The great monk Huineng lived from 638 to 713 AD. His family was so poor that he never had the chance to go to school to learn to read or write. He had very deep natural wisdom, though, and as soon as he found out about Buddhism, he made up his mind to become a monk. He worked very hard and soon achieved enlightenment. His Teacher, the Fifth Patriarch, or Master, of the Ch’an school, passed to him the robe and bowl which the First Patriarch, Bodhidharma, had brought from India. Huineng became the Sixth Patriarch of the Ch’an school, which the Japanese call Zen.
When he achieved enlightenment, he realized the trouble people cause themselves by killing animals for food. He told people to stop eating themselves into disaster, but nobody listened.
Huineng felt sorry for the hunters who kill wild animals, so he took off his robes and let his hair grow so he didn’t look like a monk anymore. He joined a group of hunters who spent months and months hunting in the wilds and the mountains.
Huineng wouldn’t shoot or trap, so the hunters told him to watch the nets. That was just what he wanted. When he saw a deer or rabbit tangled in the nets, if the hunters were not around, he freed the animals. If the hunters were there, Huineng cried and begged them to release the animals.
He stayed with the hunters for sixteen years. In this way he not only saved many animals, but reformed the hunters as well. They realized the cruelty of their occupation, and found other ways to make a living.
Then Huineng set up his own temple. He was so kind and so wise that people came from miles around to learn from him, and to become Buddhists. His disciples passed his Ch’an, or Zen, teaching to Korea and Japan, and now it has spread to Europe and America, too.