Lê Mạnh Thát: Zen Master Chân Ðạo Chánh Thống (3)

Zen Master Trí Siêu Lê Mạnh Thát (Photo: Uyên Nguyên)

ZEN MASTER CHÂN ĐẠO’S SOCIAL RELATIONSLS

Indeed, some poems in the Thủy Nguyệt Tòng Sao belong to the type of “writing and replying in poems.” The type itself is not much appreciated due to its regulated patterns and its rules of corresponding ideas. In spite of this, its great advantage is to show us the relation between the poet and his contemporaries. On the part of Zen Master Chân Đạo this advantage proves its positive effect since through such poems we can know those with whom the Master had social relations and what roles they played at that time.

Merely picking out those names mentioned in the anthology, we can almost know most of the prominent figures of Vietnamese Buddhism in the twentieth century, namely, Zen Masters Thanh Trí Huệ Giác (1858-1935?), Ngộ Tánh Phước Huệ (1875-1963), Trung Thứ (1871-1942), Giác Nhiên (1878-1979), Giác Tiên (1880-1936), Giác Bổn (?-1949), Tuệ Tạng (1889-1959), Tịnh Khiết (1890-1973), Bích Không (1894-1954), Tố Liên (1903-1977), Mật Khế (1904-1935), Đôn Hậu (1905-1992), Trí Thủ (1909-1984), Mật Nguyện (1911-1972), Viên Giác (1911-1976), Trí Đức (1921-2001), Trí Quang, Khế Châu, and so forth.

It is the poems written by the Master about them that present not only his aspiration but a picture of Buddhist life. Indeed, they had been composed before those Zen masters became the historical figures of Vietnamese Buddhism in the twentieth century. It seems likely that those poems were his prophecies of their individual futures as well as that of Vietnamese Buddhism. For instance, in the two poems written in reply to Zen Master Tố Liên’s on his visit to Huế in 1937 and published in the Viên Âm, Zen Master Chân Đạo referred not only to the aspiration of “taking pity on sentient beings’ deluded visions” but also to his enthusiasm of carrying out “long-term plans drawn up under the circumstances.” Only nearly twenty years later could the poem show clearly what the two Zen masters had discussed with each other at their meeting in 1937. And that was actually a significant event of Vietnamese Buddhism at the time; that is, the unification of Buddhism throughout the country. It was not until the representatives of Buddhism in the three parts gathered at the Từ Đàm Temple in Huế in 1951 to unify Buddhism in the whole country under the General Association of Vietnam Buddhism together with its own seal and its resolution to take the flag of International Buddhism to be the official symbol of Vietnamese Buddhism as mentioned above that the dream of Buddhist unification in our country came true. On this occasion Zen Master Chân Đạo composed a chain of poems to congratulate this great event.

During the 1930s in the three parts of the country there appeared three great organizations of Buddhism – the Southern Buddhist Studies Association (42), the Annam Buddhist Studies Association (43), and the Northern Buddhist Association (44) – for the purpose of reorganizing Buddhist forces to meet historical requirements of the age. In the contemporary political background that the three parts of our country were undergoing different ruling policies imposed by French invaders, Buddhism was compelled to divide itself into such individual organizations; yet, all the members of these three Buddhist institutions obviously maintained the same position that our country was unified from the North to the South, in which the people shared the same culture.

Accordingly, the need for the unification of Buddhism as an inseparable part of a unified nation became urgent, of which the talk between Zen Master Tố Liên and Zen Master Chân Đạo in Huế in 1937 was a typical fact. And on the journey to the North that followed Zen Master Chân Đạo could have had other discussions on it with the Northern Buddhist leaders, as evidenced by a poem of his in reply to Zen Master Trung Thứ’s. The latter was one of the supreme leaders of Buddhism in the North, who had dedicated himself to the foundation of the Northern Buddhist Association at the Quán Sứ Temple in Hà Nội in 1934.

個中滋味本非經
只恐聲聞滯化城
五教開遮除二執
一拳晃燿破無明
休論目下通還塞
敢向竿頭死又生
且喜慈容今再睹
願將法樂鎭迷情

We have never indulged ourselves with pleasures of any kind
For fear that we might be trapped in the Invented City as Śrāvakas.
Two attachments may be cut down with the Five Teachings flexibly applied.
Ignorance may be destroyed with the One Blow brilliantly employed.
Let us stop discussing the current state of being cleared and blocked;
Try our best to seek for an escape from the dead end, instead.
It is a great pleasure to see your benevolent countenance again.
May the joy of Dharma overcome all beings’ deluded passions!

Zen Master Trung Thứ passed away in 1942, at the age of seventy-one. Consequently, the poem above must have been composed prior to 1942, if not 1939, when the World War II broke out. In all probability, shortly after Zen Master Tố Liên’s return to the North, Zen Master Chân Đạo could have been invited to the North and met with Zen Master Trung Thứ there. During this visit many issues might be dealt with, one of which was undoubtedly of the relations between the political situation of the world and our country as well as Buddhism, as expressed in Zen Master Chân Đạo’s ideas of “being cleared and blocked” and “an escape from dead end” in the poem cited above.
“Being cleared” indicates advantages; “being blocked” denotes disadvantages. The advantages and disadvantages of Buddhism at the time were certainly influenced by the happenings of the international situation prior to the World War II. Therefore, those who participated in Buddhist activities could not neglect them in their seeking for measures to revive and develop Buddhism. “Being cleared” and “blocked” referred to in such a situation implied contemporary Buddhists’ concern about the future of their nation and Buddhism in the new situation of the world and the country.

So were the poems and writings in the style of châm about the Zen masters Tịnh Khiết, Giác Nhiên, Đôn Hậu, Trí Thủ, Trí Quang, Trí Đức, and so on. They all reveal in some way the author’s presentiments of those masters’ onerous duties in a vital period of the history of Buddhism in our country. In the poem on Zen Master Tịnh Khiết, the first Dharma-Leader and Supreme Patriarch of the Saṃgha of Vietnam after 1945, for instance, the Master put it like this,

香江之月
御嶺之雲
山川毓秀
挺出奇人
覺塵是幻
惟道為珍
宜兄宜弟
無著天親
振起禪風
折伏邪態
化滿閻浮
其兄難再
雲暗長天
波狂大海
慧燭慈帆
惟師是賴
為教會主
為眾中尊
教流南土
孰與比倫
法弘家務
道繼宗門
儀端表正
目擊道存
棒喝隨宜
人咸敬仰
清淨難名
應用無量
佛法棟梁
山門堡障
選佛場中
禮尊和尚
春城後進
久附法音
無以表誠
虔備拙箴
願垂蓮眼
俯鑒葵忱
永奉塵剎
將此深心

Like the moon over the Perfume River,
The cloud on the Imperial Mountain
He was nurtured by the spirit of Fatherland
To be a distinguished man,
Who got awakened to delusions of the world
And to the great and precious Way.
Thus he was worthy of a brother
Of Asaṇga and Vasubandhu’s (45).
Raising the tradition of Thiền, (46)
Shattering the evil conducts,
His teaching spread all over the Jambudvīpa (47).
It would be hard to see him, our brother, again.
As dark clouds were covering the vast sky
And high waves were raging in the great ocean,
He was the torch of wisdom, the sail of compassion,
And the unique support for everyone.
As being Supreme Patriarch of the Saṃgha,
The Honored One of the monastic order,
He delivered Buddhist teachings across the country
With no match found for him.
Propagating Dharma was his family task;
Succeeding the Way was his sectarian mission.
How magnificent his countenance!
It proves the Dharma-wheel in constant motion.
Making use of ‘stick and shout’ flexibly,
He was held in esteem by all.
With his purity hard to describe,
His capacity unable to measure,
He became the major pillar of the Dharma-House,
And the shelter for Buddhist believers.
In the examination for the Buddhas-in-Future,
He was selected as the Most Venerable.
Having relied on his teaching on Dharma so long,
We, his succeeding generation in Huế Capital,
Not knowing how to expose our innermost admiration,
Would like to take this châm as a means of expression.
May he always have his lotus-eyes
On our devout aspirations
For serving the world
With all our hearts forever.

The closing two lines of the poem above do present the aspirations not only of Zen Master Tịnh Khiết but also of an entire period of Buddhism in the twentieth century when the country and Vietnamese Buddhism were making their extraordinary efforts to liberate themselves and boost the whole people’s strength in a new way of development. Indeed, it was due to such talented figures’ enthusiastic devotions of themselves to the nation and Buddhism that Zen Master Chân Đạo’s presentiments mentioned above were justified through a series of important events later.

The similar spirit may, too, be found in the poem dedicated to Zen Master Trừng Thủy Giác Nhiên, a disciple of Zen Master Tâm Tịnh’s and the master of Zen Masters Thiện Minh Trí Nghiễm (1922-1978), Thiện Siêu Trí Đức (1921-2001), … He was a member of the Annam Buddhist Studies Association, the General Association of Vietnam Buddhism, and then Supreme Patriarch the Second of the Unified Buddhist Saṃgha of Vietnam after the passing away of Zen Master Tịnh Khiết in 1972. Though it was composed at some time following 1954, that is, before Zen Master Giác Nhiên’s participation in various activities of Buddhism, particularly of the Unified Buddhist Saṃgha of Vietnam, the poem itself could suggest what this Zen master would contribute to Buddhism later,

丕休哉
慈扇春風
悲沾夏雨
秋月孤圓
冬松獨秀
大週沙界
非去非來
細入微塵
無聲無臭
童年向佛
福智兼修
一悟入神
師資授受
披衣持鉢
利普人天
付偈談經
道通緇素
僧綱爾日
海衆咸依
和尚當時
戒珠廣布
閻浮化滿
直到無餘
四衆虔求
塔留玆土

How great and cheerful he is!
His loving-kindness is like spring wind,
And his compassion like summer rain.
As the lonely full moon in autumn,
As a magnificent pine in winter,
He appears in the vast universe,
Neither coming nor going,
And exists in a particle of dust
Without a trace of sound or smell.
Following the path of Buddha as a child,
He has practiced merit and wisdom alike.
He delivers Buddhist teachings to students.
Wearing the robe, holding the alms-bowl,
For the benefit of earthly and heavenly beings.
Whether in a gātha given or a sūtra preached
His teaching is for both monks and laymen.
As Rector of the monastic community,
He is the support for all Buddhist followers.
As the most venerable of the time
He spreads widely his virtue-pearls.
Fulfilling his preaching in Jambudvīpa,
He would go directly to Nirvāṇa.
In the devout request of all Buddhist devotees
His stūpa remains just in this land.

Towards Zen Master Giác Tiên, the founder of the Tây Thiên Buddhist College, Zen Master Chân Đạo showed an extraordinarily deep respect when he wrote down the poem entitled “Praising Most Venerable Giác Tiên at the Trúc Lâm Temple” (48) right on his portrait,

靈光獨露
逈脫根塵
現凡現聖
應俗應真
能肉白骨
能生死人
讚嘆莫及
大哉師恩

Like the unique emergence of sacred light
He perfectly freed himself from wordly defilements,
Appearing now in secular now in saintly form,
According to both the Relative and the Absolute,
Able to revive a withered tree
And bring the dying back to life.
How great the Master’s favor!
Beyond praises of all kinds.

Not only for the Zen masters of the precedent generation like Trung Thứ, Giác Nhiên, Tịnh Khiết but also for his contemporaries like Zen Masters Bích Không, Giác Bổn, Tố Liên, Mật Khế, Đôn Hậu, and so forth, and particularly for those from ten to twenty years younger than him of the subsequent generation did Zen Master Chân Đạo always have great admiration. He expressed his confidence in and expectation of their futures when writing about them, as in the afore-said relationship between Zen Master Tố Liên and him. Now concerning Zen Master Bích Không, a Dharma-brother of his, who had “possessed dharma” together with him from Zen Master Ngộ Tánh Phước Huệ, Zen Master Chân Đạo wrote the poems in which his warm emotions were openly exposed, particularly when he heard of Zen Master Bích Không’s resignation from his position as an imperial official to enter the monastery. In the words of “Dedicated to Dharma-Brother Bích Không on His Becoming a Zen Student after Resignation” (49),

漢學堪憐日已晡
夜闌文閣一燈孤
半生風雨驚塵夢
千載衣冠厭宦途
涉世何妨來去倦
知心始覺我人無
權施文字離文字
佛印如今昔老蘇

How pitifully the Confucian education is declining!
In the pavilion of literature remains only a lamp in the night.
Half a lifetime in hardship is enough to break the worldly dream;
Thousands of times in uniform suffice to get rid of an official’s job.
The world once understood, life becomes no more tiresome.
The mind once realized, all things are found to be empty.
It is quite spontaneous to employ, then abandon words and letters,
Just as being then an Old Su (50), and now a Fu Yin (51).

For the poem to be thoroughly understood it is necessary to have some knowledge of Zen Master Bích Không’s life. According to the Record of National Examination Graduates (52), he was born of a family in which his “father and brothers all passed the national exams.” His father Hoàng Hữu Xứng passed the Cử Nhân exam in 1852, then worked as Tham Tri, additionally bestowed Thượng Thư. He was also the chief editor of the Đại Nam Cương Giới Vựng Biên. His brother Hoàng Hữu Bình passed the Cử Nhân exam in 1879, then the Hoàng Giáp exam in 1889. He was the author of the stele inscription at the Tịnh Quang Imperially-Granted Temple in Quảng Trị (53). Zen Master Bích Không himself, after passing the final Tú Tài exam in Chinese of the Nguyễn Dynasty in 1918, worked for the imperial court for a time, then entered the monastery in around 1930. In 1935 he was ordained to be Bhikṣu at the Ordination held at the Tịnh Quang Temple in Quảng Trị. In the years that followed he participated in the founding of Buddhist associations in Đà Nẵng, Khánh Hòa, Phan Thiết, Lâm Đồng, Nghệ An, Thanh Hóa in Central Vietnam.

It was during his participation in the founding of the Phổ Đà Buddhist Primary and High School that Zen Master Chân Đạo Chánh Thống composed the poem entitled “Visiting a Dharma-Friend in Đà Nẵng” (54), in which he expressed his feelings for
Zen Master Bích Không as follows,

夜夜金風徹骨寒
懷人只作夢中看
幾多雲樹無窮恨
香水茶山路緲茫

The northern wind is bitterly cold night after night.
Missing him I can do nothing but trying to see him in my dream.
I feel extremely sorrowful at so many clouds and trees.
How far the road between the Perfume River and the Tea Mountain is!

The poem conveys their memory of the Perfume River on which they went for a cruise, writing and replying in poems, as described in the following lines (55),

一 棹烟霞眼界寬
晚來繫纜且加飧
微風何處隨波動
皓魄無痕入水寒
隔岸樓臺驚昨夢
橫天鷗鷺愛餘閑
禪心香月知何似
半是相關半未關

A boat in the mists and rosy clouds, a widened field of vision,
A ferry reached in the twilight, and a plain meal prepared.
The waves moved lightly along with a cool breeze.
The bright moon was clearly reflected in the cold water.
The palace over there was a terrible reminder of the past events;
But we felt so relaxed at the sight of white herons in the sky.
Would Zen mind be identified with the moon on the river?
They might be half related and half unrelated.

Later, at the breakdown of the Huế front in 1947 Zen Master Bích Không moved to the Linh Vân Temple, that is, the Diệc Temple in Nghệ An. It was at this temple that Nguyễn Du had written the Văn Tế Thập Loại Chúng Sinh one hundred and fifty years before, and then Zen Mater Bích Không started a strong Buddhist movement in the 1930s. On the full-moon day of the 9th month of the year Giáp Ngọ (1954) he passed away there, thus never seeing his beloved Dharma-brother again. His disciple, Zen Master Tâm Trí Viên Giác Chiêu Nhiên (1911-1976), who had not followed him to Nghệ An, stayed in Huế and continued his monastic life under Zen Master Chân Đạo’s instruction, from whom he received the dharma-transmitting gātha (56),

衣鉢家風半夜傳
融通心智會真詮
不離見道登圓覺
法法昭然即實權

The robe and bowl are traditionally transmitted at midnight.
By means of mind and wisdom the True Teaching should be penetrated,
The Perfect Enlightenment may be realized without abandoning the way of insight,
As Dharmas are naturally characterized by both the Absolute and the Relative.

In addition to Bích Không, Zen Master Chân Đạo had close relationship with Zen Masters Đôn Hậu and Trí Thủ. His earliest poem about Zen Master Đôn Hậu was written when the latter undertook Abbot of the Linh Mụ Temple. It is “Visiting Dharma-Friend Đôn Hậu on His Appointment as Abbot of the Thiên Mụ Temple,”(57)

澄清江曲擁祇園
寶塔層層表福緣
遠帶雲霞重嶺樹
俯臨村落萬家煙
輝金煥碧宸恩重
付偈談經覺道圓
廿載故人新化主
況逢夜月蕩炎天

The Jeta Park is embraced by the cleanly river in front.
The Condition of Bliss (58) is represented in the multi-storied stūpa.
Far away are the rosy clouds over the surrounding peaks;
And below are numerous villagers’ homescovered in the mist.
In the brightness of gold and emerald is the King’s great favor reflected.
In the stanzas and teachings delivered is perfect understanding of the Way presented.
A close friend for twenty years has now become an Abbot,
Just like a bright moon shining in the Southern sky at night.

By the year 1946 the relationship between these two Masters had lasted twenty years. It was in such a long relationship that a poem, which sounds rather humorous but full of Zen flavor and thus may take place among his extremely close Dharma-friends alone, was composed. The poem is entitled “Laughing at My Dharma-Friend Đôn Hậu”(59):

弘沾法雨北而南
近狀如何我未諳
聞道禪兄能強飯
午中三盞午前三

His dharma rains have fallen on end in the North and South,
Which I have not sufficient information about,
Except that he is able to eat rice as much as possible, ─
─ Three bowls before lunch and the similar at lunch.

If Zen Masters Bích Không and Đôn Hậu are mentioned in a few poems of the Thủy Nguyệt Tòng Sao, Zen Master Trí Thủ is given a particular position in Zen Master Chân Đạo’s poetry. In the three-part version a dozen of poems are devoted to him, of which the earliest poem (60) was written on the occasion of Zen Master Trí Thủ’s undertaking abbot of the Ba-la Temple in 1938. In it, Zen Master Chân Đạo mentioned the fact that Zen Master Trí Thủ was the honors graduate in an examination for Srāmaṇeras at the Từ Vân Ordination in Đà Nẵng in 1929, and later became such a renowned lecturer at the Tây Thiên Buddhist College that he was eventually appointed as Abbot of the Ba-la Temple.(61)

君是人中優鉢羅
衣傳不愧作當家
法承初祖廷前雪
道契能仁手裡花
講席而今稱巨擘
佛塲憶自占高科
試將法棹橫南浦
月色光洆萬頃波

You are really a blue lotus among human beings,
A competent personality worthy of being transmitted the robe.
Receiving Dharma from Patriarch Bodhidharma in the snowy yard,
Realizing the Absolute in the Buddha’s holding a flower,
Now you are the most outstanding in the lecture hall,
And earlier the honors graduate in the exam for Buddhas-in-future.
Try spreading the Buddha’s teaching across the Southern land,
Just like the moonlight covering all the waves in the wide open space.
Even in the poems composed after Zen Master Trí Thủ had become the Rector of the Hải Đức Buddhist College in Nha Trang in 1957 Zen Master Chân Đạo also expressed his affectionate feeling for him as in the “A Visit to Rector Trí Thủ of the Nha Trang Buddhist College,”(62)

栽培法種壯禪門
不亞三生石上魂
他土未曾忘此土
有言正欱顯無言
傍人漫謂山河隔
自我深知道義存
若問年來何所得
老兼貧病衆中尊

Fostering Dharma-seeds to enrich the Zen forest,
Not wasting a lifetime spent in such a firm aspiration,
This land not abandoned in spite of having attained that land,
The use of words for the purpose of revealing the non-verbal;
Others assume that we would be set apart as mountain from river,
Yet I know deeply that our monastic feelings remain forever.
If asked what to gain in the coming year,
It is an old, poor, and sick Honored One of the Order.

His affections and expectations with regard to the succeeding generation were showed not only towards such Zen masters as Trí Thủ but also to those who had studied under him for some time in the past. In the poems that were originally used as ‘captions’ on the small photos of some Zen masters and later grouped under the title “Tiểu Ảnh Đề Tặng” in the anthology he wrote about the masters who, apart from Zen Master Trí Thủ, were then very young but began to undertake important positions in Buddhism such as Mật Nguyện, Trí Đức, Trí Quang, and so on.

This chain of poems actually appeared in the two-part version, so it had to be written by 1953, when the version came into being in January of the year. Accordingly, those poems must have been composed roughly between 1949 and 1953, when the Zen masters like Trí Đức were officially ordained to be Bhikṣus at the Great Ordination organized at the Báo Quốc Temple. Merely taking a glimpse at those poems the reader can perceive how affectionate the author’s feelings were. Just as Zen Master Trí Thủ had been described as

非空非有
即假即真
鑒此伊誰
智首上人

Neither existent nor nonexistent,
Both false and true;
Let us watch who he is.
That is Superior Man Trí Thủ,
so was Zen Master Trí Đức in the following lines,

非自非他
不離不即
證此誰何
仁者智德

Neither I-ness nor Other-ness,
Neither differentiated nor identified;
Let us recognize who he is.
That is Noble Man Trí Đức.

As far as Zen Master Trí Quang is concerned, the poem written by Zen Master Chân Đạo sounds like a ‘couplet in parallelism’ full of Zen character,

水月隨緣
妙有還非有
智光普炤
真空不是空

Like the image of the moon on the water,
Existing marvelously but actually non-existing,
Light of your wisdom shines everywhere,
Truly empty but not empty.

Particularly concerning Zen Master Mật Nguyện, not only did Zen Master Chân Đạo expressed his feeling in the lines

碧峯法爾超情謂
密願云何定假真

Bích Phong,(63) he is just as transcendent as he is,
Mật Nguyện,(64) his vow is hard to determine,

but in his very life he also had the same feeling for him. During the rains in the autumn of 1954 or 1955 a mass of mushrooms grew in the front yard of the Quy Thiện Temple, which he picked up and sent to Zen Master Mật Nguyện, then the Abbot of the Linh Quang Temple, as described in the poem “Dedicated to the Abbot of the Linh Quang Temple,”(65)

傘蓋盈廷蟻献成
信知法大感群生
而今分轉靈光殿
庶備天廚作素羹

The yard is abundant in ‘parasols’ made by termites,(66)
Which proves the tremendous impact of Dharma on sentient beings.
Now half of them are sent to the Linh Quang Temple,
Enough for the cook to prepare vegetarian soup.

More than a decade later those words proved to be his exact predictions. Through the features of Zen masters in their small individual photos, on which Zen Master Chân Đạo were writing ‘captions’ about them, he could foresee the future of the country and Buddhism.

Apart from Buddhist monks, Zen Master Chân Đạo wrote about Buddhist nuns with words of no less than affection and expectation. In his anthology there are two poems about two renowned nuns, that is, Diệu Không (1905-1997) and Thể Quán (1920-1986). They were both born of noble families in Central Vietnam and made great contributions to the development of Vietnamese Buddhism from the 1930s. They themselves were well-known writers. The poem about Diệu Không puts it as follows,

侯門晚放一花枝
艷色芳心憶少時
早厭塵根忘世利
為栽道樹著田衣
還能落魄知人傑
寧把尋常看女兒
百尺竿頭重進步
莫嫌變易便遲遲

In the imperial palace there opened a “bloom” rather late,
With her graceful face and fragrant heart at an early age.
Aware of earthly bondage, unconcerned with worldly interest,
She put on the Buddhist robe to start a monastic life.
Her capacity as a genius is so startlingly powerful
That no one could dare consider women to be ‘good-for-nothing.’
May she be able to have “an ultimate leap” into the Absolute
Instead of being reluctant as everything is in constant change!

No doubt, the poem was composed subsequent to the year 1944, when this elder nun received full ordination at the Thiền Tôn Temple after her twelve years’ practicing Buddhism as a Śrāmaṇerikā. It was also during this period that the elder Nun Thể Quán renounced the world under the Queen-Mother Đoan Huy’s auspices, and temporarily settled in the Khương Ninh Pavilion, a temple exclusively built in the citadel for the queen-mothers and the queens of the Nguyễn Dynasty. She was the daughter of Minister Thái Văn Toản (1885-1952), who had the Quy Thiện Temple built in 1937 and later invited Zen Master Chân Đạo to take its charge. The following poem, entitled “Dedicated to Bhikṣunī Thể Quán,”(67) might be composed after the nun had left the Khương Ninh Pavilion and become officially a member of the Buddhist monastic order:

虎口中來事可悲
惡緣信矣善緣期
禪機既已空三世
塵夢何煩論四知
筆下珠光應自勵
眼前金相且存疑
生初見說蓮池浴
後此無難證寶池

Your departure from the Forbidden City is full of pity,
Which proves that all things arise in their causal dependence.
From Zen view the Three Periods (68) are essentially empty;
So life is known, without any of the Fourfold Knowledge, to be a dream only.
Encourage yourself in the long course of studying Buddhism;
Raise doubt to the utmost in face of any noble appearance achieved.
If rebirth in the Lotus Pond was ever heard of early in your life,
It would not be difficult for you to be there some day later.

Besides the figures belonging to the Buddhist Order mentioned above, Zen Master Chân Đạo had a close relationship with other Buddhist patriotic personalities and intellectuals of the time, such as Sào Nam Phan Bội Châu (1869-1942), Thúc Giạ Thị Ưng Bình (1877-1961), Trạch Chi Ngô Đình Nhuận, Bạch Mai Phan Ngọc Hoàn (1893-1977), Minh Trai Trần Tiễn Hy (1909-1994), and so forth. The Master ever met with Phan Bội Châu, a strong-willed patriotic scholar, as the latter was being put under house arrest in Huế from 1925 to his death in 1940. The talk between the patriotic scholar and the monk-poet was referred to in the poem “Talking about Heart in a Moonlit Night.”(69)

月下談心憶至言
先生何處弔忠魂
英雄氣魄終難死
國士精神貴自尊
壯歲我曾纓世網
暮年誰料到禪門
未平恨海容何害
老驥應知志尚存

Remembering our intimate talk of Heart in a moonlit night,
I am moved to pity for your abiding patriotism.
A hero’s lofty aspiration is hard to die out;
A patriot’s spirit is valued just in his honorable character.
As a young man I was ever caught in the world’s net;
But now I have unexpectedly settled behind the Zen gate.
Let us not be defeated as the sea of feud has not been calmed down;
For our aspiration as that of noble men remains firm forever.

SOME REMARKS ON THE ANTHOLOGY

From the above analysis of the Thủy Nguyệt Tòng Sao some remarks may be drawn as follows,

First, as a literary collection of almost all of Zen Master Chân Đạo’s works the Thủy Nguyệt Tòng Sao should naturally be dealt with in its status quo. It may be said that the anthology is one of the final literary works published in the declining period of an education based on Chinese script in Vietnam and in the background of the policy of cultural genocide strictly imposed on the Vietnamese people by French Colonialists and their lackeys. It represents partly the Buddhist intellectuals’ reaction to that crafty policy, and thus displays to some extent their contemporary feelings for and expectations towards their people and Buddhism.

Secondly, the Thủy Nguyệt Tòng Sao may be considered a work of thought. For, according to Eastern tradition of “verse for presenting aspiration” all literary works are almost characterized by some point of view, some standpoint, some thought. The consistent stance adopted by the author of the Thủy Nguyệt Tòng Sao is to serve with all his heart Buddhism and nation, to eradicate evils in both Buddhist and non-Buddhist living by means of an all-round education; that is, the one not confined to Buddhist texts and teachings alone. Since the mid-1850s the development of Vietnamese Buddhism has been more or less influenced by such an educational standpoint.

Thirdly, the Thủy Nguyệt Tòng Sao provides us with a rather lively picture of Vietnamese Buddhism in the twentieth century. As has been said before, most of the Buddhist figures of the twentieth century appear in this work. For both the elders of the previous generation such as Zen Masters Phước Huệ, Trung Thứ, and their successors such as Zen Masters Trí Thủ, Mật Nguyện, Trí Đức, Trí Quang the author expressed his particular respect and highly affectionate expectations.

Fourthly, in terms of that picture the Thủy Nguyệt Tòng Sao reveals the author’s feelings and emotions in the relationship between him and his religious friends. These feelings and emotions arise not only out of his concern about several serious issues of the country and Buddhism but also out of ordinary affairs in his everyday life such as “giving some mushrooms growing in the temple yard,” “giving a fan,” etc. It is those seemingly ordinary behaviors that have brought about the solidarity indispensable for great deeds of Buddhism and the country to be achieved.

The above are some contributions that the Thủy Nguyệt Tòng Sao may make to researchers. Though the anthology has not been thoroughly analyzed, what we have discussed so far may suffice to indicate that it is worth a remarkable landmark in the history of Buddhism as well as of literature and thought in Vietnam. Some studies of it in the future, we hope, would be able to clarify much more of several problems which were dealt with by Zen Master Chân Đạo and not studied in detail by us in the present writing, particularly the personality of some lay Buddhists with whom the Master had come into contact.

~ English translation by Đạo Sinh

——————-
Notes:
(42) Nam Kỳ Nghiên Cứu Phật Học Hội, founded in 1931.
(43) An Nam Phật Học Hội, founded in 1932.
(44) Bắc Kỳ Phật Giáo Hội.
(45) Two great Buddhist philosophers in India in the fourth century C.E
(46) Vietnamese equivalent for Ch’an(-na) in Chinese and Zen in Japanese.
(47) Skt.; it is the southern of the four continents shaped like a triangle resembling the triangular leaves of the Jambu tree, and called after a forest of such trees on Mount Meru.
(48) 竹 林 寺 覺 先 和 尚 肖 像 贊, “Trúc Lâm Tự Giác Tiên Hòa Thượng Tiếu Tượng Tán”
(49) 贈法弟碧空掛冠為禪, “Tặng Pháp Đệ Bích Không Quải Quán Vi Thiền”
(50) Su Tung-p’o (1036-1101 C.E.), a famous Chinese poet and scholar.
(51) A Chinese Zen Master, whom Su Tung-p’o often visited for discussions on Buddhism.
(52) Quốc Triều Hương Khoa Lục
(53) A copy of the stele inscription is preserved at the Hán-Nôm Institute.
(54) 與沱曩汎某法契, “Dự Đà Nẵng Phiếm Mỗ Pháp Khế.” It is entitled “Ký Thám Đà Thành Mỗ Pháp Khế” in the two-part version.
(55) 香江舟次和碧空法弟韻, “Hương Giang Chu Thứ Họa Bích Không Pháp Đệ Vận”
(56) 賜法姪心智字圓覺號昭然大師偈, “Tứ Pháp Điệt Tâm Trí Tự Viên Giác Hiệu Chiêu Nhiên Đại Sư Kệ”
(57) 丙戌夏訪敦后法侶新任天姥寺主, “Bính Tuất Hạ Phỏng Đôn Hậu Pháp Lữ Tân Nhậ Thiên Mụ Tự Chủ”
(58) 福緣, lit. “condition of bliss,” name of the stūpa.
(59) 嘲敦后法侶, “Trào Đôn Hậu Pháp Lữ”
(60) 戊寅智首法契新任波羅寺主之贈和韻, “Mậu Dần Trí Thủ Pháp KhếNhậm Ba La Tự Chủ Chi Tặng Họa Vận”
(61) The temple was founded by Zen Master Viên Giác Nguyễn Khoa Luận.
(62) 芽莊佛學鑒院智首大德之探, “Nha Trang Phật Học Giám Viện Trí ThủĐại Đức Chi Thám”
(63) 碧峯, lit. “the green peak,” referring to Zen Master Chân Đạo.
(64) 密願, lit. “the secret vow” referring to Zen Master Mật Nguyện.
(65) 又贈靈光寺主, “Hựu Tặng Linh Quang Tự Chủ”
(66) The mushrooms growing from the termites’ nest on the ground are likened to parasols.
(67) 贈體觀比丘尼, “Tặng Thể Quán Tỳ Kheo Ni”
(68) past, present, future
(69) 月下談心, “Nguyệt Hạ Đàm Tâm”

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