Ch’an Master Han Shan Deqing [憨山德清] (1546-1623): Pureland & Ch’an Practice


Author’s Note: Master Xu Yun (1840-1959) was believed to be the rebirth of Ch’an Master Han Shan Deqing from the Ming Dynasty.  In fact, Xu Yun’s ordination name was ‘Deqing’ (德清), and like Master Han Shan before him, he travelled around rebuilding temples that had fallen on hard times.  Below, Master Han Shan teaches how a Ch’an Buddhist practises Pureland Buddhism – through the use of the hua tou method.  On the face of it, this seems a little different to chanting the Buddha’s name repeatedly, (such as Namo Amitabha Buddha, or Namo Amituofo), but is rather replacing this with the hua tou ‘Who is repeating the Buddha’s name?’  Master Han Shan’s body still sits-upright in meditation, at the Temple of the Sixth Patriarch, in Guangdong province, People’s Republic of China.  ACW 28.8.2016

‘Those who engage in the (dual practice) of Buddha Recitation and Ch’an should take the name of Amitabha Buddha as a hua-t’ou.  During Buddha Recitation, you should ask “who is it that recites the Buddha’s name?” If you ask again and again, there will come a time when all false thoughts suddenly cease.  No such thoughts can arise, or if they do, they will be quickly suppressed.  You have only a single, clear thought, like a bright sun in the sky, and never engender false thoughts.  The confused mind will reign no more.  Rather, you will experience stillness and awareness.  The Great Master Yung-Chia said:

“Stillness with awareness is right, but stillness without mindfulness is wrong.  Awareness with stillness is right, but awareness with confusion thinking is wrong.”

If stillness does not lead to confusion and lack of mindfulness and awareness does not lead to confused thinking, then awareness and stillness will flow together.  You let go of both ‘sinking’ and ‘floating’ until not a single thought arises in mind, not of past, present or future; then, suddenly the pitch blackness cracks and you see your Original Face.  Body, mind and world are immediately at peace.  Then the flowers in the sky (i.e. the illusionary world) disappear, and everything in the ten directions is bright because a great light is shining everywhere.

When you arrive at this stage, this complete brightness is always present in your daily life and you will no longer have any doubts.  You will believe your own mind, which is intrinsically thus.  Then you are no different from the Buddhas and Patriarchs.  When you reach this level, you will no longer grasp of Emptiness.  If you grasp at Emptiness, you will fall into the evil of heterodox views.  Nor will you grasp at Existence or at the Wonderful.  If you grasp at Existence, you will also fall into evil ways.’

Quoted from Pure Land of the Patriarchs – Zen Master Han Shan on Pure Land Buddhism: Translated by Master Lok To, The Corporate Body of the Buddha Educational Foundation, (1993), Pages 22-23 (with modification).

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