Empty Cloud: Chinese Zen Master

Exploring Theravāda's connections to other paths. What can we learn from other traditions, religions and philosophies?
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Empty Cloud: Chinese Zen Master

Post by Chi » Sun Nov 24, 2013 8:54 am

This is a couple of blurbs from Empty Cloud's autobiography, which can be read in full (or part) here here:

56th year:
...The river was rising and I wanted to cross it but the
boatman asked me for six coins; as I was penniless, the boat left
without me. Walking on, I suddenly slipped and fell into the water
and thus bobbed on the current for one day and night until I
drifted to Cai-shi Jetty, where a fisherman caught me in his nets
by chance. As I wore a monk’s robe, he called a monk from Bao-ji
Temple who recognized me, as we had previously stayed together
at the Jin-shan Monastery. He was frightened for my life and
exclaimed, ‘This is Master De-qing!’ (i.e. Xu-yun, ordained as Deqing).
I was subsequently carried to the temple where I was
revived. As a result of the battering which I had received in the
swift current, I bled from the mouth, nose, anus and genital
organ. After a few days’ stay at Bao-ji Temple, I went on to the
Gao-min Monastery. When I saw the director of duties
(karmadana) there, he saw that I looked pale and thin, and asked
if I was well. I replied that I was not. I then called on Abbot Yuelang who,
after inquiring about Mount Jiu-hua where I had been,
immediately asked me to take up a temporary post at the
forthcoming meditation-weeks. I politely declined his request,
saying nothing about my fall in the water, asking only that I be
allowed to attend the meditation meeting. According to Gao-min
Monastery’s rules of discipline, to reject a post given by the Abbot
was regarded as an affront to the whole monastic community.
Thus, I was found to be an offender and punished by being beaten
with a wooden ruler. While I willingly accepted this punishment,
it did aggravate my illness. I bled continuously and also passed
drops of seminal fluid in my urine. Waiting for my end, I sat firmly
in the meditation hall day and night with increasing zeal.
In the pure single-mindedness of my meditation, I forgot all about my
body and twenty days later, my illness vanished completely.
When the Abbot of Cai-shi Jetty came with an offering of
garments for the assembly, he was reassured and delighted to see
that my appearance was radiant. He then spoke of my fall into the
water and all the monks held me in great esteem. I was thus
spared the trouble of working in the hall and could continue my

Henceforth, with all my thoughts brought to an abrupt halt, my
practice took effect throughout day and night.
My steps were as swift as if I were flying in the air. One evening after the set
meditation period, I opened my eyes and suddenly perceived a
great brightness similar to broad daylight wherein everything
inside and outside the monastery was discernible to me.
Through the wall, I saw the monk in charge of lamps and incense
urinating outside, the guest-monk in the latrine, and far away,
boats plying on the river with the trees on both its banks - all were
clearly seen; it was just the third watch of the night when this
happened. The next morning, I asked the incense-monk and
guest-monk about this and both confirmed what I had seen the
previous night. Knowing that this experience was only a
temporary state I had attained, I did not pay undue regard to its
strangeness. In the twelfth month during the third night of the
eighth week set for training, an attendant came to fill our cups
with tea after the meditation session ended. The boiling liquid
accidentally splashed over my hand and I dropped the cup which
fell to the ground and shattered with a loud report;
instantaneously I cut off my last doubt about the Mind-root and
rejoiced at the realization of my cherished aim.
I then thought of the time when I left home, and of the time during which I had
lived a wanderer’s life, my illness in the hut on the banks of the
Yellow River, and the difficult questions put to me by the layman
(Wen-ji, who saved me).

What would Wen-ji have said if I had kicked over his boiler and
stove at the time? If I had not fallen into the water and been
gravely ill, and if I had not remained indifferent to both favorable
and adverse situations, I would have passed another life aimlessly
and this experience would not have happened today. I then
chanted the following gatha:

A cup fell to the ground
With a sound clearly heard.
As space was pulverized
The mad mind came to a stop.

I also chanted a further gatha:
When the hand released its hold, the cup fell and was shattered.
’Tis hard to talk when the family breaks up or someone dies;
Spring comes with fragrant flowers blossoming everywhere,
Mountains, rivers and the great earth are but the Tathagata.


120th year:
‘I myself do not know how long I shall live and my birthday is still
far off. However, the Upasaka Wu Xing-zai has expressed a desire
to send me birthday scrolls and I have thanked him, requesting
him not to do so. My former karma has caused my present life to
be full of troubles. I am like a candle in the wind and have
achieved nothing; when I think of this I am ashamed of my empty
reputation. A century of worldly troubles is like a dream and an
illusion and is not worth any attachment. Moreover, since birth
leads to death, a wise man should be on the alert and set his mind
on the Dao, like one who loses no time to save his burning head.
How can I indulge in following a worldly custom? I thank you for
your kindness from the bottom of my heart but sincerely regret
that I am unable to accept your present. I still grieve over the
untimely death of my mother and would request that you stop
this unprofitable plan to celebrate my birthday in order not to
aggravate my sins.’

First Gatha
Taking pity upon ants a shrimp jumps not into the water;
To benefit watery beings throw my ashes in the river.
If they accept this last offering of my body,
I hope they will win Bodhi and labor for salvation.

Second Gatha
I urge my Dharma friends to think
Deeply and with care about
The karma of birth and death
As silkworms spin their cocoons.
Endless desires and thoughts
Increase all trouble and suffering.
If you would escape from this,
First practice almsgiving and the threefold study
Of wisdom, meditation, discipline,
Then hold firm the four correct thoughts. [The four correct thoughts: (1) That the body is impure; (2) That suffering comes from sensation; (3) That mind is impermanent; (4) That there is no ego-self in phenomena.]
Suddenly you awaken and perceive
Clearly that all is like dew and lightning.
You realize that in the absolute
Myriads of things have the same substance.
The created and the uncreated
Are like water and its waves.

Third Gatha
Alas, in my declining years
My debt of gratitude is still unpaid [to his parents, I assume].
As my debt is still outstanding,
Shallow is my wisdom and yet deep my karma.
I blush at my failure (in my Dharma practice),
At my stupidity while staying on Yun-ju.
Like one who still clings to words when he recites the sutras.
I am ashamed to meet the World-Honored One
And the assembly that is still gathered on Vulture’s Peak.
It is now your duty to protect the Dharma,
For you are now Wei-tuo in this age reborn
To revive the true tradition of Vaisali
Which reveals the oneness of self and others.
Look up to and respect Vimalakirti,
A rock that in midstream ever stands unmoved,
One on whose words men for deliverance rely.
They endure endless ills in this Dharma-ending age
In which scarce are they who on Truth rely.
I am involved in trouble since my reputation is not true;
You should, therefore, awaken
And from the right path, no longer stray.
Rejoice to hear of the Buddha’s land
And with it strive to be in tune.
These last words are left behind
To reveal my inmost thought.

What wonderous humility and compassion and honesty!
Do Good, Avoid Evil, Purify the Mind.

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Re: Empty Cloud: Chinese Zen Master

Post by m0rl0ck » Sun Nov 24, 2013 12:02 pm

Thank you :smile:
“The truth knocks on the door and you say, "Go away, I'm looking for the truth," and so it goes away. Puzzling.” ― Robert M. Pirsig

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