The Founders of Cao Dong: Part II Master Cao Shan Ben Ji (曹山本寂) – [840-901]
By Adrian Chan-Wyles (ICBI)
This article first appeared in Issue 12 (Vol. 1) of Patriarch’s Vision, Summer 2016, the eJournal of the International Ch’an Buddhism Institute (ICBI).
‘The master (Cao Shan) asked the assembly leader, Ch’iang: ‘(It is said:) “The Buddha’s true Dharmakaya is similar to space wherein it appears in response to the calls from living beings, just like a moon seen in water”; how are you going to explain this?’ The leader replied: ‘It is like a donkey looking down a well.’ The master said: ‘It is very difficult to say anything and even if you succeed, you can only speak of eighty per cent of it.’ The leader asked: ‘What will you say about it?’ The master replied: ‘It is like the well gazing at the Donkey.’’
Translator’s Note: Charles Luk – in the early 1960’s - presented to the West (at the instruction of Master Xu Yun 1840-1959) many pivotal Chinese Ch’an Buddhist texts in reliable English translation. Many of these texts had never been seen in non-Chinese rendering before this endeavour, and served to convey a profound and direct truth. The Chinese Ch’an system (preserving the ancient Indian teaching of the Buddha) states that the ordinary way of viewing the world is ‘inverted’ and therefore ‘deluded’ no matter how clever the thought it produces, or how much worldly wealth it physically generates. This is life lived as the ‘seeming’. The Buddha and the Ch’an masters aim to rectify this matter by replacing the ‘seeming’ (delusion) with the ‘real’ (enlightenment). This requires a revolutionary and radical permanent transformation of the mind, so that reality is perceived only from the ‘real’ (or ‘void’) position that contain all things. The Cao Dong masters – Liang Jie and Ben Ji - developed a method to guide the Ch’an practitioner through this process. The Five Positions are used to augment the practice of seated meditation, gong-an practice, enlightened Ch’an dialogue and purposeful interaction. As a consequence, the Five Positions are not intended as a ‘dry’ intellectual pursuit, but are rather a reference system to test or analyse the depth or shallowness of a practitioners understanding. Master Ben Ji – the subject of this paper – is a very important figure not only in Cao Dong Ch’an, but also in Chinese Ch’an Buddhism in general, and is equally important with regard to Daoist and Confucian integration with Chinese Ch’an Buddhism through his use of shaded roundels to depict the ‘void’ and ‘form’. This integration was deepened by Master Ben Ji’s extrapolation of the hexagrams and trigrams as originally developed by his teacher – Master Liang Jie. ACW 5.4.2016
Master Ben Ji was from a family of scholars and officials. A concise biography of Master Ben Ji (taken from contemporary Chinese language sources) states:
‘Ch’an Master Cao Shan Ben Ji (840-901) was a Tang Dynasty monk, often referred to as ‘Ben Ji’ (本寂) or ‘Essential Tranquillity’. He was the second ancestor of the Cao Dong Lineage of Ch’an Buddhism, and was also known as ‘Dan Zhang’ (耽章) or ‘Enduring Clarity’. He was from the Putian (莆田) area of Quanzhou, Fujian province, and his family surname was ‘Huang’ (黄). When young he studied Confucianism (儒学 – Ru Xue), but when he reached 19 years of age, he travelled to the Futang (福唐) County area of Fuzhou, where his head was shaved on Mount Lingshi (灵石山 – Ling Shi Shan) and he became a Buddhist monk. At 25 years old he received the full Vinaya and Bodhisattva Discipline Vows. During the Xiantong (咸通) era (1860-1873) - of the reign of Tang Dynasty Emperor Yizong – the Ch’an Sect flourished. During this time, Master Ben Ji paid his respects to Master Dong Shan Liang Jie (洞山良价), and requested instruction – an interaction that eventually led to him receiving the Ch’an lineage transmission from Master Liang Jie. Later, Master Ben Ji established his Ch’an school in the Fuzhou area of Jiangxi province. Out of respect and admiration for the 6th Patriarch Hui Neng [惠能], Master Ben Ji renamed this area ‘Mount Cao’ [曹山]) but it was originally called ‘Mount He Yu’ [荷玉山 – He Yu Shan]. Due to Master Ben Ji’s extensive skill and profound understanding, the lineage (of Liang Jie) experienced great popularity. Master Ben Ji also developed and completed the teaching of the ‘Five Positions’ (五位 – Wu Wei) invented by Master Liang Jie (Dong Shan) as a means to assess the development of mind from delusion to full enlightenment, and emphasised the ‘Dense Forest’ (丛林 – Cong Lin) system of temple organisation and practice. As Master Ben Ji’s influence was very great, many gathered to practice under his guidance, and the Dharma (法 – Fa) flourished. It is said that Master Ben Ji passed away during the 1st year of the Tian Fù (天復) Era (901–904) of the Tang Dynasty Emperor Zhaozong (but some claim that Master Ben Ji passed away during the 3rd year of Tian Fu Era). This discrepancy means that Master Ben Ji died either in 901 or 903 CE . However, it is recorded that Master Ben Ji was 62 years old when he passed away. He was known throughout the world as Cao Shan Ben Ji. An edict from the emperor granted Ben Ji the posthumous name of ’Yuan Zheng Ch’an Shi’ (元证禅师) or ‘Essence Realisation Ch’an Master. He had many Dharma-heirs… ’ 
However, Master Ben Ji was not always a practitioner of Ch’an. His full biography states that his first teacher was a monk named ‘Ju Zhi’ (俱胝和尚 – Ju Zhi He Shang), who taught him the philosophy of the Tantra (密宗 – Mi Zong) School, and advised him how to practice its methods. This process began when Master Ben Ji was 19 years old. At the age of 25 years old, the Tantric Master Ju Zhi officiated over Master Ben Ji’s full ordination (受戒 – Shou Jie). Master Ben Ji studied the Tantric Method of Buddhism for 6 years in the Green Jade Stone Temple (翠石院 – Cui Shi Yuan), situated on Mount Ling Zhi (灵石山 – Ling Zhi Shan). Only after this preparatory period of training in the Tantric School did Master Ben Ji enter the path of Ch’an.
The Chinese Tantric Buddhism (怛特羅佛教 – Da Te Luo Fo Jiao) that Master Ben Ji practised originated in India and spread directly to China around to 230 CE, reaching a new peak during the 8th century CE. It is often generally referred to as a ‘Secret Mahayana Buddhism’ (秘密大乘佛教 – Mi Mi Da Shang Fo Jiao), but has a number of different names in China such as the ‘Hidden Sect’ (密宗 – Mi Zong), ‘Secret Hidden Teaching’ (秘密教 – Mi Mi Jiao), ‘Secret Hidden Vehicle’ (秘密乘 – Mi Mi Cheng), ‘Hidden Vehicle’ (密乘 – Mi Cheng), ‘Diamond Vehicle’ [i.e. ‘Vajrayana’] (金刚乘 – Jin Gang Cheng), ‘Mantra Vehicle’ (真言乘 - Zhen Yan Cheng), ‘Yoga Hidden Teaching’ (瑜伽密教 – Yo Jia Mi Jiao), and ‘Mantra Lineage’ (真言宗 – Zhen Yan Zong). This school appears to be an integration of Indian Brahmanism and Buddhism, and emphasises mantra recitation, visualisation, complex rituals and practises, and secret initiations. Chinese Tantric Buddhism has both ‘direct’ and ‘gradual’ pathways to enlightenment which contain clear and concise instruction. The Tantric teachings seek to penetrate the veil of illusion that prevents direct perception of the empty void that underlies all phenomena, through many and varied techniques. This clarity of direction may well have influenced Master Ben Ji in his later contributions to the Liang Jie Sect of Ch’an Buddhism regarding his innovations concerning the ‘Five Positions’.
Whilst discussing the Cao Dong School of Ch’an, Charles Luk stated:
‘The founders of this sect were Master Liang Chiai of Tung Shan and his disciple Pen Chi of Ts’ao Shan. In deference to them they were called after their mountains. Their sect strictly speaking should be called Tung Ts’ao, but Ts’ao Shan has a better rhythm.’ 
It is curious that the school of Master Liang Jie and Master Ben Ji has become universally known as ‘Cao Dong’, and not ‘Dong Cao’ as would be the proper and respectful name arrangement. To place Master Ben Ji’s name before that of Master Liang jie, within the Confucian system of respect, would be to turn things upside down and the wrong way around, and imply that Master Ben Ji was more important (or at least chronologically ‘earlier’) than Master Liang Jie. This would be as absurd as assuming that a ‘son’ was born before his own ‘father’. As this is obviously not the intention of the name arrangement of ‘Cao Dong’ (as nowhere in Chinese language source material is it suggested that Ben Ji was more important than Liang Jie), another logical reason must be found for its use. Charles Luk suggests that it is a matter of ‘rhythm’ within the use of the Chinese language, but again if this was the only reason for altering the importance of generational lineages, then the disrespect throughout traditional Chinese culture would be endemic, and the feudal system of Confucian social order (both inside and outside the family) would collapse. Although it is arguable whether ‘Cao Dong’ has a better rhythm than ‘Dong Cao’ to native Chinese speakers, the fact remains that there are many name combinations throughout Chinese culture similar to that of ‘Dong Cao’, where the rhythm of the arrangement is absolutely irrelevant to the meaning being conveyed. Therefore, although the explanation given by Charles Luk for the word arrangement of ‘Cao Dong’ is interesting, it must also be considered not entirely adequate.
A logical explanation (within the Confucian model of social and generational order) for the name of a student to be placed before that of the master, is if that student’s name also represents a more prominent ancestor from an earlier time. Master Liang Ji ordained at the famous Shaolin Temple in Henan province, and his biography makes no direct reference to him visiting any shrines or temples dedicated to the Sixth Patriarch of Ch’an – Hui Neng (惠能) - although of course it is true that he practised and passed on exactly the same Ch’an Dharma. This would suggest that Master Liang Jie was not responsible for calling his Ch’an lineage ‘Cao Dong’, and that this convention probably developed after his death. Within Charles Luk’s English translation of Master Ben Ji’s biography, the following is stated:
‘The master then went to Ts’ao Ch’I to pay reverence to the (Sixth) Patriarch’s stupa and proceeded to Chi Shui where students who had heard of his erudition, came to follow him and requested him to expound the Dharma. Because of his reverence for the Sixth Patriarch, he named the mountain Ts’ao Shan.’
Master Ben Ji visited the Baolin Temple (寶林寺 – Bao Lin Si) situated in the Caoxi (漕溪) area of northern Guangdong province. This was re-named as the Nanhua Temple (南華寺 – Nan Hua Si) in 968 CE by Song Dynasty Emperor Taizong. This is the temple where Hui Neng once lived and taught, and where his mummified body has sat upright for centuries in the cross-legged meditation posture. After this, Master Ben Ji travelled to Mount He Yu in Jiangxi province – a place that he re-named ‘Mount Cao’ (i.e. ‘Cao Shan’). This appears to have been out of respect for the Sixth Patriarch, but the designation became synonymous with Ben Ji himself, and was used as part of the official name for Master Liang Jie’s lineage of Ch’an Buddhism. However, as Master Ben Ji used this name out of respect for Hui Neng, it was placed before that of Master Liang Jie to denote the fact that the Sixth Patriarch existed prior to Master Liang Jie, and was in fact the architect of the very Ch’an that Master Liang Jie propagated. This means that ‘Cao Dong’ has a double meaning with one interpretation taking precedence over the other. On the one hand it refers to the combined efforts of Master Liang Jie and Master Ben Ji to propagate the Ch’an doctrine, whilst on the other it denotes that the Sixth Patriarch Hui Neng was the prominent ancestor of both of these later Ch’an masters. The name ‘Cao Dong’ therefore does not refer to Master Ben Ji being more important or prominent than his teacher Master Liang Jie, but instead refers to the Sixth Patriarch as being the historical teacher of both Master Liang Jie and Master Ben Ji, and in this qualified context, is correct. This connection is reinforced by the geographical association of Master Ben Ji with Caoxi – an association that enabled the name ‘Cao’ to be used in describing the Ch’an lineage of Master Liang Jie.
‘After staying on Mount He Yu (i.e. the re-named ‘Cao Shan’ in the Fuzhou area of Jiangxi province) a number of disciples gathered around Master Ben Ji and asked for instruction. However, as the area was infected with bandits and thieves, Master Ben Ji moved to the Yihuang (宜黃) area of Jiangxi province, where the disciple named Wang Ruoyi (王若一) offered him the Wang Daoist Temple (王觀 – Wang Guan) as his home. Master Ben Ji became the ‘Head Monk’ (住持 – Zhu Chi) of this temple and renamed it ‘Lotus Jade’ (荷玉 – He Yu). After this, his Ch’an Sect flourished.’
Master Dong Shan Liang Jie devised the Five Positions of Ruler and Minister, and within his recorded sayings he states the following reasoning behind this system:
‘The six lines of the Chung Li Hexagram Representing the intermutable real and seeming, Are interlaid to establish a triple basis Which transforms into five positions.’
However, within many versions of the Chinese language source texts relating to Master Liang Jie’s Dharma-words, depictions of hexagrams, trigram, diagrams, or shaded roundels used to describe the Five Positions are not included, despite the fact that he clearly laid the foundation for this system in his Precious Mirror Samadhi gatha and other philosophical utterances. In Ch’an and Zen Teachings – Second Series, Charles Luk translates Master Liang Jie’s biography from the Chinese source text entitled ‘The Finger Pointing at the Moon’, and suggests that Master Liang Jie used hexagrams and trigrams to describe his Five Positions teaching, whilst his disciple - Master Ben Ji – added five shaded roundels to supplement this schematic and in so doing, brought further meaning and clarification to the system. This is essentially correct and provides a modern Ch’an practitioner with all the fully developed Cao Dong thinking – but from many of the Chinese language source texts, however, it is often implied (but not openly stated for reasons of respect) that Master Ben Ji - using Master Liang Jie’s instructions - developed the hexagram, trigram, shaded roundel and inter-laid diagram symbolism that later became synonymous with Master Liang Jie’s teachings, and the Cao Dong School in general. In other words, Master Liang Jie invented the philosophical foundation for the Five Positions teaching, but it was Master Ben Ji who added and completed the visual symbolism. This suggests that Master Ben Ji’s importance lies not only in his complete enlightenment and inheritance of the teachings of Master Liang Jie, but also in his ability to fully ‘complete’ the Five Positions teaching. His ability to interpret Master Liang Jie’s instructions through the use of the hexagrams and trigrams from the Book of Change, whilst adding the shaded roundels that became popular from the latter Tang Dynasty onwards, may well have been due to his Confucian past, as it is well-known that the neo-Confucians of the time studied the Book of Change and made ample use of roundel symbolism. Without Master Ben Ji’s vital contribution in this area, it is doubtful that the teachings of Master Liang Jie would have become as famous as they did. Charles Luk presents these diagrams as:
This schemata is also referred to as the Five Ranks of Prince and Minister which reflects the nature of the feudal society within which Ch’an Master Ben Ji lived. His method of teaching Ch’an involved the clear distinguishing of the ‘void’ from the ‘form’ so that delusion can be left behind and the empty mind ground fully penetrated with developed insight. This requires at its highest level the integration of the void and the form.
‘In reply to a monk’s question on the meaning of the Five Positions of Prince and Minister, the master said: “The real is the void in which essentially there is not a thing; the seeming is the realm of forms in which there are myriads of appearances; the real comprising the seeming is the real shifting to the seeming; the seeming comprising the real is the return of illusions to the real; and inclusive integration is response from the invisible, free from existence and being neither pure nor impure and neither real nor seeming. This is what is called the immaterial and profound Great Tao of the non-grasping True Sect.”’
For Master Ben Ji, the path of Ch’an is not obscured through mystery or religious vagary. Attainment through the Ch’an method is easily discernible in theory and realisable in fact. This may be an influence from his earlier ‘Tantric’ training which used many techniques to realise underlying emptiness, whilst advocating the integration of this realised emptiness with ordinary phenomena as its highest ideal. The Five Positions of Cao Dong Ch’an contain one another and are not definite, separate, or distinct stages of attainment isolated from one another. The Five Positions are in reality how the human mind appears to a practitioner who is observing the mind’s activity as it appears to the mind’s eye. Initially there is the confusion of endless thoughts traversing the surface of the mind (the ‘seeming’). When the thoughts ‘still’ a state of relative emptiness is realised (which is often mistaken for full enlightenment). However, in this state there is still a duality in operation between the ‘observer’ and the ‘observed’. What is not yet understood is that which is seen as ‘emptiness’ on the surface of the mind is actually only a reflection of the true nature of the mind’s eye itself. When absolute void is realised the false dichotomy between ‘observer’ and ‘observed’ falls away and the mind’s awareness expands and becomes all-embracing. This is the integration of the void and the form. Master Ben Ji explains:
‘One day, the master came to the monks’ quarters where he went to the stove to warm himself. One of them said: “It is very cold today.” The master replied: “You should know there is one who does not feel the cold.” The monk asked: “Who is the one who does not feel the cold?” With the fire tongs, the master picked up a piece of charcoal and showed it to the monk who said: “Do not say that there is no one (who understands this).” The master threw down the tongs and the monk said: “When I come to this, I do not understand (anything).” The master said: “When it shines on a cold pool, the bright sun becomes brighter.”’
This is the use of the gong-an method to reveal the reality of the Five Positions. Master Ben Ji continuously teaches from the position of the ‘prince’ or ‘host’ and he continuously uses natural circumstances to reveal the underlying empty reality. Like the Tantric School, the Ch’an School advocates that all phenomena shares a common and empty underlying reality that can be skilfully revealed by an enlightened master. This is despite the fact that many practitioners feel that they must go to a special place (like a temple or monastery), wear distinctive clothing and behave in a certain manner, to realise a spiritual reality. For Master Ben Ji, the realisation of enlightenment is a practical affair with easily recognisable degrees of attainment. This means that the Ch’an School, although ‘Buddhist’ in origination, uses a method of clearly identifiable attainment explained through the symbology of the Cao Dong School. This appears in essence to be a distilling of the wisdom of the Buddha into its bare essentials. Whereas the Buddha taught his method of mind development for over 40 years, and across a broad social strata, the Ch’an tradition preserves the basis of that insight without recourse to elaboration. Therefore, the Ch’an method has less explaining and more practical and immediate direction than many other schools of Buddhism that are premised around a broad explanation of the Dharma. As non-substantiality is the key to understanding what the Buddha was conveying, this is interpreted by the Ch’an masters as being the very real realisation and understanding of the ‘void’ or ‘empty mind’. It is not an idea in the mind, which is just more movement on the surface, but is in fact an actual realisation of a spaciousness of consciousness that has been explained by Master Ben Ji through his devising of shaded roundels. Enlightenment for the Cao Dong masters is not a matter of definite stages that are self-contained and isolatory in nature, but is rather a matter of intensity and clarity of insight. This is because the five roundels perform a function very similar to that of a ‘mandala’ used within the Tantric School, and which represent different aspects of consciousness through their differing colour schemes and distinctive designs. The roundels of Master Ben Ji, however, are designed to reveal ‘void’ and ‘form’ rather than the numerous levels of consciousness that intercede between these two expressions. This is because the different level of consciousness (that are not ‘void’) represent more ‘movement’ of the surface mind, and therefore are obscurations to realising the underlying, empty mind ground. In this context, regular mandalas signify subtle aspects of ‘form’ and not ‘void’. This understanding demonstrates that ‘movement’ within the mind, although a matter of mobile consciousness, is nevertheless understood to be a manifestation of very subtle and obscuring ‘form’. This is why the ‘Ch’an method seeks to ‘still’ the mind as a major breakthrough to the realisation of full enlightenment. The Cao Dong Symbolism is often represented in Chinese language sources as:
As Master Ben Ji was a Confucian scholar, it is entirely possible that he formulated the use of the idea of shaded roundels from the neo-Confucian movement that peaked during the Song Dynasty with the work of such scholars as Zhou Dunyi (周敦頤). For instance, the famous so-called ‘Yin Yang Symbol’ (太極圖 – Tai Ji Tu) is thought to have developed around 960 CE - or during the end of the Tang and beginning of the Song Dynasty. The neo-Confucians stated that they acquired their roundel symbolism from Daoism during the Tang Dynasty, particularly from a Daoist ascetic known as Chen Tuan (陳摶). However, the Mizong teachings are probably responsible for how Master Ben Ji used the shaded roundels to reveal 'void' and 'form' rather than merely representing a Daoist or Confucian idea of energy transformation representing a cycle of birth, life, decline, death and re-becoming. Master Ben Ji is of the opinion that the roundels reflect what is seen in the mind when meditating – and this interpretation is in inaccordance with the idea that mandala images are presentations of different patterns of consciousness, that through the skilful manipulation of a master, all lead back to fundamental emptiness. In this sense, the shaded roundels of Master Ben Ji do not represent a cycle of life (even though the roundels are superficially similar to those used within Daoism and Confucianism), but represent a clear distinction about what is ‘void’ and what is ‘form’ (or ‘ignorance’ within the unenlightened state). When Master Ben Ji’s background is taken into account, it can be stated that the structure of the shaded roundels are of Daoist and Confucian origination, whilst their distinctive use within Cao Dong Ch’an is of Chinese Tantric origination. An example of a ‘roundel’ orientated mandala from the Chinese Tantric School is as follows:
Whereas the Daoist and Confucian roundel systems represent how energy is formulated and constitutes the physical world (traversing through it in repetitive cycles) – Master Ben Ji’s use of roundel symbolism represents the ‘witness’ to this process or ‘void’ aspect of conscious awareness. The ‘void’ is that substance which cannot be reduced any further, and which ‘witnesses’ the unfolding of phenomena (represented by the Daoist and Confucian roundel systems). In this respect it is the primordial void from which all things appear to manifest from, and return to. Master Ben Ji does not settle for simply explaining how energy unfolds through physical matter, but instead focuses upon the ‘root perception’ that lies just behind the surface inter-play of events. Although the origin of the use of shaded roundels within Chinese culture probably lies within the phases of the moon as recorded within Chinese astronomy, Master Ben Ji ignores the easily observable outer cycle of events, and instead directs the perceptual attention directly back toward its psycho-physical origination. This distinct approach to spiritual development also modifies the Tantric use of the mandala image by focusing entirely upon the realisation of the primordial void without becoming entwined in the often elaborate and sophisticated Buddhistic imagery associated the esoteric path. Therefore, Master Ben Ji’s approach to Ch’an is a direct path to complete enlightenment that does not fall into the trap of gradualism. The five roundels are not separate stages, but instead represents the ever sharpening clarification of enlightened wisdom. Instantaneous enlightenment sees through all five roundels at once (thus rendering the schematic immediately redundant), so that no dualistic distinctions remains.
Referring to the ‘void’ as the ‘prince’, and the ‘form’ as the ‘Minister’, this is how Master Ben Ji describes each of the Five Positions:
‘A monk asked the master: “What is prince?” The master replied:
“Virtue that is wondrous is honoured by the world. Lofty enlightenment brightens the (void of) space.”
The monk asked: “What is minister?” The master replied:
“A spiritual motive spreads the holy Tao, True wisdom works for the welfare of all being.”
The monk asked: “What is minister turning to prince?” The master replied:
“Freedom from clinging to all contraries Turns all feelings to the saintly.”
The monk asked the master: “What is the prince looking at the minister?” The master replied:
“Bearing that’s unexcelled is immutable, Yet in essence does it shine impartially.”
The monk asked: “What is harmony between prince and minister?” The master replied:
“Their union is neither within nor without (And) their harmony is perfect evenness.”’
Even though ‘ignorance’ is clearly distinguished from ‘enlightenment’, nevertheless, the Ch’an teaching of Master Ben Ji emphasises that even the state of ignorance has enlightenment as its base, and all a practitioner has to do is realise this fact here and now. However, this is not a mere intellectual accommodation of the ‘idea’, but is rather the consequence of a profound, deep and permanent ‘breakthrough’ into the underlying primordial void that contains all things. This is why it is not enough simply to intellectually understand what Master Ben Ji is indicating through his Dharma-words, as such a superficial understanding is still firmly within the realm of the ‘minister’ or unenlightened position. An enlightened dialogue between Master Ben Ji and an enquirer illustrates this point:
‘(A monk) asked the master: “With what man of Tao should one be intimate to obtain everlasting hearing (even) before hearing a thing?” The master replied: “(Both are) under the same quilt.” The monk asked: “This is what the Venerable Sir can hear, but what is everlasting hearing (even) before a thing is heard?” The master replied: “It is different from a piece of wood and a stone.” The monk asked: “Which one is before or after the other?” The master asked back: “Have you not read (the saying) hearing before a thing is heard?”’
The monk enquires about that which underlies the perception of sound (because it is exactly the same empty essence that underlies all six senses), but gets confused about the ‘void’, the ‘form’ and the ‘integration’ of the two. Even at this level of understanding the intellect is still active and has not been transformed into wisdom (or ‘prajna’). What seems illogical to the intellect makes perfect sense to the enlightened mind, and the fact that this ‘language of the uncreate’ (无生话 – Wu Sheng Hua) is unintelligible is an indicator that the enquiring mind is still inverted and suffering from delusion. The ‘language of the uncreate’ refers to the unique manner in which Chinese Ch’an masters use conditioned language in a non-conditioned manner. Or at least in a manner that deconstructs all conditioned usage. The ‘uncreate’ means that the language is used without ‘giving birth’ to duality and the ignorance premised upon it. An enlightened Ch’an master not only understands this language without prompting, but is able to express any concept with its usage. This is a special language that conforms to stage five of Master Ben Ji’s schematic which is termed ‘host in host’. At this high level of development, the ‘void’ and ‘form’ have been thoroughly explored, transcended and integrated, so that the underlying and empty mind ground (空心地 – Kong Xin Di) that contains all things is the only reality. When it came time to leave his body, Master Ben Ji gave his last instructions, lit incense and sat cross-legged in the upright meditation position. He passed away in his 62nd year of age, with a Dharma-age of 37 years. His body was buried on the Western edge of the mountain.
 This discrepancy within Chinese texts is believed to be a copying error that mistakes the correct ideogram ‘元’ (Yuan) or ‘first year of an emperor’s reign’, with that of the incorrect ideogram三’ (San) or ‘3’.
 曹山本寂禅师 http://baike.baidu.com/view/794974.htm. Master Ben Ji was also known as Ch’an Master Miao Ying (妙应禅师 – Miao Ying Ch’an Shi) or ‘Ch’an Master Excellent Conveyor’, and Patriarch Fu Hu 伏虎祖师 – Fu Hu Zu Shi) or ‘ Patriarch Crouching Tiger’. The latter name stems from a story that during his life, Master Ben Ji was able to tame, and then ride on the back of a tiger. Accessed 25.3.2016
 密宗 https://zh.wikipedia.org/wiki/密宗 Accessed 30.3.2016. This is the Chinese language encyclopaedia page that explore ‘Tantra’ (密宗 – Mi Zong) in China as well as its developmental history in India.
 Luk, Charles, Ch’an and Zen Teaching – Second Series, Rider, (1987) - Page 127. This is from the introduction to the chapter concerning the life of Ch’an Master Liang Jie. Charles Luk is using the old Wade-Giles system of rendering the sounds of Chinese ideograms into English. With the advent and spread of modern Pinyin – this Wade-Giles system is now redundant. As a consequence, readers may take ‘Liang Chiai’ as ‘Liang Jie’, and ‘Ts’ao Shan’ as ‘Cao Shan’. However, regardless of the system of Romanisation used, the information contained in this text is considered accurate in China and throughout the Chinese diaspora.
 Ibid – Page 158. In Footnote No. 3, Charles Luk states ‘The name Ts’ao Shan derives from Ts’ao Ch’I, the place where the monastery of the Sixth Patriarch was erected by an Indian master in the fifth century.’
曹山本寂禪師 http://www.suttaworld.org/ancient_t/wdhy/5latu13.htm - Five Lamps Meeting at the Source Accessed 4.4.2016. This is the Chinese language biography of Master Ben Ji that includes his roundel representation in both visual depiction and explanation in the words. See ‘復作五相： ●、偈曰：「白衣須拜相，此事不為奇。積代簪纓者，休言落魄時。」 (註:上半黑,下半白) ●、偈曰：「子時當正位，明正在君臣。未離兜率界，烏雞雪上行。」 (註:上半白,下半黑) ⊙、偈曰：「燄裡寒冰結，楊花九月飛。泥牛吼水面，木馬逐風嘶。」 ○、偈曰：「王宮初降日，玉兔不能離。未得無功旨，人天何太遲。」 ●、偈曰：「渾然藏理事，眹兆卒難明。威音王未曉，彌勒豈惺惺。」 稠布衲問：「披毛帶角是甚麼墮？」師曰：「是類墮。」曰：「不斷聲色是甚麼 墮？」師曰：「是隨墮。」’
 Luk, Charles, Ch’an and Zen Teaching – Second Series, Rider, (1987) – Page 151. This is Footnote 1, and the symbology is not included in the body of text describing Master Liang Jie life. The complete symbology also appears on Page 127 – or the first page of Master Liang Jie’s biography. Charles Luk seems to have taken the completed symbology as formulated by Master Ben Ji and positioned it in Master Liang Jie’s biography for sake of clarity and to assist those engaged in the meditative study of the Cao Dong texts. By comparison, Charles Luk only includes the five shaded roundels in Master Ben Ji’s biography (see pages 160-161). For an indepth study of the teaching of the Five Positions, please reference my published article: Cao Dong Enlightenment - The Five Positions of Ruler and Minister Accessed 1.4.2016
 Ibid – Page 159.
 Luk, Charles, Ch’an and Zen Teaching – Second Series, Rider, (1987) – Page 165-166.
'Licchavi Vimalakirti came to the foot of that tree and said to me, ’Reverend Sariputra, this is not the way to absorb yourself in contemplation. You should absorb yourself in contemplation so that neither body nor mind appear anywhere in the triple world. You should absorb yourself in contemplation in such a way that you can manifest all ordinary behavior without forsaking cessation. You should absorb yourself in contemplation in such a way that you can manifest the nature of an ordinary person without abandoning your cultivated spiritual nature.' Vimalakirti Nirdesa Sutra