According to historical writings, there are a total of 28 patriarchs in the meditative sect, who are ranked in order. Besides these, there are other enlightened ones who cannot be mentioned. In the period of dynasties, the meditative sect was very popular only in the Vietnamese dynasties of Đinh, Lê, Lý, and Trần. Nowadays, the meditative sect still exists in Japan, Tibet, Vietnam, and a few other countries. Although it is not in vogue as it was in the past, the sect of meditation is still preserved.
According to the morals of the meditative sect, practitioners must establish reliability-conduct-vow and precept-mindfulness-Buddhist intelligence, which are the core of the meditative sect. If one fails to establish either, one cannot succeed as a meditation practitioner.
As for the place of the meditation subject, the patriarchs seek places of pure stillness. When they find a desired place, one with a moderate year-round climate, they build hermitages five or ten meters apart. Each hermitage is occupied by a practitioner to practice meditative sitting. The new practitioner to the subject is guided only to practice praying to the Buddhas for three months. Later, the patriarch evaluates the disciple’s unique determination to reliability, conduct, and vow, and then the disciple is allowed to enter a hermitage to practice meditation through a ceremony.
The joined practitioner, depending on his or her capability in meditative sitting, long or short, fulfills one to four meditative sittings every day. Some practitioners must perform meditative sitting on a regular schedule of 11:00 pm–1:00 am, 5:00–7:00 am, 11:00 am–1:00 pm, and 5:00–7:00 pm. There are other practitioners who vow to sit in meditation until they achieve the meditative enlightenment. Only then will they stand up and leave the hermitage.
Later, Venerable Hsu Yun (a superior harmonious monk) changed this to correspond to the period. Instead of small hermitages, he had a meditation building constructed, which was divided it into small rooms so that each practitioner would occupy a section of a room. This was known as the meditation monastery. As far as the morals of the meditative sect are concerned, the meditation monastery is not much different from the patriarchs’ method. But in view of its organized form, it is different because there is much preaching there. Furthermore, each central meditation monastery is entrusted to a meditation master, who is the head of the monastery and takes care of the centre. This is because at that time the faithful practitioners began being neglectful, lazy, and tardy in their regular meditation, but Venerable Hsu Yun’s efforts obtained considerable results.
Up until the Inferior-Life Lost-Dharma Period in 1956, Venerable Tịnh Vương paid serious attention to the meditative sect’s subject. He did not know how to transmit the successive meditation subject to the faithful followers in this lost dharma period. He intended such a project, but the circumstances did not permit him because He was incarnate as a layman who earned His living in normal business. In 1959, He had finished writing the volume The Unique Dharma Subject, Tathagata Meditation, but it was not until 1961 that He planned to have it published or printed in newspapers. However, an unexpected event occurred: the Unified Buddhism initiated a struggle in the middle of Ngô Đình Diệm’s regime. Consequently, He postponed His plan and modified many parts of the volume. In 1964, He completed the revised volume and had six copies typed; together with four other copies, these made up a collection.
However, the volume The Unique Dharma Subject, Tathagata Meditation still wasn’t published yet. But with the sentiment about the Tao’s place, He had continued helping and teaching a number of disciples since 1956. In 1965, upon a decisive request, He had to establish the Dharma Constitution Supreme Meditation. The next morning, the day after the decision was made and attested, a seventy-two-year-old man went with a seventeen-year-old boy to beseech Him to be admitted into the Tao. Then He intuitively remembered from His previous life the Tao’s opening. He nodded in agreement, and the senior man and the young one were firstly admitted into the Tao through a ceremony.
In the period of the Dharma Constitution Supreme Meditation, it only had teachings and hadn’t yet formed organizational programs. Later, in 1971, it was officially legalized under the name “The Dharma Constitution of Vietnamese Buddhism.” In reality, the number of faithful disciples and believers was great. The practice was simple and very effective, but the meditation monasteries and pagodas had not yet been built. They needed to use true Buddhists’ houses as Tao guidance places, and these were located in many places, from the center to the provinces, in southern Vietnam.