The Venerable Mangala Thero had no interest in the Mahayana teachings. I had turned-up in Sri Lanka with my very worn copy of Charles Luk’s English translation of the ‘Vimalakirti Nirdesa Sutra’ - which deals in-part in the limitation of the Hinayana Path (which I personally do not associate with the Theravada School) as opposed to the broad-minded and more complete Mahayana Path. Vimalakirti – as an enlightened layman – was able to ‘turn the words’ of the more conservative monastic followers of the Buddha and prove through wisdom that their interpretation of the Dharma was incomplete and lacking in attainment and understanding. Knowing this would happen – the Buddha deliberately engineered a number of meetings between his leading disciples and Vimalakirti so that the resulting engagements would ‘push’ their development and understanding into new orbits of transcendence and universal balance! When I showed the Ve. Mangala Thero this Sutra he just appeared to ‘look through it’ as if it was not there – this was lesson number one for me! Instead, Mangala Thero handed me a copy of the Ānāpānasati Sutta and told me to master it ‘beyond the words’ and ‘beyond the limitations of the page’. He also advised that ‘in the West a superficial Buddhism has developed which plays second fiddle to technology – but in here, Sri Lanka – this is not the case!’ I saw that materially ‘poor’ people were spiritually enriched by the Dhamma in ways that most Westerners simply would not understand or recognise. In Sri Lanka, and particularly the remote forests outside of major cities, the Dhamma continued to function very much as it had done for thousands of years – empowering each individual and community through a method of mind and body self-discipline! A practitioner becomes aware of the breath, uses the awareness to ‘penetrate’ the breath, and then penetrates the empty essence from which each aspect of the breath arises, manifests and subsides as a bodily process.
Whilst Easterners are too busy modernising too be that bothered with Ch’an lineage transmissions – many Westerners, by way of contrast, attempt to ‘collect’ transmissions as if they are badges denoting rank or promotions signifying success! This is a complete cultural misreading and is usually accomplished by a huge psychological and physical barrier of ‘dishonesty’ which they feel cannot be seen. On the contrary, those trained in authentic Ch’an Buddhism are able to immediately ‘see through’ this disguise the moment it is made apparent. Many such people who have approached me cannot get pass, over or around me – as I sit like a heavy boulder in their path. I am not going anywhere and have no interest in banal conversation – show me your insight or go away. I do not care what you think (or do not think) as it is all a creation in your own head dependent upon your own conditioning in life – come to me when you have cleared it up and attained ‘stillness’ of mind, expansion of mind or integration of ‘form’ and ‘void’.
Other than that, we have nothing to talk about unless I deem it worthwhile and to the benefit of your own development. All this hold doubly-true for those who still decide to follow fake spiritual teachers in the West and support fraudulent lineages after I have explained the genuine Ch’an Dharma to them. This is why it makes no difference if we maintain an ‘open’ transmission as an act of ‘compassion’ on the ICBI site – as it is each individual’s behaviour that either validates or invalidates such an initiative – and the ICBI can withdraw such a fluid transmission if an individual concerned acts in a disrespectful, dishonourable, dishonest or disruptive manner.
Such individuals cannot uphold the ICBI lineage and claim to still support fake teachers and false transmissions! Furthermore, it is not the place of the ICBI to confirm or deny to individuals which lineages are ‘fake’ or ‘fraudulent’ as this is your own responsibility. The ICBI is a spiritual platform with its historical roots in China and it is Chinese culture which defines its everyday functioning. The ICBI colleagues in Beijing chose the UK as its first non-China base as a springboard into the West. As there are no plans for any further expansion – the UK is considered the cradle of genuine Ch’an outside of China. I will guard this gate for my Chinese colleagues for as long as my life will last and I will assist all and sundry to realise the empty mind ground – but for your own sakes – I certainly will not indulge anyone’s ego!
ACW – SDD (13.8.2021)
Translator’s Note: As a scholar reading Chinese texts regarding the life and times of Master Xu Yun (1840-1959), I am aware that Master Hai Deng (1902-1989) was a disciple of Xu Yun and generally very well respected at the Zhenru Temple. For a short-time, Master Hai Deng served as ‘acting’ Head Monk (Abbot). He is photographed with Xu Yun and was a very sincerely and well-respected Ch’an monk. As far as I am aware, he made no claims about his own abilities. Within Master Hai Deng’s biography, it states that he trained in the branch of the Shaolin Temple situated in Sichuan province – a point of fact not mentioned in this article. When Master Xu Yun checked Master Hai Deng’s credentials – he was satisfied that everything was in order and that no fraud was being enacted. However, another close disciple of Master Xu Yun was the Old Venerable Monk Ti Guang (体光). Master Ti Guang was with Master Xu Yun when he passed away. Master Ti Guang was also an expert in Chinese martial arts and one-day ‘challenged’ Master Hai Deng to a ‘fight’ that tests skill. When this event happened – Master Ti Guang quickly defeated Master Hai Deng who accepted the outcome without any sense of resentment. This fight took place in the grounds of the Zhenru Temple. ACW (24/1.2021)
In the 1980s, China’s domestic development entered the fast lane, and cultural life was unprecedentedly active. It was no longer the case of the dominance of a model drama – as a hundred schools of thought contended. The movie - "Sichuan Unusual Records" (四川奇趣录 - Si Chuan Qi Qu Lu) filmed by Hong Kong Great Wall Films - became an overnight sensation once it was broadcast. This Movie featured Master Hai Deng who – despite his old age – was still able to perform amazing martial feats of strength, agility and endurance! He was filmed supporting his entire bodyweight (in an inverted position) seemingly ‘balancing’ through the power of just two fingers. This became known in the West as the cultivated practice of ‘Two-Finger Zen’ (二指禅 - Er Zhi Ch’an). Even young people find it difficult to perform ‘hand-stands’ and even less could hold their bodyweight even through a single palm! As this was the case, how could this old Ch’an Buddhist monk (who was already in his 80s) still be able to perform such a feat? Of course, because of this footage and photographs – Master Hai Deng became instantly famous all over China! There were rumours that things were not as they seem even at the time – but these were viewed as the product of jealousy, disrespect and ignorance. Master Hai Deng was an old Ch’an Buddhist monk who had spent his life quietly cultivating the Dharma and training with some of the most famous Buddhist practitioners (such as the Great Master Xu Yun 1840-1959).
What really made Master Hai Deng's reputation instantly rise to its apex was his contribution to the documentary film entitled "Shaolin Temple" (少林寺 - Shao Lin Si). At that time, martial arts films were in the ascendant and were the most popular themed. Although the ticket price was comparatively small - the box office still made 160 million! This Shaolin Temple film became an immediate hit in China and throughout the world! Much was made of the abilities of Master Hai Deng’s superb martial arts abilities. It was said he fought off all evil forces that attacked China and led the resistance against Japanese aggression! These stories took on a mind of their own and were repeated far and wide - with each re-telling adding more and more layers of incredible detail! Generally speaking, Master Hai Deng was unaware of most of this additional bolstering as he was not asked whether any of it was correct. As a mature Ch’an monk - Master Hai Deng’s attitude was that ‘winning and losing’ did not matter as he maintained a ‘still’ and ‘all-embracing’ mind.
After the death of Master Hai Deng in early 1989 - a man named Jing Yongxiang (敬永祥) published a long biography "The Hai Deng Phenomenon - The God-Making Movement of the 1980s" (海灯现象——八十年代的造神运动 - Hai Deng Xian Xiang – Ba Shi Nian Dai De Zao Shen Yun Dong). This was designed to clear-up all the misunderstandings about Master Hai Deng and in so doing, set the historical record ‘straight’. What is significant about this author is that he was the first journalist to highlight Master Hai Deng’s extraordinary martial arts skills in the early 1980s! This was when he worked as a Reporter for a local Newspaper. Jing Yongxiang had heard that there was an extraordinary ‘old’ Ch’an Buddhist monk living in the area – and he decided to interview him – eventually penning a 940-character article.
Jing Yongxiang explains in his book that he is responsible for the hysteria that eventually developed around Master Hai Deng. This was never his intention when he first wrote of Master Hai Deng, his spiritual lineage and martial arts abilities despite being in his 80s – that matters would escalate and cascade out of control – so that a media blitz would be caused both in China (and abroad)! He feels that this situation is his responsibility and that he must put matters right. The question everyone asks is whether Master Hai Deng possessed extraordinary abilities or not? Master Hai Deng was born in 1902, into a family with the surname ‘Fan’ (范). This family lived in Jiangyou area of Sichuan province. His mother died when he was young, and he was brought up by his father (who was a tailor) and lived in poverty.
When he was seven-years-old, he began the study of martial arts with his uncle, and then started taking his academic career seriously. Indeed, he excelled as a scholar and at fourteen-years-old he earned a scholarship (by coming ‘first’ in the examination) to enter Mianyang Normal University. During each year of study Master Hai Deng earned first-place out of the entire class. Two years later, Master Hai Deng graduated in first-place. He felt he was too young to work as a primary school teacher – and so he travelled to Chengdu instead – where he was admitted to the Sichuan Law and Political School and Police Supervisor School – both being judicial schools. Master Hai Deng became adept in economics – but at twenty-six-years-old, he encountered two Shaolin monks who had escaped warlords (in Henan) and had come to Chengdu to hide. This was 1928 – the year the Nationalist Government in China decided to destroy the famous Shaolin Temple and kill the monks, etc. Master Hai Deng (whose lay-name was ‘Fan Wu Bing’ 范无病) saw these monks performing their martial arts and was immediately drawn to the Shaolin tradition!
As these Shaolin fighting arts are complex and difficult to learn – Master Hai Deng decided to stay with the Shaolin monk named ‘Great Master Ru Feng’ (汝峰大师 - Ru Feng Da Shi) for a number of days. However, Master Ru Feng stated that ‘Shaolin martial arts are not usually passed-on in this manner. If you sincerely want to learn, you must pay your respects at the East Mountain.’ Such an effort would require thirty-two lamps to be lit for the Buddha – which would require a very large amount of burning-oil! This might be where he acquired the Dharma-name of ‘Hai Deng’ (海灯) - or ‘Sea of Lamps’! Master Hai Deng must have passed all the required tests and acts of worship – as he was permitted to study ‘Tong Zi Gong’ (童子功), ‘Lian Jing Hua Qi’ (炼精化气) and ‘Lian Jing Huan Shen’ (炼精化神), etc. An issue here is this. The Shaolin Temple Boxing System is renown as a style specialising in ‘External’ (外 - Wai) technique – and yet according to this list – Master Hai Deng was initiated into the very different ‘Internal’ (内 - Nei) system of training.
Afterwards, Master Hai Deng visited many famous temples requesting instruction - and integrated hundreds of different fighting techniques to mature his martial arts ability. During this period, he went to the very strict Shaolin Temple (in Henan) to ask eminent monks for advice. However, Master Hai Deng’s request was refused because he was not a Ch’an monk ordained at the Shaolin Temple – and was not a lay-person (from a ‘known’ local family) registered at the Shaolin Temple. As the Head Monk had not personally authorised Master Hai Deng to receive instruction from the Great Monk Ru Feng – there was some confusion as to how he had come into possession of genuine Shaolin knowledge. During the 1950s - Master Hai Deng became famous for entering fighting tournaments and beating the local and regional champions with ease! During this time, he even trained under Master Xu Yun (1840-1959) at the Zhenru (真如) Ch’an Temple situated on ‘Yunju’ (云居) Mountain in Jiangxi province. For a short-time – at the insistence of Master Xu Yun – Master Hai Deng was the 'acting’ Head Monk (Abbot) at the Zhenru Ch’an Temple (whilst the actual Head Monk was away on a special mission). He returned to and settled in his hometown of Jiangyou during the late 1960s. In 1982, Shaolin Principal Monk Shi Xingzheng - [释行正] (appointed as Shaolin Head Monk at the end of 1983) passed through Jiangyou and had a good chat with Master Hai Deng. Master Hai Deng was invited (with his disciples) to visit the Shaolin Temple in Henan – and stay for a while as a ‘Wandering Monk’ (行脚僧 - Xing Jiao Seng)
This time period coincided with the popularity of the movie entitled "Shaolin Temple". His disciples lost no time in writing a manuscript about the origins of Master Hai Deng and his ‘mystical’ association with Shaolin. Generally speaking, what goes on deep inside the Shaolin Temple is off-limits to the media with little knowledge being in the public domain. The Shaolin Temple proper is very different to the numerous Wushu Colleges that surround it and which offer disciplined martial arts study to the general public. As the stories of Master Hai Deng multiplied and spread – the media falsely believed that he was the ‘Head Monk’ (Abbot) of the Shaolin Temple of Henan. This caused a problem in the usually tranquil temple as Master Hai Deng (and his disciples) possessed no authority or status whatsoever. They were simply ‘invited’ guests who had outstayed their welcome. To remedy this situation, the actual Head Monk – Shi Xingsheng - personally issued an ‘Eviction Order’ which saw Master Hai Deng (and his disciples ‘expelled’ from the Shaolin Temple!
After he became famous, Master Hai Deng participated in frequent social activities, starred in movies and even visited the United States - serving as a martial arts instructor. All this was vigorously exaggerated by the media, and he became famous. This was all added to by the popularity of the film ‘Shaolin Temple’ - which saw ‘myth’ and ‘reality’ become entwined. This is how a simple Ch’an monk was mistakenly believed to be a high-ranking member of the Shaolin Temple who possessed ‘mystical’ powers! It was even believed that Master Hai Deng was the only person to possess the ‘genuine’ martial art (and health-giving) exercises associated with Bodhidharma! Of the three arts he is associated with, a number of experts have expressed ‘doubts’ about the quality of transmission. These arts are 1) 'Tong Zi Gong’ (童子功) - or ‘Virginal (Yang) Purity (or ‘Young Boy’) Cultivation’, 2) 'Two-Finger Zen’ (二指禅 - Er Zhi Ch’an) and 3) 'Plum Blossom Stake' (梅花桩 - Mei Hua Zhuang) - ‘Standing and Stepping on High Logs’. (In the South of China this is often referred to as ‘Wahlum Forest’, etc).
In the famous documentary – which saw Master Hai Deng perform the two-finger Ch’an hand-stand - he was old and this accomplishment had a greater symbolic significance. In his youth he had performed variants of this exercise – changing position, altering the hands and body orientation, etc. Indeed, Master Hai Deng was very famous for this ability – but he seldom performs the exercise on one-hand whilst holding a full hand-stand! It is unclear whether he was ever able to perform this exercise – even when young! Most witnesses recall that whenever they remember seeing Master Hai Deng performing this exercise – he invariably used one-hand (and two-fingers) whilst his feet touched the floor and his body was side-on! What happened during the filming was that the director had Master Hai Deng’s feet pulled-up into position by a rope around each ankle. Once in the inverted upside-down position – both ropes were removed and 80-year-old Master Hai Deng did legitimately ‘hold’ the position (with one foot supported on the wall but cleverly hidden through camera-work). After some minutes, Master Hai Deng was helped down and back onto his feet.
Chinese Language Reference:
史海寻踪 - 发布时间：20-03-0722:59
The Chinese Vinaya allows for the convention of ‘self-ordination’ should a man or woman find themselves in remote areas, or out of touch with Sangha. Later, when circumstances permit, the monk or nun should seek confirmation from a Master, although such a confirmation is not always available. Nevertheless, Chinese Ch’an Buddhism demands the strict observance of part of the Vinaya for the laity, and all the Vinaya for the monastics. On top of this commitment, everyone irrespective of status should take and keep the Bodhisattva Vow with the understanding that every monk or nun occupies a position in society less than that of the poorest lay-person. This observation (and attitude) sets the standard for the appropriate level of humility and strength of spirit. As the empty mind ground underlies the laity and the monastic community – it logically follows that outside of presumed social status – all manifestations are of the same essential foundation and value. To accept ‘transmission’ a person must have a mind free of greed, hatred and delusion – as a mind full of greed, hatred and delusion is not able to accept this task. Transmission is nothing less than the recognition of the empty mind ground recognised by the teacher in the mind of the student – the latter of whom ‘projects’ this understanding forward for the benefit of future generations! Greed, hatred and delusion must be given-up here and now in this exact moment. This is the essence of Dharma-Practice through the Guild of Hui Neng. Those who want to accept this transmission are invited to state that they have received a Cao Dong lineage through the Authority of the ICBI. ACW (4.10.2020)
The Sanskrit term ‘विनय’ (vinaya) carries the primary meanings of ‘courtesy’, ‘civility’ and ‘etiquette’, with the secondary meanings (depending upon context), of ‘humility’, ‘sincerity’ and the performing of an ‘act of courtesy’. Within the Chinese language, the Sanskrit term ‘vinaya’ is written using the Chinese ideogram of ‘律’ (lu4). This is comprised of a left-hand (semantic) particle ‘彳’ (chi4) - meaning ‘to walk slowly and carefully - along a path or a road’, and a right-hand (phonetic) particle of ‘聿’ (yu4) - which means to ‘use brush and paper’. When placed together as ‘律’ (lu4), the primary meanings are created of ‘regulation’ and ‘rules of the road’, and the secondary meanings of ‘statute’, ‘principle’ and ‘regulation’. As the ancient Chinese scholars were very careful to a) ‘record’ and b) ‘transmit’ the correct meanings of the then unfamiliar terms associated with Indian Buddhism into the Chinese language, and given that this translation (and understanding) is accepted by Indian scholars as ‘correct’, the Chinese definition of ‘vinaya’ may be taken as a clear indicator of the ‘original’ or ‘intended’ meaning as intended by the Buddha and his disciples. The ‘Vinaya Discipline’ is a set of rules and regulations within Buddhism, which advise upon the correct moral behaviour for the monastic (who must follow ALL the rules without exception), and the lay-practitioner (who must follow a small number of the rules whilst living within ordinary society). Whereas a monastic is ‘celibate’, the lay-person must practice ‘sexual restraint’ (and not ‘celibacy’), so that their behaviour does not cause ‘concern’ or ‘outrage’ within the lay-community. The point of the Vinaya Discipline is to effect ‘behaviour modification’ within the mind and body of the Buddhist practitioner, so that greed, hatred and delusion are permanently ‘uprooted’ from the thought patterns, and NEVER manifest again through ‘behaviour’. In this regard, the Vinaya Discipline is a ‘support’ to both monastic and lay Buddhist practice. Moreover, whereas a Buddhist monk or nun must spend months (and sometimes years) ‘preparing’ to take the Vinaya Vows (227 for men and 311 for women), a lay-Buddhist practitioner may decide to follow the entirety of the Vinaya Discipline on a voluntary basis within the context of his or her worldly life. Nothing is required for this but a firm ‘resolve’ to carry-out such an undertaking. Quite often, this leads to the situation of male and female ‘ascetics’ living in the wilderness throughout Asia, who are revered by the ordinary people for their ‘holiness’, despite never formally training as a Buddhist monastic or having entered a Buddhist monastic training facility! In many ways this reflects the Buddha’s own experiences, as no one ‘ordained’ him, and all his training was a product of self-discipline as an ascetic sat at the foot of a tree! The Vinaya Discipline acts as a ‘support’ for following the ‘Dharma’. The Dharma is the Buddha’s most important central teaching, whereas the Vinaya Discipline are a set of instructionary rules established over-time and designed to enable the following of the Dharma more efficiently. As the Vinaya Discipline is a set of rules that assist in the regulation of the mind and body, Master Xu Yun (1840-1959) was of the firm opinion that there can be no genuine Buddhism without the Vinaya Discipline being a) ‘present’, and b) ‘practiced’. This is why he rejected the Japanese convention of NOT following the Vinaya Discipline. Although anyone can choose to live in isolation as a Buddhist ‘hermit’ or ‘ascetic’, only a man or woman who has been through the official head-shaving ceremony (under a recognised Buddhist master), and who has taken the Vinaya Discipline and the Bodhisattva Vows, is considered a fully ordained ‘monk’ or ‘nun’ within the Chinese Buddhist tradition. This distinction was further enforced by Master Xu Yun in the early 1950s (at the time that he ‘rejected’ the Japanese tradition of NOT upholding the Vinaya Discipline), when he advised the government of China to make it a ‘legal’ requirement for ALL fully ordained Buddhist monks and nuns to follow the Vinaya Discipline properly – or face legal action (similar to ‘breaking a contract’). Master Xu Yun took this action due to the reality of a number of Buddhist monastic communities causing trouble within lay-society through ill-discipline, interference, greed and other forms of corrupt behaviour. A lay-person, however, remains free to ‘access’ or ‘leave’ the Vinaya Discipline at any time, with no criminality attached. A lay-person may follow ALL or only a part of the Vinaya Discipline, as he or she sees fit, or as the circumstances of their life allows. The Vinaya Discipline is a powerful device that if used correctly, can cure any number of psychological, emotional and physical ailments, as well as removing deficiencies, weaknesses and all kinds of barriers or hindrances to pursuing the Dharma! A lay-person may live like a monk (or a nun) without actually entering the establishment of a Buddhist monastery, or undergoing formal ordination. Indeed, within the Chinese Ch’an School, a lay-person is expected to achieve full enlightenment exactly where they are, with the status of a Buddhist monk or nun being lower than that of the poorest lay-person! The Vinaya Discipline belongs to humanity, but over-time certain conventions have become associated with it. When Charles Luk asked Master Xu Yun ‘What is the most important Precept to follow?’ Master Xu Yun replied ‘The ‘Mind’ Precept.’ In other words, simply following an external set of rules is useless if the empty mind-ground is not penetrated and realised here and now, and in all circumstances! The empty mind-ground is exactly the same for a Buddhist monastic as it is for a lay-person! Indeed, in many ways, the life of a lay-person possesses many advantages over that of a Buddhist monastic – the latter of which is merely a beggar in robes (who is not allowed even to ‘beg’ in China)!
Adrian Chan-Wyles (釋大道 - Shi Da Dao) is permitted to retain his Buddhist Monastic Dharma-Name within Lay-society by decree of the Government of the People’s Republic of China, and the Chinese Buddhist Association (1992). A Buddhist monastic (and devout lay-practitioner) upholds the highest levels of Vinaya Discipline and Bodhisattva Vows. A Genuine Buddhist ‘Venerates’ the ‘Dao’ (道) as he or she penetrates the ‘Empty Mind-Ground' through meditative insight. A genuine Buddhist is humble, wise and peace-loving – and he or she selflessly serves all in existence in the past, present and the future, and residing within the Ten Directions – whilst retaining a vegetarian- vegan diet. Please be kind to animals!
- ICBI Blog: Mind-Ground (心地)
- ICBI China Office (Beijing)
- Master Xu Yun
- Degeneration of the Sangha in the Dharma-ending Age By Ch’an Master Xu Yun
- Ch’an Master Jing Hui - History of Master Xu Yun’s Complete Biographical Text
- Xu Yun’s Humanistic Spirit Transmitted into the Modern Era
- Master Xu Yun & Modern Chinese Politics
- On Why Ch’an Master Xu Yun (1840-1959) Rejected Japanese Zen
- Master Xu Yun Memorial Photographic Library
- Dharma Master Ji Qun (济群) Explains Profound (Dharmic) Happiness
- Chinese Buddhism & Vegetarianism
- Qianfeng Daoism (UK)
Ch'an Guild of Hui Neng (慧能禅宗协会)
- CGHN Membership Certificate
- Master Ti Guang – Karma
- Master Ti Guang – Mind That Does Not Deviate
- Meditation Instrument - Fragrant Board
- Ch’an Daily Work
- Horse Hair Dust-Whisk in Chinese Ch’an Buddhism
- New Shaolin Temple in China
- Master Yuan Chun: Universal Dharma
- Modern Chinese Art and Ch’an Buddhism
- The Huatou and Pain Management
- Martial Virtue (武德–Wu De)
- Seated Transformation (坐化 – Zuo Hua)
- Guiding Principles
- ICBI Projects
- Direction of the ICBI
- Journal of the ICBI
- Contact Us
©opyright: Site design, layout & content International Ch'an Buddhism Institute (ICBI). No part of this site (or information contained herein) unless otherwise stated, may be copied, reproduced, duplicated, or otherwise distributed without prior written permission from email@example.com
Proudly powered by Weebly