Dazu Huike bigraphy, stories - Dynasty

Dazu Huike : biography

487 - 593

Dazu Huike (487–593) ( Chinese for short:慧可; pinyin: Huìkě; Wade–Giles: Hui-k’o; Japanese: Taiso Eka) is considered the Second Patriarch of Chinese Chán and the twenty-ninth since Gautama Buddha.



As with most of the early Chán patriarchs, very little firm data is available about his life. The earliest extant biography of the Chán patriarchs is the Biographies of Eminent Monks (519) (Chinese:高僧傳 Gāo Sēng Zhuàn) and its sequel, Further Biographies of Eminent Monks (Chinese:隋高僧傳 Suí Gāo Sēng Zhuàn; Japanese: Zoku kosoden) (645) by Tao-hsuan (?-667).Yampolsky, p 5 The following biography is the traditional Chan biography as handed down throughout the centuries, including the Denkoroku by Zen Master Keizan Jokin (1268–1325).


The Hsu kao-seng chuan says that Huike was born in Hu-lao (Ssu-shui hsien, Henan) and his secular name was Shénguāng (神光, Wade–Giles: Shen-kuang; Japanese: Shinko). A scholar in both Buddhist scriptures and classical Chinese texts, including Taoism, Huike was considered enlightened but criticised for not having a teacher. He met his teacher Bodhidharma at the Shaolin Monastery in 528 when he was about forty years old and studied with Bodhidharma for six years (some sources say four years, five years, or nine years).

Huike went to Yedu (Wade–Giles: Yeh-tu) (modern Henan) about 534 McRae p22 and, except for a period of political turmoil and Buddhist persecution in 574, lived in the area Yedu and Wei (modern Hebei) for the rest of his life. It was during the time of upheaval that Huike sought refuge in the mountains near the Yangtze River and met Sengcan who was to become his successor and the Third Chinese Patriarch of Chan. In 579, Huike returned to Yedu and expounded the dharma, drawing large numbers to listen to his teachings and arousing the hostility of other Buddhist teachers, one of whom, Tao-heng, paid money to have Huike killed but Huike converted the would-be assassin. (ibid)

The Wudeng Huiyan (Compendium of Five Lamps) compiled by Dachuan Lingyin Puji (1179–1253) claims that Huike lived to the age of one hundred seven.Ferguson p 23 He was buried about forty kilometres east northeast of Anyang City in Hebei Province.Ferguson, p 492 n 17 Later, the Tang Dynasty emperor De Zong gave Huike the honorific name Dazu (“Great Ancestor”) Some traditions have it that Huike was executed after complaints about his teachings by influential Buddhist priests.Shambhala, p 94 One story says that blood did not flow from his decapitated body, but rather, a white milky substance flowed through his neck.

Bodhidharma legends

Huike figures in several Bodhidharma-legends.

Cutting off his arm

Legend has it that Bodhidharma initially refused to teach Huike. Huike stood in the snow outside Bodhidharma’s cave all night, until the snow reached his waist. In the morning Bodhidharma asked him why he was there. Huike replied that he wanted a teacher to "open the gate of the elixir of universal compassion to liberate all beings".

Bodhidharma refused, saying, “how can you hope for true religion with little virtue, little wisdom, a shallow heart, and an arrogant mind? It would just be a waste of effort.” Cleary, p 126

Finally, to prove his resolve, Huike cut off his left arm and presented it to the First Patriarch as a token of his sincerity. Bodhidharma then accepted him as a student, and changed his name from Shenguang to Huike, which means "Wisdom and Capacity".

Pacifying the mind

Huike said to Bodhidharma, “My mind is anxious. Please pacify it.” Bodhidharma replied, “Bring me your mind, and I will pacify it.” Huike said, “Although I’ve sought it, I cannot find it.” “There,” Bodhidharma replied, “I have pacified your mind.” Ferguson, p 20


According to the Denkoroku, when Huike and Bodhidharma were climbing up Few Houses Peak, Bodhidharma asked, “Where are we going?” Huike replied, “Please go right ahead---that’s it.” Bodhidharma retorted, “If you go right ahead, you cannot move a step.” Upon hearing these words, Huike was enlightened.

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Living octopus

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