Ch'an Dao Links:
Old Venerable Zhao Chan (b. 1932) – Shaolin Disciple of Master Xu Yun (1840-1959)
Translator’s Note: This is an English language translation of the original Chinese language text entitled ‘照禅长老’, which can be literally translated as ‘Zhao Chan Venerable Elder’. The Ordained Dharma-name ‘Zhao Chan’ (照禅) translates as ‘Illuminated Mind’, or possibly ‘Bright Meditation’, etc. Other Chinese texts state that Zhao Chan has been active within the Shaolin Temple of Henan province in recent years, but carries-out this Dharma-work quietly and in the background. (See: Modern Chinese Art and Ch’an Buddhism). Together other great Ch’an teachers such as Master Shao Yun (绍云), Master Ti Guang (体光) and Master Hai Deng (海灯), Zhao Chan is at least the 4th disciple of the Great Master Xu Yun (1840-1959) to have studied meditation and martial arts at the Shaolin Temple. (See: Master Xu Yun and his Martial Arts Ch’an Disciples). This is the genuine Ch’an and martial practice that continues undisturbed away from the public gaze. Zhao Chan, however, despite receiving Dharma-transmission from Master Xu Yun, has also specialised in a number of Tibetan Buddhist lineages, receiving important initiations and empowerments from a number of eminent lamas. This has included the ‘Dzogchen’ tradition – written in Chinese ideograms as ‘大圆满’ (Da Yuan Man) – and translating as ‘Great All-Embracing Infinity’. This is a teaching very similar to the Ch’an method. The life-story of the Old Venerable Zhao Chan links those living today, to a distant past when Great Master Xu Yun was still alive and functioning in the world.
The Old Venerable Zhao Chan (照禅长老 – Zhao Chan Zhang Lao) possessed the family surname ‘Hu’ (胡), and the first names ‘Jin Yuan’ (金源). He was born in the Jiaxing (嘉兴) area of Zhejiang province, in 1932. His mother’s devout practice of Buddhism influenced him greatly. At 12 years old, he formally took refuge in the Buddha under the Esteemed Monk Zhi Gong (智功上人 – Zhi Gong Shang Ren). At age 13, Zhao Chan ran away from home, and entered the Yan Jiao Temple (演教寺 – Yan Jiao Si) with the intention of becoming a monk – 6 months later he was retrieved by his father. When aged 22, he travelled to the ‘Yellow Dragon Temple’ (黄龙寺 – Huang Long Si), situated in Jing-an County, Jiangxi province. Here, his head was shaved and Zhao Chan received initial ordination as a Ch’an Buddhist monk under the Venerable Master Wu Yuan (悟源和尚 – Wu Yuan He Shang).
During 1954-1955, Zhao Chan travelled to Yunju Mountain (云居山 – Yun Ju Shan) situated in Yongxia (永修) County, also in Jiangxi province, where he entered the ‘Truth Adherence Ch’an Temple’ (真如禅寺 – Zhen Ru Ch’an Temple).
In 1957, Zhao Chan became a personal disciple (亲任 – Qin Ren) of the Great Master Xu Xun (虚云) [1840-1959] – receiving full ordination (足戒 – Zu Jie) as a Ch’an Buddhist monk (through a ceremony personally officiated by Master Xu Yun). Alongside other Venerable Monks, such as ‘Sheng Yi’ (圣一), ‘Xuan Hua’ (宣化), ‘Chuan Yin’ (传印), and ‘Yi Chang’ (一诚), Zhao Chan became one of the Great Master Xu Yun’s prominent Ch’an disciples on Yunju Mountain. The Old Venerable Chuan Yin is the current President of the China Buddhist Association, and is a very close ‘Dharma-Brother’ of Zhao Chan. Both are bound by their profound Dharma-relation with the Great Monk Xu Yun, whose presence is still felt in China to this day. Indeed, today both Venerable Monks not only guide innumerable beings toward enlightenment, but also encourage the integrated practice of both Ch’an (禪) and Pureland (净土 – Jing Tu) practice, not only in China, but throughout the world (as was the wish of Master Xu Yun). In the same year, the Head Monk (方丈 – Fang Zhang) of the Zhen Ru Temple – the Great Monk Xing Fa (性福大和尚 – Xing Fu Da He Shang) – transmitted the ‘True Dharma Eye’ (正法眼藏 – Zheng Fa Yan Cang) to Zhao Chan (who was given the Dharma-name ‘Yan Hui’ - 衍慧). This was followed (in 1957), by the Great Master Xu Yun personally transmitting the ‘Wei Yang’ (沩仰) sub-lineage of the main ‘Linji’ (临济) Ch’an School to Zhao Chan (with Zhao Chan becoming a 10th generation Wei Yang inheritor). Not long after this, the Great Master Xu Yun personally set-up an ‘altar’ (坛 – Tan) and officiated over the publishing of Linji Ch’an Lineage Certificates (券 – Quan) – where he also transmitted to Zhao Chan the 44th generation main lineage of Linji School. For this transmission, Zhao Chan received the Dharma-name ‘Ren Miao Hui’ (忍妙慧). After these momentous achievements, Zhao Chan then travelled to the Shaolin Temple (少林寺 – Shao Lin Si) in Henan, to the Xuefeng Chongsheng Temple (雪峰崇圣禅寺 – Xue Feng Chong Sheng Si) in Fuzhou, and the Donglin Temple (东林寺 – Dong Lin Si), situated on Lu Mountain (庐山 – Lu Shan), in Jiangxi province.
In 1968, the Cultural Revolution was in progress. This political reform sought to purify the military and civil society of class enemies. Zhao Chan has stated that he was a very lucky person at this time of great difficulty, as if possessing ‘nine lives’ (九死一生 – Jiu Si Yi Sheng). In 1969, he was forced to leave Yunju Mountain (and the Zhen Ru Ch’an Temple). He travelled from Jiangxi province to Yang County (阳县) situated in Fujian province. Here, he established a small temple, and made a very modest living by manually producing pine oil.
In the winter of 1973, Zhao Chan travelled to Fuzhou (in Fujian province), and stayed for a long-time at the Xuefeng Temple (雪峰寺 – Xue Feng Si).
During 1978, Zhao Chan travelled to the southern area of the Tainmu Mountains (天目山 – Tian Mu Shan), situated in Zhejiang province, where he received ‘secret’ Dharma instruction and empowerment from the ‘Red Hat’ Lama Fahai (法海喇嘛 – Fa Hai La Ma) of the ‘Nyingma’ (宁玛 – Ning Ma) Tibetan tradition. This is how Zhao Chan was successfully initiated into the ‘Dzogchen’ (大圆满 – Da Yuan Man) lineage.
In 1980, Zhao Chan returned to the southern area of the Tainmu Mountains, where he received instruction in the ‘White Sect’ (白教 – Bao Jiao) of the Tibetan Gagyu School (嘎举派 – Ga Ju Pai), and gained ‘Mahamudra’ (大手印 – Da Shou Yin) empowerment.
In 1982, Zhao Chan travelled to Wutai Mountain (五台山 – Wu Tai Shan), where at the Guangzong Temple (广宗寺 – Guang Zong Si), he received instruction and empowerment in the ‘Yellow Sect’ (黄教 - Huang Jiao), of the Gelugpa School (格鲁派 – Ge Lu Pai).
During 1987, the Buddhist Association of Jiangxi recommended to the Ji’an City Authorities that Zhao Chan should be formally ‘invited’ to take up the post of ‘Head Monk’ (住持 – Zhu Chi) – literally ‘Upholder of Life’ – at the Jing Ju Temple (净居寺 – Jing Ju Si), situated on Qing Yuan Mountain (青原山 – Qing Yuan Shan), not far from Ji’an City. This is the place where the 7th Ancestor of Ch’an – Xing Si (行思) – maintained a ‘Meditation Hall’ (道场 – Dao Chang). Xing Si’s grand-teacher was the 6th Patriarch of Ch’an – Hui Neng (惠能).
In 1990, Zhao Chan returned to Xuefeng Temple situated in Fuzhou.
In the spring of 1994, Zhao Chan travelled to Xiahe (夏河) County situated in Gansu province, to attend the Tibetan Labrang Temple (拉卜楞寺 – La Bo Leng Si), where he received a great initiation and empowerment in the Kalachakra (时轮 – Shi Lun) teaching as transmitted by the ‘Living Buddha’ (活佛 – Huo Fo) – Gong Dunlun (贡唐仑 – Gong Tang Lun).
During 1999, Zhao Chan travelled to the Xibei Mountain (西北山 – Xi Bei Shan), where at the Jixiang Temple (吉祥寺 – Ji Xiang Si), he founded a home for elderly people – which now caters to the needs of at least 80 individuals.
In 2017, the Old Venerable Zhao Chan is 85 years old, and is renowned for his wisdom and compassion, and for his untiring efforts in spreading the Dharma through good and progressive education. Zhao Chan’s main disciple and Dharma-Heir (法嗣 – Fa Si) – Dharma Master Dao Gei (道给法师 – Dao Gei Fa Shi) – has tirelessly assisted his master in raising donations to be sent to the Shengji Ch’an Temple (圣济禅寺 – Shang Ji Ch’an Si), situated on Meng Mountain (蒙山 – Meng Shan) in Jiangxi province, which is believed to be 1,300 years old (dating to the Tang Dynasty). Together, both monks have tirelessly supervised the building of a stupa in the temple grounds to respectfully house relics from the Great Master Xu Yun (d. 1959). This has not been an easy task (for various reason), and has taken several decades to achieve and actualise.
Dharma Master Dao Gei has travelled widely (gaining a ‘Doctorate’ in Buddhist Studies whilst in Japan), and has received instruction from many great and able masters. This has included training at Beijing’s Longquan Temple (龙泉寺 – Long Quan Si) – under Dharma Master Dao Wei (道伟法师 – Dao Wei Fa Shi). As well as under Dharma Master Dao Ming (道明法师 – Dao Ming Fa Shi), of the Pingxing Temple (平行寺 – Ping Xing Si), situated on Taimu Mountain (太姥山 – Tai Mu Shan), in the Fuding area of Fujian province. He has also received instruction from Dharma Master Dao Bao (道宝法师 – Dao Bao Fa Shi) of Longyan, and Dharma Master Dao Ji (道济法师 – Dao Ji Fa Shi) of the Guanghua Temple (广化寺 – Guang Hua Si). At the Ashoka Temple (阿育王寺 – A Yu Wang Si), he received instruction from Dharma Master Dao Yuan (道圆法师 – Dao Yuan Fa Shi). China Youth Daily (and other mainstream media outlets) have voted Dharma Master Dao Gei as one of contemporary China’s most well-travelled Buddhist monks.
©opyright: Adrian Chan-Wyles (ShiDaDao) 2017.