Master Xu Yun (1840-1959) inherited all Five Schools of Ch'an Buddhism. So respected was his spiritual attainments that he was even transmitted lineages that he had not formally trained within - but whose teachers recognised that his depth of insight, humility and compassion fully equalled the divine levels of attainment that their schools demanded! In other words, without going out of his room, he knew all things (to quote the 'Book of Changes'). Chinese culture is very different to that of the modern West - despite the obvious similarities and intersections.
Within the schools of Chinese spirituality - individuals can live very long periods time - and lineages can be passed from long-dead Masters to living Teachers and Practitioners! There is no need to justify any of this, it is just how things are - pure and simple. Lineages are like streams that flow into mighty rivers and then the sea! A genuine lineage should have a compelling force all of its own that propels adherents toward the intended spiritual goal! A true lineage is like an ever-moving conveyor-belt that moves everything along - continuously - and in the same direction! We must all set a good example for our colleagues, students and descendants! If we cultivate virtue and set a good example - then by our pure actions we are 'adding' momentum to the lineages we represent!
Master Xu Yun (1840-1959) spent long periods of his long life engaged in isolated meditation, either high on remote mountains, or deep in inaccessible forests or other rural areas. This fact is often obscured by the decisive manner in which Xu Yun often also ‘engaged’ with the world of red dust, and influenced the mundane life of the laity. On the one-hand, Xu Yun appears to disappear for decades (as if dead, or at least ‘not born’), whilst on the other, he appears familiar, routine and part of the furniture (as we say in the UK). The ‘empty mind ground’ (空心地 - Kong Xin Di) is part of the human evolution of the mind, and may well have been the original sentient development when early humans emerged from the primordial swamps. It is a practical reality that is slowly being approached, observed, recorded (in the sense of brain-waves and brain-waves frequencies), and acknowledged by modern science. As Chinese Ch’an only possesses a nodding acquaintance to the Indian Buddhism from which it emerged (in one way or another), it is important not to overly mystify its own nature, or remain unduly ‘shackled’ to conventional notions of religion. However, as Master Xu Yun continuously advised, ‘discipline’ is the only path that works if a practitioner wants to realise the empty mind ground. Non-attachment to ‘thought’ and ‘action’ is a tricky business with many pitfalls...