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Master Xu Yun - Empty Cloud

Xu Yun is a modern Master that only died in 1959, so there are lots of photos and details in his life story. 

Like a lot of the traditional Indian Masters he was disenchanted with this life's "pleasures" while very young.  His understanding of impermanence drove him to the monastic life early. 

Xu Yun's Stupa

At 55, he was meditating at the temple.  A monk poured him some tea, accidentally spilling some on his hand.  The boiling water scalded his hand, causing him to drop the cup.  When Empty Cloud heard the sound of the breaking cup, he was enlightened. 

FYI: Most Zen enlightenment experiences are not during meditation, but while working or being challenged by a teacher.

Enlightenment meant that he could perceive reality directly, without relying on the ego's feeble metaphors and interpretations.  such a person has the power to understand, think and speak more clearly than ordinary people.  This gave him great power to change and improve things in a good way.  Even still, such a person needs time to adjust to their new experience of reality and to remove their last remaining, very subtle attachments.  It could be compared to a blind person whose sigh tis restored.  It takes a while for them to see what we see in the way we se it.

After his enlightenment, he walked to Tibet, Burma and Thailand.  He collected money to restore the major Zen temples in China, including the Yunmen temple above and Huineng's Nanhua temple.

Like legendary Zen monks, he spent years in mountain caves, meditating and living off the mountains meagre fare.  One time he went into deep mediation (Samadhi) and work up several days later to find tiger tracks in the snow outside his cave.  At this time, his Spartan lifestyle left him looking like a mountain spirit.  More than once his appearance frightened off people that met him in the mountains.

Empty Cloud never got involved in politics in spite of many opportunities.  Later during China's cultural revolution a young communist cadre beat him for days.  During this time he expressed his sympathy for them since he know that people only behave this way that are already suffering greatly, and the will suffer more in the future for the karmic results of their actions.  After a few days the cadre were told by Beijing not to touch him and they fled in fear.

Even in his later years when his fame had spread, Empty Cloud was extremely modest, and averse to luxury.  Empty Cloud wanted Zen to be transmitted to the West.  His lineage lives on today in Hawaii and Arizona. 

Just my opinion . . .
When you think about Empty Cloud's personality, it is hard not to compare him to Mahakasyapa, the 2nd patriarch, after the Buddha.  Mahakasyapa also came from a wealthy family, but rejected luxury, because its shallowness and impermanence was so obvious to him.  He also preferred a Spartan lifestyle to luxury.  It's important to understand though that such a lifestyle is not recommended but rather, for Empty Cloud and Mahakasyapa it was no hardship.

 

 

 

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