Hui Neng, the Sixth and last Patriarch of Chan, founded his order in 675 CE at his monastery which he named Bao Lin Ji. It later came to be known as Nan Hua Si. This historic temple is located roughly 100 miles north of Guang Zhou on the Caoxi Little River. Through a succession of Dharma Heirs, the lineage to Hui Neng continues through many branches around the world. According to documented Chinese records, Master Hsu Yun was 54 generations from Hui Neng and his heir, Jy Din, was 55th generation. The lineage sequence is contained in a poem which lists, in chronological sequence, Dharma names given from master to disciple. Once the list has been completed, it returns to the beginning and repeats. For example, Jy (Zhi) gives the first name "Chuan" (56th generation), Chuan gives the name "Fa" (57th generation), Fa gives the name "Yin" (58th generation), and Yin gives the name "Zheng" (59th generation).
"Sometimes I'm asked by aspiring Zen students how they should go about choosing a master to study under. There are several sides to this question. Not insignificant is the assumption that a master is required to make headway with Zen, a myth that has been and continues to be propagated by the institution of Zen. Mysticism, of any name, is an entirely personal and independent spiritual discipline. There is no reliance on doctrines or ceremonies or scriptures. Or masters. It is our own willpower and energy turned inward that creates 'Zen Mind'. A Zen teacher can help keep us focused on the task, help us limit distractions and 'hold our hands' as we traverse difficult terrain, but no teacher, master or other person can do the difficult work for us. No person, beside ourselves, can instill the faith, fortitude and spiritual desire needed to succeed on the path. Anyone seeking a teacher (kalyana-mitra*) should keep this in mind. Any authoritative Zen leader that emphasizes himself — his credentials, his lineage, his personal spiritual attainment — as fundamentally important should be avoided. But beyond this, every person we encounter on our journey has something to teach us. Every experience we have, be it painful or joyous, is a lesson for us if we attend to it as such. Even the most arrogant or conceited people have something to teach us about ourselves and can be a guide for us on the Path. We can only be grateful to them.
Following the solitary discipline of Zen we strive to realize our full potential as human beings. We turn our gaze inward, pulling back from the projections onto people that lead us to samsaric relationships of love and hate and idolatry of spiritual authority figures. Ideally, a Master is a guide — a source of comfort when we need it, a source of inspiration when we become overwhelmed, a model of what we might aspire to. He is compassionate and knowing. But he is not above human frailties."
[Chuan Zhi Shakya]
*Perhaps one place to look is the old Buddhist idea of kalyana-mitra, that is, the idea of a spiritual friend. In this view, the kalyana-mitra is not idealized and elevated to a position beyond human and human frailty, but is viewed as someone having more insight, more experience, knowing more, displaying patience and the ability to listen, the merit of learning coupled with good meditative knowledge, a deeper understanding that a fellow practitioner can look to for guidance, advice, and help, as a mentor. One is a kalyana-mitra by being in relationship with someone else or others. This is a relationship between friends with a common interest, though one person may have more knowledge and experience than the other. The relationship is the responsibility of both friends and both bring something to it.
[Stuart Lachs documents in Means of Authorization: "Establishing Hierarchy in Ch'an/Zen Buddhism in America"]
The Master does not talk, he acts. When his work is finished, the people say, “Amazing! We did it all by ourselves!”