In 1299 King Tran Nhan Tong became a monk having the name of Huong Van Dau Da (then had another name Truc Lam Dau Da). He lived in Hoa Yen Pagoda. He was the sixth founder of Yen Tu Chan Sect after Master Hue Tue – the fifth founder. Yen Tu Chan Sect became popular and since then had its influence on the Tran Dynasty as well as ordinary people’s lives. King Tran Nhan Tong was a King who had defeated the Mongol invaders, bringing peace and happiness to his people. His resigning the throne and becoming a monk made people admire him and Yen Tu Mountain where the King lived after becoming a monk was considered as a symbol of a spiritual life. Buddhism then became a significant factor that united people’s heart and mind to build and to protect the nation. Tran Nhan Tong and Tran Anh Tong were not only talented politicians but faithful Buddhist. From historians’ viewpoint, Tran Nhan Tong and Tran Anh Tong were excellent politicians who made use of Buddhism for their political purposes; however, they were seen as faithful Buddhist by cultural researchers.
The movement of applying Buddhism to daily life named Truc Lam Yen Tu had been popularized until the middle of the 14th century, and then the movement gradually slowed down. From this time to the 16th century, because there were not significant supports like before, Buddhism remained only in small pagodas in the mountains or in the countryside. Pagodas in Thang Long capital no longer played their political role as they did previously.
After becoming a monk, King Tran Nhan Tong had himself another name as Truc Lam. Truc Lam was once the named of Master Dao Vien or Vien Chung, the second founder of Yen Tu Chan Sect, who was given the title “National AdvisorỂ by the king of that period of time.
Truc Lam Dau Da, whose real name was Kham Tran, was the eldest son of King Tran Thanh Tong. Kham Tran was born in 1258, took the throne at the age of 20, became a monk at 41, and passed away in 1308 at the age of 51. “Dai Viet Su Ky Toan Thu” (The Complete History of the Great Viet) wrote: “the King was very smart, talented, and good-looking. There was a black dot on his right shoulder that was a sign of a national leader. He was on the throne for 14 years, abdicating for 5 years, leaving his royal life for a monk for 8 years, and passed away at the age of 51 at Ngoa Van Pagoda in Yen Tu Mount. He was a very gentle man who always tried to unify all people for a noble cause of building the nation. His success of rebuilding the nation honored his forefathers. He was a good king of the Tran Dynasty and also a person who admired and thoroughly mastered Buddhism.” Historian Ngo Si Lien wrote: “The fact that King Tran Nhan Tong worshipped Tu Cung to show his respect and that he chose good and faithful people to serve and help him showed that he was an outstanding person. However, only his becoming to a monk was not in the Midway theory.” That was also comments from Confucian historian.
When Tran Nhan Tong was very young, he was chosen to be the king, but he did not want to become a king and was willing for his brother to take the position instead of him. Tam To Thuc Luc (book of the Tran Dynasty) wrote: “One night, the King escaped the castle and went to Yen Tu Mountain. At dawn the King got into a small temple at Dong Cuu Mount and hid himself in a tower. Seeing a very smart and gentle man in the young man (the King), the master of the temple offered him a meal. However, the escape was not successful since the King was escorted back to the castle by King Thanh Tong’s order. On the throne, the King still had a very simple life. It is said that one afternoon, when taking a nap at Tu Phuc pagoda, the King had a nice dream of a lotus with a gold Buddha status blooming on his belly button. There was someone who pointed to the status and said that it was Bien Chien Ton Buddha. The King woke up and told King Thanh Tong (his father) that dream. Since then the King often had vegetarian meal and his health was getting bad and worse. Being worried about the King’s health, King Thanh Tong said: “I am already old, so you are the person who will be in charge of the country. If you are not in good health, you cannot be able to take over the responsibility.”
King Tran Nhan Tong cried. At his present time, the King was very talented, fond of studying and reading. He mastered Buddhism, thoroughly understood many things from military strategies to ordinary things in life. He usually invited Zen masters to his palace to discuss about Zen. He also came to learn more about Zen at Tue Trung Thuong Si Zen Master; and he considered himself as a discipline of Tue Trung Thuong Si.
Although being considered as the King’s master, Tue Trung Thuong Si could not be the master of the ceremony in which the King became a monk because Tue Trung Thuong Si was not a monk. Then Hue Tue Master, who was the leader and also the fifth founder of Yen Tu Chan Sect, was the master of the ceremony that took place in Yen Tu Mount.
Truc Lam followed Master Tue Trung to study Buddhism; however, he found his different methodology of focusing on the characteristics of forms. Truc Lam was a great founder of a chan sect, a leader of a religious organization. The King intended to leave his royal palace and become a monk in early years; finally, his dream became reality in 1299.