No Ancestors, No Buddhas

I don’t hold to some views about the ancestors. Here, there are no ancestors and no buddhas. Boddhidharma is an old stinking foreigner. Shakyamuni is a dried piece of excrement. Manjushri and Samantabhada are dung carriers. What is known as “realizing the mystery” is nothing but breaking through to grab an ordinary person’s life. “Bodhi” and “nirvana” are a donkey’s tethering post. The twelve divisions of scriptural canon are devils’ texts; just paper for wiping infected skin boils. The four functions and the three virtuous stages, original mind and the ten stages, these are just graveyard-guarding ghosts. They’ll never save you.

Deshan Xuanjian
Zen Master


Many readers may not be familiar with Deshan but he is well known for burning the sutras the next day after he was enlightened by Lungtan Chongtzin saying “I now know that no matter how deep and profound the writings are, in comparison with awakening they’re like a single hair compared to infinite space or like a drop of water compared to the vast ocean“.

Why I brought up Deshan is because his experience in being suddenly awakened by Lungtan Chongtzin can apply to our attempts to Master Tai Chi Today. If you have a problem grasping the principles of Tai Chi or think you already got it but there is a disquiet feeling in you that something is missing perhaps in understanding Deshan’s journey you could make a breakthrough.

Deshan was initially like some of these folks I see on social media happily arguing away on what Tai Chi is or isn’t, happily carrying their lineage / style / master banner and proclaiming that their path is the one true one. They remind me of Deshan’s proud attitude before he was enlightened as he thought he knew a lot due to his scholarly studies of the Diamond Sutra and commentaries as well as his understanding from penning a commentary himself.

However, Deshan was stumped when he stopped at a rest house on the way to challenge Lungtan Chongtzin and was tested on his understanding of the Diamond Sutra by old woman who ran the rest house. The old woman offered Deshan cakes known as “mind refreshers” free of charge if he could answer a question about the Diamond Sutra. However, poor Deshan had to go without the cakes when he failed to answer the question of “In that sutra, it says that past-mind is no more, future-mind is not yet; and present mind is beyond comprehension. In that case, Reverend Sir, which mind is it that you seek to refresh with these cakes?

When we think we know a lot there may be a day when we can be stumped when we least expect it. Today’s learners and teachers of Tai Chi carry a lot of baggage with them; they have a lot of ancestors and worship a lot of Buddhas. However, I now know that in attaining the 4 keywords passed down by Grandmaster Wang Yongquan there are no ancestors, no buddhas. If you still have ancestors and buddhas then you are no different from Deshan with his pack containing the Diamond Sutra and its commentaries when the old woman’s question caught him out.


Want to learn Tai Chi? At Singapore Yang Style Combat Tai Chi lessons covering forms, weaponry, push hands, fajing and applications are offered. Lessons are conducted in English. Send enquiry today at the link here.

1 thought on “No Ancestors, No Buddhas

  1. Pingback: Sit All Day | Master Tai Chi Today

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