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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 is credited with transmitting Gautama Buddha's 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 patriarch to the transmission of the dharma (the teachings of Buddha) and the first patriarch in China. Daizu Huike (Ta-tsu Hui-k'o) succeeded Bodhidharma. He in turn was followed by Jianzhi Sengcan (Chien-chih Seng-Ts'an), Dayi Daoxin (Ta-i Tao-hsin), Daman Hongren (Ta-man Hung-jen), and then Dajian Huineng (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).

The two most famous disciples of Hongren were Hui-neng and Yuquan Shenxiu (Yü-ch'üan Shen-hsiu), who both continued East Mountain Teaching.

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.

Originally Shenxiu was viewed as the Sixth Patriarch. After his death, though, a disciple of Huineng's named Heze Shenhui began a movement to have Hui-neng eventually named as the Sixth Patriarch.

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

The terms Northern and Southern had little to do with geography so much as they did with approach. The Northern School upheld a "gradualist" (jian jiao 漸教) idea of enlightenment 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, 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.

The Northern School at first superseded the Southern School 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, the teachings of the Northern School became prominent at the Shaolin Temple.

Following Hui-neng's death in 713 AD, the Southern School continued to be very active. Among the Ch'an masters or Ch'an-na (Chinese pronunciation of dhyāna), Ma Tsu was one of the most prominent. An important disciple of Ma Tsu’s was Hui Hai, who was regarded as a "great pearl."

In 732, Shenhui began a series of attacks against Shenxiu. He denounced Shenxiu as having accepted Imperial favor and selling out to court life and abandoning the true teachings of Ch'an, exchanging the practice of sudden enlightenment for a gradual practice. 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.

The Southern School later divided into five schools: 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 Hui-neng was Huang Po, who passed away about 850 AD after teaching the wordless dharma to Lin Chi (Rinzai in Japanese). Lin Chi in turn founded the Japanese 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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