THE SAGELY CITY OF TEN THOUSAND BUDDHAS

b. National Master Ching Liang

National Master Ch’ing Liang, that great Bodhisattva, had a truly inconceivable state. He was teacher to seven emperor, having had even emperors appoint him National Master. He was able to do that due to his true and actual cultivation, which was not the least bit sloppy. He was not like most people whose mouths speak of cultivating but whose bodies do not cultivate:

Mouth right, mind wrong.

Their mouths speak very correctly, but their minds are completely off. After he left home, and even before he left home, he made vows. He used ten requirements to urge himself on, ten matters to help keep himself going forward, which everyone who leaves home should know. They are as follows:

1.   His person would not renounce the appearance of a shramana.
2.   His mind would not oppose the regulations of the Thus Come One.
3.   He would not sit with his back to the Sutra of the Dharma Realm.
4.   His nature would not be defiled by states of emotional obstruction.
5.   His feet would not tread the dust of a nunnery.
6.   His ribs would not touch the bed of a lay person.
7.   His eyes would not gaze at improper spectacles.
8.   His tongue would not taste edibles after noon.
9.   His hand would not let loose of the round, bright beads.
10. Not for a night, would he be apart from his robes and his bowl.

1. His body would not renounce the appearance of a shramana. That he would not renounce it meant that he would not give it away. He would definitely not hand the manner of a shramana over to other people, but would have it himself. That means at all times his body was garbed in the robe and sash of a left-home person, and very genuinely and actually had the appearance of a Bhikshu, a shramana. He always looked like someone who had left the home life.

2. His mind would not oppose the regulations of the Thus Come One. Within his heart, or mind, he would not in any way oppose the regulations of the Buddha, the Buddha’s precepts. His mind absolutely accepted and respected the rules and regulations pronounced by the Buddha, very last one, and recognized that the investigation of the precepts is very important. Not to speak of actual violation, he did not even strike up such false thoughts in his mind. Does that appear fierce to you or not? There are a great many ways of explaining this.

3. He would not sit with his back to the Sutra of the Dharma Realm. When he sat down, if there happened to be a copy of the Flower Adornment Sutra around, he insisted upon sitting facing the Flower Adornment Sutra, and would not sit with his back to the Flower Adornment Sutra, the Sutra of the Dharma Realm. Consider what it means to have that kind of vow power! Not to speak of the Buddha, he would not even turn his back to the Sutra, but wherever the Sutra was to be found, he would sit facing it. He would not sit with his back to the Sutra of the Dharma Realm.

4. His nature would not be defiled by states of emotional obstruction. That is, his nature would not be attached to and obstructed by emotional love.

5. His feet would not tread the dust of a nunnery. It was not very egalitarian, but he still went ahead and made that vow anyway; and it got the Bhikshunis very upset. He would not even set foot on the  ground, the soil, inside the gates of a residence for the Bhikshuni Sangha. A nunnery is a place where only female left-home persons live. The meaning of this is that he did not go to Bhikshuni temples. All of you think it over. You Americans would say, “That’s crazy. Why not? What’s wrong with going to a Bhikshuni temple? I go running over to them a hundred times a day without ever being aware of any problem.” But National Master Ch’ing Liang was too “pure and cool,” too extremely cool, without the least spark of passion. He didn’t have even a trace of emotion.

6. His body would not touch the bed of a lay person. To say nothing of living at a lay person’s house, he would not even touch the bed upon which a lay person slept, not come in contact with it. All of you think it over: would you live up to that?

7. His eyes would not gaze at improper spectacles. “Spectacles” are things that look jumbled and chaotic, like giving plays, dancing, wearing flashy clothes and jumping around ¾ the things done by all of those people who don’t follow the rules. His eyes would not gaze at such improper spectacles. For example, if a play was being performed, or people were dancing, or perhaps there were some of those freaks who sing, dance, and jump around on the streets, he would not look at them. “Improper spectacles” refers to circumstances that are not in accord with the awesome manner, not in accord with propriety.

8. His tongue would not taste edibles after noon. Not to speak of eating after noon, his tongue would not even taste food to see what flavor it had. After noon, he would not taste or eat things, not even sample just a tiny bit to find out what the taste was like. He didn’t sample, let alone eat. You may have thought leaving home was so easy; if you can’t put it all down, then don’t leave home. See how the High Monks go about their practices. His mouth would not taste edibles after noon. “Edible” means anything that can be eaten, such as vegetables, rice... even fruit. When once cultivates, one should hold the precepts very strictly. If you absolutely cannot manage that, then a very forced and expedient method is just to eat a piece of fruit, such as an apple or an orange, in the evening. But when the time comes that you really want to cultivate, then you cannot even eat fruit. Another practice is not to drink anything but water after noon, not even milk. Right now, however, we’re not as strict as that. If you are hungry, you can drink some milk, but don’t steal things to eat. You must offer up your conduct in accordance with the teachings. Don’t listen without paying attention.

9. His hand would not let loose of the round, bright beads. Some people who are greedy for wealth get confused and think this means that he would never handle gold, silver and other precious substances, but that is not the meaning. The beads in questions are his recitation beads, and that his hand would not let loose of them means that he would never put them down, not that he would never pick them up. If his hand never picked them up, how could he let loose of them anyway?  If he doesn’t let loose of them, he has to have picked them up, hasn’t he? All that talk of gold and silver just shows:

Left-home people are not greedy for wealth: the more the better! The more valuables there are, the more they pick up and the tighter they hold them. “Let loose” is as when someone has been accused of committing a crime and then is let off as not having committed it. He never let loose of his round, bright recitation beads. He would never put them down. They were always in his hand. He always held his beads and recited Namo Amita Buddha, Namo Amita Buddha, and was mindful of the Buddha. Even when he was eating he would hang them on this bowl, not put them down.

10. Not forever a night would he be apart from his robes and his bowl. He always slept with his robes and bowl placed beside him, right next to him. He took care of his robe and bowl.

Those are the ten requirements that he used to urge himself on. No Teacher taught them to him. At no time did a Teacher say to him, “You shouldn’t eat after noon.” “When you sit, don’t sit with your back to the Sutra.” Those were requirements that he established for himself, not ones a Teacher taught him. Therefore he lived at the same time as nine emperors, and seven emperors bowed to him as their Master.

The nine emperors during whose reigns National Master Ch’ing Liang lived were in the T’ang Dynasty:

1. T’ang Hsuan Tsung. The “Hsuan” in his name means “mysterious.”

2. T’ang Su Tsung. The “Su” in his name means “Decorous.”
It’s the ‘decorous’ of :

“His manner stern and proper as he decorously honored the method for obtaining food.”

3. T’ang Tai Tsung.
4. T’ang Te Tsung.
5. T’ang Hsun Tsung.
6. T’ang Hsien Tsung.
7. T’ang Mu Tsung.
8. T’ang Ching Tsung.
9. T’ang Wen Tsung.

From Tai Tsung on, they all bowed to National Master Ch’ing Liang  as National Master. Why is he called National Master “Ch’ing Liang”? “Ch’ing Liang” means “Pure and Cool.” At the time when he was living on Five Peak (Wu T’ai) Mountain, which is also called Ch’ing Liang Mountain, he spoke Dharma for the emperor and the emperor said to him, “Ah, you have really caused me to become pure and cool! I really feel fine! I have truly become independent, pure, and cooled.” As a result, he gave him the title Ch’ing Liang, “Pure and Cool,” and from that time on Dharma Master Ch’eng Kuan was called National Master Ch’ing Liang, and was no longer called by his personal name. Another of his titles was that of “Teaching Master” for he acted as Teaching Master for the emperor, regularly lecturing Sutras and speaking Dharma for him. He, a single person, saw in the time of nine emperors, and seven emperors bowed to him as their Teacher. If he had been lacking in Way virtue, how could he have had such a response?

National Master Ch’ing Liang was also very learned. He had studied a great many books, all the books of left-home and at-home people, Buddhists, Taoists, Confucians, and was especially well-versed in the Book of Changes. So National Master Ch’ing Liang employed his ten requirements day by day to urge himself on. That means that during his entire life he never went to a Bhikshuni temple. Consequently, a good many Bhikshunis also refused to go where he was, saying, “If he won’t come, forget it! We won’t go either.”

previous * next * preface text * gatha * contents * Prologue

return to top