Chapter VII – Temperament and Circumstances

(Instructions are given according to the disciples’ temperament and to the circumstances of the case).

Upon the Patriarch’s return to the village of Tso Hau in Shiu Chow from Wong Mui, where the Dharma had been transmitted to him, he was still an unknown figure, and it was a Confucian scholar named Liu Chi Luk who gave him a warm welcome and entertainment. Chi Luk happened to have an aunt named Wu Chung Chong who was a Bhikkhuni (a female member of the Order), and used to recite the Maha-Parinirvana Sutra. After hearing the recitation for only a short while the Patriarch grasped its profound meaning and began to explain it to her. Whereupon, she picked up the book and asked him the meaning of certain words.

“I am illiterate,” he replied, “but if you wish to know the purport of this work, please ask.” “How can you grasp the meaning of the text,” she rejoined, “when you do not even know the words?” To this, he replied, “The profundity of the teachings of the various Buddhas has nothing to do with the written language.”

This answer surprised her very much, and realizing that he was no ordinary Bhikkhu, she made it widely known to the pious elders of the village. “This is a holy man,” she said, “we should ask him to stay, and get his permission to supply him food and lodging.” Continue reading “Chapter VII – Temperament and Circumstances”