Nanyue Huisi

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Nanyue Huisi (Chinese: 南嶽慧思, 515-577),[note 1] was an eminent Chinese Buddhist monk, traditionally regarded as the third patriarch of the Tiantai school.[note 2][7] According to Sasaki, Huisi "was the leading authority on the Lotus Sutra of his time."[8]


The earliest sources on Huisi's life are the "Vow Established by the Great Dhyana Master Huisi from Southern Peak", a work attributed to Huisi,[note 3] Daoxuan´s hagiography in the "Continued Biographies of Eminent Monks" (續高僧傳 Xù gāosēng zhuàn) and in his "Catalogue of [Buddhist] Works in the Imperial Collection of the Great Tang".[11]

Born with the surname Li () in Wujin 武津 (Shangcai 上蔡, Henan 河南) in 515 CE, Huisi left home to join the monastic order at fourteen.[11][12] By the age of nineteen, he undertook the full monastic precepts, thus becoming a fully ordained monk. Then he began visiting meditation masters in northern Henan.[13]

He joined the community of Huiwen, who, according to Tiantai tradition, taught meditation techniques of the Great Perfection of Wisdom Treatise, a work purportedly written by Nagarjuna.[note 4] Daoxuan (597-667) reports that after a ninety-day retreat under Huiwen's guidance, Huisi attained sudden enlightenment while leaning against a wall: "Within an instant of thought he attained the dharma-gate of the lotus samadhi".[16] Guanding (561-632) writes: "The dharma-gates of both the Lesser Vehicle and Great Vehicle radiantly burst forth [for him]."[17] Subsequently, Huisi began to give public lectures and to teach samadhi to an increasing number of disciples. However persecution by opposing monks, who ultimately tried to kill him, forced him to flee to south China in 552.[18]

From 553-568 he lived and taught in Guangzhou. Among his disciples were several gifted monks like Zhiyi, who studied on Mt. Dasu under Huisi from 560 to 567.[19] Zhiyi would become the fourth patriarch in the Tiantai lineage.[20] Daoxuan states that Huisi went to Mount Nan Yue in 568, where he founded the Yuquan Temple and trained his disciples.[21]

The lotus samadhi[edit]

Huisi taught two different forms of the lotus samadhi. The "practice devoid of characteristics", or the practice of ease and bliss, is based on the fourteenth chapter of the Lotus Sutra.[22][23] Huisi explains, "While in the very midst of phenomena [the practitioner discerns that] mental characteristics are quiescent and extinguished and ultimately do not arise. (...) He is constantly immersed in all the profound and wonderful dhyana absorptions because in all activities - walking, standing, sitting, lying down, eating or speaking - his mind is always settled [in samadhi]."[22]

The "practice possessing distinguishing characteristics" is based on the 28th chapter of the Lotus Sutra, "The Encouragement of Bodhisattva Samantabhadra".[24] It is focused on the practice of reciting the Lotus Sutra and repentance.[25]


  • Mahayana Method of Cessation and Contemplation (dasheng zhiguan famen, 大乘止觀法門, T 46, 1924)[26][27]
  • Essential Methods for the Sequential Practice of Chan (ci di chan yao, 次第禪要, T 2060:50.564a16–17)[28]
  • Dharma-Gate of the Samādhi Wherein All Dharmas are Without Dispute (zhufa wuzheng sanmai famen, 諸法無諍三昧. 法門, T 46, 1923)[29][30]
  • The samadhi of freely following one's thought (sui ziyi sanmei)[30]
  • The meaning of the course of ease and bliss in the Lotus Sutra (fahua jing anlexing yi, T 46,1926)[31]
  • The Vow Established by the Great Dhyana Master Huisi from Southern Peak (Nanyue si da chan shi li shiyuan wen, 南嶽思大禪師立誓願文, T 46, 1933)[32][note 5]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Also known as Hui-ssu or Grandmaster Nanyue, Jap.: Nangaku Eshi.[1][2]
  2. ^ Nagarjuna and Huiwen are traditionally taken to be the first and second patriarch of the Tiantai school.[3][4][5] Scholars of Buddhism name Zhiyi as the de facto founder of the Tiantai school.[6]
  3. ^ This work claims to be written by Huisi in 559. The authenticity of the "Vow" is disputed[1][9][10]
  4. ^ The Great Perfection of Wisdom Treatise (chinese Dazhidu lun, Japanese Daichido ron), a work traditionally attributed to Nagarjuna, translated by Kumarajiva in 406 CE. It contains a broad commentary on the Pancavimsatisahasrikaprajnaparamitasutra and Buswell describes it as an "authoritative source" of Mahayana doctrine for Chinese scholars like Sengzhao, Fazang, Zhyi and Tanluan.[14][15]
  5. ^ complete French translation by Magnin[33]


  1. ^ a b Hubbard 2001, p. 69.
  2. ^ Buswell 2013, p. 573.
  3. ^ Luk 1964, p. 109.
  4. ^ Ng 1990, p. 1.
  5. ^ Shinohara 1998, p. 278.
  6. ^ Zhang 2015, p. 106.
  7. ^ Keown 2003, p. 115.
  8. ^ Sasaki 2009, p. 193.
  9. ^ Stevenson 2006, p. 36.
  10. ^ Lin 2011, p. 72-73.
  11. ^ a b Stevenson 2006, p. 23.
  12. ^ Muller 2014.
  13. ^ Stevenson 2006, p. 26.
  14. ^ Buswell 2013, p. 227.
  15. ^ Lamotte 1944.
  16. ^ Stevenson 2006, p. 28.
  17. ^ Penkover 1979, p. 258.
  18. ^ Stevenson 2006, pp. 23, 34–35.
  19. ^ Buswell 2013, p. 911.
  20. ^ Stevenson 2006, p. 37.
  21. ^ Lagerwey 2004, pp. 354–355.
  22. ^ a b Stevenson 1986, p. 67.
  23. ^ Kubo 2007, pp. 193–208.
  24. ^ Kubo 2007, pp. 313–318.
  25. ^ Stevenson 1986, p. 67-68.
  26. ^ Muller 2009.
  27. ^ Bary 2010, pp. 137–138.
  28. ^ Greene 2012, p. 203.
  29. ^ Magnin 1995, pp. 152–153.
  30. ^ a b Wang 2009, p. 155.
  31. ^ Stevenson 2006.
  32. ^ Lagerwey 2004, p. 393.
  33. ^ Magnin 1979, pp. 192–238.


Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]