Nanyue Huairong was a student of the 6th Patriach of Chan, Huineng. A native of north-eastern China he traveled widely after entering the Buddhist order at the age of 15. For a time he studied at Songshan in Henan. later he traveled to Caoxi, Guangdong and studied under the 6th Patriarch Huineng for 15 years. Then he made his home on Nanyue Hengshan in Hunan where and took the name Nanyue from the mountain. His tomb can be visited on Nanyue Hengshan today.|
On Nanyue Hengshan he instructed the promising young disciple Mazu Daoyi. The most famous story about Huairong is his conversation with Mazu.
One day Nanyue approached Mazu and asked him,
'What are you doing meditating all the time?
Mazu replied, " I am trying to become a Buddha."
Nanyue then picked up a slab of brick and started to grind it on a rock.
Mazu asked, "What are you doing grinding that piece of brick?"
Nanyue said, " I am grinding it to make a mirror."
Mazu retorted, "How can you make a mirror by polishing a brick!?"
Nanyue replied, "If I can't make a mirror by grinding a brick on a rock, how can you become a Buddha by sitting in meditation?
Mazu the asked, "Then what is the best way?"
Nanyue answered, "It's like an ox pulling a cart. I the cart gets stuck, do you whip the cart or the ox?"