Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Guo'en Si (国恩寺) and the Fengshui Tomb

On 25.10.2008 I took a bus ride from Zhaoqing to Xinxing, and from the town centre I hopped on to a motor taxi to visit the main attractions of the 6th Patriarch's birthplace. First stop was Guo'en Si, the temple that was built by Huineng in gratitude to his parents in the year 683 CE, and later given the Imperial title of Guo En (gratitude to the nation) by Empress Wu Zetian in the year 706 CE. This famous temple already has 1,308 years of history up till today. Above we see the temple gate, with the words "The First Ground" written on it.
The main entrance of the temple. The shiny golden words of "Imperial Gift of Guo'en Si" hangs above the entrance. This is the declaration to show that this temple is a gift from the Empress to the 6th Patriarch.
The Guest Hall. Curiously, there's always an image of Dharmapala Guan Gong inside to watch over all visitors.
This is the Grand Hall.
Golden statues of the Buddhas of the 3 Worlds sit inside the Grand Hall. Their hand postures are slightly different from those of other temples.
The Hall of the 1st Patriarch with a statue of Bodhidharma inside. Beside Bodhidharma stands an image of Guanyin (Avalokitesvara).
The Hall of Ksitigarbha, who is flanked by Bodhisattvas Manjusri and Samantabhadra.
The Hall of the 6th Patriarch.
The gold-plated statue of Huineng, sitting on an ornate throne-like pedestal is being venerated in the Hall. This is the most beautiful image of the 6th Patriarch I've seen so far. In the past we could also see the precious robe and bowl bestowed by Empress Wu inside the Hall, but the artifacts were gone after the cultural revolution.
The Reclining Buddha statue on the right side of the Hall.
The Huineng Memorial Chamber, with his stone image as well as the Platform Sutra being displayed.
The Abbot's Chamber, which was open to public.
The Bao En Pagoda, or Pagoda of Gratitude. It is named thus as the pagoda is built by Huineng to honor his parents. A great teaching in filial piety.
The base of the Pagoda.
Climbing to the top of the Pagoda, I was rewarded with a bird-eye's view of the whole countryside.
Looking down from the top, the people below looked like ants.
The Buddha Image on the top level. There's one image on every floor. However I was sad to see the interior walls of the Pagoda totally covered with scribblings and graffiti, left by thousands of mindless visitors over the years I believe. Such acts of vandalism shows that these people had no respect for the Pagoda and temple. It would be unthinkable for such things to be seen on the Chedis in Thailand for example. Vandalising a holy Stupa would be very serious karma indeed!
The Yuan Tong Hall (Hall of Guanyin).
Inside are 2 standing statues of Guanyin, one in her thousand-arm thousand-eye form and the other in her popular white-robe form.
The banner outside the temple shop advertises the golden bucha of Huineng available for rent.
This is the 6-inch gold-plated bucha of Huineng I obtained from the temple.
This is the ancient Lychee tree said to be planted by Huineng in the courtyard. There were many metal poles supporting it due to its age.
The stone tablet recording the history of the tree.
The Pavilion of the Well.
This well is said to be dug by Huineng as well, like the one in Mei An.
The Pavilion of the Pool.
This is the Pool where Huineng is said to have taken a bath before he entered Parinirvana here at Guo'en Si. However it looks too small for a person to bathe in it.
And this is the mystical Fengshui tomb where Huineng's parents, Mr Lu Xingtao and Madam Li Ruren were buried together. There's a very interesting story surrounding this tomb. Legend has it that there was once a Fengshui master who came to Xinxing to look for an auspicious spot of land. Due to a long and difficult journey, the master ended up looking quite haggard, not unlike a beggar. When he came to these parts he met with Huineng and his mother. Madam Li took pity on the master and showed him great hospitality. Huineng even let the old master slept on his own bed, whereas he slept on the floor. As the bed was uneven, it shook when the master turned his body. Afraid that he won't get a good rest, Huineng considerately got something to support the uneven corners, so that the bed won't shake anymore. So the master was able to sleep soundly. The next morning he woke up and saw Huineng still sleeping on the floor. The master thought in his heart that this boy would surely become a great man in the future.
A closer look at the tomb. The master then revealed to mother and son his identity and purpose in coming here. He told them that he had found a "dragon grotto" here and if Huineng buried his father (who died when he was quite young) here, it would bring great benefit to all descendants. He said to Madam Li, "The grotto I found is called '10,000 Buddhas pay homage to the Ancestor'. Different directions of burial will bring different benefits. Do you wish to have 9 generations of top scholars or 10,000 generations of offerings (by descendants)?" Madam Li replied, "His father got exiled to this region as a result of becoming an official. Now we are content to be peasants and no longer seek to produce top scholars. We would be happy enough to have 10,000 generations of descendants and peace." Thus the master taught them the proper way of burying Mr Lu's remains in the grotto and they followed his instruction accordingly. In the future Huineng learned the Dharma and attained enlightenment, eventually ordaining and becoming the 6th Patriarch of the Chan School. He was honoured by the whole world and true enough, although he did not have any blood descendants, his Dharma descendants lasted until this very day. There's no doubt that they will continue to pay homage to Huineng far into the future. 10,000 generations of offerings indeed! Later when Huineng's mother passed away, he had her buried in this tomb together with his father. As such future generations call this tomb the "Tomb of Huineng's Parents" and placed a stone tablet here in their memory. The tomb and tablet were badly damaged during the cultural revolution, but has since been rebuilt for present devotees to venerate. I too prostrated respectfully before the parents of the peasant Buddha before setting off to the next destination.

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