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Huangbo: Master of the Universal Mind

One of the most thoughtful Zen philosopher of them all was Huangbo Xiyun (Huang-po Hsi-yun) (d. 850?), who picked up where the earlier teachers had left off and brought to a close the great creative era of Chan. He also stood at the very edge of the tumultuous watershed in Chinese Buddhism, barely living past the 845 Great Persecution that smashed the power of all the Buddhist schools except that of the reclusive Southern Chanists.

Making a pilgrimage to see the famous Mazu, he found the master had died. However Baizhang Huaihai was still there, and he settled down to study with him instead.

By the time of Huangbo the issue of "gradual" versus "sudden" enlightenment was decisively resolved in favor of the latter. He therefore turned instead to two major remaining questions:

  • how enlightenment fits into the mental world
  • how this intuitive insight can be transmitted.

Before he was through he had advanced these issues significantly and had laid the philosophical basis for the next phase of Chan in China, one to be dominated by the school of his pupil Linji.