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南陽慧忠 Nanyang Huizhong (675-775)
aka 忠国师 Zhong Guoshi [= National Teacher Zhong]  

(Rōmaji:) Nanyō Echū, aka Chū Kokushi


Nanyang Huizhong (simplified Chinese: 南阳慧忠; traditional Chinese: 南陽慧忠 ; pinyin: Nányáng Huìzhōng; Japanese: Nanyō Echū; Korean: Namyang Hyech'ung; Vietnamese: Nam Dương Huệ Trung) was a Zen monk during the Tang Dynasty. He is often known by his nickname, National Teacher Zhong (Chinese: 忠国师; pinyin: Zhong Guoshi; Japanese: Chū Kokushi) because he was the personal teacher of the Tang Emperors Suzong and Daizong. Huizhong was born in Zhuji, but left home at a young age to become a monk under a Vinaya teacher. Huzhong lived through the so-called "Zen Golden Age", during which many important developments took place, especially the fracturing of the East Mountain School into the Northern, Southern, and Sichuan schools. However, the National Teacher avoided associating with any of the various factions. Indeed, he is purported to have spent forty uninterrupted years practicing Zen on Baiya Mountain's ( 白崕 ) Dangzi Valley ( 黨子 ) in Nanyang before being summoned by Emperor Suzong in 761. However, he did hold a critical opinion of the Southern School's wholesale denial of sutra-study. He specifically criticized the teaching of Mazu Daoyi, a patriarch of the modern-day Rinzai school, that "Buddha is mind". He is featured in numerous koan collections, including the Blue Cliff Records (Case 18, 69, 99), The Book of Equanimity (Case 42, 85), and the Gateless Gate (17).


Kirill J. Solonin,
“The Chan Teaching of Nanyang Huizhong (?-775) in Tangut Translation,”

in: N. Hill ed., Medieval Tibeto-Burmese Linguistics, Leiden: Brill 2012. pp. 274-352.


by Andy Ferguson
In: Zen's Chinese Heritage: The Masters and Their Teachings, Wisdom Publications, 2011, pp. 58-64.

NANYANG HUIZHONG (675–775), often referred to as the “National Teacher,” was an eminent student of the Sixth Ancestor, Dajian Huineng. He came from ancient Zhuji.44 As a boy, he entered monastic life, first studying under a Vinaya master. During forty years of rigorous practice and study on Baiya mountain, he thoroughly mastered all aspects of scriptural study and meditation practice. Later, Huizhong taught the three Tang dynasty emperors Xuan Zong, Su Zong, and Dai Zong, thus earning the title “National Teacher.”

Nanyang’s century spanned the golden age of classical Zen. During his youth, the dominant East Mountain school of Hongren branched into the Northern, Southern, and Sichuan schools. Later he witnessed the rise of the Heze, Hongzhou, Shitou, and other Zen schools. But Nanyang was not closely associated with any school, and he attained a stature that transcended the rancorous religious politics of the era.


National Teacher Nanyang Huizhong came from Zhuji in Yuezhou. His surname was Ran. From the time he received Dharma transmission he remained in the Dangzi Valley on Baiya Mountain in Nanyang, not leaving there for forty years. His reputation spread to the capital city.

In the second year of the Shang Yuan era, the emperor, Su Zong, dispatched an envoy to invite the master to the Imperial Capital. He received him there with great ceremony. At first he lived at the Thousand Blessings Temple at the Western Zen Monastery. Toward the end of the Dai Zong era the master was invited to reside at the Luminous Abode Buddha Temple where he stayed for sixteen years, expounding the Dharma in accord with circumstances.

At that time, a famous [Indian monk] named “Big Ears Tripitaka” came from the west to stay at the capital city. He claimed to have telepathic powers. The emperor Su Zong called on the National Teacher to test this monk.

When Tripitaka saw the National Teacher he bowed and stood to his right [in deference].

The National Teacher said, “I hear that you have mind-reading power.”

Tripitaka replied, “I don’t presume to say so.”

The National Teacher said, “Where do you say I am right now?”

Tripitaka said, “The master is a teacher of the whole nation. So why have you gone to the West River to see a boat race?”

After a while, the National Teacher asked again, saying, “Now where do you say I am?”

Tripitaka said, “The master is a teacher of the whole nation. So why have you gone to the Tianjin Bridge to see monkeys playing?”

After some time, the National Teacher asked again, saying, “Where do you say I am right now?”

Tripitaka then made a wild guess and the master shouted, saying, “You wild fox spirit! Where is your mind-reading ability?”

Tripitaka couldn’t answer.

([Later,] a monk asked [Zen master] Yangshan, “Why couldn’t Big Ear Tripitaka see the National Teacher on his third try?” Yangshan said, “On his first two tries he entered the realm of mind. On his third attempt he employed samadhic practices, so he couldn’t see the National Teacher.” Another monk asked [Zen master] Xuansha about this. Xuansha asked in response, “What do you say Tripitaka saw in his first two attempts?” Yongjia Xuanjue said, “In the first two attempts Tripitaka saw him. Why didn’t he see him on his third try? Moreover, what is there in what the National Teacher said that is advantageous or harmful?” A monk asked Zhaozhou, “Big Ear Tripitaka couldn’t see the National Teacher on his third attempt. Where did he go?” Zhaozhou said, “On Tripitaka’s nose.” Later, a monk asked Xuansha Shibei, “Since he was on Tripitaka’s nose, why couldn’t he see him?” Xuansha said, “Because he was too close.”)


One day the National Teacher called to his attendant. The attendant responded. The National Teacher called three times, and three times the attendant responded.

Then the National Teacher said, “Have I been ungrateful to you, or have you been ungrateful to me?” ([Later], a monk asked Zen master Xuansha Shibei, “What was the meaning of the National Teacher’s three calls to his attendant?” Xuansha said, “The attendant understood.” Zen master Yunju Ci said, “Do you say that the attendant understood or not? If you say he understood, [remember that] the National Teacher said, ‘You’ve been ungrateful to me.’ If you say he didn’t understand, [remember that] Xuansha said, ‘Only the attendant understood.’ How would you explain this?” Zen master Xuanjue queried a monk about this, saying, “What was it that the attendant understood?” The monk said, “If he didn’t understand, how could he have answered in that manner?” Xuanjue said, “You understand a little bit.” He also said, “If you can explain this then you’ll see Xuansha.” A monk asked Fayan, “What was the meaning of the National Teacher’s three calls to his attendant?” Fayan said, “Get out of here! Come again some other time.” Yunju Ci said, “If Fayan spoke that way, did he understand the National Teacher’s meaning or not?” A monk asked Zhaozhou, “What was the meaning of the National Teacher’s three calls?” Zhaozhou said, “It’s as if someone secretly writes a word, and though the word isn’t known, the writing style is obvious.”)


Zen master Nanquan Puyuan paid a visit to the National Teacher.

The National Teacher said, “Where did you come from?”

Nanquan said, “From Jiangxi.”

The National Teacher said, “Then maybe you brought Zen master Mazu’s true Dharma along with you?”

Nanquan said, “Here it is.”

The National Teacher said, “On your back?”

At these words Nanquan attained awakening, and then he went out. [Changqing Leng said, “It’s really like he didn’t know.” Baofu Zhan said, “It’s almost as if he didn’t meet the National Teacher on that occasion.” Yunju Ci said, “These two great monks, they completely upheld what is on the back. But as to Nanquan comprehending and then going off, was he upholding what was in front of him or what was in back of him?”]


When Mayu Baoche came to practice with the National Teacher, he circled the meditation platform three times, then struck his staff on the ground and stood there upright.

The National Teacher said, “You are thus. I also am thus.”

Mayu struck his staff on the ground again.

The National Teacher said, “Get out of here, you wild fox spirit!”


The National Teacher entered the hall and said, “Those who study Zen should venerate the words of Buddha. There is but one vehicle for attaining buddhahood, and that is to understand the great principle that is to connect with the source of mind. If you haven’t become clear about the great principle then you haven’t embodied the teaching, and you’re like a lion cub whose body is still irritated by fleas. And if [in that state] you become a teacher of others, even attaining some worldly renown and fortune, but you are still spreading falsehoods, what good does that do you or anyone else? A skilled axeman does not harm himself with the ax head. What is inside the incense burner can’t be carried by a donkey!”


A monk asked, “How can one become a buddha?”

The National Teacher said, “Cast off the Buddha and all beings, and at that moment you’ll be liberated.”


A monk asked, “How can one be in accord with it?”

The National Teacher said, “Don’t think of good or evil. Personally see buddha nature.”


A monk asked, “How can one demonstrate the dharmakaya?”45

The National Teacher said, “Go beyond Vairochana Buddha.”46


The monk then asked, “How can one attain the pure dharmakaya?”

The National Teacher said, “Don’t beseech Buddha.”


A fascinating exchange between Nanyang and a student of the Hongzhou Zen school of Zen master Mazu Daoyi demonstrates the breadth of the National Teacher’s ability. Mazu’s teaching gained fame through his famous assertion that “mind is Buddha.” This passage is taken from an excerpt of The Record of National Teacher Huizhong that is preserved in the Transmission of the Lamp.


The National Teacher asked a monk, “Where are you from?”

The monk said, “From the South.”

The National Teacher said, “Are there any teachers there?”

The monk said, “A great many.”

The National Teacher said, “What is it that they teach people?”

The monk said, “In that place, worthies directly impart the teaching ‘mind is Buddha’ to their students.

“Right now, you completely possess the nature of conscious perception. This benevolent nature can cause the raising of an eyebrow and the twinkling in an eye. It is employed when coming or going, and it pervades the body. If you tap your head, the head knows it. If you stamp the feet, the feet know it. The ancients called it ‘pervasive consciousness.’ Aside from this, there is no other Buddha. This body is subject to birth and annihilation, but the nature of mind is beginningless, and does not undergo birth and death. The body subject to birth and death is like a dragon that loses and regrows its bones, or a snake that sheds its skin, or a human that leaves his old home. This body is impermanent, but its nature is eternal.”

National Teacher Huizhong criticized this, saying, “If that’s so, then their teaching is no different from the heretical Senika doctrine.47 Teachers of that doctrine said, ‘Within this body is a spirit. Although this spirit can know [the body’s] affliction, when the body expires the spirit departs from it. If I am burned up, this spiritual host moves on. Although I am not eternal, this host is eternal.’ With such an understanding, true and false can’t be distinguished.”


Nanyang appears to draw a distinction between an individual eternal mind and a universal mind. Later in the same text, the National Teacher is quoted in the following exchange:


A monk asked, “What is Buddha?”

The National Teacher said, “Mind is Buddha.”

A monk asked, “Does mind have defilements?”

The National Teacher said, “Defilements, by their own nature, drop off.”

A monk asked, “Do you mean that we shouldn’t cut them off?”

The National Teacher said, “Cutting off defilements is called the ‘second vehicle.’ When defilements do not arise, that is called nirvana.”

A monk asked, “How does one sit in meditation and observe purity?”

The National Teacher said, “There being neither pollution nor purity, why do you need to assume a posture of observing purity?”


A monk asked, “When a Zen master observes that everything in the ten directions is empty, is that the dharmakaya?”

The National Teacher said, “Viewpoints attained with the thinking mind are upside down.”


A monk asked, “Aside from ‘mind is Buddha,’ are there any other practices that can be undertaken?”

The National Teacher said, “All of the ancient sages possessed the two grand attributes, but does this allow them to dispel cause and effect?”48 Then he said, “The answer I’ve just given you cannot be exhausted in an incalculable eon. Saying more would be far from the Way. Thus it is said that ‘when the Dharma is spoken [with an intention] of gaining, then it is just like a barking fox. When the Dharma is spoken without the intention of gaining, then it is like a lion’s roar.’”


When Nanyang Huizhong was near death, he took leave of the emperor Dai Zong.

The emperor said, “After you have gone, how should your disciple memorialize you?”

Nanyang said, “Please build me a seamless monument.”

After a long pause, Nanyang said, “Do you understand?”

The emperor said, “No.”

Nanyang said, “After I’m gone, my disciple Danyuan will understand about this matter. Please ask him about it.”

Danyuan Yingzhen 耽源應眞 (Tan-yuan Ying-chen, Tangen Ōshin), 8th-9th C. A Dharma-heir of the National Teacher Nanyang Huizhong. He Transmitted a set of ninety-seven mandalas to Yangshan Huiji, co-founder of the Guiyang school. He appears in Blue Cliff Records 18, Records of Serenity 85 and Gateless Gate 17.


On the nineteenth day of the second month in [the year 775] the National Teacher laid down on his right side and passed away. His stupa was built in the Dangzi Valley and he received the posthumous name “Zen Master Great Rectitude.”

Later, Dai Zong summoned Danyuan and asked about the previous matter.

Danyuan was silent for a long while, and then said, “Do you understand?”

The emperor said, “I don’t understand.”

Danyuan recited the following verse:

South of Xiang,
North of Tan,
In the middle a unified golden nation,
Beneath a shadowless tree, everyone ferried together,
In the porcelain palace, no worthies are found.




Tan-hszia Tien-zsan (739-824) meglátogatja a Nemzet Tanítóját
Fordította: Terebess Gábor
Folyik a híd, Officina Nova, Budapest, 1990, 80. oldal

Huj-csung [Nan-jang Huj-csung, 675-775] éppen aludt, amikor Tan-hszia meglátogatta.
– Itthon van a mestered? – kérdezte Tan-hszia a segédet.
– Itthon, de senkit se fogad.
– Rögtön felismerted a helyzetet – dicsérte őt Tan-hszia.
– A mesterem még Buddhát se fogadná – tódított a szerzetes.
– Tényleg jó tanítvány vagy! Büszke lehet rád a mestered! – dicsérte még egyszer Tan-hszia, aztán útjára indult.
Amikor Huj-csung felébredt, Tan-jüan – így hívták a segédet – elmesélte, hogy bánt el a látogatóval.
Ám a mester elverte, és kikergette a kolostorból.



Csú Kokusi [Nan-jang Huj-csung, 675-775]
In: Naparcú Buddha: a zen szellemisége és gyakorlata
[ford., írta, szerk., vál.] Szigeti György. [Budapest], A Tan Kapuja : Vizsom, [2005], 94-97. oldal.

Élt réges-régen Kínában egy Csú Kokusi nevű szerzetes. Szegény volt,
mint a templom egere, s lemondva a kolostori életről, a hegyek mélyén
vándorolva élte napjait. Hamar híre járt a világban, együttérzéséről és
mélységes, odaadó szeretetéröl vált ismertté. Azt híresztelték, hogy
még a legparányibb élőlény sorsát is szívén viselte.

Egy késő őszi napon Csú Kokusi elhagyta szűk barlangját, mely
rnessze a hegyek mélyén volt, s koldulni indult, hogy a tél beállta előtt
élelemhez és meleg ruhához jusson. Napok múltán a megtett hosszú
úttól feldagadt lábbal, kezében alamizsnás csészével, mely tele volt
élelemmel és gyógyszerrel, vállán új gyapjútakaróval indult hazafelé,
hegyen-völgyön át, széllel és magassággal dacolva.

Félúton Csú Kokusi rémséges útonállókba botlott. Az öt megva-
dult lélek bunkósbottal és éles tőrrel hadonászva körbefogta őt:
- Te, öreg! Mit cipelsz, he?

- Csak néhány dolgot télire...

- Vagy úgy! Koldus vagy, mint mi. Na, ide vele! - kiáltottak rá
az útonállók, s vad nevetésben törtek ki.

Az öreg nyugalommal állta a sarat. Bensőjét szomorúság és rész-
vét járta át, amiért a megvadult lelkek sorsuk kelepcéjébe estek.

- Nesze, fogjátok - mondta, és odaadta a koldulással szerzett
pénzt, de az útonállók elvették a télire kapott élelmét, gyógyszerét is,
s még gyapjútakaróját is megkaparintották tőle. Majd látván, hogy az
öreg nem ellenkezik, levetkőztették meztelenre, és elvették a ruháját is.
Azután a didergő szerzetest a sárba lökték, s a hegyi vadnövények
közt burjánzó hosszú fűszálakkal a földhöz kötözrék csuklójánál és
bokájánál fogva. Így már biztosak lehettek abban, hogy a sárba tiport
öreg szerzetes nem fog leszaladni a faluba, hogy beárulja őket a csen-

- Ni, a bolond öregember, ki nem árt egyetlen léleknek sem! Na,
mentsd meg magad, te együgyű! - kiáltották az útonállók. Miután ki-
nevették magukat, magára hagyták az öreget, s eltűntek a hegyek
mélyén az elrabolt holmikkal és élelemmel.

A szerzetest gyenge fűszálak tartották rabságban, mégsem tépte
el őket, hogy mentse az életét. A késő őszi égboltban gyönyörködve,
a hidegtől dideregve, felidézte magában a Buddha fogadalmait. A
Buddha megfogadta, hogy nem veszi el egyetlen lény életét sem. - Én
sem veszem el ezeknek a fűszálaknak az életét - határozta el az öreg.

Másnap tompa lódobogásra riadt fel álmából. A hangok mintha
a völgy felől jöttek volna, s úgy tűntek számára, mintha egy egész had-
sereg közeledne.

- Mi lehet az? - töprengett az öreg szerzeres magában.
Történetesen maga a császár közeledett, aki vadászaton volt kísé-
retével, minisztereivel és főhadnagyaival. Amikor a császár megpillan-
totta a fűben fekvő meztelen szerzetest, harag töltötte el.

- Generális! - üvöltötte a császár.

- Igen, uram!

- Látja, amit én látok!

- Igen, uram!

- Azonnal ölje meg! Megértette?

- Igen, uram!

A generális Csú Kokusihoz vágtatott, lova majdhogynem halálra
taposta az öreget. Leszállt lováról, és kardját előrántva ráförmedt
a szerzetesre:

- Megsértette császárunkat, ezért büntetésül megölöm!

Még mielőtt megmártotta volna benne a kardját, a generális meg-
pillantotta az öreg nyugodt, tiszta és együttérző tekintetét.

- Nem bánom, öljön meg, ha akar! - mondta Csú Kokusi. - De
előbb bogozza ki ezeket a fűszálakat. Én kész vagyok a halálra, de nem
akarom, hogy elvegye ezeknek az ártatlan lényeknek az életét!

A generális meredten nézett az öregre, nem hitt a fülének. Az
öreg szeméből mélységes együttérzés áradt.

- Uram, kérem, bogozza ki a fűszálakat.

A generális, ki hidegvérrel emberek százait gyilkolta le a bástyá-
kon, most az öreg nyugodt tekintetét látva és együttérző szavát hallva
összezavarodott. Egy pillanatig még meredten nézett rá, majd kardját
visszadugta hüvelyébe. Képtelen volt megölni az öreget.

Letérdelt melléje és megkérdezte:

- Miért óvja annyira ezeknek az értéktelen fűszálaknak az életét?

- A Buddha azt tanítja, hogy ne vegyük el egyetlen lény életét
sem - felelte az öreg. - Nem vehetem el még egy fűszál életét sem!

Mihelyt a császár meglátta a generálist a szerzetessel beszélgetni,
szörnyen megdühödött.

- Generális! Cselekedjen már! Mit beszélget? Ölje meg vagy én
ölöm meg!

A generális nyugodt, lassú léptekkel a császár színe elé járult,
s beszámolt őfelségének a szerzetessel folytatott beszélgetéséről.
Mihelyt a császár meghallotta az öreg tanítását, megkérdezte:

- Valóban ezt mondta?

A szerzetes tanítása mélyen szíven ütötte a császárt, aki elmúlt
napjait vadászattal töltötte a hegyekben, és számtalan legyilkolt állat
tetemét cipeltette haza a palotába.

- Míg én kedvtelésből ölöm az állatokat, addig ez a szegény
szerzeres még a fűszál ak életét sem veszi el, hogy mentse magát!

A császár odament az öreghez. Szemébe nézett, nyugalmat és
boldogságot vélt felfedezni tekintetében. Majd megkérdezte tőle, hogy
mi történt vele. Mihelyt Csú Kokusi elmesélte tőrténerét az útonállók-
kal, a császár megrendülve így szólt magában:
- Ez a szerzetes inkább a hidegben töltötte az éjszakát, mintsem
elszakítsa a fűszálakat! Milyen együttérző lélek!

- Császárom, kérem, bogozza ki a fűszálakat, különben elpusz-
tulnak! - kérte az öreg szerzetes.

- Azonnal - szólt a császár, s mit sem törődve rangjával, letérdelt
a földre, és megfontoltan kibogozta a fűszálakat. Majd odaadta saját
kabátját az öregnek, és megparancsolta egyik udvaroncának, hogy adja
oda a nadrágját a szerzetesnek.

- Elnézését kérem, tisztelendő uram - mondta a császár. - Há-
rom napja vadászok itt a hegyekben, s kedvtelésből állatokat öltem.
Míg ön egyetlen fűszál életét sem venné el, hogy mentse magát!
Kérem, tanítson engem. Jöjjön a palotámba!

Csú Kokusi így a nemzet tanítója lett.