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Lohan from Nan Hua Si 

The Court

The Sixty-first Year (1606-1607)

That spring, in the third month, I visited Ding You Wu and Nan Zhou. I also visited Premier Zhang Hong Yang to thank him for his support during my trial. When I was arrested, Premier Chang, who was the chief minister at the time and knew the details of the case, tried his best to rescue me. He was happy to see me and invited me and my followers to dinner at Xian Yun restaurant. During the meal he said, “Everyone knows that Master Han Shan is a learned Chan master, but few people know just how much he has done for the dynasty.” He then went on to list my efforts made on behalf on the Imperial family. I was asked to speak about some of my experiences, and everyone was both surprised and touched by sentiments I expressed.

Later I returned to Cao Ji. When I passed Wen Jiang, Counselor Zhou invited me to stay in his home for a few days. After this I went to Ahang Gong where I became very ill. General Chen Er Shi brought me to his house and I spent an entire month there recovering. I managed to write twelve poems during my stay with him.

That autumn, in the eighth month, the Emperor’s grandson was born. In celebration, the Emperor ordered the release of all old and sick prisoners who were suffering banishment. He also offered amnesty to those who could successfully appeal their convictions. I petitioned the provincial judge of Lei Zhou to review my case, and after doing so, he ordered the suspension of my sentence and my exemption from further military supervision.

The Sixty-second Year (1607-1608)

In the spring, according to Viceroy Dai’s request, I returned to Cao Ji and resumed teaching the Buddha Dharma.

When I was young, I often read Lao Zi’s Dao De Jing, an ancient work the meaning of which was extremely profound and often difficult to comprehend. Later, having studied it thoroughly and being certain that I understood it, I complied with my students’ request and began to write a commentary on it. I was forty-seven when I began writing this commentary; and now, in my sixty second year, I was finally able to finish it.

The Sixty-third Year (1608-1609)

The main hall of Cao Ji Temple badly needed repairs but there was no money to pay for the work.

In the spring, however, Superintendent Feng Yuan Cheng of the Western District came to see me. During the previous night, as he slept in the mountains, he dreamed of Guan Yin. So when he arrived at Cao Ji he went immediately to the main hall to pay reverence to the Buddha. When he looked up at the Three Great Buddhas of the Western Paradise, he was filled with sorrow. Two of the statues were badly damaged.

He came to me and asked why I didn’t have them properly restored, and I answered that we simply did not have the money to do it. Then he asked how much it would cost to effect repairs to the entire hall, including the statues; and when I gave him an estimate, he said “Well, that doesn’t seem too difficult of a sum to raise. I’ll try to get it for you.”

He went to Viceroy Dai and told him about the sad condition of the main hall. Viceroy Dai said, “When one sees a child fall into a well, one crawls down to save him. Seeing now that the holy site of the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas is ruined, one cannot sit back and do nothing.” Then, when the Superintendent repeated my estimate of the cost of repairs, Viceroy Dai replied, “This should not be too difficult.” He immediately ordered an official from Nan Shao to come and make a formal estimate.

He invited me to come and discuss the project with him, and, upon learning that he intended to finance the reconstruction with official funds, I offered a counter plan. “Since it really wouldn’t be correct to use public monies for such an expense, and since great merit accrues to those who voluntarily contribute to the creation of Buddhist works, why not let everyone contribute what he can?”

Viceroy Dai then instructed his subordinates to receive, with documented receipt, the donations of private citizens. The money would be given directly to Viceroy Dai and not to the monks. Within a month, nearly a thousand gold coins were collected.

I went to the western region to shop for timber, and when I reached Duan Zhou, the Viceroy asked me to remain and supervise the repairing of Bao Yue Hall. Another official did my timber shopping for me. When the repair work was completed that winter, I wrote a story about it. The purchased timber was gathered at the river bank and gradually transported downriver.

In the eleventh month, Viceroy Dai was accused of mishandling a military reprisal against some bandit invaders from Indochina. He was dismissed from his office.

The Sixty-fourth Year (1609-1610)

That spring, in the second month, we set sail for Meng Jiang with our cargo of timber. But the winds, which were favorable when we left Duan Zhou, had picked up considerably; and by the time we neared Ling Yang Pass, they were gusting so much that, taking haven, we lowered our sails and dropped anchor.

I went ashore to visit Duan Ji, and there, while awaiting better sailing conditions I wrote A Dream Journey to Duan Ji.

When we finally docked at Meng Jiang, I gathered some longshoremen; and while they unloaded the cargo, I returned to the Sixth Patriarch’s temple.

I could not have imagined my reception there. A few trouble making monks, acting from personal jealousy, or perhaps, at the instigation of some of the merchants I had caused to be evicted, had convinced everyone that I had diverted thousands of gold coins to my private use. I was accused of being a thief.

Disheartened, I declined to comment upon so false an accusation; and while the formal charges against me were being prepared, I retired to the meditation hall and silently recited The Diamond Sutra.

Then, as I repeated the lines, oblivious to the turmoil around me, my attention became fixed on the Buddha’s insistence that it was far better to teach one line of Buddhist truth than it was to perform a thousand worldly acts of charity, however, well-intentioned. Chagrined, I clearly saw that I, myself, was the author of the charges against me, for I had allowed myself to become too involved in worldly accomplishments. I, who had been privileged to understand even a small part of the Buddha’s Great Wisdom, had a duty to enlighten others to that wisdom. And instead I had busied myself with fund-raising and had gone shopping for timber! To atone for such dereliction, I wrote a long commentary The Diamond Cutter of Doubts in which I tried to clarify any possible doubts as to its wonderful meaning.

During my trial, I presented evidence of my innocence and pleaded my case as best I could. Then, while staying in a boat on the Fu Rong River, I awaited the courts’ decision.

During this time, Prefect Xiang Chu Dong invited me to come by boat to visit him. The weather was bad, and no sooner had I landed than the boat I had taken was destroyed by fierce winds. I became seriously ill, however, and the Prefect’s physician had to be summoned to attend me. When I returned I was still so weak that I had to move into a hotel.

The Sixty-fifth Year (1610-1611)

In the seventh month of that autumn, while I was again living on the riverboat awaiting the Court’s decision, the official in charge of investigating my case came to me to review my testimony. While he was with me, the Court unexpectedly handed down a guilty verdict. The official doubted the truth of this verdict and, on his own authority, went to Cao Ji to interrogate the monks who had brought the charge against me. He also examined the vouchers of every transaction I had made and determined that not a single penny of the sums entrusted to me had been improperly spent. Finding no evidence whatsoever of embezzlement or misappropriation, he reversed the Court’s decision.

This reversal caused the authorities to initiate an investigation into the monks’ true motives for having brought such false charges against me in the first place. To deliberately file false charges and then to give perjured testimony were capital offenses. When the conspiracy against me was exposed, I did my best to save the monks’ lives; but the authorities were far too outraged by this attempt to abuse the judicial system.

Though I was repeatedly asked to return to Cao Ji, I had not the heart or strength to do so. Instructing my disciple Bhiksu Huai Yu, to take over my position at the monastery, I left for Guangzhou.

The Sixty-sixth Year (1611-1612)

That spring, in the third month, I went to Ding Hu Mountain in the Duan Zhou District to recuperate from my illness and to regain my strength. While convalescing, I was able to discourse on the Dharma with followers and scholars. I was also able to write Clarifying Doubts About The Great Teaching.

The Sixty-seventh Year (1612-1613)

During this year I stayed at Chang Chun Temple where I lectured on The Shraddhotpada Shastra (The Awakening of Faith), The Eight Parijnanas and The Hundred Divisions. Because many of my students had difficulty in understanding my essay, Applauding The Lotus Sutra, I wrote an additional commentary in order to resolve their difficulties.

The Sixty-eighth Year (1613-1614)

This summer I initiated a series of lectures on The Sutra of Complete Enlightenment, but by the time I reached the mid-point of the series, a huge abscess had developed on my back. Many treatments and medicines were given, but the infection did not respond, and my condition worsened. I grew so weak that Commander Wang Han Chung actually began to prepare for my funeral. Then my luck changed.

One day, an alcoholic named Liang Xing Shan, who happened to be an expert in the treatment of my particular affliction, unexpectedly came to call upon me. He examined my abscess, pronounced it serious but curable and proceeded to treat it with his own herbal concoction. Miraculously, my condition improved and by the winter I was completely healed. I wrote him a letter expressing my gratitude.

Of course, this abscess was a recurrence of the one I had when I was twenty. At that time I had regarded this affliction as retribution for some unremembered sin. In atonement and to effect a cure, I had prayed and recited The Avatamsaka Sutra. Thereafter, whenever the abscess recurred, I would recite the Sutra until the infection subsided. For forty-eight years I suffered from this condition, and throughout these years, I was always able to control it with the power of prayer. But ultimately, the karmic debt remained unpaid, it was evident that I still had not atoned for that ancient sin.

In the tenth month, when I was well again, I received a letter from Zeng Jin Jian asking me to retire with him and Nan Yue. He and I had been corresponding for more than ten years and frequently we had discussed the possibility of retiring to Nan Yue when the proper time came. Feeling now that the time had indeed come, I packed my bags and headed towards Nan Yue.

When I first came to Guangdong, dozens of disciples followed me there. But as time passed, they gradually dispersed and only a few bhiksus remained in permanent residence with me. Bhiksus Tong Chiung, Zhao Yi, and three of my attendants accompanied me to Hu Dong. A few days after I arrived, my disciple Fu Shan and my attendant Xin Guang who had both been visiting their parents in the north, also came to join me.

The Sixty-ninth Year (1614-1615)

That spring, in the first month, I visited De Shan Mountain and wrote four poems on this occasion. Later, I visited Upasaka Feng Yuan Cheng at Wu Ling where I wrote more poetry. Upasaka Feng and some of his friends kindly gave donations for the restoration of Tan Hua vihara. At Chu Ling, Prince Yong invited me to a vegetarian feast, and at Da Shan Temple, the monks requested me to lecture on and give the precepts.

That summer, in the fourth month, I returned to Hu Dong. There, upon learning of the Empress Mother’s death, I held a funeral service to repay the debt of gratitude that I owed her. Notice of the ceremony was given by Imperial proclamation.

Ever since my days at Dong Hai, I had planned to write a commentary called A Thorough Explanation of the Surangama Sutra; but I had never found the time to do it. Finally, in the fifth month of that summer, I began to write the commentary; and in fifty days, I completed it.

In the eleventh month, when Tan Hua vihara was restored, I stayed at the mountain and wrote more poetry.

The Seventieth Year (1615-1616)

That spring I gave lectures on my Surangama Sutra commentary. In the summer I rewrote my commentary called A Through Explanation of the Lotus Sutra, and after that, I lectured on The Awakening of Faith and wrote a commentary on it.

That autumn in the eighth month, I visited Nan Yue Mountain and climbed Zhu Yong peck during the mid-autumn festival.

On the ninth day of the ninth month, Upasaka Feng Yuan Cheng, who had been transferred from Wu Ling to the command of Hu Nan, invited me to visit Fang Guang Temple with him.

Inspector Wu Sheng Bai also came to see me to discuss my commentary on The Surangama Sutra. He was so pleased with the manuscript that he and some of his subordinates donated money to have it printed. Additionally, he commissioned an artist to produce an illustrated album of eighty-eight Buddhas. He asked me to write a tribute to each of these Buddhas and I happily complied. After Upasaka Feng had settled into his new command, he invited me again to visit Jiu Yi Mountain.

In the tenth month, I arrived in the Ling Ling district where I stayed at Yu Ji for the winter.

back   page 9 of 12   next page
Acknowledgments   ~   Introduction
Early Training   ~   Becoming a Monk
Meeting Miao Fang   ~   Samadhi
One Bright True Mind   ~   "Purify Your Mind"
The Court   ~   Song of the Placard Carrier
The Last Year   ~   Maxims of Master Han Shan
Last modified: July 11, 2004
This work courtesy of Grandmaster Jy Din Shakya
Published by the Zen Buddhist Order of Hsu Yun, 1998