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His record has inspired countless others to find for themselves the boundless Way to which he pointed in his daily life and verse. His daughter Ling- chao was also a favorite subject. Unfortunately, many of these early paintings have been lost. Famous Chinese Ch'an men appended commentaries and appreciative verses to later accounts of him. Even today, some Japanese Zen masters continue to quote him and use certain of the anecdotes as koans, or subjects for Zen meditation, for revealed in them is the timeless world of Zen, the same now as it was then nearly twelve hundred years ago.
The Chinese text is valuable in its own right as one of the earliest sources of the colloquial language, and also for our understanding of Far Eastern thought. Before describing the life of Layman P'ang, the text, and the history of this translation, a brief review of early Chinese Buddhism may be useful for an understanding of the mid- T'ang China in which he lived.
It was brought mainly from India and Central Asia by missionary monks who, in company with traders and merchants, braved the hazards of travel to come by sea from the south and by the overland trade routes from the west through Central Asia. They brought with them Buddhist texts in Indian and Central Asian languages.
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One of their first major concerns was to produce translations of these into Chinese. By the latter part of the Eastern Han dynasty A. During these early years, Buddhism remained largely an alien cult, confined to settlements of foreigners. The monasteries not only functioned as centers of religious activity, but also as hostels, warehouses, and banking centers for foreign traders. They were stoutly built and walled to resist the attacks to be expected in those turbulent times.
In succeeding centuries, through the gradual expansion of their commercial activities and the acquisition of large holdings of land, Buddhist monasteries were to become important factors in the Chinese economy. Non-Chinese peoples of the northern and western frontiers invaded the land and set up independent kingdoms. The breakdown of the political and social structure of the empire brought untold hardship and misery to the lower classes.
But the Buddhist doctrine of salvation that promised a future life of happiness to the oppressed and lengthy retribution to the oppressor found ready acceptance among the hardpressed common people. Furthermore, Buddhist monks readily incorporated native folk beliefs and superstitions into the religion, and awed the people with displays of supernatural powers and miracles.
The alien rulers of North China welcomed as advisers the educated men from India and Central Asia, who brought with them much useful secular knowledge in addition to a new religion. The prestige of their courts was enhanced by the increasing number of works that the more scholarly monks produced in the translation bureaus established under imperial patronage, as well as by the elaborate and colorful religious ceremonies performed in the splendid temples in the capital cities. The long and highly developed cultural tradition of China had by now begun to act upon and mold Buddhism.
Furthermore, by the arduous labors of foreign monks and their Chinese assistants the Indian Buddhist sutras, monastic rules, and philosophical treatises were gradually translated and retranslated, and native Buddhist scholars composed original works of exegesis. Thus an extensive body of Buddhist literature in Chinese was built up which, collected together, came to form the Chinese Tripitaka. In order for the Chinese Buddhist monks to devote themselves to such extensive and time-consuming literary activities, and, in addition, to carry out the religious practices, meditation, and rituals prescribed in the scriptures and texts of the various schools, it became necessary for them to adopt a more sedentary way of life.
They discarded the mendicancy and many of the austerities that had formerly characterized the Buddhist monk's life in India. Accorded the active support and patronage of the rulers, aristocracy, and wealthy merchants, the Buddhist clergy came in many ways to resemble a branch of the government, a clan-sponsored bureaucracy of the time.
Only a minority of them opposed this tendency and continued to observe the Vinaya, or precepts for the monk's life. The foundations of such a high level of culture and prosperity rested not upon popular support but upon the political and economic power of the ruling classes. They were soon to be seriously weakened when that power waned. In , the general named An Lu-shan revolted, defying the authority of the T'ang court and plunging the empire into bloody strife and confusion. Centered as they were in the two T'ang capital cities of Ch'ang-an and Lo-yang, they could not help sharing the fate of the old aristocracy that had maintained them and was virtually wiped out in the following years of civil war.
From this time on their priests either struggled futilely to continue a semblance of their former activities in the capitals and the provinces or, as was the case with T'ien-t'ai, withdrew to the mountain retreats associated with their earliest founders. Within the century that followed, these capital-centered, state-supported sects withered and all but faded from the pages of Chinese history. Ch'an Buddhism may be said to have been founded by the Brahmin monk known as Bodhidharma.
According to tradition he arrived in southern China by sea from India about Though teachers of various types of Buddhist meditation had preceded him, none had been able to establish a school or a line of disciples. Bodhidharma did, and his successors continued the practice of seated, cross-legged meditation advocated by him and also further developed his teachings. By the middle T'ang, Ch'an had developed into three schools, the Niu-t'ou or "Ox-head," the Northern, and the Southern.
Shih-t'ou and Ma-tsu were perhaps the greatest Ch'an teachers of their day.
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Tsung-mi was the fifth and last patriarch of the Hua-yen sect and also of the Ho-tse school of Ch'an. His succinct description of the Ch'an teaching of Ma-tsu and his disciples, which he terms the Hung-chou school, moreover reveals in a nutshell the significance of actions and dialogues recorded in the anecdotes of Layman P'ang. Tsung-mi said:. In a word, the entirety of our wanting something, getting angry at something, or arousing the passions --whether good or evil, pleasurable or painful-- is all Buddha-nature.
For example, just as from wheat flour are made noodles, crackers, and various other foods, so is every single one [of these products still] the same wheat flour. Since the Way as it is is mind, we cannot cultivate mind with mind; since evil is also mind, we cannot cut off mind with mind.
Sayings Of Layman P'ang | Banyen Books & Sound
Not trying to cut off evil or trying to cultivate good, just letting things follow their own courses and being ourselves is what they call liberation of mind. Nowhere is there either any Dharma-principle that we ought to embrace, nor any Buddha that we ought to strive to obtain. Just like the empty sky that does not increase or decrease--[so with our mind--] what need could there be to augment or amend it! And why? Because outside of our mind itself, there is absolutely not the least little thing of value to be obtained.
Nor is there any reference to the actual wars, floods, famines, heavy taxes, and rapid inflation that occurred in China during his lifetime, bringing hardships upon nearly everyone.
How these and other historical events may have affected him we simply do not know. From this emerges a suggestive picture of his character and religious standpoint. We may infer that it occurred around from the following evidence. We are told page 4.
The only solar eclipse between and occurred on July 27, Several anecdotes of the present text refer to P'ang as being old. Since a Chinese was considered to have reached old age when he was over fifty, P'ang may well have reached an age of sixty or seventy. In this roundabout manner we may place the date of his birth as circa Even this cannot be verified historically, for no record of his administration is extant. He had a son and a daughter. His daughter, Ling-chao Spirit Shining , gained a deep understanding of Ch'an. She and her father seem to have had a particularly close and affectionate relationship.
These probably included the study of Buddhist sutras and the practice of seated meditation. When he was middle-aged he gave his house away to be used for a temple, and sank his possessions and money in a nearby river in order to be rid of them forever. He apparently regarded the acquisition of wealth as an impediment to the attainment of enlightenment, and did not give it away to others for fear it would be a hindrance to them also. It is easy to imagine the surprise and wonder of his neighbors at this drastic renunciation of property. Even today his name is widely known in connection with the incident.
In any case, P'ang and his daughter are known to have earned what was probably a meager livelihood, at least after he threw away his possessions, by making and selling bamboo utensils, while the one view we have of P'ang's son hoeing in the fields suggests the possibility that he supported his mother by farming.
He stayed with Shih-t'ou and his disciples until , when he journeyed east to Kiangsi province to visit Ma-tsu. T'ien-jan Spontaneous was an apt name for this lively person, who was to become one of P'ang's closest friends and a poet of distinction. Under Ma-tsu, P'ang experienced great enlightenment, remained afterwards for two years among the hundreds of disciples assembled there, and became a Dharma heir of that noted Master. In subsequent years Layman P'ang seems to have divided his time between his family, presumably still in Heng-yang, and pilgrimages around central China, matching his own Ch'an understanding against all comers in the type of lively and good-humored exchanges recorded in the present text.
It was during this period that he probably wrote many of the verses that have come down to us. Layman P'ang was an amateur poet, unschooled in either the Chinese Classics or conventional rules for verse composition. The majority of his verses, however, are not of the same quality and tend to be didactic. The T'ang has been called the golden age of Chinese poetry. Some of its greatest poets were Layman P'ang's contemporaries. Of all the T'ang poets, P'ang's verse is most closely echoed by that of the semilegendary hermit Han-shan, who lived about a century later.
For example, compare the opening lines of Verse 9 page 81 with this poem by Han-shan I have now a tunic Not of sheer or figured silk. You ask what is its color? Not crimson, nor purple either! In summer it's my robe, In winter it's my quilt. Used in winter, then summer, Thus it is year after year.
Sacred Poetry from Around the World
Han-shan seems also to have been a lay Buddhist who was greatly influenced by the Southern school of Ch'an. Unable to win recognit on for his scholarship and poetry, he experienced poverty and hardship. He left his family to be a hermit in the misty solitudes of Cold Mountain in the T'ien-t'ai range of eastern China. Layman P'ang, on the other hand, did not desert his family, preferred living near cities, and enjoyed visiting friends and stopping over at monasteries. Toward the end of his life, Layman P'ang wandered northward to Hsiang-yang, accompanied by his beloved daughter Ling-chao.
According to the Preface page 41 , he lived there in a rock cave twenty li --about seven miles-- south of Lung- men shan Deer Gate Mountain , itself twelve miles southeast of Hsiang-yang city. Deer Gate Mountain was for long the home of the celebrated poet Meng Hao-jan , who in one of his poems mentions visiting there the hermitage of an earlier P'ang. There is a legend of this hermit P'ang, who lived during the Later Han dynasty , that he went into the mountains to gather medicinal herbs and never came back.
Whether this interesting man was a direct ancestor of Layman P'ang or not is unknown. Translated from Iriya, Kanzan, pp. Watson, p. See Jenyns, p. He seems to have admired the verses of P'ang, which he obtained early in his administration, and welcomed the chance to make the poet's acquaintance. He was descended from a distinguished family of Central Asian descent. While a prefect he was outspoken and proud, a capable administrator, a successful and courageous military leader, and a strict authoritarian.
On the other hand, he had an overbearing manner and ruled his territory like an absolute dictator.