On April 20, 2013, the venerable Zen master Jinghui peacefully passed away at the Sizusi Temple in Huangmei, Hubei.
On January 29 of that year, the elder wrote a self-praise poem:
In my early years, I found joy in Zen,
Cutting off the flow, recognizing this mind;
Under the guidance of Yunmen, Zhaozhou became the master,
Living the Zen way, not choosing a root for practice;
Grasping the present moment, as quick as lightning.
In my seventies, I followed the path with faith,
In my eighties, I served with great patience;
For five years, I walked the path of Dangyang,
Bringing prosperity to the Yumen Gate.
Holding the treasure for a thousand years of longevity,
The empty public servant celebrates a hundred and twenty springs;
Participating in the ancestral teachings of the East and West,
The way has been cut off, and the present has arrived.
Unexpectedly, things change, and three months later, the elder passed away, leaving infinite grief for Zen practitioners both inside and outside of China. Since 2013, the Grain Rain Festival, the last solar term of spring, has become a time for eternal remembrance of the four assemblies.
If you want to learn about the life and practices of Venerable Jinghui, you can watch the documentary "Life Zen Practitioner" on my website here.
April 20, 2023, marks the tenth anniversary of the passing of Master Jinghui.
Over a month ago, when I spoke to Bodhisattva Jingang, I asked about the arrangements for this year's memorial ceremony. Bodhisattva Jingang said he didn't know much yet, but asked if I could attend. I glanced at Zeze, who was also looking at me, and nodded. I told Bodhisattva Jingang that I would definitely go.
A few days later, I messaged Master Mingying to inquire about the activities for this year. Master Mingying happily said, "Come to Yaoshan first, and then we will go to Huangmei together."
It has been a long time since I last visited the Sizusi Temple in Huangmei. The last time was in May 2017 when I received the Bodhisattva precepts at the temple. I stayed at the temple for about a week.
During that week, in addition to attending the morning and evening ceremonies, I also studied rituals, recited scriptures, and had a very fulfilling time.
One night, I had a dream about the day I received the precepts. At that time, I didn't pay much attention to it. It wasn't until the day of the precepts that everything corresponded to the scene in my dream, which greatly shocked me.
To this day, I still occasionally think about staying at the Sizusi Temple for a few more days, but unfortunately, there are too many worldly matters, and I have never been able to fulfill this wish.
Since the introduction of Zen Buddhism to China by Bodhidharma, it has developed for nearly a hundred years and finally flourished during the time of the Fourth Patriarch of the Eastern Land Zen School, Daoxin Zen Master.
In the spring of the 13th year of the Sui Dynasty (617), Daoxin Zen Master, who was practicing Zen at Dalin Temple on Mount Lu, learned that the city of Jizhou was besieged by soldiers and plagued by an epidemic. He rushed to the city and led the soldiers and civilians to recite the "Prajnaparamita" mantra to dispel the calamity. In the late spring, a snowfall brought relief from the epidemic. The people of Jizhou gathered to build the Snow Mountain Temple, hoping to keep the Fourth Patriarch there. Considering the ongoing unrest in the north of Ganbei, Jiangbei, Huainan, and Wanxi, the Fourth Patriarch declined the invitation from Jizhou and went into seclusion in Chaoshan, Taihe County, under the jurisdiction of Jizhou. In the second year of the Wude period of the Tang Dynasty (619), he preached in Luochuan (Luling, Ji'an) and other places.
In the third year of the Wude period (620), as the chaos in Sui gradually subsided and the political situation stabilized, the situation in Wanxi also became peaceful. When the laypeople in Qizhou learned that the Fourth Patriarch was in seclusion in Taihe, they invited him from afar. The Fourth Patriarch returned to his hometown of Qihuang with Hongren and others, and built the Zhengjue Zen Temple (also known as the Sizusi Temple) at the foot of the Shuangfeng Mountain in Huangmei. The Fourth Patriarch lived here for thirty years, unwavering in his commitment, until his old age.
During these thirty years, with his firm determination, the Fourth Patriarch cleared the wilderness of the Shuangfeng Mountain, creating the renowned ancestral temple that people from all over the world aspired to visit. He also pioneered the development of the Eastern Mountain Dharma Gate of Chinese Zen Buddhism, exploring a series of influential reforms and innovations in the Zen teachings of the Western Pure Land, adapting to the national conditions and absorbing the teachings of Mahayana Buddhism and Taoism, forming a unique Zen tradition, and making remarkable achievements in the history of Chinese Buddhism, Zen Buddhism, and Chinese culture.
After a thousand years of rise and fall, in late October 1994, the contemporary Zen master Benhuan Elder, a leading figure in the Zen community, came to the Sizusi Temple and was moved to tears by the desolation of the ancestral temple. He immediately declared, "I will revive the ancestral temple of the Fourth Patriarch!"
With the support of various levels of government and the protection of Zhao Pu and other eminent monks, the Sizusi Temple was finally renovated by the end of September 2000, becoming grand and magnificent.
In the early morning of the Mid-Autumn Festival in 2003, as the dawn broke, fellow disciples Benlao and Fola welcomed Venerable Jinghui to the Dharma Hall and installed him as the abbot of the Sizusi Temple. When reciting the verses, Venerable Jinghui said:
In this ancient temple, a hundred-year-old elder rises,
Accomplishing his mission, he withdraws with a lofty spirit;
Feeling unworthy, he ascends the lion's seat,
Day and night, he never forgets to repay his ancestors.
On the night of April 16, Bodhisattvas Jingang, Mingshu, Zeze, and I drove to Yaoshan Temple to prepare for the next day's transmission and offering ceremony and the ceremony to raise the beams at the Manjushri Hall.
When I got out of the car, Zeze excitedly pointed to the starry sky and said, "Look, Hanghang, the Milky Way. And there is the Big Dipper."
Looking at the stars and listening to the sound of pine trees in the mountains, I was overwhelmed by poetic inspiration and wrote a poem called "Momentary Thoughts":
With compassionate clouds, peace is felt in an instant,
Listening quietly to the sound of pines, calling for immortal cranes.
The bamboo path leads to hidden ancient meanings,
Moonlight reflects an endless night.
On the morning of the 17th, a simple and solemn transmission and offering ceremony was held in the Round Treasure Hall of the Bamboo Forest Monastery at Yaoshan Temple.
On the morning of the 18th, we drove from Yaoshan Temple to Huangmei County.
As soon as we got on the Er'guang Expressway, I was driving in the inner lane at the maximum speed of 100 km/h, while the outer lane was filled with large trucks. Unexpectedly, a car behind me kept flashing its headlights at me.
According to the rules, I was already driving at the maximum speed, but thinking that the car behind me might be in a hurry, I accelerated and changed lanes to let it pass.
When the car passed me, I realized it was a government vehicle. I haven't heard of any laws or regulations in China that allow government vehicles to disregard traffic laws. I was driving safely at the maximum speed, and yet a government vehicle was flashing its headlights at me. This made me angry, so I continued to drive at a safe speed and flashed my headlights at the government vehicle.
It is evident from the behavior of this government vehicle from Changde, Hunan, on the highway that the driver and the user of this vehicle are usually arrogant and disregard party discipline and national laws.
On the 19th, our group visited the Wuzu Temple and the Laozu Temple. Both temples were restored and revitalized by Venerable Jinghui during his time in Huangmei. However, compared to the Laozu Temple, the Wuzu Temple has a less intense practice atmosphere but a stronger commercial atmosphere, which I dislike.
Temples should be places of spiritual cultivation, with a place for Dharma activities. If they become commercialized, not only does it go against the Buddhist precepts, but it also harms those who do not understand Buddhism or have misconceptions about it.
In the Wuzu Temple, there is a hall dedicated to the mother of the Fifth Patriarch, which made me feel deeply moved. In traditional Chinese culture, there has always been a concept of respecting heaven and ancestors, with filial piety as the core, which is a major characteristic that distinguishes Chinese civilization from others. However, nowadays, some young monks disregard their parents and become monks in temples. It is hard for me to believe that they have become monks and have great merits towards their parents.
If they cannot handle worldly matters well, can they handle Buddhist affairs well after becoming monks? If they can be heartless towards their biological parents, can we believe that they will have compassion for sentient beings after becoming monks?
It should be noted that throughout history, all the great monks and masters either had the support of their parents to become monks or took care of their parents before becoming monks.
On the morning of the 20th, a solemn memorial ceremony was held to commemorate the tenth anniversary of Venerable Jinghui's passing.
In front of the main hall of the Sizusi Temple, many venerable monks gathered, and great monks from all directions came together. When reciting the Diamond Sutra and the Amitabha Sutra together, it was hard not to feel a sense of sacredness.
Especially when the congregation sang the praise verses of Venerable Jinghui:
The lion of the lineage, playing in the human world,
Picking flowers, facing the fire, living the life of Zen.
Laughing, throwing Mount Sumeru,
Carrying the five lineages on one shoulder, praising the grandeur of ten thousand virtues.
Venerable Master Xuyun, who inherited the five lineages and seven schools of Zen Buddhism (Weiyang, Linji, Caodong, Yunmen, Fayuan), transmitted the five lineages and seven schools to Venerable Jinghui after the Yunmen Temple precepts in 1951. After Venerable Xuyun, only Venerable Jinghui received the transmission.
In 1987, when Venerable Jinghui accompanied international friends to pay respects to the relic stupa of Master Zhaozhou Congshen at the Berlin Temple in Zhaozhou, Hebei, he saw the dilapidated scene and couldn't help but shed tears. He immediately recited:
Coming to the Guanyin Monastery, I am fortunate to see the stupa of the national master still standing,
The Zen wind is silent for thousands of years, who will wait for the cypress trees in front of the courtyard?
After Venerable Jinghui began the revival of the Berlin Temple in 1988, he successively revived nearly ten temples, including the Yumen Temple in Dangyang, the Yumen Temple in Huangmei, the Luhua Temple in the lower courtyard of the Sizusi Temple, the Yumen Temple in Xingtai, the Daikaiyuan Temple in Xingtai, and the Xuyun Zen Forest.
In 1991, Venerable Jinghui proposed the "Life Zen" practice concept with the aim of "realizing life and dedicating life." At the same time, he specifically organized the "Life Zen Summer Camp" for young Buddhist believers with higher education, which was the first of its kind in mainland China and has been held annually without interruption.
The generation of elders, such as Venerable Jinghui, Benlao, Fola, Chuanlao, Yilao, and Menglao, have truly shouldered the responsibilities of the Buddha's family and continued the wisdom of the Buddha. They not only revived temples and propagated the Dharma for the benefit of sentient beings but also constantly pondered the direction of Sinicization of Buddhism, which is truly not easy.
In the current climate and environment, Chinese Buddhism needs to rethink how to continue moving forward along the path of Sinicization. There are two major issues: how Chinese Buddhism can dialectically unify with the guiding ideology of the Party, and how to tell the story of contemporary China using Buddhist language.
In the afternoon of the 20th, we traveled with Master Mingying from Huangmei to the Donglin Ancestral Temple in Jiujiang. Monk Huitao, who once stayed at Yaoshan Temple and later became a monk at Donglin Temple, received us.
At the Donglin Ancestral Temple, I deeply felt the urgent desire of sentient beings to seek liberation from suffering. People in cars came to Donglin Temple to chant and worship Buddha, praying to be free from suffering and attain happiness.
I maintain respect for the Pure Land School's practice of chanting the Buddha's name. However, when I see some people seeking liberation from suffering with an essentially escapist mentality, solely focusing on chanting the Buddha's name in temples and in their daily lives, I have doubts.
In one's lifetime, there are indeed various sufferings, but just because we feel the suffering, it doesn't mean we can imagine a blissful world without suffering and then avoid facing the present suffering by chanting the Buddha's name. This is incorrect, as it not only goes against the original intention of the Buddha but also goes against the Buddhist precepts.
Perhaps some people will say that the "Amitabha Sutra" describes the Pure Land, and it is not an imagination. However, they fail to realize that when our mind is pure in the present moment, we are already in the Pure Land. If we cannot be pure in the present, we will still suffer even if we go to the Pure Land.
The teachings of Buddhism have never been about seeking the future but about the present. This is not only because each of us lives in the present, but also because only by living the present well can we have a future.
On the morning of the 21st, we left Mount Lu and headed to Baofeng Temple in Jing'an. It was the place where Mazu Dao-yi once resided.
Since Baofeng Temple was preparing for a transmission and precepts ceremony, it was my first time seeing the appearance of the precepts platform. According to the introduction from the host, the construction of the precepts platform at Baofeng Temple was determined after the abbot Yanzhen Zen Master consulted the scriptures and discussed with the venerable Jiequan, aiming to restore the solemnity of the precepts platform.
After the midday meal, we had a tea conversation with Abbot Yanzhen Zen Master in the living room. The Zen master spoke eloquently, starting from faith, understanding, practice, and other aspects, giving teachings on Buddhist doctrine, precepts, and Zen practice, which benefited us greatly.
For example, Abbot Yanzhen Zen Master mentioned that "from a person's demeanor, you can see how well they are practicing the three trainings (precepts, meditation, and wisdom) and how well they have cut off the three poisons (greed, anger, and ignorance)."
When you think about it, it is indeed true. A person's demeanor is reflected in their actions, behavior, and posture during daily activities. If they are practicing the three trainings well, their demeanor during daily activities will not be lacking; the manifestation of greed, anger, and ignorance will also not be so obvious. For example, I don't observe the Bodhisattva precepts well, so my anger arises easily, and I am prone to getting angry.
This time, from Yaoshan Temple to Sizusi Temple, and then to Donglin Temple and Baofeng Temple, we basically followed the route that Master Weiyi once took when he visited Mazu Dao-yi. The difference is that Master Weiyi walked step by step, while we drove.
After the trip, Zeze and I drove to Wuhan, while the other Bodhisattvas returned to Yaoshan Temple with Master Mingying.
One of Venerable Jinghui's disciples wrote the following passage after paying respects to the relic stupa of Master Weiyi at Yaoshan Temple:
On the day before Grain Rain, the master passed away ten years ago. The wind was gentle, and the Buddha's disciples were everywhere.
Remembering the master from afar, offering to the Buddha without limit. Under the Twin Peaks, living the life of Zen.
Donglin Temple, Huiyuan, the sound of the tiger's roar spreads, the assembly of Bodhisattvas, in front of the Prajnaparamita platform.
Inside the Guangyan Pagoda, meeting the relics, the infinite light Buddha, the pure land in the heart,
The ground covered with rapeseed flowers, the drunken stone manor.
Yesterday, we went our separate ways, each staying on one side. Baofeng Zen Temple, the transmission of the Dharma by Yanzhen.
Dao-yi's relic, the road of Mazu is wide, the three platforms of the great precepts, carrying the robe and bowl.
Laypeople travel far, monks return to the mountain. The wind and rain are just beginning, and the master's path is solemn.
Today is Jingzhe Festival, the fate of returning to the Medicine Mountain.
Weiyi of Yaoshan, in front of the relic stupa, offering in the drizzle, always remembering the universal compassion.
People and heaven mourn greatly, three days of cold wind. From now on, we are going far on the rivers and lakes.
The master's kindness is profound, may everyone be safe.