[5] Biography Of The Chinese Pure Land Tradition’s Fifth Patriarch Great Master Shǎokāng 中国净土宗五祖少康大师传


Monastic Dharma Name: Shi Shaokang (Great Master)
Status: Fifth Patriarch Of The Pure Land Tradition (School)
Family Name: Zhou (Surname)
Place Of Birth: Tang Dynasty, Xiandu Mountain in Jinyun County (Present day Zhejiang Province’s Jinyun County)
Year Of Birth: Around 736 C.E.
Year Of Rebirth: 805 C.E.
Works: None


Great Master Shaokang was born around 736 C.E. to a Zhou family during the Tang Dynasty era, at Xiandu Mountain in Jinyun County (now at Zhejiang Province). His life was filled with colourful legends.


According to Song Dynasty’s Biographies Of Great Monastics, ‘[Great Master’s] Mother Madam Luo, in a dream, journeyed to Dinghu Peak, where a beautiful maiden with both hands offered her a blue lotus, instructing, “This flower is auspicious, now entrusted to you. After the birth of your noble son, you must protect and cherish him.” Later, she did become pregnant. About to reach the day of birth, ‘Blue lights filled the room, with fragrant similar to lotus flowers’.

大师幼年天庭饱满、眼碧唇朱、经常含笑端坐,人见人爱。然到七岁,未曾开口说话。一日母亲带到灵山寺拜佛。母亲以佛像问:「识否?」 大师忽发言:「释迦牟尼佛!」 母亲听了甚感惊诧,知道儿子宿具善根。

From childhood, Great Master had a full middle forehead, with bluish green eyes and orange-red lips. He, often smiling while sitting upright, was well loved by all. However, till the age of seven, he had yet to speak. One day, his mother brought him to Lingshan Monastery to pay homage to the Buddha. His mother, referring to the Buddha image and asked, ‘Do you know him?’ Suddenly, Great Master uttered, ‘Sakyamuni Buddha!’ Hearing this, his mother was extremely surprised, and knew that he must have past good roots.


His mother recollected the dream scene before her pregnancy, and knew that her son has affinity with the Buddha. Thereupon picking an auspicious day, she sent Great Master to Lingshan Monastery to renounce the household life, for cultivating practice. At the age of 15, Great Master received his full monastic precepts at Yuezhou’s Jiaxiang Monastery, where he spent five summers learning the precepts, widely studied the Mahayana sutras and treatises. About 10 years later, he was already proficient with the (Wonderful) Dharma (Lotus) Flower Sutra, Surangama Sutra, Flower Adornment Sutra and other Mahayana sutras.


At the beginning of Tang Dynasty’s Zhenyuan year, when Great Master was 49 years old, he journeyed to Luoyang’s Baima Monastery. One day, while prostrating to Buddha image in the hall, he ‘saw something emitting light. Thereupon, he searched to see which sutra teaching it was. It was Great Master Shandao’s “Western Instructional And Guidance Text”. [Great Master] Shaokang thus rejoiced.’ Thus, in his heart, he silently recited, ‘”If I and [the Western] Pure Land have affinity, may only this scroll of text’s light again appear.” Just when his prayer ended, again indeed did light glimmer, manifesting innumerable Buddhas and Bodhisattvas within.’


Great Master, having witnessed these auspicious signs, deeply knew that these spiritual miracles were responses from the Patriarch. Thereupon, with his five limbs thrown to the ground, he prostrated and vowed, ‘Rocks can be ground in kalpas, [but] my vow will be without change.’ Hereby, he made a firm resolution to let go of the ten thousand conditions, vowing to, with Great Master Shandao as a model example, set his mind upon the Pure Land path.


Thereafter, Great Master went to Chang’an’s Guangming Monastery, where Great Master Shandao’s ancestral hall was. While reverently prostrating, he suddenly saw the portrait of Great Master Shandao rise into the air, and said, ‘You should rely on my teachings, to benefit and bring joy to sentient beings, thus with your efforts, to together be born in the Land Of Peaceful Nurturing.’ Thereupon, Great Master with even more determination, focused on cultivation and propagation of the Pure Land teachings.


One day, while Great Master was propagating the dharma at reached Hubei’s Jiangling (Jingzhou), he went to Guoyuan Monastery to pay homage to the Buddha. ‘(Great Master) met a Dharma Master, who said to him, “If you wish to transform people, should take the path to Xinding, as your affinity is there.” After saying however, he disappeared without a trace, only smelt and seen were fragrance and light towards the west.’ Great Master came to realise this as guidance by the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, thus becoming resolute in proceeding towards Zhejiang’s Xinding (now Zhejiang’s Jiande City).


When Great Master first reached Zhejiang, as there was still no one propagating the Pure Land teachings in the region, everyone did not quite understand it, which made it difficult to begin teaching and transforming. Thus, everyday within the city, he sought alms, for food, and received some money, with which he used to entice and reward children. Those able to recite aloud ‘Amituofo’ (Amitabha Buddha) once, would be given one copper coin. Many children felt that it was fun, while at the same time, for receiving money, they competed to recite ‘Namo Amituofo’ (Homage to and refuge for life in Amitabha Buddha). A few months later, as the children who reciting the Buddha’s name had dramatically increased, Great Master again skilfully guided them to recite 10 times to be given one coin. Thus, passing a year’s of persuasion and transformation, Xinding district’s adults and children, noble and lowly, who recited the Buddha’s name fully filled the streets.

唐贞元十年, 大师58岁, 在新定乌龙山南麓启建净土道场,升座说法,宣扬净土奥义。大师筑坛三级,聚人午夜行道唱赞二十四首,称扬净邦。每遇斋日,信者云集,所化三千许人。

In the Tang Dynasty’s Zhenyuan’s 10th year, Great Master at the age of 58, established a Pure Land Bodhimanda (Practice Centre) at Xinding’s Mount Wulong’s Nanluqi. He started teaching the Dharma, to propagate the profound meaning of the Pure Land teachings. Great Master built a three-storeyed platform, to gather people at midnight to practise the path, by singing 24 praises of Pure Land. On every Eight Precepts day, about 3,000 devotees would gather together.


When Great Master Shaokang ascended to the high seat, to recite ‘Amituofo’ aloud, with each recitation, from his mouth within, immediately exited a Buddha’s form. Continuously reciting 10 times, thus did 10 of Buddha’s form exit, as if strung like prayer beads. Great Master said to the great assembly, ‘You who see the Buddha’s form, will definitely be reborn (in Pure Land).’ Many disciples who heard this prediction gave rise to great joy, and recited the Buddha’s name even more diligently. The few yet to see felt grief and remorse, which drove them to redouble their diligence in mindfulness of the Buddha.


In the Tang Dynasty’s Zhenyuan’s 21st year in the 10th month, when Great Master was 69 years old, he knew in advance the time of his departure. He called to gather his disciples to give them his last instruction, ‘(You) should, for (reaching) Pure Land, give rise to increase of diligence. And for Jambudvipa [which is this defiled land], give rise to revulsed renunciation. You and the company, who at this moment see my bright light, are my true disciples.’


With his words completed, he emitted many rays of light, and suddenly departed. At that moment, the weather changed precipitously, as wild winds from the four directions arose, and hundreds of bird sang sadly, Mount Wulong for a short while turned white. Later, Great Master’s memorial pagoda was built at Zhoudong’s Taizi Cliff, which was eventually rebuilt by the State Preceptor Tiantai Master Deshao.


As it was such, that when Great Master Shandao recited the Buddha’s name once, a ray of bright light emitted from his mouth. When he recited 1,000,000 times, a 1,000,000 rays of bright light emitted from his mouth. This is while when Great Master Shaokang recited once, out from his mouth projected a Buddha’s image, which was somewhat similar. Thus, everyone honourably addressed him as the Latter Shandao, and as the The Pure Land Tradition’s Fifth Patriarch.

完整中文原文 Complete Chinese text:
图片 Pictures: 任新宇 《净土》
英译 English translation:

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