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Baizhang Huaihai (Chinese: 百丈懷海; pinyin: Bǎizhàng Huáihái; Wade-Giles: Pai-chang Huai-hai; Japanese: Hyakujō Ekai) (720–814) was a Chinese Zen master during the Tang Dynasty. He was a dharma heir of Mazu Daoyi.

Life and Teaching

According to the Transmission Records, Baizhang was from Chang-lo in Fu-chou, and became Mazu's disciple when he was teaching in Nan-k'ang. After studying with Mazu for some time, Baizhang apparently received the Dharma tramissions from him. He was invited to teach at the Hsing-wu district in Hung-chou, to live at Mt. Ta-hsiung. Baizhang's abode was reportedly accessible via only a dangerously steep mountain path - as such, they called him 'Baizhang', which means One-Hundred Fathoms. The record reports that before he had been there a year, students arrived from all over the country. Among them, Guishan and Huangbo became the foremost disciples.

According to traditional Chan/Zen accounts, Baizhang established an early set of rules for Chan monastic discipline, the Pure Rules of Baizhang (Baizhang Qinggui). He is credited for establishing the typical layout of a Zen monastery therein, with the innovation of the monks' hall, as well as the adoption of a lifestyle of subsistence-farming for monastics. It is unclear how reliably these innovations can be sourced to Baizhang, and scholars such as McRae have argued that the image of Chan monasteries as self-sufficient farming communities may have been a carefully crafted image to appeal to Chinese society in the face of Buddhist persecution (where one concern was the 'parasitism' of monastics who lived on the charity of others). This image of Chan monasteries may have been further embellished and romanticized as the centuries went on. Regardless, Baizhang's rules are still used today in many Zen monasteries. From this text comes the well-known saying "A day without work is a day without food" (一日不做一日不食 "One day not work, one day not eat").

Yifa, however, in her The Origins of Buddhist Monastic Codes in China disputes the methodology of scholars who argue that the Pure Rules of Baizhang is not extant because it never existed. Regardless, she acknowledges that it is his being credited as the author of such a text that led to his "considered responsible for initiating Chan independence from other Buddhist schools."

Studying with Mazu

There is a famous dialogue between Mazu, Baizhang, Nanquan and Xitang when the former was teaching the others as his disciples. Xitang and Baizhang in particular were known as 'room-entering disciples', and the record states that they were the foremost among Mazu's students and thus rivals in their Chan study.

One evening, the monks Xitang, Baizhang, and Nanquan were viewing the moon with Master Mazu.

The master asked them, “At just this moment, what is it?”

Xitang said, “Perfect support.” [or: "A perfect time to make an offering."]

Baizhang said, “Perfect practice.” [or: "A perfect time to practice."]

Nanquan shook his sleeves and walked away.

Mazu said, “A sutra enters the Buddhist canon. Zen returns to the sea. ” [or: "The sutras went into Ts'ang /'Tripitika'; meditation returned into Hai/'Sea'.] Only Nanquan has gone beyond things."

There is a bit of wordplay that is lost in English, as Mazu is also referencing the names of his two disciples in referencing which of the two 'took in' the sutras and which 'took in' meditation.

Dialogue with Mazu

Baizhang asked (Mazu), “What is the essential purport of the Buddha’s teaching?”

Mazu said, “It is precisely the point at which you let go of your body and life.”

Mazu (then) asked Baizhang, “Later on, what kind of method are you going to use when you instruct other people?” Baizhang (took) the whisk and held it upright. Mazu said, “Is that all, or you also have something else (to show me)?”

Baizhang then put down the whisk.

Mazu shouted "K'AAA!"

Dialogue with Huangbo

One day the master [Baizhang] addressed the group, "The Buddha-Dharma is not a small affair. I twice met with the Greater Master Ma's 'K'AAA!' It deafened and blinded me three days."

Huangbo, hearing this, unconsciously stuck out his tongue, saying "I don't know Mazu, and after all I never met him."

Baizhang said, "Aren't you going to become the heir of Mazu?"

Huangbo said "Indeed not. Today, because of your exposition, I have been able to see Mazu's power in action. But I never knew him. If I were to be Mazu's heir, afterwards I'd have no descendants."

The Master said, "That's so, that's so. If your understanding is equal to your teacher's, you diminish his power by half. Only if you surpass your teacher, will you be competent to transmit. You are very well equipped to surpass your teacher."

Baizhang's "Zen House Regulations"

As found in Transmission of the Lamp (景德傳燈錄 jing de chuan deng lu):


Long connecting dais are to be set up and racks/stands installed for visiting monks to hang/keep their equipment. When reclining, one must lie on the right side of his body, along the edge of the dais in the auspicious sleeping posture. This reclining is for those who have sat long in meditation to briefly engage in rest only - always in accord to the four deportments (the Buddhist four dignified manner/posture of walking, standing, sitting, reclining). (translated by chintokkong)

Significant Teachings

The 'Big Lecture'

A monk asked, "What about the Dharma-gate of Mahayana Sudden Enlightenment?"

The Master said:

All of you: first stop all causal relationships, and bring the ten thousand affairs to rest. Good or not good, out of the world or in the world—don't keep any of these dharmas in mind. Don't have causally conditioned thoughts. Relinquish both body and mind and make yourself free, with a mind like wood or stone—making no discriminations. Then the mind is without action, and the mind-ground is like the empty sky. Then the sun of wisdom will appear by itself, like clouds opening and the sun coming out. Completely stop all involving causes: greed, anger, lust, attachment. Feelings of purity or impurity should be extinguished. As for the five desires and the eight lusts, one need not be bound by seeing, hearing, perceiving or knowing; or be deluded under any circumstance. Then you will be endowed with supernatural and mysterious power. Thus is the liberated man.

As for all kinds of circumstances, the mind of such a man is without either tranquillity or disorder—neither concentrated or scattered. Then there is no obstruction to the complete comprehension of Sound and Form. Such may be called a man of Tao. He is bound in no way by good or bad, purity or impurity, or the uses of worldly happiness and wisdom. This is what we call Buddha-Wisdom. Right and wrong, pretty and ugly, reasonable and unreasonable—all intellectual discriminations are completely exhausted. Being unbound, his mental condition is free. Such a man may be called a Bodhisattva whose Bodhi-mind arrives the instant it sets out. Such can ascend directly to the Buddha lands.

All the dharmas, basically, are not of themselves empty. They do not, themselves, speak of form; also they say nothing of right and wrong or purity and impurity; and they have no intention of binding men. The fact is that men themselves deludedly speculate and make several kinds of understanding and bring forth several kinds of intellectual discrimination. If feelings of purity and impurity could be exhausted, if one didn't dwell in attachments and didn't dwell in liberation— if there were absolutely no drawing-of-lines between conditioned and unconditioned—if the mind analyzed without making choices - then that mind would be free.. One would not be tangled up with illusion, suffering, the skandhas, samsara or the twelve links of the chain. Remote, unattached, completely without clinging. Going or staying without obstruction; entering into or coming out of Birth-and-Death is like going through opening gates. Even when that mind meets with various sorts of suffering and things that go wrong, that mind does not retreat groveling. Such a one is not concerned with fame, clothing or food. He doesn't covet merit or profit; he is not obstructed by social things. Though he may be brought up against pleasure or pain, he doesn't get involved. Coarse food sustains his life, patched clothes resist the weather. He is vacant, like a complete idiot or deaf man.

If one has the least inclination toward broadly studying Understanding within samsara—seeking fortune and wisdom— it will add nothing to the Principle. Instead one will be hung up by the circumstances of understanding; and return to the sea of samsara. Buddha is an unseekable One: if you seek it you go astray. The Principle is an unseekable Principle; if you seek it you lose it. And if you manage not to seek, it turns to seeking. This Dharma has neither substance or emptiness. If you are able to flow through life with a mind as open and complete as wood or stone— then you will not be swept away and drowned by the skandhas, the five desires and the eight lusts. Then the source of Birth-and-Death will be cut off, and you will go and come freely. You will not in the least be bound by the conditions of karma. With an unfettered body you can share your benefits with all things. With an unfettered mind you can respond to all minds. With an unfettered wisdom you can loosen all bonds. You are able to give the medicine according to the disease.

The Regulations of the Ch'an Line

The Ch'an line, from the time of its founding by Bodhidharma, to the Sixth Patriarch, and on up to the time of Baizhang, usually made its quarters in the temples of the Vinaya sect. Although it had separate buildings, there was yet no agreement on rules concerning teaching and administration. The Ch'an Master Baizhang Ta-chih, constantly concerned about this, said: "The Way of the Patriarchs should be one of expanding and transforming mankind. We hope that it will not die out in the future. Why should we accord our practices with every detail of the Agamas (Theravada Vinaya rules)?" Someone said, "The 'Yoga-sastra' and the 'Ying-lo Ching' contain the Mahayana regulations. Why not follow them!" Baizhang said "What I follow isn't bound by the Great or Small Vehicles, and doesn't differentiate between them. We must strike a balance between the broad and the narrow, and establish rules that are suitable." Thereupon, beginning a new idea, he established entirely different meditation dwellings. In the community, everyone whose Dharma-eye is respectably powerful is called "Chang-lao" just as in India men of age and understanding were called "Subhuti", etc. After they have become "Transformers" or "Refiners" they live in the fang-chang room. Like Vimalakirti's room, it is without individual bedrooms. The reason that we build lecture halls, but no Buddha-halls, is to show that the Buddhas and Patriarchs personally appoint the Masters even today, and it is they who become the "Buddha". Students enter the Comrades' Hall, without distinction of many or few, high or low. In order of how many seasons they've spent, they arrange and set up long connected benches and put up clothes racks to hang their equipment on. They sleep with their pillows leaned against the edge of the bench, on the auspicious right side of the body, because they do zazen for long hours, and need a little rest. Thus they have all the Four Dignities (standing, sitting, walking and lying down). Aside from entering the Master's room to receive the teaching, students are permitted to be diligent or idle; the high and the low are not bound to a common rule. This whole group has study in the morning and an assembly in the evening. When the old chief ascends his high seat and gives a lecture, the leaders and the group stand in rows listening. The "Guest" and the "Host" trade questions and answers to display the principles of the Dharma—to display how they follow and live by the Dharma. Meals are held twice a day at suitable times, because it is necessary to be frugal, and to show that Dharma and food go together. When working outside, those of high and those of low rank work equally hard. Baizhang established ten offices and called them "liao-she" ("huts"). Each office has one man as chief, who is in charge of a number of men who each look after the affairs of their own department.

    Item: the man in charge of cooking is called "The rice head". The man in charge of vegetables is called "The greens head". The others all follow this pattern.

If there is someone who has falsely taken the name and stolen the form of a comrade, muddying the pure community and obstructing its affairs, then the welfare worker (Wei-na) investigates, removes his nameplate and clothes rack, and has him leave the grounds. The reason for this is to preserve the peace of the community. If that person has actually transgressed in some serious way then he should be beaten with a staff; assemble the group and burn his robe, bowls and equipment, and chase him out by a side gate. This shows his disgrace. Being particular about this one custom has four advantages: First, not muddying the pure community will give birth to reverence and faith.

    Item: if the three inheritances (word, deed and thought) are not good, men cannot live together. In accordance with the customs it is sometimes appropriate to use the “Brahma Altar” method to regulate someone [ostracizing an offender with total silence]. Some persons must be thrown out of the community— when the community is tranquil, reverence and faith will grow.

Secondly, the forms of the comrades are not destroyed, and the Buddhist precepts are complied with.

    Item: punish offenders properly, if they were allowed to keep their robes you'd regret it later.

Third, this way you don't trouble the law courts, and you keep out of criminal litigation. Fourth, it doesn't leak to outsiders—this protects the harmony of the tradition.

    Item: when people come from all over to live together, what distinguishes the common man and the sage? Even when the Tathagata was in the world there were six classes of common monks; how much more today, in the decline of the Dharma, we cannot hope to have absolutely none. If one comrade commits an error, and all the other comrades make accusations, they surely don't realize that they are demeaning the community and destroying the Dharma; how great this destruction is. If the Ch'an group of these days wishes to move without hindrance, we must rely on Baizhang's Thick Grove regulations to manage affairs. Furthermore, it is not on account of the worthy ones that we set up a law guarding against transgressions. It is better to have rules and no faults, than it is to have faults and no rules. With Master Po-chang's protection, the Dharma has flourished and grown!

That the Ch’an Line is nowadays standing foremost can be traced to Baizhang. We have related the essentials and displayed them for comrades of future generations, that they forget not their roots. The complete rules are provided at all "Mountain Gates".