BUDDHA Shakyamuni (480-400 BCE)
Known variously as Siddhartha Gautama, Gautama Buddha, Shakyamuni (the sage of the Shakya Clan), The Tathagata (the thus gone one), The World-Honored One, he is the founder of Buddhism. Born into royalty in Lumbini, he grew up in adjacent Kapilavastu, the capital city of the Shakya kingdom. (Historians are divided on whether the ancient city of Kapilavastu was on the spot now occupied by Tilaurakot, Nepal or by Priprahwa, India 16 km away.) Siddhartha's father was Sudhodhana, traditionally said to be king, making Siddhartha his prince, though some recent scholarship suggests the Shakya were organized as a semi-republican oligarchy rather than a monarchy. His mother, Queen Maya, died giving birth, or a few days after, and Siddhartha was raised by his mother's younger sister, Pajapati. At age 16, he married a cousin, Yasodhara, and they had a son, Rahula. Abandoning wife and child at age 29, Siddhartha set out on a quest for spiritual understanding. Six years later, at age 35, after a reputed 49 days of meditation, he is said to have attained Enlightenment, and became the Buddha ("Awakened One"). For the remaining 45 years of his life, he traveled around the Ganges River basin teaching a diverse and growing following.
Appears in: BOS4, GG32/BCR65, BCR92/BOS1, GG42, GG6
DESHAN Xuanjian (Tokusan Senkan, 782-865, 11th gen)
Lineage: Shitou (700-90) --> Tianhuang (748-807) --> Longtan (b. 765?) --> Deshan
Dharma Siblings: none.
Heirs: Xuefeng (822-908), Yantou (828-87)
Though his lineage is from Shitou, Deshan employed the vigorous methods more common among Mazu's descendants: he was a fiery teacher fond of using the stick to cajole his monks to greater efforts. ("If you speak, you get thirty blows. If you do not speak, you get thirty blows," he said.) Through Xuefeng, Deshan is the ancestor to two of the Five Houses of Zen: the Yunmen and Fayan Schools. Deshan was a scholar focused on the Vinaya, and became famous for his knowledge of the Diamond Sutra. After an encounter with an old woman convinced him that scriptural study was insufficient, he studied Zen under Longtan. Under Emperor Wuzong of Tang a brief but intense Great Anti-Buddhist Persecution forced Deshan from a thirty year long position in Lizhou into hiding on Mt. Dufu. Afterwards the governor of Wuleng in the Lang Region (Hunan) asked Deshan to come to live on Mount Virtue (Mount De, i.e. Deshan), where he established his monastery and taught. Posthumous name: Great Master Jianxing.
Appears in: GG28, BCR4, BOS22, GG13/BOS55, BOS14
DONGSHAN Liangjie (Tozan Ryokai, 807-69, 11th gen)
Lineage: Shitou (700-90) --> Yaoshan (751-834) --> Yunyan (780-841) --> Dongshan
Dharma Siblings: None
Heirs: Yunju (d. 902), Qinshan (n.d.), Longya (835-923), Yuezhou (n.d.), Caoshan (840-901), Qinglin (d. 904), Shushan (n.d.)
Dongshan was born in Kuaiji (present-day Shaoxing, Zhejiang), south of Hangzhou Bay. He started private studies in Chan at a young age, and showed promise by questioning the fundamental Doctrine of the Six Roots during his tutor's recitation of the Heart Sutra. Though only 10-years-old, he then left home to train with Lingmo at the monastery on Wutai Mountain. At 21, he went to Shaolin Monastery on Mount Song, where he took the complete monk's precepts. He wandered extensively among the Chan masters and hermits in the Hongzhou region. He studied with Nanquan (748-835), and then with Guishan (771-853), before settling down with Yunyan. At 52, Dongshan established a school at Mount Dong, Rui Region (Jiangxi) where he had 500-1,000 students at any given time. He is the founder of the Caodong (Soto) school, one of the Five Houses of Zen, named after him and his pupil, Caoshan (Hence "Caodong" from CAOshan + DONGshan -- in Japanese, "Soto" from SOzan + TOzan). Dongshan announced the end of his life several days before the event and told his students to create a "delusion banquet." After a week of preparations, he took one bite of the meal and, telling the students not to "make a great commotion over nothing," went to his room and died.
Dongshan is the author of the "Song of the Jeweled-Mirror Samadhi" (Boundless Way Zen Chant Book), and is also known for his teaching on "The Five Ranks" (The Absolute within the Relative; The Relative within the Absolute; The Coming from Within the Absolute; The Contrasted Relative Alone; and Unity Attained). Posthumous name: Great Master Wuben.
Appears in: BOS22, BCR43, BOS49, BOS56, BOS89, BOS94, BOS98
JIASHAN Shanhui (Kassan Zenne, 805-81, 11th gen)
Lineage: Shitou (700-90) --> Yaoshan (751-834) --> Chuanzi (n.d.) --> Jiashan
Dharma Siblings: none
Heirs: Luopu (834-98)
Jiashan left home at a young age for monastic life. After taking the monk’s vows at age twenty, he focused on sutra study. One day while lecturing to the assembly about a sutra, a visiting monk, Daowu Yuanzhi (769-835), began laughing and said that Jiashan needed a teacher because his sutra lecture was missing the point. Daowu recommended that Jiashan go see Chuanzi, "the Boat Monk," Daowu's dharma brother. Although Jiashan’s understanding of Buddhism was already extensive, he did not attain complete awakening until meeting Chuanzi. After giving transmission to Jiashan, his only successor, Chuanzi disappeared and was never heard from again. Jiashan then moved into the mountains to live in seclusion, but large numbers of students came to study with him, building thatched huts scattered around Jiashan's. Finally, in 870, the assembly moved to Mt. Jia where they built a temple. Jiashan was the first Zen master known to closely link Zen with drinking tea. He described their intimacy as “Zen, tea, one taste.”
Appears in: BOS35, BOS68
LINJI Yixuan (Rinzai Gigen, 812-867, 11th gen)
Lineage: Mazu (709-88) --> Baizhang (720-814) --> Huangbo (770?-850) --> Linji
Dharma Sibling: Muzhou (780-877)
Heirs: Xinghua (830-88), Baoshou (n.d.), Sansheng (n.d.)
Linji is the founding figure of the Linji House, one of the five houses of Zen. Taught at Linji Monastery, Zhen Region (Hebei). Posthumous name: Great Master Huizhao.
Books: The Record of Linji has 5 parts and is available with commentary in translations by Ruth Fuller Sasaki (1975), Burton Watson (1993), Thich Nhat Hanh (Nothing to Do, Nowhere to Go, 2007, includes the first two parts, about 2/3rds of the whole), Broughton and Watanabe (2013).
Appears in BOS86, BCR32, BOS13, BOS38, BOS95, BCR20/BOS80
LUOPU Yuanan (Rakuho Genan, 834-98, 12th gen)
Lineage: Shitou (700-90) --> Yaoshan (751-834) --> Chuanzi (n.d.) --> Jiashan (805-81) --> Luopu
Dharma Siblings: None
Luopu came from ancient Linyou (now located in modern Jiangxi Province). Ordained at the age of twenty, he was well versed in Buddhist scriptures and doctrine. He studied under Linji Yixuan (812-867) and served as Linji's attendant before leaving to build a hut on the mountain where Jiashan's monastery was. Eventually moving into Jiashan's monastery, Luopu studied with Jiashan for many years. After leaving Jiashan, he first lived at Lizhou (now Li County in Hunan Province) on Mt. Luopu, where he gained his mountain name. He then lived at Suxi (in modern Hunan Province). Luopu was known as a skilled expounder of Dharma, and students came from throughout China to study under him.
Appears in: BOS35, BOS41
MAZU Daoyi (Baso Doitsu, 709-788, 8th gen)
Lineage: Huineng (638-713) --> Nanyue (677-744) --> Mazu
Dharma Siblings: None
Heirs: Baizhang (720-814), Xitang (735-814), Zhangjing (754-815), Yanguan (750-842), Damei (752-839), Guizong (n.d.), Pangyun "Layman Pang" (740-808), Mayu (n.d.), Panshan (720-814), Luzu (n.d.), Zhongyi (n.d.), Wujiu (n.d.), Nanquan (748-835)
While Mazu was the only disciple of Nanyue to receive dharma transmission, Mazu is said to have transmitted the dharma to 84 disciples (some sources say 139), of whom 13 are particularly well-known. Of the "Five Houses of Zen", three emerged from the Shitou branch (the Caodong, Fayan, and Yunmen houses) and two from the Mazu branch (Linji and Guiyang). Of these Five Houses, two of them survive as the two significant forms of Japanase Zen: Caodong (known in Japanese as Soto) and Linji (known in Japanese as Rinzai). Certain of the distinctive attributes of Caodong Zen are already evident in the accounts we have of Shitou, and certain distinctive attributes of Linji Zen are already evident in the record we have of Mazu, Linji's dharma great-grandfather. For instance, many of the teaching devices that came to be identified with Zen, especially Linji's Zen -- e.g., shouts, blows, enigmatic questions -- were first used by Mazu.
Appears in: GG30, GG33, BCR3/BOS36, BCR73/BOS6, BCR53.
MUZHOU Daoming (or Daozong) (Bokushu Domyo, 780-877, 11th gen)
Lineage: Mazu (709-88) --> Baizhang (720-814) --> Huangbo (770?-850) --> Muzhou
Dharma Sibling: Linji (812-867)
Heirs: none, though Yunmen (864-949) is said to have studied with him and come to great enlightenment under him (this is perhaps doubtful as Yunmen would have been only 13 when Muzhou died)
Muzhou studied the vinaya as a youth, then became a disciple of Huangbo. Afterwards he lived at the temple Guanyin yuan in Muzhou in present Zhejiang, then at Longxing si, a temple that later texts call Kaiyuan si. There people called him Chen Puxie (Rush-sandal Chen) from the rush sandals he plaited and hung under the eaves of the temple to give or sell to passersby. His methods of handling such students as came to him were eccentric, even violent, but he appears to have been much respected among his contemporaries.
Books: Muzhou yulu (Recorded sayings of Muzhou), apparently not available in English.
Appears in BOS86, BCR10
SHISHUANG Qingzhu (Sekiso Keisho, 807-88, 11th gen)
Lineage: Shitou (700-790) --> Yaoshan (751-834) --> Daowu (769-835) --> Shishuang
Dharma Sibling: None
Heirs: Jiufeng (b. 850?), Daguang (837-903)
He came from the city of Xingan near ancient Luling, was ordained by Zen master Xishan Shaolong on Mt. Tai at the age 23, and began studying the Vinaya. Finding this path to be too slow, he traveled to Mt. Gui, where he studied with Guishan Lingyou and worked preparing food in the kitchen. Later, he was a disciple of Yaoshan, and then of Yaoshan's disciple, Daowu. After Daowu's death, and during the Huishang persecution (845-847), Shishuang stayed in Linyang working as a ceramic assistant. When the persecution ended, Dongshan Liangjie sent his monk to find him. Eventually, Shishuang constructed his temple on Mt. Shishuang in Hunan Province, and taught there for 20 years. (Another Chan master, Shishuang Chuyuan, taught at this location about 200 years later.) Shishuang created "seven instructions to practice," short maxims to help his students in meditation, such as "cold ash or dry wood," "white silk," "censer in an old temple," etc. These maxims were criticized, along with "silent illumination" generally, by Dahui Zonggao. Some of Shishuang's students meditated extremely rigorously, without movement, even without sleeping. Shishuang's reputation spread to Emperor Xizong, who offered him an honorary purple robe, which Shishuang did not accept. Posthumous name: Great Teacher of Universal Understanding.
Appears in: BCR91/BOS25, BCR55, BOS68, BOS89, BOS96
XUEFENG Yicun (Seppo Gison, 822-908, 12th gen)
Lineage: Shitou (700-90) --> Tianhuang (748-807) --> Longtan (b. 765?) --> Deshan (782-865) --> Xuefeng
Dharma Sibling: Yantou (828-87)
Heirs: Xuansha (835-908), Changqing (854-932), Yunmen (864-949), Baofu (868?-928), Cuiyan (n.d.), Jingqing (868-937), Taiyuan Fu (n.d.)
Xuefeng left home at age 12 to live at Yujian Temple (Putian City). At age 19, the five-year suppression of Buddhism (841-846) forced Xuefeng from the monastery, yet his training continued, now with Yuanzhao on Lotus Mountain (Hunan). When the suppression ended, Xuefeng began traveling around, visiting various monasteries in Northern China before settling down at Wuling (Hunan) to study with Deshan. At length, Deshan authorized him to teach, and Xuefeng returned to Lotus Mountain and built a monastery on the top of Guangfu Xuefeng (Snow Summit), in the Fu Region (Fujian). In the mid-870s, his monastery was officially recognized by the authorities and his teachings were supported by several officials in the region, leading eventually to Xuefeng receiving from Emperor Xizong a purple robe and the title of "Grand Master of the truly enlightened." In 891, now almost 70, Xuefeng went traveling again. Soon he joined the attendants of Yang Xingmi, ruler of the newly established Wu regime, "cleansing soldiers with dharma-rain and performing ceremonies at Chan monasteries". This strengthened his reputation "as a Buddhist prelate who administered to the needs of local rulers". In 894, he returned to the Min region, where he lived out his days as a state prelate, a master with a central role in promoting Buddhism who spread his influence throughout the region. Posthumous name: Great Master Zhenjue. Two of the Five Houses of Zen descend from Xuefeng: the Yunmen school (from Xuefeng's immediate heir, Yunmen), and the Fayan school (from heir Xuansha to Luohan to Fayan).
Books: Record of Discussions in the Palace regarding the Buddha Mind-seal (apparently not available in English) records Xuefeng's conversations with Wang Shenzhi.
Appears in GG13/BOS55, BCR5, BCR22/BOS24, BCR51/BOS50, BCR66
YANGSHAN Huiji (Kyozan Ejaku, 807-83, 11th gen)
Lineage: Mazu (709-88) --> Baizhang (720-814) --> Guishan Lingyou (771-853) --> Yangshan
Dharma Siblings: Lingyun (n.d), Jingzhao (n.d.), Xiangyan (d. 898), Liu Tiemo (n.d.)
Heirs: Xita (n.d.), Nanta (850-938)
Yangshan became a monk at age 17. When his parents at first refused permission for him to leave home to become a monk, he cut off two of his fingers to demonstrate his resolve. He studied with various masters, including Danyuan Yingzhen, disciple of National Teacher Nanyang Huizhong. With Danyuan, Yangshan had his first great insight. After Danyuan's death, he went to study with Guishan Lingyou and became Guishan's main disciple. Together they are the founders of the Guiyang school, one of the "Five Houses of Zen" ("Guiyang" from GUIshan + YANGshan). Teacher and pupil had the closest spiritual affinity. The Guiyang school is thus characterized by the gentle master-disciple-friends style of teaching, in contrast to the fervent, energetic, and often physical methods employed by other descendants of Mazu (e.g., Huangbo, Linji). The school is also distinct in its use of esoteric metaphors and imagery. Yangshan taught at Mt. Yang, Yuan Region (Jiangxi). Posthumous name: Tongzhi.
Appears in BOS72, BOS15, BOS37, GG25/BOS90, BCR34, BCR68, BOS26, BOS32, BOS62, BOS77
YANTOU Quanhuo (Ganto Zenkatsu, 828-87, 12th gen)
Lineage: Shitou (700-90) --> Tianhuang (748-807) --> Longtan (b. 765?) --> Deshan (782-865) --> Yantou
Dharma Sibling: Xuefeng (822-908)
Heirs: Luoshan (n.d.), Ruiyan (n.d.)
Born in Quanzhou and became a novice monk at Baoshu Temple in Changan. An avid traveler, Yantou eventually began studying under Deshan and went on to become master of Yantou Monastery, on Mount Yantou, E Region (Hubei). He was known for his sharpness and sagacity. During the period of the great persecution of Buddhism in China (841-846), he became a ferryman on a lake. In 887 his temple was raided by bandits, one of whom stabbed Yantou, murdering him. It is said that his scream at death could be heard for ten miles. Posthumous name: Great Master Qingyan.
Appears in GG13/BOS55, BOS22, BCR51/BOS50, BCR66, BOS43, BOS75
YUNMEN Wenyan (Ummon Bun'en, 864-949, 13th gen)
Lineage: Shitou (700-90) --> Tianhuang (748-807) --> Longtan (b. 765?) --> Deshan (782-865) --> Xuefeng (822-908) --> Yunmen
Dharma Siblings: Cuiyan (n.d.), Jingqing (868-937), Taiyuan (n.d.), Xuansha (835-908), Baofu (d. 928), Changqing (854-932)
Heirs: Xianglin (908-87), Fengxian (n.d.), Baling (n.d.), Deshan Yuanmi (n.d.), Dongshan Shouchu (910-90)
Yunmen founded the Yunmen school, one of the five major Houses of Zen. The Yunmen school flourished into the early Song Dynasty, with particular influence on the upper classes, and eventually culminating in the compilation and writing of the Blue Cliff Record. The school would eventually be absorbed by the Linji school later in the Song.
Appears in: BOS21, BCR34, BOS3, BCR22/BOS24, BCR88, BOS40, GG15, GG16, GG21, GG39, BCR6, BCR14, BCR15, BCR27, BCR39, BCR44, BCR50/BOS99, BCR54, BCR60, BCR62/BOS92, BCR77/BOS78, BCR83/BOS31, BCR86, BCR87, BOS11, BOS19, BOS82, BCR8
ZHAOZHOU Congshen (Joshu Jushin, 778-897, 10th gen)
Lineage: Mazu (709-88) --> Nanquan (748-835) --> Zhaozhou
Dharma Sibling: Changsha Jingcen (n.d.)
Heirs: Yanyang Shanxin (n.d.)
Taught at Guanyin Monastery, Zhao Regeion (Hebei). Posthumous name: Great Master Zhenji. At age 18, Zhaozhou met Nanquan, with whom he practiced until Nanquan's death, when Zhaozhou was about 57. After that, Zhaozhou spent more than 20 years on pilgrimage, visiting various prominent Chan masters. At age 80, he settled at Guanyin and for the next 40 years taught a small group of monks until his death at age 120. Zhaozhou is often regarded as the greatest Chan master of Tang dynasty China. Because of the many wars and purges of Buddhism in the China of the time, Zhaozhou's lineage died out quickly -- he had one heir who had no known heirs.
Books: Radical Zen: The Sayings of Joshu (Trans with commentary by Yoel Hoffman, 1978). The Recorded Sayings of Zen Master Joshu (Trans and introduced by James Green, 2001).
Appears in: GG14/BCR63-64/BOS 9, GG19, GG1, BOS18, GG7/BOS39, GG11, GG31/BOS10, GG37/BOS47, BCR2, BCR9, BCR30, BCR41/BOS 63, BCR45, BCR52, BCR57, BCR58, BCR59, BCR80, BCR96, BOS57