Ch’an Lineage Discipleship Part 2 – The Er Mei Lineage and Master Fu, Wei Zhong.
With what sort of man of the Tao should one associate, so that one will hear constantly what one has never heard? – Ts’ao-Shan Pen-Chi
This is the story the way I understand it. Er Mei (or E Mei) was founded by a Taoist monk named White Cloud who adopted Buddhism during the Southern Song Dynasty (1127-1279). The mountain and monastery became one of the four main sacred mountains of Buddhism in China. The following quote is from http://sacredsites.com/asia/china/sacred_mountains.html
In the 1st century AD, merchants returning from India via the Silk Route began the introduction of Buddhism into China. Over the next few centuries adventurous Chinese pilgrims traveled to India to visit the sacred places of the Buddha’s life. Like Taoist hermits, the Buddhists monks favored quiet mountains and deep forests for their meditative practices. Small hermitages and later great monastic complexes sprung up at many peaks (some previously held sacred by the Taoists) and over the centuries the Buddhists began to regard four peaks as having primary sanctity:
- Pu Tuo Shan, Buddhist mountain of the east, Zhejiang province, 284 meters. Sacred to Kuan-Yin, the Bodhisattva of Compassion.
- Wu Tai Shan, Buddhist mountain of the north, Shanxi province, 3061 meters. Sacred to Manjushri, the Bodhisattva of Wisdom.
- Emei Shan, Buddhist mountain of the west, Sichuan province, 3099 meters. Sacred to Samantabhadra, the Bodhisattva of Benevolent Action.
- Jiu Hua Shan, Buddhist mountain of the south, Anhui province, 1341 meters. Sacred to Kshitigarbha, the Bodhisattva of Salvation.
Each of the Buddhist sacred mountains is considered to be the dwelling place of a Bodhisattva. These particular Bodhisattvas are mythological spiritual beings that have dedicated themselves to the service of assisting all sentient creatures in the transcendence of worldly suffering and the attainment of enlightenment. These Buddhist mountains and the Taoist peaks listed above became the primary pilgrimage destinations of both China’s masses and also the ruling elite. Over many centuries the monastic centers developed into great centers of scholarship, art and philosophy, with hundreds of temples and thousands of monks and nuns. This extraordinary way of life continued unbroken until the Communist Revolution of 1949. Readers interested in more in-depth study of sacred sites and pilgrimage in China are recommended to consult the works of Naquin and Yu (and their extensive bibliography), Birnbaum, and Geil.
Ok – so much for the scholarly part. Please remember the following is my understanding and there may be errors in it. One of the unique things about Er Mei is that they have alternating Monastic and Layman lineage holders. One generation the lineage holder engages entirely in monastic practices, the next generation the lineage holder gets trained at the monastery and then goes out into the world to teach; and then brings information back to the temple to train the next generation.
Er Mei lies to the West in China, not far – at least in relation to other parts of the country – to Tibet. The integration of complete Taoist and Buddhist lineages with indigenous Tibetan and Chinese Shamanic practices made Er Mei unique among the Chinese lineages. According to a holder of another lineage, and this may be coming from some many generations old grudge, or “my school’s better than your school” attitude, or who knows what – Er Mei was known for being a bit “out there” – mystical and superstitious, possibly involved with sorcery. This kind of thing is easy to assert and difficult to disprove once the suspicion has been raised, regardless of the possibility or reality of the charge.
Grandmaster Fu, Wei Zhong,(AKA Weizhong Fu or Master Fu) is the 13th layman lineage holder of the Er Mei Lin Ji Sudden Enlightenment School of Ch’an Buddhism. He was another of the fully vetted teachers of verifiable Buddhist lineage I had the fortunate karma to meet while in Florida. My experiences with him, as might be expected, were to be very different from those I would have with the Vajrayana Lineage Khenpo Brothers……
To Be Continued: Next Installment – Part three – Meeting Grandmaster Fu, Wei Zhong.