The Six Patriarchs of Chan Buddhism

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The word ‘Zen’ is derived from the Japanese pronunciation of the Chinese word ‘Chan’. This in turn is derived from the Indian Sanskrit word ‘Dhyana’, which means ‘mental absorption’ or ‘meditation’.

The modern Zen tradition of today is based on a school of Mahayana Buddhism that originated in China during the Tang dynasty, and was known as Chan Buddhism. Some scholars say that Chan Buddhism was first influenced by Taoism, which developed into a distinct school of Chinese Buddhism, and then spread northeast into Korea, and later further east into Japan.

Chan

The Chan teachings emphasise strict self-discipline, sitting-meditation, completeness, insight into the Buddha-nature of all beings, and incorporating this insight into daily life in order to be of benefit to all beings, and thus attaining the Bodhisattva-ideal. Hence, it places less emphasis on the scholasticism of the sutras in favour of direct realisation attained through sitting-meditation and dialogue with an accomplished master.

Chan teachings comprise of several important philosophical texts on Mahayana thinking and doctrines, including those of the Yogachara School, and the Tathagatagarbha sutras, but especially those of the Huayan School. In addition, the core philosophies of the Prajnaparamita texts and Nagarjuna’s Madhyamaka have also been shaped into the central belief-system of Chan Buddhism.

 

The Six Patriarchs

The Chan lineage was first introduced during the Tang Dynasty, incorporating the teachings of great masters from Indian Buddhism and the Chinese Mahayana tradition. It was then published, and gained wider acceptance towards the end of the Tang period.

This lineage of Chan patriarchs was first mentioned in the inscription on Faru’s tomb (638–689), a master and former disciple of the 5th patriarch, Daman Hongren (601–674). In The Long Scroll of the Treatise on the Two Entrances and Four Practices, as well as The Continued Biographies of Eminent Monks, Daoyu and Dazu Huike are the only disciples of Bodhidharma that were explicitly mentioned. The inscription traces the lineage to Bodhidharma as the first patriarch.

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In the 6th century CE, biographies of great monks were collected and compiled. These biographies of great monks were meant to be non-sectarian in nature. Naturally, the Chan biographical material intended to establish Chan as an authentic school of Buddhism rooted in Indian origins. These biographies are mainly hagiographies, which meant less emphasis was placed on historical accuracy and heavier emphasis on legends and traditional tales. The complete lineage was probably first published by the 9th Century CE.

According to D. T. Suzuki, the popularity of Chan during the 7th and 8th centuries attracted criticism that claimed there were no records showing Chan teachings having been derived from the Buddha. Hence, the earlier Chan masters re-established Bodhidharma as the 28th patriarch after the Buddha, thereby legitimising the Chan lineage. This early line of ancestry, from Bodhidharma down to Huineng, was called The Six Patriarchs.

  • Bodhidharma (440 – 528 CE)
  • Huike (487–593 CE)
  • Sengcan (?–606 CE)
  • Daoxin (580–651 CE)
  • Hongren (601–674 CE)
  • Huineng (638–713 CE)

 

Bodhidharma

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Bodhidharma was an Indian monk who lived between 5th and 6th Century CE, and was credited to have been the founding father of Chan Buddhism in China. That is why he is the first of the Six Patriarchs of Chan Buddhism.

According to Chinese sources, Bodhidharma originated from the Western Regions, which roughly corresponds to what is now Central Asia and the Indian subcontinent. Hence, some sources claim that he was a ‘Persian Central Asian’ or ‘the third son of a great South Indian king’.

Throughout Buddhist art, Bodhidharma is depicted as an unruly, bearded, wide-eyed and dark-skinned Indian. He is referred to as ‘The Blue-Eyed Barbarian’ in an earlier description, and some claims have him hailing from within the region of Peshawar in Pakistan but so far, no claim has been able to conclusively prove their case.

There are two accounts that give different dates of his arrival to China. One earlier account claims that he arrived during the Liu Song dynasty (420-479 CE), while the later states that he arrived during the Liang dynasty (502-557 CE). However, he travelled extensively throughout the territories of the Northern Wei (386 – 534 CE), and so many modern scholars officially place the date of Bodhidharma’s travels in China as being early 5th Century CE. While in China, Bodhidharma’s teachings centered on meditation and specifically on the Lankavatara Sutra.

Lankavatara Sutra, Chapter Six

Lankavatara Sutra, Chapter Six

It is said that Bodhidharma achieved enlightenment, and was instructed by Prajnatara, his guru, that he had to travel to China in order to further the Mahayana doctrine there. He set out on an epic three-year voyage by sea before arriving at the coastal city of Canton. He found his way to the imperial court of the ruling Liang Dynasty in Nanjing and gained an audience with Emperor Wu, who proclaimed himself to be one of China’s greatest patrons of Buddhism.

In a famous anecdote, the emperor asked the Indian master the amount of merit that he had earned for ordaining monks, building monasteries, and accomplishing other good deeds. Bodhidharma replied bluntly that he had accumulated no merit. This puzzled the Emperor, who slowly turned to rage. The Indian master beat a hasty retreat and left northwards towards the Shaolin Temple in the state of Wei that he had heard about. His travels brought him to the mighty Yangtze River that he had to cross. According to legend, he crossed the river while balanced atop a tiny reed, which has since been frequently depicted in Chinese art. While at the Shaolin Temple, he sat down to meditate for nine years while facing a wall in a cave, earning the name ‘Wall-Gazing Brahman’.

Bodhidharma’s austere meditation won over a few students, but one of them, Huike, was most famous. According to legend, Huike was said to have stood outside the cave in the snow and waited on the master for a whole week. Then, in sheer frustration, Huike chopped off his left arm and presented it to the master in order to express his determination to attain enlightenment, a scene that is also popularly represented in Chinese paintings. Huike would eventually become Bodhidharma’s successor, and the next patriarch. There were two attempts to poison Bodhidharma, but on the third attempt, the sage decided to take the poison and passed away at the age of 150.

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Three years after his passing, a Chinese emissary by the name of Song Yun was on his way back to China from India when he chanced upon Bodhidharma on the road. The master was on his way back to India and the official observed that he was walking barefoot and carrying one shoe in his hand. It was only upon his return to his homeland that he realised that the master had passed away. The master’s grave was exhumed only to discover that his body was missing, and all that remained was one shoe. The Chinese considered this a sign that Bodhidharma had become an immortal, and had merely feigned his own death. He was thus included in the Taoist pantheon of immortals.

According to tradition, Bodhidharma is attributed to be the founder of martial arts at the Shaolin Temple. As the legend goes, Bodhidharma faced the wall for nine years at the Shaolin Temple, and when he departed, he left behind a great chest. When the monks searched the contents of the chest, they discovered two books on martial arts: Marrow Washing Classic (Xi Sui Jing) and Muscle Change Classic (Yi Jin Jing).

His disciple Huike took the first book and it was eventually lost to time, while the second book was treasured by the monastery and was developed into what is characteristically known as the Shaolin martial arts. However, recent historians assert the claim that the text was actually written by Taoist priest Zining of Mt. Tiantai and thereby allaying centuries-old claims that Bodhidharma founded the Shaolin martial arts.

 

Huike

Dazu Huike (487–593 CE) was the Second Patriarch of Chan Buddhism, and became Bodhidharma’s successor. He is considered the 29th in the lineage that stemmed from Buddha Shakyamuni. According to the Hsu kao-seng chuan, Huike was born in Henan and was given the name Shen-Guang.

Huike was a scholar in both Buddhist and classical Chinese texts, including those of Taoism. He met his teacher Bodhidharma at the Shaolin Monastery in 528 CE when he was about forty years old, and he studied under Bodhidharma for six years (the duration varies according to sources).

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There is little surviving information on the lives of Bodhidharma and Huike, and the few accounts of them are semi-mythical in nature. The most famous account was the meeting of Bodhidharma and Huike that occurred during winter, when Huike stood in the snow waiting outside a cave for the master. As an offering to the master, Huike cut off his arm and made his request, “Master, your disciple’s mind has no peace. Please put it to rest.” Bodhidharma responded, “Bring me your mind, and I will put it to rest.” Huike then replied, “I have searched for my mind but I cannot find it.” Bodhidharma finally replied, “Then I have completely put it to rest for you.”

Bodhidharma built the Zhuoxi Spring or Four Springs, situated in front of the Second Ancestor’s Temple at the Shaolin Temple so it would be easier for Huike to fetch water with his remaining arm. Then, Huike travelled to Yedu (modern day Henan) around 534 CE and lived there. When political turmoil engulfed China and Buddhist persecution was rampant in 574 CE, he hid in the area of Yedu and Wei (modern Hebei).

It was during this turbulent period that Huike sought refuge in the mountains near the Yangtze River and this was where he met Sengcan, who would become his successor and the Third Chinese Patriarch of Chan. In 579, Huike returned to Yedu and gave teachings which drew huge crowds. This attracted the envy and hostility of other Buddhist teachers, one of whom, Tao-heng, hired an assassin to have Huike killed, but in a dramatic turn of events, the master converted the would-be assailant.

Dazu Huike (487–593 CE), the Second Patriarch of Chan Buddhism

Dazu Huike (487–593 CE), the Second Patriarch of Chan Buddhism

The Compendium of Five Lamps (Wudeng Huiyan) compiled by Dachuan Lingyin Puji (1179–1253) wrote that Huike lived up to the age of one hundred seven. He was entombed about forty kilometres northeast of Anyang City in the Hebei Province. After his passing, the Tang Dynasty emperor De Zong bestowed on Huike the honorific title Dazu or ‘Great Ancestor’. Some accounts claim that influential Buddhist priests had Huike executed due to complaints about his teachings being heretical. These accounts say that blood did not flow from his decapitated body, but rather, a white milky substance flowed from his neck, astonishing everybody.

One of the most important aspects of the early Chan teachings by Bodhidharma and Huike was that of attaining sudden enlightenment rather than the gradual approach to enlightenment characteristic of the Indian tradition. Huike and Bodhidharma attributed their teachings to the Lankavatara Sutra, which stresses self-realisation and transcending words and thoughts. In his teachings, Huike stressed on meditation as a tool towards understanding the true intent of the Buddha, and that meditation should also be free of dualism or attachment.

 

Sengcan

Jianzhi Sengcan (6th Century CE) was the Third Chinese Patriarch of Chan following Huike and Bodhidharma, and is considered the thirtieth Patriarch after Buddha Shakyamuni. He is the sole successor of the second Chinese Patriarch, Dazu Huike.

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It is said that Sengcan was over forty years old when he first chanced upon Huike in 536 CE, and he remained with his teacher for six years while receiving teachings. It was Huike who gave him the name Sengcan or ‘Gem Monk’. The Transmission of the Lamp gives this exchange between Huike and Sengcan, where Sengcan says, “I am riddled with sickness. Please absolve me of my sins.” Huike responded by saying, “Bring your sins here and I will absolve them for you.” After a long pause, Sengcan finally answered, “When I am looking for my sins, I cannot find them.” Huike then replied, “I have absolved them for you. You should live by the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha.” Huike appointed him as his successor by passing down to him the robes of Bodhidharma and Bodhidharma’s Dharma (which is widely believed to be a copy of the Lankavatara Sutra) and thus, Sengcan became The Third Patriarch of Chan.

According to historians, Sengcan fled with Huike up to the mountains due to Buddhist persecution. However, the Lamp Records claim that after giving a Dharma transmission, Huike told Sengcan to live up in the mountains and wait for the time when he could transmit the Dharma to someone else. This instruction was based on an earlier prophecy by Prajnatara that was passed down to Bodhidharma, and this in turn was passed down to Sengcan. Due to the prophecy, Sengcan lived in hiding on Wangong Mountain in Yixian, and then on Sikong Mountain in southwestern Anhui. Thereafter, he wandered with no fixed abode for another ten years.

Verses from Faith-Mind (Xinxin Ming)

Verses from Faith-Mind (Xinxin Ming)

Sengcan met Daoxin (580-651 CE), a novice monk of just fourteen years old. Daoxin served Sengcan for nine years and received the Dharma transmission when he was just in his early twenties. Subsequently, Sengcan spent two years at Mount Luofu (northeast of Guangtung) before returning to Wangong Mountain. Sengcan is attributed to be the author of the popular Chan poem, Verses on Faith-Mind (Xinxin Ming). This poem has been popular with Chan practitioners for over a thousand years. The poem is said to reveal Taoist influences on Chan Buddhism, as it deals with non-duality and the metaphysical concept of emptiness or Shunyata, which is a central to the doctrine that Nagarjuna (150-250 C.E.) taught.

Sengcan passed away sitting under a tree while giving a Dharma discourse in 606 CE, and he was bestowed with the honorary title Jianzhi or ‘Mirrorlike Wisdom’ by Xuan Zong, the Emperor of the Tang dynasty.

 

Daoxin

Dayi Daoxin (580–651 CE) came to be regarded as the fourth Patriarch of Chan Buddhism following Jianzhi Sengcan (died 606 CE), and his successor was Daman Hongren (601–674 CE).

Daoxin was first mentioned in the Further Biographies of Eminent Monks (Hsu Kao Seng Chuan) published in 645 CE. Later, he was also mentioned in the Annals of the Transmission of the Dharma-Treasure (Chuan Fa Pao Chi) published around 712 CE, which provided a detailed account of Daoxin’s life. The accounts of these early Chan masters were not particularly accurate and at times, details in one account would contradict another.

However, the following biography is the traditional tale of Daoxin that was brought together from various sources, including the Compendium of Five Lamps (Wudeng Huiyuan) compiled in the early 13th century by the monk Dachuan Lingyin Puji (1179–1253).

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Daoxin was born to a family with the surname ‘Si-ma’ in the Yongning County of Qizhou, today known as Wuxue City of the Hubei Province. Daoxin began studying Buddhism at the tender age of seven, and although his first teacher had impure moral conduct, Daoxin was not adversely influenced, secretly maintaining his vows for the next five to six years.

According to the Compendium of Five Lamps , Daoxin encountered Sengcan when he was only fourteen years old. Daoxin made his request at the feet of his master, “I ask for the Master’s compassion. Please instruct me on how to achieve release.” Sengcan asked, “Is there someone who binds you?” Daoxin thought awhile, and answered, “There is no such person.” Sengcan then asked, “Why then seek release when no one restrains you?” It was said that upon hearing these words, Daoxin was said to have become enlightened.

The young Daoxin followed and served Sengcan for the next nine years. When Sengcan decided to travel to Mount Loufu, he forbade Daoxin to follow him. In an account taken from the Chuan Fa Pao Chi, the master said, “The Dharma has been transmitted from Patriarch Bodhidharma to me. I am going to the South and will leave you here to spread and protect the Dharma.”

For the next ten years, Daoxin studied at the feet of the master Zhikai at the Great Woods Temple on Mount Lu. Zhikai was an adept of the Taintai and Sanlun schools, and also chanted the Buddha’s name as part of his practice. These other schools heavily influenced Daoxin’s practice, and he finally received full ordination as a monk in 607 CE.

In 617 CE, Daoxin along with his disciples travelled to the Ji Province and entered a town that was under attack by bandits. In an unprecedented move, Daoxin expounded on the Perfection of Wisdom Sutra so well that the bandits laid down their weapons and abandoned their plans to attack the town. Daoxin continued on his travels and eventually settled at East Mountain Temple on Shuangfeng (Twin Peaks). He continued to teach Chan Buddhism for the next thirty years and attracted a large number of practitioners. According to records, he had five hundred students comprising of lay and ordained monks.

Emperor Tai Zong

Emperor Tai Zong

In 643 CE, the Emperor Tai Zong officially invited Daoxin to the capital but Daoxin turned the invitation down. The Emperor sent emissaries on three occasions and each time, Daoxin refused the imperial decree. On the third time, the Emperor, out of frustration, instructed for either Daoxin or his head to be brought to the capital. When the emissary arrived at the monastery, he related this instruction to Daoxin. In response, Daoxin stretched out his neck to allow the emissary to decapitate him. The emissary-official was so shocked that he left and he reported what transpired to the Emperor, who went on to honour Daoxin as an exemplary Buddhist master.

In 651 CE, Daoxin gave instructions for his students to build his funerary stupa in preparation for his death. According to the Further Biographies of Eminent Monks , his disciples requested for the aging master to name a successor. Daoxin replied, “I have made many deputations during my life.” He then passed away and the Emperor Tai Zong honored the late Daoxin with the posthumous title of ‘Dayi’, meaning ‘The Great Healer’.

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The Five Gates of Daoxin is a compilation of his teachings, but as this text did not appear until the second decade of the eighth century, after Hongren’s record, its historical accuracy is in doubt. The Chronicle of the Lankavatara Masters , which appeared in the early eighth century, has Daoxin quoting from the Prajnaparamita (Perfection of Wisdom) and Pure Land Sutras but some scholars do not consider the study of these sutras to be part of Daoxin’s teachings. However, Daoxin was said to have taught extensively on meditation.

The teachings of Daoxin along with his successor, Hongren are known as the East Mountain Teachings, which became the basis of the vein of Chan Buddhism that flourished all over China in the mid of 8th Century CE. A major contributing factor was the fact that Daoxin was the first Chan master to settle at one spot for an extended period of time, and thus developed a stable monastic community that influenced the flourishing of other monastic communities throughout China.

 

Hongren

Daman Hongren (601 – 674 CE) became the fifth Patriarch of Chan Buddhism. He was said to have received transmission from Daoxin, and he in turn bestowed the bowl and robe to mark the transmission upon Huineng, the sixth and last of the Chan patriarchs.

As with all the early Chan patriarchs, much of Hongren’s life, which was compiled long after his passing, was largely shrouded by time and myth. Hongren was born in Huangmei into the Chou household. According to The Records of the Teachers and Disciples of the Lankavatara (Leng-ch’ieh shih-tzu chih), his father abandoned his family, but Hongren supported his mother thereafter, displaying admirable filial duty in. However, at the age of twelve, Hongren left home to be ordained as a monk and came to study at the feet of Daoxin, the fourth patriarch of Chan.

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The meeting between Daoxin and Hongren is recorded in the Japanese text, Transmission of Light (Denkoroku) by Keizan Jokin Zenji (1268-1325 CE), which is a collection of 53 enlightened tales based on the traditional accounts of the Chan or Zen transmissions between successive masters and disciples in the Soto Zen Buddhist lineage. Daoxin initially met Hongren on a road in Huangmei. When Daoxin asked his name, Hongren replied, “I have essence but it is not a common name.” The master then asked, “What is its name?” To which Hongren replied, “It is the essence of Buddhahood.” Daoxin added, “Have you no name?” Hongren then said, “None, because essence is empty.” It is said that Daoxin would pass on the teachings and the robe down to Hongren, thus appointing Hongren as the next Patriarch of Chan Buddhism.

It was said that Hongren remained with Daoxin until his master’s death in 651 CE. It was also said that he was with Daoxin when the master was at Ta-lin Su on Mount Loufu and accompanied him to Mount Shuangfeng, one of the twin peaks of Huangmei. According to a later account, after Daoxin’s death, Hongren decided to move the community of monks towards Dong Shan or the eastern summit of the Twin Peaks. The lineage teachings of Daoxin and especially Hongren became known after this location as East Mountain Teachings (Dong Shan Fa Men).

HongRen

Daman Hongren

According to the Annals of the Transmission of the Dharma-Treasure (Chuan Fa Pao Chi of 712 CE), Hongren was described as quiet, withdrawn, diligent with his menial tasks, and sat in meditation throughout the night. He was said to have never looked at the Buddhist scriptures, but understood everything that he learned. After ten years of teaching, the record claims that eight or nine of every ten ordained and lay Buddhist practitioners in the country had studied under him.

A Chan scholar asserts that Hongren was probably from a wealthy and prominent family despite an earlier mention that his father abandoned the family. This conclusion was based on some stories that his residence was eventually converted into a monastery, which meant that it was of considerable size. In addition to that, the mention of Hongren performing menial labor in his biography would only be significant if Hongren was from an upper-class family.

In his teachings, Hongren emphasised meditation and extensively taught that the Pure Mind was obscured by discriminating thought pattern, wrong views, and projections. He taught that Nirvana naturally arose when false thoughts were eliminated, and a constant awareness of one’s natural enlightenment can be maintained through that. The Treatise on the Essentials of Cultivating the Mind is a compilation of his teachings, and is the earliest collection of teachings from a Chan master. After Hongren, Chan Buddhism split into two schools, each led by one of his students. Yuquan Shenxiu (606-706) founded the Northern School and Dajian Huineng (638–713 CE) founded the Southern School. Each of these schools regards their elder as the legitimate sixth patriarch of Chan Buddhism.

 

Huineng

Dajian Huineng is the legendary sixth and final Patriarch of Chan Buddhism and successor of Daman Hongren, the fifth Chan patriarch. Huineng’s life seems to reflect the changing fortunes of Chan Buddhism, from a Chinese provincial form of Buddhism to a major cultural and religious force throughout China and East Asia.

According to various sources, Huineng was uneducated and a ‘barbaric’ youth, but because of his deep insight, he surpassed his fellow senior monks who were great scholars to become Hongren’s successor by receiving special transmission of Chan Buddhism.

Huineng’s story began as an illiterate peasant boy from Xinzhou of the Guangdong province, born to the Lu family. His father was a minor official who had been banished and passed away when he was very young. His mother brought him to southern China and they lived in poverty. When he was old enough, he began chopping and selling firewood to make a living to support his family.

“Depending upon nothing, you must find your own mind.” - a verse from Diamond Sutra

“Depending upon nothing, you must find your own mind.” – a verse from Diamond Sutra

One day, while delivering firewood to a shop, he overheard a man reciting a verse from the Diamond Sutra, “Depending upon nothing, you must find your own mind.” Upon hearing this verse, Huineng was said to have gained realisation. The man who recited this line recommended Huineng to meet the Fifth Chan Patriarch, Hongren, at the Tung Chian Monastery in the Huang Mei District of Xinzhou. He spoke to his mother, and gained her permission to leave home in order to enter a religious life.

From then on, Huineng spent the next few years wandering before ending up with a Buddhist nun who was devoted towards the study, recitation and contemplation of the Nirvana Sutra. She would recite passages from the Sutra every day, and one day, she asked him to recite a passage aloud only to discover that he was illiterate. This surprised the nun and she asked how was he going to learn the Buddha’s teachings if he was unable to read the scriptures. The youth replied that the Buddha nature within all beings does not depend on words, so there was actually no need to read texts. This amazed the nun and she suggested that he take up ordination. Huineng declined and went to a meditation master instead.

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Huineng spent three years meditating in a mountain cave before travelling to East Mountain (Dongshan) monastery in Hubei, where he met Master Hongren, the Fifth Chan Patriarch. The master glared at the supplicant and asked where he was from and why did he come. Huineng answered that he was from the south and had come to learn the dharma from him. Hongren was quick to retort that Huineng was a mere barbarian as he was from the south. The master then added, “How could you become a Buddha?” Unfazed by the insult, Huineng responded, “Although my barbarian body and yours differ, what difference is there in our Buddha nature?”

Hongren realised that this was a promising student, although he was a diamond in the rough, and decided to test him further. He finally took Huineng in, but assigned him to the chore of threshing grains. Huineng labored for nine months treading the mill in order to separate rice grains from their husks.

However, the most famous story of Huineng’s life came with a contest. One day, the master Hongren decided to put his monks to the test by getting them to compose a verse that distilled their realisation of their original nature. The master said that he would read each verse and would award Bodhidharma’s robes, begging bowl and the title ‘Sixth Patriarch’ to the student who demonstrated true realisation.

Everybody turned towards the head monk, Shenxiu, who was expected to be the Master’s likeliest successor. However, it was said that he was full of doubt and spent a laborious night composing his verse. Finally, he crept out and wrote his verse anonymously on the wall of the new dharma hall as was required by Hongren’s challenge.

Shenxiu’s verse was as follows: –

The body is a Bodhi tree,
The mind a standing mirror bright.
At all times polish it diligently,
And let no dust alight.

This verse was a direct assertion of the necessity for diligent practice and Shenxiu had hoped that this verse would demonstrate to the Master that he had some realisation. Early the next morning, Hongren walked towards the wall and read out the verse and praised it before the jubilant monks. He offered incense before the verse and ordered the monks to recite it before calling Shenxiu for an audience. In private, he praised Shenxiu for his insight but he said that the verse revealed that he had arrived at the gates of wisdom, but he had yet to place his foot in. He then suggested Shenxiu take a few more days to ponder on another verse that would be worthy to be awarded with his robes.

Huineng‘s famous verse in response to Shenxiu’s verse

Huineng‘s famous verse in response to Shenxiu’s verse

Meanwhile, Huineng was diligently threshing rice grains when he overheard a novice reciting Shenxiu’s verse. Immediately, Huineng realised that the author of the verse lacked deeper insight. Later, he snuck out to the dharma hall and requested a monk to write his verse on the wall next to Shenxiu’s verse.

Bodhi is originally without any tree;
The bright mirror is also not a stand.
Originally there is not a single thing-
Where could any dust be attracted?

Word spread like wildfire throughout the monastery of the new verse and the news eventually reached Hongren’s ears. The Master himself came out to read the verse and immediately he recognised it to be Huineng’s words and recognised his deep insight. The master pondered and knew that passing his robe to a peasant monk would upset the monastic hierarchy. Thereafter, he was quick to dismiss the verse for lacking understanding and left. That night and under the cover of darkness, Hongren secretly summoned Huineng for an audience in which he bestowed upon him further teachings and transmissions. Passing on his robe, the Master told him to flee for his life and predicted that he would eventually transmit the teachings.

Huineng made hasty preparations and fled south. After several months of pursuit, a band of assassins tracked Huineng to a mountain and with the intent of killing him in order to retrieve the robe. Most of the pursuers turned back after climbing halfway except Huiming, who managed to reach the summit. Somehow, instead of killing the master, he was subdued by the master’s incredible wit and wisdom. After receiving his teachings, the assassin became realised. In fulfilment of his master’s prophecy, Huineng dispatched his new disciple to the north in order to spread the Dharma there.

‘No-Form Stanza’ of the Platform Sutra

‘No-Form Stanza’ of the Platform Sutra

The famous Chan treatise, Platform Sutra of the Sixth Patriarch or Liuzu Tanjing is attributed to Huineng. Scholars analysing the text say that it was constructed over a long period of time, as it contains many layers of writing. It constitutes some of the earliest Chan teachings, and a great collection of essential teachings that form the backbone of the entire tradition stemming up to the second half of the 8th century CE. The central theme of the treatise is the recognition and realisation of one’s Buddha-nature that is similar to texts attributed to Bodhidharma and Hongren, including the idea that our primordial Buddha-nature is made invisible due to our illusions and delusions.

The Platform Sutra cites and expounds on a wide range of Buddhist scriptures like Lankavatara Sutra, Mahaparinirvana Sutra, Mahaprajnaparamita Sutra, Brahmajala Sutra, Vimalakirti Sutra, Lotus Sutra, Surangama Sutra and Awakening of Faith in the Mahayana. The Platform Sutra became wildly popular in China that some attribute to its paradoxical Taoist’ influence and numerous copies circulated.

Towards the end of 8th century, the ‘Northern’ and ‘Southern’ schools of Chan Buddhism dominated China. Shenhui (684-758) claimed to having studied under Huineng, and he criticised the legitimacy of ‘Northern’ Chan, which had received imperial patronage during the Tang dynasty (618-907) under the leadership of Shenxiu (ca. 606-706) and his heir, Puji (651-739). Shenhui claimed that his teacher Huineng was the true recipient of transmission from Hongren, and he ridiculed Shenxiu’s ‘gradualist’ approach to awakening. Shenhui insisted that Huineng was the true Sixth Patriarch, and thus claimed the title of Seventh Patriarch for himself.

In the ninth century, the ‘Southern’ school with its ‘sudden awakening’ doctrine was finally accepted as the official line. Ironically, both the ‘Northern’ and ‘Southern’ schools died out due to political turmoil of the time. It was only later, after Chan Buddhism had survived the imperial persecutions of 841-845 CE, that other Chan schools reasserted their connection to Huineng and propagated his teachings.

This is the mummified remains of Huineng that is enshrined in Nanhua Temple in Shaoguan of Northern Guangdong Province of China.

This is the mummified remains of Huineng that is enshrined in Nanhua Temple in Shaoguan of Northern Guangdong Province of China.

Huineng’s legacy continues to impact Chan Buddhism till this day. His teachings span the major themes within Chan Buddhism, and stories of his life continue to provide the archetype of an ideal Chan master.

Huineng was said to have passed away while in meditation and his body became mummified. The mummified remains of Huineng were enshrined in Nanhua Temple in Shaoguan (northern Guangdong) to this day. Jesuit priest Matteo Ricci visited Nanhua Temple in 1589, and he wrote about the life story of Huineng and described him along the lines of a Christian ascetic, calling him Liuzu or Sixth Patriarch in his writings.
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Pastor David Lai
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About Pastor David Lai

David is a lay Buddhist pastor of Kechara and a longtime student of H.E. Tsem Rinpoche. Initially a reluctant writer, he now finds himself writing for a living and has published four books including his autobiography, There's No Way But Up and Conversations in Love.

David is a lover of Buddhist art and whenever he can, he shares his knowledge of the Dharma with everyone, giving frequent teachings and writing on his blog www.davidlai.me.
Pastor David Lai
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8 Responses to The Six Patriarchs of Chan Buddhism

DISCLAIMER IN RELATION TO COMMENTS OR POSTS GIVEN BY THIRD PARTIES BELOW

Kindly note that the comments or posts given by third parties in the comment section below do not represent the views of the owner and/or host of this Blog, save for responses specifically given by the owner and/or host. All other comments or posts or any other opinions, discussions or views given below under the comment section do not represent our views and should not be regarded as such. We reserve the right to remove any comments/views which we may find offensive but due to the volume of such comments, the non removal and/or non detection of any such comments/views does not mean that we condone the same.

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  1. JP on Mar 19, 2017 at 3:33 pm

    This article showed me that when a new movement or method of teaching Buddhism in a community is introduced, there will always be opposition from the masses. In this case, they were accused of being heretic and that their teachings were not from Lord Buddha. Only centuries later were Chan Buddhism widely accepted and spread all the way to Japan and Korea. Hence, it is important that the students persevere, practice sincerely and diligently and gain attainments in order to preserve the lineage.

    Thank you Pastor David for his overview of Chan Buddhism.

  2. shelly tai on Mar 18, 2017 at 12:39 pm

    Thank you Pastor David for this write up. Is great to know about all these great master who practice so diligently in the teaching all the time I thought all these master is only a legend is not real . Is great to know that all these great being has preserve the Buddha Dharma until this day.

  3. Jennifer Yuen on Mar 17, 2017 at 11:05 pm

    Thank you so much for the article Pastor David. Heard about the ‘Zen’ Buddhism from young but never knew about it much. The article has given me some knowledge of how the tradition was introduced, survived and spread eventually. Without the determination and discipline of these great masters, Dharma would not have existed til now.

  4. TekLee on Mar 7, 2017 at 1:43 am

    Thank you Pastor David Lai for sharing this article. It let me understand more about Chan Buddhism. From young, I always heard about Bodhidharma, I heard about how he set up Shao Lin, how he could subdue spirits, but didn’t really know the real story of Bodhidharma. I always thought he was a kungfu master. Now after I become a Buddhist, amd after reading this article, I know who Bodhidharma really is. His facing the wall meditation for nine years was the most popular story. Nevertheless, all 6 patriarchs are very dedicated and committed to Dharma and bring Dharma to everyone in the world. _/\_

  5. wan wai meng on Feb 25, 2017 at 4:10 am

    Reading all the stories is really inspiring, and all the 6 patriachs they all had determination to bring the dharma to many others. A common theme within each story to me is that all had the 6 Patriachs had deep insight and tremendous courage to bring the teachings to others.

  6. Edwin Tan on Feb 11, 2017 at 6:08 pm

    Dear Pastor David,

    Thank you for the detailed write up of Zen Buddhism.

    Zen has always been synonymous with simple, clean approach and the article clearly demonstrates the idea.

    Although most historical facts were not authenticated as suggested by you or origins unknown.. It is clear that we need not be literate, read the scriptures, perform monk duties to gain enlightenment. It has all to do with the mind awakening.

    I can use some sudden awakening.. (Hehe)

    I love how your articles link from 1 patriarch to the next, and I gained more understanding about Zen Buddhism now.

    Thank you very much.

  7. Stella Cheang on Feb 9, 2017 at 5:12 pm

    Thank you, Pastor David for this sharing. Buddhism encompasses a variety of traditions and spiritual practices, and the Chan teachings is one of them. The Chan teaching emphasises on Dhyana rather than Prajna of the Buddhism practice, which means the focus is on sitting meditation to gain direct realisation and dialogue with an accomplished master. Much of the practice involved self-discipline, completeness, insight into the Buddha-nature of all beings, and incorporating this insight into daily life in order to be of benefit to all beings, and thus attaining the Bodhisattva-ideal. The lineage is based on Patriarch system, passing down from master to the most qualified disciple. The first Patriarch being the famous Bodhidharma who appeared in legends as an highly attained Kung Fu master. This strikes me that stillness of the mind and body fitness can go hand in hand.

  8. Choong on Feb 8, 2017 at 11:34 pm

    It is intriguing to read that a split of Chan Buddhism into the Northern and Southern schools or “gradual” and “sudden” awakening schools, could have precipitated its total downfall in the 9th century due to politics.

    Politics and religion are never a good mix. Whether we view it as sudden or gradual, both are still concepts generated by a tainted mind, both are constructs which fit a particular way of modeling the path toward enlightenment. Both have logically resulted in enlightenment for many. Hence we cannot side with one and dismiss the other.

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Everyone has a different perspective, so this section is for you.

Tsem Rinpoche


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KECHARA FOREST RETREAT PROGRESS UPDATES

Here is the latest news and pictorial updates, as it happens, of our upcoming forest retreat project.

The Kechara Forest Retreat is a unique holistic retreat centre focused on the total wellness of body, mind and spirit. This is a place where families and individuals will find peace, nourishment and inspiration in a natural forest environment. At Kechara Forest Retreat, we are committed to give back to society through instilling the next generation with universal positive values such as kindness and compassion.

For more information, please read here (english), here (chinese), or the official site: retreat.kechara.com.

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  • Samfoonheei
    Sunday, Mar 26. 2017 04:15 PM
    Very clear explanation of what is Vajrayogini’s left foot stepping on. Each time when i have a look at the beautiful statue of Vajrayogini this question will comes back to me. i am glad came across these blog by chance, i saw and read to understand better.A clear explanation ..stampling left and right foot significant of desire ,hatred and ignorance that cause us to be in samsara and she she able to control.Vajrayogni’s practices is so powerful in heliping us and that is the reason Rinpoche always ask us to start now.
    Thank you Rinpoche for sharing these short explanation in the video and the interesting story of Mahadeva.
    http://www.tsemrinpoche.com/tsem-tulku-rinpoche/buddhas-dharma/facebook-question-what-is-vajra-yoginis-left-foot-stepping-on.html
  • Stella Cheang
    Sunday, Mar 26. 2017 02:44 PM
    Rejoice to all the families who had setup a Buddhist altar at home and conducted a house blessing puja. There are diverse benefits of conducting the house blessing puja, which ranges from bringing well-being on all levels – in one’s health, relationships, business, and family – to purifying the home. The puja ceremonies will purify the environment which helps the people who live there and people who are visiting there to experience general well-being. The puja can be personalised based on the request or need of the individual. Thank you for sharing with us the many photos of the beautiful altar of these families, it is very heartwarming to know that they will always be blessed by the Three Jewels.

    http://www.tsemrinpoche.com/tsem-tulku-rinpoche/buddhas-dharma/10-amazing-house-blessings-by-kechara-pastors.html
  • Stella Cheang
    Sunday, Mar 26. 2017 02:24 PM
    Thank you for sharing this mindfully planned itinerary for everyone who is interested in visiting Kechara Forest Retreat. Kechara Forest Retreat has different facets that showcase different elements of spirituality and Tibetan Buddhism in this wholesale venue. One can enjoy the flora and fauna of Mother Nature, or embrace the contemporary architectures that feature many magnificent Buddha statues and authentic Himalayan decorations. Not forgetting to mention, in Kechara Forest Retreat sits the largest Dorje Shugden statue in the world! This is a holy place we must never miss to pay homage for blessings from the Three Jewels.

    http://www.tsemrinpoche.com/tsem-tulku-rinpoche/kechara-13-depts/go-bentong.html
  • Pastor Shin Tan
    Sunday, Mar 26. 2017 01:07 PM
    金泽“财王”护法殿

    在禅修林的入口处的左边有一间小佛堂,是全天候二十四小时开放给大众的。这间佛堂的一砖一瓦都是由不同善心人士捐增的。也因为他们过后发了一笔小财,所以在大马文东,金泽护法一般被简称为“财王“。

    根据佛陀教诲,五蕴是组成众生的五个方面,分别是色、受、想、行、识。证悟者如多杰雄登能将五蕴分别化现成不同的本尊。金泽是多杰雄登“受”蕴的化现,作用是协助我们增长世俗和修行上的财富。“受”蕴是我们对愉悦或不悦感受的认知。我们执着于愉悦,避免不悦,而这正是导致我们受困和造下各种业,继而产生痛苦的因(此段原文: http://blog.sina.com.cn/s/blog_6d7edf5f0102x1n6.html)

    来到这里,我们首先要上香。做生意的朋友可要趁此机会拜拜,供养一个大的莲花蜡烛,上三根大香,祈求今年一帆风顺哦。

    摘自“GO BENTONG!与菩萨有约”
    http://www.tsemrinpoche.com/?p=120808
  • Lin Mun
    Saturday, Mar 25. 2017 11:02 PM
    Can’t imagine that a priest actually stabbed Pope John Paul. How can he do this when he as a priest is suppose to be compassion and love everyone but kill the religion leader. he should remember that he carries the name priest and hence must show good example and behaviour to others but instead took another person’s life.

    I respected Pope John who continued his trip even though he was injured. That shows the determination he had to teach so it can benefit others. Always put others first more than our own needs.

    Thank you Rinpoche for sharing this article.

    http://www.tsemrinpoche.com/tsem-tulku-rinpoche/current-affairs/pope-john-paul-stabbed-by-priest.html
  • Stella Cheang
    Saturday, Mar 25. 2017 08:13 PM
    It is admirable for Sine Lindholm & Mads Ulrik Husum to place their design as open source for everyone to download and copy to manufacture. This shows how farsighted they are in propelling self-sustainability. The first step is always the hardest, and I believe what Sine and Mads had done is towards the right direction. In this way, people from all the around the world who genuinely are passionate and interested in growing own vegetables will be able to start on their own. Without needing to rely on middleman or manufacturer who might end up making the brilliant idea a commercial white elephant. Thank you, Rinpoche for this sharing.

    http://www.tsemrinpoche.com/tsem-tulku-rinpoche/animals-vegetarianism/build-your-own-growroom.html
  • Alice Tay
    Friday, Mar 24. 2017 10:05 PM
    Many companies especially in overseas are very considerate and allow their employees to bring their dogs to work. I personally think that this is a very good practice where the employees no longer have to worry about leaving pets at home alone. The work environments that cultivate loving kindness, caring and compassion create a much more positive and productive place to work. Besides, it may influence everyone especially those who do not have pet to be more kind to the animals.

    Nevertheless, the employer and employees may have to work together to maintain the safe and cleanliness work place such as reduce odour, provide clean air and many others.

    Thank you for this interesting article as a reminder to us to love and be kind to animals no matter where we are.

    http://www.tsemrinpoche.com/tsem-tulku-rinpoche/animals-vegetarianism/inside-the-worlds-most-dog-friendly-office.html
  • Lin Mun
    Friday, Mar 24. 2017 07:06 PM
    Superb idea and very creative. Home farming in the cities ! Appreciate all the hardwork and ideas to produce Growroom. It’s just like putting a big puzzle and making the whole process so much easier to plant in cities where we always have limited spaces.

    We should support more people to come up with such ideas so we can eat our own food and cultivate self sustainability.

    http://www.tsemrinpoche.com/tsem-tulku-rinpoche/animals-vegetarianism/build-your-own-growroom.html
  • Pastor Shin Tan
    Friday, Mar 24. 2017 01:40 PM
    When on the hospital bed nearing our last breath, nothing matters except for the practice and transformation we have done in dharma in our lifetime.

    Our money, wishes, houses, clothes, jewelry, reputation, spouses, desires, dreams, greed, anger, possessions, explanations will be of no use at all. It will in fact even be a hindrance scratching at our mind’s energy to let go and we cannot.

    Since they are no use at that momentous event, we should continue that thought now and understand what we should truly cultivate now. This thought must translate into action not just scholastic thoughts and meanderings of the mind for self deception or imitation spiritual satisfaction. This is what I think daily and everyday as part of my meditations on death and impermanence according to first chapter of Lam Rim.
    ~H.E. Tsem Tulku Rinpoche

    Learn more here: http://www.tsemrinpoche.com/tsem-tulku-rinpoche/buddhas-dharma/the-dying-process.html
  • Samfoonheei
    Friday, Mar 24. 2017 12:11 PM
    Amazing and very creative architecture designed space for our home grown foods.It is a good idea for those living in the cities.The Growroom is beautifully produced made it convenience which enables people to connect with nature surrounding with plants. The smell of herbs and plants makes cities dwellers to live in happiness and healthy.
    Its takes alot of effort and determination for anyone to build a growroom.Well they can do it,if they have the will power….hoping someday KFR will have one too.
    Thank you Rinpoche for sharing.
    http://www.tsemrinpoche.com/tsem-tulku-rinpoche/animals-vegetarianism/build-your-own-growroom.html
  • nut
    Friday, Mar 24. 2017 01:39 AM
    Lazynnes ,negative karma!and mends samajas …ITS very very , inderdependent motivations lewwels of awareness Teacher’Quality &sangha quantity ,first when samajas ARE pure Empowerment full blessings later?so give less Empowerment ITS OK.ccTR IS Wise.
    [no sender]
  • nut
    Friday, Mar 24. 2017 01:32 AM
    http://www.aikidosydneycity.com/interview-with-takeda-shihan-by-aikikai-hombu-dojo/ yes yes sumikiri!i m sure HE practice martial arts in many previous lives AS well AS have family’karma conected with ai!ki flow,,,so NEUTRAL his re:for attacks ARE.,above normal fighter skills!___and i m skull in maya astro,fine and wanth share:#####paranormalTSEMsection on:::: antarctica aliens& JFK ,Peru as egg skulls.________________have a good day&nice PRactICE.____THE LIGHT be?or just show options that can be used.
    [no sender]
  • nut
    Friday, Mar 24. 2017 01:23 AM
    For example B_LOCK can be neutral karma ,butRE_PLAY reactions can make diferent results in second person?
    [no sender]
  • nut
    Friday, Mar 24. 2017 01:22 AM
    NEUTRAL karma not make good ,not bad result!but ITS STill karma so IS not done from lewwels of acomplishment where IS NO NEW karma acumulations.
    [no sender]
  • nut
    Friday, Mar 24. 2017 01:16 AM

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CREDITS

Concept: Tsem Rinpoche
Technical: Lew Kwan Leng, Justin Ripley, Yong Swee Keong
Design: Justin Ripley, Cynthia Lee
Content: Tsem Rinpoche, Justin Ripley, Pastor Shin Tan, Sarah Yap
Writer: Pastor Loh Seng Piow
Admin: Pastor Loh Seng Piow, Beng Kooi

I must thank my dharma blog team who are great assets to me, Kechara and growth of dharma in this wonderful region. I am honoured and thrilled to work with them. I really am. Maybe I don't say it enough to them, but I am saying it now. I APPRECIATE THESE GUYS VERY MUCH!

Tsem Rinpoche

What Am I Writing Now

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The Unknown

The Known and unknown are both feared,
Known is being comfortable and stagnant,
The unknown may be growth and opportunities,
One shall never know if one fears the unknown more than the known.
Who says the unknown would be worse than the known?
But then again, the unknown is sometimes worse than the known. In the end nothing is known unless we endeavour,
So go pursue all the way with the unknown,
because all unknown with familiarity becomes the known.
~Tsem Rinpoche

Photos On The Go

Click on the images to view the bigger version. And scroll down and click on "View All Photos" to view more images.
Click on picture to enlarge and see what Milarepa says. Profound.
7 days ago
Click on picture to enlarge and see what Milarepa says. Profound.
We are always trying to get somewhere, try something new, find some friends, get some entertainment and in the end we end up in the same place. Time to really practice Dharma seriously and stop wasting time we don\'t have. ~Tsem Rinpoche
7 days ago
We are always trying to get somewhere, try something new, find some friends, get some entertainment and in the end we end up in the same place. Time to really practice Dharma seriously and stop wasting time we don't have. ~Tsem Rinpoche
March 20, 2017-Mumu is just so adorable with his bright eyes.
7 days ago
March 20, 2017-Mumu is just so adorable with his bright eyes.
More and more people inviting Lord Dorje Shugden home to connect with on their shrines. I am so happy to see this as it will benefit them and their families so much. That is the purpose to be alive which is to benefit others as much as possible. Tsem Rinpoche
1 week ago
More and more people inviting Lord Dorje Shugden home to connect with on their shrines. I am so happy to see this as it will benefit them and their families so much. That is the purpose to be alive which is to benefit others as much as possible. Tsem Rinpoche
His Eminence Tsem Rinpoche is a good sport watching his students do Halloween drag costumes for a charity show. Funny!
1 week ago
His Eminence Tsem Rinpoche is a good sport watching his students do Halloween drag costumes for a charity show. Funny!
His Eminence Tsem Rinpoche is a good sport watching his students do Halloween drag costumes for a charity show. Funny!
1 week ago
His Eminence Tsem Rinpoche is a good sport watching his students do Halloween drag costumes for a charity show. Funny!
The Japanese are very innovative. Tsem Rinpoche
1 week ago
The Japanese are very innovative. Tsem Rinpoche
Read this as it will be interesting
1 week ago
Read this as it will be interesting
Recite this before any meal or drinks for blessings of abundance. Tsem Rinpoche
1 week ago
Recite this before any meal or drinks for blessings of abundance. Tsem Rinpoche
This sacred statue of Buddha is in Nepal brought originally from Tibet and has spoken on many occasions. Very blessed to see this holy image and keep a picture...bless you always. Tsem Rinpoche
1 week ago
This sacred statue of Buddha is in Nepal brought originally from Tibet and has spoken on many occasions. Very blessed to see this holy image and keep a picture...bless you always. Tsem Rinpoche
I love Mumu boy tremendously. We went through so much together for so many years. You are a great being to be with. Tsem Rinpoche
1 week ago
I love Mumu boy tremendously. We went through so much together for so many years. You are a great being to be with. Tsem Rinpoche
Dear everyone, I am sharing this beautiful and modern altar to Dorje Shugden in Malaysia. I am glad to see more and more people creating sacred spaces. Tsem Rinpoche
1 week ago
Dear everyone, I am sharing this beautiful and modern altar to Dorje Shugden in Malaysia. I am glad to see more and more people creating sacred spaces. Tsem Rinpoche
Lhamo Karmo, a female buddha form visualized above the crown of one\'s head at the time of death, to encourage consciousness to leave the body via the crown aperture. From my book \"The Female Buddhas.\"- Glenn Mullin
2 weeks ago
Lhamo Karmo, a female buddha form visualized above the crown of one's head at the time of death, to encourage consciousness to leave the body via the crown aperture. From my book "The Female Buddhas."- Glenn Mullin
The Tibetan female tulku Dorje Pakmo, from a fresco on the wall of the Dorje Pakmo monastery (Samding) in Tibet, near the Turquoise Lake. In Tibet the Dorje Pakmo was ranked with the Dalai Lama, Panchen Lama and Sakya Trizin as the four highest lamas in the country.-from Glenn Mullin
2 weeks ago
The Tibetan female tulku Dorje Pakmo, from a fresco on the wall of the Dorje Pakmo monastery (Samding) in Tibet, near the Turquoise Lake. In Tibet the Dorje Pakmo was ranked with the Dalai Lama, Panchen Lama and Sakya Trizin as the four highest lamas in the country.-from Glenn Mullin
Dharma boy, Mumu boy and Oser girl checking out the scene..cute
4 weeks ago
Dharma boy, Mumu boy and Oser girl checking out the scene..cute
My Dharma boy has such a cute expression here. He is a good boy!
4 weeks ago
My Dharma boy has such a cute expression here. He is a good boy!
February 9,2017-My Mumu boy and Oser girl are just relaxing together..super cute
2 months ago
February 9,2017-My Mumu boy and Oser girl are just relaxing together..super cute
Click on the picture to enlarge and see what Suzy from Hawaii commented on the Dorje Shugden issue after much research. She is very candid and honest. Refreshing. Original is posted here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vl-4lIwxph4
2 months ago
Click on the picture to enlarge and see what Suzy from Hawaii commented on the Dorje Shugden issue after much research. She is very candid and honest. Refreshing. Original is posted here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vl-4lIwxph4
This is a good one to read
2 months ago
This is a good one to read
Mumu is silly and cute and funny
2 months ago
Mumu is silly and cute and funny
Mumu\'s hair is messy and he looks funny
2 months ago
Mumu's hair is messy and he looks funny
I am in the process of creating beautiful Dorje Shugden and Kechara Forest Retreat watches at this time. So we can take precious protector and Kechara Forest Retreat wherever we go and be blessed everytime we see what time it is. 
I am perfecting the designs with a great team and will update when done but these are just some samples that arrived. 
Feast your eyes! 

Tsem Rinpoche
2 months ago
I am in the process of creating beautiful Dorje Shugden and Kechara Forest Retreat watches at this time. So we can take precious protector and Kechara Forest Retreat wherever we go and be blessed everytime we see what time it is. I am perfecting the designs with a great team and will update when done but these are just some samples that arrived. Feast your eyes! Tsem Rinpoche
                        Pick the practice, devotion and precepts of Vajra Yogini\'s path over everything and anything in samsara. Samsara has nothing of value and nothing lasting to offer. You are born in suffering, live in suffering, die in suffering and enter bardo and future lives expecting more sufferings. This is not a negative way of looking at things but the truth. If the truth is negative, so it is the truth. Devote oneself to the guru, dharma work, dharma practice and bringing dharma to others compassionately. Choose to practice Vajra Yogini now with the preliminaries. You can start right now: http://www.tsemrinpoche.com/tsem-tulku-rinpoche/inspiration-worthy-words/starting-on-vajra-yogini-now.html  Much care, Tsem Rinpoche
3 months ago
Pick the practice, devotion and precepts of Vajra Yogini's path over everything and anything in samsara. Samsara has nothing of value and nothing lasting to offer. You are born in suffering, live in suffering, die in suffering and enter bardo and future lives expecting more sufferings. This is not a negative way of looking at things but the truth. If the truth is negative, so it is the truth. Devote oneself to the guru, dharma work, dharma practice and bringing dharma to others compassionately. Choose to practice Vajra Yogini now with the preliminaries. You can start right now: http://www.tsemrinpoche.com/tsem-tulku-rinpoche/inspiration-worthy-words/starting-on-vajra-yogini-now.html Much care, Tsem Rinpoche
Message to Tibetans in English
3 months ago
Message to Tibetans in English
Message to the Tibetans
3 months ago
Message to the Tibetans
Left to right: Kensur Jampa Yeshe Rinpoche, Sharpa Choeje Jetsun Lobsang Nyima, Kyabje Zemey Rinpoche, Kyabje Lati Rinpoche, 101st Gaden Tripa Jetsun Lungrik Namgyal. Great lamas of Gaden Shartse Monastery
3 months ago
Left to right: Kensur Jampa Yeshe Rinpoche, Sharpa Choeje Jetsun Lobsang Nyima, Kyabje Zemey Rinpoche, Kyabje Lati Rinpoche, 101st Gaden Tripa Jetsun Lungrik Namgyal. Great lamas of Gaden Shartse Monastery
A beautiful Indian rendition of Gyenze Dorje Shugden manifesting in wealth form
3 months ago
A beautiful Indian rendition of Gyenze Dorje Shugden manifesting in wealth form
This is my thoughts and determination to share with you. Please open and read. Thank you for your time. Tsem Rinpoche
3 months ago
This is my thoughts and determination to share with you. Please open and read. Thank you for your time. Tsem Rinpoche
Nepalese King Birendra receives His Holiness Panchen Rinpoche in Nepal
3 months ago
Nepalese King Birendra receives His Holiness Panchen Rinpoche in Nepal
Guess what Zava Damdin Rinpoche did in Mongolia recently with 7,800 people??? Very interesting and it is a must read:  http://www.tsemrinpoche.com/?p=116206
3 months ago
Guess what Zava Damdin Rinpoche did in Mongolia recently with 7,800 people??? Very interesting and it is a must read:  http://www.tsemrinpoche.com/?p=116206
This huge Buddha in Korea is magnificent
4 months ago
This huge Buddha in Korea is magnificent
The very first oracle of Dorje Shugden in trance statue. I have commissioned this.
4 months ago
The very first oracle of Dorje Shugden in trance statue. I have commissioned this.
Such a old and ancient thangka painting of Dorje Shugden. He has been around in Tibet practiced for hundreds of years.
4 months ago
Such a old and ancient thangka painting of Dorje Shugden. He has been around in Tibet practiced for hundreds of years.
One of the "Four Exalted Brothers" Avalokiteshvara statues, Phagpa Wati of Kyirong, which is now with H.H. the Dalai Lama in Dharamsala.
4 months ago
One of the "Four Exalted Brothers" Avalokiteshvara statues, Phagpa Wati of Kyirong, which is now with H.H. the Dalai Lama in Dharamsala.
Kyabje Zemey, Kyabje Zong Rinpoche and Kyabje Pabongka Choktrul Rinpoche
4 months ago
Kyabje Zemey, Kyabje Zong Rinpoche and Kyabje Pabongka Choktrul Rinpoche
My Oser girl and Mumu boy are so adorable
4 months ago
My Oser girl and Mumu boy are so adorable
Wow this meditator in his cave in front of a painting of Yamantaka draped with a white khata of respect. He sits among bones to remind him of impermanence and our future. The bones inspire him strongly to let go of all attachments in this life and focus on dharma, meditation and liberation and he is doing so. Very beautiful and inspirational. Tsem Rinpoche
4 months ago
Wow this meditator in his cave in front of a painting of Yamantaka draped with a white khata of respect. He sits among bones to remind him of impermanence and our future. The bones inspire him strongly to let go of all attachments in this life and focus on dharma, meditation and liberation and he is doing so. Very beautiful and inspirational. Tsem Rinpoche
Tenzing Norgay found this in Nepal. Guess what it is?
5 months ago
Tenzing Norgay found this in Nepal. Guess what it is?
Sir Edmund Hillary
5 months ago
Sir Edmund Hillary
Halloween is my favorite holiday. Wild natural plants and flowers are my favorite offering. Buddha\'s teachings on meditation and Yidam practice bring the ultimate results and happiness. ~Tsem Rinpoche
5 months ago
Halloween is my favorite holiday. Wild natural plants and flowers are my favorite offering. Buddha's teachings on meditation and Yidam practice bring the ultimate results and happiness. ~Tsem Rinpoche
Previous lives do resemble current lives especially if they are a recognized incarnation. If notice how similar the previous and current Trijang Rinpoche looks. The eyes, bone structure, expression, long neck, thin and overall look. Beautiful. I\'ve seen this phenomena over and over in many Rinpoche incarnations. Especially when you compare them with pictures of previous and current lives at around the same ages. Something powerfully karmic about this. Tsem Rinpoche
6 months ago
Previous lives do resemble current lives especially if they are a recognized incarnation. If notice how similar the previous and current Trijang Rinpoche looks. The eyes, bone structure, expression, long neck, thin and overall look. Beautiful. I've seen this phenomena over and over in many Rinpoche incarnations. Especially when you compare them with pictures of previous and current lives at around the same ages. Something powerfully karmic about this. Tsem Rinpoche
It\'s nice to have monks visitors and resident monks in Kechara
6 months ago
It's nice to have monks visitors and resident monks in Kechara
                         Taken in Lake Champlain in Canada. A huge water monster...neat...
6 months ago
Taken in Lake Champlain in Canada. A huge water monster...neat...
Beautiful! His Holiness Kyabje Trijang Dorje Chang has always been good friends with His Holiness Karmapa. No wonder H.H. Karmapa never spoke against Dorje Shugden. Two reasons perhaps: One is he knows the qualities of Trijang Rinpoche who is a attained being. And Karmapa himself has clairvoyance to perceive the true nature of Dorje Shugden directly. I love to see great beings like this manifesting closeness. When I see, I just want to prostrate to them and thank them for sharing such good examples to someone like me. Praise to the ego-less mind! Tsem Rinpoche
6 months ago
Beautiful! His Holiness Kyabje Trijang Dorje Chang has always been good friends with His Holiness Karmapa. No wonder H.H. Karmapa never spoke against Dorje Shugden. Two reasons perhaps: One is he knows the qualities of Trijang Rinpoche who is a attained being. And Karmapa himself has clairvoyance to perceive the true nature of Dorje Shugden directly. I love to see great beings like this manifesting closeness. When I see, I just want to prostrate to them and thank them for sharing such good examples to someone like me. Praise to the ego-less mind! Tsem Rinpoche
Serkong Dorje Chang on the left and his son Serkong Tsenshab Rinpoche on the right.
6 months ago
Serkong Dorje Chang on the left and his son Serkong Tsenshab Rinpoche on the right.
High lamas in France September 2016
6 months ago
High lamas in France September 2016
༧གོང་ས་ཆེན་པོ་སྐུ་འཕྲེང་བཅུ་བཞི་པ་མཆོག་དང་རྡོ་རྗེ་ཤུགས་ལྡན། - Interesting relationship between 14th Dalai Lama and Dorje Shugden:   http://www.tsemrinpoche.com/?p=109757
6 months ago
༧གོང་ས་ཆེན་པོ་སྐུ་འཕྲེང་བཅུ་བཞི་པ་མཆོག་དང་རྡོ་རྗེ་ཤུགས་ལྡན། - Interesting relationship between 14th Dalai Lama and Dorje Shugden: http://www.tsemrinpoche.com/?p=109757
Dalai Lama Says We Can Practise Dorje Shugden Finally! Read more on this development--- http://www.tsemrinpoche.com/?p=109777
6 months ago
Dalai Lama Says We Can Practise Dorje Shugden Finally! Read more on this development--- http://www.tsemrinpoche.com/?p=109777
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ASK A PASTOR


Ask the Pastors

A section for you to clarify your Dharma questions with Kechara’s esteemed pastors.

Just post your name and your question below and one of our pastors will provide you with an answer.

Scroll down and click on "View All Questions" to view archived questions.

  • March 27, 2017 04:19
    Dongho asked: I have been reading on the tunes of certain sects and would like to ask on this. From what I've read, there are certain tunes to each sect and school of certain chants. Exactly where can I find the sheet music for these percussion and horns with the chants, such as to the one for invoking Kache Marpo or Dorje Shugden? Would it be possible to use school instruments for this?
    No reply yet
  • March 26, 2017 02:14
    Kunga asked: Does the Gelug have Begtse a protector? If so, could you please provide a sadhana for him here?
    pastor answered: Dear Kunga, Yes the Dharma protector Begtse exists within the Gelug tradition. He is also known as Chamsing. Begtse’s practice stems from India and was introduced to Tibet and therefore Tibetan Buddhism by the translator Nyen Lotsawa. Marpa Lotsawa also practiced Begtse, and so the practice exists in the Kagyu traditions. This practice was eventually transmitted to Sachen Kunga Nyingpo, the first of the five patriarchs of the Sakya tradition, who were the founding fathers of that tradition. Over time the practice of Begtse was incorporated into the Gelug tradition, founded by Lama Tsongkhapa, and was notably practiced by the 1st and 2nd Dalai Lamas. Over time the practice gained popularity within the lineage, especially when it spread to Mongolia. There the practice became an important one within the lineage as upheld there. Begtse is also affectionately known as the Dharma protector of Mongolia, because his practice is so popular there. If I am not mistaken, there is an oracle of Begtse in Mongolia as well. There is a mistaken account that the practice originated around the time of the 3rd Dalai Lama, with the subjugation of a Mongolian war god, but Begtse was definitely practiced before that time in the Gelug, Kagyu and Sakya traditions. While the practice of Begtse is very effective, I have not come across the practice of Begtse in my personal practice, therefore I do not have access to the Begtse sadhana to provide to you. Instead Begtse is propitiated in prayers that incorporate many other Dharma protectors, and Begtse is also considered one of the nine protectors of the Hayagriva (Tamdrin) cycle of tantric teachings. Therefore Begtse is included in the Dharma protector sections of the Hayagriva tantras. Surrounding Begtse are his sister, Sing Ma, and his main minister, Le Khan Mar Po. His inner retinue comprises of eight butchers who wield copper swords in their right hands and skull-cups full of blood in their left hands. They are portrayed as naked and are very ugly. His outer retinue comprises a further twenty-one butchers, who hold copper swords in their right hands, and this time, the entrails of butchered enemies. They wear the skins humans and oxen as clothes, with ornaments made from human bone. While this may seem violent, Begtse is actually a very powerful and beneficial protector, who helps practitioners clear their obstacles and create conducive conditions for their spiritual evolution. I hope this helps. Thank you.
  • March 24, 2017 20:12
    Azair asked: Venerable Rinpoche, I am doing a study in Kalachakra Tantra and I've heard from most of the lama's too that if you practice the Kalachakra Tantra, you'll be able to take control of your next rebirth. Ofcourse, it has been said that we will get our rebirth according to our Karma and desires but whether those dreams will get fulfilled will depend upon the actions that we take in this life. Thus, practicing the Kalachakra(till the end) after initiation will give you the opportunity to take rebirth anywhere you desire regardless of your Karma. My question is that, is there some truth in this statement.? Does this statement hold true for other tantra practices, such as Vajrayogini Tantra, Ghuyasamaja Tantra, Heruka Tantra, etc. I would really really like to know. Thankyou in anticipation, regards, Azair
    pastor answered: Dear Azair, Thank you for your question. Yes there is truth to this statement, both from a scriptural perspective and also by example, as the great masters have shown us. This is a unique feature of all Anuttarayoga Tantras or Highest Yoga Tantras, which Kalachakra, Vajrayogini, Guhyasama and Heruka are all examples of. This category of tantric practice can actually lead a practitioner to full enlightenment in this very lifetime. Even if enlightenment is not reached, very high levels of attainment can be reached nonetheless. This includes the ability to take control over your next rebirth. This is primarily engaged in so that the practitioner is born in an environment where they can eventually pick up their practice and further their spiritual path to enlightenment, or in order to be born in a place where they can benefit sentient beings the most, as part of the spiritual journey over many lifetimes. One of the reasons such an ability is very necessary on the spiritual path, is that usual death and rebirth occurs at the mercy of ones karma, specifically what is known as the ‘throwing karma’ or the karma that dictates what sort of rebirth a person is going to take. This opens up at the time of ordinary death, which most people have no control over. During the death process, many of our disturbing emotions will arise. Whichever of these is the strongest at the point of death triggers open a latent karmic potential, which becomes the ‘throwing karma’ and dictates where we are going to take rebirth and if that life will generally be full of suffering or not. Within Anuttarayoga Tantra, one of the key points of practice is to prepare for one’s death. This is done by simulating the dying process during one’s meditations, so that one becomes familiar with it. At the most pivotal part of this process, one practices achieving either the rainbow body or great bliss (in the case of the father tantras); or clear light (in the case of mother tantras). The tantras themselves are not defined in terms of the gender of the central deity, but by the method used to gain enlightenment. This is either the rainbow body/great bliss (classified as male, therefore labelled ‘father’) or clear light (classified as female, therefore labelled ‘mother’). Non-dual tantras such as the Kalachakra tantra can employ either of the two methods, a mixture of both, or alternate methods. In the case of superior practitioners, due to the power of their practice, they can achieve either of these two methods in their current body. Since they have familiarised themselves with the dying process, and a particular method of practice, they can also achieve enlightenment during their physical death. The great Lama Tsongkhapa is said to have achieved enlightenment at the moment of physical death, using the second of these. For other practitioners, they may not be able to achieve this either in their meditations while they are alive, or during the death process. However because they have familiarised themselves with the dying process, they remain in complete concentration at the time of death, not allowing any disturbing emotions to arise. Due to this level of concentration, meditation and awareness during the dying process, they are able to control where they next take rebirth. This is evident in the tantric scriptures themselves, and the life stories of many masters, who can state exactly where, when and to whom they will take their next rebirth, as they are in full control of the dying and rebirth process. There is a type of meditation called ‘thukdam’ which has been translated into ‘death meditation’. This is a final meditation some masters choose to engage in. During this meditation, the master themselves consciously begin the physical dying process themselves, engage in the meditation of dissolving the winds into the heart centre and remain in the most pivotal part of the death process, the mind of clear light of death. During this point they engage in meditations, either the methods of the father or mother tantras as mentioned previously, and or consciously choose where they are to next take rebirth. They can remain in this death meditation for long periods of time, days at an end, in which their consciousness has not yet left their body, although for all intents and purposes they are dead according to medical science, e.g. they have no heartbeat. At the end of their meditation, a drop of blood will be emitted from their nostril, and their head will slump over a little. Masters who engage in this meditation usually sit in full meditation posture, and their body remain supple and soft even though they have passed away from a medical point of view. I hope this brief explanation helps. Thank you.
  • March 23, 2017 23:01
    Brad asked: What is the significance of offering the Seven precious emblems of royalty to the Buddhas and enlightened Dharma Protectors? What are we symbolically offering up?
    pastor answered: Dear Brad, Thank you for your question. The ‘saptaratna’ or seven precious emblems represent on the one hand the ultimate state of temporal power, and on the other hand the ultimate spiritual attainments that we can achieve. By offering these to the Buddhas, we are actually creating the causes to achieve what they represent. Therefore it is good to know the meaning of each, so we can understand what we are creating the causes for by offering them up: Please see below for an explanation of the seven royal emblems: 1. The Precious Wheel: a thousand spoked wheel, representing the universal power of the Buddhas, as well as the teachings of the thousand Buddhas of our aeon. It is represented by the Dharmachakra, symbolising the ‘turning of the wheel’ or teaching of the Noble Eightfold Path. It is a symbol of a universal emperor’s spiritual and temporal power. It is also represents one of the factors of enlightenment, which is perfect mindfulness, especially that of our own mind, thoughts, delusions and afflictions. 2. The Precious Jewel: an eight sided wish-granting gem, which fulfils all the needs of a universal emperor. This jewel has eight special qualities: it illuminates the night sky for hundreds of leagues; it is cooling when the temperature is hot and warming when the temperature is cold; it makes manifest whatever the holder wants; when thirsty it causes a fresh-water spring to appear; it has the ability to control the nagas, and other supernatural beings, as well as preventing natural disasters such as storms, floods, etc.; it gives off multi-coloured lighted which heals the various mental and emotional afflictions; it cures all illnesses; and it ensures that one dies a natural death, not an untimely one. It is a symbol of a universal emperor’s spiritual and temporal power. It is also represents one of the factors of enlightenment, which is perfect mindfulness, or perfect discrimination, so one knows what to abandon and what to keep in the mindstream during the spiritual journey to enlightenment. 3. The Precious Queen: the most beautiful and virtuous of all women. She is described as a goddess who is the epitome of someone: with devotion; without jealousy; who is the embodiment of fertility; who works for the welfare of all beings; who possess feminine wisdom; speaks the truth; not attract to sensual pleasures or material possessions; and does not have false views. She is adored by all. She also represents one of the factors of enlightenment, which is perfect effort. This is necessary to keep meditating until one gains spiritual attainments. 4. The Precious Minister: who has sharp intelligence, patience, and the ability to give wise counsel to the emperor. He is so attuned to the emperor that even before the emperor has spoken, the minister is already carrying out his command. He only wishes to support the Dharma, help sentient beings, and is an excellent strategist. He also represents one of the factors of enlightenment, which is perfect joy. This is also akin to the attainment of the first bodhisattva level, because you have come to an understanding of your own mind, which is like pouring ice-cold water into boiling water. The water stops boiling, as does the thoughts, projections, and delusions in the mind. He represents the path of the bodhisattva. 5. The Precious Elephant: who has the strength of a thousand normal elephants. He is white, with the perfect features that an elephant could have. He is majestic, graceful, and gentle, but in battle is fearsome, fearless and unyielding. He communicates with the emperor through a telepathic link. He represents one of the factors of enlightenment, which is perfect adaptability. This is important, as one needs to be able to adapt to the various mental afflictions as they arise, and suitably counter them. 6. The Precious Horse: who has all the marks of a celestial horse. Known as wind-horse, he is able to travel extremely fast, and can circumambulate the entire universe three time in just a single day. He is never fearful or startled, never makes a sound when galloping, and has extremely soft hairs on his body. He represents one of the factors of enlightenment, which is single-pointed concentration. This is important because without this form of concentration, once cannot engage in the analytical meditations that lead to an understanding of emptiness, and therefore enlightenment. 7. The Precious General: who has mastered the arts of war and always wins in battle. He wears battle armour and holds many different weapons. He tries to avoid battle, but when necessary fights, and never gives up until he has won. He is fearless, and courageous in carrying out the emperors commands and ensures the emperors army carries out their duties. He represents one of the factors of enlightenment, which is perfect equanimity. This is because he overcomes all warfare, which is akin to the battle between things were are attached to and things we have an aversion for in our minds. In short, what you are offering up is the highest of all temporal treasures and abilities, as well as the entire path of the Dharma. Doing so creates the causes for you to receive all of this on your spiritual journey towards enlightenment. I hope this helps. Thank you.
  • March 20, 2017 10:16
    Grigoris asked: Excuse me, but I would like to ask, what does the prayer to Shangmo Dorje Putri say exactly? I can't read Tibetan, but would like to see the description that the prayer gives. I am not planning to say the prayer or make interaction(as it would be very dangerous), but would like to see what it actually says from the Tibetan text. Here's the link: http://www.tsemrinpoche.com/tsem-tulku-rinpoche/buddhas-dharma/shangmo-dorje-putri-the-bamo-of-sakya.html
    pastor answered: Dear Grigoris, Thank you for your question. Shangmo Dorje Putri is indeed a fascinating unenlightened Dharma protector. Unfortunately at the moment, we do not have a translated copy of the text in English that we can provide. The usual format for such texts, would include an invocation, making offerings to appease them, and then exhortations for them to perform their activities, possibly followed by thanking them for their help. One thing is for certain, due to the nature of Shangmo Dorje Putri her prayer is sure to include violent imagery, just like many other Dharma protectors, such as Achi Chokyi Drolma (who even though has a peaceful appearance, has a lot of violent imagery in her prayers). The reason behind the violent imagery is explained in the post about Achi Chokyi Drolma here: http://www.tsemrinpoche.com/tsem-tulku-rinpoche/buddhas-dharma/achi-chokyi-drolma-chief-protectress-of-the-drikung-kagyu.html
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Romania 41,938
South Africa 32,152
Switzerland 44,893
Ireland 31,533
Japan 31,278
Vietnam 28,567
Russia 32,091
Sweden 30,806
Saudi Arabia 20,608
Sri Lanka 20,792
Greece 23,843
Belgium 23,300
Poland 24,650
Turkey 20,360
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Dorje Shugden
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