*Note by the late Mr. Dwight Goddard.
When Hui-Neng (Wei Lang) was at the Patriarch’s monastery at Wong-mui, the Master (or Dean as we should call him) was Shin-shau, a notably learned monk of the Dhyana School. After Hui-Neng left Wong-mui he lived in retirement for a number of years, but Shin-shau, in disappointment at not receiving the appointment of Sixth Patriarch, returned to his home in the North and founded his own School which later, under Imperial patronage, came into great prominence. But after the death of Shin-shau the School steadily lost prestige, and later dropped out of importance. But the different principles of the two schools, “Sudden Enlightenment” of the Sixth Patriarch’s Sudden School and “Gradual Attainment” of Shin-shau’s Northern School, have continued to divide Buddhism and do so today. The principle in dispute is whether enlightenment comes as a gradual attainment, through study of the scriptures and the practice of Dhyana or, as the Japanese say, it comes in some sudden and convincing “satori.” It is not a question of quickness or slowness in arriving at it; “gradual attainment” may arrive sooner than “sudden enlightenment.” It is the question whether enlightenment comes as the culmination of a gradual process of mental growth, or whether it is a sudden turning at the seat of consciousness, from a habitual reliance on the thinking faculty (a looking outward) to a new use of a higher intuitive faculty (a looking inward).
While the Patriarch was living in Po Lam Monastery, the Grand Master Shin Shau was preaching in Yuk Chuen Monastery of King Nam. At that time the two Schools, that of Wei Lang of the South and Shin Shau of the North, flourished side by side. As the two Schools were distinguished from each other by the names “Sudden” (the South) and “Gradual” (the North), the question which sect they should follow baffled certain Buddhist scholars (of that time). Continue reading “Chapter VIII – The Sudden School and the Gradual School*“