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天皇道悟 Tianhuang Daowu (748–807)

(Rōmaji:) Tennō Dogō



Outstanding masters in the Lineage of Shih-t'ou: Tao-wu
by John C. H. Wu

Tianhuang Daowu (748–807)
by Andy Ferguson

Encounter Dialogues of Tianhuang Daowu
compiled by Satyavayu of Touching Earth Sangha


Outstanding masters in the Lineage of Shih-t’ou: Tao-wu
by John C. H. Wu
In: The Golden Age of Zen
Taipei : The National War College in co-operation with The Committee on the Compilation of the Chinese Library, 1967, pp. 147-149.

Tao-wu of the T’ien-huang Temple (748-807) was born of a Chang family in Wu-chou, Chekiang. When he was fourteen, he felt a vocation to be a monk. As his parents would not hear of it, Tao-wu reduced his diet until he became dreadfully thin and weak. Finally his parents relented and gave their permission. He was professed in his mid-twenties in Hangchow, and was noted for his extreme asceticism. Then he went to Yu-hang to visit Ching-shan Tao-ch’in (d. 792), who was an outstanding Ch’an master in the lineage of the Fourth Patriarch Tao-hsin and Niut’ou Fa-jung. It was Ching-shan who first initiated Tao-wu into Ch’an. After serving Ching-shan for five years, he went to visit Ma-tsu, who confirmed him in his insights. After he had spent two summers with Ma-tsu, he went to visit Shih-t’ou, asking, “After one is freed of Dhyana and Prajna, what Dharma can one show to others?” Shih-t’ou said, “In my place there being no slaves, what is there to be freed from?” “How is this to be verified?” Tao-wu further inquired. Shih-t’ou asked back, “Can you grasp at the empty and void?” “Well,” said Tao-wu, “this (ungraspability) does not begin today.” Then Shih-t’ou asked, “When, I wonder, did you come from that place?” “I am not a man of that place!” was Tao-wu’s answer. Shih-t’ou said, “I knew long ago where you came from.” Tao-wu replied, “How can you, master, bring this false charge against me without concrete evidence?” “Your body itself is the present evidence!” said Shih-t’ou. “Be that as it may,” said Tao-wu, “my question still is how to teach the posterity.” Shih-t’ou fired back, “Tell me who is the posterity?” At this Tao-wu was suddenly enlightened and began to understand thoroughly what his two previous masters had communicated to him.

Tao-wu’s way of teaching can be gathered from how he dealt with his disciple Lung-t’an (died first part of the 9th century). Lung-t’an came from a poor family, who made their living by selling pastry. Tao-wu knew him as a boy, and recognized in him great spiritual potentialities. He housed his family in a hut belonging to his monastery. To show his gratitude, Lung-t’an made a daily offering of ten cakes to the master. The master accepted the cakes, but every day he consumed only nine and returned the remaining one to Lung-t’an, saying, “This is my gift to you in order to prosper your descendants.” One day, Lung-t’an became curious, saying to himself, “It is I who bring him the cakes; how is it then that he returns one of them as a present to me? Can there be some secret meaning in this?” So the young boy made bold to put the question before the master. The master said, “What wrong is there to restore to you what originally belonged to you?” Lung-t’an apprehended the hidden meaning, and decided to be a novice, attending upon the master with great diligence. After some time, Lung-t’an said to the master, “Since I came, I have not received any essential instructions on the mind from you, master.” The master replied, “Ever since you came, I have not ceased for a moment to give you essential instructions about the mind.” More mystified than ever, the disciple asked, “On what points have you instructed me?” The master replied, “Whenever you bring me the tea, I take it from your hands. Whenever you serve the meal, I accept it and eat it. Whenever you salute me, I lower my head in response. On what points have I failed to show you the essence of the mind?” Lung-t’an lowered his head and remained silent for a long time. The master said, “For true perception, you must see right on the spot. As soon as you begin to ponder and reflect, you miss it.” At these words, Lung-t’an’s mind was opened and he understood. Then he asked how to preserve this insight. The master said, “Give rein to your Nature in its transcendental roamings. Act according to the exigencies of circumstances in perfect freedom and without any attachment. Just follow the dictates of your ordinary mind and heart. Aside from that, there is no ‘holy’ insight.”



Tianhuang Daowu (748–807)
by Andy Ferguson
In: Zen's Chinese Heritage: The Masters and Their Teachings, Wisdom Publications, 2011, pp. 130-132.

ACCORDING TO TRADITION, Tianhuang Daowu (748–807) was a student of three different Zen masters, and ultimately received Dharma transmission from Shitou Xiqian. Tianhuang, in turn, imparted Dharma transmission to Longtan Chongxin. The lineage then passed to Deshan, Xuefeng, and on to the two great Zen schools of Yunmen and Fayan. According to the lamp records, Tianhuang possessed an unusually noble appearance. He left home at the age of fourteen after fasting to demonstrate his resolve to his parents. He first studied under a teacher in Mingzhou (the area of modern Ningbo City). Thereafter, he traveled to Hangzhou, where he underwent ordination at Bamboo Forest Temple. Daowu then studied with and received the Dharma of National Teacher Faqin on Mt. Jing. Later, he studied with the great teacher Mazu Daoyi, who confirmed his attainments. After remaining with Mazu for two years, Daowu traveled on to meet Shitou. According to the lamp records, his experience with Shitou caused his remaining doubts to be dispelled.

His fellow monks regarded Daowu as a most diligent Buddhist practitioner. Accounts say that one night during a fierce storm he defied the elements to sit in immobile meditation in a graveyard.

Lamp records indicate that confusion has existed about Tianhuang’s identity because two Zen teachers with similar sounding names lived in the same locale. One monk was named Tianhuang Daowu and the other Tianwang Daowu. Both were students of Mazu Daoyi, and at least one was also a student of Shitou. Mazu and Shitou often sent students back and forth to one another, contributing to the historical uncertainty surrounding Tianhuang’s identity. The record of Tianhuang Daowu’s awakening and teaching career is provided in the Wudeng Huiyuan.


Upon meeting Shitou, Daowu asked, “By what method do you reveal liberating wisdom to people?”

Shitou said, “There are no slaves here. From what do you seek liberation?”

Daowu said, “How can it be understood?”

Shitou said, “So you’re still trying to grasp emptiness?”

Daowu said, “From today I won’t do so again.”

Shitou then said, “I’d like to know when you came forth from ‘that place.’”

Daowu said, “I haven’t come from ‘that place.’”

Shitou said, “I already know where you’ve come from.”

Daowu said, “Master, how can you slander people in this way?”

Shitou said, “Your body is revealed here now.”

Daowu then said, “Although it is thus, how will your teaching be demonstrated to those who come later?”

Shitou said, “Please tell me, who are those who come later?”

Upon hearing these words Daowu instantly experienced great enlightenment, dissolving the mind he had attained from the words of his previous two teachers.

Later, Tianhuang lived on Mt. Ziling at Dangyang City in Xingzhou. The practitioners who came to study under him were pressed shoulder to shoulder, his reputation even reaching to the capital city where he was known among men and women.

At that time, the head of Chongye Temple had told the local garrison commander about Tianhuang. The commander invited Tianhuang into the city for a visit. At the edge of town was Tianhuang Temple. It was quite famous, but because of a bad fire it had been destroyed. The chief monk there, named Lingjian, planned to rebuild it. He said, “If honored master Daowu were to become abbot it would certainly benefit us.”

So late at night, Lingjian went to see Daowu, and beseeching him to take the position of abbot, he brought him to the site of the temple by sedan chair.

During this time a duke of the Jiangling region, Pu Shepei, would sometimes come to inquire about Dharma, kowtowing and paying elaborate respects to Daowu. The master would not go out to receive him or accompany him when he departed. Whether noble or mean, guests would all sit with their hands folded in front of them in respect. Duke Pu Shepei returned often to pay respects to Daowu in this manner. Due to this, Daowu’s reputation spread and the Dharma of Shitou flourished.


Tianhuang Daowu met Longtan. Longtan asked, “What is the affair that has been passed down through generations?” Daowu said, “None other than knowing from where you come.” Longtan said, “How many are there who can gain this wisdom eye?” Daowu said, “Short grasses easily become tall reeds.”


A monk asked, “How does one speak of the great mystery?”

Daowu said, “Don’t say ‘I have realized the Buddhadharma!’”

The monk asked, “How do you deal with students who are stuck?”

Daowu said, “Why don’t you ask me?”

The monk said, “I just asked you.” Daowu said, “Go! This isn’t the place where you’ll find relief.”


In the fourth month of the [year 807] Tianhuang became ill. He instructed his disciples to announce that he would soon pass away. At the end of summer, the general public was inquiring about his illness.

Suddenly, the master called for the head cook, who came and sat down before him.

Tianhuang said, “Do you understand?”

The cook said, “I don’t understand.”

Tianhuang picked up a cushion and threw it down on the ground. He then passed away.

The master was sixty years of age and had been a priest for thirty-five years. On the fifth day of the eighth month of that year, the master’s stupa was constructed east of the city.





Encounter Dialogues of Tianhuang Daowu
compiled by Satyavayu of Touching Earth Sangha
DOC: Treasury of the Forest of Ancestors

Master Tianhuang Daowu left home at age fourteen after fasting to demonstrate his resolve to his resistant parents. After ordaining as a monk at Bamboo Forest Monastery in Hangzhou, he went to study with the prominent Master Daoqin of the Oxhead School on nearby Mt. Jing. Daowu spent five years on Mt. Jing and was regarded as a devoted practitioner - he was said to sit in meditation for hours outside in a graveyard even during a fierce storm.
Eventually Daowu left Mt. Jing and went to live as a mountain hermit for a few years on Great Plum Mountain. Then, having heard about the famous Master Ma in Hongzhou, he decided to investigate. Soon after arriving at Mazu's monastery, Master Ma confirmed the young monk's understanding, and Daowu stayed on to practice there for two years. Eventually he began to hear about the reclusive Master Shitou, and soon decided to check out this lesser-known but highly regarded master as well. And so he set off westward to the Heng Mountains in Hunan.
When he first arrived at Shitou's mountain temple, he went to see the master and asked him, “By what method do you reveal liberating wisdom to people?”
The master said, “There are no slaves here. What do you want to be liberated from?”
Daowu then asked, “How can this be confirmed?”
The master said, “So you're still trying to grasp emptiness?”
After a pause Daowu said, “From now on, I won't do so again.”
Then Master Shitou asked, “When did you come from 'that place'?”
Daowu replied, “I haven't come from 'that place'.”
The master said, “I already know where you've come from.”
Daowu said, “Master, how can you charge me without evidence?”
The master replied, “Your body is revealed, here and now.”
Then Daowu said, “Although that's so, how will your teaching be demonstrated to those who come later?”
The master said, “Please tell me, who are those who come later?”
Upon hearing this Daowu experienced a deep realization that cleared up his remaining doubts.

After his practice with Master Shitou, Daowu traveled to Xingzhou in Hubei, and began to teach on Chaizi Mountain near the city of Jiangling. When his reputation began to spread, he was asked to become abbot of the Tianhuang (Emperor of Heavan) Monastery in Jiangling city, which became his main teaching center.

Once a monk asked Master Tianhuang Daowu, “What is the matter that has been passed down through the generations?”
The master said, “Nothing else than knowing where you come from.”
The monk asked, “:How many can develop this wisdom eye?”
The master said, “Short grasses naturally become tall reeds.”

One day a monk asked Master Tianhuang, “How does one speak of the great mystery?”
The master said, “Don't say that you've realized the awakened way.”
The monk then asked, “How do you deal with students who are stuck?”
The master said, “Why don't you ask me?”
The monk said, “I just did!”
The master said, “Go! You're not yet in the place where you can receive relief.”

In the city of Jiangling was a family of Central-Asian style rice cake makers (perhaps of Central Asian descent) who lived in the alley outside the gates of Tianhuang Monastery. Every day they made a donation of their cakes to the monastery, brought by the son of the family.. The master befriended him, and soon recognized his spiritual potential. When the boy would make his daily offering of ten rice cakes, the master would always return one and say, “This is for your descendants.” One day the boy asked the meaning of this, and the master said, “What's wrong with returning to you what's originally yours?” The boy understood and became the master's disciple.
Years later when the boy had grown, Master Tianhuang once said to him, “If you became a monk and serve as my attendant, then at some point I'll reveal the wisdom gate of the mind essence to you.” So the young man decided to get ordained, became the monk Chongxin, and took on the life of the master's attendant.
After a year had passed Chongxin said, “When I first became your attendant, you said that you would teach me about mind essence. But up to now, I haven't received any instruction.”
The master said, “Since you've started this life, I've never stopped giving you instruction.”
Chongxin asked, “When has the master been teaching me?”
The master said, “When you greet me I join my palms; when I sit you stand by to wait on me; when you bring tea I receive it from you. When have I not given instruction about mind essence?”
Chongxin was silent for a while. Then the master said, “When seeing, just see! If you try to think about it you'll miss it.”
Upon hearing these words, Chongxin had a deep realization.