A Brief Introduction to the Official Website of Buddhist Yogi C. M. Chen
Most of Yogi Chen's works are in Chinese, hence his
Homepage consists mainly of information in Chinese. To facilitate visitors
who are not familiar with Chinese, this English version is provided, within
which only works in English are mentioned.
A Brief Introduction of Buddhist Yogi C. M. Chen
Yogi Chen (1906-1987) learned and practiced Hinayana, Mahayana and Vajrayana
Buddhism under the guidance of 37 Buddhist teachers. He traveled to Tibet
and Xi Kang (Kham) to study Tantric Buddhism for five years. He practiced
solitary retreat in two caves for three years in Hunan, China. He was
in retreat in one room for 25 years in Kalimpong, India. In 1972 he was
invited to Berkeley, California, USA, and stayed there till his Parinirvana.
For a brief but in depth autobiography of Yogi Chen, please read the Introduction to
his work Buddhist Meditation.
He conducted many tantric rituals to benefit all beings and distributed
freely books and booklets in English and Chinese to Buddhist organizations
and individuals all over the world for over thirty years. Based on
his life-long devoted practice and service, Yogi Chen attained deep
spiritual accomplishments and unifies the three yanas by his insight
of the theory and practice of Buddha Dharma. His works encompass teachings
and practices of Hinayana, Mahayana and Vajrayana. He provides many
direct, succinct but in-depth teachings based on his own experiences.
"The Complete Works of Yogi Chen" has been edited by his disciple
Dr. Lin and is authorized by Dr. Lin to be published and sold at cost
by Yuan Ming Publications, Taipei, Taiwan. Currently the first 24 volumes
of the whole 37 volume set are in print and they are all in Chinese.
After the publishing of the first 24 volumes, Dr. Lin has stopped supporting
this project because of the disappointing progress by Yuan Ming Publications.
Compilation of Yogi Chen's Collected Works has been done up to 48 volumes.
All works of Yogi Chen will gradually be made available on this website
in the future.
A Brief Introduction of Dr. Yutang Lin
Dr. Yutang Lin is a Chinese American born in Taiwan. He received his Ph. D. in Logic and the Methodology of Science from University of California, Berkeley in 1983. He began to serve and follow Guru Chen in 1980 and remained a faithful attendant until Guru Chen's Nirvana in 1987. After he received his degree from UC a heavenly voice advised him to stay in USA so as to propagate the Dharma more widely in the long run. Continuing Guru Chen's Dharma activities he dedicated his body and mind solely to the practice, service and propagation of Dharma. Following the footsteps of Guru Chen he conducts fire pujas, offering of vases to the Dragon King, Powa service in cemeteries, releasing of lives, and gives Dharma talks upon invitation at various places in USA, Malaysia, and Taiwan. He had printed many Dharma works in Chinese and English that were written by Guru Chen or himself for free distribution. He also printed many holy images and mantra sheets for free distribution. He provides free Powa service to all requests. His works use simple language to clarify the essences of Dharma teachings, and emphasize solid practices.
You may contact him through the following E-mail addresses:
Dr. Lin's recent books are as follows :
- A Golden Ring-An Introduction to Buddhist Meditation
- Paths to the Lotus Pond
- Singing Along the Path
- Teachings on Avalokitesvara
- Sadhana of Medicine Guru Buddha
A Talk by the
Buddhist Yogi C. M. CHEN
Written Down by
REVEREND B. KANTIPALO
First Published in 1967
NAMO TASSO BHAGAVATO
The sun shone down brilliantly upon the town of Kalimpong and seemed
by its shining to approve the project that day begun. For this was also
concerned with illumination. That is, a book not merely upon the theories
of meditation, of which there are many already, but written on the practice
of Buddhist sadhana. This is indeed an aspect covered much less thoroughly.
In this book, the words of our Buddhist yogi, Chien-Ming Chen, have first
been noted down and particular care taken to preserve something of his
original expressions and peculiar style. So that nothing is missed, two
persons have met him every week, one listened, that is Venerable Sanghrakshita
Sthavira, and another recorded, that is the writer. The next day, the
subject still being fresh in the mind, these notes were converted into
a rough draft which then was given to the Ven. Sthavira for his comments.
After revising as he suggested they were typed and then taken along to
the next meeting with Mr. Chen. He read them carefully adding or deleting
material where necessary, resulting in a final manuscript which is certainly
well-checked and we hope, an accurate presentation of the Buddha’s
Teachings and Mr. Chen’s practical experience of these.
And now, having told the reader something about the origin of this book,
let us in mind go back to that first meeting, not indeed the first between
the cooperators producing this but first specifically concerning this
work. To find Mr. Chen might be difficult enough unless one knew the
way. Not that he lives now in some remote mountain cave or inaccessible
hermitage, but because the crowded, narrow and rather steep streets of
Kalimpong diving from one level to another would confuse most in their
search. To reach our yogi one descends these streets to lower and lower
levels and passing through a crowded neighborhood predominantly inhabited
by poor Tibetans, one comes to a row of prayer flags. In front of his
hermitage is a large farm of the Agriculture Department which presents
a beautiful landscape from his south window. As he says, poems already
made by nature when viewed from this window have inspired him many times.
When he arrived here, before the influx of Tibetan refugees into Kalimpong,
his house was quite isolated and from the lower ground of the farm grew
up to the height of his window five trees used as a Bodhi-tree substitute
in China. Those were foreseen by our yogi in the light of his concentration,
before he came to Kalimpong. Moreover, they were exactly the height of
the Buddha, that is sixteen feet according to Chinese belief. They were
more than an auspicious sign for him; their deep meaning being that just
as the Panca Tathagata emanate from Vajrasattva, so these five Buddha-symbols
stood below his hermitage. Therefore he composed the following poem:
Half straggling town-end, half extensive farm:
Between, a hermitage we see appear.
Who ranged five trees below of Buddha’s height?
I come, yet no new work awaits me here!
And so the hermitage, so favorably situated, was called by our yogi, “The
Five Leguminous Tree Hermitage.” These trees have now suffered
the destroying hand of man but in their place five bamboo poles fly their
printed flags of prayers. Now we are there, a few steps climbed, a back
door gently tapped and there is Mr. Chen, his face round and smiling
welcoming us courteously with little bows. He motions us to sit in a
small room, one of the two which he rents, and kindly provides us with
a little refreshment before his talk begins. On this first occasion,
it was decided that an outline of his biography would be a good introduction
to his explanation of practice and realization. At five o’clock
we began, the sounds of a Tibetan Bhikshu’s puja in a nearby house
drifts in through the window, a drum beaten, a voice lowly chanting...
Let Mr. Chen introduce his own life story:
Autobiography is based on the “I,” but in practice no “I”
is found, so why should we deal with it? All that we can talk about is
a certain mass passing through a period of time and being constantly
identified as the same person. Though I have practiced meditation for
more than twenty years, still no “I”
has been discovered; while on the other hand voidness does not mean nothing.
I dare not say that although I have lived in Kalimpong that any “I” has
lived here and experienced all that time, for all is changing from minute
to minute. Even the space of Kalimpong occupied never is the same, as
our globe is always moving. I dare not say that I have been a hermit
for so long since impermanence applies both to subject and object. It
is really impossible to talk definitely of either.
But one lives from day to day and traces remain; life is just a continuous
mass of traces with nothing that can be held to either by you or by me.
But just as the Bodhisattva went to Vimalakirti and there was nothing
to talk on but you have come so far and all this is at command. Under
such a glorified condition of you, how could I keep in silence? In the
Tibetan tradition, biographies are divided into four parts and as our
time is limited, I shall try to compress an outline of everything under
these four headings: Outward, Inward, Secret, and Most Secret. Mr. Chen
smiled and got up from his little wicker stool to take some letters handed
by a young postman through the open window. He had helped the young man,
a new neighbor of his, with some money and cooking utensils. Now, leaving
his letters till later, Mr. Chen sat down and resumed his tale:
A. Outward Biography
The outward biography concerns family, renunciation, and impermanence
and about these I shall give a brief sketch not because it is about “I” but
from gratitude, as a blessing of the Buddhas that I was born in such
Before my birth, my mother during both day and night saw before her
inner eye a large sun shining in her throat; but when a doctor was consulted,
this symptom was not traced to any known disease and indeed my mother
was perfectly healthy. The young Chen was born covered by an unbroken
placenta and so undefiled by the mother’s blood. Nor did he cry
at birth as most children do. My mother noticed in my forehead a depression
between or a little above the eyes—an evil omen according to worldly
astrology standards but favorable sign for Bodhisattva. After giving
birth, my mother developed two extra breasts and I took milk from all
four. My father joked with her that she was just like an old sow.
There were eight in the family, four girls and four boys, and I was
the fourth. Even while I was young most of my brothers and sisters died
and for them my mother was often crying. One day, a blind, wandering
fortune-teller told my mother I too should have a short life and I overheard
him say that although I was the last son yet I should die early. Seeing
so much death and hearing this made me fear it very much. My mother loved
me deeply because she had lost so many of her children and feared to
see me die as well and still there were other troubles in our family.
My father not only took a second wife but was always running after the
wives of others. On women and drinking he spent the family’s money.
For these reasons I had two fears, death and poverty. So while I was
young, I saw that the world was very painful and remember once after
one of my parents’ frequent quarrels, that my father brought out
a knife threatening to kill my mother.
Seeing so much suffering in my youth, these words now came from a heart
knowing well the universality of duhkha and tears were in our yogi’s
During my young days I had the duty of looking after my old grandfather.
He had a shop and very early in the morning I would get up and go some
distance to open it. He became very fond of me because of my diligence
but as he grew older practically everything had to be done for him when
he became nearly blind, even to putting the lighted charcoal in his pipe.
The old man was always coughing and spitting for he had severe consumption
and, when I was ten, he died from this.
As a young prince, the Buddha-to-be saw the four great sights in the
city outside his home, but I saw three of them inside my own house. The
fourth, a bhikshu, I did not see at that time. I had no need to read
the Hinayana books to be convinced of the first Noble Truth of Duhkha;
it was my own early experience. But I could not give up the world in
any case as I had still to care for my parents, for there was no one
else to look after them.
B. Inward Biography
Here should begin the account of my inward biography dealing with the
mental training I received under the various teachers who guided me.
At that time there were no regular schools organized in China but fortunately
a rich man lived locally who could afford to employ a teacher well-versed
in the Confucian books. I was able to study with him and since my memory
was very flourishing then, I was always placed first out of ten boys.
We finished our study of four classics and afterward I went to the new
primary school opened in the town by the government. While this school
taught the usual range of subjects, young Chen liked the study and recited
with a teacher by the name of Mr. Lu Bo Wen, poems of ancient Luo Hong
Xian. He was a young man who had risen to great official eminence through
the ancient system of examinations in the Empire to become the Chief
Minister. After he had attained this he found his position unhappy and
wished only to renounce it together with fame and power, and go to live
as a hermit in the mountains. This he did, and his poems, teaching a
mixture of Taoism and Buddhism with much of his renunciation, were well
known and much appreciated.
I wished very much to renounce everything and follow his example, but
how could I? My mind was stirred, too, by masters at school, who said
I was clever but weak and would die soon. But I was only eleven at that
time and did not want to die so early. I studied very hard, sometimes
getting up in the middle of the night to begin, and to overcome my sleepiness,
I would smoke a village “cigarette” to wake me up. (But I
did not take it up as a habit). In this way I was always first in the
After attending the Primary and High Schools, I went for six years to
the Normal School in Changsha, the capital of Hunan. Since I had the
desire to learn everything, there was little I did not put my hands to,
even to playing the piano. No lights were available in my room and so
for long hours during the middle night I would study in the only place
where one was continually burning (the latrines). This told upon my health
and though my father said I should rest, I continued to work hard, I
was able in this way to graduate well and obtain a post as teacher in
the High School.
A meeting of the provincial educational committee was called in order
to select a secretary. There were 72 districts in the province and each
sent two candidates, thus 144 altogether competed for the job; but I
had the good fortune to succeed. The committee had the responsibility
for maintaining the provincial library and museum. The library here was
very extensive and I had the chance to read widely and to my liking were
the Taoist authors. They promised many different ways of prolonging life
the hope for which attracted me greatly.
The puja-drum outside had ceased its rhythmic beat, perhaps the Bhikshu
was taking a draught of well-earned tea. Mr. Chen also paused before
continuing while other sounds of his crowded neighbors, the cries of
babies, the shouts of women and children, sharply punctuated the quietness
of his hermitage. Mr. Chen has himself said that once he was in Shanghai
and attended a theatrical performance by the well known artist Dr. Mei
Lan Fang. While it was in progress he got a deep concentration, much
better than he had obtained living in a cave. Although he has some neighbors
living close to him their voices give him no trouble…. It is surely
only one very well-practiced in meditation who can ignore all this.
When I had read a good many Taoist books, I went one day to one of their
Divine Altars. The diviner in charge predicted that besides the mere
attainment of long life, I should become immortal if I practiced their
teachings. This was a turning point in my life, when my mind became less
concerned with worldly things.
The library also contained the works of Venerable Tai Xu, the vigorous
reformer of Chinese Buddhism and his works I read enthusiastically while
knowing but little of the real meaning of Buddhism. Ven. Tai Xu’s
writings were easy for the young and educated man to read as they contained
a blend of the modern scientific approach with ancient wisdom.
In the province of Hunan at that time there was no lay Buddhist organization
and progressively minded Upasakas desired very much that Ven. Tai Xu
come to assist them in forming an association and give them also the
benefits of his learning in lectures and advice. They urged me to write
on their behalf to invite the Venerable one, but I did not want to do
this since I knew little Buddhism. They persuaded me, however, and hesitatingly
I wrote. It seems the Venerable teacher liked my letter and in his reply
he gave me a Buddhist name—Fa Jian (Dharma-hero, Sovereign of the
Dharma). He did me a great honor by presenting two scrolls in his calligraphy
of Buddhist teaching and said that I should become his disciple. I was
really converted to Buddhism by him when he came to our town a month
or two later. I was privileged to work under him in the new Buddhist
College of which he was the founder.
Mr. Chen has very kindly amplified a portion of his life at this stage
by sending a letter in which he says:
During the period of my conversion, I began by studying the Avatamsaka
Sutra. I was especially interested in the chapter of that Sutra on pure
conduct. This chapter sets forth how daily life should be well accompanied
by the Bodhicitta (Wisdom & Mercy heart). To give two illustrations:
when we walk we should think of the sentient beings all walking on the
great path of Buddhism; when we sit we should wish that all sentient
beings are sitting on the Vajrasana (Diamond Seat) as well as Lord Buddha
and so all attaining final enlightenment. In this way almost every action
of our daily life is well accompanied by the Bodhicitta for the sentient
Once I had to print a certain book, and with a concentrated mind I wrote
out the whole of this chapter in good and vigorous style so that many
copies might be made for presentation to others. Since then I myself
have always used and followed these same gathas in my own life, well
preserving the precepts of the Bodhicitta and constantly accompanied
by the Bodhicitta itself. As a result of this I never cheated a person,
even a little boy. In my dreams I was praised by a demon of disease,
when I was cured of ringworm. He said that they feared me because I never
cheated my own mind.
To return to Mr. Chen in his little room. He said at this time: In spite
of my studies I was still wandering between Taoism and Buddhism. I thought
that the Hinayana was very good; but it could not prolong my life and
though I had taken the Buddhist Refuge (Sarana), I really broke these
when I met a Taoist Guru Li Long Tian, who I knew would give me instructions
on how to lengthen my life. This teacher had a face like a little boy,
although he was very old, he had taken no food for twenty years. I could
not believe this when I was told; but after living with him for a few
days, I saw for myself that it was true. He gave instructions which I
practiced and from them obtained good results.
After Ven. Tai Xu’s visit, the Buddhist Association in our capital
became very flourishing. A temple was constructed for the laymen where
the Pure Land tradition was followed. It was here that I read the Qi
Sha edition of the Tripitaka. At that time I knew only the Hinayana and
Mahayana and my practice was to take only a vegetable diet while living
apart from my wife.
Mr. Chen here described how the old tradition of Vajrayana in China
and which had flourished in the Tang Dynasty had quickly died out since
knowledge of it was restricted by imperial order. He then went on to
say that the present traditions of Vajrayana in China are all derived
from Tibetan sources. After this brief explanation, Mr. Chen was kind
enough to tell us something about his Vajrayana Gurus:
While I was working as secretary and teacher of the Middle school, I
met a teacher of the Gelugpa tradition, Gelu Rinpoche. His teaching in
accordance with his spiritual succession laid great emphasis upon Vinaya-observance
and the four foundations of practice. Since I could not accomplish these
while living amongst my family, I went to live in the shrine of my teacher’s
temple. In the course of two or three years, I managed to complete the
first three foundations. That is, I finished ten myriad prostrations,
I went for Refuge ten myriad times, made ten myriad repetitions of the
hundred-syllable-mantra of Vajrasattva as a confession of evil. To do
all this I used to get up at three o’clock in the morning and practice
until nine when it was time for me to teach. The fourth foundation of
practice I did not have time to complete in that place for it involves
the offering of the Mandala also ten myriad times. In that temple I only
managed one myriad Mandala-offerings and am still engaged in finishing
this practice. (Of course, even when these practices are not yet complete
it is usual to take up others more advanced in nature as Mr. Chen has
done.) Because of the good foundations then established, there have been
no obstacles for my practice later.
My teacher had heard of a great Hermit-Guru living in Jiang Xi province
who followed the teachings of the ancient ones (Nyingmapa). The hermit’s
name was Lola Hutuktu who, despite an official position in the Tibetan
government, lived the solitary life. When Gelu-guru went to visit him,
this hermit understood that although he seemed humble enough, pride was
strong in his mind for he had many disciples in different parts of China.
I thought he imparted some teachings to Gelu Rinpoche. The latter, on
his return, kept silent and would not pass on to us what he had received.
Seeing that I could not get further instructions from my father Gelugpa
Guru, I decided to go and find Lola Hutuktu myself. This I did in spite
of family difficulties. After I had left, taking with me a little money,
my wife came weeping to my Gelu guru telling him of lack of money in
the family but I felt worldly considerations of this sort must be put
aside for the time being and that it was most important to get teaching
from Ven. Lola. While I was with him, he gave me many instructions for
the practice of meditation including the Atiyoga doctrines of Mahamudra
and the great perfection. He could commonly tell events in the future
and predicted that I would have a daughter, telling me also to live with
my wife and take meat. He instructed as well that I should study Chan
because its realization went very deep.
When I came back from the hermitage of Lola Hutuktu, I was doubtful
on the point of how causation might also be void and how evil action
contains also the truth of voidness. I took advantage of three holidays
during the school’s spring vacation. For three days I confined
myself in a room of my school, fasting for this time and also keeping
my excrement in the room. I just meditated upon the truth. On the morning
of the third day, I suddenly saw the Iron Pagoda in South India. (The
Siddha Nagarjuna took out from the iron pagoda, the abode of Vajrasattva,
the texts of Mahavairocana Sutra and Vajrasekhara Sutra, and received
instructions from him) and at the same moment I determined that the truth
“all is this, no else talk.” Since then I have had no doubts
upon the Truth. So this is a little attainment of Right View (Samyak
Altogether I have had four kinds of gurus of which the first is called
the outward. Examples of outward gurus are my confucian and Taoist instructors.
Secondly, I have had many inward gurus teaching exoteric doctrines, the
first of these being the Ven. Tai Xu. With others I read the four different
editions of the Tripitakas concentrating on the Mahayana works. Even
when I first read the Diamond Sutra, I understood its meaning having
an insight into unity of the opposites. Many of these Mahayana and Vajrayana
gurus were seen by me in dreams and meditations; such are predestined
teachers linked to the pupil. In total I have had thirty-seven Buddhist
gurus but space does not permit me to describe them more, either their
characters or their doctrines.
Mr. Chen looked up as he said this, appearing to be a little thoughtful.
Now, he said, we come on to the third type of guru who gives one instruction
in meditation and in dreams. They are called secret or unworldly gurus;
for instance, Mahakala has given me many instructions.
Fourthly, there is the Guru of the Dharmakaya, which is the wisdom of
non-guru. This guru is not a personality, but out from it I have obtained
many teachings. Our yogi got up from his seat and went to a glass-fronted
cupboard which was packed with books. Taking out a good pile of books,
he brought them for us to see. In all there were twenty-two volumes,
each page covered with closely written Chinese characters. They are examples
of what the Tibetans call “Mind-Treasure,”
(Dutun) that is newly discovered spiritual instructions. They contain
teachings on a wide variety of subjects among which may be mentioned,
Mudra, Yantra, exercises for opening Cakras, Nadis, etc., and sometimes
practices are given for maintaining bodily health, as well as Charms.
These latter, Mr. Chen says, he has never imparted to others.
Our yogi then told us about two of the teachings received in this way.
The first concerned the initiation into meditation of the goddess Ekajata
which he had received but without being given the necessary mudra. This
was not described in any text, but was perceived by him in meditation.
He then demonstrated it to Bhadanta Sangharaksita who was also empowered
to practice this sadhana. The other mudra he showed on this occasion
is one of great use in modern travel, known as the White Umbrella sign
associated with the guardian deity Sitapatra Aparajita. It has been used
successfully by Mr. Chen to ensure safe air passage.
C. Secret Biography
The first two sections of this biography are now complete and we come
to the third division called “secret” where inspiration concerning
practical renunciation are the most important points, and it is necessary
to understand that we must get perfect renunciation and that our desire
to practice must always be strong. I will give an example of this. When
I was a teacher during the long summer vacation, I was able to practice
for two months as a hermit and again for one month during the winter
holidays. This I did for many years. When the time came to return to
school I always wept for during my work at school there was little time
for meditation. And yet I knew that I must earn money to support my aged
parents and my family. So what could I do? We have many lives and therefore
many parents and we should try to save them all, but in this life due
to bad actions in the past I was not able to free myself from my family.
Many times I tried to give up family life and be like the great Tibetan
solitary Milarepa but there was nobody to support mother, father and
family. Again I wanted very often to be a Bhikshu but could not leave
home due to worldly obligations.
At one time when I was half awake, the Dakini of Heruka came to me and
said, “Go to Si Chuan.” And so I went there, to get detailed
teachings of the Vajrayana. I could only go if there was some source
of income so it was fortunate that I got a chance just on the date after
I heard the Dakini’s command. A secretary of General Government
due to the war was evacuated there. I was promised to fill up in it.
When I arrived there, he was absent for seven days. I was without money,
so I used this opportunity for solitary meditation. While I meditated,
the five sisters, emanations of the Buddha Amitayus, told me to go to
Xi Kang but without support how could I go? When my superior returned,
I asked him if he would help me, and generously he gave me about $200
in Chinese money. With this I set out for Xi Kang where on the snow mountain
I received instruction from the famous Ganga Guru. I stayed with him
practicing his teachings constantly until my money ran out, in all one
hundred days. In a dream experienced in this place Karmapa Rinpoche appeared
to me and commanded me to come to him, but for this I would have tried
to go to Dege. For funds my guardian deity Wei Tuo, in Tibet identified
with Vajrapani, who will be the last of a thousand Buddhas to appear
in this auspicious aeon, promised me four myriad Chinese dollars. (Mr.
Chen laughed heartily at the memory saying): What and where could I do
with so much money? When I left there, I counted the income and goods;
the expense were equal to such a sum. I should gratefully give thanks
to him. Whenever I got almsgiving, he would appear on a bank note which
had been received. Before I arrived at Dege I had a vision one night
of Khyentse Rinpoche who was the teacher of young Karmapa, the king of
Dharma, and I knew at once that he was an emanation of Mahakala. When
we met later in Dege I told him that I knew of his spiritual eminence
and rather surprised he admitted that he was practicing in the meditation
of Mahakala. He asked me how I knew and after I had told him, he was
very pleased and said I was truly his disciple. Ven Khyentse instructed
many other Rinpoches but he gave to me many special teachings, other
than what he imparted to them.
Before I finished this section of my life, I should like to make clear
that it was necessary for me to go to Xi Kang to obtain the secret doctrines
of the third initiation (dbang) which is not completely available in
China. By this, one is empowered to practice the tantras requiring the
participation of a female consort. These yogas have certainly been practiced
by me both with my own wife and with other consorts. But I have not gone
into detail of them out of respect for the position of the two Bhikshus
present. Bhikshus being celibate members of the sangha only practice
the third initiation of the Tantras if at all as interior practice, never
of course using an external consort.
From this period I gathered numerous empowerments and other instructions
from seven different schools of the Tantra in Tibet: Gelugpa, Nyingmapa,
Kargyupa, Shangpa, Jonangpa (Kalacakra), Drukpa (Kargyupa branch) and
Sakyapa. The practices have their corresponding texts which may only
be read and learned by those empowered for the meditation which they
described. Naturally such books are never published, as their contents
are only meaningful after the proper instruction has been given.
It is also worth noting that many of the teachers, of whom I was a pupil,
were not famous or those with established reputations (though some were).
The majority were little known often living in remote wild places with
very few disciples, if any at all. Some were not Tulkus (Emanate Lamas)
but might by their own efforts in this life found a spiritual line. Very
often the deepest teaching are found among such sorts of Gurus.
After staying in seclusion for this period, my gurus asked me to return
to my own province to rescue my family from the Second World War. So
I went, after I settled my family in a safe country, I lived in a cave
for two years just before I came to India. Before I returned, I met my
friend Garma C. C. Chang, who asked me what we should do, I told him,
“Go to India.” But he said, “Why go there? Buddhism
is finished in India.” “Although Buddhism has gone, still
the holy places are there,” I replied. I foretold that he and I
would go, and it turned out that in spite of his disbelief, he did go
to India on some government work. A rich patron of mine, Mr. Huang, wished
to go to India on a pilgrimage and suggested that we should go together.
This we did in 1947, myself, aided by the generous Mr. Huang, made the
pilgrimage to all the holy places. My kind patron returned when all this
was completed, but I stayed to meditate for at least one week in each
place to find out what would be a most suitable place for my practice.
Finally Mr. Chang helped me to stay in India and so I came to this hermitage
D. Most Secret Biography
This fourth section of biography, entitled “Most Secret,”
deals with Realization. Under this we may consider certain divisions
which are very broadly related to the three yanas of Buddhism.
a) The Attainment of Cause
In this section, renunciation is most important, a fact repeatedly
taught in the Hinayana. In my life, there have been many times when
I have practiced this; to give a few examples. Many times have I been
tempted by higher positions and more money, as when I was secretary
to the Educational Committee of Hunan province there was the chance
of a good post as professor of classical Chinese with many students
and much money but I renounced this. During my practice of the four
foundations of Tantra, a post as secretary to a high government official
was offered to me but for this I should have to be constantly on duty
near the office telephone, and so I could not sleep and practice in
the shrine. This offer I therefore declined. Again, Ven. Tai Xu said
that I must go to his new Buddhist College and there teach the student
monks and laymen; so being my guru I had to obey him. So I went, leaving
my teaching job in Hunan to earn the small wage of College in Si Chuan
and all that it could give. Then after some time, I thought it was
enough of this professor’s life, which is all giving. I then
decided to be disciple and gain something, so this I renounced and
went to study in Xi Kang.
Here besides the studies, I was so fortunate as to be able to read
four editions of the Tripitakas, while progressing with other studies
of Vajrayana philosophy and Chan. Through giving up, one only gains,
and through the help of Wei Tuo I never hungered.
b) The Attainment of Tao (The Path or Course)
This has certain steps for which I have composed the following Chain
of Similes. At this stage, where Mahayana teachings are used, the realization
of impermanence of all things is most necessary. It follows that we
are able to understand this when our renunciation is well developed,
when we no longer cling to things, but recognize transient nature.
The realization of this is as precious as money; our money is time,
which even poor men have. We must make good use of the precious money
of time and not waste it. The steps of our path-attained are then:
i) to have the necessary money comes from the idea
ii) to buy with it the land of renunciation
iii) which should be walled about with Vianaya-observance
iv) when we can safely sow the seed of Bodhicitta
v) to be irrigated with the water of compassion
vi) and richly manured by meditation
vii) giving the blooming of the wisdom-flower
viii) and the ripening of the Buddha-fruit
So that this might all be accomplished I have practiced all of Milarepa’s
three kinds of hermit life, even a fourth one which he did not mention.
For eighteen years, including the period of my residence in Kalimpong,
I have lived upon mountains and previously spent some months dwelling
among graves. The third kind mentioned is in caves where I have meditated
for two years. My own and rather unique kind of hermit-life was experience
of spiritual practice while taking a ten-day boat journey on a Chinese
c) The Attainment of Consequence: a Certainty of Enlightenment
By the practice of Pure Land doctrines I have clearly seen in my meditations
the large silver lotus of one thousand petals which awaits me in Sukhavati.
From practicing Chan, I have gained many experiences of Truth through
meditations. Please see my work of Chan: “Lighthouse in the Ocean
In the six kinds of Tantra, I have had at least the low class of attainment.
Which should be kept in secret as the commandment said. However there
is no claim here to Full Enlightenment and the world also has no need
of me at present. To this let me give a little poem:
A little rain in a deep dark night,
A little rock for a fishing jetty,
A little lamp on the half cold boat,
A little fish comes into the net.
I am very regretful I have not completed what I imagined the four
conditions of an ideal Buddhist.
Outwardly we must appear poor and be content with little.
Inwardly, flourishes the Bodhicitta.
Secretly, we must have a lot of great joy, in third initiation.
And Most Secretly, the Chan Liberated attitude.
As I have already said, there is no “I” glorified here.
These four points above are also related to the sections of this biography:
the first is the grace of my parents but not of myself. The second is
the grace of my Gurus. The third is that of the protectors and patrons,
and the last one is the Blessing of the Buddha—there is nothing
here of myself.
To sum up all the above four sections: All are belonging to the outward
one of my biography which may be a little introduction to our new readers.
The real inward one should be a talk on my inspiration from practice
of the two yanas. The real Secret one should be about the practical experiences
from the third initiation of Vajrayana. The real Most Secret one should
describe the practice of Mahamudra, Maha-perfection and Chan. There will
be an introduction to the old readers which I will write after I get
a little more realization.
Our time was over, for it was now quite dark outside. We had heard a
spiritual history, not a mere biography, and how much for reasons of
brevity remained unsaid? The whole story is one of gradual unfolding,
of slow but sure building, from the teachings early given by his Confucian
Master, through the Taoist phase of search for Immortality or at least
long life, to interest in the Buddha’s Mahayana preachings as taught
by the Venerable Tai Xu, onward to the foundation of practice laid down
under the Gelu Guru. Then, rising to even greater spiritual height in
the practice of the various degrees of Tantra and the experience of Chan.
Despite such achievements, rare enough in our age, here was Mr. Chen
who had related all this without boasting or any trace of owning these
attainments, here he was with little bows and a flashing torch showing
us down the steps which he never treads, while saying again and again, “Thank
you, thank you…”
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