|Place of birth:||China|
|Title(s):||Third Chinese Patriarch
Jianzhi Sengcan (僧璨) (died 606) (Wade-Giles, Chien-chih Seng-ts'an; Japanese, Kanchi Sosan) is known as the Third Chinese Patriarch of Chán (Zen) after Bodhidharma and thirtieth Patriarch after Siddhārtha Gautama Buddha. He is considered the Dharma successor of the second Chinese Patriarch, Dazu Huike (神光慧可) (Wade-Giles, Ta-tsu Hui-k’o, Japanese, Taiso Eka). After a legendary encounter with his teacher, Huike, he secluded himself for many years in the mountains to avoid the persecution of Buddhism underway at that time, until he met his successor, Daoxin, and transmitted the Dharma to him. He died sitting under a tree before a Dharma assembly in 606, and was later given the honorary title Jianzhi (Chien-chih, “Mirrorlike Wisdom”) by Xuan Zong Emperor of Tang (September 8, 685-May 3, 762).
Sengcan is best known as the putative author of the Chán poem, Xinxin Ming (信心銘,Hsin Hsin Ming, Verses on Faith-Mind), much beloved by Chan (Zen) practitioners for over a thousand years. The poem reveals the influence of Taoism on Chan Buddhism, and deals with the principles of non-duality and the metaphysical notion of emptiness (śūnyatā) which can be traced back to Nagarjuna (c.150-250 C.E.) (Chinese: 龍樹).
The historical record of Sengcan is extremely limited. Of all the Chán patriarchs, Sengcan is the most ambiguous and the least known. Most of what is known about his life comes from the Wudeng Huiyuan (Compendium of Five Lamps), compiled in the early thirteenth century by the monk Puji at Lingyin Temple in Hangzhou. The first of the five records in the compendium is a text commonly referred to as the Transmission of the Lamp and it is from this text that most of the information about Sengcan is garnered. Most modern scholars have some doubts about the historical accuracy of the Lamp records. The earliest recorded reference to Sengcan is in Further Biographies of Eminent Monks (645) (Japanese, Zoku kosoden; Pin-yin, Hsu kao-seng chuan) by Tao-hsuan (?-667) where Sengcan’s name is listed immediately after Huike’s name, as one of seven disciples of Huike in a biographical entry about the Lankavatara sutra master, Fa-ch’ung (587-665). No further information is given.
It was not until the Records of the Transmission of the Dharma-treasure (Sh’uan fa-pao chi), compiled about 710 and drawing on the stories in the Further Biographies of Eminent Monks, that a teaching “lineage” for Chan Buddhism was created. Some have speculated that it was merely the fact that Sengcan’s name immediately followed Huike’s name in the latter work that led to him being named as the Third Patriarch of Chan. The biography that follows is garnered largely from traditional biographies of Sengcan, mainly the Transmission of the Lamp (Denkoroku), by Keizan Jokin Zenji, a koan collection of 53 enlightenment stories based on the traditional legendary accounts of the Zen transmission between successive masters and disciples in the Soto Zen Buddhist lineage from Shakyamuni Buddha to Japanese Zen Master Ejo, who first brought the Soto Zen teaching from China to Japan.
The year and place of Sengcan’s birth is unknown, as is his family name. The Transmission of the Lamp entry on Sengcan begins with a koan-like encounter with Huike:
It is said that Sengcan was over forty years old when he first met Huike in 536 and that he stayed with his teacher for six years. Huike gave him the name Sengcan (literally "Sangha-jewel," meaning “Gem Monk, ” or "Jewel of the Buddhist Community.") There are discrepancies in the accounts of how long Sengcan stayed with Huike. The Transmission of the Lamp records that he “attended Huike for two years” after which Huike passed on the robe of Bodhidharma and Bodhidharma’s Dharma (generally considered to be the Lankavatara Sutra), making him the Third Patriarch of Chan. According to the Zen scholar Heinrich Dumoulin, in 574, the accounts say that he fled with Huike to the mountains due to the Buddhist persecution underway at that time. However, the Lamp records claim that after transmitting the Dharma to Sengcan, Huike warned him to live in the mountains and “Wait for the time when you can transmit the Dharma to someone else.” because a prediction made to Bodhidharma (Huike’s teacher) by Prajnadhara, the twenty-seventh Chan ancestor in India, foretold of a coming calamity (the Buddhist persecution of 574-577).
After receiving Dharma transmission, Sengcan lived in hiding on Wangong Mountain in Yixian and then on Sikong Mountain in southwestern Anhui. After that he wandered for 10 years with no fixed abode. In 592, he met Daoxin, (580-651) (Pin-yin, Tao-hsin 道信 Japanese, Daii Doshin) a novice monk of just fourteen.) Daoxin attended Sengcan for nine years and received Dharma transmission when he was still in his early twenties. Subsequently, Sengcan spent two years at Mount Luofu (Lo-fu shan, northeast of Kung-tung (Canton)) before returning to Wangong Mountain. He died sitting under a tree before a Dharma assembly in 606. Dumoulin notes that a Chinese official, Li Ch’ang, found Sengcan’s grave in Shu-chou in 745 or 746. Sengcan received the honorary title Jianzhi (Chien-chih, “Mirrorlike Wisdom”) (Wade-Giles, Chien-chih; Japanese, Kanchi) from the Tang dynasty emperor Xuan Zong (September 8, 685-May 3, 762), who is credited with bringing Tang China to a pinnacle of culture and power.
Sengcan, like Bodhidharma and Huike before him, was reputed to be a devotee and specialist in the study of the Lankavatara Sutra (“Sutra on the Descent to Sri Lanka”), which taught the elimination of all duality and the “forgetting of words and thoughts,” stressing the contemplation of wisdom. The link between the Lankavatara Sutra and the “Bodhidharma school” is provided in Tao-hsuan’s Further Biographies of Eminent Monks where, in the biography of Fa-ch’ung he “stresses that Hui-k’o was the first to grasp the essence of the Lankavatara Sutra.” and includes Sengcan as one who “discoursed on but did not write about the profound message of the Lankavatara Sutra." Due to the lack of authentic evidence, comments on Sengcan's teachings are speculative.
Various legends surround the life of Jianzhi Sengcan. According to one, when he encountered the second patriarch Huike for the first time, Huike is supposed to have said, "You are suffering from leprosy; what could you want from me?" Seng-ts'an replied, "Even if my body is sick, the heart-mind of a sick person is no different from your heart-mind." This convinced Huike of Sengcan’s spiritual capacity. It is also said that during the Buddhist persecution of the year 574, Sengcan feigned mental illness in order to escape execution. When he went into hiding on Mount Huan-kung, his presence there is said to have pacified the wild tigers, which had caused great fear among the local people.
Xinxin Ming (alternative spellings: Xin Xin Ming or Xinxinming) (信心銘) (Wade-Giles: Hsin Hsin Ming; Japanese: Shinjinmei (or Shinjin no Mei); Korean: Sinsim Myong), a poem attributed to Jianzhi Sengcan, is one of the earliest Chinese Chan expressions of the Buddhist mind training practice. Although Sengcan has been traditionally recognized as the author, modern scholars believe that the verse was written well after Sengcan's death, probably during the Tang Dynasty The classical source of the Xinxin Ming can be found in the Transmission of the Lamp (Wade-Giles: Ching-te Ch'uan-teng Lu; Japanese: Keitoku Dentõroku 景德傳燈錄 景徳伝灯録).
The word "xinxin" has commonly been interpreted as "faith" or "trust," and there are numerous translations of the title including "Faith in Mind," "Inscription on Trust in the Mind," "Verses on the Faith Mind," "On Believing in Mind," "Inscription of the Perfected Mind," and “The Truthful Mind.”
The Xinxin Ming has been much beloved by Chan (Zen) practitioners for over a thousand years. Many important commentaries were written on it, and is still studied in Western Zen circles. The opening stanza, "The best way is not difficult. It only excludes picking and choosing," is quoted by many Zen masters.
Xinxin Ming consists of 146 unrhymed four-character verses (lines), making a total of 584 characters. It was composed in shih form, although unlike most shih, no end rhyme is employed. An early expression of Chan Buddhism, Xinxin Ming reveals a Taoist influence mingled with Buddhist spirituality. It is written in genuine Chinese without the use of Sanskrit or Pali Buddhist terms. Words of Taoist origin such as non-action (wu-wei), no-mind (wu hsin), one mind (i-hsin), spontaneity (tzu jan), vacuity (hsü), and deep meaning (hsüan-chih) illustrate the profound influence of Taoism on Zen.
The poem draws on the Wisdom sutras of Buddhism to express ultimate unity between opposites and the metaphysical notion of emptiness (śūnyatā) which can be traced back to Nagarjuna (c.150-250 C.E.) (Chinese: 龍樹). The Xinxin Ming deals with the principles of non-duality and the results of practice and the application of these principles. It professes the need to take both pleasant and unpleasant life experiences with a sense of equanimity.
The opening verse, variously translated, sets out the fundamental principle:
The poem ends with:
All links retrieved May 5, 2018.
|Chinese Ch'an Patriarch
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