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43th generation of Linji school
8th generation of Fayan school
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|Temple||Zhenru Temple (Jiangxi)|
September 5, 1840|
Fujian, Qing China
October 13, 1959 (aged 119)|
Zhenru Temple, Jiangxi, China
|Title||Honorary President of the Buddhist Association of China|
|Students||Fo Yuan, Jy Ding, Jing Hui, Charles Luk, Hsuan Hua, Benhuan, Yicheng (monk), Chuanyin|
Xuyun or Hsu Yun (simplified Chinese: 虚云; traditional Chinese: 虛雲; pinyin: Xūyún; 5 September 1840 – 13 October 1959) was a renowned Chinese Chan Buddhist master and one of the most influential Buddhist teachers of the 19th and 20th centuries.
Xuyun was born on 5 September 1840 in Fujian, Qing China. His original name was Xiao Guyan (simplified Chinese: 萧古岩; traditional Chinese: 萧古巖; pinyin: Xiāo Gǔyán). His mother died during childbirth. In the 30th year of the reign of the Daoguang Emperor (1850), when he was eleven years old, his father returned to Quanzhou. The aging grandmother of the Chou clan was determined that her grandson would have a wife. In order to continue both his and his uncle's lineage, Xuyun was to marry one woman from the Tian family and one from the Tan family.
His first exposure to Buddhism was during the funeral of his grandmother. Soon afterward he began reading Buddhist sutras and later made a pilgrimage to Mount Heng, one of the most important Buddhist sites in China.
When he was fourteen years old, he announced that he wished to renounce the material world in favour of monastic life. His father did not approve of Buddhism and had him instructed in Taoism instead. From the start, Xuyun was dissatisfied with Taoism, which he felt could not reach the deeper truths of existence. The storerooms of his house were full of very old books. Going through them, he found a volume called the 'Story of Incense Mountain', which described the life of Guanyin. After reading the book, he was deeply influenced and was aspired to go forth from the home to monkhood to practice Buddhism.
When Xuyun was seventeen, he had already undergone the hardship of practicing Taoism for three years and was indeed disappointed. He constantly thought about leaving the home-life and joining the Sangha. One day in his uncle's absence he attempted to flee to Mount Heng to shave his head and officially leave the home-life. Little did he know that on a winding mountain path he would encounter envoys sent by his uncle to intercept and escort him back. His aspiration was not realized and he was reproved and brought back home. When he arrived home, the family feared that he would escape again, so he was sent with his first cousin, Fu Kuo, to Quanzhou. His father formally received the brides from the Tian and Tan families for Xuyun, and his marriage was completed. Xuyun, however, had already realized the emptiness of form. He held no view of a self or of others and had not the slightest thought of desire. He was clear of mind and pure in body. Therefore, although they dwelt together, he remained 'undefiled'. Moreover, he extensively explained the dharma to the women so that they too would practice Buddhism.
There was a deep bond of brotherly friendship and respect between Xuyun and Fu Kuo. Fu Kuo also had previously explored Buddhism and had the same aspiration as Xuyun, so they amicably traveled the Path together. In his nineteenth year, accompanied by Fu Kuo, he started the journey to Gu Shan (Drum Mountain) in Fuzhou to leave home. Before leaving, he wrote the "Song of the Skinbag". which he left behind for his two wives.
It was at Gu Shan monastery that his head was shaved and he received ordination as a monk. When his father sent agents to find him, Xuyun concealed himself in a grotto behind the monastery, where he lived in austere solitude for three years. At the age of twenty-five, Xuyun learned that his father had died, and his stepmother and two wives had entered the monastic life.
During his years as a hermit, Xuyun made some of his most profound discoveries. He visited the old master Yung Ching, who encouraged him to abandon his extreme asceticism in favor of temperance. He instructed the young monk in the sutras and told him to be mindful of the Hua Tou, "Who is dragging this corpse of mine?" In his thirty-sixth year, with the encouragement of Yung Ching, Xuyun went on a seven-year pilgrimage to Mount Putuo off the coast of Ningbo, a place regarded by Buddhists as the bodhimaṇḍala of Avalokiteśvara. He went on to visit the monastery of Ashoka and various Chan holy places.
At age forty-three, Xuyun had by now left the home-life for more than twenty years, but he had not yet completed his practice in the Path. He had not repaid his parents' kindness, and so he vowed to again make a pilgrimage to Nan Hai. From Fa Hua Temple all the way to Ch'ing Liang Peak at Mount Wutai of the northwest, the bodhimandala of Manjushri, he made one full prostration every three steps. He prayed for the rebirth of his parents in the Pure Land. Along the way, Xuyun is said to have met a beggar called Wen Chi, who twice saved his life. After talking with the monks at the Five-Peaked Mountain, Xuyun came to believe that the beggar had been an incarnation of Manjushri.
Having achieved singleness of mind, Xuyun traveled west and south, making his way through Tibet. He visited many monasteries and holy places, including the Potala, the seat of the Dalai Lama, and Tashilhunpo Monastery, the seat of the Panchen Lama. He traveled through India and Ceylon, and then across the sea to Burma. During this time of wandering, he felt his mind clearing and his health growing stronger. Xuyun composed a large number of poems during this period.
After returning to China, During Xuyun's fifty-third year, he joined with other Venerable Masters Pu Zhao, Yue Xia, and Yin Lian (Lotus Seal) to cultivate together. They climbed Jiu Hua Mountain and repaired the huts on Cui Feng Summit, where Dharma Master Pu Zhao expounded the Mahavaipulyabuddha Avatamsaka (Flower Adornment) Sutra.
When Xuyun was fifty-six, the Abbot Yue Lang of Gaomin Temple in Yangzhou was going to convene a continuous twelve-week session of dhyana meditation. Preparing to leave, the group asked Xuyun to go first. After reaching Di Gang, he had to cross the water, but had no money. The ferry left without him. As he walked along the river's edge, he suddenly lost his footing and fell into the rushing water, where he bobbed helplessly for a day and night  and was caught in a fisherman's net. He was carried to a nearby temple, where he was revived and treated for his injuries. Feeling ill, he nevertheless returned to Yangzhou. When asked by Gao Ming whether he would participate in the upcoming weeks of meditation, he politely declined, without revealing his illness. The temple had rules that those who were invited had to attend or else face punishment. In the end, Gao Ming had Xuyun beaten with a wooden ruler. He willingly accepted this punishment, although it worsened his condition.
For the next several days, Xuyun sat in continuous meditation. In his autobiography, he wrote: "[in] the purity of my singleness of mind, I forgot all about my body. Twenty days later my illness vanished completely. From that moment, with all my thoughts entirely wiped out, my practice took effect throughout the day and night. My steps were as swift as if I was flying in the air. One evening, after meditation, I opened my eyes and suddenly saw I was in brightness similar to broad daylight in which I could see everything inside and outside the monastery..." But he knew that this occurrence was only a mental state, and that it was not at all rare. He did not become attached to this achievement, but continued his single-minded investigation of the topic, "who is mindful of the Buddha?" over and over again, he delved into this topic without interruption.
Xuyun composed a commemorative verse for the oft-cited moment of profound insight, which was galvanized by the sound of a breaking teacup in the Chan Hall:
A cup fell to the ground
With a sound clearly heard.
As space was pulverised,
The mad mind came to a stop.
Xuyun tirelessly worked as a bodhisattva, teaching precepts, explaining sutras, and restoring old temples. He worked throughout Asia, creating a following across Burma, Thailand, Malaya, and Vietnam, as well as Tibet and China. He remained in China during World War II and after the rise of the People's Republic of China to support the Buddhist communities rather than retreat to the safety of Hong Kong or Taiwan. After the Communists took over mainland China, he and his disciples were mistreated and tortured.
In 1953, along with Dharma Master Yuan Ying and others, Xuyun formed the Chinese Buddhist Association at Kuang Chi (Extensive Aid) Monastery where he was Honorary President. The following resolutions were proposed to the government:
The petition was approved. He then represented the Association in receiving three gifts from a Buddhist delegation from Sri Lanka. Hsu Yun also responded to the invitation of Dharma Master Nan T'ung (Penetration to the South) to head another Dharma assembly at Lang Shan (Wolf Mountain) Monastery, where several thousand people from all over took refuge. He returned to Shanghai in the third lunar month, and the next month received a telegram from Peking requesting his presence in the Capital. Hsu Yun arrived and stayed at Kuang Chi (Extensive Aid) Monastery. Representatives of various Buddhist groups also were present, and the Chinese Buddhist Association was officially inaugurated. After a plenary meeting in which important policies were decided (some defiled monks suggested to change some precepts and rules, he scolded them and wrote an essay about the manifestation of the Dharma Ending Age.).
Xuyun became ill in the summer of 1959 and died in October.
In 1953, the Chinese Buddhist Association was established at a meeting with 121 delegates in Beijing. The meeting also elected a chairman, 4 honorary chairmen, 7 vice-chairmen, a secretary general, 3 deputy secretaries-general, 18 members of a standing committee, and 93 directors. The 4 elected honorary chairmen were the Dalai Lama, the Panchen Lama, the Grand Lama of Inner Mongolia, and Xuyun himself.