwui Yuen (E-on, died A.D. 414), who practiced Zen by the instruction of Buddhabhadra.  He founded the Society of the White Lotus, which comprised eighteen eminent scholars of the age among its members, for the purpose of practicing Meditation and of adoring Buddha Amitabha.  We must not forget that during the Western and the Eastern Tsin (Shin) dynasties (A.D. 265-420) both Taoism and Buddhism grew prosperous to no small extent.  And China produced, on the one hand, Taoists of an eccentric type, such as the Seven Wise Men of the Bamboo Forest, while she gave birth to many recluse-like men of letters, such as Tao Yuen Ming (To-yen-mei, died A.D. 427) and some others on the other.  Besides there were some scholars who studied Buddhism in connection with Taoism and Confucianism, and led a secluded life.  To the last class of scholars belonged Chwen Hih (Hu dai shi), known as Chwen the Great.  He is said to have been accustomed to wear a Confucianist hat, a Buddhist robe, and Taoist shoes.  It was in A.D. 534 that he presented a memorial to the Emperor Wu, in which he explained the three grades of good.  “The Highest Good consists,” says he, “in the emptiness of mind and non-attachment.  Transcendence is its cause, and Nirvana is its result.  The Middle Good consists in morality and good administration.  It results in a peaceful and happy life in Heaven and in Earth.  The Lowest Good consists in love and protection of sentient beings.”  Thus his idea of good, as the reader will see without difficulty, is the result of a compromise of Taoism and Buddhism.  Sin Wang Ming (Sin-o-mei, On the Mind-King), one of his masterpieces, together with other minor poems, are still used as a textbook of Zen.  This fact unmistakably proves that Taoist element found its way into the constituents of Zen from its very outset in China.

All that he had to do was to wait for an earnest seeker after the spirit of Shakya Muni.  Therefore he waited, and waited not in vain, for at last there came a learned Confucianist, Shang Kwang (Shin-ko) by name, for the purpose of finding the final solution of a problem which troubled him so much that he had become dissatisfied with Confucianism, as it had no proper diet for his now spiritual hunger.  Thus Shang Kwang was far from being one of those half-hearted visitors who knocked the door of Bodhidharma only for the sake of curiosity.  But the silent master was cautious enough to try the sincerity of a new visitor before admitting him to the Meditation Hall.  According to a biography of his, Shang Kwang was not allowed to enter the temple, and had to stand in the courtyard covered deep with snow.  His firm resolution and earnest desire, however, kept him standing continually on one spot for seven days and nights with beads of the frozen drops of tears on his breast.  At last he cut off his left arm with a sharp knife, and presented it before the inflexible teacher to show his resolution to follow the master even at the risk of his life.  Thereupon Bodhidharma admitted him into the order as a disciple fully qualified to be instructed in the highest doctrine of Mahayanism.

Our master’s method of instruction was entirely different from that of ordinary instructors of learning.  He would not explain any problem to the learner, but simply help him to get enlightened by putting him an abrupt but telling question.  Shang Kwang, for instance, said to Bodhidharma, perhaps with a sigh: “I have no peace of mind.  Might I ask you, sir, to pacify my mind?”  “Bring out your mind (that troubles you so much),” replied the master, “here before me!  I shall pacify it.”  “It is impossible for me,” said the disciple, after a little consideration, “to seek out my mind (that troubles me so much).”  “Then,” exclaimed Bodhidharma, “I have pacified your mind.”  Hereon Shang Kwang was instantly Enlightened.  This event is worthy of our notice, because such a mode of instruction was adopted by all Zen teachers after the first patriarch, and it became one of the characteristics of Zen.


5.   Bodhidharma’s Disciples and the Transmission of the Law.

Bodhidharma’s labor of nine years in China resulted in the initiation of a number of disciples, whom some time before his death he addressed as follows: “Now the time (of my departure from this world) is at hand.  Say, one and all, how do you understand the Law?” Tao Fu (Do-fuku) said in response to this: “The Law does not lie in the letters (of the Scriptures), according to my view, nor is it separated from them, but it works.”  The Master said: “Then you have obtained my skin.”  Next Tsung Chi (So-ji), a nun, replied: “As Ananda saw the kingdom of Aksobhya only once but not twice, so I understand the Law”.  The master said: “Then you have attained to my flesh.”  Then Tao Yuh (Do-iku) replied: “The four elements are unreal from the first, nor are the five aggregates really existent.  All is emptiness according to my view.”  The master said: “Then you have acquired my bone.”  Lastly, Hwui Ko (E-ka), which was the Buddhist name given by Bodhidharma, to Shang Kwang, made a polite bow to the teacher and stood in his place without a word.  “You have attained to my marrow.”  So saying, Bodhidharma handed over the sacred Kachaya, which he had brought from India to Hwui Ko, as a symbol of the transmission of the Law, and created him the Second Patriarch.


6.   The Second and the Third Patriarchs.

After the death of the First Patriarch, in A.D. 528, Hwui Ko did his best to propagate the new faith over sixty years.  On one occasion a man suffering from some chronic disease called on him, and requested him in earnest: “Pray, Reverend Sir, be my confessor and grant me absolution, for I suffer long from an incurable disease.”  “Bring out your sin (if there be such a thing as sin),” replied the Second Patriarch, “here before me.  I shall grant you absolution.”  “It is impossible,” said the man after a short consideration, “to seek out my sin.”  “Then,” exclaimed the master, “I have absolved you.  Henceforth live up to Buddha, Dharma, and Samgha.”  “I know, your reverence,” said the man, “that you belong to Samgha; but what are Buddha and Dharma?”  “Buddha is Mind itself.  Mind itself is Dharma.  Buddha is identical with Dharma.  So is Samgha.”  “Then I understand,” replied the man, “there is no such thing as sin within my body nor without it, nor anywhere else.  Mind is beyond and above sin.  It is no other than Buddha and Dharma.”  Thereupon the Second Patriarch saw the man was well qualified to be taught in the new faith, and converted him, giving him the name of Sang Tsung (So-san).  After two years’ instruction and discipline, he bestowed on Sang Tsung the Kachaya handed down from Bodhidharma, and authorized him as the Third Patriarch.  It is by Sang Tsung that the doctrine of Zen was first reduced to writing by his composition of Sin Sin Ming (Sin zin-mei, On Faith and Mind), a metrical exposition of the faith.


7.   The Fourth Patriarch and the Emperor Tai Tsung (Tai-so).

The Third Patriarch was succeeded by Tao Sin (Do-shin), who being initiated at the age of fourteen, was created the Fourth Patriarch after nine years’ study and discipline.  Tao Sin is said never to have gone to bed for more than forty years of his patriarchal career.  In A.D. 643 the Emperor Tai Tsung (627-649), knowing of his virtues, sent him a special messenger, requesting him to call on His Majesty at the palace.  But he declined the invitation by a memorial, saying that be was too aged and infirm to visit the august personage.  The Emperor, desirous of seeing the reputed patriarch, sent for him thrice, but in vain.  Then the enraged monarch ordered the messenger to behead the inflexible monk, and bring the head before the throne, in case he should disobey the order for the fourth time.  As Tao Sin was told of the order of the Emperor, he stretched out his neck ready to be decapitated.  The Emperor, learning from the messenger what had happened, admired all the more the imperturbable patriarch, and bestowed rich gifts upon him.  This example of his was followed by later Zen masters, who would not condescend to bend their knees before temporal power, and it became one of the characteristics of Zen monks that they would never approach rulers and statesmen for the sake of worldly fame and profit, which they set at naught.

 
8.   The Fifth and the Sixth Patriarchs.

Tao Sin transmitted the Law to Hung Jan (Ko-nin), who being educated from infancy, distinguished himself as the Abbot of the Hwang Mei Monastery at Ki Cheu.  The Fifth Patriarch, according to his biographer, gathered about him seven hundred pupils, who came from all quarters.  Of these seven hundred pupils the venerable Shang Sin (Jin-shu) was most noted for his learning and virtues, and he might have become the legitimate successor of Hung Jan, had not the Kachaya of Bodhidharma been carried away by a poor farmer’s son of Sin Cheu.  Hwui Nang, the Sixth Patriarch, seems to have been born a Zen teacher.  The spiritual light of Buddha first flashed in his mind when he happened to hear a monk reciting a sutra.  On questioning the monk, be learned that the book was Vajracchedika-prajnya-paramita-sutra, and that Hung Jan, the Abbot of the Hwang Mei Monastery, was used to make his disciples recite the book that it might help them in their spiritual discipline.  Hereupon he made up his mind to practice Zen, and called on Hung Jan at the Monastery.  “Who are you,” demanded the Fifth Patriarch, “and whence have you come?”  “I am a son of the farmer,” replied the man, “of Sin Cheu in the South of Ta Yu Ling.”  “What has brought you here?” asked the master again.  “I have no other purpose than to attain to Buddhahood,” answered the man.  “O, you, people of the South,” exclaimed the patriarch, “you are not endowed with the nature of Buddha.”  “There may be some difference between the Southern and the Northern people,” objected the man, “but how could you distinguish one from the other as to the nature of Buddha?”  The teacher recognized a genius in the man, but he did not admit the promising newcomer into the order, so Hwui Nang had to stay in the Monastery for eight months as a pounder of rice in order to qualify himself to be a Zen teacher.


9.   The Spiritual Attainment of the Sixth Patriarch.

Some time before his death (in 675 A.D.) the Fifth Patriarch announced to all disciples that the Spirit of Shakya Muni is hard to realize, that they should express their own views on it, on condition that anyone who could prove his right realization should be given with the Kachaya and created the Sixth Patriarch.  Then the venerable Sung Siu, the head of the seven hundred disciples, who was considered by his brothers to be the man entitled to the honor, composed the following verses:

“The body is the Bodhi-tree. 
The mind is like a mirror bright on its stand.
Dust it and wipe it from time to time,
Lest it be dimmed by dust and dirt.”

All who read these lines thought that the writer was worthy of the expected reward, and the Fifth Patriarch also, appreciating the significance of the verses, said: “If men in the future would practice Zen according to this view, they would acquire an excellent result.”  Hwui Nang, the rice-pounder, hearing of them, however, secretly remarked that they are beautiful, but hardly expressive of the Spirit of Shakya Muni, and wrote his own verses, which ran as follows:

“There is no Bodhi-tree,
Nor is there a mirror stand.
Nothing exists from the first;
What can be dimmed by dust and dirt?”

Perhaps nobody ever dreamed such an insignificant fellow as the rice-pounder could surpass the venerable scholar in a religious insight, but the Fifth Patriarch saw at once an Enlightened Soul expressed in those lines; therefore he made up his mind to give the Kachaya to the writer, in whom he found a great spiritual leader of future generations.  But he did it secretly at midnight, lest some of the disciples from envy do violence to Hwui Nang.  He was, moreover, cautious enough to advise his successor to leave the Monastery at once, and go back to the South, that the latter might conceal his Enlightenment until a time would come for his missionary activities.


10. Flight of the Sixth Patriarch.

On the following morning the news of what had happened during the night flew from mouth to mouth, and some of the enraged brothers attempted to pursue the worthy fugitive.  The foremost among them, Hwui Ming (E-myo), overtook the Sixth Patriarch at a mountain pass not very far from the Monastery.  Then Hwui Nang, laying down the Kachaya on a rock by the road, addressed the pursuer: “This is a mere symbol of the patriarchal authority, and it is not a thing to be obtained by force.  Take it along with you, if you long for it.” Upon this Hwui Ming, who began to be ashamed of his base act, tried to lift the Kachaya, but in vain, for it was, as he felt, as heavy as the rock itself.  At last he said to the Sixth Patriarch: “I have come here, my brother, not for the sake of this robe, but for the sake of the Law.  Grant my hearty desire of getting Enlightened.” “If you have come for the Law,” replied Hwui Nang, “you must put an end to all your struggles and longings.  Think neither of good nor of evil (make your mind pure from all idle thoughts), then see how is, Hwui Ming, your original (mental) physiognomy!”  Being thus questioned, Ming found in an instant the Divine Light of Buddha within himself, and became a disciple of the Sixth Patriarch.


11. The Development of the Southern and of the Northern School of Zen.

After the death of the Fifth Patriarch the venerable Shang Siu, though not the legitimate successor of his master, was not inactive in the propagation of the faith, and gathered about him a number of enthusiastic admirers.  This led to the foundation of the Northern school of Zen in opposition to the Southern school led by the Sixth Patriarch.  The Empress Tseh Tien Wa Heu, the real ruler of China at that time, was an admirer of Shang Siu, and patronized his school, which nevertheless made no further development.

In the meanwhile the Sixth Patriarch, who had gone to the South, arrived at the Fah Sing Monastery in Kwang Cheu, where Yin Tsung (In-shu), the abbot, was giving lectures on the Mahayana sutras to a number of student monks.  It was towards evening that he happened to overhear two monks of the Monastery discussing about the flag floating in air.  One of them said: “It is the wind that moves in reality, but not the flag.”  “No,” objected the other, “it is the flag that moves in reality, but not the wind.”  Thus each of them insisted on his own one-sided view, and came to no proper conclusion.  Then the Sixth Patriarch introduced himself and said to them: “It is neither the wind nor the flag, but your mind that moves in reality.” Yin Tsung, having heard these words of the stranger, was greatly astonished, and thought the latter should have been an extraordinary personage.  And when he found the man to be the Sixth Patriarch of Zen, he and all his disciples decided to follow Zen under the master.  Consequently Hwui Nang, still clad like a layman, changed his clothes, and began his patriarchal career at that Monastery.  This is the starting-point of the great development of Zen in China.


12. Missionary Activity of the Sixth Patriarch.

As we have seen above, the Sixth Patriarch was a great genius, and may be justly called a born Zen teacher.  He was a man of no erudition, being a poor farmer, who had served under the Fifth Patriarch as a rice-pounder only for eight months, but he could find a new meaning in Buddhist terms, and show how to apply it to practical life.  On one occasion, for instance, Fah Tah (Ho-tatsu), a monk who had read over the Saddharma-pundarika-sutra three thousand times, visited him to be instructed in Zen.  “Even if you read the sutra ten thousand times,” said the Sixth Patriarch, who could never read the text, “it will do you no good, if you cannot grasp the spirit of the sutra.”  “I have simply recited the book,” confessed the monk, “as it is written in characters.  How could such a dull fellow as I grasp its spirit?”  “Then recite it once,” responded the master; “I shall explain its spirit.”  Hereupon Fah Tah began to recite the sutra, and when he read it until the end of the second chapter the teacher stopped him, saying: “You may stop there.  Now I know that this sutra was preached to show the so-called greatest object of Shakya Muni’s appearing on earth.  That greatest object was to have all sentient beings Enlightened just as He Himself.”  In this way the Sixth Patriarch grasped the essentials of the Mahayana sutras, and freely made use of them as the explanation of the practical questions about Zen.


13. The Disciples under the Sixth Patriarch.

Some time after this the Sixth Patriarch settled himself down at the Pao Lin Monastery, better known as Tsao Ki Shan (So-kei-zan), in Shao Cheu, and it grew into a great center of Zen in the Southern States.  Under his instruction many eminent Zen masters qualified themselves as Leaders of the Three Worlds.  He did not give the patriarchal symbol, the Kachaya, to his successors, lest it might cause needless quarrels among the brethren, as was experienced by himself.  He only gave sanction to his disciples who attained to Enlightenment, and allowed them to teach Zen in a manner best suited to their own personalities.  For instance, Huen Kioh (Gen-kaku), a scholar of the Tien Tai doctrine, well known as the Teacher of Yung Kia (Yo-ka), received a sanction for his spiritual attainment after exchanging a few words with the master in their first interview, and was at once acknowledged as a Zen teacher.  When he reached the zenith of his fame, he was presented with a crystal bowl together with rich gifts by the Empress Tseh Tien; and it was in A.D.  705 that the Emperor Chung Tsung invited him in vain to proceed to the palace, since the latter followed the example of the Fourth Patriarch.

After the death of the Sixth Patriarch (A.D. 713), the Southern Zen was divided into two schools, one being represented by Tsing Yuen (Sei-gen), the other by Nan Yoh (Nan-gaku.)  Out of these two main schools soon developed the five branches of Zen, and the faith made a splendid progress.  After Tsing Yuen and Nan Yoh, one of the junior disciples of the Sixth Patriarch, Hwui Chung (E-chu), held an honourable position for sixteen years as the spiritual adviser to the Emperor Suh Tsung (A.D. 756762) and to the Emperor Tai Tsung (A.D. 763-779).  These two Emperors were enthusiastic admirers of Zen, and ordered several times the Kachaya of Bodhidharma to be brought into the palace from the Pao Lin Monastery that they might do proper homage to it.  Within some one hundred and thirty years after the Sixth Patriarch, Zen gained so great influence among higher classes that at the time of the Emperor Suen Tsung (A.D. 847-859) both the Emperor and his Prime Minister, Pei Hiu, were noted for the practice of Zen.  It may be said that Zen had its golden age, beginning with the reign of the Emperor Suh Tsung, of the Tang dynasty, until the reign of the Emperor Hiao Tsung (1163-1189), who was the greatest patron of Buddhism in the Southern Sung dynasty.  To this age belong almost all the greatest Zen scholars of China.

To the period of the Five Dynasties (A.D. 907-959) belong such teachers as Sueh Fung (Set-po, died in. 908); Huen Sha (Gen-sha, died in 908); Yun Man (Un-mon, died in 949), the founder of the Yun Man Sect; Shen Yueh (Zen-getsu, died in 912), a renowned Zen poet; Pu Tai (Ho-tei, died in 916), well known for his peculiarities; Chang King (Cho-kei, died in 932); Nan Yuen (Nan-in, died in 952); Pao Yen (Ho-gen, died in 958), the founder of the Pao Yen Sect.  During the Sung dynasty (A.D. 960-1126) appeared such teachers as Yang Ki (Yo-gi, died in 1049), the founder of the Yang Ki School of Zen; Sueh Teu (Set-cho, died in 1052), noted for poetical works; Hwang Lung (O ryu, died in 1069), the founder of the Hwang Lung School of Zen;

Hwang Lin (Ko-rin, died in 987); Tsz Ming (Ji-myo, died in 1040); Teu Tsy (To-shi, died in 1083); Fu Yun (Fu-yo, died in 1118); Wu Tsu (Go-so, died in 1104); Yung Ming (Yo-myo, died in 975), the author of Tsung King Luh (Shu-kyo-roku); Ki Sung (Kai-su, died in 1071), a great Zen historian and author.  In the Southern Sung dynasty (A.D.  1127-1279) flourished such masters as Yuen Wu (En-go, died in 1135), the author of Pik Yen Tsih (Heki-gan-shu); Chan Hieh (Shin-ketsu, flourished in 1151); Hung Chi (Wan-shi, died in 1157), famous for his poetical works; Ta Hwui (Dai-e, died in 1163), a noted disciple of Yuen Wu; Wan Sung (Ban-sho), flourished in 1193-1197), the author of Tsung Yun Luh (Sho-yo-roku); Ju Tsing (Nyo-jo), died in 1228), the teacher to Do-gen, or the founder of the So-to Sect in Japan. 

To this age belong almost all the eminent men of letters, statesmen, warriors, and artists who were known as the practisers of Zen.  To this age belongs the production of almost all Zen books, doctrinal and historical.


14. Three Important Elements of Zen.

To understand how Zen developed during some four hundred years after the Sixth Patriarch, we should know that there are three important elements in Zen.  The first of these is technically called the Zen Number—the method of practicing Meditation by sitting cross-legged.  This method is fully developed by Indian teachers before Bodhidharma’s introduction of Zen into China, therefore it underwent little change during this period.  The second is the Zen Doctrine, which mainly consists of Idealistic and Pantheistic ideas of Mahayana Buddhism, but which undoubtedly embraces some tenets of Taoism.  Therefore, Zen is not a pure Indian faith, but rather of Chinese origin.  The third is the Zen Activity, or the mode of expression of Zen in action, which is entirely absent in any other faith.

It was for the sake of this Zen Activity that Hwang Pah gave a slap three times to the Emperor Suen Tsung; that Lin Tsi so often burst out into a loud outcry of Hoh (Katsu); that Nan Tsuen killed a cat at a single stroke of his knife in the presence of his disciples; and that Teh Shan so frequently struck questioners with his staff. The Zen Activity was displayed by the Chinese teachers making use of diverse things such as the staff, the brush of long hair, the mirror, the rosary, the cup, the pitcher, the flag, the moon, the sickle, the plough, the bow and arrow, the ball, the bell, the drum, the cat, the dog, the duck, the earthworm—in short, any and everything that was fit for the occasion and convenient for the purpose.  Thus Zen Activity was of pure Chinese origin, and it was developed after the Sixth Patriarch.  For this reason the period previous to the Sixth Patriarch may be called the Age of the Zen Doctrine, while that posterior to the same master, the Age of the Zen Activity.


15. Decline of Zen.

The blooming prosperity of Zen was over towards the end of the Southern Sung dynasty (1127-1279), when it began to fade, not being bitten by the frost of oppression from without, but being weakened by rottenness within.  As early as the Sung dynasty (960-1126) the worship of Buddha Amitabha stealthily found its way among Zen believers, who could not fully realize the Spirit of Shakya Muni, and to satisfy these people the amalgamation of the two faiths was attempted by some Zen masters.

This tendency steadily increasing with time brought out at length the period of amalgamation which covered the Yuen (1280-1367) and the Ming dynasties (1368-1659), when the prayer for Amitabha was in every mouth of Zen monks sitting in Meditation.  The patrons of Zen were not wanting in the Yuen dynasty, for such a warlike monarch as the Emperor Shi Tsu (Sei-so), 1280-1294) is known to have practiced Zen under the instruction of Miao Kao, and his successor Ching Tsung (1295-1307) to have trusted in Yih Shan, a Zen teacher of reputation at that time.  Moreover, Lin Ping Chung (Rin-hei-cha, died in 1274), a powerful minister under Shi Tsu, who did much toward the establishment of the administrative system in that dynasty, had been a Zen monk, and never failed to patronize his faith.  And in the Ming dynasty the first Emperor Tai Tsu (1368-1398), having been a Zen monk, protected the sect with enthusiasm, and his example was followed by Tai Tsung (1403-1424), whose spiritual as well as political adviser was Tao Yen, a Zen monk of distinction.  Thus Zen exercised an influence unparalleled by any other faith throughout these ages.  The life and energy of Zen, however, was gone by the ignoble amalgamation, and even such great scholars as Chung Fung, Yung Si, Yung Kioh, were not free from the overwhelming influence of the age.

We are not, however, doing justice to the tendency of amalgamation in these times simply to blame it for its obnoxious results, because it is beyond doubt that it brought forth wholesome fruits to the Chinese literature and philosophy.  Who can deny that this tendency brought the Speculative philosophy of the Sung dynasty to its consummation by the amalgamation of Confucianism with Buddhism especially with Zen, to enable it to exercise long-standing influence on society, and that this tendency also produced Wang Yang Ming, one of the greatest generals and scholars that the world has ever seen, whose philosophy of Conscience still holds a unique position in the history of human thought?  Who can deny furthermore that Wang’s philosophy is Zen in the Confucian terminology?



 

 

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