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The Second Patriarch of Chinese Ch'an - Dazu Huike in Contemplation

Dazu Huike in Contemplation - The Second Patriarch of Chinese Ch'an

Ch'an Masters of Ancient China

Bodhidharma (circa 5th or 6th century AD) is credited with transmitting Gautama Buddha's (circa 5th to 4th century BC) principles on sudden illumination from India to China about 530 AD. Huineng, the sixth and last "official" patriarch of Ch'an Buddhism, identified Bodhidharma as the twenty-eighth Indian patriarch to the transmission of the dharma (the teachings of Buddha) and the Chánshī (禅师; lit. "Dhyana Master" or "Zen Master"), the first patriarch of China. Daizu Huike (487–593; Ta-tsu Hui-k'o) succeeded Bodhidharma. He in turn was followed by Jianzhi Sengcan (496?–606; Chien-chih Seng-Ts'an), Dayi Daoxin (580–651; Ta-i Tao-hsin), Daman Hongren (601–674; Ta-man Hung-jen), and then Dajian Huineng (638–713; Ta-chien Hui-neng). These six men are regarded as the Grand Masters or Patriarchs of Ch'an.

The Fourth Patriarch Daoxin and the Fifth Patriarch Hongren developed East Mountain Teaching (traditional Chinese: 東山法門; pinyin: Dōngshān Fǎmén; "East Mountain Dharma Gate"), which emphasized dhyāna (Sanskrit: ध्यान; meditation). East Mountain Teaching received its name from the East Mountain Temple on the "Twin Peaks" (雙峰) of ancient Huangmei (modern Hubei). The East Mountain Temple lay on the easternmost peak. Its modern name is Wuzu Temple (五祖寺).

Hongren's most famous disciples included: Luzhou Faru (638–689; Lùzhōu Fǎrù), Yuquan Shenxiu (606?–706; Yü-ch'üan Shen-hsiu), and Huineng. Faru and Shenxiu continued East Mountain Teaching of Daoxin and Hongren.

The East Mountain Temple was a meditation training center and a community. It was a marked contrast from the wandering lives of Bodhidharma, Huike, and their followers. The East Mountain Temple better suited Chinese society, which favored community behavior over solitary practice.

Unlike other Buddhist sects of the time, East Mountain Teachings didn't rely on a single sutra or set of sutras for its doctrinal base.

Faru was Hongren's first Dharma heir. When he died, Shenxiu replaced him as Hongren's successor and became the Sixth Patriarch. Following Shenxiu's passing, Songshan Puji (651–739; Sung-shan P'u-chi) was named as his successor and the Seventh Patriarch. After Shenxiu's death, though, an obscure monk named Heze Shenhui (684–758; Ho-tse Shen-hui) began the Northern School of Ch'an versus Southern School of Ch'an controversy as part of a movement to have Huineng eventually named as the Sixth Patriarch and himself as the Seventh Patriarch. Shenhui reportedly studied with both Shenxiu and Huineng during different periods of his youth.

The East Mountain Teachings split into the Southern School supposedly led by Huineng and the Northern School, which was falsely attributed to Shenxiu by Shenhui. Shenxiu was rightfully a teacher of the "East Mountain" School established by Daoxin and Hongren.

The Northern School versus Southern School controversy was based on geography as much as on approach as characterized by the saying nan-tun pei-chien (nán-tún pèi-chí ēn 男-屯沛-池恩), "suddenness of south, gradualness of north" The Northern School was said to uphold a "gradualist" (jian jiao 漸教) idea of enlightenment or "gradual path" (Sanskrit: karamavrittya; क्रमवृद्धि) that one shall be enlightened over the course of long term meditation. The Southern School favored the idea of "sudden" (dun jiao 頓教) enlightenment or "sudden path" (Sanskrit: yugapad; युगपद्), contending that one would be enlightened at one point of his or her life. According to this line of thought, a butcher would become a Buddha the moment he dropped his cleaver.

Gradualist teachings at first superseded sudden teachings during the reign of Tang Dynasty Emperor Taizong (Traditional Chinese: 太宗; pinyin: Tàizōng; 626–649) after more than 10 years of debate in the Imperial court. Afterwards, gradualist teachings became prominent at the Shaolin Temple. They were further established by Faru who taught the dharma to the monks and nuns of the Shaolin Temple from 686 until his death in 689.

In 730, 731, and 732, Shenhui began a series of oratorical attacks against Shenxiu, Shenxiu's disciples, and East Mountain Teaching, which he labeled as the Northern School of Ch'an. He denounced Shenxiu as having accepted Imperial favor and selling out to court life and abandoning the true teachings of Ch'an by exchanging the practice of sudden enlightenment for a gradual practice. Shenhui invented the Southern School of Ch'an and named Huineng as its head. Shenhui claimed on dubious grounds as well that Huineng was the true successor of Hongren. Because the teachings of sudden enlightenment eventually prevailed in the wake of the Northern-Southern School controversy, the charges stuck, and Shenxiu's reputation faded over the years.

The labeling of Shenxiu's East Mountain Teaching as gradualist is considered to be unfounded, though, in light of manuscripts found in the Mogao Caves (also called Caves of the Thousand Buddhas) near Dunhuang, a city located at a religious and cultural crossroads on the Silk Road in the northwestern province of Gansu, China. Shenhui's Southern School included "Northern" teachings as well and Shenhui conceded the need for continued practice after initial enlightenment.

Following Shenhui's death in 758 AD, the Southern School continued to be very active. Among the Southern Ch'an masters or Ch'an-na (Chinese pronunciation of dhyāna), Mazu ("Master Ma") Daoyi (709–788) was one of the most prominent. He founded the Hongzhou school, which was one of the forerunners of present day Ch'an. An important disciple of Mazu's was Baizhang Huaihai (Pai-chang) (720–814), who was regarded as a "great pearl."

The Hongzhou School later divided into the five families of Ch'an: Caodong, Linji, Yunmen, Fayan, and Weiyin. Of these, the Caodong and Linji were the most influential. During the early Yuan Dynasty, the Caodong school came to prominence at the Shaolin Temple and it has remained so to the present.

The fourth successor of Huineng was Huangbo Xiyun, who passed away about 850 AD after teaching the wordless dharma to Linji Yìxuán (died 866 AD) (Rinzai in Japanese). Linji in turn founded the Japanese Rinzai Zen school that continues to flourish in Japan.

The Michigan Shaolin Wugong Temple continues the tradition of Ch'an Buddhism in its martial arts classes.


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