Naturally Ta Hui would have doubted; that is the nature of intellect, to doubt, and he was a very intelligent man, young, fresh, and belonging to the genius category. He must have realized that the master had even seen the unexpressed doubt in his mind, and that is why he is saying, “I could not deceive you.”
He remained with the master. Listening to the master, imbibing his spirit, his presence, slowly, slowly he became very articulate, although enlightenment perhaps was still far away…And it became even farther away, because he started receiving honors from the people – even from the emperor, from the government – as a realized man. These are very dangerous things. When you are not realized and the government recognizes you, and great honors are conferred on you, you can get into a deluded state about yourself. You can start thinking, “Perhaps I am enlightened.”
Two things can do this. One: he has learned in moving from master to master everything that Zen teaching is. So if you listen only to his words, it is very difficult for you to find that he is not enlightened. Unless you are enlightened, you will not be able to see the flaws, the small gaps, which are bound to be there because it is not his own experience; it is simply clippings from other masters that he has collected – collected with tremendous intelligence. He almost deceived the Imperial Power. They honored him as the “Buddha Sun,” as the “Sun of Enlightenment.”
Emperor Hsiao Tsung bestowed the title “Ch’an Master of Great Wisdom” from which the name Ta Hui comes.
Ta Hui means the “Great Master of Wisdom.”
Only at the last moment it seems he attained enlightenment, just before he died, but then he did not say anything except a small verse. So I have called him “The Great Teacher” – and he was certainly a great teacher. He influenced millions of people; he was a great leader in the sense that anybody who came in contact with him was immediately intellectually convinced. But he had no presence, and he had no inner silence. It seems that only at the last moment he attained the goal, he completed the journey.
It was eleven sixty-three, on the ninth day of the eighth month, after showing signs of illness, when Ta Hui told the congregation of monks, nuns, and lay people, “Tomorrow I am going.”
That is the first indication that he knows when he is going to die. The second…Towards the pre-dawn hours, his attendant asked Ta Hui for a verse. That is an old tradition in China: when a great master dies, as his last statement, his last gift to the world, people ask him to write a verse.