Bodhidharma and Hui Neng


Bodhidharma was a great master from suthern India. He first arrived in China by sea in the Song Dynasty. Later, in the Liang Dyansaty, he crossed the Yangtze River and arived in Loyang, the capital of Bei Wei Dyansty. He went to the Shao Lin Monastery in Songshan. There is a lengend that he meditated and contemplated in front of a wall there for nine years. As a result, he became known as the “Brahmana (Holy One) who gazes at the wall.”

He taught the Mahayana way of meditation and did not emphasis on the studies of doctrines and sutras. He did not show much interest in Buddhist rituals or ceremonies. His emphasis was to practice meditation. His teachings were based on the Lankavatara Sutra, which emphasises on the “Direct exploration of the human mind, penetration of the truth and attainment of Buddhahood.”

However , this method is very deep and profound. It is not easy to practice. Only a few people, such as Venerable Hui Ke, managed to learn the method from him.

In the Tang Dynasty, Bodhidharma’s method of meditation had passed down to its fifth generation. It was mastered by Venerable Hong Ren of the Dong Shan Monastery in Huangmei. By that time, the meditatin method was reasonably well develooped.

Chan Master Hui Neng

Lu Hui Neng from Lingnan came to the Dong Shan Monastery. There he worked and practiced at the same time. He was illiterate and had not studied the doctrines. However, he practised meditation and contemplated whole heartedly. During one examination, he created the following poem:

There is no true Bodhi tree,

Nor is there a true mirror stand

Since all is empty in nature,

Where is there for dust to land?

This poem gained the praise of Venerable Hong Ren. He felt that Hui Neng has mastered the principle of Bodhidharma’s teaching. After Hui Neng returned to the south, he resided at the Nab Hua Monastery in Caoxi Shan and propagated the meditation method of Bodhidharma and the method of “Sudden Enlightenment”. From then on, the School of Chan became popular. It became the most powerful and most influential school in Chinese Buddhism. Hui Neng gained the title of the Sixth Patriarch. He is regarded as a great Master who exerted the most significant influence on Chinese Buddhism and culture.

Source: From Selected Translations of Miao Yun Part 4 ( Revised Edition) Venerable Yin-shun
see Hwa Tsang Buddhist Monastery for more information on Miao Yun publications.
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