Dàdìng 大定 (1824-1906)
Dàdìng 大定 (1824-1906) was one of the most important Chán masters of the late Qīng 清 period. He helped establish Jiāngtiān Chán Temple 江天禪寺 as one of the premier Chán training sites in early 20th-century China.
Dàdìng 大定 was born in 1824 (Dàoguāng 道光 4) in Huángbēi 黃陂, Húběi 湖北. He became a vegetarian at a young age, and soon after making the firm commitment to ordain as a monk both of his parents died, allowing him to do so. In 1851 (Xiánfēng 咸豐 1), he was tonsured at Rénshèng Temple 仁聖寺 in Suízhōu 隨州. In 1853, he received full ordination under Yìngzhōu 映州 at Jìngxìn Temple 淨信寺 in Xiāngyáng 襄陽. During the Tàipíng Rebellion he was caught by rebels three times, but escaped each time, finally making his way to the safety of Bǎoguāng Temple 寶光寺, where he trained under Miàoxiāng 妙香.
Over the years, Dàdìng visited all of the major Buddhist centers of China. He eventually settled at Jiāngtiān Chán Temple 江天禪寺 in Zhènjiāng 鎮江, where he became a disciple of the abbot Guānxīn 觀心. When Dàdìng first introduced himself, Guānxīn misheard his name, and thought he had said Dàdìng 大定 instead of Dàdǐng 大頂 (which was his actual dharma name). This is the origin of Dàdìng's name.
After training at Jiāngtiān Chán Temple for a time, Dàdìng went back to Húběi and took up residence at Guīyuán Temple 歸元寺 in Hànyáng 漢陽. After the death of Guānxīn in 1874 (Tóngzhì 同治 13), the community at Jiāngtiān Chán Temple invited Dàdìng to become abbot. He accepted and returned to Zhènjiāng. As abbot, Dàdìng enforced the strict observance of the precepts, and in his own Chán practice he cultivated various austerity practices, such as never lying down to sleep. He held the position of abbot for only two years, retiring to focus on his meditation and the teaching of students.
Dàdìng became ill in the spring of 1906. He died on August 8 of that year and his remains were placed in a pagoda on the southern slope of Wǔfēng shān 五峰山.