PureInsight | July 22, 2002
Lu Dongbin of Yong Le County, Pu Prefecture in the Tang Dynasty, had the surname of Lu and the name of Pin, and when he attained the age of twenty he was given the name of Dongbin. [It was a Chinese tradition at that time.] Lu Dongbin was one of the eight deities. His father Lu Rang was the Prefectural Governor of the Prefecture of Hai. Lu Dongbin was born on the fourteenth day of the fourth month in the fourteenth year of Zhen Yuan. He was nicknamed 'Chun Yang Zi'.
It has been said that when Lu Dongbin was born, an extraordinary fragrance and heavenly music filled the air. In addition, a solitary white stork descended from heaven and disappeared into the bed curtain. He was said to be born of fine qualities, with an oval face of fair complexion, with a strong character, virile body and a strong back, brilliant almond eyes with long slanting eyebrows, slender neck and high cheekbones, broad forehead and round trunk, straight nose and beige complexion with a black mole below his left eyebrow. He was very intelligent and had a good memory since childhood. His tongue was a pen of a ready writer. He grew up to be eight feet two inches tall with a slightly pockmarked and light yellow coloured face and a moustache and beard. Lu Dongbin loved to wear the Hua Yang headgear. In the year of Huichang of Tang Dynasty, he obeyed the order of his parents and went to Chang An for the imperial government examinations. One day, while strolling about the bars at Chang An, he noticed that a Taoist in blue garments and a white outer robe wrote on the wall three Jue Ju’s. [A Jue Ju is a four-line verse with five or seven characters to each line.]
The first verse:
'Always holding a flagon of wine whether sitting or lying down,
ignoring the happenings at the capital city (Chang An),
the immensity of the cosmos with no name,
strolling about the populace makes a gentleman.'
The second verse:
'It is not easy to meet a true Daoist deity.
When I find one I will follow him anywhere he goes.
The ancients say that the abode of the deities joins the vast ocean,
only distinguished by the foremost peak of Peng Lai.'
[Peng Lai is land of the immortals in Chinse fables.]
'Do not be disgusted with the frequency of chasing for happiness and laughter.
Wild contemplation can damage the spirit.
Happiness can be counted at leisure with the fingers.
The successor can be found amongst the common people.'
Lu Dongbin marvelled at the aged countenance, poetic quality and the elegance of the stranger. He advanced and paid his respect. The Taoist said, “First, would you please make a poem as I’d like to assess your ambition?” Lu Dongbin accepted the pen and wrote: “I was born in a family of Confucian scholars in a period of peace.
I find the garment for government official too heavy, and prefer peasant clothes.
What is the meaning of pursuing, striving, for fame and wealth?
There is the heavenly sovereign in Yu Qing to serve.”
[Yu Qing is the Imperial Palace in heaven in Chinese fables.]
On reading the poem the Taoist said, “I am Yun Fang at Heling Ridge of Zhongnan Mountain. Will you travel with me [to cultivate in the Tao]?” Lu Dongbin turned him down.
However, Yun Fang and Dongbin stayed at the inn together. While Yun Fang was cooking the meal for Lu Dongbin, he suddenly fell asleep. He had a dream where he passed the imperial examination with the highest score. He then obtained a high government official position, and married two daughters from wealthy families. In his dream he had many offspring, concubines and servants. About forty years later, he became the Prime Minister and wielded influential power for a decade. However, he committed a serious crime so all his property was confiscated. He was separated from his wife and children. He was left wandering in the wilderness in poverty and solitude. Alone on the horseback in the wind and snow, he regretted his life and let out a long sigh. Then he suddenly woke up realizing that it was such a brief nap that the rice was still cooking in the pot. Yun Fang smiled and chanted a verse,
“While the millet is still cooking in the pot,
you have completed your life in a dream.”
(This is the origin of the Chinese idiom, “An Evanescent Dream of Millet.”)
Dongbin was surprised by his words, and asked, “Mr. Yun Fang, you knew what I have dreamed of?” Yun Fang replied, “Your dream was with upheavals with much honour and disgrace. Fifty years is nothing but a blink of the eye. Therefore, gains and losses in the brevity of life should not mean anything at all. Each human must go through so-called thorough awakenings and enlightenment in order to arrive at an understanding that life is nothing but a dream.” Dongbin finally realized the dream as a hint, and became enlightened. He asked to be a disciple of Yun Fang to learn the arts to save sentient beings of the world. In order to examine his will, Yun Fang said to him, “Your mind and spirit are far from those of a deity. You will need to cultivate for several lives in order to reach the enlightenment of a deity.' Having said that he simply went on his way. Lu Dongbin immediately abandoned his life as a Confucian scholar and embraced the secluded life of cultivation.
After Dongbin became a disciple of Yun Fang, he was given ten tests.
When Lu Dongbin returned from travelling a long distance, he found all his family members had died of illness. Lu Dongbin did not regret his travels. He simply began to prepare coffins for all of them for cremation when all of sudden his family came back from death and all became very healthy without any illness.
Lu Dongbin went to town to sell goods. After he has reached an agreement on price, the buyer reneged on the agreement and paid only half the price. Lu Dongbin did not in any way argue with the buyer. He collected the money, and left the buyer with the promised goods.
One day when Lu Dongbin was about to leave his house, he met a beggar leaning on his front door begging for alms. Lu Dongbin immediately gave him some money. However, the beggar kept on demanding more money, and scolded Lu Dongbin with foul languages. Dongbin just smiled and thanked the beggar.
Lu Dongbin was herding his sheep on a mountain slope when a tiger charged at the sheep. Lu Dongbin drove the sheep down the slope. When he used his body to block the herd from the tiger, the hungry tiger retreated.
Lu Dongbin was reading in his thatched hut in the mountain when an attractive and amorous damsel of about seventeen or eighteen years of age appeared. She explained that she was lost on her way to her mother’s home. She asked him if it would be all right if she could stay in the hut overnight with him because it was getting dark and her legs were getting very weak. Dongbin agreed. That night the woman tried every possible way to tempt Lu Dongbin to sleep with her but Lu Dongbin completely ignored her. After trying to tempt Lu Dongbin for three nights without any success, the woman finally left.
One day Dongbin left home for the countryside. When he returned home, he found his home burglarized. The burglars left him nothing for even the next day’s breakfast. Dongbin was not the least bit upset. Instead he worked hard on his rice paddies to make ends meet. One day, while tilling the soil, he found many tens of thin gold pieces. He immediately buried the whole lot, not taking even a single piece of gold.
Lu Dongbin met a copper seller and bought some pieces of copper from him. When Lu Dongbin arrived home, he found the copper had turned into gold. He immediately located the copper seller, and returned all the gold pieces.
A mad Taoist was selling medicine at the marketplace. According to his advertisement, anyone who took the medicine would die immediately, and would re-incarnate to acquire the Tao. Ten days had passed but no one would buy the medicine. Dongbin bought the medicine from the mad Taoist. The Taoist declared, “You will need to prepare for your funeral fast.” Nevertheless, after taking the medicine Lu Dongbin remained well and alive.
It was a spring day when the river was overflowing the banks as Dongbin crossed the river with a group of people. When they were at the middle of the river, the wind whipped up turbulent waves. Everyone but Dongbin was terrified. He sat upright and was unperturbed.
Lu Dongbin was sitting in the middle of a room when all of a sudden ghosts of all forms and sizes appeared before him. Some wanted to assault him and others wanted to slay him, but he was not the least frightened. Then tens of yaksah, malevolent spirits in Buddhism, appeared, escorting a dead convict covered with blood and open sores. The convict cried out, “In your previous life you murdered me, and now you shall repay me.” Lu Dongbin answered, “Murder should be punished by death.” Lu Dongbin then began to look for a knife ready to commit suicide to pay the debt. Suddenly there was a loud cry in the air and all the apparitions disappeared. A man rubbed his palms and laughed out loud as he descended. It was Yun Fang. He said, “I have tested you ten times and you remained unmoved. I am sure you definitely have the quality to become a deity and to acquire the Tao.”
Then Lu Dongbin followed Yun Fang to Heling Ridge of Zhongnan Mountain where Yun Fang taught him all the true and genuine secrets of the Tao. Soon two deities, Zen Siyuan of Qing Xi and Taoist Shi of Tai Hua, flew to Heling Ridge by the cloud. After exchanging greetings with Yun Fang, they sat down together. Taoist Shi asked, “Who is that man standing at the side?” Yun Fang replied, “The son of Lu, the Prefectural Governor of Hai Prefecture.” He then asked Dongbin to come forward and pay his respects to the two deities. After the two deities left, Yun Fang told Dongbin, “I will be on my way to pay homage to the Supreme Being in Heaven where I will present your merits and virtues to the Supreme Being to have you registered as a deity. You have not long to remain here. In ten years I will meet you in the Dong Ting Lake.” Then he vested upon Lu Dongbin the dharma of Ling Bao Hua and presented him with several pills of immortality. At that moment two deities came and read from a golden tablet to Yun Fang, “The Supreme Being with imperial edict summons you as the chosen deity of the Ninth Diamond Imperial Palace. You will immediately commence your journey.” Yun Fang said to Dongbin, “I have to obey the imperial edict and go meet the Supreme Being. You should cherish your opportunities in the human realm. Continue to cultivate and establish your virtues. Eventually you will advance to become a deity like me.” Lu Dongbin again bowed to Yun Fang and said, “My aspirations are different from yours, sir. I should like to save all sentient beings in the world before I go to heaven.” Thereafter Yun Fang left slowly, riding on the clouds.
Dongbin travelled south to the source of River Li. When he arrived at the belfry of the tower of Mount Lu , he met with Mr. Zhu Rong who taught him the swordsmanship of Tiandun. Zhu Rong confessed, “I am the supreme Taoist of Dalong. I used to eliminate the evil demons with this sword. Now I will give you this sword to sever your worries.”
Later, when Dongbin visited YangZi River and Huai River regions for the first time, he slayed the river monster and had a taste of the power in the enlightened sword. Ten years later he arrived at the Dong Ting Lake. When Lu Dongbin climbed up to the Yue Yang Tower, Yun Fang suddenly descended from the sky, telling him, “I have come to fulfil my previous pledge. The Supreme Being has granted your family a residence at the Jing Cavern Prefecture in heaven. Your name has been added to the registry at Yu Qing.”
Legend says that Lu Dongbin made appearances for over 400 years in the human realm. He often travelled between the mountainous and swampy areas in the provinces of Hunan and Hubei, especially near the source of the Yang Zi Jiang and the Huai He. In the year of Zheng He under the reign of Hui Emperor in the Song Dynasty, Lu Dongbin was revered as the “Great and True Taoist.”
A practitioner must be able to bear all kinds of tests that hit him in the heart and cost him personal interest. The tests are designed to verify if the practitioner is adamantly determined to cultivate his compassion. Lu Dongbin faced ten tests. Each of them endangered his personal gain, and even his life. Nevertheless, with his righteous thoughts, Lu Dongbin passed all tests with flying colors!