Biographies

Biography Of The Chinese Pure Land Tradition Great Master Tanluan 中国净土宗昙鸾大师传

出家法名:释昙鸾(大师)
地位:高僧
俗名:不详
出生地:大同府雁门(今山西省代县)
出生年:476
往生年:542
代表作品:《往生论注》、《略论安乐净土义》一卷、《礼净土十二偈》(又称《赞阿弥陀佛偈》)、 《大集经注》(已经遗失)、《调气论》一卷、《疗百病杂丸方》三卷、《论气治疗方》一卷、《服气要诀》一卷

Monastic Dharma Name: Shi Tanluan (Great Master)
Status: Great monastic master
Family Name: Unclear
Place Of Birth: Present day Shanxi, China
Year Of Birth: 476
Year Of Rebirth: 542
Best Known Work: Commentary On The Rebirth Treatise

昙鸾大师是一位南北朝北魏弘传净土法门的一位高僧。生于本雁门(今山西代县) 。大师俗家近五台⼭,自幼听闻许多文殊菩萨的感应事迹。十四岁朝礼五台时,在佛光寺见文殊菩萨显瑞而发⼼出家。

From Northern Wei, Master Tanluan was a Great Master who propagated the Pure Land Tradition during the Northern-Southern Dynasty. Born in Benyanmen (now Shanxi), as his family lived near Wutaishan (Five-Terraces Mountain), he heard of many inspiring cases of responses by Manjusri Bodhisattva since young. At the age of fourteen, he went on a pilgrimage to Wutaishan, and at Foguang Monastery, witnessed Manjusri Bodhisattva’s manifestation of auspicious signs, which inspired him to renounce the household life.

出家后广修内外经籍具陶文理和经论,尤其对《大智度论》、《中论》、《百论》和《十二门论》有精深的研究 ,因此也有被推为四论宗祖师之说。

After becoming a monk, he studied widely on both worldly and Buddhist teachings. He particularly specialised in study of the ‘Treatise On The Great Perfection Of Wisdom’, ‘Treatise On The Middle Path’, ‘Treatise On One Hundred Verses’ and ‘Treatise On The Twelve Gates’, thus also later recognised as a Patriarch of the Four-Treatises’ Tradition.

大师读《大集经》时因为感到它的词义精深,于是着手为此经作注。中途积劳成疾,得了气疾(肺病之类)。为了治病而出门寻访名医,行至汾川境内(今⼭西文水)时,病况好转,但深感生命脆危,人生无常,遂想求长⽣之术,以完成自己修习佛法的愿望。

When the Master read the ‘Sutra Of The Great Assembly’, as he felt that its words are profound, he began to write a commentary on it. In the midst of writing, due to overwork, he developed a lung illness. To cure himself, he went around seeking good physicians. When he travelled to the border of Fen Province (now Shanxi Wenshui), his illness began to subside. However, he strongly felt that life was precariously fragile and impermanent. He then sought skills for cultivating longevity, so as to fulfil his wish to continuously study and practise the Buddha’s teachings.

于是遂至江南梁朝,寻找陶弘景。到建康(今南京)后,因来自北国以为是觇国者便昭进宫。但却在不知梁武帝身份下在重云殿与梁武帝谈论佛法,深得武帝赞叹。之后从陶弘景那得到十卷仙经,北上回归时, 碰到天竺僧⼈菩提流支三藏。

Thus, he travelled to Liang Dynasty’s Jiangnan, to look for Tao Hongjing (who was a Taoist who practised for longevity). When he reached Jiankang (now Nanjing), being from the Northern Dynasty, he was suspected to be a spy and summoned to the palace for investigation. However, there, without knowing Emperor Liang’s identity at Chongyun Court, he discussed Buddhism with him, and attained his great praise. After getting ten scrolls on longevity from Tao Hongjing, while returning to the North, he met the Indian Tripitaka Dharma Master Bodhiruci.

依《续高僧传》载, 大师当时问菩提流支大师佛法中有没有胜过中土的长寿之法。菩提流支大师说:‘此方何处有长生不死法?纵得长年,少时不死,卒归轮转,曷足贵乎?夫长生不死,吾佛道也!’

According to records in the ‘Extended Great Masters’ Biographies’, Great Master Tanluan then asked Great Master Bodhiruci if there were any Buddhist teachings superior to the longevity teachings in China? To which Great Master Bodhiruci replied, ‘Where are there teachings on longevity without death here? As even if attaining long life, to not die when young, there is eventually still death and return to the cycle of rebirth, of what sufficient value are such teachings? If you wish to truly attain longevity without death, it is through our Buddhist path!’

遂赠给大师《观无量寿经》,并说依此修学,三界无复生,六道无复往,永得无量寿!大师于是将仙经烧毁,一心致力于净土经典的研习,实践与弘扬。

Great Master Bodhiruci fulfilled the Great Master Tanluan’s wish by presenting him the ‘Sutra On Contemplation Of Immeasurable Life’, also telling him that if relying on it for learning and practice, he will not again be reborn in the three spheres, to not again remain in the six realms, to forever attain immeasurable life! Great Master then burned the scrolls on longevity, and wholeheartedly devoted his efforts on study, practice and propagation of the Pure Land sutras.

大师也为世亲菩萨《无量寿经优波提舍愿生偈》作了论注。在《往生论注》卷首,根据龙树菩萨《大智度论》及《十住毗婆沙论》,提出‘二道二力’的说法。

The Great Master also wrote a commentary on Vasubandhu Bodhisattva’s ‘Immeasurable Life Sutra’s Upadesa (Instructional) Verses For Aspiration Of Birth’ (i.e. ‘Rebirth Treatise’). In the first scroll of his ‘Commentary On The Rebirth Treatise’, as according to Nagarjuna Bodhisattva’s ‘Treatise On The Great Perfection Of Wisdom’ and ‘Treatise On Ten Abodes’ Vibhasa (Explanation)’, he put forward the teaching of ‘Two Paths And Two Powers’.

将修行佛法区分为依靠自力的难行道,与依靠他力的易行道。大师认为在无佛之世,想要依循唯是自力,无他力持的难行道是难以成功的,只有倚靠阿弥陀佛的力量来修行,才是最稳妥也最容易的法门。

Thus differentiated were the Buddha’s teachings, into those relying on Self-power as the Difficult Path, and those also relying on Other-power as the Easy Path. The Great Master taught that in eras with no Buddha, if wishing to follow the Difficult Path with only reliance on Self-power and without Other-power’s blessings, it will be very difficult to succeed. It is only with reliance on the power of Amitabha Buddha (Amituofo) for cultivating practice (of wholehearted mindfulness of his name), that is the most secure, reliable and easiest Dharma door.

不过,大师认为《观无量寿经》中所说的十六观想过于繁复,提出持念阿弥陀佛名号的方法,作为修行法门。即使是恶人,只要信愿持诵阿弥陀佛也可以往生净土。

However, the Great Master thought that the sixteen contemplations (to be visualised) in the ‘Sutra On Contemplation Of Immeasurable Life’ are too complicated, and suggested upholding mindfulness of the name of Amituofo as the main practice method. Even those who had done evil, as long as able to uphold Amituofo’s name wholeheartedly with faith and aspiration, can be reborn in his Pure Land.

大师总结阿弥陀佛名号总持一切佛法、等同于般若波罗蜜、等同于陀罗尼章句、等同于咒语。名号和其功德力用以及极乐世界殊胜庄严,是一不是二,‘名即是法’ 。正是由于‘阿弥陀佛’四字涵盖了无量深广的意义,所以大师认为‘阿弥陀佛’四字具有咒语的功用。并且劝慰大众须常称名念佛,方能与佛教诫相应,也即是如实修行。

The Great Master summed up that Amituofo’s name completely upholds (i.e. completely retains) all of the Buddha’s teachings, and is equal to Prajna Paramita (Perfection Of Wisdom), equal to dharanis’ sentences and phrases, and equal to mantras. The name’s meritorious power, together with the supreme magnificence of the Land Of Ultimate Bliss, are one and not two, as ‘the name is the Dharma’. It is precisely because these four characters of ‘Amituofo’ cover and contain the immeasurably profound and broad meanings of the Dharma, that he taught the name to be complete with functions of a mantra. Furthermore, he encouraged everyone to always recite the name, to be mindful of Amituofo, so as to correspond with the Buddha’s teachings, to truly practise them.

大师对净土宗诸多基本观念的阐释对其后净土法门的传播和推广具有举足轻重的地位。这也为日后道绰大师,尤其是善导大师的净业思想集大成产生了极大的影响。

The Great Master’s many explanations on the fundamental concepts of the Pure Land tradition were of great significance to future generations’ subsequent propagation and promotion of the Pure Land teachings. They also had tremendous influence later, upon Great Master Daochuo, and especially Great Master Shandao, as epitomised in his thought on Pure Land practice.

晚年时大师移居汾州北山石壁寺(今山西交城玄中寺),精修净业,弘宣法化。大师备受南北朝帝王和朝野僧俗的尊崇,东魏孝静帝称大师为‘神鸾’,南朝梁武帝称他‘肉身菩萨’。大师一生弘扬净土思想,奠定了净土宗立宗的理论基础 。

In his later years, the Great Master moved to Fen Province’s Northern Mountain’s Shibi Monastery (now Shanxi City’s Xuanzhong Monastery), to diligently practise and propagate the Pure Land teachings. The Great Master received great respect from royalty, monastics and commoners of the Northern-Southern Dynasty. The Eastern Wei’s Emperor Xiaojing addressed him as the ‘Divine Luan’ (a marvellous phoenix-like bird), and the Southern Dynasty’s Emperor Liang addressed him as a ‘Living Bodhisattva’. The Great Master spent his entire life propagating the Pure Land teachings, thereby establishing a solid foundation for the Pure Land tradition.

大师临终梦龙树菩萨告知往生时日。往生之日,令弟子高唱佛号,向西辑首而终。寺内大众皆见华盖幢幡自西方而来,天乐盈空,良久方散。大师年寿六十七。

When approaching the end of life, the Great Master dreamt of Nagarjuna Bodhisattva, who told him of the day and time of his birth in Pure Land. On the day of rebirth, he asked his disciples to recite the Buddha’s name loudly, as he faced West and departed. All in the monastery’s great assembly saw flowers, parasols, pennants and banners arrive from the West, as heavenly music filled the sky for a long time before dispersing. The Great Master’s age then was sixty-seven.

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Please be mindful of your speech, Amituofo!