Tan-hsia Tʾien-jan

views updated

Tan-hsia Tʾien-jan (Jap., Tanka Tennen; 739–834). Chinese Chʾan/Zen master, dharma-successor (has-su) of Shih-tʾou Hsi-chien. Nothing is known of his early life, beyond the fact that he studied Confucianism and planned to be a state official, but on his way was diverted by a Chʾan monk who advised him that it would be wiser to seek to be a buddha, and sent him to Ma-tsu. After his training with Shih-tʾou, he returned to Ma-tsu, and when asked what he had learnt, he sat on the shoulders of an image of Mañjuśrī. The monks were outraged, but Ma-tsu said, ‘My son, you are entirely natural’—hence his monastic name Tʾien-jan, ‘the natural’. He remained well-known for his unconventional behaviour.