Huike, the Second Chan Patriarch

(This article was published in the Shenzhen Daily on June 5, 2017.)

The modern Erzu Temple at the foot of Sikong Mountain

Bodhidharma's successor has no less dramatic a story than the First Patriarch himself.

Dazu Huike ("The Great Ancestor who is Certainly Wise") had been a scholar of both Buddhist and Daoist writings until, around age 40, he met his Master. Some say he was already enlightened before the meeting, but the first encounter did not go smoothly.

Bodhidharma was still in his cave above Shaolin Temple, concentrating on his nine-year discipline. Having been refused an audience, Huike demonstrated his sincerity by cutting off his arm and offering it to the Master. A modern statue at Erzu Temple in Anhui depicts the Second Patriarch with one hand raised as in half a greeting--like the sound of one hand clapping!

A number of exchanges between Master and student (who was later master to the Third Patriarch) have been recorded. In one, Huike begged of Bodhidharma, "My mind is in turmoil. Please pacify it."

"Bring it to me," Bodhidharma replied, "and I will."

But Huike replied, "I have searched and searched, but cannot find it."

"There!" said Bodhidharma replied, "I have pacified it!"

After receiving the robe and bowl from his Master (who, legend says, was later seen walking back to India--three years after his death and burial at Shaolin Temple), Huike spent most of his life in Yedu, Henan. But in one tumultuous period, he fled to remote Sikong Mountain, where he meditated in a cave. Modern Erzu Temple is now located at the foot of that mountain.

He died at age 105 or 106; one source says he was executed because other Buddhist teachers were jealous of his popularity.

A statue at Erzu Temple shows Huike offering a one-handed greeting.

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