Thursday, August 6, 2009

The Fifth Patriarch, Hongren

The Fifth Patriarch, Daman Hongren (Hung-jen in Chinese Wade-Giles and Daiman Konin in Japanese Romanji) was born near Huangmei in 601. He became a monk at a young age and was one of the first residents of the temple built by Daoxin. In 651, when Daoxin, the Fourth Patriarch died there were over 500 monks living here.

Three years after Daoxin passed away, Hongren sought a site for a new temple. He found a place on Fengmaoshan, a mountain that belonged to a man named Feng Mao, located about a half-day's walk from Daoxin's temple. When Mr. Feng heard about Hongren's plans, he gave him the mountain. The new monastery was able to support over 1,000 monks by the time Hongren passed away in 675. [From the book, Zen Baggage, pp 206-207]

According to Bill Porter [ZB, p. 209], the only record we have of Hongren's teaching is from his "Discourse on the Supreme Vehicle":

"The key to cultivating the Way is knowing that your own mind is originally pure, that it is neither created nor destroyed, and that it is free of discrimination. The mind whose nature is perfectly pure is your true teacher and superior to any of the buddhas of the ten directions you might call upon. ... If you concentrate on guarding the mind, delusions will no longer arise, and the reality of nirvana will spontaneously appear. Thus you should know that your mind is originally pure."

After our taxi dropped us off at the entrance to the Fifth Patriarch's temple and drove away, we stood with our bags at our feet, as a woman walked up to us, excitedly pointing to our bags and loudly shouting to us in Chinese, very concerned about something for which we had no clue. Should we move our bags? Should we pay an entry fee? Should we get out of there as soon as possible? The busybody wouldn't stop. We kept saying "Bu dong, bu dong" (I don't understand), but she kept on berating us in Chinese. I fumbled with my phrase book, hoping I could find something that would calm her down. We just wanted to visit the temple for a few hours; we didn't intent to stay overnight. Maybe a phone call to the travel agent in Nanchang would help explain this to the woman. So I called "Mary" in Nanchang and had her speak with the busybody. That seemed to help. The woman stopped her tirade.

We entered the temple and paid the entrance fee. We turned to go in and right in front of us, completely blocking passage into the temple was a mound of construction debris about 20 ft high. So now what?

It was time to bring out the big guns from my phrase book: "Cesuo dzai nar?" (Where is the bathroom?)

The ticket collectors pointed to a hallway on the left -- lucky for us, no only was the toilet just a few feet away, but this was the temporary access route to the temple during construction.

The temple was quite fascinating-- especially the statues of the mothers of the first six Zen patriarchs and the rice-pounding stone used by Huineng, the "jungle rat" who became the Sixth Patriarch.

And my mind felt considerably more pure after the bathroom break.

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  1. Thank you for sharing the photos of
    the fifth patriarch's monastery. It is
    on mount Huangmei, Hubei province, isn't it?

  2. Mt. Huangmei's shadow is in Hubei
    The mountain itself is in Mind,
    watch the stream of crystalline thoughts
    flow so smoothly, so unroiled...


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