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 Luzhou Faru

Luzhou Faru – Pioneer of the Northern School of Ch'an

Luzhou Faru (Traditional Chinese: 潞州法如; pinyin: Lùzhōu Fǎrù; Wade–Giles: Lo-chou Fa-ju; 638–689) was a prominent Chinese Ch'an master during the Tang Dynasty. He taught the dharma in northern China and developed the style that was later called the Northern School of Ch'an.

Faru was a native of Shangdang (in modern day Shanxi province). His family surname was Wang. He first studied with Ch'an master Huiming (d.u.) (also named Qingbu Ming) and became a monk when he was 19 years old. While studying Buddhist sutras and treatises, he also traveled to seek the Tao (the Way).

At the behest of Huiming, he eventually went to study with Daman Hongren (601–674) the Fifth Patriarch of Ch'an at the East Mountain Temple on Twin Peaks in Hunan Province, China. He remained with Hongren for 16 years and became Hongren's first dharma heir. Some of the then Ch'an texts treat Faru as the Sixth Patriarch, and Yuquan Shenxiu (606? –706) as the Seventh Patriatrch.

Faru avoided official appointment as Hongren's dharma heir and successor, though, by traveling to southern China where his whereabouts were unknown for the next eight or nine years. But in 686, Faru accepted the invitation of Master Huiduan (d.u.) of Luoyang, i.e., Dongdu (东都), the "Eastern Capital" of the Tang Dynasty, and the monks of the Shaolin Temple at Mount Song to travel north to teach the dharma. Faru helped to make the Shaolin Temple a prominent Ch'an center in northern China. An epitaph honoring the success of Faru's pioneering efforts is located on Mount Song.

When Faru neared the end of his life in 689, he recommended Shenxiu, a fellow disciple of Hongren's, to his students to continue their studies. Empress Wu Zetian (reign 690–705) of the Second Zhou Dynasty, who had usurped the authority of the Tang Dynasty, had planned to invite Faru to Luoyang as part of her plan to gain the support of prominent Buddhist clergy to support her hold on power. Faru's death thwarted her design, though, so she turned next to Shenxiu, who succeeded Faru as Hongren's heir and became the first Sixth Patriarch of Ch'an.

The principal sources for Faru's life and teachings are his epitaph Tang Zhongyue Shamen Shi Faru Chanshi Xingzhuang (唐仲岳沙門石法魯蟾石行莊) written soon after his death by unknown students and the Chuan Fabio Ji (傳法寶紀Annals of the Transmission of the Dharma Treasure). The epitaph states that in India there was a wordless transmission from mind to mind of the Buddha's essential teaching that came to Bodhidharma (483–540), who transmitted it to China. The epitaph also mentions the teaching of suddenly entering into the one vehicle, a forerunner of the later Ch'an emphasis on sudden (dun jiao 頓教) enlightenment.

The epitaph is also noteworthy for listing the first known Ch'an lineage, which goes from Bodhidharma to Huike (487–593) to Sengcan (496?–606) to Daoxin (580–651) to Hongren to Faru himself. The Chuan Fabio Ji extends the transmission to Shenxiu, but still names Faru before Shenxiu. This lineage was soon challenged by other disciples of Hongren like Laoan (also named Huian; d. 708) and Shenxiu. Faru's importance soon faded away, and the Lengqie Shizi Ji (楞伽師資記Record of the Masters and Disciples of the Laṅkāvatāra Sūtra) by Jingjue (683–c. 750) refers to Faru only as a master of local importance. Later Ch'an history texts did not even mention him. No texts mention if Faru had a dharma heir and only a few of his disciples can be found in scattered texts.

Neither Faru nor Shenxiu is considered the official heir of Hongren in current Ch'an records. That distinction goes to Huineng (638–713), a monk far less prominent than Faru or Shenxiu who emerged posthumously after his death thanks to an extensive campaign by his disciple Heze Shenhui (684–758) to rewrite Ch'an history.

The tradition of Ch'an Buddhism and Shaolin martial arts are continued in martial arts classes for men, women, and children offered by the Michigan Shaolin Wugong Temple.

 

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