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Sengcan Quote

Jianzhi Sengcan – The Third Patriarch of Ch'an

Jianzhi Sengcan (Traditional Chinese: 鑑智僧璨; Hànyǔ Pīnyīn: Jiànzhì Sēngcàn; Wade–Giles: Chien-chih Seng-ts'an; 496?-606) is known as the Third Patriarch of Chinese Ch'an after Bodhidharma and thirtieth Patriarch after Siddhārtha Gautama Buddha.

Some sources say that Sengcan was over forty years old when he met Dazu Huike, the Second Patriarch of Ch'an, in 536. He studied with Huike for six years, who named him Sengcan ("Gem Monk").

A legend of Sengcan says that when he first met Huike, the Second Patriarch is supposed to have said, "You are suffering from leprosy; what could you want from me?"

Sengcan replied, "Even if my body is sick, the heart-mind of a sick person is no different from your heart-mind."

This convinced Huike of Sengcan's spiritual capacity.

The Transmission of the Lamp chronicled in koan form Sengcan's meeting with Huike. The meeting mirrors an exchange between Huike and Bodhidharma except that the roles are reversed. The text implies that Sengcan was afflicted with leprosy and that he begged Huike for relief, saying:

Sengcan: "I am in great suffering from this disease; please take away my sins."
Huike: "Bring me your sins and I will take them away."
After a long silence, Sengcan: "I've looked, but I cannot find them."
Huike: "Behold, I've absolved your transgression. Now you should abide in Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha."
Sengcan: "Seeing you here, I know what is meant by 'Sangha,' but I still don't know what are called Buddha and Dharma."
Huike: "Mind is Buddha. Mind is Dharma. Buddha and Dharma are not two different things. Along with Sangha they comprise the three jewels."
Sengcan: "Today, for the first time, I realize that my transgression was not internal, was not external, and was not between these two states. It was entirely within mind. Buddha and Dharma are not two things."

The Transmission of the Lamp records that Sengcan "attended Huike for two years" after which Huike transmitted Bodhidharma's dharma to Sengcan. Huike passed onto Sengcan Bodhidharma's robe, bowl, and copy of the Lankavatara Sutra, designating Sengcan as the Third Patriarch of Ch'an.

In 574, Sengcan fled with Huike to the mountains of the eastern Anhui Province near the Yangtze River. They sought to escape an official program of Buddhist persecution begun by Northern Zhou Emperor Wu, who believed that Buddhism had become too powerful in his kingdom. The official persecution of Buddhism ended in 577, but anti-Buddhist sentiment lingered many years afterwards.

The Lamp records that after Sengcan received Bodhidharma's dharma, Huike warned Sengcan to remain in the mountains and "Wait for the time when you can transmit the Dharma to someone else." Huike was acting on a prediction given to Bodhidharma (Huike's master) by Prajñātāra (Bodhidharma's female master), the 27th Indian patriarch, who had first urged Bodhidharma to journey to China and foresaw a coming calamity for Bodhidharma's disciples in China.

A legend says that during this time, Sengcan pretended mental illness in order to escape execution. He went into hiding on Mount Huan-kung in Yixian where his presence pacified the wild tigers, which had caused great fear among the local inhabitants. Sengcan then journeyed to Mount Sikong in the southwestern region of Anhui. Afterwards, he wandered homeless for an additional ten years.

Sengcan Quote

In 592, Sengcan met Daoxin, then a novice monk of a mere fourteen years. Daoxin accompanied Sengcan for nine years and received transmission of Bodhidharma's dharma while in his early twenties to become the Fourth Patriarch of Ch'an.

Sengcan reputedly wrote the famous Ch'an poem Inscription on Faith in Mind (Traditional Chinese: 信心銘 ; Hànyǔ Pīnyīn: Xìnxīn Míng). The poem is one of the first Chinese Ch'an expressions of Buddhist mind training practice. It deals with concepts of non-duality and emptiness (śūnyatā), which can be linked to Nagarjuna (circa 150-250 AD), the second most influential Buddhist Indian thinker after Gautama Buddha. The poem also reveals the influence of Taoism on Ch'an.

In the poem, Sengcan recounted mystical consciousness (presumably from his own experience) in the following way:

"For the mind in harmony with the Tao,
all selfishness disappears.
With not even a trace of self-doubt,
you can trust the universe completely.
All at once you are free,
with nothing left to hold on to.
All is empty, brilliant,
perfect in its own being.
In the world of things as they are,
there is no self, no non-self.
If you want to describe its essence,
the best you can say is ‘Not-two.’
In this ‘Not-two’ nothing is separate,
and nothing in the world is excluded.
The enlightened of all times and places
have entered into this truth.
In it there is no gain or loss;
one instant is ten thousand years.
There is no here, no there;
infinity is right before your eyes.
The tiny is as large as the vast
when objective boundaries have vanished;
the vast is as small as the tiny
when you don't have external limits.
Being is an aspect of non-being;
non-being is no different from being.
Until you understand this truth,
you won't see anything clearly.
One is all;
all are one.
When you realize this,
what reason for holiness or wisdom?
The mind of absolute trust
is beyond all thought, all striving,
is perfectly at peace, for in it
there is no yesterday, no today, no tomorrow."

Sengcan resided for two years at Mount Luofu (Lo-fu Shan), which was northeast of Kung-tung (present day Canton) before returning to Mount Huan-kung. He passed away sitting beneath a tree before a Dharma assembly in 606.

In 745 or 746, Sengcan's grave was found north of the Shan-ku Temple in Shu-chou by a government official named Li Ch'ang. Li Ch'ang erected a pagoda at the grave to appropriately enshrine Sengcan.

The Tang dynasty emperor Xuan Zong (September 8, 685-May 3, 762) later granted Sengcan with the honorific of Jianzhi (鑑智; "Mirror Wisdom").

The tradition of Ch'an Buddhism and Shaolin martial arts are continued in martial arts classes for men, women, and children offered by the Michigan Shaolin Wugong Temple.

 

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