Thie`^n in mediaeval Viet-Nam, I-II

[Vietnamese /Thi`e^n/ = Chinese /C^>an/ = Japanese /Zen/]






A study



A translation





pp. 116-122 sequence of koan-s by Vie^n C^ie’^u

pp. 17-18 Vie.^t Die.^n U Linh Ta.^p ("Collected Stories of the Potent Spirits of the Viet Realm")

p. 17

"when the monk Chi’ Th`anh came to dwell at Ki’^en So> Temple at Phu` Do>^ng Village, he erected a shrine dedicated to the genie at the right side of the temple’s gate. (The genie was ... an incarnation of Phu` Do>^ng Thie^n Vu>o>ng or the Celestial King of Phu` Do>^ng ...). ...

p. 18

Ly’ Tha’i To>^ then conferred upon the genie the title Xung Thie^n Tha`^n Vu>o^ng [the Celestial King Storming the Sky]".

p. 18 Ba’o Cu.`c Truye.^n ("Records of Declaring the Unfathomable")

"When Ly’ Tha’i To>^ moved his capital from Hao Lu> to Long Bie^n, he often dreamed of a white-haired man standing before the throne ... . Amazed by this, the emperor asked his name and learnt that the old man was the genie of the river To^ ... The genie answered, "... We genies keep incense and fire burning not just for a hundred years." Ly’ Tha’i To>^ then conferred upon the genie the title of Great King Patron of the capital city of Thang Long."

pp. 103, 211, 228 divine origin of Dhyana/C^>an/Thie`^n religious denomination

p. 103 Buddha {identical with the of the Maha-bharata?} "was the founder of the Zen school."

p. 211

"Phu’c Die^`n wrote :

... Nhu> So>n’s work began with Bhis.magarjitasvararaja Buddha,

then related the stories of the Seven Ancient Buddhas, and

finally recorded the biographies of the forty-seven Indian patriarchs,

and twenty-three Chinese patriarchs, together with

the Linji school of our country descended from the three patriarchs Chuy’^t Co^ng, Minh Lu>o>ng, and Cha^n Nguye^n."

p. 228

"the value of Nhu> So>n’s Ke’^ Dang Lu.c consists of connecting the patriarchs of the two schools of Linji and Caodong – both China and Vietnam – with the beginning of Zen since Bhis.magarjitasvararaja Buddha".

pp. 159-160; 410-411 Bodhidharma & the sects of Thie`^n


Thie`^n Uye>^n 40a





"He contentedly returned to the west alone."



Traveling alone, "Bodhidharma said that he was going back to India."


"Whose home is Mount Xionger [Bear Ear]?"



"Bodhidharma died on Mount Xionger [Bear Ear]."


"He buried the shoe in the coffin." {Theseus "lost a sandal" in the river Anauros (AL 1:9:16)}



After the sighting on mt. Con-lin, "Zhuangdi ... gave an order to open Bodhidharma’s coffin. All they saw was an empty coffin with a single shoe in it."


"Why were the two schools of Nguye~^n Da.i Die^n and Nguye~^n Ba’t Nha~ not recorded?"



"Le^ Ma.nh Tha’t’s suggestion that Nguye~^n Da.i Die^n here must be the same as Da.i Die^n in Tu`> Da.o Ha.nh’s biography ... ."

AL = Apollodoros : Library.

pp. 149, 153; 405, 407 iron (or stone) girl & wooden boy; carps who fail to become dragons


Thi. Uy.







"Doing the dance – the iron girl,

Beating the drum – the wooden boy."



"At midnight, the wooden boy puts on his shoes and goes away; at dawn, the stone girl returns wearing her hat." "The wooden man sings, the stone girl dances."



"If you are asking about the realm of Buddhahood,

You will be marked on your forehead [like the carps in their jumping contest] at Dragon Gate."



At Lon-men, "there was a big pond called Wumen. ... carp everywhere gathered there, vying to jump over that gate. Those who succeeded were transformed into dragons, whereas those who failed would be marked on the forehead {cf. Qayin : "God inscribed one letter of his Holy Name upon his forehead" (LB, p. 58)} and sent back to where they came from."

LB = Louis Ginzberg : Legends of the Bible.

pp. 128-130 development, in Jiao-z^ou (Viet-Nam), of the Thie`^n religious denomination






"he told Man~jus`ri, ‘In forty-nine years I have not spoken a single word. Will they think something was said?’ So he held up a flower". [p. 389, n. 197 : (according to the Da Fan-tian-wan Wen Fo Jue-yi Jin, as quoted by Wan An-s^i) "Brahma came to Mount Lingshan, brought yellow bala flowers as offerings, and offered his body as a chair ... . The Lord ascended the pulpit and raised a flower. ... Wang remarked that this scripture discusses mostly royal affairs. Therefore, it was stored in the royal palace and thus not many people know of it."]



"Later Moteng (Kas`yapa Matanga) brought this teaching to Han China ... and Bodhidharma traveled to [the Chinese kingdoms] of Liang and Wei with the message. ... The scriptural teachings began with Mou Bo and kang Senghui. The first stream of the Zen school began with Vinitaruci (Ty` Ni Da Lu>u Chi); the second with Vo^ Ngo^n Tho^ng."



Sui dynasty emperor "Gaozu ... said, ‘... I have built 49 precious stupas ... . ... I have built them all across Jiaozhou (Giao Cha^u)".



"Zen Master Zhangjing Yun ... spread the teaching in Wu-Yue. The Mahasattva ... Vo^ Ngo^n Tho^ng ... spread enlightenment in Jiaozhou."

pp. 110-112, 116, 126, 132, 136, 170, 172-173, 175-181, 187-191, 202-203 Thie`^n Uye>^n Ta.^p Anh 7b-8b; 11; 18a; 22b; 25; 48b-49a; 50; 52; 53b-54a; 55a-56a; 59b-60a; 61a-62b; 70b-71a





"Zen Master Va^n Phong (also called Chu Phong) of Khai Quo`^c Temple in the ... city of Thang Long hailed from Tu`> Lie^m in Vi~nh Khang Prefecture. ... When he was born, a spiritual light filled the room. Both his parents were moved by this uncanny phenomenon."



"Great Master Khuo^ng Vie.^t (who was earlier called Cha^n Lu>u) ... was a native of Ca’t Lo.>i. ...



One night he had a dream in which he saw a spirit wearing golden armor, holding a golden lance in his right hand and a jewel stupa in his



left hand. ... The spirit came and told him : "I am the Celestial King Vais`ravan.a, and my attendants are all ...""



"Zen Master Vie^n Chie’^u to Ca’t Tu>o>`ng Temple in ... Thang Long hailed from Phu’c Du>o>`ng in Long Da`m Prefecture; his family name was Mai and his personal name was Tru.>c. ...



One night while Vie^n Chie’^u was in deep concentration he saw the Bodhisattva Man~jus`ri cut open his stomach with a knife and wash out his guts. {a typically Taoist initiation conducted by deities during one’s dreaming} Then Man~jus`ri applied medicine to the wound."



The two masters (Ba>o Ti’nh and Minh Ta^m) "together entered the "samadhi of firelight" [p. 385, n. 172 : "Huagang sanmei ... in Chinese or tejeprabhasasamadhi in Sanskrit. In a Vinaya text of the Mula-Sarvastivadin, it is related that the Buddha entered the samadhi of firelight and emitted successively fire and water from various parts of his body to convert the women in the palace."] ... . The bones that remained were all transformed into the seven kinds of jewels Emperor ... ordered that the relics be kept ... and offerings be made to them." {cf. Donatist veneration for relics of martyr saints}



"Zen Master Ngo.^ A’^ of Long A^n temple, Mount Ninh So>n, U’>ng Thie^n Prefecture, was a native of Kim Ba`i Village, Tu> Ly’. ... His mother’s maiden name was Cu`. Formerly, ... she lived near the Mo.^ forest. ... One day, while she was weaving inside, a big ape came from the forest and hugged her from behind for the while day long before he left. After that Cu` felt that she was pregnant. When she gave birth to a child, ... she abandoned him in the forest. A Champa monk named Da`m who lived in the same forest took the child home and brought him up. Therefore, he was named Khi’ [which means "abandoned"]."



"Zen Master Kho^ng Lo.^ [p. 397, n. 263 : "from Giao Thu>y Prefecture"] of Nghie^m Quang Temple, Ha>i Thanh ... gave up fishing ... . He could fly



in the air and walk on water, tame tigers and conquer dragons."



"Zen Master Ti.nh Gio’>i ... was a native of Ma~o Village, Ngung Giang, Lo^ Ha>i. ... At the age of twenty-six, he fell seriously ill : in a dream he saw a god who gave him medicine. When he woke up he had been immediately cured. ...



Subsequently, he came to Quo’^Thanh Temple. He stopped there ... for six years ... subduing dragons, and conquering tigers. ... .



... there was a drought ... . Emperor ... summoned ... Ti.nh Gio’>i ... to Ba’o Thie^n Temple in the capital. At midnight, Ti.nh Gio’>i stood in the garden and burned incense, and immediately rain fell." [p. 406, n. 344 : "the emperor proceeded to the temple and, in a sudden daydream, saw two beautiful young ladies dressed in green and pink, red hatted and girdled, mounting on iron horses ... following the rain. He ... was told, ‘We are the two sisters Tru>ng, we have come down to make rain by order of the King of Heaven.’ ... Afterwards they appeared again in the emperor’s dream and asked him to build them a temple at Co>^ Lai Village."]



"Zen Master Gia’c Ha>i [p. 407, n. 352 : (according to the Da.i Nam Nha’^t Tho’^n 37:54) "his personal name was Quo’^c Y, his sobriquet Gia’c Ha>i"] of Die^n Phu’c Temple, Ha>i Thanh, ... sailed across rivers and the ocean. ...



One day Ly’ Nha^n To^ng asked Gia’c Ha>i ... about ... supernatural power ... . Gia’c Ha>i immediately displayed his magical skills by jumping up into the air fifty or sixty feet above the ground. After a while, he came down again. Ly’ Nha^n To^ng and his court official all applauded and acclaimed him."



"Zen Master Pha’p Hie`^n of Chu’ng Thie.^n Temple, Mount Thie^n Phu’c, Tie^n Du .. hailed from Chu Die^n. His family name was Do~^. He was over seven feet tall. ...



After Vinitaruci passed away, Pha’p Hie`^n went directly to Mount Tu`> So>n to practice meditation. ... Birds and beasts became tame and like to linger around him."



"When he [La Qui’] was about to pass away, he instructed his disciple Thie`^n O^ng : "Formerly, Gao Pian ... excavated and disconnected nineteen {the sacred number in Baha>i numerology} locations such as the Die`^m River, the Phu` Cha>^n Pond ... . I have advised Khu’c La~m to fill them in and restore them. I also have a kapok tree [p. 416, n. 436 : "probably one and the same as the kapok tree at Die^n Ua>^n Village, which was struck by lightning"] planted at Minh Ch^u Temple to secure those disconnected locations. ..." ... When La Qui’ planted that kapok tree, he wrote a verse :



... The baby dragon’s tail hides the jewel’s light.

Eighteen sons will succeed –

The kapok tree shows a dragon’s form."



"Ma Ha traveled south to A’i Cha^u and arrived at Sa Da~ng Province. [p. 418, n. 458 : "a cavern named Sa Da~ng"] The people there had the custom of worshipping ghosts and spirits ... . ...



Ma Ha then blessed water with mantras and spat it on them {a Taoist method for curing ailments} – those who suffered from leprosy were immediately cured. ... After a while,"


"he spat out the __"

"it turned into __"



animals that ran away



live fishes flopping around on the ground





[p. 419, n. 459 : (according to the Xu Gao-sen Z^uan -- T 50.657) on mt. Qin-c^en in Yi-z^ou, "Xiang opened his mouth wide and spat.

The chicken that came from his mouth [turned into live poultry that] could fly and crow;

the beef spat out from his mouth [turned into cows and] ran off.

Wine ... flowed from his mouth profusely, almost filling the hole. Fish, geese, and ducks swam to and fro in throngs."]



"strange omens appeared incessantly in many forms :


a white dog with hair in his back that looked like the chara[c]ters thie^n tu> (Son of Heaven) appeared in the Ha`m Hoa.i Hall, U’>ng Tha’i Ta^m Temple, Co>^ Pha’p Prefecture; [p. 420, n. 479 : (according to the Vie.^t Su> Lu>o.>c 2:2b5-6 ) "a bitch at U’^ng Thie^n Temple of Co>^ Pha’p Village gave birth at a white pup with black hair on its back figuring the two characters thie^n tu> (Son of Heaven)."]


lightning struck the kapok tree and left writings



on its trunk; [p. 421, n. 480 : (according to the Vie.^t Su> Lu>o.>c 2:1a9-b1) : "a kapok tree was struck by lightning, which left character-like traces reading ...: ... Eighteen seeds are formed."]


sounds of chanting at night were heard around the grave of Great Lord Hie>^n Kha’nh; [p. 421, n. 481 : (according to the Thie`^n Uye>^n Ta.^p Anh 53a4) "at night ..., voices could be heard from the four sides of the grave. The voice from the east said :

Kha’nh Va^n, Tu>o`>ng Nham, and Que’^ Phu>o>ng,

The entrails of the goat and the dragon site follow each other."]



[p. 422, n. 481 : "The voice from the west said :

Looking far to the west toward Mount Thie^n Tru.,

Men and women of Cao The’^ are at the head of the Thu>o.>ng Tu>o>`ng Star."] [p. 422, fn. * : "Thu>o.>ng Tu>o>`ng was the first star in the Van Xu>o>ng constellation".]


[p. 422, n. 481 : "Va.n Ha.nh had people ... mark the boundary of the grave. ...

In the east there is Vu~ Long Quarter,

In the south there is Vu~ Long Wharf.

In the west there is Ha.c La^m Temple,

In the north Tra^n Ha>i Pond. ...

The Royal Bodyguard {cf. the Praetorian Guard, which in Roma often usurped the emperorship} will ascend the throne. ...

The seal will carry the character "quo’^c" [country].

Ten vessels sink down to the water,

Meeting a sage called Thie^n Du’>c."]



insects gnawed at the bark of a bastard banyan tree at Song La^m Temple, forming the character quo’^c (nation)."


"Therefore, ... Va.n Ha.nh ... placed an announcement at the crossroads that said :

The thorns sink into the North Sea, [p. 423, n. 483 : "The character le^ ... which means "thorn," is pronounced the same as "Le^," the name of the Le^ dynasty."]

The Plum tree grows under the southern sky." [p. 423, n. 484 : "Ly’ ... means plum tree but also means the family name Ly’." {The author of the Tao Te C^>in is said to have belonged to this Li ‘Plum’ family.}]



"Zen Master Da.o Ha.nh of Thie^n Phu’c Temple, Mount Pha.^t Ti’ch, had the family name Tu>`. His personal name was Lo.^. ... As a young man Da.o Ha.nh ... befriended ... a Daoist master named Le^ Toa`n Nghi~a ... . [pp. 423-424, n. 493 : (according to the Vie.^t Su> Lu>o.>c 2:16a10) "Le^ Toa`n Nghi~a presented a five-hued tortoise."] ...



When Vinh’s corpse got to Quye’^t Kie`^u Bridge, where Die^n Tha`nh’s mansion was located, it suddenly stood up like a living man and pointed [at the mansion] ... .



Da.o Ha.nh ... went to Mount Tu>` So>n ... . One day ..., a god appeared before him and said : "I’m your servant, the Celestial King who is the Guardian of the Four Directions. ... I came here to place myself at your disposal." Da.o Ha.nh knew that his magical power was now complete ... . He then went to the head of Quye’^t Kie^`u Bridge and tentatively threw his walking stick into the swift running water. The stick went against the current like a dragon and did not stop until it reached the Ta^y Du>o>ng Bridge. ...



He [Da.o Ha.nh] tamed hosts of mountain snakes and wild beasts; burned his finger to pray for rain; and blessed water with mantras to cure sickness."


"the authorities in Thanh Hoa’ Prefecture reported : "A weird supernatural omen has appeared at the sea side. There is a child about three years old who can speak fluently and calls himself emperor, and who has given himself the religious sobriquet Gia’c Hoa`ng [which means ‘Enlightened Sovereign’]. He knows about everything that the emperor has done." [p. 425, n. 508 : (according to the Vie.^t Su> Lu>o.>c 2:21a) "the people of Thanh Hoa’ reported that there was in the coastal land a strange child of three who understood everything said to him. He claimed to be the emperor’s own child and said Gia’c Hoa`ng was his name. He knew in advance everything the emperor was about to do."] ...



Da.o Ha.nh ... told his sister to disguise herself ... and secretly hung some of his magic seals on the eaves. On the third day of the ceremony, Gia’c Hoa`ng ... said : The whole country has been covered with iron net. Although I wish to be reincarnated, I’m afraid that all the paths are obstructed." [p. 425, n. 508 : (according to the Vie.^t Su> Lu>o.>c 2:21b) "A monk named Tu>` Lo.^, alias Da.o Ha.nh, who lived on Mount Pha.^t Ti’ch ... sent his sister Tu>` Thi. to the ceremony, secretly handed her some charmed pearls of his, and enjoined her to hang them under the roof of the temple without anyone being the wiser. Tu>` Thi. did as he said. Gia’c Hoa`ng ... said that iron nets were being spread over the country, and he could not find access into the palace for reincarnation."] {The netting is that of Indra, who was rescuing the boy from having to become a mere saecular monarch.}



"Da.o Ha.nh came to the marquis’ house ... . At that time the marquis’ wife was taking a bath, and Da.o Ha.nh caught a glimpse of her ... His wife thus became pregnant. ...

Da.o Ha.nh ... instructed his students :



"... I have to be reborn in this world again as an emperor for a while. After that lifespan is over, I will again be reborn as a god on the Trayatrims`a Heaven. ...""


"Some said that Gia’c Hoa`ng was an incarnation of Da.i Die^n."



Emperor "Ly’ Tha^`n To^ng was suffering a strange disease : his mind was confused, and he was growling and moaning fiercefully. ...



Minh Kho^ng took a nail five inches long a planted it in a column in the palace, shouting, "He who can pull this nail out will get to do the job first." {similar to the challenge by Merlin; and partly an invocation to the spirit of the metal (iron?) residing in the nail?} ... Minh Kho^ng had a big caldron brought in, filled with water, and boiled it again and again. {an invocation to the spirit of ebullience?} Then he ... had the emperor bathe in it. The emperor recovered instantly."



"Just then they heard the sounds of a sorcerer ceremony in a house nearby; Bo’>n said : "aren’t these the words of a sorcerer calling down spirits?" ... Bo’>n said : "I have never showed off to anybody!" {viz., had not shewn off his own ability to summon spirits} Kha’nh Hy> could not understand {scil., the benefit in not summoning spirits by a practitioner capable of summoning them}, so he left Bo’>n ...



Kha’nh Hy> was abruptly enlightened and returned to Bo’>n"





"Kha’nh Hy> gave a shout and said :

"when the fish tree starts to ascend, the little people {<e<epa} of the valley ... raise a shout." (HM, p. 287)


"... you see illusory {praeternatural} flowers falling in confusion." ...

cf. "purplish flowers" ("H-E", p. 28b) of <auhuhu, whose "juice" ("H-E", p. 15b) is mixed with <ala<ala he>e (squid-liver lure) for melomelo ("H-E", p. 226b).


Bo’>n said : "Master Kha’nh Hy>, what will you do with the boat? You’ve broken the bailing buckets? ... .

Waka : "As guardian of Hina-ke-ka" ("H-E", p. 398a), "she floated as a gourd" ("H-E", p. 398b), "floated as a bailer" (HM, p. 217).


... you haven’t even dreamt of things on the Other Side. ...

Waka concealed (HM, p. 526) Laie-i-ka-wai until "Aiwohikupua meets her nightly in dream" (HM, p. 527).



Leave the top of a hundred-foot pole and take a step".

melomelo, a ‘stick lure’, also known as makalei ("H-E", p. 209a), the name of a supernatural tree brought by <iwa (HM, p. 286), the frigate-bird deity who stole a magical squid-lure ("H-E", p. 385a).



"Zen Master Gio’>i Kho^ng of ... Ma~n Da>^u County, ...



when he reached Nam Sa’ch ... went to Tha’nh Chu’a Cave [p. 432, n. 567 : "the same as Ki’nh Chu’a Cave at ... Gia’p So>n District, Ha>i Du>o>ng Province"] and dwelt there. He stayed put for six years practicing austerities to the point that he could command gods and demons and tame wild beasts."



"Zen Master Y So>n ... was a native of Ca>^m Village, Nghe.^ An. ...



He could manifest bodies as numerous as sentient beings". [p. 439, n. 636 : (according to the Da.i Nam Nha’^t Tho’^n C^i’) "When he was about to die, plants, flowers, birds, and beasts were all moved."]

HM = Martha Beckwith : Hawaiian Mythology. Yale U Pr, 1940.

"H-E" = "Hawaiian-English" section of :- Pukui & Elbert : Hawaiian Dictionary. U of HI Pr, 1971.

Cuong Tu Nguyen : Zen in Medieval Vietnam : a Study and Translation of the Thi`e^n Uye^?n Ta.^p Anh. U of HI Pr, Honolulu, 1997.