Huang Po

About Huang Po

“…his words were simple, his reasoning direct, his way of life exalted and his habits unlike the habits of other men. Disciples hastened to him from all quarters, looking up to him as to a lofty mountain, and through their contact with him awoke to Reality. Of the crowds which flocked to see him, there were always more than a thousand with him at a time.”

Thus P’ei Hsiu (pronounced pay shoo), a scholar-official of great learning according to Blofeld, described Huang Po (hwong bo; Japanese: Obaku), whose teachings he recorded for posterity. Blofeld also tells us that P’ei Hsiu was devoted to Huang Po, so we can forgive him if he may have used a little puffery in describing the size of the crowds always in attendance, but his description of the man rings with honest conviction.

Lest you get the impression that Huang Po was mild-mannered, though, you might be interested to know that his teacher, Pai-chang (whose teacher was Ma-tsu), compared him to a tiger in his ferociousness.

Similarity to the Tibetan Book of the Great Liberation, from Blofeld’s introductory comments:

The present volume is a complete translation of the Huang Po Ch’uan Hsin Fa Yao, a ninth-century Chinese Buddhist text, much of which now appears in English for the first time. It contains a concise account of the sublime teachings of a great Master of the Dhyana Sect, to which, in accordance with current Western practice, I shall henceforth refer to by its Japanese name of Zen. Zen is often regarded as a uniquely Far Eastern development of Buddhism, but Zen followers claim that their Doctrine stems directly from Gautama Buddha himself. This text, which is one of the principle Zen works, follows closely the teachings proclaimed in the Diamond Sutra or Jewel of Transcendental Wisdom, which has been ably translated by Arnold Price and published by the Buddhist Society, London. It is also close in spirit to The Sutra of Wei Lang (Hui Nêng),another of the Buddhist Society’s publications. But I have been deeply struck by the astonishing similarity to our text in spirit and terminology of the not-so-Far Eastern, eighth-century Tibetan Book of the Great Liberation, edited by Evens-Wentz and published by the Oxford University Press. In my opinion, these four books are among the most brilliant expositions of the highest Wisdom which have so far appeared in our language; and, of them all, the present text and the Tibetan Book of the Great Liberation present the Doctrine in a form best suited to the needs of Western readers.

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