Xu Yun on Different Types of Monks

Xu Yun (1840-1959)
Xu Yun (1840-1959)

Research by Adrian Chan-Wyles PhD

Note: Xu Yun is in conversation here with the Nationalist Army Commander Li Gen Yuan (李根源), who was at the time, deeply antagonistic toward Buddhism. This negative attitude toward religion was not uncommon within the Nationalist government at the time and led to the demolishing of many temples – culminating in the 1928 destruction of the Shaolin Temple in Henan. The year is 1911-12 and the Nationalists had just ceased power and were asserting themselves politically. Xu Yun was in his 72nd year of life and through the use of gentle logic, he persuaded Commander Li to not only leave the Buddhist temples alone, but also to convert to Buddhism! ACW 23.1.15

‘The Master Xu Yun replied, “The title ‘Monk’ is just a name, for there are holy monks and worldly monks. It is not fair to blame the whole Sangha because there are one or two bad monks. Can we blame Confucius because there are bad Confucian scholars? You command the provincial troops, but despite military discipline, do you expect all your soldiers to be as intelligent and honest as you are? We regard an ocean as large because it does not have to reject a single fish or shrimp, and the self-nature is like the ocean of the Buddhadhama because it can contain all things. The duty of the Sangha is to preserve the Buddha’s teaching, guard the Triple Gem, and to convert and guide others in hidden ways – but its influence is tremendous; it is not altogether useless.”

(Empty Cloud: Translated by Charles Luk & Revised by Richard Hunn, Element Books (1988) – Page 87)

Xu Yun’s Original Chinese Language Autobiography Text Extract – Edited by Cen Xue Lu:


(虛雲和尚年譜 – 鼓山門下弟子順德岑學呂寬賢編輯)


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