The teaching of Buddha is very simple and understand,
in terms of clarity and applicability. The Buddha preached of no
mystics: There is no God to save you. Only you can save ourself.
All of what he said was derived from his direct experiences through
observations and meditations. For example, during the meditation
about the life of lotus plants in a muddy swamp, he concluded that
living things, especially human beings, possess Bodhi-nature (Bodhi=Brillance).
If a lotus plant can emerge from the murky water to reach the dazzling
sun and produce its colorful and fragrant flowers, a human being
can emerge from his adversity and work hard to reach his potentiality
in order to contribute something useful and beautiful to life -
regardless if one is a farmer, a worker, or a professional.
Ultimately, the Buddha's Teaching derives from the observable truths
that in present day scientists call "laws"; namely
- the Law of Impermanence,
- the Law of Cause and Effect, and
- the Law of Causation.
Law of Impermanence
Buddha had always reminded his audience that things are impermanent,
including life. Everything is forever changing. He insisted that
his followers shoud observe and meditate on those in order to recognize
them as a first-hand experience.
Let us try some observations. From the human to the material world,
there is nothing that does not change. In the human body, cells
split, grow and die incessantly. Through the processes, the cells
transform an egg and a sperm into a cute baby; a baby into a youthful
teenager; a teenager into a loving, beautiful young woman; a young
woman into a delicate wife and an adorable mother; and then, all
traits of beauty of an energetic life eventually fade away and are
replaced by a frail, unpleasant silhouette waiting for disintegration.
How pitiful and ephemeral human life is! Even in the United States
where the advancement of medicine and technology can prolong life
to over a hundred years, people cannot stay strong and free from
illness. All elderly people are dying to pass away from their unproductive
years. This Law of Impermanence, thus, applies to all beings. No
one can escape it. Because it is an eternal truth.
Or take a look at a brand new car. No matter how much care you
put into it, after three to five years the car shows signs of wear
and tear. Finally, it will be winding into a wreckage.
And look at any relationship. None of them will last forever. As
time passes, neighbors move out, friendships disappear, even kinship
loosens, not to mention marital loves.
We are suffering because we do not understand the law, nor do we
acknowledge it. We wish to stay young forever, avoiding sickness
and death. We lament our health when sick, and are terrified when
death shows up at our doorstep.
Or we want to be always rich, to experience a comfortable life
or satisfaction, to have a wonderful family with a handsome or beautiful
spouse and smart children. We are afraid of adversity and of any
Therefore, some of us come to Buddha, unfortunately, not for the
truth in his teachings, but because of wrong thoughts that we can
pray Buddha for whatever we want. No wonder people become increasingly
greedy and miserable, despite the fact that they go to temple very
Shoud we understand and recognize the Law of Impermanence, we could
change our perspective toward life. We would admit life as it is,
no matter what kind of change or adversity we encounter. That is
the teaching of Buddha. We would be brave and wise in any circumstance,
and more sympathetic to others. Never again would we cry when facing
a mishap, an illness, or even death. And that is the appropriate
view, from which Zen Master Va.n Ha.nh in the Lý dynasty
put into verse, regarding life and human conditions:
The human body, like lightning, appears and departs,
As tree grow in Spring and droop in Fall.
Despite its growth or ruin, we should be not alarmed,
Considered dewdrops on tips of grass as they are all.
However, there are critics who interpret Buddhist viewpoint to
be discouraging, or even fatalistic. If things are always changing
and human lives are predetermined to suffer and die, why do we bother
to maintain a constructive and decent life? Not only does this interpretation
misconstrue the Teaching; it represents a shallow thought.
With an earnest observation, it is true that life is forever changing?
But facing a truth, one can react either negatively or positively,
depending or his or her point of view. The Buddhist teaching, in
reality, broadcasts a positive viewpoint. The aforementioned verse
has proved it. Life is as short as a ligtning, which appears and
departs in a blink, or as trees that grow in the Spring and droop
in the Fall. Nothing remain unchanged. Despite many changes, an
enlightened would recognize them as they are, considering them as
dewdrops on tips of grass.
(A dewdrop is so beautifull, especially under the early morning
sun. But it won't last long. And certainly nobody is going to cry
when a dewdrop liquefies; because that is the way it is).
Moreover, Prince Shidharta became Buddha only because of his positive
outlooks. After witnessing the pain and bitterness of his destitute,
sick, and dying people through his rare outing trips, he took a
solemn promise to search for a Way capable of erasing all human
suffering. In other words, his wished to bring happiness to all
human in this painful world.
In order to realize his vows, he bravely renounced his life of
luxury and prestige and went into the wilderness for an ascetic
life. Later on, after attaining the Way, the Buddha proclaimed that
to successfully follow his path, one should arm oneself with some
degrees of intelligence, compassion, and courage.
Law of Cause and Effect
In addition to the Law of Impermanence, Buddha preached the Law
of Cause and Effect. Where there is a cause, there will be an effect.
The effect may follow the cause immediately or eventually, from
previous life to present, and even future life. Of course, a good
cause will produce a good effect and a bad cause will give rise
to a bad one. In brief, Buddha advised his audience, :"Would
you like to know what you were doing in a previous life, see what
you have inherited in this life. To predict what you will be receiving
in the next life, carefully observe what you are doing now".
Most people, due to lack of knowledge of the Law of the Cause and
Effect, believe that their misfortunes were contrived by a Creator.
With this common belief, people heavily become dependent of a heavenly
deity who control their fates. As a result, people like to pray
to all sorts of Gods they can think of to protect them, to bestow
on them good fortunes over the bad ones. More often, people willingly
admin that they have sinned, and readily succumb themselves to the
forgiveness of an imaginary but powerful Creator. In that line of
thinking, a human being inherits no dignity and freedom; he is nothing
but a puppet of his creator.
To Budhha, that belief is not based on the truth. The truth is
that everyone is free to control his or her own life. He is solely
responsible for his actions and he is the only one who bears the
results. Happiness or misery, success or failure... it all depends
on what he had done or has been doing. Good deeds will bring happiness;
evil action will breed misery. As an old saying dictated: "He
who sows winds, reaps the storm".
Not only does the Law of Cause and Effect govern human actions,
it also is universal. An orange tree will produce orange fruit;
a lemon tree will provide lemon ones. When dark, heavy clouds gather,
one can be sure that rain is going to fall. And a boy is too lazy
to do this homework, his parents can be certain that he is going
to fail his class.
Just observe any event around us. We will realize that nothing
is untouched by the law. By the same token we won't see any interference
from Gods. That is why Bodhisattva is always doing only good deeds,
and staying away from evil actions. After all, the Bodhisattva understands
the law. His life, therefore, is free of god-controlled fears. He
is only afraid of himself, of his three poisons (Greed, Hatred,
and Delusions) which will inflict evil behaviors on him, he is not
afraid of any heavenly deities' curses.
On the contrary, common people make their lives miserable due to
their evil actions. They life, they cheat, they fabricate stories,
they speak evil, and they even have plans to hurt other for their
own gain. In brief, they act under the stipulations of greed, anger,
or attachment. Naturally, when a bad seed is sowed, an evil effect
will sooner or later be delivered. It is clear that only the doer
is responsible for the result of what he has done not a God or a
Creatoe. Neither praying, nor blessing can save one from one's own
To prove this viewpoint, one day the Buddha raised questions to
a group famous Brahmins who, claiming that they had power to talk
to God, regularly held prayer sessions for rich people in return
for gold and money. They first question was: "If a man pushes
a big chunk of heavy rock down into a well and asks you to pray
that it floats, can you do that?". - "No!" replied
the Brahmin: "The rock is so heavy, and we cannot pray God
for it to float. It has to sink, no matter what".
The next question was: "If a man pour a bucket of oil into
a well and asks you to pray that the oil can sink to the bootom,
can you do that?". - "No!" came the reply: "Oil
is so light; no matter what we do, we cannot make it submerge".
The Buddha, then, concluded: "By the same token, if a person
is always doing good deed, his karma will be as light as oil. He
does not have to pray for his fate. Conversely, if one only indulges
in evil actions, his karma will be as a big chunk of rock and will
pull him down to Hell. Any praying to God for him to be saved would
To emphasize the importance of the Law of Cause and Effect, in
his first lecture, the Buddha preached the Four Basic Truth:
- The Truth of Suffering
- The causes of Suffering
- The cessation of suffering.
- The Way that procures cessation of Suffering.
To make himself clearly and logically understood, Buddha explained
that human sufferings are derived from causes creact by customs
and habits, which are generally devilish, by nature. From generation
to generation, from one life to the next these devilish cause are
repeated and carried over. As result, he who has created these evil
causes has to repay the debts afterwards. In order words, the suffering
that humans must endure in number (1) is the produced by number
(2). Now, there is a way to end those suffering. To reach the cessation
as effect in number (3), one has to practice the Way as the good
cause governed by number (4).
The Way, consisting of the Eightfold Path is devised to completely
eradicate the three poisons (greed, hatred, and delusion) which,
for many lives, seriously infest human behaviors and cause diabolical
thoughts and actions. The Eightfold Path includes: Appropriate Views,
Appropriate Thoughts, Appropriate Language, Appropriate Actions,
Appropriate Livelihood, Appropriate Effort, Correct Mindfulness
and Correct Medication. Nowadays, in practicing the Law of Cause
and Effect to change our lives for the better, we can proudly declare
that Buddhism is not mysticism, but very competitive to the advancement
of Science. As a matter of face, the very existence of Science today
is based on the Law Of Cause and Effect; which, in the essence,
is nothing new to the teaching of Buddha since over 2500 years ago.
Law of Causation
Besides the Laws of Permanence and Cause and Effect, the Buddha
also preached the Law of Causation. Through his meditation, Buddha
observed that a thing does not exist independently by itself. Every
existence is a combination. Without such as a composition, nothing
actually exists. To be is to be under the formation of causes and
Let's try some observations as the Buddha did. Scientists now confirm
that the human body is a combination of one hundred trillion cells
which create the formation of blood, bones, and inner organs such
as the brain, heart, lungs, kidneys, stomach, intestines... and
of outer organs such as eyes, ears, nose, mouth, skin, ect... Lacking
one or more of these components, a body does not function properly
or simply cannot exist.
The Law of Causation shows that in humans, there is no such thing
called the "ego" or "self". The concept of "I"
or "You", with the underlying idea that "Mine"
is always better than "Yours" is a delusion. Actually,
if "my" condition is better than "yours", it
is only because the karma of previous life is not the same, rather
than because my body is better than yours.
In addition, even if the body is make from a perfect junction of
cells and organs, it will not last long if there is no proper provision
of fresh air, nutritious food, and potable water.
In other words, the Law of Causation also means that: "Things
only exist when there are enough causes which come together under
favorable conditions; and things will disintegrate when causes or
conditions are scattered".
Obviously, to be a human, there are numerous causes and conditions
that blend together and create an existence. From the day a mature
egg met a healthy sperm and grew in a womb, there are countlees
unfavorable causes and conditions that may abolish the chance of
being born a healthy human child.
Statistics shows that in the Third World, the percentage of young
children who survive their harsh environment after seven years of
age is also very low. Apparently, being born in the Third Wold is
having less favorable causes and conditions than in the industrialized
The Buddha explained that the earnest observations on any events
in daily life, one can recognize that nothing happens without numerous
causes and conditions involved.
Normally, they appear in innumerable form that result in good or
bad occurences, depending on one's karma. When karma is formed and
causes and conditions cast on, it is not in anyone's hand to control
the event any more; not even Gods.
Scientists today express the same about the Law of Causation. If
there is enough Oxygen and Hydrogen in proper proportions and if
the condition, if favorable, it will product Water (2H + O = H2O).
Othervise, no water exists. This same law applies to all aspects
of the human world, including family structures, politics, economics,
and social activities.
Zen, which had developed into a distinctively Chinese school of
Buddhism, became an international phenomenon early in its history.
This first occurred in Vietnam, according to the traditional accounts
of that country. These traditions state that, in 580, an Indian
monk named Vinitaruci (Vietnamese: Tì-ni-da-luu-chi) travelled
to Vietnam after completing his studies with Sengcan, the third
patriarch of Chinese Zen. This, then, would be the first appearance
of Vietnamese Zen, or Thien (thi?n) Buddhism. The sect that Vinitaruci
and his lone Vietnamese disciple founded would become known as the
oldest branch of Thien. After a period of obscurity, the Vinitaruci
School became one of the most influential Buddhist groups in Vietnam
by the 10th century, particularly so under the patriarch V?n-H?nh
(died 1018). Other early Vietnamese Zen schools included the Vo
Ngon Thong (Vô Ngôn Thông), which was associated
with the teaching of Mazu, and the Thao Duong (Th?o Ðu?ng),
which incorporated nianfo chanting techniques; both were founded
by Chinese monks. All three of the early schools appear to have
largely disintegrated during the Mongol invasions of the 13th century.
A new school was founded by one of Vietnam's religious kings; this
was the Truc Lam (Trúc Lâm) school, which evinced a
deep influence from Confucian and Taoist philosophy. Nevertheless,
Truc Lam's prestige waned over the following centuries as Confucianism
became dominant in the royal court. In the 17th century, a group
of Chinese monks led by Nguyen Thieu (Nguyên Thi?u) established
a vigorous new school, the Lam Te (Lâm T?), which is the Vietnamese
pronunciation of Linji. A more domesticated offshoot of Lam Te,
the Lieu Quan (Li?u Quán) school, was founded in the 18th
century and has since been the predominant branch of Vietnamese
Truc Lam Dau Da
(King Tran Nhan Tong)
The First Patriarch
(1258 - 1308)
Borned on November 11th of 1258, his real name was Kham. He was
the oldest child of King Tran Thanh Tong and Queen Nguyen Thanh.
Even though living in luxury, at young age, his mind was still interested
in Zen. At the age of 16, he was promoted as crown prince. He had
tried to reject it many times by promoting his brother, but his
father would never accept it. He married the oldest daughter of
queen Nguyen Tu, who later became queen Kham Tu. Living in happiness
at the time, he still preferred to become a monk.
One time at midnight, he left the palace to Yen Tu mountain. At
sunrise, he arrived at Thap temple at Dong Cuu mountain. Being too
exhausted, he rested in the temple. Noticing his unique characteristics,
the abbot offered him good treats. When the King's father got the
news, he urged his men for a search. He was found later on. With
no choice, he had to return to the palace.
At the age of 21 (1279), he became king. Even though having the
upmost power, he still maintained purification for his Zen practice.
Each day, he practiced at Tu Phuoc temple, which located within
the city. One day, while taking a lunch nap, he saw from his navel
grew a big lotus flower with a golden Buddha's statue on the top.
A man standing by pointed his hand to him and said, "Do you
know this Buddha? He's the Vairocana Buddha (The Great Sun Buddha).
After waking up, the King told his father the dream. King Tran Thanh
Tong exclaimed for this strange incident.
King Tran Nhan Tong preferred vegetarian foods, therefore, his
body was slim. King Thanh Tong noticed his health condition so he
asked for the reason. King Nhan Tong confessed his desire for renunciation.
King Thanh Tong in tears mourned, "I'm already old. I always
count on you. How could you do it? How could you continue the duty
of our ancestors by doing that?" King Nhan Tong listened in
King Nhan Tong was quite intelligent and aggressive in learning.
He had read many books and understood thoroughly all Buddhist scriptures
and other public writings. In his spare times, he liked to discuss
Zen with Zen masters or practitioners, especially, High official
Tue Trung. The king's discernment was at the upmost level. He respected
High official Tue Trung as his teacher. When Mongolian invaded the
country, he had to put aside his religious interests to concentrate
on the national defense. Because our army was united, we were able
to defeat Mongolians twice in 1285 and 1288. In his era, there were
2 significant conferences: 1) Of all high-rank generals and officials
at Binh Than 2) of all senior citizens at Dien Hong to discuss strategies
for national defense.
In 1293, King Tran Anh Tong became king. For the following six
years, he was beside his son to support him in his new role. In
October of 1299, he ordained as a monastic monk and stayed at Yen
Tu mountain. For the years that he resided at this place, he focussed
on ascetic virtues. Thus, his title was "Huong Van Dai Dau
Da" (The Great Ascetic monk). Later, he established temples,
meditation centers, and performed teachings to other monks and the
public. Numbers of them attended his lecturings. Next, he established
a lecture hall at Pho Minh temple and performed lecturing there.
Several years after, he traveled to Bo Chanh camp. This is where
Tri Kien pagoda was built. The First Patriarch decided to stay there
until 1304, he traveled around to abolish places with inappropriate
worshippings and to teach them the practice of ten precepts. In
the winter of that year, King Tran Anh Tong requested him to perform
a ritual for his ordainment of Bodhisattva precepts at the palace.
Later, leaned on his wand, he walked to Sung Nghiem temple at Linh
Son mountain to propagate Zen sect. On January 1st, he assigned
Master Phap Loa to Bao An temple at Sieu Thoai province to perform
a ceremony. Three months later, he came to Vinh Nghiem temple at
Luong Giang and assigned master Phap Loa to perform a ceremony.
This time, the First Patriarch expounded "Truyen Dang Luc"
and requested National Advisor Dao Nhat to expound Lotus suttra
to the mass. At the end of the retreat season, he returned to Yen
Tu mountain and dismissed all laymen and helpers in the temple.
He only kept 12 novices, who often followed him to places. One time
on Master Phap Loa's request, he went to Tu Tieu pagoda to expound
"Truyen Dang Luc." At the end, all novices were asked
to leave, except master Phap Loa. The First Patriarch then climbed
on various places around hut to search for caves. Master Phap Loa
curiously asked, "Master, at your old age, you're still active.
If anything happens to you, who could we count on in propagating
Buddhist dharmas?" The First Patriarch replied, "Time
has come for me, therefore, I want to make a long-term plan."
On October 5th of that year, a servant of Thien Doan princess arrived.
He notified,"Thien Doan princess is critically ill. She would
like to see you once again before she passes away." The First
Patriarch sadly replied, "Time has come." He left with
only one novice to see the princess. Five days later, he arrived
the palace. After the event, he departed to Sieu Thoai temple on
the 15th of the month. Next morning after his arrival at the temple,
he walked to a temple at Co Chau village and wrote this verse:
People's life is on a breath
Their greed is endless
Devil fortress is like a dungeon,
While the Buddha realm is full of joy
On the 17th of that month, he stayed at Sung Nghiem temple at Linh
Son mountain. Queen Tuyen Tu invited him to a luncheon at Binh Duong
pagoda. He delightedly said, " This is the last offering."
Next day, he walked to Tu Lam temple at Ky Anh Sanh mountain. Suddenly,
he experienced a headache so he immediately called two bhikkhus
and asked, "I would like to go up to Ngoa Van mountain, but
don't have energy to do it. What can I do?" They answered,
"We could help you, Master." When they reached to Ngoa
Van, he dismissed the two bhikkhus, "Return to the temple and
practice. Remember not to underestimate life and death."
On the 19th day, he asked novice Phap Khong to get to Tu Tieu pagoda
at Yen Tu and asked novice Bao Sat to see him. On the next day,
Bao Sat departed. When he passed Doanh Tuyen lake, he saw a dark
cloud flew from Ngoa Van mountain to Loi Son, then dropped down
to Doanh Tuyen. This caused a high water rising. In a moment, it
went back to normal level. Next, he saw 2 dragons with sharp eyes
popped the heads out of water for a moment, then, they submerged
into the water. That night, Bao sat rested in an inn at the foot
of the mountain. He had a bad dream.
On the 21st day, he arrived at Ngoa Van pagoda. Seeing him, the
First Patriarch smiled, "I'm about to go. Why are you late?
If you have anything unclear on Buddhist dharmas, you should ask
Bao sat asked:
- When Ma Tsu was ill, the rector asked, "How were you for
the past several days?" Ma Tsu replied, "The sun is the
Buddha, so as the moon." What does it mean?
The First Patriarch raised his voice:
- What are the five Chinese emperors and three ancient kings?
Bao Sat asked:
- What does it mean by "Flowers blossom as many as silk. Bamboos
in the south are as many as those in the north?"
The First Patriarch replied:
- They blind your eyes.
Bao Sat remained silent.
Days later, the sky was dull. Birds circled above with tragic cry.
On the night of November 1st, the sky was clear with sparkling
stars. The First Patriarch asked, "What time is it?" Bao
Sat replied, "Is midnight, Master." He lifted the curtain
to look at the sky, then said, "It's time for me to go."
Bao Sat asked, "Where are you going?" He replied:
Nothing was created
Nothing was terminated
If that is understood
The Buddha will always in presence
Where should there be the coming and returning?
Bao Sat asked, "What does it mean by no birth and no termination?"
The First Patriarch slapped Bao Sat in the face and scolded:
- Stop speaking nonsense!
Then, in the posture of lion, he passed away. This was the year
of 1308, when he was 51 years old.
Based on the First Patriarch's will, Master Phap Loa cremated his
body and reserved his remains in an ash pot. Later, King Anh Tong
and his officials brought his remains back to Duc Lang for worshipping.
The king also built a pagoda next to Van Yen temple in Yen Tu mountain.
He named it "Hue Quang Kim Thap" (Hue Quang pagoda). Meanwhile,
he honored the First Patriarch with the title "Dai Thanh Tran
Trieu Truc Lam Dau Da Tinh Tue Giac Hoang Dieu Ngu To Phat."
The First Patriarch's writings are:
Thien Lam Thiet Chuy Ngu Luc
Dai Huong Hai An Thi Tap
Tang Gia Toai Su
Thach That Mi Ngu (revised by Master Phap Loa)
Zen Master Phap Loa
The Second Patriarch
(1258 - 1308)
His real name was Dong Kien Cuong. He was borned in 1284 at Cuu
La village in Hai Duong province. His father named Dong Thuan Mau
and his mother named Vu Tu cuu. Before conceiving him, his mother
dreamed of a man giving her a holy sword. She liked it much so she
took it. After that day, she realized that she was pregnant. But
having 8 daughters discouraged her from having this one, therefore,
she tried to abort him. None of the attempts worked. After giving
birth to him, she was joyful to name him Kien Cuong. At young age,
he portrayed intellect and dignity. He would never make malicious
speeches and had no interest in eating meats.
In 1304, the First Patriarch (Dieu Ngu Giac Hoang) traveled around
to perform teaching and abolish places with inappropriate worshippings.
Age the age of 21, he expressed to the First Patriarch his desire
of ordainment. The First Patriarch was pleased at his first sight
at Master Phap Hoa. He said, "This man has virtue. He should
later be able to propagate Buddhism. Come here..." Master Phap
Loa ordained ten commandments at Linh Son. On that day, he was officially
called "Thien Lai." He was sent to study with the most
venerable Tanh Giac at Quynh Quan. He raised many questions but
could never attain realization. But after reading the dialogue between
the Buddha and Patriarch Ananda asking seven questions about the
mind, his mind was opened. He said good-bye to the most venerable
Tanh Giac to return to the First Patriarch Dieu Ngu. During his
lecturings, Master Phap Loa raised several questions to the First
Patriarch and the more he asked, the more awakened he was. Realizing
his potential, the First patriarch allowed him to be his assistant.
One day, he presented 3 verses to the First Patriarch, but got criticized.
He raised couple questions, but was told to do self learning. Returned
to his room with his head heavy, he stayed up beyond the midnight.
When he caught the extinction of the light, he was enlightened.
He immediately presented his discernment to the First Patriarch.
Unspokenly, the First Patriarch accepted his realization. From that
time on, he practiced the twelve ascetic virtues.
In 1305, the First Patriarch took him to Ky Lan to ordain bhikkhu
and bodhisattva precepts. Acknowledging his accomplishment in studying
and practicing, the First Patriarch gave him a title "Phap
When he was 24, he and other 7 novices assisted the First Patriarch
to Thien Bao Quan pagoda for his lecture on "Dai Hue Ngu Luc."
In May, the First Patriarch resided at a pagoda on Ngoa Van Phong
mountain. After the repentance session on the 15th of the month,
he dismissed everyone except Master Phap Loa. He wrote a verse and
gave it to Master Phap Loa with his bowl.
On January 1st, he followed the First Patriarch to expound dharma
at Sieu Loai temple. Attended the ceremony were King Tran Anh Tong
and high officials. After the lecture, the First Patriarch announced
him to officially become the abbot of Sieu Thoai temple and the
leader of Truc Lam Yen Tu sect or the second patriarch of Truc Lam
Yen Tu sect. He also passed to Patriarch Phap Loa over 200 suttras
and requested King Tran Anh Tong to donate hundred acres of land
to the temple.
In November of that year, the First Patriarch passed away. After
taking his remains to the royal palace, Patriarch Phap Loa returned
to Yen Tu and revised all verses written by the First Patriarch
when he resided at Thach That. It was later called the book of "Thach
That Mi Ngu."
In 1311, he followed the King's order to write "Dai Tang Kinh."
He appointed Bao Sat to supervise this project. In April, he expounded
"Truyen Dang Luc" at Sieu Loai temple. At that time, he
accepted all presentations of Master Huyen Quang.
In September of 1313, he followed the King's order to be at Vinh
Nghiem temple. Here, he laid out the position of each monk and the
list was recorded in a book. This book was in his possession. At
that time, he had overseen over 1000 monks. Every three years, he
had to revised their positions and the list again.
For years later, King Tran Minh Tong took the thrown. In February,
Patriarch Phap Loa was critically ill. He wrote the mind transmission
verse and gave it to Master Huyen Quang along with the First Patriarch's
bowl, his Buddhist props and rod to Canh Ngung, and feather wand
to Canh Huy, bamboo rod to Hue Quan, dharma poems and dharma props
to Hue Nhien, golden bell to Hai An, and golden history book to
Hue Chuc. But several days later, he recovered. Many people from
the queen, princess, to royal members had requested for ordainment.
Even King Tran Anh Tong could consider to be his student. They competed
in donating land, gold, and money to the Patriarch so he could build
more temples, make more Buddha statues, and publish more scriptures.
The donation was so much to the point that he had to limit the donation
amount. He refused to accept a donation from the King: a boat that
could facilitate his commute from the temple to the palace and other
In 1329, King Tran Hieu Tong became king. In this year, he enhanced
and extended the scenery of Con Son and Thanh Mai Son (mountains).
They had become the tourist attractions. Here, he had made a verse
called "A fond of Thanh Son."
On February 5th of 1330, he became ill again during his summon
at Hoa Nghiem temple. Six days later, his condition got worse. Master
Huyen Quang was always beside him for assistant. On his last day,
Terminating all factors of this self is pleasantness
Forty years plus are just a long dream
Just remember, not to ask
With the moon and cool wind, there it opens wide
After the last stroke, he threw the pen and pleasantly extincted.
He was 47 at that time. His students followed his will to bring
his remains to a pagoda Thanh Mai Son. On March 11th, the King Tran
Minh Tong in writing gave the title of "Tinh Tri Ton Gia (sage)"
and named the pagoda as Vien Thong." He donated 10 taels of
gold to rebuild the pagoda. He also made a tribute through a poem.
Review his religious life, we could see that he had built over
1,300 Buddha statues in various sizes, 2 temples, 5 pagodas, over
200 sangha houses, and coverted over 15,000 monks and nuns. He also
published a set of books "Dai Tang Kinh." Over 3,000 of
his students attain the Way, in which, six of them had become the
The Second Patriarch's writings are:
Doan Sach Luc
Tham Thien Chi Yeu
Kim Cuong Dao Trang Da La Ni Kinh
Tan Phap Hoa Kinh Khoa So
Bat Nha Tam Kinh Khoa
And a verse before his extinction
Zen Master Huyen Quang
The Third Patriarch
(1258 - 1308)
His birth name was Ly Dao Tai. He was borned in the Year of Tiger
(1254) at Van Tai village of Bac Giang province. His father, sir
Hue To, was a descent of a bureaucratic family. However he had no
interest in fame even though he had earned a merit of winning a
battle over Ciampa. His mother, Mrs. Le, was a virtuous lady. They
lived south of Ngoc Hoang temple. In the year that Master Huyen
Quang was borned, a peculiar thing happened at this temple. One
night after a recitation, Zen master Hue Nghia fell to sleep with
an interesting dream: His room was bright with lights and packed
with numerous Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, and Diamond protectors. Pointed
at Ananda, the Buddha said, "You will reborn to disseminate
dharmas in the north realm." A sudden knock on the door had
waked him up. He immediately wrote this verse on a wall:
One should not look elsewhere for the Way
The Buddha is our mind and the Buddha mind is profound
Having good dream means good karma
This life should meet a companion
At young age, he looked abnormal. He always carried high goals.
He was filled much of love from his parents. They taught him literature
as well as engaged him in other learning activities. His intelligence
was far extent. In the reign of King Tran Anh Tong (1274), he earned
a first doctoral degree at the age of 21. Even though he was engaged
at the time, the King would like him to marry the princess. But
Master Huyen Quang refused. Later on, he was pointed as an official
to work in the academy in conjunction of greeting Chinese ambassadors.
They quite respected his talent and knowledge.
One day, he followed King Tran Anh Tong to Vinh Nghiem at Phung
Nhan district to listen to Zen Master Phap Loa's lecture. Suddenly,
he was awakened to say, "Being an official, I could reach to
fairyland. If I attained the Way, I could reach to Pho Da mountain.
The fairyland in this world is just at immortal level, but the western
realm is the Buddha realm. The wealth and nobility are like autumn
leaves or summer white clouds. What is there for me to hold on to?"
After a few times submitting his resignation letters, the King finally
granted his request. In 1305, he ordained with monastic name "Huyen
Quang" at Vinh Nghiem temple and became the First Patriarch's
In 1309, he assisted Zen Master Phap Loa after the First Patriarch's
extinction. Later on, he stayed at Van Yen temple at Yen Tu mountain.
His profound dharma knowledge and wiseness had attracted many people
from all places. Thousands of them gathered for dharma inquiries.
He also was assigned to lecture at various places and responsible
for notating the First Patriarch's lectures and editing all other
On January 15th of 1313, King Tran Anh Tong invited him to expound
Suramgama suttra at Bao An temple. After the lecture, he requested
to return home to visit his parents. On this journey, he established
a new temple called Dai Bi located west of their house.
At the age of 60, he returned to Van Yen temple. To examine his
virtue, the King assigned Diem Bich, an imperial servant, to spy
on him. She used different tricks to provoke his compassion and
made false reports to the King. His reputation was damaged. But
later on, the King realized the truth about the Master. Therefore,
Diem Bich was punished to become a janitor at Canh Linh palace.
In 1317, he was bequeathed a Zen transmission from Zen Master Phap
Loa (the second Patriarch of Truc Lam sect).
In 1330, after Zen master Phap Loa's extinction, Zen Master Huyen
Quang officially became the third patriarch of Truc Lam Yen Tu sect.
He was 77 at that time. Dued to his old age, he could not be active
in leading the sangha. Therefore, he designated Master Quoc An (the
National Advisor) to be in charge. Meanwhile, he returned to a temple
at Con Son.
He stayed at Thanh Mai Son for six years. Then, he moved Con Son
to perform teaching. On January 23rd of 1334, he extincted at the
age of 80.
King Tran Minh Tong conferred the Master with the title of "The
Third Great Zen Master of Truc Lam Sect" and "Tu Phap
Huyen Quang Ton Gia (sage)."
The Third Patriarch's writings are:
Ngoc Tien Tap
Chu Pham Kinh
Cong Van Tap
Pho Tue Ngu luc