Hyakujo: The Everest of Zen

Osho on Enlightened Zen Master Hyakujo

Hyakujo (also known by the name Pai-chang Huai-hai and Baizhang Huaihai) was a Zen Master who lived in China in the 8th century. Hyakujo is credited with introducing the first truly independent Chan Monasteries (Chan refers to Chinese Zen), as a new pattern of life for those dedicated to spiritual realization. Work and farming were a part and parcel of monastic life in Chan monasteries, which enabled the monastery to be self-sufficient. This contributed to altering the perception that monks would be a burden on the society and economy, thereby alleviating the resentment towards persons pursuing a spiritual path.

Osho has spoken extensively on Hyakujo in His discourses. The discourse series Hyakujo: The Everest of Zen, with Basho’s Haikus is dedicated to this mightily influential Zen Master.

Hyakujo was the direct heir of Ma Tzu and became most well-known for his establishment of the first truly Zen monasteries and his treatise on sudden enlightenment. To understand Hyakujo, the first thing is to understand that enlightenment can only be sudden. The preparation can be gradual, but the illumination is going to be sudden. You can prepare the ground for the seeds, but the sprouts will come suddenly one day in the morning; they don’t come gradually. Existence believes in suddenness. Nothing is gradual here, although everything appears to be gradual; that is our illusion.

In the past science used to think that everything was gradual: a child gradually becomes young; the young man gradually is becoming older… Now, we know that is not the case because of Albert Einstein and his discoveries about atomic energy. He himself was puzzled when he saw for the first time that the particles of an atom don’t go from one place to another place the way you go from your house to the market. They simply jump. And their jump is so tremendous that Einstein had to find a new word for it: ’quanta’ – the quantum jump. It means that the particle was in one place, A, and then suddenly you see it in another place, B. The path between has never been traveled. A strange jump that you cannot see the particle between the two points. That gave him an idea that in existence everything is jumping, and because the jump is so subtle, you cannot see it.

Every moment you are jumping towards old age. It is not a gradual thing. It is happening every moment that you are growing older, and there is no way that you can find to rest in between the jumps. The jumps are so close, but you can prepare – and particularly for enlightenment, which is the ultimate quantum leap. You can meditate; you can go as deep as you can; you can find your center. And the moment you find your center, suddenly, there will be a jump as if out of nowhere the Buddha has appeared – a Buddha of pure flames. This appearance is not going to be gradual, not partial. Hyakujo’s great contribution was the sudden enlightenment, because it is so illogical. If you go from here to the market, you have to go – not like the monkey god of Hindus, flying in the sky, carrying a mountain, jumping from one mountain to another mountain… You will have to go step by step. You will have to move gradually. You cannot simply disappear from Buddha Auditorium and find yourself in the M.G. Road marketplace.

In our actual life we never come across anything sudden: you never see the bud of a rose suddenly becoming a flower; it opens gradually. In the morning it was a bud, in the evening it becomes the flower. Because of the continuous experience of gradualness, the major masters of Zen belonged to the gradual school. To them it was absolutely absurd that you can become a Buddha instantaneously, just now. Everything needs time. If you want to prepare a house, a garden, a painting, a poem, it will take time. There is only one thing that does not take time, because it is beyond time, that is your Buddhahood. You simply jump out of time and you find yourself as you have been always and will be always – your intrinsic nature.

Hyakujo introduced another thing: Zen monasteries. Before him there were Zen temples – small groups of people living in those temples, meditating, reading scriptures. But he introduced a new thing, the monastery, where people were absolutely devoted to a single-pointed goal: to become the Buddha. No scriptures, no rituals… the whole energy has to be poured into a single direction: to discovering your intrinsic nature. And why monasteries? When there are thousands of people together, going into the unknown, it is easier for you, because you know that although you are going alone into your own space, thousands of others are also going into the same space on their own. You are not absolutely alone. Secondly, a monastery creates a certain atmosphere. That was the greatest contribution of Hyakujo. A monastery is a climate. Its every fiber, every wave… every leaf of the trees is soaked with only one longing: a great urgency to become the Buddha. And when ten thousand people, for years, continuously go on working, it creates an energy field. In that energy field you can be caught and you can easily slip out of your mind. Alone, it is a little difficult. Alone it can happen, it has happened too, but that is not the rule.

Hyakujo’s great insight of introducing monasteries, simply means introducing an energy field which is not visible to you. When ten thousand sannyasins here enter into their inner being, in a way they are alone, but in a way ten thousand people are with them. The experiment is not being done in their cells alone, but in the open, under the sky, with thousands of other people on the same track, creating vibrations, ripples of energy. Not to become a Buddha in such a climate, you would have to struggle against the whole energy field, you would have to swim upstream. But if you want to become a Buddha, you simply go with the stream. A deep let-go is possible in that atmosphere. Hyakujo introduced a very scientific concept of monasteries.

Born in 724, Hyakujo was also known as Pai Chang. As a young boy Hyakujo was taken to a temple by his mother, and upon entering, she bowed to the Buddhist statue. Pointing to the statue, Hyakujo asked his mother, “What is that?”

His mother replied, “That is a Buddha.”

Hyakujo said, “He looks like a man. I want to become a Buddha afterwards.”

This small incident of his childhood has great implications. Buddha never wanted to be in any way extraordinary or special for the simple reason that if he was special and extraordinary, that would discourage people to become Buddhas because they know they are ordinary, they are not special; they are not incarnations of God, they don’t have divine miraculous powers. They cannot walk on water; they cannot bring a dead Lazarus back to life… Just look at Jesus and Buddha and you will find that Buddha is absolutely ordinary, simple, humble; he can mix with the crowd. Jesus will stand far away… because you cannot walk on water…

You will not find in Buddha anything that is not possible for you. He is as human a being as you are. He does not proclaim himself to be anything special. That is his grandeur. That is his greatness.

In this incident, Hyakujo is asking his mother, pointing to the statue of Buddha, “What is that?”

The mother said, “That is a Buddha.”

Hyakujo said, “He looks like a man.”

He never tried to look like anything else, he simply wanted to look like man so that every man can be encouraged – that you don’t have to walk on water, you don’t have to turn water into whiskey….

You can be a Buddha without any difficulty because it is your inner nature. It does not depend on miracles. Religion is not magic. It is a very simple and humble effort to search within yourself for the deepest point where you are joined with the universe. That joining point is the Buddha.


Listen to complete discourse at mentioned below link.

Discourse Series: Hyakujo: The Everest of Zen, with Basho’s Haikus Chapter #1

Chapter title: The language of suddenness

26 September 1988 pm in Gautam the Buddha Auditorium


Osho has also spoken on other Zen Masters and Mystics Mahakashyapa, Bodhidharma, Rinzai, Ma Tzu, Nansen, Dogen, Isan, Joshu, Kyozan, Basho, Bokuju, Sekito, Yakusan, Bankei, Sosan, Nan-in and many more in His discourses. Some of these can be referred to in the following books/discourses:

  1. Bodhidharma: The Greatest Zen Master
  2. Ancient Music in the Pines
  3. Ah, This!
  4. A Bird on the Wing
  5. Dang Dang Doko Dang
  6. Dogen, the Zen Master: A Search and a Fulfillment
  7. Hsin Hsin Ming: The Book of Nothing
  8. God is Dead, Now Zen is the Only Living Truth
  9. Isan: No Footprints in the Blue Sky
  10. Joshu: The Lion’s Roar
  11. Kyozan: A True Man of Zen
  12. The Language of Existence
  13. Ma Tzu: The Empty Mirror
  14. Nansen: The Point of Departure
  15. Rinzai: Master of the Irrational
  16. No Mind: The Flowers of Eternity
  17. No Water, No Moon
  18. Yakusan: Straight to the Point of Enlightenment
  19. Zen: Zest, Zip, Zap and Zing
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