MASTER HSUAN-SHA (GENSHA)
Ven. Guren Martin
Master Hsuan-sha studied and practised the Buddhist way under Great Master Hsueh (Seppa) in the ninth century. Hsuan-sha and his master, Hsueh were descendants of the Dharma lineage of the Venerable Sixth Patriarch Hui Neng and his disciple Ch'ing Yuan Hsing-ssu. Due to his great determination and earnest resolve, Hsuan-sha was considered to be one of the outstanding disciples of Master Hsueh.
There is a story concerning Hsuan-sha when he was training under Master Hsueh that I would like to introduce to you. One day during his training Hsuan-sha decided to leave the monastery of Master Hsueh to go on a pilgrimage. Hsuan-sha planned to visit other masters in order to further perfect his practice. Starting out on his journey Hsuan-sha descended from the monastery walking down the mountain path. While walking on the mountain path he happened to stub his toe on a rock. As this was in olden times Hsuan-sha may only have been wearing straw sandals on his feet. Stubbing his toe on a rock, it was very painful and his toe began to bleed. While in this great pain, a thought arose to Hsuan-sha, I have heard that this body is an illusion. It has no real substance, so where is the pain coming from? With this incident, stubbing his toe on a rook, the pain, and his own doubt or question, Hsuan-sha decided to return to his master Hsueh and continued his practice there.
Upon returning, Master Hsuah asked Hsuan-sha, "Did you leave on a pilgrimage just to injure your foot and cause yourself trouble?" Hsuan-sha replied, "Do not kid me, please."
Master Hsueh was pleased by this reply, and said, "Everyone should speak like you have just spoken, however they do not have your sincerity. Are you going to continue on your pilgrimage?" Hsuan-sha said, "Bodhidharma did not come to China, the second Patriarch did not go to India." The Master Hsueh was also pleased by this answer.
This is a well-known story, concerned with Master Hsueh and his disciple Hsuan-sha. It shows Hsuan-sha's determination and resolve to continue, two important virtues in life. This story is also about hardship encountered in life. This story can be an example for us. Often people meet with hardship and then go astray. Losing the Way, becoming negligent, or giving up. One Patriarch of the Buddhist Way said that hardship is necessary to advance or progress. Hsuan-sha really felt the pain of his stubbed toe, and he really met the adversity or hardship. And it is not only Hsuan-sha who knows hardship or feels pain in life. Yet, Hsuan-sha despite his painful toe, maintained his determination and resolves, and used this incident to continue in the Way wholeheartedly.
Hsuan-sha, gritting his teeth, returned to his master, neither growing negligent nor losing to adversity. In order to succeed in life determination, resolve, and some self-sacrifice are essential. When we meet with hardships we can use this example of Hsuan-sha. His determination and resolve, not giving up, and not becoming negligent.
Concerning adversity there is a poem. The poem is,
In this poem the rain refers to hardship or adversity that arises in life. The soil refers to people, each of us. Becomes firm means to mature. So the poem is saying that through hardship or difficulties, people mature.
Again, it is important not to lose to hardship that occurs in the course of life. And we should not be negligent in our daily life. In order to keep us from going astray there are the precepts, the Buddhist precepts. For laypersons there are five precepts.
And for monks and nuns there are ten precepts.