All religions have spiritual figureheads, those who are perceived as embodying the essence of spirituality and religious purity. Chán Buddhism has many famous teachers in its nearly 2500 year history, from Boddhidharma who planted the first seeds, to Hui Neng, the sixth and last Chán patriarch who, it is said, brought Chán into full maturity.
Today, all Chinese Buddhists revere Hsu Yun as one of the greatest Chán masters of all times; many monasteries have a separate shrine, often in a separate building, dedicated to him. Beyond China, a traveler will find shrines, altars and temples in his dedication wherever a Chinese Buddhist community exists.
Hsu Yun's history is a long and colorful one, for it is believed he lived to 120 years, being born in 1840, dying in 1959. He became known throughout China as he travelled from monastery to monastery, meeting Chán teachers, and attending Chán retreats. The latter part of his life was devoted to rebuilding the infrastructure of Buddhism in China, after it had been devastated and nearly extinguished during China's Cultural Revolution. He led the effort to restore dozens of Buddhist temples and monasteries throughout China including one of the most famous, Nan Hua, founded in 675 AD. After its restoration, Nan Hua temple quickly became one of China’s most revered Buddhist monasteries once again. Nan Hua is also known as Caoxi for the river that flows nearby. It is considered Chan’s "home base", for, as the story goes, Chan became fully mature as the mystical branch of Buddhism upon the arrival of its resident master, Hui Neng.
Hsu Yun is most celebrated for his relentless efforts to resurrect Chán in monasteries throughout China, and to offer it directly to anyone who wanted to learn about it, Buddhist clergy and laity alike, as well as to non-Buddhists. Hsu Yun believed that anyone can "do" Chán: he spent much of the latter part of his long life speaking about Chán to monks and anyone else who cared to attend his lectures and sermons. He espoused Chán as an individual and independent undertaking, dependent on nothing but one's own courage, motivation, faith, discipline and spiritual desire.
One of Hsu Yun's Dharma heirs, Jy Din, spent many years as his personal translator as he traveled throughout China. Hsu Yun later sent Jy Din Westward to Hawaii to serve its growing number of Chinese Buddhist immigrants. In the mid 1950s he helped design and build what is now one of the the oldest Buddhist temples in the United States. In honor of his beloved Master, he named it Hsu Yun Temple. Years later, as the number of his American disciples grew and organized, he named their group the Chán Buddhist Order of Hsu Yun ( 虛 雲 禪 苑 ).
In the spirit of Chán and the teachings of Hsu Yun, the Order of Hsu Yun offers resources for anyone interested in learning about or practicing Chán. It is our hope that the joy and beauty of this ancient mystical tradition continues to grow and blossom in the years and centuries to come.
Chuan Zhi, 2014