The dream world cannot be found
away from my pillow –
but nowhere on the pillow can I find it.
And when I am in the dream world
my pillow might as well not exist.
Awake, I feel my dreams are empty;
in dream, the waking world has disappeared.
Can I be sure that the waking universe
has no pillow beneath it?
If dream and waking alternate,
which is fantasy, which is real?
After living with Uncle for a few months and continuing my lessons to private students, I felt a great urge to travel again, if only for a few days. I had just been reading the Sutra of Hui Nêng (Wei Lang) which relates how a reputedly illiterate man became Sixth Patriarch of the Zen Sect well over a thousand years ago. Another monk had composed a poem comparing an enlightened mind to a bright mirror on which no dust (illusion) can collect. On having this read to him, Hui Nêng replied with another poem in which he declared that the ‘mirror’ has no existence and asked whereon such dust can collect. In this way he expressed his intuitive understanding of the voidness of all phenomena, including both illusions and the separate minds of individuals. This expression of enlightened understanding of Zen’s deepest truth won for him the Fifth Patriarch’s symbolical robe and bowl. After his death all those centuries ago, his body had miraculously resisted decay and, according to widespread belief, was still to be seen at the Nan Hua Monastery in North Kwangtung…
… The present Abbot was no other than the Venerable Hsü Yün (虚云 / Xū Yún), who was believed to be well over a hundred years old, though still able to walk as much as thirty miles a day. He was renowned all over China as the greatest living Master of Zen; so I was delighted to hear the unexpected news that he had just returned after an absence of several months spent in a distant province. Not long after my arrival, I excitedly followed the Reverend Receiver of Guests to pay my respects to this almost mythical personage. I beheld a middle-sized man with a short, wispy beard and remarkable penetrating eyes. He was not precisely youthful-looking as I had been led to expect, but had one of those ageless faces not uncommon in China. Nobody could have guessed that he was already a centenarian. Finding myself in his presence, I became virtually tongue-tied and had to rack my brains for something to say, although there was so much I could profitably have asked him. At last, I managed to ask:
“Is this famous monastery purely Zen, Your Reverence?”
“Oh yes,” he answered in a surprisingly vigorous voice. “It is a great centre of Zen.”
“So you do not worship Amida Buddha or keep his statue here?”
The question seemed to puzzle him, for he took some time to reply.
“But certainly we keep his statue here. Every morning and evening we perform rites before it and repeat the sacred name while circumambulating the altar.”
“Then the monastery is not purely Zen,” I persisted, puzzled in my turn.
“Why not? It is like every other Zen monastery in China. Why should it be different? Hundreds of years ago there were many sects, but the teachings have long been synthesized – which is as it should be. If by Zen, you mean the practice of Zen meditation, why, that is the very essence of Buddhism. It leads to a direct perception of Reality in this life, enabling us to transcend duality and go straight to the One Mind. This One Mind, otherwise known as our Original Nature, belongs to everybody and everything. But the method is very hard – hard even for those who practise it night and day for years on end. How many people are prepared or even able to do that? The monastery also has to serve the needs of simple, illiterate people. How many of them would understand if we taught only the highest method? I speak of the farmers on our own land here and of the simple pilgrims who come for the great annual festivals. To them we offer that other way – repetition of the sacred name – which is yet the same way adapted for simple minds. They believe that by such repetition they will gain the Western Paradise and there receive divine teaching from Amida Buddha himself – teaching which will lead them directly to Nirvana.”
At once reluctantly and somewhat daringly I answered: “I see. But isn’t that a kind of – well, a sort of – of – er – deception? Good, no doubt, but…”
I broke off, not so much in confusion as because the Venerable Hsü Yün was roaring with laughter.
“Deception? Deception? Ha, ha, ha, ha-ha! Not at all. Not a bit. No, of course not.”
“Then Your Reverence, if you too believe in the Western Heaven and so on, why do you trouble to teach the much harder road to Zen?”
“I do not understand the distinction you are making. They are identical.”
“Listen, Mr P’u. Zen manifests self-strength; Amidism manifests other-strength. You rely on your own efforts, or you rely on the saving power of Amida. Is that right?”
“Yes. But they are – I mean, they seem – entirely different from each other.”
I became aware that some of the other monks were beginning to look at me coldly, as though I were showing unpardonable rudeness in pertinaciously arguing with this renowned scholar and saint; but the Master, who was quite unperturbed, seemed to be enjoying himself.
“Why insist so much on this difference?” he asked. “You know that in reality there is nought but the One Mind. You may choose to regard it as in you or out of you, but “in” and “out” have no ultimate significance whatever – just as you, Mr P’u, and I and Amida Buddha have no real separateness. In ordinary life, self is self and other is other; in reality they are the same. Take Bodhidharma who sat for nine years in front of a blank wall. What did he contemplate? What did he see? Nothing but his Original Self, the true Self beyond duality. Thus he saw Reality face to face. He was thereby freed from the Wheel and entered Nirvana, never to be reborn – unless voluntarily as a Bodhisattva.”
“Yet, Reverence, I do not think that Bodhidharma spoke of Amida. Or am I wrong?”
“True, true. He did not. But when Farmer Wang comes to me for teaching, am I to speak to him of his Original Self or of Reality and so on? What do such terms mean to him? Morning and evening, he repeats the sacred name, concentrating on it until he grows oblivious of all else. In time, after a month, a year, a decade, a lifetime or several lifetimes, he achieves such a state of perfect concentration that duality is transcended and he, too, comes face to face with Reality. He calls the power by which he hopes to achieve this Amida; you call it Zen; I may call it Original Mind. What is the difference? The power he thought was outside himself was inside all the time.”
Deeply struck by this argument and anxious, perhaps, to display my acquaintance with the Zen way of putting things, I exclaimed:
“I see, I see. Bodhidharma entered the shrine-room from the sitting-room. Farmer Wang entered it through the kitchen, but they both arrived at the same place. I see.”
“No,” answered the Zen Master, “you do not see. They didn’t arrive at any place. They just discovered that there is no place for them to reach.”
“I have rented a temple in the Western Hills, to go there for week-ends, and perhaps for an occasional fortnight in the autumn or spring. It is about eighteen miles from Peking, and one can reach the place easily enough on horseback. Also one can go most of the way by motor, along the new road that branches off to the Summer Palace.
The train that goes to Men-to-kou, on the other side of the mountains, stops at a little station two miles distant from the village of Pa-ta-chu. The name means ‘The Hill of the Eight Sanctuaries’. My temple is one of the eight that mount up the hill-side among the oaks, the maples, and the stunted pines. Both temples and trees nestle in the hollows, where they are protected from the north wind, which keeps the hill-tops shorn of vegetation.
The word ‘temple’ comes from the Greek τέμνειν, which means ‘to cut out, to separate, to isolate’, alluding to the exclusive character of that which is sacred to the gods. But Chinese gods, though sometimes fierce and terrifying, are not exclusive. They like company and are not particular what company they keep.” (Varè, ‘The Gate of Happy Sparrows’)
“As on my former mission in China, I rented a temple in the Western Hills. It was an isolated temple close to Pa-ta-chu, but in a little valley of its own. It was called the Pi-mo-yen. So many translations were given to me of this expression that I never really knew what it meant. ‘The Precipice where the Spirit is Refreshed’ was one; another was ‘The Precipice where the Devil is Exorcised.’
The Pi-mo-yen was a live temple, that is to say it had an abbot and a priest living in it, and many pilgrims came to burn incense in front of the effigy of a Buddha in a little grotto inside the temple grounds, under a huge overhanging rock. The pilgrims used to pass through my quarters but without causing me inconvenience. The Abbot and I became friends, though we could not understand each other very well. Sometimes I used to go over my Chinese characters with him. But his pronunciation of the tones was different from that which I was used to in Peking.
The Pi-mo-yen was endowed with property of its own, and the farm produce used to be brought in and stored, so I had the impression of living in a Chinese country-house with all the interest that a country-house gives to its occupants. The place was very old and had once been a centre of religious instruction. It is mentioned as such is some Chinese books. A cousin of the Emperor Ch’ien Lung once lived there and wrote a book in which he described his travels in Turkestan and elsewhere. The title was Footsteps in the Snow of a Solitary Goose.” (Varè,‘Laughing Diplomat’)
It was in a Buddhist temple in the Western Hills that I wrote the first chapters of this book. The temple is named Pi Mo Yen. In the eighteenth century a Manchu general, cousin to the Emperor Ch’ien-lung, stayed up there, like myself, and wrote a book. (His was a book of travel, with the quaint title “Footsteps in the Snow of a Solitary Goose.”) Close by were the Hunting Park and the tower whence the emperor used to watch his army manoeuvring on the plain. All around were signs of a past magnificence. (Varè, ‘The Last Empress’ ix, 1936)
This temple, one of the smallest and highest of those in the Western Hills, was known to the foreign community in Peking at the end of the nineteenth century and beginning of the twentieth century as Pi Mo Yen [碧默巖]. Chinese sources, however, indicate its name to be Mi Mo Ya [秘魔崖]. Forthcoming installments will further illustrate the Western Hills, using pictures from Lin-qing’s book accompanied by excerpts from contemporary European sources.
麟慶：鴻雪因緣圖記 hóngxuě yīnyuán tújì volume 4 of 6
About the Author:
Daniele Varè (1880-1956) was an Italian diplomat who served chiefly in China, from 1908 until 1920. After he retired from the diplomatic service he devoted himself to writing, translating his own books into English, and writing some of them directly in that language. He wrote works of popular history, such as ‘The Last Empress’ (also published as ‘The Last of the Empresses’), and his novels, ‘The Maker of Heavenly Trousers’; ‘The Gate of Laughing Sparrows’; and ‘The Temple of Costly Experience’; thinly-veiled romans-a-clef, portray expatriate life in China during the end of the Qing dynasty and the beginning of the Republican period. His autobiography, ‘Laughing Diplomat’, was published in 1938. Sir Edmund Backhouse, in his memoirs, describes Varè as his ‘enemy’, doubtlessly because Varè paid him a back-handed compliment by comparing his work and himself with James Macpherson and his ‘Ossian’. – Se non è vero, è ben trovato, we may say.
Lin Qing was a Chinese government official who visited Shaolin Monastery in 1828. He subsequently published an illustrated book describing his travels. According to Lin Qing, the head monk was uncomfortable showing him martial arts because of government decrees against such practices. Lin Qing described the demonstration using a phrase from Zhuangzi, namely, “xiong jing niao shen”, which describes movements of bears and birds. This in turn refers to physical exercises done during the fourth and fifth centuries B.C.E., when the Zhuangzi was recorded.
(‘Martial arts in the modern world’, T.A. Green & J.R. Svinth, 2003, p 5.)
… in 1828 prominent Manchu official named Lin Qing (1791-1846) visited the Shaolin Temple. By then, bare-handed techniques had completely eclipsed the monastery’s ancient staff methods, and instead of an armed display, the distinguished guest was entertained by a sparring demonstration:
In the evening we returned to the Shaolin Monastery, and paid our respects at the Jinnaluo (Vajrapani) Hall. The deity’s image is most awesome. He wears thin garments, and wields a stove poker (huo gun). Tradition has it that once he displayed his divinity and warded off bandits. Today he is the monastery’s guardian spirit (qielan). Praying to him is invariably efficacious.
I proceeded to ask the monks about their hand combat method (quan fa), but they refused to utter a word about it. I made it clear that I had heard about the Shaolin Fist long ago, and I knew it had been relied upon solely for guarding monastic regulations and protecting the famous temple. Therefore they need not make pretence.
The abbot laughed and assented. He selected several sturdy monks to perform in front of the hall. Their “bear-hangings and bird stretchings” were indeed artful. After the performance the monks retreated. I sat facing Mt. Shaoshi’s three peaks, which resembled a sapphire tripod. Watching the shaded forests, misty mountains, and emerald green thickets, my body and spirit were equally at peace. I resolved to stay overnight.
Published in 1849, Lin Qing’s account of his visit was accompanied by a woodblock illustration of Shaolin monks practicing hand combat. The martial artists were shown under the gigantic shadow of their tutelary deity, Vajrapani (Kimnara), who still wielded his staff of old. The Manchu official, in ceremonial cap and robes and surrounded by his entourage, appeared in the picture as well. Apparently he was fascinated by the performance. Whereas the elderly abbot remained sitting under the hall’s eaves, Lin Qing rose from his seat to watch the martial artists up close.”
(M. Shahar, ‘The Shaolin Monastery: History, Religion, and the Chinese Martial Arts’, 2008, pp 126-128.)
According to Shahar, some scholars believe the renowned murals in Shaolin were painted to commemorate this visit:
Lin Qing’s woodblock illustration leads us to another, more elaborate, artwork, which depicts a similar scene: Shaolin’s White-Attired Mahâsattva Hall (Baiyi dashi dian) is decorated with an early nineteenth-century mural of fighting monks, who are demonstrating their bare-handed skills to visiting dignitaries, probably government officials. The guests, identified by their queues, are entertained by the abbot in a central pavilion, which is surrounded by the performing artists. The gorgeous fresco was executed with such attention to detail that some modern practitioners are able to identify in it the bare-handed postures they practice today. (ibid.)
The Shaolin Monastery charts, for the first time in any language, the history of the Shaolin Temple and the evolution of its world-renowned martial arts. In this meticulously researched and eminently readable study, Meir Shahar considers the economic, political, and religious factors that led Shaolin monks to disregard the Buddhist prohibition against violence and instead create fighting techniques that by the twenty-first century have spread throughout the world. He examines the monks’ relations with successive Chinese regimes, beginning with the assistance they lent to the seventh-century Emperor Li Shimin and culminating more than a millennium later with their complex relations with Qing rulers, who suspected them of rebellion. He reveals the intimate connection between monastic violence and the veneration of the violent divinities of Buddhism and analyzes the Shaolin association of martial discipline and the search for spiritual enlightenment. (from the publishers)
麟慶：鴻雪因緣圖記 hóngxuě yīnyuán tújì volume 3 of 6
One chapter is devoted to the description of a curious rock called the Loom Rock. It is situated in the Luhsi district of the Chang-chou prefecture in Hunan, and is perfectly inaccessible to man, as it well might be, to judge from the drawing of it by a native artist. From a little distance, however, caves are discernible hollowed out in the cliff, and in these the eye can detect various articles used in housekeeping, such as a teapot, &c.; and amongst others a loom. On a ledge of smooth rock a boat may be seen, as it were hauled up out of the water. How these got there, and what is the secret of the place, nobody appears to know, but our author declares that he saw them with his own eyes. We have given the above particulars as to the whereabouts of the rock, in the hope that any European meditating a trip into Hunan may take the trouble to make some inquiries about this wonderful sight. The late Mr Margary must have passed close to it in his boat, probably without being aware of its existence – if indeed it does exist at all. (Herbert A. Giles, ‘Chinese Sketches,’ 1876, pp 162-163)
Note: The ‘Margary Affair’
The Margary Affair is the name of a crisis in Sino-British relations, which followed the murder of British official Augustus Raymond Margary in 1875. As part of efforts to explore overland trade routes between British India and China province, junior British diplomat Augustus Raymond Margary was sent from Shanghai through southwest China to Bhamo in Upper Burma, where he was supposed to met Colonel Horace Browne. It took Margary six months to make the 1800 miles long journey through the provinces of Sichuan, Guizhou and Yunnan and he met Brown in Bhamo in late 1874. On the journey back to Shanghai, Margary heard rumors that the return route was not safe and changed the route to Tengyue, where he and his personal staff were murdered on February 21, 1875.
According to Jonathan Spence in ‘The Search for Modern China’, Margary was part of a survey team exploring routes from Burma into Yunnan. Susan Orlean, author of ‘the Orchid Thief’, gives a different account: “The linguist and plant collector Augustus Margary survived toothache, rheumatism, pleurisy, and dysentery while sailing the Yangtze only to be murdered when he completed his mission and sailed beyond Bhamo” – in pursuit of orchids.
The incident created a diplomatic crisis and gave British authorities an excuse to put pressure on the Qing government. The crisis was only resolved in 1876 when Thomas Wade and Li Hongzhang signed the Chefoo Convention, which covered a number of items that had no direct relation to the killing of Margary the year earlier. (adapted from Wikipedia)
麟慶：鴻雪因緣圖記 hóngxuě yīnyuán tújì volume 2 of 6
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