Lamp Bearer Buddha II

Monday, November 23, 2009
By Joe Hung, The China Post

Of the Hoklo population in Taiwan those hailing from Quanzhou (泉州) form the preponderant majority. In the county of Tongan (同安) under the jurisdiction of the prefecture of Quanzhou, a boy was born on the twenty-second day of the eighth moon on the Chinese lunar calendar while China had yet to be reunified by the Emperor Taizhu of the Song (宋太祖) Dynasty who reigned from 960 to 976 A.D.

The baby was named at birth Zheng Zhiyen (鄭自巖). At the age of 11, the boy became a novice at a Buddhist temple in his hometown. Six years later, the teenager became a mendicant in the province of Henan (河南). He became well known throughout China for diverting away river waters passing through the Huangyang Gorge (黃楊峽) by magic to end the perennial floods in spring in the province. Later the aging monk secluded himself in a mountain at Nanyen in the county of Wuping near Dingzhou in Fujian (福建汀州武平南巖) in the second year of Qiandeh under the reign of the Emperor Taizhu (宋太祖乾德二年) or 964 A. D. It is said that tigers and pythons kept him company at his hermit's den. He died at the age of 82 sui (years) in the second year of Junhua under the reign of the Emperor Taizhong of the Song Dynasty (宋太宗淳化二年), which corresponds to 991 A.D. (A Chinese baby is one sui or year old on the day it is born.)

His followers at Nanyen built a temple dedicated to Zheng Zhiyen, which still exists today. And the people believe he is a reincarnation of Dipankara or the Lamp Bearer Buddha.

Like Dipankara, Maitreya who is the Buddha of the future is as popularly worshipped throughout China and Taiwan. But government authorities used to frown upon the worshippers of the Laughing Buddha in the past just as Falungong adherents are in the People's Republic of China now. (Maitreya is better known in China as the Laughing Buddha with a mountainous belly protruding prominently.) Mahayanists in China, however, worship Dhyani Buddhas, too. Their name implies that they are Buddhas of contemplation and their images convey the impression of deep meditation and clam. Dhyana is one of the eight right paths (八正道), which is the last of the Buddha's Four Noble Truth (四聖諦). It was transliterated as Chan (禪) in Chinese, when Mahayana Buddhism was introduced to China from India at the turn of the Christian era. The character is pronounced zen in Japanese. The school of Chan was first formed in China, but it is now known in the West as Zen in its Japanese pronunciation.

Unlike Bodhisattvas who are usually princely in aspect and wear rich clothes, studded with gold and jewels, to symbolize heir active, world-serving role, the Dhyana Buddhas wear the simple garments of the monk, their hands held in front of them or folded in their laps in the five established mudras or positions, their eyes turned downward, and a quiet smile lighting up their otherwise grave and composed countenances. The three principle Dhyani Buddhas are Vairocana (大日如來佛), Bhaisajyaguru (藥師如來佛) and Amitabha (阿彌陀佛).

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