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The Story of Zen Master Dihui Saving His Friend’s Son with Great Demeanor and Wisdom

Lingyin Temple is also called Yunlin Temple. Yunlin originated from a miswritten word by Emperor Kangxi when he made an inspection trip to the southland. At that time, the master in charge of Lingyin Temple was Zen Master Dihui.

Dihui was born in the late Ming and early Qing Dynasty. After he was ordained to be a monk, he travelled to Lingyin Temple and paid a visit to the abbot Master Jude at Zhizhi (forthright) Hall. Seeing the word “Zhizhi”, he said, “you indicate directly, and I understand directly.” Hearing the birds singing outside, he realized that all creatures in the world are simple and direct. He was suddenly enlightened and thus was accepted. He was smart and lived a simple life. In the history of Lingyin Temple, few people could rival him in this respect. The following is a story about him saving his friend’s son with great demeanor and wisdom.

Dihui had a sworn friend named Yun Richu, a general fighting against Qing Dynasty, who got separated from his younger son Yun Shouping in the war. Master Dihui diligently searched for the child. Eventually he heard that the child was sold as a servant to the commander of Qing army in Hangzhou.

According to the tradition in Hangzhou, the 29th of lunar February is the birthday of Guanyin Bodhisatta. Men and women in the city must go to temples like Lingyin and Tianzhu to worship and present offerings. On that day, the wife of the commander took a group of servants to offer incense to Buddha in Lingyin Temple. She visited Master Dihui first, who had already known that the thin and weak child among the group of servants was Yun Shouping. He went to that child directly and flopped down, nodding repeatedly and shouting, “It is a sin.” Seeing the noble master kneeling at her servant, the wife of the commander was so surprised and asked why.

Master Dihui answered earnestly, “This boy is the Earth Store Bodhisattva of the Great Vow who reincarnates to be an ordinary person in order to detect good and evil in the world of mortal. It is wrong to make him a servant, not to mention that you beat him a lot! I am afraid you will suffer penalties for that!”

The wife of the commander was so scared that she kept on asking for instructions to get her saved. The master just shook his head and remained silent. The wife of the commander sent for her husband and the couple knelt down before Master Dihui, begging for forgiveness and a path to salvation.

Master Dihui said slowly, “Not only you two, I also am guilty! The Bodhisattva of the Great Vow is now in our temple, but I knew nothing about it before hand. I failed to welcome him in proper manner. This is unforgivable! We have to enshrine and worship him in the temple. I will confess for you as well as for myself to avoid troubles.”

The couple consented without any deliberation. Moreover, they donated a large amount of money and handed Shouping over to Master Dihui.

Master Dihui taught Shouping to read and to paint in the temple. After some time, he sent him home to reunite with his family.

Someone asked Master Dihui, “Why do you send Shouping home? Isn’t it better to keep him in the temple?” Dihui answered, “No. I don’t want to follow Shikui’s footsteps. He did everything possible to keep Shen Jinsi (adopted by the former abbot Master Shikui) by his side but failed. Why such a painful choice?”

Later, Yun Shouping became famous for his paintings and became a prestigious painter, enjoying equal popularity as Wang Shimin, Wang Jian, Wang Hui, Wang Yuanqi and Wuli. These six were regarded as “Six Masters” in Qing Dynasty. He was not only good at painting landscape, flowers and birds, but also skilled in writing poems. He had lots of followers and fans at the time. Someone asked Master Dihui, “Who is more excellent, Yun Shouping or Shen Jinsi?”

Master Dihui answered, “Learning the Confucianism, Shen Jinsi couldn’t surpass Zhou, Cheng, Zhang and Zhu; while learning painting, Yun Shouping could go beyond Wen, Shen, Tang and Qiu. In my view, Yun Shouping is more excellent.” As soon as he finished his remarks, he used the ferule to hit his own head and said, “I am making comparisons with Shikui again! I shall not, I shall not.”

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