Huineng's "Refuge Rock"

(This article was published in the Shenzhen Daily on August 15, 2016.)

Marks in the niche in "Refuge Rock" said to be made by Huineng's robe

Including some areas to its north and south, Shaoguan in Guangdong is "Huineng Country." The Sixth Patriarch was born and died south of Zhaoqing, and was ordained at the Fifth Patriarch's temple in Huangmei County, Hubei. Shaoguan lies between the two.

His ordination by the Fifth Patriarch, Hongren, had been controversial. Though an illiterate kitchen worker, his grasp of Chan surpassed that of Hongren's brightest pupil. After Huineng bested the "favored pick" in a contest demanding a poetic expression of key Chan concepts, Hongren ordained him secretly in the middle of the night, and counseled him to flee.

For many years, Huineng hid in the mountains of northern Guangdong. At last, he appeared at Guangxiao Temple in Guangzhou to be tonsured, taking his rightful place as Sixth Patriarch.

Nevertheless, even after his seat was established at Shaoguan's Nanhua Temple, there was a faction in the sangha (the body of monks) who continued to try to unseat him. He fled again into the mountains, but his pursuers were wily, and set the mountain on fire. The Master sat quietly in meditation in a niche in the rock while the fire burned around him.

Today, the Refuge Rock can still be seen. Ridges in the rock, and stripes of red coloration, are understood to be the marks from the Master's robe, imprinted by the heat as the fire surrounded him.

I, too, walked from Nanhua Temple, just as Huineng did. After losing my way, and stopping at a farmhouse for directions, I finally arrived at a small walled compound, and found the rock there just as it was described.

No comments:

Post a Comment