Hei Neng Sutra - Sixth Patriarch
This is an English translation of the Sutra Spoken by the Sixth Patriarch on the High Seat of the Treasure of the Law (Nanjio's Catalogue No. 1525) which records the sermons and the sayings of Wei Lang (638-713), the most famous Dhyana Master of the Tang Dynasty. It may be of interest to note that of all the Chinese works which have been canonized in the Tripitaka, this standard work of the Dhyana School is the only one that bears the designation of 'Sutra,' a designation which is reserved for the sermons of Lord Buddha and those of great Bodhisattvas. Hence, it is not without justification to call it, as some one does, 'the only Sutra spoken by a native of China.'
As it takes a poet to translate Virgil, the translator keenly realizes how incompetent he is in tackling this difficult task, since neither his knowledge of Buddhism nor his linguistic attainment qualifies him for the work. He reluctantly agreed, however, to bring out an English version of this Sutra, when urged to do so by his teacher, who admits the incompetence of his pupil but still insists that the translation should be done for the following reasons :-
(1) That in training himself as a translator for Buddhist work in the future, this is a good excercise.
(2) That the translation may receive the benefit of correction and revision from the hands of those who have better qualifications, but not enough time to do the complete work themselves.
(3) That, with due allowance for mistranslation, the book may still be useful to those who cannot read the original, but who had mastered it so well in their previous lives that they only need a paragraph or two, nay even a word or two, to refreah their memory in order to bring back the valuable knowledge that they have now forgotten.
On this understanding alone the translator undertakes the work, and the result of his feeble attempt is now put before the public for what it is worth. As the book stands, the translator knows to his sorrow that the greater part of it will be jargon to readers who have had no previous knowledge of the Dhyana School. May the day come soon when either the translator himself or some other full-fledged Dhyana Master will bring out a new translation with copious notes and explanations, so that the Sutra may be readable by all.
It is from Dr. Ting Fo Po's edition that this translation is made. To this learned gentleman, whose commentaries the translator has made free use of, and to other friends who have given him valuable advice and liberal support he wished to express his deepest gratitude.
Shanghai, November 21st, 1929
Chapter I. Autobiography
Once, when the Patriarch had arrived at Bao Lin Monastery, Prefect Wei of Shao Zhou and other officials went there to ask him to deliver public lectures on Buddhism in the hall of Ta Fan Temple in the City (of Guangzhou).
In due course, there were assembled (in the lecture hall) Prefect Wei, government officials and Confucian scholars, about thirty each, and bhikkhus, bhikkhunis, Taoists and laymen, to the number of about one thousand. After the Patriarch had taken his seat, the congregation in a body paid him homage and asked him to preach on the fundamental laws of Buddhism. Whereupon, His Holiness delivered the following address:--
Learned Audience, our Essence of Mind (literally, self-nature) which is the seed or kernel of enlightenment (Bodhi) is pure by nature, and by making use of this mind alone we can reach Buddhahood directly. Now let me tell you something about my own life and how I came into possession of the esoteric teaching of the Dhyana (or the Zen) School.
My father, a native of Fan Yang, was dismissed from his official post and banished to be a commoner in Xin Zhou in Guangdong. I was unlucky in that my father died when I was very young, leaving my mother poor and miserable. We moved to Guangzhou (Canton) and were then in very bad circumstances.
I was selling firewood in the market one day, when one of my customers ordered some to be brought to his shop. Upon delivery being made and payment received, I left the shop, outside of which I found a man reciting a sutra. As soon as I heard the text of this sutra my mind at once became enlightened. Thereupon I asked the man the name of the book he was reciting and was told that it was the Diamond Sutra (Vajracchedika or Diamond Cutter). I further enquired whence he came and why he recited this particular sutra. He replied that he came from Dong Shan Monastery in the Huang Mei District of Qi Zhou; that the Abbot in charge of this temple was Hong Ren, the Fifth Patriarch; that there were about one thousand disciples under him; and that when he went there to pay homage to the Patriarch, he attended lectures on this sutra. He further told me that His Holiness used to encourage the laity as well as the monks to recite this scripture, as by doing so they might realize their own Essence of Mind, and thereby reach Buddhahood directly.
It must be due to my good karma in past lives that I heard about this, and that I was given ten taels for the maintenance of my mother by a man who advised me to go to Huang Mei to interview the Fifth Patriarch. After arrangements had been made for her, I left for Huang Mei, which took me less than thirty days to reach.
I then went to pay homage to the Patriarch, and was asked where I came from and what I expected to get from him. I replied, "I am a commoner from Xin Zhou of Guangdong. I have travelled far to pay you respect and I ask for nothing but Buddhahood." "You are a native of Guangdong, a barbarian? How can you expect to be a Buddha?" asked the Patriarch. I replied, "Although there are northern men and southern men, north and south make no difference to their Buddha-nature. A barbarian is different from Your Holiness physically, but there is no difference in our Buddha-nature." He was going to speak further to me, but the presence of other disciples made him stop short. He then ordered me to join the crowd to work.
"May I tell Your Holiness," said I, "that Prajna (transcendental Wisdom) often rises in my mind. When one does not go astray from one's own Essence of Mind, one may be called the 'field of merits'. I do not know what work Your Holiness would ask me to do."
"This barbarian is too bright," he remarked. "Go to the stable and speak no more." I then withdrew myself to the back yard and was told by a lay brother to split firewood and to pound rice.
More than eight months after, the Patriarch saw me one day and said, "I know your knowledge of Buddhism is very sound; but I have to refrain from speaking to you lest evil doers should do you harm. Do you understand?" "Yes, Sir, I do," I replied. "To avoid people taking notice of me, I dare not go near your hall."
The Patriarch one day assembled all his disciples and said to them, "The question of incessant rebirth is a momentous one. Day after day, instead of trying to free yourselves from this bitter sea of life and death, you seem to go after tainted merits only (i.e. merits which will cause rebirth). Yet merits will be of no help, if your Essence of Mind is obscured. Go and seek for Prajna (wisdom) in your own mind and then write me a stanza (gatha) about it. He who understands what the Essence of Mind is will be given the robe (the insignia of the Patriarchate) and the Dharma (i.e. the esoteric teaching of the Dhyana school), and I shall make him the Sixth Patriarch. Go away quickly. Delay not in writing the stanza, as deliberation is quite unnecessary and of no use. The man who has realized the Essence of Mind can speak of it at once, as soon as he is spoken to about it; and he cannot lose sight of it, even when engaged in battle."
Having received this instruction, the disciples withdrew and said to one another, "It is of no use for us to concentrate our mind to write the stanza and submit it to His Holiness, since the Patriarchate is bound to be won by Shen Xiu, our instructor. And if we write perfunctorily, it will only be a waste of energy." Upon hearing this all of them made up their minds not to write and said, "Why should we take the trouble? Hereafter, we will simply follow our instructor, Shen Xiu, wherever he goes, and look to him for guidance."
Meanwhile, Shen Xiu reasoned thus with himself. "Considering that I am their teacher, none of them will take part in the competition. I wonder whether I should write a stanza and submit it to His Holiness. If I do not, how can the Patriarch know how deep or superficial my knowledge is? If my object is to get the Dharma, my motive is a pure one. If I were after the Patriarchate, then it would be bad. In that case, my mind would be that of a worldling and my action would amount to robbing the Patriarch's holy seat. But if I do not submit the stanza, I shall never have a chance of getting the Dharma. A very difficult point to decide, indeed!"
In front of the Patriarch's hall there were three corridors, the walls of which were to be painted by a court artist, named Lu Zhen, with pictures from the Lankavatara (Sutra) depicting the transfiguration of the assembly, and with scenes showing the genealogy of the five Patriarchs for the information and veneration of the public.
When Shen Xiu had composed his stanza he made several attempts to submit it to the Patriarch; but as soon as he went near the hall his mind was so perturbed that he sweated all over. He could not screw up courage to submit it, although in the course of four days he made altogether thirteen attempts to do so.
Then he suggested to himself, "It would be better for me to write it on the wall of the corridor and let the Patriarch see it for himself. If he approves it, I shall come out to pay homage, and tell him that it is done by me; but if he disapproves it, then I shall have wasted several years in this mountain in receiving homage from others which I by no means deserve! In that case, what progress have I made in learning Buddhism?"
At 12 o'clock that night he went secretly with a lamp to write the stanza on the wall of the south corridor, so that the Patriarch might know what spiritual insight he had attained. The stanza read:
Our body is the Bodhi-tree,
And our mind a mirror bright.
Carefully we wipe them hour by hour,
And let no dust alight.
As soon as he had written it he left at once for his room; so nobody knew what he had done. In his room he again pondered: "When the Patriarch sees my stanza tomorrow and is pleased with it, I shall be ready for the Dharma; but if he says that it is badly done, it will mean that I am unfit for the Dharma, owing to the misdeeds in previous lives which thickly becloud my mind. It is difficult to know what the Patriarch will say about it!" In this vein he kept on thinking until dawn, as he could neither sleep nor sit at ease.
But the Patriarch knew already that Shen Xiu had not entered the door of enlightenment, and that he had not known the Essence of Mind.
In the morning, he sent for Mr. Lu, the court artist, and went with him to the south corridor to have the walls there painted with pictures. By chance, he saw the stanza. "I am sorry to have troubled you to come so far," he said to the artist. "The walls need not be painted now, as the Sutra says, 'All forms or phenomena are transient and illusive.' It will be better to leave the stanza here, so that people may study it and recite it. If they put its teaching into actual practice, they will be saved from the misery of being born in these evil realms of existence (gatis). The merit gained by one who practices it will be great indeed!"
He then ordered incense to be burnt, and all his disciples to pay homage to it and to recite it, so that they might realize the Essence of Mind. After they had recited it, all of them exclaimed, "Well done!"
At midnight, the Patriarch sent for Shen Xiu to come to the hall, and asked him whether the stanza was written by him or not. "It was, Sir," replied Shen Xiu. "I dare not be so vain as to expect to get the Patriarchate, but I wish Your Holiness would kindly tell me whether my stanza shows the least grain of wisdom."
"Your stanza," replied the Patriarch, "shows that you have not yet realized the Essence of Mind. So far you have reached the 'door of enlightenment', but you have not yet entered it. To seek for supreme enlightenment with such an understanding as yours can hardly be successful.
"To attain supreme enlightenment, one must be able to know spontaneously one's own nature or Essence of Mind, which is neither created nor can it be annihilated. From ksana to ksana (thought-moment to thought-moment), one should be able to realize the Essence of Mind all the time. All things will then be free from restraint (i.e., emancipated). Once the Tathata (Suchness, another name for the Essence of Mind) is known, one will be free from delusion forever; and in all circumstances one's mind will be in a state of 'Thusness'. Such a state of mind is absolute Truth. If you can see things in such a frame of mind you will have known the Essence of Mind, which is supreme enlightenment.
"You had better go back to think it over again for couple of days, and then submit me another stanza. If your stanza shows that you have entered the 'door of enlightenment', I will transmit you the robe and the Dharma."
Shen Xiu made obeisance to the Patriarch and left. For several days, he tried in vain to write another stanza. This upset his mind so much that he was as ill at ease as if he were in a nightmare, and he could find comfort neither in sitting nor in walking.
Two days after, it happened that a young boy who was passing by the room where I was pounding rice recited loudly the stanza written by Shen Xiu. As soon as I heard it, I knew at once that the composer of it has not yet realized the Essence of Mind. For although I had not been taught about it at that time, I already had a general idea of it.
"What stanza is this?" I asked the boy. "You barbarian," he replied, "don't you know about it? The Patriarch told his disciples that the question of incessant rebirth was a momentous one, that those who wished to inherit his robe and Dharma should write him a stanza, and that the one who had an understanding of the Essence of Mind would get them and be made the sixth Patriarch. Elder Shen Xiu wrote this 'Formless' Stanza on the wall of the south corridor and the Patriarch told us to recite it. He also said that those who put its teaching into actual practice would attain great merit, and be saved from the misery of being born in the evil realms of existence."
I told the boy that I wished to recite the stanza too, so that I might have an affinity with its teaching in future life. I also told him that although I had been pounding rice there for eight months I had never been to the hall, and that he would have to show me where the stanza was to enable me to make obeisance to it.
The boy took me there and I asked him to read it to me, as I am illiterate. A petty officer of the Jiang Zhou District named Zhang Ri Yong, who happened to be there, read it out to me. When he had finished reading I told him that I also had composed a stanza and asked him to write it for me. "Extraordinary indeed," he exclaimed, "that you also can compose a stanza!"
"Don't despise a beginner," said I, "if you are a seeker of supreme enlightenment. You should know that the lowest class may have the sharpest wit, while the highest may be in want of intelligence. If you slight others, you commit a very great sin."
"Dictate your stanza," said he. "I will take it down for you. But do not forget to deliver me, should you succeed in getting the Dharma!" My stanza read:--
There is no Bodhi-tree,
Nor stand of a mirror bright.
Since all is void,
Where can the dust alight?
When he had written this, all disciples and others who were present were greatly surprised. Filled with admiration, they said to one another, "How wonderful! No doubt we should not judge people by appearance. How can it be that for so long we have made a Bodhisattva incarnate work for us?"
Seeing that the crowd was overwhelmed with amazement, the Patriarch rubbed off the stanza with his shoe, lest jealous ones should do me injury. He expressed the opinion, which they took for granted, that the author of this stanza had also not yet realized the Essence of Mind.
Next day the Patriarch came secretly to the room where the rice was pounded. Seeing that I was working there with a stone pestle, he said to me, "A seeker of the Path risks his life for the Dharma. Should he not do so?" Then he asked, "Is the rice ready?" "Ready long ago," I replied, "only waiting for the sieve." He knocked the mortar thrice with his stick and left.
Knowing what his message meant, in the third watch of the night I went to his room. Using the robe as a screen so that none could see us, he expounded the Diamond Sutra to me. When he came to the sentence, "One should use one's mind in such a way that it will be free from any attachment," I at once became thoroughly enlightened, and realized that all things in the universe are the Essence of Mind itself.
"Who would have thought," I said to the Patriarch, "that the Essence of Mind is intrinsically pure! Who would have thought that the Essence of Mind is intrinsically free from becoming or annihilation! Who would have thought that the Essence of Mind is intrinsically self-sufficient! Who would have thought that the Essence of Mind is intrinsically free from change! Who would have thought that all things are the manifestation of the Essence of Mind!"
Knowing that I had realized the Essence of Mind, the Patriarch said, "For him who does not know his own mind there is no use learning Buddhism. On the other hand, if he knows his own mind and sees intuitively his own nature, he is a Hero, a 'Teacher of gods and men', 'Buddha'."
Thus, to the knowledge of no one, the Dharma was transmitted to me at midnight, and consequently I became the inheritor of the teaching of the 'Sudden' School as well as of the robe and the begging bowl.
"You are now the Sixth Patriarch," said he. "Take good care of yourself, and deliver as many sentient beings as possible. Spread and preserve the teaching, and don't let it come to an end. Take note of my stanza:--
Sentient beings who sow the seeds of enlightenment
In the field of Causation will reap the fruit of Buddhahood.
Inanimate objects void of Buddha-nature
Sow not and reap not.
He further said, "When the Patriarch Bodhidharma first came to China, most Chinese had no confidence in him, and so this robe was handed down as a testimony from one Patriarch to another. As to the Dharma, this is transmitted from heart to heart, and the recipient must realize it by his own efforts. From time immemorial it has been the practice for one Buddha to pass to his successor the quintessence of the Dharma, and for one Patriarch to transmit to another the esoteric teaching from heart to heart. As the robe may give cause for dispute, you are the last one to inherit it. Should you hand it down to your successor, your life would be in imminent danger. Now leave this place as quickly as you can, lest someone should do you harm."
"Whither should I go?" I asked. "At Huai you stop and at Hui you seclude yourself," he replied.
Upon receiving the robe and the begging bowl in the middle of the night, I told the Patriarch that, being a Southerner, I did not know the mountain tracks, and that it was impossible for me to get to the mouth of the river (to catch a boat). "You need not worry," said he. "I will go with you."
He then accompanied me to Jiu Jiang, and there ordered me into a boat. As he did the rowing himself, I asked him to sit down and let me handle the oar. "It is only right for me to carry you across," he said (an allusion to the sea of birth and death which one has to go across before the shore of Nirvana can be reached). To this I replied, "While I am under illusion, it is for you to get me across; but after enlightenment, I should cross it by myself. (Although the term 'to go across' is the same, it is used differently in each case). As I happen to be born on the frontier, even my speaking is incorrect in pronunciation, (but in spite of this) I have had the honor to inherit the Dharma from you. Since I am now enlightened, it is only right for me to cross the sea of birth and death myself by realizing my own Essence of Mind."
"Quite so, quite so," he agreed. "Beginning from you, Buddhism (meaning the Dhyana School) will become very popular. Three years after your departure from me I shall leave this world. You may start on your journey now. Go as fast as you can towards the South. Do not preach too soon, as Buddhism (of the Dhyana School) is not so easily spread."
After saying good-bye, I left him and walked towards the South. In about two months' time, I reached the Ta Yu Mountain. There I noticed that several hundred men were in pursuit of me with the intention of robbing me of my robe and begging bowl.
Among them there was a monk named Hui Ming, whose lay surname was Chen. He was a general of the fourth rank in lay life. His manner was rough and his temper hot. Of all the pursuers, he was the most vigilant in search of me. When he was about to overtake me, I threw the robe and begging bowl on a rock, saying, "This robe is nothing but a symbol. What is the use of taking it away by force?" (I then hid myself). When he got to the rock, he tried to pick them up, but found he could not. Then he shouted out, "Lay Brother, Lay Brother, (for the Patriarch had not yet formally joined the Order) I come for the Dharma, not for the robe."
Whereupon I came out from my hiding place and squatted on the rock. He made obeisance and said, "Lay Brother, preach to me, please."
"Since the object of your coming is the Dharma," said I, "refrain from thinking of anything and keep your mind blank. I will then teach you." When he had done this for a considerable time, I said, "When you are thinking of neither good nor evil, what is at that particular moment, Venerable Sir, your real nature (literally, original face)?"
As soon as he heard this he at once became enlightened. But he further asked, "Apart from those esoteric sayings and esoteric ideas handed down by the Patriarch from generation to generation, are there any other esoteric teachings?" "What I can tell you is not esoteric," I replied. "If you turn your light inwardly, you will find what is esoteric within you."
"In spite of my staying in Huang Mei," said he, "I did not realize my self-nature. Now thanks to your guidance, I know it as a water-drinker knows how hot or how cold the water is. Lay Brother, you are now my teacher."
I replied, "If that is so, then you and I are fellow disciples of the Fifth Patriarch. Take good care of yourself."
In answering his question whither he should go thereafter, I told him to stop at Yuan and to take up his abode in Meng. He paid homage and departed.
Sometime after I reached Cao Xi. There the evil-doers again persecuted me and I had to take refuge in Si Hui, where I stayed with a party of hunters for a period as long as fifteen years.
Occasionally I preached to them in a way that befitted their understanding. They used to put me to watch their nets, but whenever I found living creatures therein I set them free. At meal times I put vegetables in the pan in which they cooked their meat. Some of them questioned me, and I explained to them that I would eat the vegetables only, after they had been cooked with the meat.
One day I bethought myself that I ought not to pass a secluded life all the time, and that it was high time for me to propagate the Law. Accordingly I left there and went to the Fa Xing Temple in Canton.
At that time Bhikkhu Yin Zung, Master of the Dharma, was lecturing on the Maha Parinirvana Sutra in the Temple. It happened that one day, when a pennant was blown about by the wind, two Bhikkhus entered into a dispute as to what it was that was in motion, the wind or the pennant. As they could not settle their difference I submitted to them that it was neither, and that what actually moved was their own mind. The whole assembly was startled by what I said, and Bhikkhu Yin Zung invited me to take a seat of honor and questioned me about various knotty points in the Sutras.
Seeing that my answers were precise and accurate, and that they showed something more than book-knowledge, he said to me, "Lay Brother, you must be an extraordinary man, I was told long ago that the inheritor of the Fifth Patriarch's robe and Dharma had come to the South. Very likely you are the man."
To this I politely assented. He immediately made obeisance and asked me to show the assembly the robe and the begging bowl which I had inherited.
He further asked what instructions I had when the Fifth Patriarch transmitted me the Dharma. "Apart from a discussion on the realization of the Essence of Mind," I replied, "he gave me no other instruction, nor did he refer to Dhyana and Emancipation." "Why not?" he asked. "Because that would mean two ways," I replied. "And there cannot be two ways in Buddhism. There is one way only."
He asked what was the only way. I replied, "The Maha Parinirvana Sutra which you expound explains that Buddha-nature is the only way. For example, in the Sutra Gao Gui De Wang, a Bodhisattva, asked Buddha whether or not those who commit the four paragika (acts of gross misconduct), or the five deadly sins,  and those who are icchantika (heretics) etc., would eradicate their 'element of goodness' and their Buddha-nature. Buddha replied, 'There are two kinds of 'element of goodness', the eternal and the non-eternal. Since Buddha-nature is neither eternal nor non-eternal, therefore their 'element of goodness' is not eradicated. Now Buddhism is known as having no two ways. There are good ways and evil ways, but since Buddha-nature is neither, therefore Buddhism is known as having no two ways. From the point of view of ordinary folks, the component parts of a personality (skandhas) and factors of consciousness (Dhatus) are two separate things; but enlightened men understand that they are not dual in nature. Buddha-nature is non-duality."
Bhikkhu Yin Zung was highly pleased with my answer. Putting his two palms together as a sign of respect, he said, "My interpretation of the Sutra is as worthless as a heap of debris, while your discourse is as valuable as genuine gold." Subsequently he conducted the ceremony of hair-cutting for me (i.e., the ceremony of Initiation into the Order) and asked me to accept him as my pupil.
Thenceforth, under the Bodhi-tree I preached the teaching of the Dong Shan School (the School of the Fourth and the Fifth Patriarchs, who lived in Tung Shan).
Since the time when the Dharma was transmitted to me in Dong Shan, I have gone through many hardships and my life often seemed to be hanging by a thread. Today, I have had the honor of meeting you in this assembly, and I must ascribe this to our good connection in previous kalpas (cyclic periods), as well as to our common accumulated merits in making offerings to various Buddhas in our past incarnations; otherwise, we should have had no chance of hearing the above teaching of the 'Sudden' School, and thereby laying the foundation of our future success in understanding the Dharma.
This teaching was handed down from the past Patriarchs, and it is not a system of my own invention. Those who wish to hear the teaching should first purify their own mind, and after hearing it they should each clear up their own doubts in the same way as the Sages did in the past."
At the end of the address, the assembly felt rejoiced, made obeisance and departed.
Chapter II. On Prajna
Next day Prefect Wei asked the Patriarch to give another address. Thereupon, having taken his seat and asked the assembly to purify their mind collectively, and to recite the 'Maha Prajnaparamita' Sutra, he gave the
following address: --
Learned Audience, the Wisdom of Enlightenment is inherent in every one of us. It is because of the delusion under which our mind works that we fail to realize it ourselves, and that we have to seek the advice and the guidance of enlightened ones before we can know our own Essence of Mind. You should know that so far as Buddha-nature is concerned, there is no difference between an enlightened man and an ignorant one. What makes the difference is that one realizes it, while the other is ignorant of it. Now, let me talk to you about Maha Prajnaparamita, so that each of you can attain wisdom.
Learned Audience, those who recite the word 'Prajna' the whole day long do not seem to know that Prajna is inherent in their own nature. But mere talking on food will not appease hunger, and this is exactly the case with these people. We might talk on Sunyata (the Void) for myriads of kalpas, but talking alone will not enable us to realize the Essence of Mind, and it serves no purpose in the end.
The word 'Mahaprajnaparamita' is Sanskrit, and means 'great wisdom to reach the opposite shore' (of the sea of existence). What we have to do is to put it into practice with our mind; whether we recite it or not does not matter. Mere reciting it without mental practice may be likened to a phantasm, a magical delusion, a flash of lightning or a dewdrop. On the other hand, if we do both, then our mind will be in accord with what we repeat orally. Our very nature is Buddha, and apart from this nature there is no other Buddha.
What is Maha? It means 'Great'. The capacity of the mind is as great as that of space. It is infinite, neither round nor square, neither great nor small, neither green nor yellow, neither red nor white, neither above nor below, neither long nor short, neither angry nor happy, neither right nor wrong, neither good nor evil, neither first nor last. All Buddha Ksetras (lands) are as void as space. Intrinsically our transcendental nature is void and not a single Dharma can be attained. It is the same with the Essence of Mind, which is a state of 'Absolute Void' (i.e., the voidness of non-void).
Learned Audience, when you hear me talk about the Void, do not at once fall into the idea of vacuity, (because this involves the heresy of the doctrine of annihilation). It is of the utmost importance that we should not fall into this idea, because when a man sits quietly and keeps his mind blank he will abide in a state of 'Voidness of Indifference'.
Learned Audience, the illimitable Void of the universe is capable of holding myriads of things of various shape and form, such as the sun, the moon, stars, mountains, rivers, men, Dharmas pertaining to goodness or badness, deva planes, hells, great oceans, and all the mountains of the Mahameru. Space takes in all of these, and so does the voidness of our nature. We say that the Essence of Mind is great because it embraces all things, since all things are within our nature. When we see the goodness or the badness of other people we are not attracted by it, nor repelled by it, nor attached to it; so that our attitude of mind is as void as space. In this way, we say our mind is great. Therefore we call it 'Maha'.
Learned Audience, what the ignorant merely talk about, wise men put into actual practice with their mind. There is also a class of foolish people who sit quietly and try to keep their mind blank. They refrain from thinking of anything and call themselves 'great'. On account of their heretical view we can hardly talk to them.
Learned Audience, you should know that the mind is very great in capacity, since it pervades the whole Dharmadhatu (the sphere of the Law, i.e.,the Universe). When we use it, we can know something of everything, and when we use it to its full capacity we shall know all. All in one and one in all. When our mind works without hindrance, and is at liberty to 'come' or to 'go', then it is in a state of 'Prajna'.
Learned Audience, all Prajna comes from the Essence of Mind and not from an exterior source. Have no mistaken notion about that. This is called 'Self-use of the True Nature'. Once the Tathata (Suchness, the Essence of Mind) is known, one will be free from delusion forever.
Since the scope of the mind is for great objects, we should not practice such trivial acts (as sitting quietly with a blank mind). Do not talk about the 'Void' all day without practicing it in the mind. One who does this may be likened to a self-styled king who is really a commoner. Prajna can never be attained in this way, and those who behave like this are
not my disciples.
Learned Audience, what is Prajna? It means 'Wisdom'. If at all times and at all places we steadily keep our thought free from foolish desire, and act wisely on all occasions, then we are practicing Prajna. One foolish notion is enough to shut off Prajna, while one wise thought will bring it forth again. People in ignorance or under delusion do not see it; they talk about it with their tongues, but in their mind they remain ignorant. They are always saying that they practice Prajna, and they talk incessantly on 'Vacuity'; but they do not know the 'Absolute Void'. 'The Heart of Wisdom' is Prajna, which has neither form nor characteristic. If we interpret it in this way, then indeed it is the wisdom of Prajna.
What is Paramita? It is a Sanskrit word, meaning 'to the opposite shore'. Figuratively, it means 'above existence and non-existence'. By clinging to sense objects, existence or non-existence arises like the up and down of the billowy sea, and such a state is called metaphorically 'this shore'; while by non-attachment a state above existence and non-existence, like smoothly running water is attained, and this is called 'the opposite shore'. This is why it is called 'Paramita'.
Learned Audience, people under illusion recite the 'Mahaprajnaparamita' with their tongues, and while they are reciting it, erroneous and evil thoughts arise. But if they put it into practice unremittingly, they realize its 'true nature'. To know this Dharma is to know the Dharma of Prajna, and to practice this is to practice Prajna. He who does not practice it is an
ordinary man. He who directs his mind to practice it even for one moment is the equal of Buddha.
For ordinary man is Buddha, and Klesa (defilement) is Bodhi (enlightenment). A foolish passing thought makes one an ordinary man, while an enlightened second thought makes one a Buddha. A passing thought that clings to sense-objects is Klesa, while a second thought that frees one from attachment is Bodhi.
Learned Audience, the Mahaprajnaparamita is the most exalted, the supreme, and the foremost. It neither stays, nor goes, nor comes. By means of it Buddhas of the present, the past, and the future generations attain Buddhahood. We should use this great wisdom to break up the five Skandhas  for to follow such practice ensures the attainment of Buddhahood. The three poisonous elements (greed, hatred and illusion) will then be turned into Sila (good conduct), Samadhi and Prajna.
Learned Audience, in this system of mine one Prajna produces eight-four thousand ways of wisdom, since there are that number of 'defilements' for us to cope with; but when one is free from defilements, wisdom reveals itself, and will not be separated from the Essence of Mind. Those who understand this Dharma will be free from idle thoughts. To be free from being infatuated by one particular thought, from clinging to desire, and from falsehood; to put one's own essence of Tathata into operation; to use Prajna for contemplation, and to take an attitude of neither indifference nor attachment towards all things - this is what is meant by realizing one's own Essence of Mind for the attainment of Buddhahood.
Learned Audience, if you wish to penetrate the deepest mystery of the Dharmadhatu and the Samadhi of Prajna, you should practice Prajna by reciting and studying the Vajracchedika (The Diamond) Sutra, which will enable you to realize the Essence of Mind. You should know that the merit for studying this Sutra, as distinctly set forth in the text, is immeasurable and illimitable, and cannot be enumerated in details. This Sutra belongs to the highest School of Buddhism, and the Lord Buddha delivered it specially for the very wise and quick-witted. If the less wise and the slow-witted should hear about it they would doubt its credibility. Why? For example, if it rained in Jambudvipa (the Southern Continent), through the miracle of the celestial Naga, cities, towns, and villages would drift about in the flood as if they were only leaves of the date tree. But should it rain in the great ocean the level of the sea as a whole would not be affected by it. When Mahayanists hear about the Vajracchedika their minds become enlightened; they know that Prajna is immanent in their Essence of Mind and that they need not rely on scriptural authority, since they can make use of their own wisdom by constant practice of contemplation.
The Prajna immanent in the Essence of Mind of every one may be likened to the rain, the moisture of which refreshes every living thing, trees and plants as well as sentient beings. When rivers and streams reach the sea, the water carried by them merges into one body; this is another analogy. Learned Audience, when rain comes in a deluge, plants which are not deep-rooted are washed away, and eventually they succumb. This is the case with the slow-witted, when they hear about the teaching of the 'Sudden' School. The Prajna immanent in them is exactly the same as that in the very wise man, but they fail to enlighten themselves when the Dharma is made known to them. Why? Because they are thickly veiled by erroneous views and deep-rooted defilements, in the same way as the sun may be thickly veiled by a cloud and unable to show his light until the wind blows the cloud away.
Prajna does not vary with different persons; what makes the difference is whether one's mind is enlightened or deluded. He who does not know his own Essence of Mind, and is under the delusion that Buddhahood can be attained by outward religious rites is called the slow-witted. He who knows the teaching of the 'Sudden' School and attaches no importance to rituals, and whose mind functions always under right views, so that he is absolutely free from defilements or contaminations, is said to have known his Essence of Mind.
Learned Audience, the mind should be framed in such a way that it will be independent of external or internal objects, at liberty to come or go, free from attachment and thoroughly enlightened without the least beclouding. He who is able to do this is of the same standard required by the Sutras of the Prajna School.
Learned Audience, all Sutras and Scriptures of the Mahayana and Hinayana Schools, as well as the twelve sections of the canonical writings, were provided to suit the different needs and temperaments of various people. It is upon the principle that Prajna is latent in every man that the doctrines expounded in these books are established. If there were no human beings, there would be no Dharmas; hence we know that all Dharmas are made for men, and that all Sutras owe their existence to the preachers. Since some men are wise, the so-called superior men, and some are ignorant, the so-called inferior men, the wise preach to the ignorant when the latter ask them to do so. Through this the ignorant may attain sudden enlightenment, and their mind thereby becomes illuminated. Then they are no longer different from the wise men.
Learned Audience, without enlightenment there would be no difference between a Buddha and other living beings; while a gleam of enlightenment is enough to make any living being the equal of a Buddha. Since all Dharmas are immanent in our mind there is no reason why we should not realize intuitively the real nature of Tathata (Suchness). The Bodhisattva Sila Sutra says, "Our Essence of Mind is intrinsically pure, and if we knew our mind and realized what our nature is, all of us would attain Buddhahood." As the Vimalakirti Nirdesa Sutra says, "At once they become enlightened and regain their own mind."
Learned Audience, when the Fifth Patriarch preached to me I became enlightened immediately after he had spoken, and spontaneously realized the real nature of Tathata. For this reason it is my particular object to propagate the teaching of this 'Sudden' School, so that learners may find Bodhi at once and realize their true nature by introspection of mind.
Should they fail to enlighten themselves, they should ask the pious and learned Buddhists who understand the teaching of the Highest School to show them the right way. It is an exalted position, the office of a pious and learned Buddhist who guides others to realize the Essence of Mind. Through his assistance one may be initiated into all meritorious Dharmas. The wisdom of the past, the present and the future Buddhas as well as the teachings of the twelve sections of the Canon are immanent in our mind; but in case we fail to enlighten ourselves, we have to seek the guidance of the pious and learned ones. On the other hand, those who enlighten themselves need no extraneous help. It is wrong to insist upon the idea that without the advice of the pious and learned we cannot obtain liberation. Why? Because it is by our innate wisdom that we enlighten ourselves, and even the extraneous help and instructions of a pious and learned friend would be of no use if we were deluded by false doctrines and erroneous views. Should we introspect our mind with real Prajna, all erroneous views would be vanquished in a moment, and as soon as we know the Essence of Mind we arrive immediately at the Buddha stage.
Learned Audience, when we use Prajna for introspection we are illumined within and without, and in a position to know our own mind. To know our mind is to obtain liberation. To obtain liberation is to attain Samadhi of Prajna, which is 'thoughtlessness'. What is 'thoughtlessness'? 'Thoughtlessness' is to see and to know all Dharmas (things) with a mind free from attachment. When in use it pervades everywhere, and yet it sticks nowhere. What we have to do is to purify our mind so that the six Vijnanas (aspects of consciousness), in passing through the six gates (sense organs) will neither be defiled by nor attached to the six sense-objects. When our mind works freely without any hindrance, and is at liberty to 'come' or to 'go', we attain Samadhi of Prajna, or liberation. Such a state is called the function of 'thoughtlessness'. But to refrain from thinking of anything, so that all thoughts are suppressed, is to be Dharma-ridden, and this is an erroneous view.
Learned Audience, those who understand the way of 'thoughtlessness' will know everything, will have the experience all Buddhas have had, and attain Buddhahood. In the future, if an initiate of my School should make a vow in company with his fellow-disciples to devote his whole life without retrogression to the practice of the teachings of this 'Sudden' School, in the same spirit as that for serving Buddha, he would reach without failure the Path of Holiness. (To the right men) he should transmit from heart to heart the instructions handed down from one Patriarch to another; and no attempt should be made to conceal the orthodox teaching. To those who belong to other schools, and whose views and objects are different from ours, the Dharma should not be transmitted, since it will be anything but good for them. This step is taken lest ignorant persons who cannot understand our system should make slanderous remarks about it and thereby annihilate their seed of Buddha-nature for hundreds of Kalpas and thousands of incarnations. Learned Audience, I have a 'formless' stanza for you all to recite. Both laity and monks should put its teaching into practice, without which it would be useless to remember my words alone. Listen to this stanza:--
A master of the Buddhist Canon as well as of the teaching of the Dhyana School
May be likened unto the blazing sun sitting high in his meridian tower.
Such a man would teach nothing but the Dharma for realizing the Essence of Mind,
And his object in coming to this world would be to vanquish the heretical sects.
We can hardly classify the Dharmas into 'Sudden' and 'Gradual',
But some men will attain enlightenment much quicker than others.
For example, this system for realizing the Essence of Mind
Is above the comprehension of the ignorant.
We may explain it in ten thousand ways,
But all those explanations may be traced back to one principle.
To illumine our gloomy tabernacle, which is stained by defilement,
We should constantly set up the Light of Wisdom.
Erroneous views keep us in defilement
While right views remove us from it,
But when we are in a position to discard both of them
We are then absolutely pure.
Bodhi is immanent in our Essence of Mind,
An attempt to look for it elsewhere is erroneous.
Within our impure mind the pure one is to be found,
And once our mind is set right, we are free from the three kinds of beclouding (defilement, evil karma, and expiation in evil realms of existence).
If we are treading the Path of Enlightenment
We need not be worried by stumbling-blocks.
Provided we keep a constant eye on our own faults
We cannot go astray from the right path.
Since every species of life has its own way of salvation
They will not interfere with or be antagonistic to one another.
But if we leave our own path and seek some other way of salvation
We shall not find it,
And though we plod on till death overtakes us
We shall find only penitence in the end.
If you wish to find the true way
Right action will lead you to it directly;
But if you do not strive for Buddhahood
You will grope in the dark and never find it.
He who treads the Path in earnest
Sees not the mistakes of the world;
If we find fault with others
We ourselves are also in the wrong.
When other people are in the wrong, we should ignore it,
For it is wrong for us to find fault.
By getting rid of the habit of fault-finding
We cut off a source of defilement.
When neither hatred nor love disturb our mind
Serenely we sleep.
Those who intend to be the teachers of others
Should themselves be skilled in the various expedients which lead others to enlightenment.
When the disciple is free from all doubts
It indicates that his Essence of Mind has been found.
The Kingdom of Buddha is in this world,
Within which enlightenment is to be sought.
To seek enlightenment by separating from this world
Is as absurd as to search for a rabbit's horn.
Right views are called 'transcendental';
Erroneous views are called 'worldly'.
When all views, right or erroneous, are discarded
Then the essence of Bodhi appears.
This stanza is for the 'Sudden' School.
It is also called the 'Big Ship of Dharma' (for sailing across the ocean of existence).
Kalpa after Kalpa a man may be under delusion,
But once enlightened it takes him only a moment to attain Buddhahood.
Before conclusion, the Patriarch added, "Now, in this Ta Fan Temple, I have addressed you on the teaching of the 'Sudden' School. May all sentient beings of the Dharmadhatu instantly understand the Law and attain Buddhahood."
After hearing what the Patriarch said, the Prefect Wei, government officials, Taoists and laymen were all enlightened. They made obeisance in a body and exclaimed unanimously, "Well done! Well done! Who would have expected that a Buddha was born in Guangdong?"
Chapter III. Questions and Answers
One day Prefect Wei entertained the Patriarch and asked him to preach to a big gathering. At the end of the feast, Prefect Wei asked him to mount the pulpit (to which the Patriarch consented). After bowing twice reverently, in company with other officials, scholars, and commoners, Prefect Wei said, "I have heard what Your Holiness preached. It is really so deep that it is beyond our mind and speech, and I have certain doubts which I hope you will clear up for me." "If you have any doubts," replied the Patriarch, "please ask, and I will explain."
"What you preach are the fundamental principles taught by Bodhidharma, are they not?" "Yes," replied the Patriarch. "I was told," said Prefect Wei, "that at Bodhidharma's first interview with Emperor Wu of Liang he was asked what merits the Emperor would get for the work of his life in building temples, allowing new monks to be ordained (royal consent was necessary at that time), giving alms and entertaining the Order; and his reply was that these would bring no merits ar all. Now, I cannot understand why he gave such an answer. Will you please explain."
"These would bring no merits," replied the Patriarch. "Don't doubt the words of the Sage. Emperor Wu's mind was under an erroneous impression, and he did not know the orthodox teaching. Such deeds as building temples, allowing new monks to be ordained, giving alms and entertaining the Order will bring you only felicities, which should not be taken for merits. Merits are to be found within the Dharmakaya, and they have nothing to do with practices for attaining felicities."
The Patriarch went on, "Realization of the Essence of Mind is Gong (good deserts), and equality is De (good quality). When our mental activity works without any impediment, so that we are in a position to know constantly the true state and the mysterious functioning of our own mind, we are said to have acquired Gong De (merits). Within, to keep the mind in a humble mood is Gong; and without, to behave oneself according to propriety is De. That all things are the manifestation of the Essence of Mind is Gong, and that the quintessence of mind is free from idle thoughts is De. Not to go astray from the Essence of Mind is , and not to pollute the mind in using it is De. If you seek for merits within the Dharmakaya, and do what I have just said, what you acquire will be real merits. He who works for merits does not slight others; and on all occasions he treats everybody with respect. He who is in the habit of looking down upon others has not got rid of the erroneous idea of a self, which indicates his lack of Gong. Because of his egotism and his habitual contempt for all others, he knows not the real Essence of Mind; and this shows his lack of De. Learned Audience, when our mental activity works without interruption, then it is Gong; and when our mind functions in a straightforward manner, then it is De. To train our own mind is Gong, and to train our own body is De. Learned Audience, merits should be sought within the Essence of Mind and they cannot be acquired by almsgiving, entertaining the monks, etc. We should therefore distinguish between felicities and merits. There is nothing wrong in what our Patriarch said. It is Emperor Wu himself who did not know the true way."
Prefect Wei then asked the next question, "I notice that it is a common practice for monks and laymen to recite the name of Amitabha with the hope of being born in the Pure Land of the West. To clear up my doubts, will you please tell me whether it is possible for them to be born there or not."
"Listen to me carefully, Sir," replied the Patriarch, "and I will explain. According to the Sutra spoken by the Bhagavat in Shravasti City for leading people to the Pure Land of the West, it is quite clear that the Pure Land is not far from here, for the distance in mileage is 108,000, which really represents the 'ten evils' and 'eight errors' within us. To those of inferior mentality certainly it is far away, but to superior men we may say that it is quite near. Although the Dharma is uniform, men vary in their mentality. Because they differ from one another in their degree of enlightenment or ignorance, therefore some understand the Law quicker than others. While ignorant men recite the name of Amitabha and pray to be born in the Pure Land, the enlightened purify their mind, for, as the Buddha said, 'When the mind is pure, the Buddha Land is simultaneously pure.'
"Although you are a native of the East, if your mind is pure you are sinless. One the other hand, even if you were a native of the West an impure mind could not free you from sin, When the people of the East commit a sin, they recite the name of Amitabha and pray to be born in the West; but in the case of sinners who are natives of the West, where should they pray to be born? Ordinary men and ignorant people understand neither the Essence of Mind nor the Pure Land within themselves, so they wish to be born in the East or the West. But to the enlightened everywhere is the same. As the Buddha said, 'No matter where they happen to be, they are always happy and comfortable.'
"Sir, if your mind is free from evil the West is not far from here; but difficult indeed it would be for one whose heart is impure to be born there by invoking Amitabha!
"Now, I advise you, Learned Audience, first to do away with the 'ten evils'; then we shall have travelled one hundred thousand miles. For the next step, do away with the 'eight errors', and this will mean another eight thousand miles traversed. If we can realize the Essence of Mind at all times and behave in a straightforward manner on all occasions, in the twinkling of an eye we may reach the Pure Land and there see Amitabha.
"If you only put into practice the ten good deeds, there would be no necessity for you to be born there. On the other hand, if you do not do away with the 'ten evils' in your mind, which Buddha will take you there? If you understand the Birthless Doctrine (which puts an end to the cycle of birth and death) of the 'Sudden' School, it takes you only a moment to see the West. If you do not understand, how can you reach there by reciting the name of Amitabha, as the distance is so far?
"Now, how would you like it if I were to shift the Pure Land to your presence this very moment, so that all of you might see it?" The congregation made obeisance and replied, "If we might see the Pure Land here there would be no necessity for us to desire to be born there. Will Your Holiness kindly let us see it by having it removed here."
The Patriarch said, "Sirs, this physical body of ours is a city. Our eyes, ears, nose and tongue are the gates. There are five external gates, while the internal one is ideation. The mind is the ground. The Essence of Mind is the King who lives in the domain of the mind. While the Essence of Mind is in, the King is in, and our body and mind exist. When the Essence of Mind is out, there is no King and our body and mind decay. We should work for Buddhahood within the Essence of Mind, and we should not look for it apart from ourselves. He who is kept in ignorance of his Essence of Mind is an ordinary being. He who is enlightened in his Essence of Mind is a Buddha. To be merciful is Avalokitesvara (one of the two principal Bodhisattvas of the Pure Land). To take pleasure in almsgiving is Mahasthama (the other Bodhisattva). Competence for a pure life is Sakyamuni (one of the titles of Gautama Buddha). Equality and straightforwardness is Amitabha. The idea of a self or that of a being is Mount Meru. A depraved mind is the ocean. Klesa (defilement) is the billow. Wickedness is the evil dragon. Falsehood is the devil. The wearisome sense objects are the aquatic animals. Greed and hatred are the hells. Ignorance and infatuation are the brutes.
"Learned Audience, if you constantly perform the ten good deeds, paradise will appear to you at once. When you get rid of the idea of a self and that of a being, Mount Meru will topple. When the mind is no longer depraved, the ocean (of existence) will be dried up. When you are free from klesa, billows and waves (of the ocean of existence) will calm down. When wickedness is alien to you, fish and evil dragons will die out.
"Within the domain of our mind, there is a Tathagata of Enlightenment who sends forth a powerful light which illumines externally the six gates (of sensation) and purifies them. This light is strong enough to pierce through the six Kama Heavens (heavens of desire); and when it is turned inwardly it eliminates at once the three poisonous elements, purges away our sins which might lead us to the hells or other evil realms, and enlightens us thoroughly within and without, so that we are no different from those born in the Pure Land of the West. Now, if we do not train ourselves up to this standard, how can we reach the Pure Land?"
Having heard what the Patriarch said, the congregation knew their Essence of Mind very clearly. They made obeisance and exclaimed in one voice, "Well done!" They also chanted, "May all the sentient beings of this Universe who have heard this sermon at once understand it intuitively."
The Patriarch added, "Learned Audience, those who wish to train themselves (spiritually) may do so at home. It is quite unnecessary for them to stay in monasteries. Those who train themselves at home may be likened unto a native of the East who is kind-hearted, while those who stay in monasteries but neglect their work differ not from a native of the West who is evil in heart. So far as the mind is pure, it is the 'Western Pure Land of one's own Essence of Mind'."
Prefect Wei asked, "How should we train ourselves at home? Will you please teach us."
The Patriarch replied, "I will give you a 'formless' stanza. If you put its teaching into practice you will be in the same position as those who live with me permanently. On the other hand, if you do not practice it, what progress can you make in the spiritual path, even though you cut your hair and leave home for good (i.e., join the Order)? The stanza reads:--
For a fair mind, observation of precepts (Sila) is unnecessary.
For straightforward behavior, practice in Dhyana (contemplation) may be dispensed with.
On the principle of gratefulness, we support our parents and serve them filially.
On the principle of righteousness, the superior and the inferior stand for each other (in time of need).
On the principle of mutual desire to please, the senior and junior are on affectionate terms.
On the principle of forbearance, we do not quarrel even in the midst of a hostile crowd.
If we can persevere till fire can be obtained through rubbing a piece of wood,
Then the red lotus (the Buddha-nature) will shoot out from the black mire (the unenlightened state).
That which is of bitter taste is bound to be good medicine.
That which sounds unpleasant to the ear is certainly frank advice.
By amending our mistakes, we get wisdom.
By defending our faults, we betray an unsound mind.
In our daily life we should always practice altruism,
But Buddhahood is not to be attained by giving away money as charity. Bodhi is to be found within our own mind,
And there is no necessity to look for mysticism from without.
Hearers of this stanza who put its teaching into actual practice
Will find paradise in their very presence.
The Patriarch added, "Learned Audience, all of you should put into practice what is taught in this stanza, so that you can realize the Essence of Mind and attain Buddhahood directly. The Dharma waits for no one. I am going back to Cai Xi, so the assembly may now break up. If you have any questions, you may come there to put them."
At this juncture Prefect Wei, the government officials, pious men, and devout ladies who were present were all enlightened. Faithfully they accepted the teaching and put it into practice.
Chapter IV. Samadhi and Prajna
The Patriarch on another occasion preached to the assembly as follows:--
Learned Audience, in my system Samadhi and Prajna are fundamental. But do not be under the wrong impression that these two are independent of each other, for they are inseparably united and are not two entities. Samadhi is the quintessence of Prajna, while Prajna is the activity of Samadhi. At the very moment that we attain Prajna, Samadhi is therewith; and vice versa. If you understand this principle, you understand the equilibrium of Samadhi and Prajna. A disciple should not think that there is a distinction between 'Samadhi begets Prajna' and 'Prajna begets Samadhi'. To hold such an opinion would imply that there are two characteristics in the Dharma.
For one whose tongue is ready with good words but whose heart is impure, Samadhi and Prajna are useless, because they do not balance each other. On the other hand, when we are good in mind as well as in words, and when our outward appearance and our inner feelings harmonize with each other, then it is a case of equilibrium of Samadhi and Prajna.
Argument is unnecessary for an enlightened disciple. To argue whether Prajna or Samadhi comes first would put one in the same position as those who are under delusion. Argument implies a desire to win, strengthens egotism, and ties us to the belief in the idea of 'a self, a being, a living being, and a person'.
Learned Audience, to what are Samadhi and Prajna analogous? They are analogous to a lamp and its light. With the lamp, there is light. Without it, it would be darkness. The lamp is the quintessence of the light and the light is the expression of the lamp. In name they are two things, but in substance they are one and the same. It is the same case with Samadhi and Prajna.
On another occasion the Patriarch preached to the assembly as follows:--
Learned Audience, to practice the 'Samadhi of Specific Mode' is to make it a rule to be straightforward on all occasions -- no matter whether we are walking, standing, sitting or reclining. The Vimalakirti Nirdesa Sutra says, "Straightforwardness is the holy place, the Pure Land." Don't let your mind be crooked and practice straightforwardness with your lips only. We should practice straightforwardness and should not attach ourselves to anything. People under delusion believe obstinately in Dharmalaksana (things and form) and so they are stubborn in having their own way of interpreting the 'Samadhi of Specific Mode', which they define as 'sitting quietly and continuously without letting any idea arise in the mind'. Such an interpretation would rank us with inanimate objects, and is a stumbling block to the right Path which must be kept open. Should we free our mind from attachment to all 'things', the Path becomes clear; otherwise, we put ourselves under restraint. If that interpretation 'sitting quietly and continuously, etc.' be correct, why on one occasion was Sariputra reprimanded by Vimalakirti for sitting quietly in the wood? 
Learned Audience, some teachers of meditation instruct their disciples to keep a watch on their mind for tranquility, so that it will cease from activity. Henceforth the disciples give up all exertion of mind. Ignorant persons become insane from having too much confidence in such instruction. Such cases are not rare, and it is a great mistake to teach others to do this.
(On another occasion) the Patriarch addressed the assembly as follows:--
In orthodox Buddhism the distinction between the 'Sudden' School and the 'Gradual' School does not really exist; the only difference is that by nature some men are quick-witted, while others are dull in understanding. Those who are enlightened realize the truth in a sudden, while those who are under delusion have to train themselves gradually. But such a difference will disappear when we know our own mind and realize our own nature. Therefore these terms, gradual and sudden, are more apparent than real.
Learned Audience, it has been the tradition of our school to take 'Idea-lessness' as our object, 'Non-objectivity' as our basis, and 'Non-attachment' as our fundamental principle. 'Idea-lessness' means not to be carried away by any particular idea in the exercise of the mental faculty. 'Non-objectivity' means not to be absorbed by objects when in contact with objects. 'Non-attachment' is the characteristic of our Essence of Mind.
All things -- good or bad, beautiful or ugly -- should be treated as void. Even in time of disputes and quarrels we should treat our intimates and our enemies alike and never think of retaliation. In the exercise of our thinking faculty, let the past be dead. If we allow our thoughts, past, present, and future, to link up in a series, we put ourselves under restraint. On the other hand, if we never let our mind attach to anything, we shall gain emancipation. For this reason, we take 'Non-attachment' as our fundamental principle.
To free ourselves from absorption in external objects is called 'Non-objectivity'. When we are in a position to do so, the nature of Dharma will be pure. For this reason, we take 'Non-objectivity' as our basis.
To keep our mind free from defilement under all circumstances is called 'Idea-lessness'. Our mind should stand aloof from circumstances, and on no account should we allow them to influence the function of our mind. But it is a great mistake to suppress our mind from all thinking; for even if we succeed in getting rid of all thoughts, and die immediately thereafter, still we shall be reincarnated elsewhere. Mark this, treaders of the Path. It is bad enough for a man to commit blunders from not knowing the meaning of the Law, but how much worse would it be to encourage others to follow suit? Being deluded, he sees not and in addition he blasphemes the Buddhist Canon. Therefore we take 'Idea-lessness' as our object.
Learned Audience, let me explain more fully why we take 'Idea-lessness' as our object. It is because there is a type of man under delusion who boasts of the realization of the Essence of Mind; but being carried away by circumstances, ideas rise in his mind, followed by erroneous views which are the source of all sorts of false notions and defilements. In the Essence of Mind (which is the embodiment of void), there is intrinsically nothing to be attained. To say that there is attainment, and to talk thoughtlessly on merits or demerits are erroneous views and defilements. For this reason we take 'Idea-lessness' as the object of our School.
Learned Audience, (in 'Idea-lessness') what should we get rid of and what should we fix our mind on? We should get rid of the 'pairs of opposites' and all defiling conceptions. We should fix our mind on the true nature of Tathata (Suchness), for Tathata is the quintessence of idea, and idea is the result of the activity of Tathata.
It is the positive essence of Tathata -- not the sense organs -- which gives rise to 'idea'. Tathata bears its own attribute, and therefore it can give rise to 'idea'. Without Tathata the sense organs and the sense objects would perish immediately. Learned Audience, because it is the attribute of Tathata which gives rise to 'idea', our sense organs -- in spite of their functioning in seeing, hearing, touching, knowing, etc. -- need not be tainted or defiled in all circumstances, and our true nature may be 'Self-manifested' all the time. Therefore the Sutra says, "He who is an adept in the discrimination of various Dharmalakshana (things and phenomena) will be immovably installed in the 'First Principle' (i.e., the blissful abiding place of the Holy, or Nirvana)."
Chapter V. Dhyana
The Patriarch (one day) preached to the assembly as follows:--
In our system of meditation, we neither dwell upon the mind (in contradistinction to the Essence of Mind) nor upon purity. Nor do we approve of non-activity. As to dwelling upon the mind, the mind is primarily delusive; and when we realize that it is only a phantasm there is no need to dwell on it. As to dwelling upon purity, our nature is intrinsically pure; and so far as we get rid of all delusive 'idea' there will be nothing but purity in our nature, for it is the delusive idea that obscures Tathata (Suchness). If we direct our mind to dwell upon purity we are only creating another delusion, the delusion of purity. Since delusion has no abiding place, it is delusive to dwell upon it. Purity has neither shape nor form; but some people go so far as to invent the 'Form of Purity', and treat it as a problem for solution. Holding such an opinion, these people are purity-ridden, and their Essence of Mind is thereby obscured.
Learned Audience, those who train themselves for 'imperturbability' should, in their contact with all types of men, ignore the faults of others. They should be indifferent to others' merit or demerit, good or evil, for such an attitude accords with the 'imperturbability of the Essence of Mind'. Learned Audience, a man unenlightened may be unperturbed physically, but as soon as he opens his mouth he criticizes others and talks about their merits or demerits, ability or weakness, good or evil; thus he deviates from the right course. On the other hand, to dwell upon our own mind or upon purity is also a stumbling-block in the Path.
The Patriarch on another occasion preached to the assembly as follows:--
Learned Audience, what is sitting for meditation? In our School, to sit means to gain absolute freedom and to be mentally unperturbed in all outward circumstances, be they good or otherwise. To meditate means to realize inwardly the imperturbability of the Essence of Mind.
Learned Audience, what are Dhyana and Samadhi? Dhyana means to be free from attachment to all outer objects, and Samadhi means to attain inner peace. If we are attached to outer objects, our inner mind will be perturbed. When we are free from attachment to all outer objects, the mind will be in peace. Our Essence of Mind is intrinsically pure, and the reason why we are perturbed is because we allow ourselves to be carried away by the circumstances we are in. He who is able to keep his mind unperturbed, irrespective of circumstances, has attained Samadhi.
To be free from attachment to all outer objects is Dhyana, and to attain inner peace is Samadhi. When we are in a position to deal with Dhyana and to keep our inner mind in Samadhi, then we are said to have attained Dhyana and Samadhi. The Bodhisattva Sila Sutra says, "Our Essence of Mind is intrinsically pure." Learned Audience, let us realize this for ourselves at all times. Let us train ourselves, practice it by ourselves, and attain Buddhahood by our own effort.
Chapter VI. On Repentance
Once there was a big gathering of scholars and commoners from Guangzhou, Shao Zhou, and other places to wait upon the Patriarch to preach to them. Seeing this, the Patriarch mounted the pulpit and delivered the following address:--
In Buddhism, we should start from our Essence of Mind. At all times let us purify our own mind from one Ksana to another, tread the Path by our own efforts, realize our own Dharmakaya, realize the Buddha in our own mind, and deliver ourselves by a personal observance of Silas; then your visit will not have been in vain. Since all of you have come from afar, the fact of our meeting here shows that there is a good affinity between us. Now let us sit down in the Indian fashion, and I will give you the 'Formless' Repentence.
When they had sat down, the Patriarch continued:-- The first is the Sila Incense, which means that our mind is free from taints of misdeeds, evil jealousy, avarice, anger, spoliation, and hatred. The second is the Samadhi Incense, which means that our mind is unperturbed in all circumstances, favorable or unfavorable. The third is the Prajna Incense, which means that our mind is free from all impediments, that we constantly introspect our Essence of Mind with wisdom, that we refrain from doing all kinds of evil deeds, that although we do all kinds of good acts, yet we do not let our mind become attached to (the fruits) of such actions, and that we are respectful towards our superiors, considerate to our inferiors, and sympathetic to the destitute and the poor. The fourth is the Incense of Liberation, this means that our mind is in such an absolutely free state that it clings to nothing and concerns itself neither with good nor evil. The fifth is the Incense of 'Knowledge obtained on the Attainment of Liberation.' When our mind clings to neither good nor evil we should take care not to let it dwell upon vacuity, or remain in a state of inertia. Rather should we enlarge our study and broaden our knowledge, so that we can know our own mind, understand thoroughly the principles of Buddhism, be congenial to others in our dealings with them, get rid of the idea of 'self' and that of 'being', and realize that up to the time when we attain Bodhi the 'true nature' (or Essence of Mind) is always immutable. Such, then, is the Incense of 'Knowledge obtained on the Attainment of Liberation.' This five-fold Incense fumigates us from within, and we should not look for it from without.
Now I will give you the 'Formless' Repentance which will expiate our sins committed in our present, past, and future lives, and purify our Karmas of thought, word and deed.
Learned Audience, please follow me and repeat together what I say.
May we, disciples so and so, be always free from the taints of ignorance and delusion. We repent of all our sins and evil deeds committed under delusion or in ignorance. May they be expiated at once and may they never arise again.
May we be always free from the taints of arrogance and dishonesty (Sathya). We repent of all our arrogant behavior and dishonest dealings in the past. May they be expiated at once and may they never arise again.
May we be always free from the taints of envy and jealousy. We repent of all our sins and evil deeds committed in an envious or jealous spirit. May they be expiated at once and may they never arise again.
Learned Audience, this is what we call 'Formless Chan Hui' (repentance). Now what is the meaning of Chan and Hui (Ksamayati)? Chan refers to the repentance of past sins. To repent of all our past sins and evil deeds committed under delusion, ignorance, arrogance, dishonesty, jealousy, or envy, etc., so as to put an end to all of them is called Chan. Hui refers to that part of repentance concerning our future conduct. Having realized the nature of our transgression (we make a vow) that hereafter we will put an end to all kinds of evil committed under delusion, ignorance, arrogance, dishonesty, jealousy, or envy, and that we shall never sin again. This is Hui.
On account of ignorance and delusion, common people do not realize that in repentance they have not only to feel sorry for their past sins but also to refrain from sinning in the future. Since they take no heed of their future conduct they commit new sins before the past are expiated. How can we call this 'repentance'?
Learned Audience, having repented of our sins we will take the following four All-embracing Vows:--
We vow to deliver an infinite number of sentient beings of our mind. 
We vow to get rid of the innumerable defilements in our own mind.
We vow to learn the countless systems in Dharma of our Essence of Mind.
We vow to attain the Supreme Buddhahood of our Essence of Mind.
Learned Audience, all of us have now declared that we vow to deliver an infinite number of sentient beings; but what does that mean? It does not mean that I, Hui Neng, am going to deliver them. And who are these sentient beings within our mind? They are the delusive mind, the deceitful mind, the evil mind, and such like minds -- all these are sentient beings. Each of them has to deliver himself by means of his own Essence of Mind. Then the deliverance is genuine.
Now, what does it mean to deliver oneself by one's own Essence of Mind? It means the deliverance of the ignorant, the delusive, and the vexatious beings within our own mind by means of Right Views. With the aid of Right Views and Prajna-Wisdom the barriers raised by these ignorant and delusive beings may be broken down; so that each of them is in a position to deliver himself by his own efforts. Let the fallacious be delivered by rightness; the deluded by enlightenment; the ignorant by wisdom; and the malevolent by benevolence. Such is genuine deliverance.
As to the vow, 'We vow to get rid of the innumerable evil passions in the mind,' it refers to the substitution of our unreliable and illusive thinking faculty by the Prajna-Wisdom of our Essence of Mind.
As to the vow, 'We vow to learn countless systems of Dharmas,' it may be remarked that there will be no true learning until we have seen face to face our Essence of Mind, and until we conform to the orthodox Dharma on all occasions.
As to the vow, 'We vow to attain Supreme Buddhahood,' when we are able to bend our mind to follow the true and orthodox Dharma on all occasions, and when Prajna always rises in our mind, so that we can hold aloof from enlightenment as well as from ignorance, and do away with truth as well as falsehood, then we may consider ourselves as having realized the Buddha-nature, or in other words, as having attained Buddhahood.
Learned Audience, we should always bear in mind that we are treading the Path; for thereby strength will be added to our vows. Now, since all of us have taken these four All-embracing Vows, let me teach you the 'Formless Three-fold Guidance':--
We take 'Enlightenment' as our Guide, because it is the culmination of both Punya (merit) and Prajna (wisdom).
We take 'Orthodoxy' (Dharma) as our Guide, because it is the best way to get rid of desire.
We take 'Purity' as our Guide, because it is the noblest quality of mankind.
Hereafter, let the Enlightened One be our teacher; on no account should we accept Mara (the personification of evil) or any heretic as our guide. This we should testify to ourselves by constantly appealing to the 'Three Gems' of our Essence of Mind, in which, Learned Audience, I advise you to take refuge. They are:--
Buddha, which stands for Enlightenment.
Dharma, which stands for Orthodoxy.
Sangha, (the Order) which stands for Purity.
To let our mind take refuge in 'Enlightenment', so that evil and delusive notions do not arise, desire decreases, discontent is unknown, and lust and greed no longer bind, this is the culmination of Punya and Prajna.
To let our mind take refuge in 'Orthodoxy' so that we are always free from wrong views (for without wrong views there would be no egotism, arrogance, or craving), this is the best way to get rid of desire.
To let our mind take refuge in 'Purity' so that no matter in what circumstances it may be it will not be contaminated by wearisome sense-objects, craving and desire, this is the noblest quality of mankind.
To practice the Threefold Guidance in the way above mentioned means to take refuge in oneself (i.e., in one's own Essence of Mind). Ignorant persons take the Threefold Guidance day and night but do not understand it. If they say they take refuge in Buddha, do they know where He is? Yet if they cannot see Buddha, how can they take refuge in Him? Does not such an assertion amount to a lie?
Learned Audience, each of you should consider and examine this point for yourself, and let not your energy be misapplied. The Sutra distinctly says that we should take refuge in the Buddha within ourselves; it does not suggest that we should take refuge in other Buddhas. (Moreover), if we do not take refuge in the Buddha within ourselves, there is no other place for us to retreat.
Having cleared up this point, let each of us take refuge in the 'Three Gems' within our mind. Within, we should control our mind; without, we should be respectful towards others -- this is the way to take refuge within ourselves.
Learned Audience, since all of you have taken the 'Three-fold Guidance' I am going to speak to you on the Trikaya (three 'bodies') of the Buddha of our Essence of Mind, so that you can see these three bodies and realize clearly the Essence of Mind. Please listen carefully and repeat this after me:--
With our physical body, we take refuge in the Pure Dharmakaya (Essence-body) of Buddha.
With our physical body, we take refuge in the Perfect Sambhogakaya (Manifestation body) of Buddha.
With our physical body, we take refuge in the Myriad Nirmanakaya (Incarnation-bodies) of Buddha.
Learned Audience, our physical body may be likened unto an inn (i.e., a temporary abode), so we cannot take refuge there. Within our Essence of Mind these Trikaya of Buddha are to be found, and they are common to everybody. Because the mind (of an ordinary man) labors under delusions, he knows not his own inner nature; and the result is that he ignores the Trikaya within himself, (erroneously believing) that they are to be sought from without. Please listen, and I will show you that within yourself you will find the Trikaya which, being the manifestation of the Essence of Mind, are not to be sought from without.
Now, what is the Pure Dharmakaya? Our Essence of Mind is intrinsically pure; all things are only its manifestations, and good deeds and evil deeds are only the result of good thoughts and evil thoughts respectively. Thus, within the Essence of Mind all things (are intrinsically pure), like the azure of the sky and the radiance of the sun and the moon which, when obscured by passing clouds, may appear as if their brightness has been dimmed; but as soon as the clouds are blown way, brightness reappears and all objects are fully illuminated. Learned Audience, our evil habits may be likened unto the clouds; while sagacity and wisdom (Prajna), are the sun and moon respectively. When we attach ourselves to outer objects, our Essence of Mind is clouded by wanton thoughts which prevent our Sagacity and Wisdom from sending forth their light. But should we be fortunate enough to find learned and pious teachers to make known to us the Orthodox Dharma, then we may with our own efforts do away with ignorance and delusion, so that we are enlightened both within and without, and the (true nature) of all things manifests itself within our Essence of Mind. This is what happens to those who have seen face to face the Essence of Mind, and this is what is called the Pure Dharmakaya of Buddha.
Learned Audience, to take refuge in a true Buddha is to take refuge in our own Essence of Mind. He who does so should remove from his Essence of Mind the evil mind, the jealous mind, the flattering and crooked mind, egotism, deceit and falsehood, contemptuousness, snobbishness, fallacious views, arrogance, and all other evils that may arise at any time. To take refuge in ourself is to be constantly on the alert for our own mistakes, and to refrain from criticism of others' merits or faults. He who is humble and meek on all occasions and is polite to everybody has thoroughly realized his Essence of Mind, so thoroughly that his Path is free from further obstacles. This is the way to take refuge in ourself.
What is the Perfect Sambhogakaya? Let us take the illustration of a lamp. Even as the light of a lamp can break up darkness which has been there for a thousand years, so a spark of Wisdom can do away with ignorance which has lasted for ages. We need not bother about the past, for the past is gone and irrecoverable. What demands our attention is the future; so let our thoughts from Ksana to Ksana be clear and round, and let use see face to face our Essence of Mind. Good and evil are opposite to each other, but their quintessence cannot be dualistic. This non-dualistic nature is called the true nature (i.e., the absolute reality) which can neither be contaminated by evil nor affected by good. This is what is called the Sambhogakaya of Buddha.
One single evil thought from our Essence of Mind will spoil the good merits accumulated in aeons of time, while a good thought from that same source can expiate all our sins, though they are as many as the grains of sand in the Ganges. To realize our own Essence of Mind from Ksana to Ksana without intermission until we attain Supreme Enlightenment, so that we are perpetually in a state of Right Mindfulness, is the Sambhogakaya.
Now, what is the Myriad Nirmanakaya? When we subject ourselves to the least discrimination of particularization, transformation takes place; otherwise, all things remain as void as space, as they inherently are. By dwelling our mind on evil things, hell arises. By dwelling our mind on good acts, paradise appears. Dragons and snakes are the transformation of venomous hatred, while Bodhisattvas are mercy personified. The upper regions are Prajna crystallized, while the underworld is only another form assumed by ignorance and infatuation. Numerous indeed are the transformations of the Essence of Mind! People under delusion awake not and understand not; always they bend their minds on evil, and as a rule practice evil. But should they turn their minds from evil to righteousness, even for a moment, Prajna would instantly arise. This is what is called the Nirmanakaya of the Buddha of the Essence of Mind.
Learned Audience, the Dharmakaya is intrinsically self-sufficient. To see face to face from Ksana to Ksana our own Essence of Mind is the Sambhogakaya of Buddha. To dwell our mind on the Sambhogakaya (so that Wisdom or Prajna arises) is the Nirmanakaya. To attain enlightenment by our own efforts and to practice by ourself the goodness inherent in our Essence of Mind is a genuine case of 'Taking Refuge'. Our physical body, consisting of flesh and skin, etc., is nothing more than a tenement, (for temporary use only), so we do not take refuge therein. But let us realize the Trikaya of our Essence of Mind, and we shall know the Buddha of our Essence of Mind.
I have a 'Formless' stanza, the reciting and practicing of which will at once dispel the delusions and expiate the sins accumulated in numerous Kalpas. This is the stanza:--
People under delusion accumulate tainted merits but do not tread the Path.
They are under the impression that to accumulate merits and to tread the Path are one and the same thing.
Though their merits for alms-giving and offerings are infinite,
(They do not realize that) the ultimate source of sin lies in the three poisonous elements (i.e., greed, anger and illusion) within their own mind.
They expect to expiate their sins by accumulating merit
Without knowing that felicities obtained in future lives have nothing to do with the expiation of sins.
Why not get rid of the sin within our own mind,
For this is true repentance (within our Essence of Mind)?
(A sinner) who realizes suddenly what constitutes true repentance according to the Mahayana School,
And who ceases from doing evil and practices righteousness is free from sin.
A treader of the Path who keeps a constant watch on his Essence of Mind
May be classified in the same group as the various Buddhas.
Our Patriarchs transmitted no other system of Law but this 'Sudden' one.
May all followers of it see face to face their Essence of Mind and be at once with the Buddhas.
If you are going to look for Dharmakaya
See it above Dharmalaksana (phenomena), and then your Mind will be pure.
Exert yourself in order to see face to face the Essence of Mind and relax not,
For death may come suddenly and put an abrupt end to your earthly existence.
Those who understand the Mahayana teaching and are thus able to realize the Essence of Mind
Should reverently put their palms together (as a sign of respect) and fervently seek for the Dharmakaya.
The Patriarch then added:--
practice. Should you realize your Essence of Mind after reciting it, you may consider yourself to be always in my presence, though actually you are a thousand miles away, but should you be unable to do so, then, though we are face to face, we are really a thousand miles apart. In that case, what is the use of taking the trouble to come here from so far away? Take good care of yourselves. Good-bye.
The whole assembly, after hearing what the Patriarch had said, became enlightened. In a very happy mood, they accepted his teaching and put it into practice.
Chapter VII. Temperament and Circumstances
(Instructions given according to the disciples' temperament and to the circumstances of the case)
Upon the Patriarch's return to the village of Cao Hou in Shao Zhou from Huang Mei, where the Dharma had been transmitted to him, he was still an unknown figure, and it was a Confucian scholar named Liu Zhi Lue who gave him a warm welcome. Zhi Lue happened to have an aunt named Wu Jin Chang who was a Bhikkhuni (a female member of the Order), and used to recite the Maha-Parinirvana Sutra. After hearing the recitation for only a short while the Patriarch grasped its profound meaning and began to explain it to her. Whereupon, she picked up the book and asked him the meaning of certain words.
"I am illiterate," he replied, "but if you wish to know the purport of this work, please ask." "How can you grasp the meaning of the text," she rejoined, "when you do not even know the words?" To this he replied, "The profundity of the teachings of the various Buddhas has nothing to do with the written language."
This answer surprised her very much, and realizing that he was no ordinary Bhikkhu, she made it widely known to the pious elders of the village. "This is a holy man," she said, "we should ask him to stay, and get his permission to supply him food and lodging."
Whereupon, a descendant of Marquis Wu of the Wei Dynasty, named Cao Shu Liang, came one afternoon with other villagers to tender homage to the Patriarch. The historical Bao Lin monastery, devastated by war at the end of the Sui Dynasty, was then reduced to a heap of ruins, but on the old site they rebuilt it and asked the Patriarch to stay there. Before long, it became a very famous monastery.
After being there for nine months his wicked enemies traced him and persecuted him again. Thereupon he took refuge in a nearby hill. The villains then set fire to the wood (where he was hiding), but he escaped by making his way to a rock. This rock, which has since been known as the 'Rock of Refuge', has thereon the knee-prints of the Patriarch in the squatting position and also the impressions of the texture of his gown.
Recollecting the instruction of his master, the Fifth Patriarch, that he should stop at Huai and seclude himself at Hui, he made these two districts his places of retreat.
Bhikkhu Fa Hai, a native of Qu Jiang of Shao
Zhou, in his first interview with the Patriarch asked the meaning of the well-known
saying, 'What mind
is, Buddha is.' The Patriarch replied, "To let
not a passing thought rise up is 'mind'. To let not the coming thought be
annihilated is Buddha. To manifest all kinds of phenomena is 'mind'. To be
free from all forms (i.e., to realize the unreality of phenomena) is Buddha.
If I were to give you a full explanation, the topic could not be exhausted
even if I took up the whole of one Kalpa. So listen to my stanza:--
Prajna is 'What mind is',
Samadhi is 'What Buddha is'.
In practicing Prajna and Samadhi, let each keep pace with the other;
Then our thoughts will be pure.
This teaching can be understood
Only through the 'habit of practice'.
Samadhi functions, but inherently it does not become.
The orthodox teaching is to practice Prajna as well as Samadhi.
After hearing what the Patriarch had said, Fa Hai was at once enlightened. He praised the Patriarch with the following stanza:--
'What mind is, Buddha is' is true indeed!
But I humiliate myself by not understanding it.
Now I know the principal cause of Prajna and Samadhi,
Both of which I shall practice to set me free from all forms.
Bhikkhu Fa Da, a native of Hung Zhou, who joined
the Order at the early age of seven, used to recite the Saddharma Pundarika
Sutra (Lotus of the Good Law Sutra.) When he came to pay homage to the Patriarch,
he failed to lower his head to the ground. For his abbreviated courtesy the
Patriarch reproved him, saying, "If you object to lower your head to the
ground, would it not be better do away with salutation entirely? There must
be something in your mind that makes you so puffed up. Tell me what you do in
your daily exercise."
"Recite the Saddharma Pundarika Sutra," replied Fa Da. "I have read the whole text three thousand times."
"Had you grasped the meaning of the Sutra," remarked the Patriarch, "you would not have assumed such a lofty bearing, even if you had read it ten thousand times. Had you grasped it, you would be treading the same Path as mine. What you have accomplished has already made you conceited, and moreover, you do not seem to realize that this is wrong. Listen to my stanza:--
Since the object of ceremony is to curb arrogance
Why did you fail to lower your head to the ground?
'To believe in a self' is the source of sin,
But 'to treat all attainment as void' attains merit incomparable!
The Patriarch then asked for his name, and upon being told that his name was Fa Da (meaning Understanding the Law), he remarked, "Your name is Fa Da, but you have not yet understood the Law." He concluded by uttering another stanza:--
Your name is Fa Da.
Diligently and steadily you recite the Sutra.
Lip-repetition of the text goes by the pronunciation only,
But he whose mind is enlightened by grasping the meaning is a Bodhisattva indeed!
On account of Pratyaya (conditions producing phenomena) which may be traced to our past lives
I will explain this to you.
If you only believe that Buddha speaks no words,
Then the Lotus will blossom in your mouth.
Having heard this stanza, Fa Da became remorseful and apologized to the Patriarch. He added, "Hereafter, I will be humble and polite on all occasions. As I do not quite understand the meaning of the Sutra I recite, I am doubtful as to its proper interpretation. With your profound knowledge and high wisdom, will you kindly give me a short explanation?"
The Patriarch replied, "Fa Da, the Law is quite clear; it is only your mind that is not clear. The Sutra is free from doubtful passages; it is only your mind that makes them doubtful. In reciting the Sutra, do you know its principal object?"
"How can I know, Sir," replied Fa Da, "since I am so dull and stupid? All I know is how to recite it word by word."
The Patriarch then said, "Will you please recite the Sutra, as I cannot read it myself. I will then explain its meaning to you."
Fa Da recited the Sutra, but when he came to the chapter entitled 'Parables' the Patriarch stopped him, saying, "The key-note of this Sutra is to set forth the aim and object of a Buddha's incarnation in this world. Though parables and illustrations are numerous in this book, none of them goes beyond this pivotal point. Now, what is that object? What is that aim? The Sutra says, 'It is for a sole object, a sole aim, verily a lofty object and a lofty aim that the Buddha appears in this world.' Now that sole object, that sole aim, that lofty object, that lofty aim referred to is the 'sight' of Buddha-Knowledge.
"Common people attach themselves to objects without; and within, they fall into the wrong idea of 'Vacuity'. When they are able to free themselves from attachment to objects when in contact with objects, and to free themselves from the fallacious view of annihilation on the doctrine of 'Void' they will be free from delusions within and from illusions without. He who understands this and whose mind is thus enlightened in an instant is said to have opened his eyes for the sight of Buddha-Knowledge.
"The word 'Buddha' is equivalent to 'Enlightenment', which may be dealt with (as in the Sutra) under four heads:
To open the eyes for the sight of Enlightenment-knowledge.
To show the sight of Enlightenment-knowledge.
To awake to the sight of Enlightenment-knowledge.
To be firmly established in the Enlightenment-knowledge.
"Should we be able, upon being taught, to grasp and understand thoroughly the teaching of Enlightenment-knowledge, then our inherent quality or true nature, i.e., the Enlightenment-knowledge, would have an opportunity to manifest itself. You should not misinterpret the text, and come to the conclusion that Buddha-knowledge is something special to Buddha and not common to us all because you happen to find in the Sutra this passage, 'To open the eyes for the sight of Buddha-knowledge, to show the sight of Buddha-knowledge, etc.' Such a misinterpretation would amount to slandering Buddha and blaspheming the Sutra. Since he is a Buddha, he is already in possession of this Enlightenment-knowledge and there is no occasion for himself to open his eyes for it. You should therefore accept the interpretation that Buddha-knowledge is the Buddha-knowledge of your own mind and not that of any other Buddha.
"Being infatuated by sense-objects, and thereby shutting themselves from their own light, all sentient beings, tormented by outer circumstances and inner vexations, act voluntarily as slaves to their own desires. Seeing this, our Lord Buddha had to rise from his Samadhi in order to exhort them with earnest preaching of various kinds to suppress their desires and to refrain from seeking happiness from without, so that they might become the equals of Buddha. For this reason the Sutra says, 'To open the eyes for the sight of Buddha-knowledge, etc.'
"I advise people constantly to open their eyes for the Buddha-knowledge within their mind. But in their perversity they commit sins under delusion and ignorance; they are kind in words, but wicked in mind; they are greedy, malignant, jealous, crooked, flattering, egotistic, offensive to men and
destructive to inanimate objects. Thus, they open their eyes for the 'Common-people-knowledge'. Should they rectify their heart, so that wisdom arises perpetually, the mind would be under introspection, and evil doing replaced by the practice of good; then they would initiate themselves into the Buddha-knowledge.
"You should therefore from Ksana to Ksana open your eyes, not for 'Common-people-knowledge' but for Buddha-knowledge, which is super-mundane, while the former is worldly. On the other hand, if you stick to the arbitrary concept that mere recitation (of the Sutra) as a daily exercise is good enough, then you are infatuated like the yak by its own tail." (Yaks are known to have a very high opinion of their own tails.)
Fa Da then said, "If that is so, we have only to know the meaning of the Sutra and there would be no necessity for us to recite it. Is that right, Sir?"
"There is nothing wrong in the Sutra," replied the Patriarch, "so that you should refrain from reciting it. Whether sutra-reciting will enlighten you or not, or benefit you or not, all depends on yourself. He who recites the Sutra with the tongue and puts its teaching into actual practice with his mind 'turns round' the Sutra. He who recites it without putting it into practice is 'turned round' by the Sutra. Listen to my stanza:--
When our mind is under delusion, the Saddharma Pundarika Sutra 'turns us round'.
With an enlightened mind we 'turn round' the Sutra instead.
To recite the Sutra for a considerable time without knowing its principal object
Indicates that you are a stranger to its meaning.
The correct way to recite the Sutra is without holding any arbitrary belief;
Otherwise, it is wrong.
He who is above 'Affirmative' and 'Negative'
Rides permanently in the White Bullock Cart (the Vehicle of Buddha)."
Having heard this stanza, Fa Da was enlightened and moved to tears. "It is quite true," he exclaimed, "that heretofore I was unable to 'turn round' the Sutra. It was rather the Sutra that 'turned' me round."
He then raised another point. "The Sutra says, 'From Sravakas (disciples) up to Bodhisattvas, even if they were to speculate with combined efforts they would be unable to comprehend the Buddha-knowledge.' But you, Sir, give me to understand that if an ordinary man realizes his own mind, he is said to have attained the Buddha-knowledge. I am afraid, Sir, that with the exception of those gifted with superior mental dispositions, others may doubt your remark. Furthermore, three kinds of Carts are mentioned in the Sutra, namely, Carts yoked with goats (i.e., the vehicle of Sravakas), Carts yoked with deers (the vehicle of Pratyeka Buddhas), and Carts yoked with bullocks (the vehicle of Bodhisattvas). How are these to be distinguished from the White Bullock Carts?"
The Patriarch replied, "The Sutra is quite plain on this point; it is you who misunderstand it. The reason why Sravakas, Pratyeka Buddhas and Bodhisattvas cannot comprehend the Buddha-knowledge is because they speculate on it. They may combine their efforts to speculate, but the more they speculate, the farther they are from the truth. It was to ordinary men, not to other Buddhas, that Buddha Gautama preached this Sutra. As for those who cannot accept the doctrine he expounded, he let them leave the assembly. You do not seem to know that since we are already riding in the White Bullock Cart (the vehicle of Buddhas), there is no necessity for us to go out to look for the other three vehicles. Moreover, the Sutra tells you plainly that there is only the Buddha Vehicle, and that there are no other vehicles, such as the second or the third. It is for the sake of this sole vehicle that Buddha had to preach to us with innumerable skilful devices, using various reasons and arguments, parables and illustrations, etc. Why can you not understand that the other three vehicles are makeshifts, for the past only; while the sole vehicle, the Buddha Vehicle, is the ultimate, meant for the present?
"The Sutra teaches you to dispense with the makeshifts and to resort to the ultimate. Having resorted to the ultimate, you will find that even the name 'ultimate' disappears. You should appreciate that you are the sole owner of these valuables and they are entirely subject to your disposal. When you are free from the arbitrary conception that they are the father's, or the son's, or that they are at so and so's disposal, you may be said to have learned the right way to recite the Sutra. In that case from Kalpa to Kalpa the Sutra will be in your hand, and from morning to night you will be reciting the Sutra all the time."
Being thus awakened, Fa Da praised the Patriarch, in a transport of great joy, with the following stanza:--
The delusion that I have attained great merits by reciting the Sutra three thousand times over
Is all dispelled by an utterance of the Master of Cao Xi (i.e., the Patriarch).
He who has not understood the object of a Buddha's incarnation in this world
Is unable to suppress the wild passions accumulated in many lives.
The three vehicles yoked by goat, deer and bullock respectively, are makeshifts only,
While the three stages, Preliminary, Intermediate, and Final, in which the orthodox Dharma is expounded, are well set out, indeed!
How few appreciate that within the burning house itself (i.e.,mundane existence)
The King of Dharma is to be found!
The Patriarch then told him that henceforth he might call himself a 'Sutra-reciting Bhikkhu'. After that interview, Fa Da was able to grasp the profound meaning of Buddhism, yet he continued to recite the Sutra as before.
Bhikkhu Zhi Tong, a native of Shou Zhou of An
Feng had read the Lankavatara Sutra a thousand times, but he could not understand
the meaning of Trikaya and the four Prajnas. Thereupon, he called on the Patriarch
for an interpretation.
"As to the Three Bodies," explained the Patriarch, "the pure Dharmakaya is your (essential) nature; the perfect Sambhogakaya is your wisdom; and myriad Nirmanakayas are your actions. If you deal with these Three Bodies apart from the Essence of Mind, there would be 'bodies without wisdom'. If you realize that these Three Bodies have no positive essence of their own (because they are only the properties of the Essence of Mind) you attain the Bodhi of the four Prajnas. Listen to my stanza:--
The Three Bodies are inherent in our Essence of Mind,
By development of which the four Prajnas are manifested.
Thus, without shutting your eyes and your ears to keep away from the external world
You may reach Buddhahood directly.
Now that I have made this plain to you
Believe it firmly, and you will be free from delusions forever.
Follow not those who seek Enlightenment from without;
These people talk about Bodhi all the time (but they never find it).
"May I know something about the four Prajnas?" asked Zhi Tong. "If you understand the Three Bodies," replied the Patriarch, "you should understand the four Prajnas as well; so your question is unnecessary. If you deal with the four Prajnas apart from the Three Bodies, there will be Prajnas without bodies, in which case they would not be Prajnas."
The Patriarch then uttered another stanza:--
The Mirror-like Wisdom is pure by nature.
The Equality Wisdom frees the mind from all impediments.
The All-Discerning Wisdom sees things intuitively without going through the process of reasoning.
The All-Performing Wisdom has the same characteristics as the Mirror-like Wisdom.
The first five vijnanas (consciousness dependent respectively upon the five sense organs) and the Alaya vijnana (Storage or Universal consciousness) are 'transmuted' to Prajna in the Buddha stage; while the Klista-Mano vijnana (soiled-mind consciousness or self-consciousness) and the Mano vijnana (thinking consciousness), are transmuted in the Bodhisattva stage. 
These so called 'transmutations of vijnana' are only changes of appellations and not a change of substance. 
When you are able to free yourself entirely from attachment to sense-objects at the time these so-called 'transmutations' take place, you will forever abide in the repeatedly-arising Naga (dragon) Samadhi.
(Upon hearing this), Zhi Tong realized suddenly the Prajna of his Essence of Mind and submitted the following stanza to the Patriarch:--
Intrinsically, the three Bodies are within our Essence of Mind.
When our mind is enlightened the four Prajnas will appear therein.
When Bodies and Prajnas absolutely identify with each other
We shall be able to respond (in accordance with their temperaments and dispositions) to the appeals of all beings, no matter what forms they may assume.
To start by seeking for Trikaya and the four Prajnas is to take an entirely wrong course (for being inherent in us they are to be realized and not to be sought).
To try to 'grasp' or 'confine' them is to go against their intrinsic nature.
Through you, Sir, I am now able to grasp the profundity of their meaning,
And henceforth I may discard forever their false and arbitrary names. (Note: Having grasped the spirit of a doctrine, one may dispense with the names used therein, since all names are makeshifts only).
Bhikkhu Zhi Chang, a native of Gui Xi of Xin
Zhou, joined the Order in his childhood, and was very zealous in his efforts
to realize the Essence of Mind. One day, he came to pay homage to the Patriarch,
and was asked by the latter whence and why he came.
"I have recently been to the White Cliff Mountain in Hong Zhou," replied he, "to interview the Master Da Tong, who was good enough to teach me how to realize the Essence of Mind and thereby attain Buddhahood. But as I still have some doubts, I have travelled far to pay you respect. Will you kindly clear them up for me, Sir."
"What instruction did he give you?" asked the Patriarch.
"After staying there for three months without being given any instruction, and being zealous for the Dharma, I went alone to his chamber one night and asked him what was my Essence of Mind. 'Do you see the illimitable void?' he asked. 'Yes, I do,' I replied. Then he asked me whether the void had any particular form, and when I said that the void is formless and therefore cannot have any particular form, he said, 'Your Essence of Mind is exactly like the void. To realize that nothing can be seen is 'Right View.' To realize that nothing is knowable is 'True Knowledge.' To realize that it is neither green nor yellow, neither long nor short, that it is pure by nature, that its quintessence is perfect and clear, 'is to realize the Essence of Mind and thereby attain Buddhahood,' which is also called the Buddha-knowledge.' As I do not quite understand his teaching, will you please enlighten me, Sir."
"His teaching indicates," said the Patriarch, "that he still retains the arbitrary concepts of 'Views' and 'Knowledge,' and this explains why he fails to make it clear to you. Listen to my stanza:--
To realize that nothing can be seen but to retain the concept of 'Invisibility'
Is like the surface of the sun obscured by passing clouds.
To realize that nothing is knowable but to retain the concept of 'Unknowability'
May be likened to a clear sky disfigured by a lightning flash.
To let these arbitrary concepts rise spontaneously in your mind
Indicates that you have misidentified the Essence of Mind, and that you have not yet found the skilful means to realize it.
If you realize for one moment that these arbitrary concepts are wrong,
Your own spiritual light will shine forth permanently.
Having heard this Zhi Chang at once felt that his mind was enlightened. Thereupon, he submitted the following stanza to the Patriarch:--
To allow the concepts of 'Invisibility' and 'Unknowability' to rise in the mind
Is to seek Bodhi without freeing oneself from the concepts of phenomena.
He who is puffed up by the slightest impression, 'I am now enlightened,'
Is no better than he was when under delusion.
Had I not put myself at the feet of the Patriarch
I should have been bewildered without knowing the right way to go.
One day, Zhi Chang asked the Patriarch, "Buddha preached the doctrine of 'Three Vehicles' and also that of a 'Supreme Vehicle'. As I do not understand this, will you please explain?"
The Patriarch replied, "(In trying to understand these), you should introspect your own mind and act independently of outward Dharmalaksana (things and phenomena). The distinction of these four vehicles does not exist in the Dharma itself but in the differentiation of people's minds. To see, to hear, and to recite the Sutra is the Small vehicle. To know the Dharma and to understand its meaning is the Middle vehicle. To put the Dharma into actual practice is the Great Vehicle. To understand thoroughly all Dharmas, to have absorbed them completely, to be free from all attachments, to be above Dharmalaksana, and to be in possession of nothing, is the Supreme Vehicle.
"Since the word 'Yana' (vehicle) implies 'motion' (i.e., putting into practice), argument on this point is quite unnecessary. All depends on self-practice, so you need not ask me any more. (But I
may remind you that) at all times the Essence of Mind is in a state of 'Thusness'."
Zhi Chang made obeisance and thanked the Patriarch. Henceforth, he acted as his attendant until the death of the Master.
Bhikkhu Zhi Dao, a native of Nan Hai of Guang
Dong, came to the Patriarch for instruction, saying, "Since I joined the
Order I have read the Maha Parinirvana Sutra for more than ten years, but I
have not yet grasped its main idea. Will you please teach me?"
"Which part of it do you not understand?" asked the Patriarch.
"It is about this part, Sir, that I am doubtful: 'All things are impermanent, and so they belong to the Dharma of becoming and cessation (i.e., Samskrita Dharma). When both becoming and cessation cease to operate, the bliss of Perfect Rest and Cessation of Changes (i.e., Nirvana) arises.'"
"What makes you doubt?" asked the Patriarch.
"All beings have two bodies -- the physical body and the Dharmakaya," replied Zhi Dao. "The former is impermanent; it exists and dies. The latter is permanent; it knows not and feels not. Now the Sutra says, 'When both Becoming and Cessation cease to operate, the bliss of perfect rest and cessation of changes arises.' I do not know which body ceases to exist and which body enjoys the bliss. It cannot be the physical body that enjoys, because when it dies the four Mahabhutas (material elements i.e., earth, water, fire and air) will disintegrate, and disintegration is pure suffering, the very opposite of bliss. If it is the Dharmakaya that ceases to exist, it would be in the same state as 'inanimate' objects, such as grass, trees, stones etc.; who will then be the enjoyer?
"Moreover, Dharma-nature is the quintessence of 'Becoming and Cessation', which manifests as the five Skandhas (Rupa, Vedana, Samjna, Samskara and Vijnana). That is to say, with one quintessence there are five functions. The process of 'Becoming and Cessation' is everlasting. When function or operation arises from the quintessence, it becomes; when the operation or function is absorbed back into the quintessence, it ceases to exist. If reincarnation is admitted, there would be no 'Cessation of Changes', as in the case of sentient beings. If reincarnation is out of the question, then things will remain forever in a state of lifeless quintessence, like inanimate objects. If this is so, then under the limitations and restrictions of Nirvana even existence will be impossible to all beings; what enjoyment could there be?"
"You are a son of Gina (i.e., a son of Buddha, or a bhikkhu)," said the Patriarch, "so why do you adopt the fallacious views of Eternalism and Annihilationism held by the heretics, and criticize the teaching of the Supreme Vehicle?
"Your argument implies that apart from the physical body there is a Law body (Dharmakaya); and that 'Perfect Rest' and 'Cessation of Changes' may be sought apart from 'Becoming and Cessation'. Further, from the statement, 'Nirvana is everlasting joy,' you infer that there must be somebody to play the part of the enjoyer.
"Now it is exactly these fallacious views that make people crave for sensate existence and indulge in worldly pleasure. It is for these people, the victims of ignorance, who identify the union of five skandhas as the 'self', and regard all other things as 'not-self' (literally, outer sense objects); who crave for individual existence and have an aversion to death; who drift about in the whirlpool of life and death without realizing the hollowness of mundane existence, which is only a dream or an illusion; who commit themselves to unnecessary suffering by binding themselves to the wheel of re-birth; who mistake the state of everlasting joy of Nirvana for a mode of suffering, and who are always after sensual pleasure; it is for these people that the compassionate Buddha preached the real bliss of Nirvana.
"At any one moment, Nirvana has neither the phenomenon of becoming, nor that of Cessation, nor even the ceasing of operation of Becoming and Cessation. It is the manifestation of 'Perfect Rest and Cessation of Changes', but at the time of manifestation there is not even a concept of manifestation; so it is called the 'Everlasting Joy' which has neither enjoyer nor non-enjoyer.
"There is no such thing as 'one quintessence and five functions' (as you allege), and you are slandering Buddha and blaspheming the Law when you state that under such limitation and restriction of Nirvana existence is impossible to all beings. Listen to my stanza:--
The Supreme Maha Parinirvana
Is perfect, permanent, calm, and illuminating.
Common people and ignorant ones miscall it death,
While heretics hold arbitrarily that it is annihilation.
Those who belong to the Sravaka Vehicle or the Pratyeka Buddha Vehicle
Regard it as 'Non-action'.
All these are mere intellectual speculations,
And form the basis of the sixty-two fallacious views.
Since they are mere fictitious names invented for the occasion
They have nothing to do with the Absolute Truth.
Only those of super-eminent mind
Can understand thoroughly what Nirvana is, and take up the attitude of neither attachment nor indifference towards it.
They know that five Skandhas
And the so-called 'ego' arising from the union of these Skandhas, Together with all external objects and forms
And the various phenomena of sound and voice
Are equally unreal, like a dream or an illusion.
They make no discrimination between a sage and an ordinary man.
Nor do they have any arbitrary concept on Nirvana.
They are above 'Affirmation' and 'Negation' and they break the barrier of the past, the present, and the future.
They use their sense organs, when occasion requires,
But the concept of 'Using' does not arise. They may particularize on all sorts of things, But the concept of 'Particularization' does not arise.
Even during the cataclysmic fire at the end of a Kalpa, when ocean-beds are burnt dry,
Or during the blowing of the catastrophic wind when one mountain topples on another,
The real and everlasting bliss of 'Perfect Rest' and 'Cessation of Changes'
Of Nirvana remains in the same state and changes not.
Here I am trying to describe to you something which is ineffable
So that you may get rid of your fallacious views.
But if you do not interpret my words literally
You may perhaps learn a wee bit of the meaning of Nirvana!
Having heard this stanza, Zhi Dao was highly enlightened. In a rapturous
mood, he made obeisance and departed.
Bhikkhu Xing Si, a Dhyana Master, was born at
An Cheng of Zhi Zhou of a Liu family. Upon hearing that the preaching of the
Patriarch had enlightened a great number of people, he at once came to Cao Xi
to tender him homage, and ask him this question:
"What should a learner direct his mind to, so that his attainment cannot be rated by the (usual) 'Stages of Progress'?"
"What work have you been doing?" asked the Patriarch.
"Even the Noble Truths taught by various Buddhas I have not anything to do with," replied Xing Si.
"What Stage of Progress are you in?" asked the Patriarch.
"What Stage of Progress can there be, when I refuse to have anything to do with even the Noble Truths?" he retorted.
His repartee commanded the great respect of the Patriarch who made him leader of the assembly.
One day the Patriarch told him that he should propagate the Law in his own district, so that the teaching might not come to an end. Thereupon he returned to Qing Yuan Mountain in his native district. The Dharma having been transmitted to him, he spread it widely and thus perpetuated the teaching of his Master. Upon his death, the posthumous title 'Dhyana Master Hung Ji' was conferred on him.
Bhikkhu Huai Rang, a Dhyana Master, was born
of a Du family in Jin Zhou.
Upon his first visit to 'National Teacher' Hui An of Sung Shan Mountain, he was directed by the latter to go to Cao Xi to interview the Patriarch.
Upon his arrival, and after the usual salutation, he was asked by the Patriarch whence he came.
"From Sung Shan," replied he.
"What thing is it (that comes)? How did it come?" asked the Patriarch.
"To say that it is similar to a certain thing is wrong," he retorted.
"Is it attainable by training?" asked the Patriarch.
"It is not impossible to attain it by training; but it is quite impossible to pollute it," he replied.
Thereupon, the Patriarch exclaimed, "It is exactly this unpolluted thing that all Buddhas take good care of. It is so for you, and it is so for me as well. Patriarch Prajnatara of India foretold that under your feet a colt  would rush forth and trample on the people of the whole world. I need not interpret this oracle too soon, as the answer should be found within your mind."
Being thereby enlightened, Huai Rang realized intuitively what the Patriarch had said. Henceforth, he became his attendant for a period of fifteen years; and day by day his knowledge of Buddhism got deeper and deeper. Afterwards, he made his home in Heng Shan where he spread widely the teaching of the Patriarch. Upon his death, the posthumous title, "Dhyana Master Da Hui (Great Wisdom) was conferred on him by imperial edict.
Dhyana Master Xuan Jue of Yong Jia was born of
a Dai family in Wen Zhou. As a youth, he studied Sutras and Shastras and was
well-versed in the teaching of Samatha (inhibition or quietude) and Vipasyana
(contemplation or discernment) of the Tian Tai School. Through the reading of
the Vimalakirti Nirdesa Sutra he realized intuitively the mystery of his own
A disciple of the Patriarch by the name of Xuan Ce happened to pay him a visit. During the course of a long discussion, Xuan Ce noticed that the utterance of his friend agreed virtually with the sayings of the various Patriarchs. Thereupon he asked, "May I know the name of your teacher who transmitted the Dharma to you?"
"I had teachers to instruct me," replied Xuan Jue, "when I studied the Sutras and the Shastras of the Vaipulya section. But afterwards it was through the reading of the Vimalakirti Nirdesa Sutra that I realized the significance of the Buddhacitta (the Dhyana) School; and in this respect I have not yet had any teacher to verify and confirm my knowledge."
"Before the time of Bhismagarjitasvara Raja Buddha," Xuan Ce remarked, "it was possible (to dispense with the service of a teacher); but since that time, he who attains enlightenment without the aid and the confirmation of a teacher is a natural heretic."
"Will you, Sir, kindly act as my testifier," asked Xuan Jue.
"My words carry no weight," replied his friend, "but in Cao Xi there is the Sixth Patriarch, to whom visitors in great numbers come from all directions with the common object of having the Dharma transmitted to them. Should you wish to go there, I shall be pleased to accompany you."
In due course they arrived at Cao Xi and interviewed the Patriarch. Having circumambulated the Patriarch thrice, Xuan Jue stood still (i.e.,without making obeisance to the Master) with the Khakkharam (the Buddhist staff) in his hand.
(For his discourtesy), the Patriarch made the following remark: "As a Sramana (Buddhist monk) is the embodiment of three thousand moral precepts and eighty thousand minor disciplinary rules, I wonder where you come from and what makes you so conceited."
"The question of incessant rebirths is a momentous one," replied he, "and as death may come at any moment (I have no time to waste on ceremony)."
"Why do you not realize the principle of 'Birthlessness', and thus solve the problem of transiency in life?" the Patriarch retorted.
Thereupon Xuan Jue remarked, "To realize the Essence of Mind is to be free from rebirths; and once this problem is solved, the question of transiency no longer exists."
"That is so, that is so," the Patriarch agreed.
At this stage, Xuan Jue gave in and made obeisance in full ceremony.
After a short while he bid the Patriarch adieu.
"You are going away too quickly, aren't you?" asked the Patriarch.
"How can there be 'quickness' when motion intrinsically exists not?" he retorted.
"Who knows that motion exists not?" asked the Patriarch.
"I hope you, Sir, will not particularize," he observed.
The Patriarch commended him for his thorough grasp of the notion of 'Birthlessness'; but Xuan Jue remarked, "Is there a 'notion' in 'Birthlessness'?"
"Without a notion, who can particularize?" asked the Patriarch in turn.
"That which particularizes is not a notion," replied Xuan Jue.
"Well said!" exclaimed the Patriarch. He then asked Xuan Jue to delay his departure and spend a night there. Henceforth Xuan Jue was known to his contemporaries as the 'enlightened one who had spent a night with the Patriarch'.
Afterwards, he wrote the famous work, 'A Song on Spiritual Attainment', which circulates widely. His posthumous title is 'Grand Master Wu Xiang'
(He who is above form or phenomena), and he was also called by his contemporaries 'Dhyana Master Zhen Jue' (He who is really enlightened).
Bhikkhu Zhi Huang, a follower of the Dhyana School,
after his consultation with the Fifth Patriarch (as to the progress of his work)
considered himself as having attained Samadhi. For twenty years he confined
himself in a small temple and kept up the position all the time.
Xuan Ce, a disciple of the Sixth Patriarch on a meditation journey to the northern bank of Huang He, heard about him and called at his temple.
"What are you doing here?" asked Xuan Ce.
"I am abiding in Samadhi," replied his friend, Zhi Huang.
"Abiding in Samadhi, did you say?" observed Xuan Ce. "I wish to know whether you are doing it consciously or unconsciously. For if you are doing it unconsciously, it would mean that it is possible for all inanimate objects such as earthenware, stones, trees, and weeds, to attain Samadhi. On the other hand, if you are doing it consciously, than all animate objects or sentient beings would be in Samadhi also."
"When I am in Samadhi," observed Zhi Huang, "I know neither consciousness nor unconsciousness."
"If that is the case," said Xuan Ce, "it is perpetual Samadhi; in which state there is neither abiding nor leaving. That state which you can abide in or leave off is not the great Samadhi."
Zhi Huang was dumbfounded. After a long while, he asked, "May I know who is your teacher?"
"My teacher is the Sixth Patriarch of Cao Xi," replied Xuan Ce.
"How does he define Dhyana and Samadhi?" Zhi Huang asked.
"According to his teaching," replied Xuan Ce, "the Dharmakaya is perfect and serene; its quintessence and its function are in a state of Thusness. The five Skandhas (aggregates) are intrinsically void and the six sense-objects are non-existent. There is neither abiding nor leaving in Samadhi. There is neither quietude nor perturbation. The nature of dhyana is non-abiding, so
we should get above the state of 'abiding in the calmness of dhyana'. The nature of Dhyana is uncreative, so we should get above the notion of 'creating a state of Dhyana'. The state of the mind may be likened unto space, but (it is infinite) and so it is without the limitations of the latter."
Having heard this, Zhi Huang went immediately to Cao Xi to interview the Patriarch. Upon being asked whence he came, he told the Patriarch in detail the conversation he had had with Xuan Ce.
"What Xuan Ce said is quite right," said the Patriarch. Let your mind be in a state such as that of the illimitable void, but do not attach it to the idea of 'vacuity'. Let it function freely. Whether you are in activity or at rest, let your mind abide nowhere. Forget the discrimination between a sage and an ordinary man. Ignore the distinction of subject and object. Let the Essence of Mind and all phenomenal objects be in a state of Thusness. Then you will be in Samadhi all the time."
Zhi Huang was thereby fully enlightened. What he had considered for the past twenty years as an attainment now vanished. On that night inhabitants of He Bei (the northern bank of the Yellow River) heard a voice in the air to the effect that Dhyana Master Zhi Huang had on that day gained enlightenment.
Some time after Zhi Huang bid the Patriarch adieu and returned to He Bei, where he taught a great number of men and women, monks as well as the laity.
A Bhikkhu once asked the Patriarch what sort of man could obtain the keynote of the teaching of Huang Mei (the Fifth Patriarch). "He who understands the Buddha Dharma can get it," replied the Patriarch. "Have you, Sir, got it then?" asked the Bhikkhu. "I do not understand the Buddha Dharma," was his reply.
One day the Patriarch wanted to wash the robe
which he had inherited, but could find no good stream for the purpose. Thereupon
he walked to a place about five miles from the rear of the monastery, where
he noticed that plants and trees grew profusely and the environment gave an
air of good omen. He shook his staff (which makes a tinkling noise, as rings
are attached to the top of it) and stuck it in the ground. Immediately water
spurted out and before long a pool was formed.
While he was kneeling down on a rock to wash the robe, a Bhikkhu suddenly appeared before him and tendered him homage.
"My name is Fang Bian," said he, "and I am a native of Sichuan. When I was in South India I met Patriarch Bodhidharma, who instructed me to return to China. 'The Womb of the Orthodox Dharma,' said he, 'together with the robe which I inherited from Mahakasyapa have now been transmitted to the Sixth Patriarch, who is now in Cao Xi of Shao Zhou. Go there to have a look at them and to pay your respect to the Patriarch.' After a long voyage, I have arrived. May I see the robe and begging bowl you inherited?"
Having shown him the two relics, the Patriarch asked him what line of work he was taking up. "I am pretty good at sculptural work," replied he. "Let me see some of your work then," demanded the Patriarch.
Fang Bian was confounded at the time, but after a few days he was able to complete a life-like statue of the Patriarch, about seven inches high, a masterpiece of sculpture.
(Upon seeing the statue), the Patriarch laughed and said to Fang Bian, "You know something about the nature of sculptural work, but you do not seem to know the nature of Buddha." He then stretched forth his hand to rub the crown of Fang Bian (the Buddhist way of blessing) and declared, "You shall forever be a 'field of merit' for human and celestial beings."
In addition, the Patriarch rewarded his service with a robe, which Fang Bian divided into three parts, one for dressing the statue, one for himself, and one for burying in the ground after covering it up with palm leaves. (When the burial took place) he took a vow to the effect that by the time the robe was exhumed he would be reincarnated as the abbot of the monastery, and also that he would undertake to renovate the shrine and the building.
A Bhikkhu quoted the following Gatha (stanza)
composed by Dhyana Master Wo Lun:--
Wo Lun has ways and means
To insulate the mind from all thoughts.
When circumstances do not react on the mind
The Bodhi tree (symbol of wisdom) will grow steadily.
Hearing this, the Patriarch said, "This stanza indicates that the composer of it has not yet fully realized the Essence of Mind. To put its teaching into practice (would gain no liberation), but bind oneself more tightly." Thereupon, he showed the Bhikkhu the following stanza of his own:--
Hui Neng has no ways and means
To insulate the mind from all thoughts.
Circumstances often react on my mind;
And I wonder how can the Bodhi tree grow?
(Note. In the last line, the Patriarch challenged the statement that "the Bodhi tree will grow," as Bodhi neither increases nor decreases.)
Chapter VIII. The Sudden School and the Gradual
While the Patriarch was living in Bao Lin Monastery, the Grand Master Shen Xiu was preaching in Yu Quan Monastery of Jing Nan. At that time the two Schools, that of Hui Neng of the South and Shen Xiu of the North, flourished side by side. As the two Schools were distinguished from each other by the names "Sudden" (the South) and "Gradual" (the North), the question which sect they should follow baffled certain Buddhist scholars (of that time).
(Seeing this), the Patriarch addressed the assembly as follows:--
"So far as the Dharma is concerned, there can be only one School. (If a distinction exists) it exists in the fact that the founder of one school is a northern man, while the other is a Southerner. While there is only one Dharma, some disciples realize it more quickly than others. The reason why the names 'Sudden' and 'Gradual' are given is that some disciples are superior to others in mental dispositions. So far as the Dharma is concerned, the distinction of 'Sudden' and 'Gradual' does not exist."
(In spite of what the Patriarch had said,) the followers of Shen Xiu used to criticize the Patriarch. They discredited him by saying that as he was illiterate he could not distinguish himself in any respect.
Shen Xiu himself, on the other hand, admitted that he was inferior to the Patriarch, that the Patriarch attained wisdom without the aid of a teacher, and that he understood thoroughly the teaching of the Mahayana School. "Moreover," he added, "my teacher, the Fifth Patriarch, would not have transmitted to him the robe and the bowl without good cause. I regret that, owing to the patronage of the state, which I by no means deserve, I am unable to travel far to receive instructions from him personally. (But) you men should go to Cao Xi to consult him."
One day he said to his disciple, Zhi Cheng, "You are intelligent and bright. On my behalf, you may go to Cao Xi to attend the lectures there. Try your best to remember what you learn, so that upon your return you may repeat it to me."
Acting on his teacher's instruction, Zhi Cheng went to Cao Xi. Without telling whence he came he joined the crowd there to call on the Patriarch.
"Someone has hidden himself here to plagiarize my lecture," said the Patriarch to the assembly. Thereupon, Zhi Cheng came out, made obeisance, and told the Patriarch what his mission was.
"You come from Yu Quan Monastery, do you?" asked the Patriarch. "You must be a spy."
"No, I am not," replied Zhi Cheng.
"Why not?" asked the Patriarch.
"If I had not told you," said Zhi Cheng, "I would be a spy. Since I have told you all about it, I am not."
"How does your teacher instruct his disciples?" asked the Patriarch.
"He tells us to meditate on purity, to keep up the sitting position all the time and not to lie down," replied Zhi Cheng.
"To meditate on purity," said the Patriarch, "is an infirmity and not Dhyana. To restrict oneself to the sitting position all the time is unprofitable. Listen to my stanza:--
A living man sits and does not lie down (all the time),
While a dead man lies down and does not sit.
On this physical body of ours
Why should we impose the task of squatting?"
Making obeisance a second time, Zhi Cheng remarked, "Though I have studied Buddhism for nine years under the Grand Master Shen Xiu, my mind has not yet been awakened for enlightenment. But as soon as you speak to me my mind is enlightened. As the question of incessant rebirths is a momentous one, please take pity on me and give me further instruction."
"I understand," said the Patriarch, "that your teacher gives his disciples instructions on Sila (disciplinary rules), Dhyana (meditation), and Prajna (Wisdom). Please tell me how he defines these terms."
"According to his teaching," replied Zhi Cheng, "to refrain from all evil actions is Sila, to practice whatever is good is Prajna, and to purify one's own mind is Dhyana. This is the way he teaches us. May I know your system?"
"If I tell you," said the Patriarch, "that I have a system of Law to transmit to others, I am cheating you. What I do to my disciples is to liberate them from their own bondage with such devices as the case may need. To use a name which is nothing but a makeshift, this (state of liberation) may be called Samadhi. The way your master teaches Sila, Dhyana, and Prajna is wonderful; but my exposition is different."
"How can it be different, Sir," asked Zhi Cheng, "when there is only one form of Sila, Dhyana and Prajna?"
"The teaching of your master," replied the Patriarch, "is for the followers of the Mahayana School, while mine is for those of the Supreme School. The fact that some realize the Dharma more quickly and deeply than others accounts for the difference in the interpretation. You may listen, and see if my instruction is the same as his. In expounding the Law, I do not deviate from the authority of the Essence of Mind (i.e., I speak what I realize intuitively). To speak otherwise would indicate that the expositor's Essence of Mind is under obscuration and that he can touch the phenomenal side of the Law only. The true teaching of Sila, Dhyana and Prajna should be based on the principle that the function of all things derives from the Essence of Mind. Listen to my stanza:--
To free the mind from all impurity is the Sila of the Essence of Mind.
To free the mind from all disturbance is the Dhyana of the Essence of Mind.
That which neither increases nor decreases is the Vajra (Diamond, used as a symbol for the Essence of Mind);
'Coming' and 'going' are different phases of Samadhi."
Having heard this, Zhi Cheng apologized (for having asked a foolish question) and thanked the Patriarch for his instruction. He then submitted the following stanza:--
The 'Self' is nothing but a phantasm created by the union of five Skandhas,
And a phantasm can have nothing to do with absolute reality.
To hold that there is a Tathata (Suchness) for us to aim at or to return to
Is another example of 'Impure Dharma'.
(Note: For Pure Law is above concept and speech)
Approving what he said in his stanza, the Patriarch said to him again, "The teaching of your master on Sila, Dhyana and Prajna applies to wise men of the inferior type, while mine to those of the superior type. He who realizes the Essence of Mind may dispense with such doctrines as Bodhi, Nirvana, and 'Knowledge of Emancipation'. Only those who do not possess a single system of Law can formulate all systems of Law, and only those who can understand the meaning (of this paradox) may use such terms. It makes no difference to those who have realized the Essence of Mind whether they formulate all systems of Law or dispense with all of them. They are at liberty to 'come' or to 'go' (i.e., they may remain in or leave this world at their own free will). They are free from obstacles or impediments. They take appropriate actions as circumstances require. They give suitable answers according to the temperament of the enquirer. They see that all Nirmanakayas are one with the Essence of Mind. They attain liberation, psychic powers (Siddhi) and Samadhi, which enable them to perform the arduous task of universal salvation as easily as if they were only playing. Such are the men who have realized the Essence of Mind!"
"By what principle are we guided in dispensing with all systems of Law?" was Zhi Cheng's next question.
"When our Essence of Mind is free from impurity, infatuations and disturbances," replied the Patriarch, "when we introspect our mind from moment to moment with Prajna, and when we do not cling to things and phenomenal objects we are free and liberated. Why should we formulate any system of Law when our goal can be reached no matter whether we turn to the right or to the left? Since it is with our own efforts that we realize the Essence of Mind, and since the realization and the practice of the Law are both done instantaneously, and not gradually or stage by stage, the formulation of any system of Law is unnecessary. As all Dharmas are intrinsically Nirvanic, how can there be gradation in them?"
Zhi Cheng made obeisance and volunteered to be an attendant of the Patriarch. In that capacity, he served both day and night.
Bhikkhu Zhi Che, whose secular name was Zhang
Xing Chang, was a native of Kiangxi. As a young man, he was fond of chivalric
Since the two Dhyana Schools, Hui Neng of the South and Shen Xiu of the North, flourished side by side, a strong sectarian feeling ran high on the part of the disciples, in spite of the tolerant spirit shown by the two masters, who hardly knew what egotism was. Calling their own teacher, Shen Xiu, the Sixth Patriarch on no better authority than their own, the followers of the Northern School were jealous of the rightful owner of that title whose claim, supported by the inherited robe, was too well known to be ignored. (So in order to get rid of the rival teacher) they sent Zhang Xing Chang (who was then a layman) to murder the Patriarch.
With his psychic power of mind-reading the Patriarch was able to know of the plot beforehand. (Making ready for the coming of the murderer), he put ten taels by the side of his own seat. Zhang duly arrived, and one evening entered the Patriarch's room to carry out the murder. With outstretched neck the Patriarch waited for the fatal blow. Thrice did Zhang cut, (but) not a single wound was thereby inflicted! The Patriarch then addressed him as follows:--
"A straight sword is not crooked,
While a crooked one is not straight.
I owe you money only;
But life I do not owe."
The surprise was too great for Zhang; he fell into a swoon and did not revive for a considerable time. Remorseful and penitent, he asked for mercy and volunteered to join the Order at once. Handing him the money, the Patriarch said, "You had better not remain here, lest my followers should do you harm. Come to see me in disguise some other time, and I will take good care of you."
As directed, Zhang ran away the same night. Subsequently, he joined the Order ubder a certain Bhikkhu. Upon being fully ordained, proved himself to be a very diligent monk.
One day, recollecting what the Patriarch had said, he took the long journey to see him and to tender him homage. "Why do you come so late?" asked the Patriarch. "I have been thinking of you all the time."
"Since that day you so graciously pardoned my crime," said Zhang, "I have become a Bhikkhu and have studied Buddhism diligently. Yet I find it difficult to requite you adequately unless I can show my gratitude by spreading the Law for the deliverance of sentient beings. In studying the Maha Parinirvana Sutra, which I read very often, I cannot understand the meaning of 'Eternal' and 'Not Eternal'. Will you, Sir, kindly give me a short explanation."
"What is not eternal is the Buddha-nature," replied the Patriarch, "and what is eternal is the discriminating mind together with all meritorious and demeritorious Dharmas."
"Your explanation, Sir, contradicts the Sutra," said Zhang.
"I dare not, since I inherit the 'Heart-Seal' of Lord Buddha," replied the Patriarch.
"According to the Sutra," said Zhang, "the Buddha-nature is eternal, while all meritorious and demeritorious Dharmas, including the Bodhi-citta (the Wisdom-heart) are not eternal. As you hold otherwise, is this not a contradiction? Your explanation has now intensified my doubts and perplexities."
"On one occasion," replied the Patriarch, "I had Bhikkhuni Wu jin-Zang recite to me the whole book of the Maha Parinirvana Sutra, so that I could explain it to her. Every word and every meaning I explained on that occasion agreed with the text. As to the explanation I give you now, it likewise differs not from the text."
"As my capacity for understanding is a poor one," observed Zhang, "will you kindly explain to me more fully and more clearly."
"Don't you understand?" said the Patriarch. "If Buddha-nature is eternal, it would be of no use to talk about meritorious and demeritorious Dharmas; and until the end of a Kalpa no one would arouse the Bodhi-citta. Therefore, when I say 'Not-Eternal' it is exactly what Lord Buddha meant for 'Truly Eternal'. Again, if all Dharmas are not eternal, then every thing or object would have a nature of its own (i.e., positive essence) to suffer death and birth. In that case, it would mean that the Essence of Mind which is truly eternal does not pervade everywhere. Therefore when I say 'Eternal' it is exactly what Lord Buddha meant by 'Truly Not-Eternal'.
"Because ordinary men and heretics believe in 'heretical eternalism' (i.e., they believe in the eternity of soul and of the world), and because Sravakas (aspirants to arhatship) mistake the eternity of Nirvana as something not eternal, eight upside-down notions arise. In order to refute these one-sided views, Lord Buddha preached exoterically in the Maha Parinirvana Sutra the 'Ultimate Doctrine' of Buddhist teaching, i.e., true eternity, true happiness, true self and true purity.
"In following slavishly the wording of the Sutra, you have ignored the spirit of the text. In assuming that what perishes is non-eternal and that what is fixed and immutable is eternal, you have misinterpreted Lord Buddha's dying instruction (contained in the Maha Parinirvana Sutra) which is perfect, profound, and complete. You may read the Sutra a thousand times but you will get no benefit out of it."
All of a sudden Zhang awoke to full enlightenment, and submitted the following stanza to the Patriarch:--
In order to refute the bigoted belief of 'Non-eternity'
Lord Buddha preached the 'Eternal Nature'.
He who does not know that such preaching is only a skilful device
May be likened to the child who picks up pebbles and calls them gems.
Without effort on my part
The Buddha-nature manifests itself.
This is due neither to the instruction of my teacher
Nor to any attainment of my own.
"You have now thoroughly realized (the Essence of Mind)," commended the Patriarch, "and hereafter you should name yourself Zhi Che (to realize thoroughly)." Zhi Che thanked the Patriarch, made obeisance, and departed.
(Note. - The Buddha's object is to get rid of bigoted belief in any form. He would preach 'Non-eternity' to believers of Eternalism; and preach 'neither Eternity nor Non-eternity' to those who believe in both.)
A thirteen-year-old boy named Shen Hui, who was
born of a Gao family of Xiang Yang, came from Yu Quan Monastery to tender homage
to the Patriarch.
"My learned friend," said the Patriarch, "it must be hard for you to undertake such a long journey. But can you tell me what is the 'fundamental principle'? If you can, you know the owner (i.e., the Essence of Mind). Try
to say something, please."
"Non-attachment is the fundamental principle, and to know the owner is to realize (the Essence of Mind)," replied Shen Hui.
"This Samanera (novice) is fit for nothing but to talk loosely," reproved the Patriarch.
Thereupon Shen Hui asked the Patriarch, "In your meditation, Sir, do you see (your Essence of Mind) or not?"
Striking him three blows with his staff, the Patriarch asked him whether he felt pain or not. "Painful and not painful," replied Shen Hui. "I see and I see not," retorted the Patriarch.
"How is it that you see and see not?" asked Shen Hui.
"What I see is my own faults," replied the Patriarch. "What I do not see is the good, the evil, the merit and the demerit of others. That is why I see and I see not. Now tell me what you mean by 'painful and not painful'. If you feel no pain, you would be as a piece of wood or stone. On the other hand, should you feel pain, and anger of hatred is thereby aroused, you would be in the same position as an ordinary man.
"The 'Seeing' and 'not Seeing' you referred to are a pair of opposites; while 'painful' and 'not painful' belong to that category of Dharma which becomes and ceases (i.e., Samskrita Dharma, conditioned or caused elements). Without having realized your own Essence of Mind, you dare to hoodwink others."
Shen Hui apologized, made obeisance, and thanked the Patriarch for his instruction.
Addressing him again the Patriarch said, "If you are under delusion and cannot realize your Essence of Mind, you should seek the advice of a pious and learned friend. When your mind is enlightened, you will know the Essence of Mind, and then you may tread the Path the right way. Now you are under delusion, and do not know your Essence of Mind. Yet you dare to ask whether I know my Essence of Mind or not. If I do, I realize it myself, but the fact that I know it cannot help you from being under delusion. Similarly, if you know your Essence of Mind your knowing would be of no use to me. Instead of asking others, why not see it for yourself and know it for yourself?"
Making obeisance more than a hundred times, Shen Hui again expressed regret and asked the Patriarch to forgive him. (Henceforth) he worked diligently as the Patriarch's attendant.
Addressing the assembly one day, the Patriarch said, "I have an article which has no head, no name nor appellation, no front and no back. Do any of you know it?"
Stepping out from the crowd, Shen Hui replied, "It is the source of all Buddhas, and the Buddha-nature of Shen Hui."
"I have told you already that it is without name and appellation, and yet you call it 'Source of Buddhas' and 'Buddha-nature'," reproved the Patriarch. "Even if you confine yourself in a mat shed for further study (as is the wont of the Bhikkhus), you will be a Dhyana scholar of secondhand knowledge only (i.e., knowledge from books and verbal authority instead of Knowledge obtained intuitively).
After the death of the Patriarch, Shen Hui left for Loyang, where he spread widely the teaching of the Sudden School. The popular work entitled 'An Explicit Treatise on Dhyana Teaching' was written by him. He is generally known by the name Dhyana Master He Ze (the name of his monastery).
Seeing that many questions were put to him in bad faith by followers of various Schools, and that a great number of such questioners had gathered around him, the Patriarch addressed them out of compassion as follows:--
"A treader of the Path should do away with all thoughts, good as well as evil ones. It is merely as an expedient that the Essence of Mind is so called; it cannot really be named by any name. This 'non-dual nature' is called the 'true nature', upon which all Dharma systems of teaching are based. One should realize the Essence of Mind as soon as one is spoken to about it."
Upon hearing this, every one made obeisance and asked the Patriarch to allow them to be his disciples.
Chapter IX. Royal Patronage
An edict dated the 15th day of the first Moon of the first year of Shen Long, issued by the Empress Dowager Ze Tian and the Emperor Zhong Zung ran as follows:--
"Since we invited Grand Masters Hui An and Shen Xiu to stay in the palace to receive our offerings, we have studied the 'Buddha Vehicle' under them whenever we could find time after attending to our imperial duties. Out of sheer modesty, these two Masters recommended that we should seek the advice of Dhyana Master Hui Neng of the South, who has esoterically inherited the Dharma and the robe of the Fifth Patriarch as well as the 'Heart Seal' of Lord Buddha.
"We hereby send Eunuch Xue Jian as the courier of this Edict to invite His Holiness to come, and trust His Holiness will graciously favor us with an early visit to the capital, etc., etc."
On the ground of illness, the Patriarch sent a reply to decline the royal invitation and asked to be allowed to spend his remaining years in the "forest'.
"Dhyana experts in the capital," said Xue Jian (when interviewing the Patriarch), "unanimously advise people to meditate in the sitting position to attain Samadhi. They say that this is the only way to realize the Norm, and that it is impossible for anyone to obtain liberation without going through meditation exercises. May I know your way of teaching, Sir?"
"The Norm is to be realized by the mind," replied the Patriarch, "and does not depend on the sitting position. The Vajracchedika (Diamond) Sutra says that it is wrong 'for anyone to assert that the Tathagata comes or goes, sits or reclines.' Why? Because the Tathagata's 'Dhyana of Purity' implies neither coming from anywhere nor going to anywhere, neither becoming nor causing to be. All Dharmas are calm and void, and such is the Tathagata's 'Seat of Purity'. Strictly speaking, there is even no such thing as 'attainment'; why then should we bother ourselves about the sitting position?"
"Upon my return," said Xue Jian, "Their Majesties will certainly ask me to make a report. Will you, Sir, kindly give me some essential hints on your teaching, so that I can make them known not only to Their Majesties, but also to all Buddhist scholars in the capital? As the flame of one lamp may kindle hundreds or thousands of others, so the ignorant will be enlightened (by your teaching), and light will produce light without end."
"The Norm implies neither light nor darkness," replied the Patriarch. "Light and darkness signify the idea of alternation. (It is not correct to say) that light will produce light without end, because there is an end, since light and darkness are a pair of opposites. The Vimalakirti Nirdesa Sutra says, 'The Norm has no comparison, since it is not a relative term'."
"Light signifies wisdom," argued Xue Jian, "and darkness signifies Klesa (defilement). If a treader of the Path does not break up Klesa with the force of wisdom, how is he going to free himself from the 'wheel of birth
and death', which is beginningless?"
"Klesa is Bodhi," rejoined the Patriarch. "The two are the same and not different. To break up Klesa with wisdom is the teaching of the Sravaka (aspirant to Arhatship) School and the Pratyeka Buddha School, the followers of which are of the 'Goat Vehicle' and 'Deer Vehicle' standard respectively. To those of superior mental dispositions such teaching would be of no use at all."
"What then, is the teaching of the Mahayana School?" asked Xue Jian.
"From the point of view of ordinary men," replied the Patriarch, "enlightenment and ignorance are two separate things. Wise men who realize thoroughly the Essence of Mind know that they are of the same nature. This same nature or non-dual nature is what is called the 'real nature', which neither decreases in the case of ordinary men and ignorant persons, nor increases in the case of the enlightened sage; which is not disturbed in a state of annoyance, nor calm in a state of Samadhi. It is neither eternal nor non-eternal; it neither goes nor comes; it is not to be found in the exterior, nor in the interior, nor in the space between the two. It is above existence and non-existence; its nature and its phenomena are always in a state of 'Thusness'; it is permanent and immutable. Such is the Norm."
Xue Jian asked, "You say that it is above existence and non-existence. How then do you differentiate it from the teaching of the heretics who teach the same thing?"
"In the teaching of the heretics," replied the Patriarch, "'non-existence' means the end of 'existence', while 'existence' is used in contrast with 'non-existence'. What they mean by 'non-existence' is not actually annihilation and what they call 'existence' does not really exist. What I mean by 'above existence and non-existence' is this; intrinsically it exists not, and at the present moment it is not annihilated. Such is the difference between my teaching and that of the heretics.
"If you wish to know the essential points of my teaching, you should free yourself from all thoughts, good ones as well as bad; then your mind will be in a state of purity, calm and serene all the time, and its usefulness as manifold as the grains of sand in the Ganges."
The preaching of the Patriarch suddenly awoke Xue Jian to full enlightenment. He made obeisance and bid the Patriarch adieu. Upon his return to the palace, he reported what the Patriarch had said to Their Majesties.
In that same year, on the third day of the ninth Moon, an edict was issued commending the Patriarch in the following terms:--
"On the ground of old age and poor health, the Patriarch declined our invitation to come to the capital. Devoting his life to the practice of Buddhism for our benefit, he is indeed the 'field of merit' of the nation. Like Vimalakirti, who recuperated in Vaisali, he widely spreads the Mahayana teaching, transmits the doctrine of the Dhyana School, and expounds the system of 'Non-dual' Law.
"Through the medium of Xue Jian, to whom the Patriarch has imparted the 'Buddha-knowledge', we are fortunate enough to have a chance to understand for ourselves the teaching of the Supreme Vehicle. This must be due to our accumulated merits and our 'root of goodness' planted in past lives; otherwise, we should not be the contemporaries of His Holiness. "
In appreciation of the graciousness of the Patriarch, we present to him herewith a Mo Na robe  and a crystal bowl. The Prefect of Shao Chou is hereby ordered to renovate his monastery and to convert his old residence into a temple which is to be named 'Guo En' (State Munificence). By royal favor, etc., etc."
Chapter X. His Final Instructions
One day the Patriarch sent for his disciples, Fa Hai, Zhi Cheng, Fa Da, Shen Hui, Zhi Chang, Zhi Tong, Zhi Che, Zhi Dao, Fa Zhen, Fa Ru, etc., and addressed them as follows:--
"You men are different from the common lot. After my entering into Parinirvana, each of you will be the Dhyana Master of a certain district. I am, therefore, going to give you some hints on preaching, so that when doing so, you may keep up the tradition of our School.
"First mention the three categories of Dharmas, and then the thirty-six 'pairs of opposites' in the activities (of the Essence of Mind). Then teach how to avoid the two extremes of 'coming in' or 'going out'. In all preaching, stray not from the Essence of Mind. Whenever a man puts a question to you, answer him in antonyms, so that a 'pair of opposites' will be formed. (For example), 'coming' and 'going' are the reciprocal cause of each other; when the interdependence of the two is entirely done away with there would be, in the absolute sense, neither 'coming' nor 'going'.
"The three categories of Dharmas are:--
Ayatanas (places or spheres of meeting),
Dhatus (factors of consciousness).
The five Skandhas are:--
Rupa (matter), Vedana (sensation), Samjna (perception), Samskara (tendencies
of mind), and Vijnana (consciousness).
The twelve Ayatanas are:--
Six Sense Objects (external) Six Sense Organs (internal)
Object of sight Organ of sight
Object of hearing Organ of hearing
Object of smell Organ of smell
Object of taste Organ of taste
Object of touch Organ of touch
Object of thought Organ of thought
The eighteen Dhatus are:
The six sense objects, six sense organs and six recipient vijnanas.
"Since the Essence of Mind is the embodiment of all Dharmas, it is called the Repository Consciousness (Alaya). But as soon as the process of thinking or reasoning is started, the Essence of Mind is transmuted into (various) vijnanas. When the six recipient vijnanas come into being, they perceive the six sense objects through the six 'doors' (of sense). Thus, the functioning of the eighteen dhatus derive their impetus from the Essence of Mind. Whether they function with an evil tendency or a good one depends upon what mood -- good or evil -- the Essence of Mind is in. Evil functioning is that of a common man, while good functioning is that of a Buddha. It is because there are 'pairs of opposites' inherent in the Essence of Mind that the functioning of the eighteen dhatus derive their impetus.
"The thirty-six 'Pairs of opposites' are:--
Five external inanimate ones: Heaven and earth, sun and moon, light and darkness, positive element and negative element, fire and water.
Twelve Dharmalaksana (phenomenal objects): Speech and Dharma, affirmation and negation, matter and non-matter, form and without form, taints (asravas) and absence of taint, matter and void, motion and quiescence, purity and impurity, ordinary people and sages, the Sangha and the laity, the aged and the young, the big and the small.
Nineteen pairs denoting the functioning of the Essence of Mind: Long and short, good and evil, infatuated and enlightened, ignorant and wise, perturbed and calm, merciful and wicked, abstinent (Sila) and indulgent, straight and crooked, full and empty, steep and level, Klesa and Bodhi, permanent and transient, compassionate and cruel, happy and angry, generous and mean, forward and backward, existent and non-existent, Dharmakaya and physical body, Sambhogakaya and Nirmanakaya.
"He who knows how to use these thirty-six pairs realizes the all-pervading principle which goes through the teaching of all Sutras. Whether he is 'coming in' or 'going out', he is able to avoid the two extremes.
"In the functioning of the Essence of Mind and in conversation with others, outwardly we should free ourselves from attachment to objects, whence come contact with objects; and inwardly, with regard to the teaching of the 'Void,' we should free ourselves from the idea of Nihilism. To believe in the reality of objects or in Nihilism would result in deep-rooted fallacious views or intensified ignorance respectively.
"A bigoted believer in Nihilism blasphemes against the Sutras on the ground that literature (i.e., the Buddhist Scriptures) is unnecessary (for the study of Buddhism). If that were so, then neither would it be right for us
to speak, since speech forms the substance of literature. He would also argue that in the direct method (literally, the straight Path) literature is discarded. But does he appreciate that the two words 'is discarded' are also literature? Upon hearing others speak of Sutras, such a man would criticize the speakers as 'addicted to scriptural authority'. It is bad enough for him to confine this mistaken notion to himself, but in addition, he blasphemes against the Buddhist scriptures. You men should know that it is a serious offence to speak ill of the Sutras, for the consequence is grave indeed!
"He who believes in the reality of outward objects tries to seek the form (from without) by practicing a certain system of doctrine. He may furnish spacious lecture-halls for the discussion of Realism or Nihilism, but such a man will not for numerous Kalpas realize the Essence of Mind.
"We should tread the Path according to the teaching of the Law, and not keep our mind in a state of indolence, thereby creating obstacles to the understanding of the Norm. To preach or to hear the Law without practicing it would give occasion for the arising of heretical views. Hence, we should tread the Path according to the teaching of the Law, and in the dissemination of the Dharma we should not be influenced by the concept of the reality of objects.
"If you understand what I say, and make use of it in preaching, in practice, and in your daily life, you will grasp the distinguishing feature of our School.
"Whenever a question is put to you, answer it in the negative if it is an affirmative one; and vice versa. If you are asked about an ordinary man, tell the enquirer something about a sage; and vice versa. From the correlation or interdependence of the two opposites the doctrine of the 'Mean' may be grasped. If all other questions are answered in this manner, you will not be far away from the truth.
"(Let me explain more fully). Suppose someone asks you what is darkness, answer him thus: Light is the Hetu (root condition) and darkness is the pratyaya (Conditions which bring about any given phenomenon). When light disappears, darkness is the consequence. The two are in contrast to each other. From the correlation or interdependence of the two the doctrine of the 'Mean' arises.
"In this way all other questions are to be answered. To ensure the perpetuation of the aim and object of our School in the transmission of the Dharma to your successors, this instruction should be handed down from one generation to another."
In the 7th Moon of the year of Ren Zi, the first year of Tai Ji or Yan He Era, the Patriarch sent some of his disciples to Xin Zhou to have a shrine (stupa) built within the Guo En monastery, with instructions that the work should be completed as soon as possible. Next year, when summer was well-nigh spent, the stupa was duly completed.
On the 1st day of the 7th Moon, the Patriarch assembled his disciples and addressed them as follows:--
"I am going to leave this world by the 8th Moon. Should you have any doubts (on the doctrine) please ask me in time, so that I can clear them up for you. You may find no one to teach you after my departure."
The sad news moved Fa Hai and other disciples to tears. Shen Hui, on the other hand, remained unperturbed. Commending him, the Patriarch said, "Young Master Shen Hui is the only one here who has attained that state of mind which sees no difference in good or evil, knows neither sorrow nor happiness, and is unmoved by praise or blame. After so many years' training in this mountain, what progress have you made? What are you crying for now? Are you worrying for me because I do not know whither I shall go? But I do know; otherwise I could not tell you beforehand what will happen. What makes you cry is that you don't know whither I am going. If you did, there would be no occasion for you to cry. In Suchness (Tathata) there is neither coming nor going, neither becoming nor cessation. Sit down, all of you, and let me read you a stanza on reality and illusion, and on Motion and Quietude. Read it, and your opinion will accord with mine. Practice it, and you will grasp the aim and object of our School."
The assembly made obeisance and asked the Patriarch to let them hear the stanza, which read as follows:--
In all things there is nothing real,
And so we should free ourselves from the concept of the reality of objects.
He who believes in the reality of objects
Is bound by this very concept, which is entirely illusive.
He who realizes the 'Reality' (i.e.,Essence of Mind) within himself
Knows that the 'True Mind' is to be sought apart from false phenomena.
If one's mind is bound by illusive phenomena
Where is Reality to be found, when all phenomena are unreal?
Sentient beings are mobile;
Inanimate objects are stationary.
He who trains himself by exercise to be motionless
(Gets no benefit) other than making himself as still as an inanimate object.
Should you the find true type Immobility
There is Immobility within Activity.
Immobility alone (like that of inanimate objects) is immobility (and not Dhyana),
And in inanimate objects the seed of Buddhahood is not to be found.
He who is adept in the discrimination of various Dharmalaksana
Abides immovably in the 'First Principle' (Nirvana).
Thus are all things to be perceived,
And this is the functioning of Tathata (Suchness).
Treaders of the Path,
Exert yourself and take heed
That as followers of the Mahayana School
You do not embrace that sort of knowledge
Which binds you to the wheel of birth and death.
With those who are sympathetic
Let us have discussion on Buddhism.
As for those whose point of view differs from ours
Let us treat them politely and thus make them happy.
(But) disputes are alien to our School,
For they are incompatible with its doctrine.
To be bigoted and to argue with others in disregard of this rule
Is to subjects one's Essence of Mind to the bitterness of mundane existence.
Having heard this stanza, the assembly made obeisance in a body. In accordance with the wishes of the Patriarch, they concentrated their minds to put the stanza into actual practice, and refrained from religious controversy.
Seeing that the Patriarch would pass away in the near future, the head Monk, Fa Hai, after prostrating himself twice asked, "Sir, upon your entering Nirvana, who will be the inheritor of the robe and the Dharma?"
"All my sermons," replied the Patriarch, "from the time I preached in Da Fan monastery, may be copied out for circulation in a volume to be entitled 'Sutra Spoken on the High Seat of the Treasure of the Law'. (Dharmaratha) Take good care of it and hand it down from one generation to another for the salvation of all sentient beings. He who preaches in accordance with its teachings preaches the Orthodox Dharma.
"So much for the Dharma. As to transmission of the robe, this practice is to be discontinued. Why? Because you all have implicit faith in my teaching, and being free from all doubts you are able to carry out the lofty object of our School. Furthermore, according to the implied meaning of the stanza by Bodhidharma, the first Patriarch, on Dharma transmission, the robe need not be handed down to posterity. The stanza reads:--
The object of my coming to this land (i.e., China)
Is to transmit the Dharma for the deliverance of those under delusion.
In five petals the flowers will be complete.
Thereafter, the fruit will come to bearing naturally.
The Patriarch added, "Learned Audience, purify your minds and listen to me. He who wishes to attain the All-knowing Knowledge of a Buddha should know the 'Samadhi of Specific Object' and the 'Samadhi of Specific Mode'. In all circumstances we should free ourselves from attachment to objects, and our attitude towards them should be neutral and indifferent. Let neither success nor failure, neither profit nor loss, worry us. Let us be calm and serene, modest and accommodating, simple and dispassionate. Such is the 'Samadhi of Specific Object'. On all occasions, whether we are standing, walking, sitting or reclining, let us be absolutely straightforward. Then, remaining in our sanctuary, and without the least movement, we shall virtually be in the Kingdom of Pure Land. Such is the 'Samadhi of Specific Mode'.
"He who is complete with these two forms of Samadhi may be likened to the ground with seeds sown therein. Covered up in the mud, the seeds receive nourishment therefrom and grow until the fruit comes into bearing.
"My preaching to you now may be likened to the seasonable rain which brings moisture to a vast area of land. The Buddha-nature within you may be likened to the seed which, being moistened by the rain, will grow rapidly. He who carries out my instructions will certainly attain Bodhi. He who follows my teaching will certainly attain the superb fruit (of Buddhahood). Listen to my stanza:--
Buddha-seeds latent in our mind
Will sprout upon the coming of the all-pervading rain.
The 'flower' of the doctrine having been intuitively grasped,
One is bound to reap the fruit of Enlightenment.
Then he added, "The Dharma is non-dual and so is the mind. The Path is pure and above all forms. I warn you not to use those exercises for meditation on quietude or for keeping the mind a blank. The mind is by nature pure, so there is nothing for us to crave for or give up. Do your best, each of you, and go wherever circumstances lead."
Thereupon the disciples made obeisance and withdrew.
On the 8th day of the 7th Moon, the Patriarch
gave a sudden order to his disciples to get ready a boat for his going back
to Xin Zhou (his native place). In a body they entreated him earnestly and pitifully
"It is only natural that I should go," said the Patriarch, "for death is the inevitable outcome of birth, and even the various Buddhas who appear in this world have to go through an earthly death before entering Parinirvana. There can be no exception for my physical body, which must be laid down somewhere."
"After your visit to Xin Zhou," entreated the assembly, "please return here sooner or later."
"Fallen leaves go back to where the root is, and when I first came, mouth I had not," replied the Patriarch.
Then they asked, "To whom, Sir, do you transmit the Womb of the Dharma Eye?"
"Men of principle will get it, and those who are mind-less will understand it."
They further asked, "Will any calamity befall you hereafter?"
"Five or six years after my death," replied the Patriarch, "a man will come to cut off my head. I have made the following prophecy of which please take note:--
To the top of the parent's head, offerings are made,
For the mouth must be fed.
When the calamity of 'Man' befalls,
Yang and Liu will be the officials.
He added, "Seventy years after my departure two Bodhisattvas from the East, one a layman and the other a monk, will preach contemporaneously, disseminate the Law widely, establish our School on a firm basis, renovate our monasteries and transmit the doctrine to numerous promising successors."
"Can you let us know for how many generations the Dharma has been transmitted, from the appearance of the earliest Buddha up to now?" asked the disciples.
"The Buddhas who have appeared in this world are too many to be counted," replied the Patriarch. "But let us start from the last seven Buddhas. They are:--
Of the last Kalpa, the Alamkarakalpa: Buddha Vipassin, Buddha Sikhin, Buddha Vessabhu.
Of the present Kalpa (the Bhadrakalpa): Buddha Kakusundha, Buddha Konagamana, Buddha Kassapa, Buddha Gautama (Sakyamuni).
"From the Buddha Sakyamuni, the Law was transmitted to the:
1st Patriarch Arya Mahakasyapa (It was then in turn transmitted to)
2nd Patriarch Arya Ananda
3rd Patriarch Arya Sanavasa
4th Patriarch Arya Upagupta
5th Patriarch Arya Dhritaka
6th Patriarch Arya Michaka
7th Patriarch Arya Vasumitra
8th Patriarch Arya Buddhanandi
9th Patriarch Arya Buddhamitra
10th Patriarch Arya Parsva
11th Patriarch Arya Punyayasas
12th Patriarch Bodhisattva Asvaghosa
13th Patriarch Arya Kapimala
14th Patriarch Bodhisattva Nagarjuna
15th Patriarch Kanadeva
16th Patriarch Arya Rahulata
17th Patriarch Arya Sanghanandi
18th Patriarch Arya Sangayasas
19th Patriarch Arya Kumarata
20th Patriarch Arya Jayata
21st Patriarch Arya Vasubandhu
22nd Patriarch Arya Manura
23rd Patriarch Arya Haklenayasas
24th Patriarch Arya Sinha
25th Patriarch Arya Vasiastia
26th Patriarch Arya Punyamitra
27th Patriarch Arya Prajnatara
28th Patriarch Arya Bodhidharma (the first Patriarch in China)
29th Patriarch Grand Master Hui Ke
30th Patriarch Grand Master Seng Can
31st Patriarch Grand Master Dao Xin
32nd Patriarch Grand Master Hung Ren
And I am the 33rd Patriarch (i.e.,the 6th Patriarch in China). Thus, by pupillary, the Dharma was handed down from one Patriarch to another. Hereafter, you men should in turn transmit it to posterity by passing it on from one generation to another, so that the tradition may be maintained.
On the 3rd day of the 8th Moon of the year of
Kui Chou, the second Year of Xian Tian Era (A.D. 713), after taking food at
the Guo En Monastery, the Patriarch addressed his disciples as follows:--
"Please sit down, for I am going to say good-bye."
Thereupon Fa Hai spoke to the Patriarch, "Sir, will you please leave to posterity definite instructions whereby people under delusion may realize the Buddha nature."
"It is not impossible," replied the Patriarch, "for these men to realize the Buddha-nature, provided they acquaint themselves with the nature of ordinary sentient beings. But to seek Buddhahood without such knowledge would be in vain even if one shall spend aeons of time in the search.
"Now, let me show you how to get acquainted with the nature of the sentient beings within your mind, and thereby realize the Buddha-nature latent in you. Knowing Buddha means nothing else than knowing sentient beings, for the latter ignore that they are potential Buddhas, whereas a Buddha sees no difference between himself and other beings. When sentient beings realize the Essence of Mind, they are Buddhas. If a Buddha is under delusion in his Essence of Mind, he is then an ordinary being. Purity in the Essence of Mind makes ordinary beings Buddhas. Impurity in the Essence of Mind reverts even a Buddha to an ordinari being. When your mind is crooked or depraved, you are ordinary beings with Buddha-nature latent in you. On the other hand, when you direct your mind to purity and straightforwardness even for one moment, you are a Buddha.
"Within our mind there is a Buddha, and that Buddha within is the real Buddha. If Buddha is not to be sought within our mind, where shall we find the real Buddha? Doubt not that Buddha is within your mind, apart from which nothing can exist. Since all things or phenomena are the production of our mind, the Sutra says, 'When mental activity begins, various things come into being; when mental activity ceases, they too cease to exist.' In parting from you, let me leave you a stanza entitled 'The Real Buddha of the Essence of Mind'. People of future generations who understand its meaning will realize the Essence of Mind and attain Buddhahood. It reads:--
The Essence of Mind or Tathata (Suchness) is the real Buddha,
While heretical views and the three poisonous elements are Mara.
Enlightened by Right Views, we call forth the Buddha within us.
When our nature is dominated by the three poisonous elements,
We are said to be possessed by Mara;
But when Right Views eliminate from our mind these poisonous elements,
Mara will be transformed into a real Buddha.
The Dharmakaya, the Sambhogakaya and the Nirmanakaya --
These three Bodies emanate from one (i.e., the Essence of Mind).
He who is able to realize this fact intuitively
Has sown the seed, and will reap the fruit of Enlightenment.
It is from the Nirmanakaya that our 'Pure Nature' emanates;
Within the former the latter is to be found.
Guided by 'Pure Nature,' the Nirmanakaya treads the Right Path,
And will some day attain to the Sambhogakaya, perfect and infinite.
'Pure Nature' is an outgrowth of our sensual instincts;
By getting rid of sensuality, we attain the Pure Dharmakaya.
When our temperament is such that we are no longer the slaves of the five sense-objects,
And when we have realized the Essence of Mind even for one moment only, then Truth is known to us.
Should we be so fortunate as to be the followers of the Sudden School in this life,
In a sudden we shall see the Bhagavat of our Essence of Mind.
He who seeks the Buddha (from without) by practicing certain doctrines
Knows not where the real Buddha is to be found.
He who is able to realize the Truth within his own mind
Has sown the seed of Buddhahood.
He who has not realized the Essence of Mind and seeks the Buddha from without
Is a fool motivated by wrong desires.
I have hereby left to posterity the teaching of the Sudden School
For the salvation of all sentient beings who care to practice it.
Hear me, ye future disciples!
Your time will have been badly wasted if you neglect to put this teaching into practice.
Having recited the stanza, he added, "Take good care of yourselves. After my passing away, do not follow the worldly tradition, and cry or lament. Neither should messages of condolence be accepted, nor mourning be worn. These things are contrary to the Orthodox Teaching, and he who does them is not my disciple. What you should do is to know your own mind and realize your own Buddha-nature, which neither rests nor moves, neither becomes nor ceases to be, neither comes nor goes, neither affirms nor denies, neither stays nor departs. Lest your mind should be under delusion and thus fail to
catch my meaning, I repeat this to you to enable you to realize your Essence of Mind. After my death, if you carry out my instructions and practice them accordingly, my being away from you will make no difference. On the other hand, if you go against my teaching, no benefit would be obtained, even if I
continued to stay here."
Then he uttered another stanza:--
Imperturbable and serene, the ideal man practices no virtue.
Self-possessed and dispassionate, he commits no sin.
Calm and silent, he gives up seeing and hearing.
Even and upright, his mind abides nowhere.
Having uttered the stanza, he sat reverently until the third watch of the night. Then he said abruptly to his disciples, "I am going now," and in a sudden passed away. A peculiar fragrance pervaded his room, and a lunar rainbow appeared which seemed to join up earth and sky. The trees in the wood turned white, and birds and beasts cried mournfully.
In the 11th Moon of that year the question of the Patriarch's resting place gave rise to a dispute among the government officials of Guang Zhou, Shao Zhou and Xin Zhou, each party being anxious to have the remains of the Patriarch removed to its own district. The Patriarch's disciples, together with other Bhikkhus and laymen, took part in the controversy. Being unable to come to any settlement among themselves, they burnt incense and prayed to the Patriarch to indicate by the direction of the drift of the smoke the place which he himself would choose. As the smoke turned directly to Cao Xi, the shrine (in which the body was kept) together with the inherited robe and bowl was accordingly taken back there on the 13th day of the 11th Moon.
Next year, on the 25th day of the 7th Moon, the body was taken out of the shrine, and Fang Bian, a disciple of the Patriarch, plastered it with incense-clay. Recollecting the Patriarch's prediction that someone would take away his head, the disciples, as a matter of precaution, strengthened his neck by wrapping it with iron sheets and lacquered cloth before the body was placed in the stupa. Suddenly, a flash of white light rushed out from the stupa, went straight towards the sky, and did not disperse until three days after. The incident was duly reported to the Throne by the officials of Shao Zhou District. By imperial order, tablets were erected to record the life of the Patriarch.
The Patriarch inherited the robe when he was 24, had his hair shaved (i.e., was ordained) at 39, and died at the age of 76. For thirty-seven years he preached for the benefit of all sentient beings. Forty-three of his disciples inherited the Dharma, and by his express consent became his successors, while those who attained enlightenment and thereby got out of the rut of the ordinary man were too numerous to be counted.
The robe transmitted by Bodhidharma as the insignia of Patriarchship, the Mo Na robe and the crystal bowl presented by Emperor Zhong Zong, the Patriarch's statue made by Fang Bian, and other sacred articles, were put in charge of the keeper of the stupa. They were to be kept permanently in Bao Lin Monastery to guard the welfare of the temple. The Sutra spoken by the Patriarch was published and circulated to make known the principles and objects of the Dharma School. All these steps were taken for the prosperity of the 'Three Gems' (i.e., Buddha, Law, and Order) as well as for the general welfare of all sentient beings.
(End of the Sutra)
Sutra of Recollection of the Three Jewels
Salutations to the Omniscient One!
The Blessed Enlightened Ones, the ones who have Gone to Suchness, are the annihilators
of the adversaries, the perfectly and fully enlightened ones, possessors of wisdom and its
foundations, and have gone to Bliss; they are the knowers of the world and the captains of
the discipliners of beings. These are the surpassable teachers of the gods and men, the
Blessed Enlightened Ones.
The ones who have Gone to Suchness are the direct cause of merits, their basic merits
unfailing; they are adorned with patience and are the foundations of the treasures of
merits; the ones whose bodies are adorned with noble characteristics and blossoms with
the flowers of noble marks, their behaviors balanced and conforming, free of displeasure
if sighted and pleasing to those with faith and devotion; their wisdom is unconfounded
and their powers invincible. They are the teachers of all beings and the fathers of the
enlightened heroic ones; the sovereigns of all exalted beings and the pilots of the
wayfarers to the city of liberation; they have boundless wisdom, unfathomable courage,
perfectly pure speech, melodious intonation, and incompable enlightened bodies; their
bodies ever wanting to behold. They are untouched by the desire realm, completely
untouched by the form realm, unmixed with the formless realm and free from all pains;
completely freed from the aggregates; they have discarded the elements, disciplined
their faculties; and their bondage utterly cut; they are liberated from anxieties, liberated
from existence, have crossed the river and perfected wisdom; they are the ones who
dwell not in the state of liberation from sorrow; they reside in the state of perfect
culmination and abide in the realm where they behold all sentient beings.
These are the perfect and superior qualities of the Blessed Enlightened Ones.
The noble doctrine is virtuous in the beginning, virtuous in the middle and virtuous in the
end, good in sense, good in wording, unmixed, complete, wholly pure, and completely
perfected. This doctrine well taught by the Blessed One is the realization of the truth,
free of afflictions, free of interruption at all times, well praised, meaningful to behold,
subject to the wise one's self realization. It is well based on the doctrine of disciplines
spoken by the Blessed One; it certainly is the path of renunciation and leads to the Fully
Enlightened state; it lacks contradictions and is complete; it has the foundation and has
stopped the transmigrations.
The assembly of the great vehicle dwells properly, cognizantly, uprightly and
harmoniously. They are the worthy object of salutations and homage; object
of wealth of virtues, perfecter of alms, and the object of gifts: greatly and
always are they object of gifts.
The Great Compassion Dharani
Namo Ratnatrayaya Namo Aryavalokitesvaraya Bodhisattvaya Mahasattvaya
Mahakarunikaya Om Sarva Abhayah Sunadhasya Namo Sukrtvemama
Aryavalokiteshvaragarbha Namo Nilakantha Siri Mahabhadrashrame
Sarvathasubham Ajeyam Sarvasattvanamavarga Mahadhatu Tadyatha Om
Avalokelokite Kalate Hari Mahabodhisattva Sarva Sarva Mala Mala Masi
Mahahrdayam Kuru Kuru Karmam Kuru Kuru Vijayati Mahavijayati Dharadhara
Dharin Suraya Chala Chala Mama Bhramara Muktir Ehi Ehi Chinda Chinda
Harsham Prachali Basha Basham Presaya Hulu Hulu Mala Hulu Hulu Hilo
Sara Sara Siri Siri Suru Suru Bodhiya Bodhiya Bodhaya Bodhaya Maitreya
Nilakantha Dharshinina Payamama Svaha Siddhaya Svaha Maha Siddhaya
Svaha Siddhayogeshvaraya Svaha Nilakantha Svaha Varahananaya Svaha
Simhashiramukhaya Svaha Sarvamahasiddhaya Svaha Chakrasiddhaya Svaha
Padmahastya Svaha Nilakanthavikaraya Svaha Mahasishankaraya Svaha Namo
Ratnatrayaya Namo Aryavalokitesvaraya Svaha Om Siddhyantu Mantrapadaya Svaha
The Sutra of the Heart of Perfection Wisdom
The Bhagavati Prajnaparamita Hridaya
Salutions to the mother of the Buddhas of the
threefold time, the Wisdom Gone Beyond,
inconceivable and inexpressible, like space its nature is unborn and unstopped.
Thus I have heard. Once the Blessed One was dwelling in the Royal Domain of the
Vulture Peak Mountain together with a great assembly of monks and a great assembly
of Bodhisattvas. At that time the Blessed One entered into the samadhi which examines
Dharma known as the "Profound Illumination".
Also at the time the Holy Avalokiteshvara, the Bodhisattva Mahasattva, looked upon
the profound course of the Perfection of Wisdom and beheld that the five aggregates
were empty by their own nature.
Then through the power of the Buddha, the elder Shariputra thus said to Holy
Avalokiteshvara, the Bodhisattva-Mahasattva, "How should those sons and
daughters of good lineage who wish to practice the profound course of the
Perfection of Wisdom train?"
And the Holy Avalokiteshvara, the Bodhisattva-Mahasattva replied thus to elder
Shariputra. "Shariputra, those sons and daughters of good lineage who wish to
practice the profound course of the Perfection of Wisdom should look upon it like
this: (they must) rightly see the five aggregates to be empty by their own nature.
Form is emptiness, emptiness is also form; emptiness is not different from form,
and form is also not different from emptiness; in the same way, feeling, perception,
predispositions and consciousness are empty.
Shariputra, likewise all Dharmas are empty without characteristics, unborn,
unceasing, not impure, devoid of purity, not deficient, and not complete.
Therefore, Shariputra, in emptiness there is no form, no feeling, no perception,
no predispositions, no consciousness, no eye, no ear, no nose, no tongue, no
body, no mind; no form, no sounds, no smells, no tastes, no touchables and
no objects of mind; from no eye-sphere to no mind sphere, until (arriving at)
no mind-consciousness element.
There is no ignorance, no extinction of ignorance, no extinction of ignorance,
and so forth up to no old age and death, no extinction of old age and death.
Similarly, there is no suffering, origination, cessation and path; no transcendental
knowledge, no attainment and also no non-attainment.
Therefore, Shariputra, since there is no attainment, Bodhisattvas - by relying
on the Perfection of Wisdom - are fearless through lacking obscurations of
mind; they have passed well beyond the false and have achieved Nirvana. All
the Buddhas of the three times also, having relied upon the Perfection of Wisdom,
fully awake to the unsurpassable, right and complete Enlightenment.
Therefore, the Mantra of the Perfection of Wisdom, the mantra of great knowledge,
the unsurpassable mantra, the unequalled mantra, the mantra which pacifies all
suffering, should be known as the Truth - for there is no deception. The mantra of
the Perfection of Wisdom is pronounced thus:
TADYATHA OM GATE GATE PARAGATE PARASAMGATA BODHI SVAHA
Shariputra, the profound Perfection of Wisdom should be learned in this way by the
Then the Blessed One, having arisen from that samadhi, praised the Holy
Avalokiteshvara, the Bodhisattva-Mahasattva, saying, "Good, good son
of good lineage, it is like that, like that; practicing the Profound Perfection
of Wisdom just as you have shown makes the Tathagatas rejoice."
When the Blessed One said this, the elder Shariputra, the Holy Avalokiteshvara,
the Bodhisattva-Mahasattva, the entire assembly of gods, men, asuras and
gandhavas rejoiced and praised the Blessed One.
This completes the Sutra of the Perfection of Wisdom, the Holy!
TADYATHA OM GATE GATE PARAGATE PARASAMGATE BODHI SVAHA
(Recite 3 times)
Prostrations to the Guru,
Prostrations to the Buddha,
Prostrations to the Dharma,
Prostrations to the Sangha,
Prostrations to the Great Mother, the Perfection of wisdom.
Relying upon the power and effectiveness of prostrating to you,
May we accomplish this recitation.
Just as the Lord of the gods, Shakra, previously relied upon the power and effectiveness
of reciting and reflecting upon the profound meaning of the Great Mother, the Perfection
of Wisdom, and so repelled maras and the like, likewise, I also rely upon the power and
effectiveness of reciting and reflecting upon the profound meaning of the Perfection of
Wisdom, and so may all unfavourable conditions for myself and my associates which
should be abandon be repelled (clap hands); may they be destroyed (clap hands); may
they be allayed (clap hands); may they be thoroughly allayed.
(Recite three times from "Namo" to "thoroughly allayed")
Through method, refuge and purification of the pure Mahayana,
May the activities of Mara which completely deceive sentient beings be repelled.
Three Heap Sutra
This prayer can be recited on any occasion to
purify negative karma. Recite three times in
the morning and three times in the evening.
I and all sentient beings forever
Take refuge in the Lamas,
Take refuge in the Buddhas,
Take refuge in the Dharma,
Take refuge in the Sangha.
Prostrations to the Blessed One, Tathagata, Arhat, Perfectly and
Fully Enlightened Buddha Shakyamuni.
Prostrations to Completely Vanquishing Vajra Essence.
Prostrations to Precious Radiating Light.
Prostrations to King of the Naga Lords.
Prostrations to Bravest of the Forces.
Prostrations to Glorious joy.
Prostrations to Precious Fire.
Prostrations to Precious Moonlight,
Prostrations to Meaningful to Behold.
Prostrations to Precious Moon.
Prostrations to Immaculate One.
Prostrations to Glorious Giving.
Prostrations to Purity.
Prostrations to Pure Giving.
Prostrations to God of Waters.
Prostrations to God of the God of Waters.
Prostrations to Glorious Nobility.
Prostrations to Glorious Sandalwood.
Prostrations to Limitless Dignity.
Prostrations to Glorious Light.
Prostrations to Glorious Sorrowlessness.
Prostrations to Son of Detachment.
Prostrations to Glorious Flower.
Prostrations to Tathagata Manifest Clairvoyance of
Prostrations to Tathagata Manifest Clairvoyance of
Prostrations to Glorious Wealth.
Prostrations to Glorious Mindfulness.
Prostrations to Glorious Name of Extreme Renown.
Prostrations to King Victory Banner Tipped with Power.
Prostrations to Extremely Overpowering Glory.
Prostrations to Complete Victor of the Battlefield.
Prostrations to Overpoweringly Gloriously Gone.
Prostrations to Glorious Arrangement of All Perception.
Prostrations to Glorious Overpowering with Precious Lotuses.
Prostrations to the Tathagata, Arhat, Perfectly and Fully
Enlightened Buddha, King of the Power of Mountains,
Well-Seated on a Precious Lotus.
May all these blessed Buddhas and all others dwelling in
the ten directions of the world of existence, the
Tathagatas, Arhats, perfectly and fully enlightened
Buddhas give heed to me.
In this life, and in all my lives without beginning and end,
Whatever unwholesomeness I did in each of these worldly lives
Whatever I caused others to do,
Or rejoiced in their doing.
I extorted offerings for stupas,
Offerings for the Sangha,
Offerings for the Sangha of the ten directions,
Caused others to extort,
Or rejoiced in others' extortion.
I committed the actions of the five irredeemable sins,
Caused others to commit them,
Or rejoiced in others committing them.
I completely engaged in the path of the ten unwholesome actions,
Caused others to be engaged,
Or rejoiced in others' engagement.
Obscured by these obscuring actions,
I and living beings will fall into hell,
Fall into the birthplace of animals,
Fall into the realm of hungry ghosts,
Be born in the land of barbarians,
Be born as savages,
Be born as long-lived gods,
Become one with defective senses,
Become one who holds wrong views,
Or become one whose obscuring actions displease the Buddha
when He appears.
I confess these and all others before the Blessed Buddhas,
Who are transcendent wisdom,
Who are eyes, who are witnesses,
Who are perfect,
Without hiding, or concealing,
Henceforth I will cease and refrain.
May all these blessed Buddhas give heed to me.
In this life, and in all my lives without beginning and end,
In each of these worldly lives in samsara.
Whatever roots of virtue arise from my gift of even a mouthful
of food to an animal,
Whatever roots of virtue arise from my preserving morality,
Whatever roots of virtue arise from my completely maturing
Whatever roots of virtue arise from my generating supreme
All of these, gathered, combined, and added,
I completely dedicate to the highest,
Supremest of the supreme,
Highest of the high,
Unsurpassable, perfect, and full enlightenment.
However the blessed Buddhas of the past dedicated,
However the blessed Buddhas of the future will dedicate,
However the blessed Buddhas of the present are dedicating,
So do I completely dedicate.
I confess each and every sin.
I rejoice in all virtues.
I request and beseech all the Buddhas.
May I attain the unsurpassable transcendent wisdom which
is holy and supreme.
I fold my hands and reverently take refuge
In all those victorious supreme beings of the present,
Those who have passed, and those who have yet to come,
Whose good qualities are praised as a boundless ocean.
All Bodhisattvas who possess the power of compassion,
Heroes who benefit and protect living beings,
Protect me who is protectorless and full of sin.
All Bodhisattvas, grant me refuge.
The three forms of action of the body,
Four forms of the voice,
Three forms of the mind,
I confess each of these ten non-virtues.
From beginningless time until now,
With mind governed by negative emotions,
I have committed the ten non-virtues and five heinous crimes.
I confess all and each of these non-virtues.
All of whatever slight virtues that I may have gathered
through prostrating, offering, confessing, rejoicing,
requesting, and beseeching,
I dedicate to the attainment of enlightenment perfect and great.
Translated by Venerable Lama Kalsang Gyaltsen and Ane Kunga Chodron on the
auspicious day of the Great Sakya Pandita, 1993, in Washington D.C. By this merit
may all living beings purify negativity, accumulate virtue, and achieve perfect
The Diamond-Cutter Sutra
Sunlight on the Path to Freedom
The following selections are taken from "Sunlight on the Path to Freedom", written by Chone Lama Drakpa Shedrup (1675-1748) of Sera Mey Tibetan Monastery. The original root text of the sutra by Lord Buddha is included in darker type.
Herein contained is a commentary upon The Diamond Cutter Sutra entitled Sunlight to See the Profound, the Excellent Path to Travel to Freedom.
I bow down to Manjughosha.
I bow down to the Lord of the Able Ones,
the king of sponge-like clouds
Floating high in the great expanse of the sky,
the dharma body, unobscured,
Stunning in the glory of his thunder,
the sound of emptiness profound,
Sending down to fields of students a stream
of rain both of the goals.
I prostrate myself at the feet of Subhuti,
a realized being who is
The Wheel of Solid Earth, a destroyer of the
enemy in disguise,
Masterful in posing the questions
and replies of the profound,
Prophesied to be the supreme of those
who've finished all affliction.
I make obeisance to the spiritual friends
who one by one appeared
To clarify the deepest teaching,
as foretold by the Victors:
Nagarjuna, and Aryadeva,
and Chandrakirti too,
Lobsang the Victor come again
father and sons and the rest.
Here I will, with great feelings of faith and in keeping with my own capacity, offer a commentary in explanation of the Perfection of Wisdom in 300 Verses, more commonly known as the Diamond Cutter. It would seem that this text is rather difficult to comment upon correctly, for a number of reasons. First of all, the work is largely devoted to elucidating the meaning of the absence of a self-nature. Moreover, Lord Buddha repeats himself quite a number of times during the teaching. Finally, there appears to be but a single explanation of the work by the masters of ancient India, and none by a Tibetan at all. Nonetheless, I will undertake a commentary, to the best of my intellectual ability.
We will proceed in three steps: the preliminaries, the actual body of the text, and the conclusion. The first part here has three sections of its own: a translation of the title, along with an explanation of its significance; the translator's obeisance; and setting the scene. Here is the first.
In the language of India, this teaching is called the Arya Vajra Chedaka Nama Prajnya Paramita Mahayana Sutra. In the language of Tibet, it is called the Pakpa Sherab Kyi Paroltu Chinpa Dorje Chupa Shejawa Tekpa Chenpoy Do. [In the English language, it is called An Exalted Sutra of the Greater Way on the Perfection of Wisdom, entitled "The Diamond Cutter."]
The root text here begins with "In the language of India, this text is called the Arya Vajra..." The Tibetan equivalents of the words in the title are as follows. Arya means pakpa, [or "exalted."] Vajra means dorje, [or "diamond."] Chedaka is chupa, [or "cutter."] Prajnya is sherab, [or "wisdom."] Para is paroltu, [or "to the other side,"] while ita means chinpa, [or "gone," and the two together mean "perfection."]
Nama is for shejawa, [which means "entitled."] Maha stands for chenpo, [or "greater."] Yana means tekpa, [which is "way," or "vehicle."] Sutra translates as do, [or "sutra," meaning the teaching of an enlightened being.]
How do we get this word paramita? The ending am is required between the words para and ita, to represent the second grammar case. In combination the a of the am drops out, and the resulting m is attached to the ita, which gives us mita.
Here is the significance of the name. The worldly god named Hundred Gifts, or Indra, wields a diamond bolt, which no physical object in the entire world can destroy. A mere touch of this bolt though can reduce mountains of stone and other such entities to piles of dust. The subject of this work is the actual perfection of wisdom; that is, the wisdom with which one perceives emptiness. The point of the title is that the antithesis of this wisdom can never affect it in the least; and that the wisdom, on the other hand, cuts from the root everything involved with the mental afflictions, and each and every suffering.
I bow down to all Buddhas and bodhisattvas.
The import of the second point, the translator's obeisance, is self-evident.
These words once I heard. The Conqueror was residing at Shravasti, in the park of Anatapindada at the gardens of Prince Jetavan. In convocation with him were a great gathering of 1,250 monks who were listeners, as well as an immense number of bodhisattvas who were great beings.
Third is the third preliminary, where the scene is set. The speaker is the person who compiled the words of this text, who says "I heard" the following. Once, meaning at a certain time, the Conqueror was residing at Shravasti, in the park of Anatapindada at the gardens of Prince Jetavan. In convocation with him that is, together with him were a great gathering of 1,250 monks who were listeners, as well as an immense number of bodhisattvas who were great beings.
In India there were six great cities, including the one known as "Shravasti." This particular city was located in the domain of King Prasenajita, and contained a particularly excellent site the exquisite gardens of one known as Prince Jetavan.
There came a time, several years after the Conqueror attained his enlightenment, when a certain householder by the name of Anatapindada resolved that he would construct a large, wondrous temple where Lord Buddha and his retinue could reside on a regular basis. To this end he approached Prince Jetavan and purchased his gardens by paying him many thousands of gold coins, enough in fact to fill the gardens themselves.
Jetavan as well offered to the Conqueror a parcel of land that had been part of the quarters for the caretakers of the property. In these gardens Anatapindada, availing himself of the abilities of Shariputra, directed artisans from the lands of both gods and men to construct an extraordinary park.
When the park was completed, the Conqueror, perceiving that Jetavan wished it, named the main temple after him. Anatapindada, by the way, was a great being who had purposely taken a birth as someone who could act as the Teacher's sponsor. He had the power to see deposits of precious gems and metals deep under water or below the earth itself, and could utilize these riches whenever he wished.
In the morning then the Conqueror donned his monk's robes and outer shawl, took up his sage's bowl, and entered the great city of Shravasti for requesting his meal. When he had collected the food, he returned from the city and then partook of it. When he had finished eating he put away his bowl and shawl, for he was a person who had given up the later meal. He washed his feet and then seated himself on a cushion that had been set forth for him. He crossed his legs in the full lotus position, straightened his back, and placed his thoughts into a state of contemplation.
In the morning then the Conqueror all for the sake of his disciples donned the three parts of a monk's attire, took up his sage's bowl, and went to the great city of Shravasti for requesting, in order to request, his meal. He accepted his food and then, after coming back, partook of it.
When he had finished eating he put away his bowl and so on, for he was a person who had given up the later meal; that is, who would never go to request a meal in the latter part of the day. He washed his feet, bathed them, and then seated himself on a cushion that had been set forth for him. He crossed his legs in the full lotus position, and straightened his back. Then he placed his thoughts into a state of contemplation, knowing that he was about to deliver this teaching.
We should speak a bit here about the fact that the Conqueror went to request food. As far as the Buddha is concerned, there is no need at all to go and ask for his meal. Rather, he does so only so that his disciples will have an opportunity to collect masses of good karma, or else in order to give instruction in the Dharma, or for some similar reason.
The Sutra of Golden Light explains how it is completely impossible for a Buddha to suffer hunger or thirst. And even if they did need to eat or drink something, it is a complete impossibility that the Buddhas would ever find themselves without sufficient supplies; they could take care of themselves perfectly well, for they have gained total mastery over what we call the "knowledge of the store of space." They have as well the ability, should they so desire, to turn dirt or stones or other things of the like into gold, or silver, or precious jewels.
Furthermore they have the power to transform such objects, and also inferior kinds of food, into feasts of a thousand delectable tastes. No matter how poor some meal might be, it turns to a matchless, savory banquet as soon as a Buddha touches it to his lips delicious in a way that no other kind of being could ever in his life experience. The Ornament of Realizations is making this same point when it says "To him, even a terrible taste turns delicious to the supreme."
There was a time before when, for three months, the Teacher pretended to be so destitute that he was forced to eat the barley that we usually use for horse fodder. His disciple Ananda was depressed by the sight, thinking to himself, "Now the day has come that the Teacher, who was born into royalty, is reduced to eating horse fodder." The Teacher then took a single piece of the grain from his mouth, handed it to Ananda, and instructed him to eat it. The disciple complied, and was filled; in fact, for an entire week thereafter he felt no urge to eat anything at all, and was overcome with amazement. This incident applies here too.
The Golden Light relates how despite the fact that the Teacher appeared to have to go for requesting his meal and seemed as well to eat it, in truth he did not eat, and had no feces or urine either. The Sutra of the Inconceivable explains as well that the holy body of the Ones Thus Gone are like a lump of solid gold: there is no cavity inside, and no organs like the stomach, nor large or small intestines. This is actually the way it is.
And then a great number of monks advanced towards the Conqueror and, when they had reached his side, bowed and touched their heads to his feet. They circled him in respect three times, and then seated themselves to one way. At this point the junior monk Subhuti was with the same group of disciples, and took his seat with them.
The root text is saying that, then, a great number of monks too advanced to the side of (which is to say approached) the Conqueror. Then they circled him in respect three times, and seated themselves to "one way"; that is, they sat down all together. Not only that, but at this point the respected elder named Subhuti was with this same group of disciples, and took his seat with them.
We now begin the second step in our commentary to the sutra, which is an explanation of the actual body of the text. This itself comes in two parts: a description of how the teaching was initially requested, and then an explanation of the series of answers that followed. Here is the first of these.
And then the junior monk Subhuti rose from his cushion, and dropped the corner of his higher robe from one shoulder in a gesture of respect, and knelt with his right knee to the ground. He faced the Conqueror, joined his palms at his heart, and bowed. Then he beseeched the Conqueror in the following words:
The root text next describes how the junior monk Subhuti then rose from the cushion where he had been seated, and dropped the corner of his "higher" robe meaning his upper robe from his left shoulder in a gesture of respect. He placed the sole of his left foot on the ground, and then knelt with his right knee as well. He faced in the direction of the Conqueror, joined his palms at his heart, and bowed. Then he beseeched the Conqueror in the following words.
Oh Conqueror, the Buddha the One Gone Thus, the Destroyer of the Enemy, the Totally Enlightened One has given much beneficial instruction to the bodhisattvas who are great beings. Whatever instruction he has ever given has been of benefit.
And the One Gone Thus, the Destroyer of the Enemy, the Totally Enlightened One, has as well instructed these bodhisattvas who are great beings by granting them clear direction. Whatever clear direction he has granted, oh Conqueror, has been a wondrous thing. Oh Conqueror, it is a wondrous thing.
To put it simply, Subhuti beseeches the Buddha by saying:
Oh Conqueror, you have given much instruction to the bodhisattvas who are great beings; and in a spiritual sense it has been of the highest benefit, the ultimate help, for both their present and future lives. Whatever instruction you have ever given, all of it has been of this same benefit.
You have as well instructed these bodhisattvas by granting them three kinds of clear direction. You have directed them towards the source, and towards the dharma, and towards the commands.
Subhuti then tells the Conqueror how wondrous this is, and so on.
In Master Kamalashila's thinking here the word "source" would refer to directing a disciple to a spiritual guide. The word "dharma" would signify how this guide leads his disciple to engage in what is beneficial. And the "commands" would describe the Buddha's directions: "You, my bodhisattva, must act to help all living beings."
Oh Conqueror, what of those who have entered well into the way of the bodhisattva? How shall they live? How shall they practice? How should they keep their thoughts?
This did Subhuti ask, and then...
This brings us to the actual way in which the sutra was requested. Subhuti asks the Conqueror, "What of those who have entered well into the way of the bodhisattva?" He phrases his question in three different sections: "How shall they live? How shall they practice? How should they keep their thoughts?"
Here secondly we explain the Buddha's reply.
...the Conqueror bespoke the following words, in reply to Subhuti's question:
Oh Subhuti, it is good, it is good. Oh Subhuti, thus it is, and thus is it: the One Thus Gone has indeed done benefit to the bodhisattvas who are great beings, by granting them beneficial instruction. The One Thus Gone has indeed given clear direction to the bodhisattvas who are great beings, by granting them the clearest of instruction.
The Conqueror is greatly pleased by the request that Subhuti submits to him, and so he says "It is good." Then he provides his affirmation of the truth of what Subhuti has spoken, by assenting that the One Thus Gone has indeed done benefit to the bodhisattvas who are great beings, and has indeed given them clear direction.
And since it is so, oh Subhuti, listen now to what I speak, and be sure that it stays firmly in your heart, for I shall reveal to you how it is that those who have entered well into the way of the bodhisattva should live, and how they should practice, and how they should keep their thoughts.
"And since this reason is so," continues the Buddha, "listen well now to what I speak, and be sure that it stays firmly, without ever being forgotten. For I shall reveal to you the answer to those three questions about how these beings should live, and so on."
"Thus shall it be," replied the junior monk Subhuti, and he sat to listen as instructed by the Conqueror. The Conqueror too then began, with the following words:
In reply then Subhuti proffers to the Conqueror, "Thus shall it be." He sits to listen as instructed by the Conqueror, and the Conqueror too begins his explanation with the words that follow.
This Subhuti, by the way, is only posing as a disciple: in reality he would appear to be an emanation of Manjushri himself. When the Teacher spoke the sutras on the Mother of the Buddhas, it was none other than Subhuti that he would appoint to give the opening presentations and there is a special significance to why he did so.
As for the general structure of the text, Master Kamalashila makes his presentation in a total of eighteen different points. These begin with relating the text to the Wish for enlightenment, and then to the perfections, and then discussing the aspiration for the Buddha's physical body. After covering all the others, he reaches finally the part where the Buddha has completed his pronouncement.
Master Kamalashila provides his commentary by relating the first sixteen of these points to the levels of those who act in belief. The one point that follows then he relates to the levels of those who act out of total personal responsibility. Point number eighteen refers, lastly, to the level of a Buddha.
My intention here is to offer a somewhat more concise explanation, and I begin with the part that concerns the Wish for enlightenment.
Emptiness and the Wish for Enlightenment
The following selections are taken from The Diamond Cutter Sutra, spoken by Lord Buddha (500 BC), and the commentary to it named Sunlight on the Path to Freedom, by Chone Lama Drakpa Shedrup (1675-1748) of Sera Mey Tibetan Monastery. The root text is in bold and has been inserted into the commentary.
Subhuti, this is how those who have entered well into the way of the bodhisattva must think to themselves as they feel the Wish to achieve enlightenment:
I will bring to nirvana the total amount of living beings, every single one numbered among the ranks of living kind: those who were born from eggs, those who were born from a womb, those who were born through warmth and moisture, those who were born miraculously, those who have a physical form, those with none, those with conceptions, those with none, and those with neither conceptions nor no conceptions. However many living beings there are, in whatever realms there may be anyone at all labelled with the
name of "living being" all these will I bring to total nirvana, to the sphere beyond all grief, where none of the parts of the person are left at all. Yet even if I do manage to bring this limitless number of living beings to total nirvana, there will be no living being at all who was brought to total nirvana.
What the root text is saying is: "Subhuti, this is how those who have entered the way of the bodhisattva must think to themselves first as they feel the Wish to achieve enlightenment:
Whatever realms there may be, and however many living beings there are, they reach to infinity, they are countless. If one were to classify those numbered among the ranks of living kind by type of birth, there would be four: those who were born from eggs, and then those who were born from a womb, those who were born through warmth and moisture, and those who were born miraculously.
Then again there are the sentient beings living in the desire realm and the form realm: those who have a physical form. There are also the beings in the formless realm: those with no physical form.
There are "those with conceptions," meaning the beings who live in all the levels except the ones known as the "great result" and the "peak of existence." There are "those with no conceptions," which refers to a portion of the beings who reside at the level of the great result. In addition are the beings who have been born at the level of the peak of existence: those with no coarse kinds of conceptions but who on the other hand are not such that they have no subtle conceptions.
The point, in short, is that I speak of all living beings: of anyone at all labelled with the name of "living being." All these will I bring to total nirvana, to the sphere beyond all grief, where one no longer remains in either of the extremes and where none of the two kinds of obstacles, and none of the suffering heaps of parts to the person, are left at all.
To summarize, these bodhisattvas develop the Wish for the sake of bringing all these different living beings to the state of that nirvana where one no longer remains in either of the extremes; to bring them to the dharma body, the essence body, of the Buddha. The reference here is either to someone who is feeling the Wish for the first time, or to someone who has already been able to develop it. The first of these two has been practicing the emotion of great compassion, where one wishes to protect all living beings from any of the three different kinds of suffering they may be experiencing. This has made him ready for his first experience of the state of mind where he intends to lead all sentient kind to the ultimate nirvana. The latter of the two, the one who has already developed the Wish, is re-focussing his mind on his mission, and thus increasing the intensity of his Wish.
Here is a little on the four types of birth. Birth from an egg exists among humans, serpentines, birds, and other creatures. Birth from the womb is found with humans and animals, and is also one of the ways in which craving spirits take birth. There are many examples of inanimate objects which grow from warmth and moisture crops and so on. Among humans though there was the case of the king called "Headborn." The majority of the insects which appear in the summer are also born this way. Miraculous birth occurs with the humans who appear at the beginning of the world, and with pleasure beings, hell beings, inbetween beings, and near pleasure-beings. It is also one of the ways in which animals take birth. An example of birth from an egg among humans would be the story that we see of Saga, who possessed the lifetime vows of a laywoman. She gave a great number of eggs, and from these eggs grew boys.
The above description applies to the way in which a person thinks as he or she feels what we call the "deceptive" Wish for enlightenment. It refers both to the Wish in the form of a prayer and to the Wish in the form of actual activities. I would say as well that Lord Buddha's intention at this point is to refer primarily to the Wish as it occurs at the paths of accumulation and of preparation.
For a person to feel a Wish for enlightenment which is complete in every necessary characteristic, it is not sufficient simply to intend to lead all other sentient beings to the state of Buddhahood. Rather, you must have the desire that you yourself reach this state as well. This is exactly why Maitreya stated that "The Wish for enlightenment consists of the intention to reach total enlightenment for the sake of others." The part about "the sake of others" is meant to indicate that you must intend to lead other beings to nirvana, whereas the part about the "intention to reach total enlightenment" means that you must intend to reach perfect Buddhahood yourself.
Lord Buddha wants us to understand that this Wish for enlightenment must be imbued with that correct view wherein you perceive that nothing has a self-nature. This is why He states that we must develop a Wish for enlightenment where we intend to lead this limitless number of living beings to the nirvana beyond both extremes, but where at the same time we realize that, even if we do manage to bring them to this total nirvana, there will be no living being at all who achieved it, and who also existed ultimately.
The Tibetan term for "nirvana" means "passing beyond sorrow." The "sorrow" mentioned here refers to the pair of karma and mental afflictions, as well as to suffering. The nirvana to which you wish to bring beings then refers to a state of escaping from the combination of karma and bad thoughts, along with suffering: it means to go beyond them. This is why the unusual Tibetan verb here refers not only to nirvana, but to the act of bringing someone to nirvana as well. The root text at this point is meant to indicate that ordinary beings can possess something that approximates the ultimate Wish for enlightenment. It is also indicating the existence of the actual ultimate Wish for enlightenment, which only realized beings possess.
At this juncture in his commentary, Master Kamalashila presents a great deal of explanation concerning the correct view of reality. He does so because he realizes that this background is very important for a proper understanding of the remainder of the root text, which is all spoken relative to the correct view of emptiness. If I did the same here in my own commentary I fear it would become too long for the reader, and so I will cover some of these points now, but only in the very briefest way, just to give you a taste.
Now each and every existing object, be it part of the afflicted part of existence or part of the pure side, is established as existing only by virtue of terms. If one performs an analysis with reasoning which examines an object in an ultimate sense, no object can bear such examination, and we fail to locate what we gave our label. Here the thing we deny is easier to deny if we can identify it clearly. As such I will speak a bit about what this thing we deny is like.
Generally speaking there are a great number of different positions that exist about what the object we deny exactly is. Here though I will give my explanation according to the position of the Consequence section of the Middle-Way school. A certain sutra says that "They are all established through concepts." The Commentary to the Four Hundred too contains lines such as the one which says, "It is only due to the existence of concepts that existence itself can exist, and..." The Lord, in his Illumination of the True Thought, says as well that "These lines [from sutra] are describing how all existing things are established by force of concepts; and we see many other such statements, that all existing objects are simply labelled with our concepts, and are established only by force of concepts."
There is a metaphor used to describe how all existing things are labelled with our concepts. When you put a rope with a checkered pattern on it in a dark corner, some people might get the impression that it's a snake. The truth at this point though is that nothing about the rope is a snake: neither the rope as a whole, nor the parts of the rope. Nonetheless the person thinks of the rope as a snake, and this snake is an example of something which only makes its appearance as something labelled with a concept.
In the same way, the heaps of parts that make us up serve as a basis for us to get the impression "This is me." There is nothing at all about these heaps as a whole, nor their continuation over time, nor their separate components, that we could establish as being an actual representation of "me." At the same time though there is nothing else, nothing essentially separate from these heaps of parts to ourselves, that we could consider an actual representation of "me" either. As such, this "me" is merely something labelled upon the heaps of parts that make us up; there is nothing which exists by its own essence.
This too is the point being made in the String of Precious Jewels, by the realized being Nagarjuna:
If it's true that the persona is not the element
Of earth, nor water, nor fire, nor wind,
Not space, or consciousness, not all of them,
Then how could he ever be anything else?
The part of the verse that goes from "not earth" up to "not consciousness" is meant to deny that you could ever establish a self-nature of the person in any of the six elements that make up a persona, considered separately. The words "not all of them" are meant to deny that you could establish such a self-nature in the collection of the six elements, considered as a whole. The final line of the verse denies that there could be any self-nature which was essentially separate from these same elements.
How then do we establish the existence of the persona (which in this case simply means "person")? The same work says:
Because the persona includes all six
Elements, he's nothing that purely exists;
Just so, because they include their parts,
None of these elements purely exist.
Given the reason stated above, the persona is nothing more than something labelled upon the six elements that make him up he does not though purely exist.
Just so none of these elements themselves exist purely, for they too are simply labelled upon the parts that they include. This same reasoning can be applied to the heaps of parts that make up a person, and all other objects as well: you can say about all of them that, because they are labelled on their parts and their whole, they do not exist independently. The physical heap of parts that I myself possess is something labelled upon my five appendages and so on; these appendages themselves are something labelled upon the body as a whole and the parts that go off to each side of it; and the smaller appendages like fingers and toes too are labelled upon their whole and their parts.
A water pitcher is something labelled on its spout and base and other parts; the spout and base and such in turn are labelled on their parts and whole; and so on the same pattern applies to all physical objects. Mental things too are labelled on mental events of successive moments, and through the objects towards which they function, and so on. Even uncaused phenomena are labelled upon the respective bases that take their labels. All this I have covered before, in other writings.
Given the above, there does not exist anything which does not occur in dependence, or which is not labelled through a dependent relationship. Therefore the point at which we can say something is the object denied by our search for a hypothetical self-existent thing would be any time that thing existed without having been labelled through a dependent relationship. This too is why the Root Text on Wisdom states:
No object which does not occur
Through dependence even exists at all;
As such no object could exist
At all if it weren't empty.
In short, when you search for the thing given the name of "self" or "me" you will never find anything; despite this, the fact that things can do something is completely right and proper, in the sense of an illusion, or magic. And this fact applies to each and every existing thing there is. As the Shorter [Sutra on the Perfection of Wisdom] states,
You should understand that the nature of every single living is the same as that of the "self."
You should understand that the nature of all existing objects is the same as that of every living being.
The King of Concentration says as well,
You should apply what you understand about how
You think of your "self" to every thing there is.
All this is true as well for objects like the perfection of giving and so on: they exist only through being labelled with a term, and are empty of any natural existence. Seeking to make us realize how necessary it is to understand this fact, Lord Buddha makes statements like "Perform the act of giving without believing in any object at all."
This is the most important thing for us to learn: so long as we are still not free of the chains of grasping to things as truly existing, and so long as we have yet to grasp the meaning of emptiness, then we will never be able to achieve freedom, even if the Buddha should appear himself and try to lead us there. This is supported by the words of the savior Nagarjuna:
Freedom is a complete impossibility
For anyone who does not understand emptiness.
Those who are blind will continue to circle
Here in the prison of six different births.
Master Aryadeva as well has spoken that "For those who conceive of things, freedom does not exist." And there are many other such quotations.
Why is it so? Because, Subhuti, if a bodhisattva were to conceive of someone as a living being, then we could never call him a "bodhisattva."
Here we return to where we left off in the root text. One may ask, "Why is it so? What reason is there for saying that we should develop a Wish for enlightenment, while still understanding that there is no truly existing sentient being at all who ever achieves it?" Lord Buddha first calls Subhuti by name, and then explains that we could never call any particular bodhisattva a "bodhisattva who had realized the meaning of no-self-nature" if this bodhisattva were to conceive of any living being as a living being who existed truly.
Emptiness and the Bodies of a Buddha
The following selections are taken from Sunlight on the Path to Freedom, written by Chone Lama Drakpa Shedrup (1675-1748) of Sera Mey Tibetan Monastery. The original root text of the sutra by Lord Buddha is included in darker type.
Why is that? Think, oh Subhuti, of the mountains of merit collected by any bodhisattva who performs the act of giving without staying. This merit, oh Subhuti, is not something that you could easily ever measure.
One would have to admit that a person locked in the chains of grasping to some true existence can collect a great amount of merit through acts of giving and the like. But suppose a person is able to practice giving and the rest after he has freed himself from these same chains. His merit then is certain to be ever much greater. And it is to emphasize this point that the Buddha says, Why is that? Think, oh Subhuti, of the mountains of merit collected by any bodhisattva who performs the act of giving without staying. This merit is not something whose limit you could easily ever measure; in fact, it would be quite difficult to measure.
Oh Subhuti, what do you think? Would it be easy to measure the space to the east of us?
And Subhuti replied,
Oh Conqueror, it would not.
The Conqueror bespoke:
And just so, would it be easy to measure the space to the south of us, or to the north of us, or above us, or below us, or in any of the ordinal directions from us? Would it be easy to measure the space to any of the ten directions from where we now stand?
And Subhuti replied,
Oh Conqueror, it would not.
The Conqueror bespoke:
And just so, oh Subhuti, it would be no easy thing to measure the mountains of merit collected by any bodhisattva who performs the act of giving without staying.
The root text here is presenting an example. It would be no easy thing to measure the space to the east or any of the rest of the ten directions reaching out from the particular point where we are now. Then the Buddha summarizes the point of the example with the words that start with "Just so, Subhuti..."
Oh Subhuti, what do you think? Should we consider someone to be the One Thus Gone because he possesses the totally exquisite marks on a Buddha's body?
And Subhuti replied,
Oh Conqueror, we should not. We should not consider someone the One Thus Gone because he possesses the totally exquisite marks on a Buddha's body. And why not? Because when the One Thus Gone himself described the totally exquisite marks on a Buddha's body, he stated at the same time that they were impossible.
And then the Conqueror spoke to the junior monk Subhuti again, as follows:
The merit of acts such as giving and the rest bring us the physical body of a Buddha, and this physical body is adorned with various marks and signs. The words "Subhuti, what do you think?" mean "Subhuti, turn your mind to this subject, and think about how it could be contemplate upon it."
The Buddha then asks Subhuti, "Assume for a minute that someone possessed the totally exquisite marks and signs, or the two physical bodies, of the One Thus Gone. Would that in itself require us to consider him that is, assert that he is the One Thus Gone? What do you think?"
Subhuti replies to the Buddha with the words starting off from, "We should not consider him so." At this point we have to draw a slight distinction. One should not necessarily consider someone the One Thus Gone simply because he possesses the totally exquisite marks and signs. "And why not?" says Subhuti. He answers himself by saying, "Because when the One Thus Gone himself described the totally exquisite marks and signs on a Buddha's body, he stated at the same time that they existed deceptively, in the way of an illusion. Signs and marks of this kind that existed ultimately, however, would be a complete impossibility."
Oh Subhuti, what do you think? The totally exquisite marks on a Buddha's body, as such, are deceptive. The totally exquisite marks on a Buddha's body are also not deceptive, but only insofar as they do not exist. Thus you should see the One Thus Gone as having no marks, no marks at all.
Thus did the Conqueror speak. And then the junior monk Subhuti replied to the Conqueror, as follows:
The marks and signs on the physical body of the Buddha are like an image drawn on a piece of paper: they are not the real thing they exist in a deceptive manner, as things that occur when all of their causes have gathered together. They do not exist as something with a true nature. To indicate this fact, Lord Buddha says to Subhuti, "Insofar as the totally exquisite marks on a Buddha's body exist, as such they are deceptive.
"Just what," you may ask, "is meant by the word deceptive?" The totally exquisite marks and signs on a Buddha's body are also not deceptive, and true, but only insofar as they do not exist truly. Thus you should see the One Thus Gone as having no marks, no marks to indicate his nature, at all.
The section here helps to prevent us from falling into either one of the two extremes. The physical body of the Buddha and its various marks and signs do exist albeit in a deceptive way, in a false or empty way and this fact keeps us from the extreme of denying the existence of something which actually does exist.
The text though also states that there exist no marks, and no marks that would indicate any nature, which also exist truly. This fact keeps us from the extreme of asserting the existence of something which actually does not exist. The former of these two [marks] is referring to the physical body of a Buddha. The latter is referring to the dharma body, and chiefly to the essence body.
The Future of the Buddha's Teachings
The following selections are taken from Sunlight on the Path to Freedom, written by Chone Lama Drakpa Shedrup (1675-1748) of Sera Mey Tibetan Monastery. The original root text of the sutra by Lord Buddha is included in darker type.
Oh Conqueror, what will happen in the future, in the days of the last five hundred, when the holy Dharma is approaching its final destruction? How could anyone of those times ever see accurately the meaning of the explanations given in sutras such as this one?
And the Conqueror bespoke,
Oh Subhuti, you should never ask the question you have just asked: "What will happen in the future, in the days of the last five hundred, when the Dharma is approaching its final destruction? How could anyone of those times ever see accurately the meaning of the explanations given in sutras such as this one?"
The issue is whether or not there will be anyone at all in the future who believes in, or has any great interest in, sutras such as this one sutras which explain the nature of the dharma body, and the physical body, of a Buddha. In order to raise this issue, Subhuti asks the question that begins with "Oh Conqueror, what will happen in the future, in the days of the last five hundred, when the holy Dharma is approaching its final destruction?"
In reply, the Conqueror speaks: "Oh Subhuti, you should never ask the question you have just asked." What he means here is that Subhuti should never entertain the uncertainty of wondering whether or not there will be anyone of this type in the future; and if he never had this doubt, Subhuti would never ask the question.
And again the Buddha bespoke,
Oh Subhuti, in the future, in the days of the last five hundred, when the holy Dharma is approaching its final destruction, there will come bodhisattvas who are great beings, who possess morality, who possess the fine quality, and who possess wisdom.
And these bodhisattvas who are great beings, oh Subhuti, will not be ones who have rendered honor to a single Buddha, or who have collected stores of virtue with a single Buddha. Instead, oh Subhuti, they will be ones who have rendered honor to many hundreds of thousands of Buddhas, and who have collected stores of virtue with many hundreds of thousands of Buddhas. Such are the bodhisattvas, the great beings, who then will come.
Oh Subhuti, says the text, in the future, even when the holy Dharma is approaching its final destruction, there will come bodhisattvas who are great beings. They will possess the extraordinary form of the training of morality; they will possess that fine quality which consists of the extraordinary form of the training of concentration, and they will possess the extraordinary form of the training of wisdom.
And these bodhisattvas who are great beings will not be ones who have rendered honor to or collected stores of virtue with only a single Buddha, but instead they will be ones who have rendered honor to and collected stores of virtue with many hundreds of thousands of Buddhas. This fact, says the Conqueror, is something I can perceive right now.
Master Kamalashila explains the expression "days of the last five hundred" as follows:
"Five hundred" here refers to a group of five hundreds; it refers to the well-known saying that "The teachings of the Conqueror will remain for five times five hundred."
As such, the "five times five hundred" refers to the length of time that the teachings will remain in the world: 2,500 years.
On the question of just how long the teachings will survive in this world, we see a number of different explanations in the various sutras and commentaries upon them. These state that the teachings of the Able One will last for a thousand years, or two thousand, or two and a half thousand, or five thousand years. When we consider their intent though these various statements are not in contradiction with each other.
The reason for their lack of contradiction is that some of these works are meant to refer to the length of time that people will still be achieving goals, or still be practicing. Still others refer to the length of time that the physical records of these teachings remain in our world. Some, finally, appear to be referring to the Land of the Realized [India].
There are many examples of the kinds of bodhisattvas mentioned in the text. In the Land of the Realized, there have been the "Six Jewels of the World of Dzambu," and others like them. In Tibet there have been high beings like the Sakya Pandita, or Buton Rinpoche, or the Three Lords the father and his spiritual sons.
Oh Subhuti, suppose a person reaches even just a single feeling of faith for the words of a sutra such as this one. The One Thus Gone, oh Subhuti, knows any such person. The One Thus Gone, oh Subhuti, sees any such person. Such a person, oh Subhuti, has produced, and gathered safely into himself, a mountain of merit beyond any estimation.
Suppose, says the text, that a person of those future days learns, and then contemplates, a sutra such as his one; that is, a scripture which teaches the perfection of wisdom. And say further that this brings him to reach, or develop, even just a single feeling of admiration for this teaching much less any frequent emotion of faith for it. From this moment on the One Thus Gone knows and sees that any such person has produced, and gathered safely into himself, a mountain of merit beyond any estimation. He "knows" the person's thoughts, and "sees" his visual form and such.
Why is it so? Because, Subhuti, these bodhisattvas who are great beings entertain no conception of something as a self, nor do they entertain any conception of something as a living being, nor any conception of something as being alive, nor any conception of something as a person.
One may ask the reason why the above is so. It's because these particular bodhisattvas will entertain no manifest conception of something as a self, or as a living being, or as being alive, or as a person. The denotation of the words "self" and "person" and so on here are the same as I have mentioned earlier. Master Kamalashila at this point says:
The expression "conceive of something as a self" means thinking "me," or grasping that the self exists. "Conceiving of something as a living being" means grasping that something belonging to the self exists. "Conceiving of something as being alive" means continuing to grasp to the same "self" as above, but for the entire length of its life. "Conceiving of something as a person" means grasping that those who are born again and again are born.
Thus the meaning of grasping to something as belonging to the self is a bit different than before.
When the text says that these bodhisattvas entertain no such coarse conceptions, it is referring specifically to the occasions at which one realizes the lack of a self-nature.
Oh Subhuti, these bodhisattvas who are great beings neither entertain any conception of things as things, nor do they entertain any conception of things as not being things. They neither entertain any conception of a thought as a conception, nor do they entertain any conception of a thought as not being conception.
Why is it so? Because if, oh Subhuti, these bodhisattvas who are great beings were to entertain any conception of things as things, then they would grasp these same things as being a "self"; they would grasp them as being a living being; they would grasp them as being something that lives; they would grasp them as a person.
And even if they were to entertain them as not being things, that too they would grasp as being a "self"; they would grasp as being a living being; they would grasp as being something that lives; they would grasp as a person.
The text is saying: "Not only do these beings avoid entertaining a belief in things as being something true; neither do they entertain any conception of physical form and other things as being true things nominally. Nor as well do they entertain any conception where they believe that these things are not things."
From another point of view, it is appropriate as well to gloss the passage as follows. Physical form and other such things are deceptive objects, and deceptive objects are not something which is true. These bodhisattvas avoid entertaining even the conception where one believes that this fact itself is something true. If one in fact did entertain such a conception, then certain problems would arise and this explains the relevance of the two paragraphs that come next in the root text, the one that mentions "If they were to entertain any conception of things as things" and so on; and the other that starts with "If they were to entertain them as not being things" that had a self.
Emptiness and Karma
The following selections are taken from Sunlight on the Path to Freedom, written by Chone Lama Drakpa Shedrup (1675-1748) of Sera Mey Tibetan Monastery. The original root text of the sutra by Lord Buddha is included in darker type.
The Conqueror bespoke:
Oh Subhuti, what do you think? Suppose some son or daughter of noble family were to take all the planets of this great world system, a system with a thousand of a thousand of a thousand planets, and fill them all up with the seven kinds of precious substances, and offer them to someone. Would that son or daughter of noble family create many great mountains of merit from such a deed?
With this next section of the sutra, Lord Buddha wishes to demonstrate a certain fact. In the sections above we have spoken about the act of becoming enlightened, and of teaching the dharma, and so on. Neither these, nor any other object in the universe, exists ultimately. Nonetheless, they do exist nominally. As such, one would have to admit that anyone who performs an act of giving does acquire great merit thereby. Yet anyone who carries out the process of learning, or contemplating, or meditating upon this teaching acquires infinitely greater merit.
To convey this point, the Conqueror asks Subhuti the question beginning with "What do you think? Suppose some son or daughter of noble family were to take this great world system, as system with a thousand of a thousand of a thousand planets..." The system mentioned here is described in the Treasure House [of Higher Knowledge, the Abhidharmakosha,] as follows:
A thousand sets of all four continents with
A sun and moon, Mount Supreme, pleasure
Beings of the desire, and world of the
Pure agreed as an elementary system.
A thousand of these is a second-order kind,
The intermediate type of world system.
A third-order system is a thousand of these.
"Suppose further," continues Lord Buddha, "that they were to fill up this system of planets with the seven kinds of precious substances: with gold, silver, crystal, lapis, the gem essence [emerald], karketana stone, and crimson pearl. And say then that they offered them to someone. Would they create many great mountains of merit from such a deed, from giving someone else such a gift?"
And Subhuti replied,
Oh Conqueror, many would it be. Oh Conqueror, it would be many. This son or daughter of noble family would indeed create many great mountains of merit from such a deed. And why so? Because, oh Conqueror, these same great mountains of merit are great mountains of merit that could never exist. And for this very reason do the Ones Thus Gone speak of "great mountains of merit, great mountains of merit."
In response, Subhuti replies:
It would be many great mountains of merit and these great mountains of merit are mountains of merit that we could establish as existing only in name, only in the way that a dream or an illusion exists: these same great mountains of merit though could never exist as mountains that existed ultimately. The Ones Thus Gone as well speak in a nominal sense of "great mountains of merit, great mountains of merit" applying the name to them.
This section is meant to demonstrate a number of different points. Black and white deeds that you have committed before now, and which you are going to commit later, are such that the ones in the past have stopped, and the ones in the future are yet to come. Therefore they are non-existent, but we have to agree that, generally speaking, they exist. We also have to agree that they are connected to the mind stream of the person who committed them, and that they produce their appropriate consequences for this person. These and other difficult issues are raised in the words above.
And the Conqueror bespoke:
Oh Subhuti, suppose some son or daughter of noble family were to take all the planets of this great world system, a system with a thousand of a thousand of a thousand planets, and fill them all up with the seven kinds of precious substances, and offer them to someone. Suppose on the other hand that one of them held but a single verse of four lines from this particular dharma, and explained it to others, and taught it correctly. By doing the latter, this person would create many more great mountains of merit than with the former: they would be countless, and beyond all estimation.
We should first say something about the word "verse" here. Although the sutra in Tibetan is not written in verse, the idea is that one could put it into verse in Sanskrit. The word "hold" refers to "holding in the mind," or memorizing. It can also apply to holding a volume in one's hand and, in either case, reciting the text out loud.
The phrase "explain it correctly" is explained as stating the words of the sutra and explaining them well. The phrase "teach it correctly" is explained as teaching the meaning of the sutra well, and this is the most important part.
Suppose now that one held the sutra and did the other things mentioned with it, rather than the other good deed described. This person would then create great mountains of merit that were ever more countless, and beyond all estimation.
Why is it so? Because, Subhuti, this is where the matchless and totally perfect enlightenment of the Ones Thus Gone, the Destroyers of the Foe, the Totally Enlightened Buddhas, comes from. It is from this as well that the Buddhas, the Conquerors, are born.
The reason for this is as follows. The act of giving someone the dharma is of much more benefit that the act of giving material things. Not only that, but the enlightenment of the totally enlightened Buddhas comes from is achieved through the perfection of wisdom: the realization of emptiness which forms the subject matter of this text. It is from putting this into practice as well that the Buddhas, the Conquerors, are born.
Emptiness and the Destruction of the Mental Afflictions
The following selections are taken from Sunlight on the Path to Freedom, written by Chone Lama Drakpa Shedrup (1675-1748) of Sera Mey Tibetan Monastery. The original root text of the sutra by Lord Buddha is marked with an ornament in the Tibetan and bold in the English.
Oh Conqueror, I declare that the Ones Thus Gone those Destroyers of the Foe who are the Totally Enlightened Buddhas reside in the highest of all those states that are free of the mental afflictions. I am, oh Conqueror, a person who is free of desire; I am a foe destroyer.
But I do not, oh Conqueror, think to myself, "I am a foe destroyer." For suppose, oh Conqueror, that I did think to myself, "I have attained this very state, the state of a foe destoyer." If I did think this way, then the One Thus Gone could never have given me the final prediction: he could never have said: "Oh son of noble family, oh Subhuti, you will reach the highest of all
those states that are free of the mental afflictions. Because you stay in no state at all, you have reached the state free of mental afflictions; you have reached what we call the 'state free of mental afflictions.'
Then Subhuti explains, "I am, nominally speaking, a foe destroyer. But it is also true that I do not, while grasping to some true existence, think to myself, "I am a foe destroyer." If I did grasp to it this way then I would start to have mental afflictions, and then I would stop being a foe destroyer. I am a foe destroyer, and the Conqueror has given me the final prediction: he has told me, "Nominally speaking Subhuti, son of noble family, you will reach the highest of all those states that are free of the mental afflictions." In an ultimate sense though, because I stay in no state at all, he could never have given me the final prediction, he could never have said, "Oh son of noble family, oh Subhuti, you will reach the state free of mental afflictions." This is because, ultimately speaking, there does not even exist any place to stay, not thing to make one stay there, nor even anyone who stays there. All this is consistent with the position of the Consequence school, which says that grasping to some true existence is a mental affliction.
The Conqueror bespoke:
Oh Subhuti, what do you think? Was there any dharma at all which the One Thus Gone took up from that One Thus Gone, the Destroyer of the Foe, the Perfectly Enlightened Buddha called "Maker of Light"?
And Subhuti respectfully replied,
Oh Conqueror, there was not. There exists no dharma at all which the One Thus Gone received the One Thus Gone took up from that One Thus Gone, the Destroyer of the Foe, the Perfectly Enlightened Buddha called "Maker of Light."
Ultimately speaking then there is nothing for one to achieve, and nothing that helps one achieve it, and no one even to do the achieving. But we can say even further that, again speaking ultimately, there is no dharma at all that one takes up, and practices. In order to demonstrate this point, Lord Buddha states the following.
The Conqueror asks, "Oh Subhuti, do you think that there was any dharma at all which I, the One Thus Gone, in those days long ago took up, ultimately speaking, from the Buddha called 'Maker of Light'?"
And Subhuti offers up the reply, "No, there was no such dharma."
This specific reference, wherein Lord Buddha speaks of the Buddha "Maker of Light" by name, recalls an event which had taken place long before. In those times our Teacher was a youth known as "Cloud of Dharma." Due to the blessing of the Buddha "Maker of Light," he was able to achieve a stage known as the "great mastery of things that never grow," and to bring about the eighth bodhisattva level. When this had happened, Light Maker gave him the final prediction, saying "In the future, you will become the Buddha known as 'Shakyamuni'." In order to remember the kindness that Light Maker paid on this occasion, I will speak more of this later on.
We should say a little about this expression, the "great mastery of things that never grow." This refers to a point at which one has eliminated the mental afflictions, and achieved total mastery, fluency, in meditating upon non-conceptual wisdom, which perceives directly each and every instance of the very nature of all things, their emptiness of any natural existence. As such, all caused objects appear to this person exclusively in the nature of an illusion, as empty of any true existence, not only during periods of deep meditation but during the times between these meditations as well.
When one reaches the stage of the great mastery of things that never grow, one directly perceives that no object at all has any true existence. One perceives that what was predicted to finally happen, and the thing one is to achieve, and becoming enlightened all of them are empty of any natural existence. As such the Buddha had no belief that he was taking up any truly existing dharma at all from the Buddha Light Maker.
It is true that, at the time that the final prediction is made, the Buddha who is predicted does not yet exist. And it is true that, by the time he becomes a Buddha, the person who received the prediction no longer exists. In a nominal sense though there is a single continuum, a single person, who exists from the point of the prediction up to the point of enlightenment. There does exist a general kind of "me," one which extends to the whole "me" of the past and the future, where we do not divide out the separate me's of some specific points in the past and future. It is with reference to this general "me" that the Buddha grants his final prediction, and says "You will become such and such a Buddha."
To give an example, it is true that the particular me's of specific past or future lives, or else the particular me's of some point early on in your life, or later on in your life, are not the "me" you are at this present moment in time. Nonetheless it is allowable for us to say, of things that those me's have done or are going to do, "I did that," or "I am going to do that." It's just the same with the final prediction.
We also say things like "I am going to build a house," or "I am going to make a hat, or some clothes, or a pair of shoes." Even though the house and the rest have no existence at the moment that we say these things, we can speak nonetheless of them, for we are thinking of them in the sense of something that will come about in the future. And they will occur, if only nominally; but they will not come forth through any nature of their own. If they could come about through some nature of their own, then the house and so forth that we must agree exist even as we speak of building or making them could never exist at all. This is exactly the idea expressed in the Sutra Requested by Madrupa, where it says:
Anything which arises from conditions does not arise;
There is no nature of arising in such a thing.
Anything dependent on conditions is explained as empty;
Anyone who understands emptiness is mindful.
You can also apply at this point all the reasonings presented earlier for demonstrating how things have no true existence.
At some point you will gain a really correct understanding of how, despite the fact that results do come from causes, they do not come from these causes through any nature of their own. At that moment you will finally grasp the way in which Middle-Way philosophy describes how, despite the fact that things are empty of any natural existence, they can still quite properly work and function as they do. At that point too you will have discovered the Middle Way itself, the path where the appearance of the normal world and emptiness itself are inseparably married together.
Why is it so? Because, oh Subhuti, there was a time when the King of Kalingka was cutting off the larger limbs, and smaller appendages, of my body. At that moment there came into my mind no conception of a self, nor or of a sentient being, nor of a living being, nor of a person I had no conception at all. But neither did I not have any conception.
For what reason is it so? Because long ago there was a time, oh Subhuti, when the king of Kalingka got the evil suspicion that I had engaged in relations with his woman. And so he was cutting off the larger limbs, and smaller appendages of my body. (The latter refers to the fingers and toes.)
At that moment I practiced patience, keeping my mind on an understanding of the lack of true existence to each of the three elements to the act of patience. As I focussed on the "me" which exists nominally, there came into my mind no conception where I held any belief in some truly existing "me": and so I had no conception of anything from a truly existing "self" up to a truly existing "person."
At that moment I had no conception at all of any such conception that something was existing truly. At the same time though it was neither as if I had no other, nominal conceptions at all. What Subhuti is saying here is the following. I did have the thought that I would have to keep my patience: I did have the thought to take the pain on willingly, and not to be upset about the harm being done to me. And I did have the kind of conception where I reconfirmed my knowledge of how I had perceived that no existing object has any true existence.
Why is it so? Suppose, oh Subhuti, that at that moment any conception of a self had come into my mind. Then the thought to harm someone would have come into my mind as well.
The conception of some sentient being, and the conception of some living being, and the conception of person, would have come into my mind. And because of that, the thought to harm someone would have come into my mind as well.
Here is the reason why it is so. Suppose that at that moment any conception of a self, where I thought of "me" as existing in an ultimate way, had come into my mind. Or suppose any of the other conceptions mentioned had come into my mind. Then the thought to harm someone would have come into my mind as well; but the fact is that it did not.
Emptiness and Paradise; Emptiness and Purification
The root text is found in bold in the translation, and is marked with an ornament in the Tibetan. The commentary is by Chone Lama Drakpa Shedrup (1675-1748) of Sera Mey Tibetan Monastery.
The Conqueror bespoke:
Suppose, oh Subhuti, that some bodhisattva were to say, "I am working to bring about paradises." This would not be spoken true.
Lord Buddha wishes to indicate that, in order for a person to reach the enlightenment described above, he or she must first bring about a paradise in which to achieve the enlightenment. Therefore the Conqueror says to Subhuti,
Suppose some bodhisattva were to say or think to himself while holding a belief in true existence, and referring to ultimate existence "I am working to bring about paradises." This statement would not be spoken true.
Why is it so? Because the Ones Thus Gone have stated that these paradises, these "paradises," these lands that are put there do not even exist. And this is why we call them "paradise."
Why is this the case? The reason is that the Ones Thus Gone have stated that these perfect paradises, these places where you achieve your enlightenment, are put there like an illusion; that is, they occur because a great many causes and conditions have come together. But lands which have been put there in an ultimate sense, say the Buddhas, do not even exist. Since though they do exist to that state of mind which performs no check or analysis, we can nominally call them "paradise."
This fact refers not only to the paradise of a Buddha, but also to each and every thing which has ever been put here: to both the world where beings live and the beings who live in the world. All of these are simply a label put on the collection of a number of parts: they are all the same as a house, for example. And all of these are such that, should you break them down mentally all the way to their tiniest atoms, you would reach the point where they are nothing at all. (This is the briefest sketch of the meaning for you.)
Since this is so, oh Subhuti, those bodhisattvas who are great beings develop their wish without residing in these thoughts. They develop their wish without residing in anything at all. They develop their wish without residing even in visible form. They develop their wish without residing even in sounds, or in smells, or in tastes, or in things to touch, or in any object at all.
Since this is so, says Lord Buddha, bodhisattvas who are working to bring about their paradise should develop their wish [for enlightenment] without residing in any such state where they hold a belief in some true existence. They should develop their wish without residing in any state where they believe in the ultimate existence of anything at all. They should develop their wish without residing in any state where they hold a belief in some true existence of any object at all: visible form, or any of the rest.
Oh Subhuti, it is thus: Suppose, for example, that someone's body were to grow this large suppose it were to grow as large as the king of all mountains, Mt. Sumeru. What do you think, oh Subhuti? Would that person's body be large?
And Subhuti replied,
Oh Conqueror, such a body would be large. Oh you who have Gone to Bliss, such a body would be large. And why so? Because Those Gone Thus have stated that it could never be a thing at all. And this is why we call it a "body." Because Those Gone Thus have stated that it could never be a thing at all, we call it a "large body."
Lord Buddha wishes to show that the above applies not only to outer things such as paradises, but also to the beings who inhabit this world: to objects such as the body of a person. He wishes to show that they too exist only because conditions have come together, and not in an ultimate way. Therefore he asks Subhuti,
Suppose some person's body were to grow to the size of the king of mountains, Mt. Sumeru. What do you think? Would that body be something large?
And Subhuti respectfully replies,
Such a body would be large. Those who have Gone Thus though have stated that this same body exists only as a term applied to the heaps, to some collection of a great many parts. It could never be a thing at all which existed in essence; that is, it could never be something which did not depend on its parts, say they. And this is why we can call such a body "large," in the sense that words are used in the everyday world.
Here a large body is just a representative example; we are meant to apply this reasoning to all physical objects, large or small. The entire statement here in the sutra is aimed at showing us how to meditate upon the fact that each and every detail of the world and the beings who inhabit it are all empty of any natural existence.
And I tell you further, oh Subhuti: any place where this sutra is taught thereby becomes a place worthy of the offerings of the entire world, with its gods, and men, and demigods. It becomes a place which is worthy of their prostrations, and worthy of their circumambulations. That place becomes something like a stupa.
Furthermore, any place where this sutra is taught thereby becomes a place worthy of the offerings, and the prostrations, and the circumambulations of all the living beings in the entire world, with its gods, and men, and demigods. This point recalls the line in the Ornament of Realizations where it talks about "enlightenment and none other than a stupa." This refers to a fact mentioned in the root sutra in the Mother, in its more extensive, medium, and shorter versions, as well as in the commentaries. Here it says that any place where a bodhisattva on the path of habituation stays thereby becomes a place like a stupa, a place that should be revered by other people. The reference here in this case is mainly to any place where there resides a person who has managed to develop the whole point of this text that is, an extraordinary form of actual perfection of wisdom within the stream of his mind. Previously in the sutra a section similar to this one appears, but each instance applies to a different case.
Oh Subhuti, any son or daughter of noble family who takes up a sutra like this, or who holds it, or reads it, or comprehends it fully, will suffer. They will suffer intensely.
Here in a statement over and above the one before, Lord Buddha says,
Oh Subhuti, consider any son or daughter of noble family who takes up this sutra, who holds it in their hands, and so on any living being who does these things and then puts the meaning of the sutra into practice. It is entirely possible that such a person could experience some pain, that they could suffer, and suffer intensely, through various kinds of illness, or conflict with others, or being criticized, or chained, or beaten, or anything of the like. It could happen, but it would be no great problem, because. . .
Why is it so? Because, oh Subhuti, such beings are purifying non-virtuous karma from the entire string of their previous lives, karma that would have taken them to the three lower realms. As they purify this karma, it causes them to suffer here in this life. As such they will succeed in cleaning away the karma of these non-virtuous deeds of their previous lifetimes, and they will as well achieve the enlightenment of a Buddha.
For what reason is it so? Because such beings are purifying great non-virtuous karma that they have committed both in this life and in their lifetimes past karma so serious that it would normally have taken them to the three lower realms. As such, the results of all these deeds are ripening here in this very life. Thus one is suffering pain, and by force of this suffering he or she is "cleaning away" that is, purifying all of this non-virtuous karma. As such, one will quickly achieve the enlightenment of a Buddha.
The force of an antidote action consisting of making great efforts in the perfection of wisdom is destroying the grasping to some self-existence, the very root of all non-virtuous deeds. This is why the text goes on to say that one will achieve freedom and the state of omniscience. And since the text does say this, then needless to say one could destroy the karma that is leading you to a birth in the lower realms. The way in which this works is explained in texts such as the Blaze of Reasoning and others. As the Sutra of the Great Liberation says as well,
Even though one may have the bad karma
To take his birth in the three lower realms,
A simple headache will clean it away.
Suppose for example that a seed is planted, but is then deprived completely of water, or fertilizer, or warmth, or the rest. Then it would never sprout.
Here the case is the same. If you are able to eliminate grasping to some self-nature, then none of the karmas you have collected, regardless of how many there are, can ever ripen forth. This is because their companion, the mental afflictions, are absent. As the Commentary on Valid Perception states,
No further karmas can ever project their results
In one who has gone beyond the desire for existence;
This is because the conditions have all been finished.
Emptiness and the Perfection of Wisdom.
How it Prevents the Two Extremes?
The root text is found in bold in the translation, and is marked with an ornament in the Tibetan. The commentary is by Chone Lama Drakpa Shedrup (1675-1748) of Sera Mey Tibetan Monastery.
The junior monk Subhuti spoke the following words, with great respect, to the Conqueror:
Oh Conqueror, what is the name of this particular kind of Dharma? How are we to consider it?
And the Conqueror bespoke the following to the junior monk Subhuti:
Oh Subhuti, this particular kind of Dharma is known as the "perfection of wisdom," and that is how you should consider it.
Then Subhuti asks, "What is the name of this text?" In reply the Conqueror states, "Its name is the 'perfection of wisdom,'" and "that is how you should consider it to be named." The subject matter selected by the Teacher, the subject expressed by the text, is the perfection of wisdom in its actual form. The point here then is that the Teacher has named the text that expresses this subject by using the name of the subject it expresses. Here the name of the perfection of wisdom is meant to represent all the other perfections as well.
Why is it so? Because, oh Subhuti, that same perfection of wisdom spoken by the Ones Thus Gone is a perfection of wisdom that doesn't even exist. And this is why we call it the "perfection of wisdom."
That same perfection of wisdom spoken by the Ones Thus Gone to be the "perfection of wisdom" is a perfection of wisdom that doesn't even exist as a perfection of wisdom in an ultimate sense. And this is why we can, in a nominal sense, label it the "perfection of wisdom." All these kinds of explanations, where they state that things do not exist ultimately but do exist nominally, illustrate the path of the middle way, wherein the two truths are accepted as an inseparable unity, which functions to prevent completely the two extremes. They illustrate, in short, how the quality of being empty of any natural existence, and the quality of existing nominally, coexist with each other as simultaneous attributes of any single object.
Here is a bit on the literal meaning of the expression "perfection," or "gone to the other side." This term connotes either that thing which takes you to the other side of the ocean of cyclic life, or else the state of having already reached that other side. Taken the former way, the expression refers the perfection of wisdom as it exists on the paths of those who are still learning [that is, non-Buddhas]. Taken the latter way, it refers to the perfection of wisdom which exists at the level of a Buddha, and is equivalent to the knowledge of all objects.
If we go beyond its strictest sense, there are many different usages of the term "perfection of wisdom": it can refer to the "natural," or the "textual," or the "path," or the "resulting" perfection of wisdom. It's important to be able to distinguish between all these, but it would be beyond the scope of this commentary for me to discuss them here. To put it briefly, what was spoken of as the "perfection of wisdom" refers to that knowledge which is imbued with the wish to attain enlightenment, and which perceives emptiness. It is this same perfection of wisdom which acts as an extraordinary kind of method for taking the first five perfections those of giving and the rest and leading them up to the point of enlightenment. I will speak further of this later.
Oh Subhuti, what do you think? Is there any dharma at all which the Ones Thus Gone ever speak?
And Subhuti respectfully replied,
Oh Conqueror, none of the dharmas ever spoken by the Ones Thus Gone even exist.
In the part before this one, Lord Buddha mentioned "the perfection of wisdom spoken by the Ones Thus Gone," and explained how it could be the perfection of wisdom. Someone might think to themselves, "Are there though any other dharmas which were spoken by the Ones Thus Gone, and which do exist in an ultimate sense?"
In order to answer this question with an emphatic "No!" the Buddha poses a question to Subhuti: "Is there any such dharma at all?"
In reply, Subhuti offers up the following answer: "None of the dharmas ever spoken by the Ones Thus Gone even exist, at least in an ultimate sense." The point here is very similar to the one before, where it said that the teaching of the dharma by the Ones Thus Gone did not even exist.
The following selection is from the 18th Chapter of the Commentary on the Three Principal Paths, written by Pabongka Rinpoche (1878-1941).
XVIII. A Unique Teaching of the "Implication" School
The fifth and final section in our explanation of correct view concerns a unique teaching followed by the "Implication" group of the Middle Way school. This instruction is contained in the following verse of the root text.
In addition, the appearance prevents the existence extreme;
Emptiness that of non-existence, and if
You see how emptiness shows in cause and effect
You'll never be stolen off by extreme views.
Now all the schools except for the members of the "Implication" group hold that an understanding of the appearance of things prevents you from falling into what we call the "extreme of thinking things do not exist," while an understanding of emptiness prevents you from falling into what is known as the "extreme of thinking things do exist."
The position of the Implication group though is that no particular object you can choose has any true existence, aside from merely appearing this way; and understanding this prevents you from going to the extreme of thinking things exist that is, exist in an ultimate way. And because this mere appearance itself cannot exist on its own, an understanding of emptiness prevents your falling into the extreme of thinking things do not exist that is, do not exist in a conventional way.
Once something is interdependent there is no possibility for it to be anything else but something which does not exist naturally something which cannot stand on its own. This is because it must then occur in dependence on the collection of parts which serve as the basis that receives our label. Look at the example of some feeble old man, unable to rise from his chair by himself, who must seek some other support to get up he cannot stand on his own. Here it's a similar case: no object can stand on its own, no object can exist just naturally, so long as it must depend on any other factor.
Generally speaking, there are a great number of logical proofs that can be used when you want to establish the meaning of no self-nature. There is one though which is like the king of them all, and this is it: the "proof through interdependence." Let's say we put forth this argument to someone, and we say:
Consider a sprout.
It cannot exist truly,
For it is interdependent.
Members of certain non-Buddhist schools will answer "I disagree with your reason," which is to say, "Sprouts are not interdependent." This they must say because they believe that every object in the universe is a manifestation of some primeval One.
The majority of the earlier Tibetan Buddhists fell into the extreme that we call "thinking things have stopped," for they would say that if something did not exist truly it could not exist at all. The schools from the Mind-Only on down, the group of schools known collectively as the "Functionalists," all fall into the extreme of "thinking things are permanent," for they cannot explain interdependence if they accept that nothing exists naturally. Members of the "Independent" group within the Middle Way school accept the idea of interdependence, but do not agree that if something is interdependent it cannot "exist by definition." This too is tantamount to the extreme of thinking things are permanent.
The real sages of the Middle Way school make a fourfold distinction: they say that nothing exists naturally, but not that nothing exists at all; everything exists merely by convention, but everything exists without existing naturally. The point of error for the Functionalists and those other schools is their failure to distinguish between these four: two kinds of "nothing exists" and two kinds of "everything exists."
According to the Implication system, both extremes--thinking things are permanent and thinking things have stopped--can be prevented with a single logical statement: "It cannot exist truly, because it is interdependent." The first part of the statement keeps us from the extreme of thinking things are permanent; the second, from the extreme of thinking things have stopped.
My own precious teacher, Chone Lama, was always saying that both parts of the statement each prevent both of the extremes--permanence and stopping. He would explain this as follows: the literal sense of the statement's first part, "It cannot exist truly," serves to prevent the extreme of thinking things are permanent. The implication of saying that something cannot exist "truly" though is to say that, more generally, it is not non-existent; this then disallows the extreme of thinking that things have stopped. And this description, he would say, was enough for us to figure out for ourselves the process for the second part of the statement: "...because it is interdependent."
With this understanding we can see why the glorious Chandrakirti stated:
Therefore this proof employing interdependence
Cuts the net of every mistaken view.
So we've shown that no object in the universe exists truly; we've given "because it's interdependent" as our reason for saying so; and we've demonstrated that these two facts can prevent one from falling into either extreme. This too is why we see statements like the following, from Root Wisdom:
Everything is right for any thing
For which the state of emptiness is right.
Or the well-known sutra lines:
Form is emptiness,
These last lines by the way are stated to show that interdependence is itself empty, and emptiness itself interdependent. It helps your understanding of this point if you take the same pattern and read it as
I am emptiness,
In short, concluded our Lama, the laws of cause and effect are all totally proper for any entity which is empty of any natural existence. If you can just keep yourself from falling into the two extremes, you will make no great other blunders in your effort to develop correct view.
How Empty Things Still Work
The root text is found in bold in the translation, and is marked with an ornament in the Tibetan. The commentary is by Chone Lama Drakpa Shedrup (1675-1748) of Sera Mey Tibetan Monastery.
It is thus. Any living beings who receive an explanation of this sutra and who are not made afraid, and are not frightened, and who do not become frightened, are truly wondrous.
Here is the reason. In future days, certain living beings will receive, they will listen to, an explanation of the meaning of the words of this sutra. And yet they will not be made afraid, and they will not be frightened, and they will not become extremely frightened, by any such thought as: "If this is so, and if nothing at all exists in a true way, then all the ways in which things like karma and its consequences work cannot be right, and so really nothing at all can work."
Rather they will find a greater belief, an even greater faith, in all these objects. And beings like this will be truly wondrous.
If things did exist in a true way, then it would be improper to say that they ever changed. And then it would be improper, it would never be right, to describe all the workings of things like karma and its consequences.
The way in which all things work, and nirvana itself, and everything else are all quite proper. And none of these objects has any true existence, none of them has any nature of their own. How all this can be is described by Lord Tsongkapa in his Praise from Interdependence:
Reaching the state of nirvana could never occur,
And elaborations too could never be stopped,
If objects had any nature of their own, because
A nature could not be stopped, You stated.
He also says,
Since things are empty of any nature
And the way things work is right,
There is no contradiction between them.
Those who see things the opposite
Think nothing can work with emptiness...
Why is it so? Because, oh Subhuti, the One Thus Gone now speaks to you the holy perfection of wisdom; and the holy perfection which the One Thus Gone now speaks to you is the same perfection of wisdom which Conquering Buddhas beyond any number to count have spoken as well. And this is why we can call it the "holy perfection of wisdom."
Here is the reason why it will be so wondrous. The holy, or highest, perfection of wisdom a work which teaches how no object exists through any nature of its own is now being spoken to you by myself, by the One Thus Gone. And this is the same perfection of wisdom which has been spoken in the past by Conquering Buddhas who are beyond any number to count.
Lord Buddha makes this statement because he wants his listeners to consider what he has just said above as something authoritative. What he has just said, remember, is that nothing involved with cause and effect has any nature of its own. And this reason is why we can call it the "Holy Perfection of Wisdom."
The Verse of Impermanence and Emptiness
The following selections are taken from Sunlight on the Path to Freedom, written by Chone Lama Drakpa Shedrup (1675-1748) of Sera Mey Tibetan Monastery. The original root text of the sutra by Lord Buddha is marked with an ornament in the Tibetan and bold in the English.
Brought about by causes
As like a star,
An obstruction of the eye,
A lamp, an illusion,
The dew, or a bubble;
A dream, or lightning,
Or else a cloud.
Next comes a concluding summary, which shows how all things brought about by causes are empty of any nature of their own, and are also impermanent. All this is contained in the verse about the "star, an obstruction of the eye, a lamp," and the rest.
We could take for example the five heaps physical form and the rest or any such objects. All these can be described in the following metaphors.
Stars appear at night, and then by day they no longer appear. The parts to a person and other things brought about by causes are just the same. If a person's mind is full of the darkness of ignorance, then they appear to exist in an ultimate sense. [Correcting an error in Tibetan text, stong for snang.] Suppose though that the sun rises the sun of the wisdom which perceives that nothing exists truly. Then these objects no longer appear in an ultimate sense. As such we should see these things as being like a star.
Suppose your eyes are blocked by some obstruction in them by particles of dust or something of the like. The thing that you're trying to look at then doesn't look the way it really is; rather, you see it some other way. It's just the same with the eye of the mind when it's blocked by the obstruction of ignorance. Things brought about by causes then appear to this mind as something other than what they are.
The flame of a butter lamp, supported by a thin plant wick, flares and then quickly dies out. Caused things, each supported their various causes and conditions, also go through a continuous process of rising and quickly dying out.
An illusion is something that looks different than what is actually there. Things brought about by causes also appear to exist truly, to a mistaken state of mind.
Dew vanishes quickly; things with causes are the same they die away speedily, without lasting even into the second instant of their existence.
Bubbles pop up at random, because some water is stirred up or something of the like, and then they burst and disappear just as suddenly. Caused things work the same way: when the various conditions all come together, they pop up suddenly, and then they die out just as suddenly.
Dreams are an example of a misperception, which is due to the affects of sleep on the mind. Things brought about by causes as well are misapprehended, they seem to exist truly, to the mind which is affected by ignorance.
Lightning flashes and dies out quickly. Caused things too rise and die out quickly, depending on the conditions that assemble to bring them about.
Clouds are something that gather and fade in the sky, depending on the wishes of the serpent-beings and such. Things brought about by causes are the same; depending on the influence of karma which is either communal or not, they rise or die out.
Each of the metaphors above is also meant to represent how no object brought about by causes has any true existence.
The explanation given here applies to things brought about by causes as an entire group. A more restricted application is quoted from sutra by Master Nagarjuna:
The physical form is like a bubble that forms,
And the feelings resemble the froth of a wave;
Discrimination is just a mirage,
And the other factors like empty cane;
Awareness is similar to an illusion
Thus did the Cousin of the Sun speak.
Master Kamalashila relates the final three metaphors to the three times; this is a little different from the explanation here, but the two are in no way contradictory.
To put it briefly, Lord Buddha is telling us that we should "See that each and every thing brought about by causes is impermanent, and is empty of any nature of its own, all just like the nine examples given above." We should also consider these lines as indicating both the lack of self to the person, and the lack of self to phenomena.
The Heart of Perfect Wisdom Sutra
The passage below is the entire text of the Heart of Perfect Wisdom Sutra, one of the shortest texts of the Perfection of Wisdom corpus. It is said by Mahayanists to contain the essence of the teachings of this voluminous literature.
Thus have I heard: At one time the Exalted One was dwelling on the Vulture Peak in Rajagriha together with a great assembly of monks and a great assembly of bodhisattvas. At that time, the Exalted One was immersed in a meditative absorption (samadhi) on the enumerations of phenomena called "perception of the profound". Also at that time, the bodhisattva, the great being, the superior Avalokiteshvara was considering the meaning of the profound perfection of wisdom, and he saw that the five aggregates (skandha) are empty of inherent existence. Then, due to the inspiration of the Buddha, the venerable Shariputra spoke thus to the bodhisattva, the great being, the superior Avalokiteshvara: `How should a son of good lineage train if he wants to practice the profound perfection of wisdom?'
The bodhisattva, the great being, the superior Avalokiteshvara spoke thus to the venerable Shariputra: `Shariputra, sons of good lineage or daughters of good lineage who want to practice the profound perfection of wisdom should perceive [reality] in this way: They should correctly perceive the five aggregates also as empty of inherent existence. Form is emptiness; emptiness is form. Emptiness is not other than form; form is not other than emptiness. In the same way, feelings, discriminations, compositional factors, and consciousness are empty. Shariputra, in that way, all phenomena are empty, without characteristics, unproduced, unceasing, undefiled, not undefiled, not decreasing, not increasing. Therefore, Shariputra, in emptiness there is no form, no feelings, no discriminations, no compositional factors, no consciousness, no eye, no ear, no nose, no tongue, no body, no mind, no form, no sound, no odor, no taste, no object of touch, no phenomenon. There is no eye constituent, no mental constituent, up to and including no mental consciousness constituent. There is no ignorance, no extinction of ignorance, up to and including no aging and death and no extinction of aging and death. In the same way, there is no suffering, no source [of suffering], no cessation [of suffering], no path, no exalted wisdom, no attainment, and also no non-attainment.
`Therefore, Shariputra, because bodhisattvas have no attainment, they depend on and abide in the perfection of wisdom. Because their minds are unobstructed, they are without fear. Having completely passed beyond all error, they go to the fulfillment of nirvana. All the buddhas who live in the three times [past, present, and future] have been completely awakened into unsurpassable, complete, perfect enlightenment through relying on the perfection of wisdom.
`Therefore, the mantra of the perfection of wisdom is the mantra of great knowledge, the unsurpassable mantra, the mantra that is equal to the unequaled, the mantra that thoroughly pacifies all suffering. Because it is not false, it should be known to be true. The mantra of the perfection wisdom is as follows:
Om gate gate paragate parasamgate bodhir svaha [Om gone, gone, gone beyond, gone completely beyond; praise to enlightenment.]
`Shariputra, bodhisattvas, great beings, should train in the profound perfection of wisdom in that way.'
Then the Exalted One arose from that meditative absorption and said to the bodhisattva, the great being, the superior Avalokiteshvara: `Well done! Well done, well done, son of good lineage, it is just so. Son of good lineage, it is like that; the profound perfection of wisdom should be practiced just as you have indicated. Even the Tathagatas admire this.' When the Exalted One had spoken thus, the venerable Shariputra, the bodhisattva, the great being, the superior Avalokiteshvara, and all those around them, and those of the world, the gods, humans, demigods, and gandharvas were filled with admiration and praised the words of the Exalted One.
The Lotus Sutra: Parable of the Burning House
The parable of the burning house is a famous allegory for the practice of "skillful means" (upaya-kaushalya), which is one of the important abilities of bodhisattvas and buddhas. It involves adapting the dharma to the interests and proclivities of individual listeners, telling them things that will attract them to the practice of Buddhism. The question posed in the dialogue concerns whether such tactics should be considered underhanded or dishonest. The answer, not surprisingly, is no: the means used are for the good of the beings, and benefit them greatly in the long run. Moreover, with beings who are thoroughly enmeshed in the concerns of the world it is necessary to draw their attention away from mundane pleasures toward the dharma, which can lead to lasting happiness.
[Buddha:] Shariputra, let us suppose that somewhere, in a village there was a householder who was...wealthy and enjoying life. Suppose that he had a great mansion, lofty, vast, built long ago, housing several hundred people. And suppose that this mansion had a single door, that it was covered with thatch, that its terraces were collapsing, that the bases of its pillars were rotting away, and that its walls, partitions, and plaster were falling to pieces. And suppose that all of a sudden the whole mansion burst forth into flames, that the householder managed himself to get out, but that he had several little boys who were still inside.
[He thought:] `Fortunately, I was quickly able to get out of this burning house through the door, without getting burned by those flames, but my sons...are still inside, playing with their playthings, enjoying and amusing themselves. They do not know...that the house is on fire, and are not upset. Even caught in that inferno, being burned by those flames, in fact, suffering a great deal, they are oblivious to their suffering, and the thought of getting out does not occur in them....'
So he called out to the little boys: `Come, my children, get out! The house is ablaze with a mass of flames! Do not stay there, you will all be burned in the conflagration and come to misfortune and disaster!'
But the little boys did not pay any attention to the words of the man, though he desired only their well-being....They did not reflect, did not dash out of the house, did not understand, did not comprehend even the meaning of the word `conflagration.' Instead, they ran around playing here and there, occasionally gazing out at their father. Why? Simply because of their being foolish children.
So then, Shariputra, the man thought: ...`I should by some skillful means cause these children to come out of the house.' Now the man knew the mental dispositions of his children and understood their interests, and he knew that there were many kinds of toys that pleased them....So he said to them: `Children, all of those toys that are pleasing to you...for instance, little ox carts, goat carts, and deer carts--so dear and captivating; well, I have put all of them outside the gate of the house so that you can play with them. Come on! Run out of the house! I will give each of you whatever you need and want. Come quickly! Come out for the sake of these playthings!'
Then the little boys, hearing the names of the toys that were pleasing to them...quickly dashed out of the burning house at great speed, not waiting for one another and calling out: `Who will be first? Who will be foremost?'
Then the man, seeing his children out of the house safe and sound and knowing them to be out of danger...gave his children...ox carts only. They were made of seven precious materials, equipped with railings, hung with strings of bells, high and lofty, adorned with marvelous and wonderful jewels, brightened by garlands of gems, decorated with wreaths of flowers....
Now what do you think, Shariputra, did that man tell a lie to his children by first promising them three vehicles and then later on giving them only great vehicles, the best vehicles?
Shariputra said: `No indeed, Blessed One! No indeed! There is no reason to think that in this case that man was a liar, because he was using skillful means in order to get his children to come out of the burning house, and that gave them the gift of life. Moreover, Blessed One, in addition to getting back their very lives, they also received all those toys. But, Blessed One, even if that man had not given them a single cart, he would still not have been a liar. How so? Because, Blessed One, that man first reflected: "By the use of skillful means, I will liberate these children from a great heap of suffering...."'
Well said, Shariputra, well said! You have spoken well. In just this way, the Tathagata too...is father of the world; he has attained the highest perfection of the knowledge of great skillful means, he is greatly compassionate, his mind is unwearied, and his concern is for the well-being of others He appears in this threefold universe, which is like a burning house being consumed by a mass of suffering and sadness...in order to liberate from desire, hatred, and delusion those beings who remain ensnared in a veil of darkness--the obscuring blindness of ignorance, of birth, old age, sickness, death, sorrow, grief, suffering, sadness, and irritation--and in order to stimulate them toward unsurpassed, complete enlightenment....Even here, in that threefold universe that is like a burning house, they enjoy themselves and run about. For though they are being afflicted by a great deal of suffering, the thought that they are suffering does not occur to them....
Therefore, Shariputra, the Tathagata must be just like that strong-armed man who...employing skillful means, enticed his children out of the burning house...by speaking of three vehicles, that is to say, the disciples' vehicle, the pratyekabuddhas' vehicle, and the bodhisattvas' vehicle....
The Tathagata is not a liar when, using skillful means, first holds out the prospect of three vehicles and then leads beings to parinirvana by means of a single great vehicle.
The Sayings of the Buddha in Forty-Two Sections
by Kasyapa Matanga and Gobharana
This text was said to be the first official Buddhist literature which was composed for
the Chinese by two early Indian missionaries, Kashyapa Matanga and Gobharana,
during the reign of Emperor Ming of the Later Han Dynasty. The translators extracted
all the passages from different Buddhism scriptures which they brought along for their
missionary purposes. It was complied after the fashion of the Confucian Analects to
suit the Chinese and therefore each section begins with "The Buddha said" which
corresponds to the Confucian "Confucius said". It was therefore specially prepared
for the Chinese Buddhists and it contains a good collection of moral and religious
sayings of the Buddha.
The main text:
When the World-Honoured One had become Enlightened, he reflected thus, "To be free
from the passions and to be calm, this is the most excellent Way."
He was absorbed in Great Meditation, subdued all evil ones and later in the Deer Park
caused to turn the Wheel of Dharma, which consisted of the Four Noble Truths:
1. Life is Suffering.
2. Ignorance is the cause of Suffering.
3. The Cessation of Suffering which is the goal of life as it transcends pains
4. The Way to Cessation of Suffering is the Noble Eightfold Path which consists of:
1. Right Understanding
2. Right Thoughts
3. Right Speech
4. Right Action
5. Right Livelihood
6. Right Effort
7. Right Mindfulness
8. Right Concentration.
He converted the five bhikshus, Kaudinya and the others, inducing them to attain
Again, there were other bhikshus who implored the Buddha to remove their doubts
which they had concerning his doctrine. The World-Honoured One illuminated all
their minds through his authoritative teachings. The bhikshus, joining their hands
reverentially prostrating, following his sacred instructions.
1. The Buddha said, "Those who, taking leave of their families and adopting the
life of renunciation, understand the mind, reach the source, and comprehend the
immaterial, are called Sramanas.
Those who observe the two hundred and fifty precepts of morality, who are pure and
spotless in their behaviours, and who exert themselves for the attainment of the stages
of progress, are called Arhats. The Arhat is able to fly through space and assume
different forms; his life is eternal, and there are times when he causes heaven and earth
Below them is the Anagamin who, at the end of a long life, ascend in spirit to the
nineteenth heaven and obtains Arhatship.
Next come the Skridagamin who ascends to the heavens (after his death), comes back
to the earth once more, and then attains Arhatship.
Then come the Srotaapanna who cannot become Arhat until he has passed seven more
rounds of birth and death.
By the severance of the passions is meant that like the limbs severed they are never
again made use of."
2. The Buddha said, "The renunciate Sramana cuts off the passions, frees himself
of attachments, understands the source of his own mind, penetrates the deepest
doctrine of Buddha, and comprehends the Dharma which is immaterial. He has no
prejudice in his heart, he has nothing to hanker after. He is not hampered by the
thought of the Way, nor is he entangled in karma. No prejudice, no compulsion, so
discipline, no enlightenment, and no going up through the grades, and yet in possession
of all honours in itself - this is what is meant by the Way."
3. The Buddha said, "Those who shaving their heads and faces and becomes Sramanas
and have accepted the Doctrine of the Way, should surrender all worldly possessions and
be contented with whatever they obtain by begging. Only one meal a day and loding under
a tree, he desires nothing else. For what makes one stupid and irrational is attachments
4. The Buddha said, "There are ten things considered good by all beings, and ten things
evil. What are they? Three of them depend upon the body, four upon the mouth, and three
upon the mind.
The three evil deeds depending upon the body are: killing, stealing and unchaste deeds.
The four depending upon the mouth are: slendering, cursing, lying and flattery. The three
depending upon the mind are: jealousy, hatred and ignorance. All these things are not in
keeping with the Holy Way, and are therefore evil. When these evils are not done, they
are ten good deeds."
5. The Buddha said, "If a man who has committed many sins, does not repent and
purify his heart of evil, retribution will come upon his person as sure as the streams
runs into the ocean which becomes ever deeper and wider. If a man who has committed
sins, come to the knowledge of it, reforms himself, and practises goodness, the force
of retribution will gradually exhaust itself as a disease gradually loses its baneful
influence when the patient perspires."
6. The Buddha said, "When an evil-man, seeing you practise goodness, comes and
maticiously insults you, you should patiently endure it and not feel angry with him,
for the evil-man is insulting himself by trying to insult you."
7. The Buddha said, "Once a man came unto me and denounced me on account of
my observing the Way and practicing great loving-kindness. But I kept silent and
did not answer him. The denunciation ceased. Then I asked him. 'If you bring a present
to your neighbour and he accepts it not; does the present come back to you?' He
replied, 'It will.' I said, 'You denounce me now, but as I accept it not, you must take
the wrong deed back on your own person. It is like echo succeeding sound, it is like
shadow following object; you never escape the effect of your own evil deeds. Be
therefore mindful, and cease from doing evil."
8. The Buddha said, "Evil-doers who denounce the wise resemble a person who spits
against the sky; the spittle will never reach the sky; but comes down on himself.
Evil-doers again resemble a man who stirs the dust against the wind, the dust is never
raised without doing him injury. Thus, the wise will never be hurt but the curse is sure
to destroy the evil-doers themselves."
9. The Buddha said, "If you endeavour to embrace the Way through much learning,
the Way will not understood. If you observe the Way with simplicity of heart, great
indeed is this Way."
10. The Buddha said, "Those who rejoice in seeing others observe the Way will obtain
great blessing." A Sramana asked the Buddha, "Would this blessing be destroyed?"
The Buddha replied, "It is like a lighted torch whose flame can be distributed to ever
so many others torches which flame can be distributed to ever so many other torches
which people may bring along; and therewith they will cook food and dispel darkness,
while the original torch itself remains burning ever the same. It is even so with the
bliss of the Way."
11. The Buddha said, "It is better to feed a good man than one hundred bad men. It
is better to feed one who observe the Five Precepts of the Buddha than to feed one
thousand good men. It is better to feed one Srotaapanna (Stream-enteree) than to feed
ten thousands of those who observe the Five Precepts of Buddha. It is better to feed
one Skriddagamin than to feed one million Srotaapanna. It is better to feed one
Anagamin than to feed one Arhat than to feed one hundred millions of Anagamins.
It is better to feed one Pratyekabuddha than to feed one billion of Arhats. It is better
to feed one of the Buddha, either of the present, or of the past, or of the future, than
to feed ten billions of Pratyekabuddhas. It is better to feed one who is above knowledge,
one-sidedness, discipline, and enlightenment than to feed one hundred billions of
Buddhas of the past, present, or future.
12. The Buddha said, "There are twenty difficult things to attain in this world:
1. It is hard for the poor to practice charity.
2. It is hard for the strong and rich to observe the Way.
3. It is hard to disregard life and go to certain death.
4. It is only a favoured few that get acquainted with a Buddhist sutra.
5. It is hard to be born in the age of the Buddha.
6. It is hard to conquer the passions, to suppress selfish desires.
7. It is hard not to hanker after that which is agreeable.
8. It is hard not to get into a passion when slighted.
9. It is hard not to abuse one's authority.
10. It is hard to be even-minded and simple hearted in all one's dealings with
11. It is hard to be thorough in learning and exhaustive in investigation.
12. It is hard to subdue selfish pride.
13. It is hard not to feel contempt toward the unlearned.
14. It is hard to be one in knowledge and practice.
15. It is hard not to express an opinion about others.
16. It is by rare opportunity that one is introduced to a true spiritual teacher.
17. It is hard to gain an insight into the nature of being and to practice the Way.
18. It is hard to follow the way of a saviour.
19. It is hard to be always the master of oneself.
20. It is hard to understand thoroughly the Ways of Buddha."
13. A monk asked the Buddha, "Under what conditions is it possible to come to the
knowledge of the past and to understand the most supreme Way?" The Buddha
answered, "Those who are pure in heart and single in purpose are able to understand
the most supreme Way. It is like polishing a mirror, which becomes bright when the
dust is removed. Remove your passions, and have no hankering, and the past will be
revealed to you."
14. A monk asked the Buddha, "What is good, and what is great?" The Buddha
replied, "Good is to practice the Way and to follow the truth. Great is the heart
that is in accord with the Way."
15. A monk asked the Buddha, "What is most powerful, and what is most illuminating?"
The Buddha replied, "Meekness is most powerful, for it harbours no evil thoughts,
and, moreover, it is restful and full of strength. as it is free from evils, it is sure to be
honoured by all.
The most illuminating is a mind that is thoroughly cleansed of dirt, and which, remaining
pure, retains no blemishes. From the time when there was yet no heaven and earth till
the present day, there is nothing in the ten quarters which is not seen, or known, or
heard by such a mind, for it has gained all-knowledge, and for that reason it is called
16. The Buddha said, "Those who have passions are never able to preceive the Way;
for it is like stirring up clear water with hands; people may come there wishing to find
a reflection of their faces, which, however, they will never see. A mind troubled and
vexed with the passions is impure, and on that account it never sees the Way. O monks,
do away with passions. When the dirt of passion is removed the Way will manifest
17. The Buddha said, "Seeing the Way is like going into a dark room with a torch; the
darkness instantly departs, while the light alone remains. When the Way is attained
and the truth is seen, ignorance vanishes and enlightenment abides forever."
18. The Buddha said, "My doctrine is to think the thought that is unthinkable, to
practise the deed that is non-doing, to speak the speech that is inexpressible, and
to be trained in the discipline that is deyond discipline. Those who understand this
are near, those who are confused are far. The Way is beyond words and expressions,
is bound by nothing earthly. Lose sight of it to an inch, or miss it for a moment, and
we are away from it forever more."
19. The Buddha said, "Look up to heaven and down on earth, and they will remind
you of their impermanency. Look about the world, and it will remind you of its
impermanency. But when you gain spiritual enlightenment, you shall then find wisdom.
The knowledge thus attained leads you quickly to the Way."
20. The Buddha said, "You should think of the four elements of which the body is
exposed. Each of them has its own name, and there is no such thing there known
as ego. As there is really no ego, it is like unto a mirage."
21. The Buddha said, "Moved by their selfish desires, people seek after fame and
glory. But when they have acquired it, they are already strikened in years. If you
hanker after wordly fame and practise not the Way, your labours are wrongfully
applied and your energy is wasted. It is like unto burning an incense stick."
22. The Buddha said, "People cleave to their worldly possessions and selfish passions
so blindly as to sacrifice their own lives for them. They are like a child who tries to eat
a little honey smeared on the edge of a knife. The amount is by no means sufficient to
appease his appetite, but he runs the risk of wounding the tongue."
23. The Buddha said, "Men are tied up to their famililes and possessions more
helplessly than in a prison. There is an occassion for the prisoner to be released,
but the housholders entertain no desire to be relieved from the ties of family. Even
into the paws of a tiger, he will jump. Those who are thus drowned in the filth of
passion are called the ignorant. Those who are able to overcome it are saintly Arhats."
24. The Buddha said, "There is nothing like lust. Lust may be said to be the most
powerful passion. Fortunately, we have but one thing which is more powerful. If the
thirst for truth were weaker than passion, how many of us in the world will be able
to follow the way of righteousness?"
25. The Buddha said, "Men who are addicted to the passions are like the torch-carrier
running against the wind; his hands are sure to be burned."
26. The Lord of Heaven offered a beautiful fairy to the Buddha, desiring to tempt him
to the evil path. But the Buddha said, "Be gone. What use have I for the leather bag
filled with filth which you brought to me?" Then, the god reverently bowed and asked
the Buddha about the essence of the Way, in which having been instructed by the
buddha, it is said he attained the fruit of Srotaapanna."
27. The Buddha said, "Those who are following the Way should behave like a piece
of timber which is drifting along a stream. If the log is neither held by the banks, nor
seized by men, nor obstructed by the gods, nor kept in the whirlpool, nor itself goes
to decay, I assure you that this log will finally reach the ocean. If monks waling on
the Way are neither tempted by the passions, nor led astray by some evil influences;
but steadily pursue their course of Nirvana, I assure you that these monks will finally
28. The Buddha said, "Rely not upon your own will. It is not trustworthy. Guard
yourself against sensualism, for it surely leads to the path of evil. Your own will
becoomes trustworthy only when you have attained Arhatship."
29. The Buddha said, "O monks, you should not see women. (If you have to see them),
refrain from talking to them. (If you have to talk to them), you should reflect in a right
spirit: 'I am now a homeless mendicant. In the world of sin, I must behave myself like
unto the lotus flower whose purity is not defiled by the mud. Old ones I will treat as my
mother; elderly ones as elder sisters; younger ones as younger sisters; and little ones
as daughters.' And in all this you should habour no evil thoughts, but think of salvation."
30. The Buddha said, "Those who walk the Way should avoid sensualism as those who
carry hay would avoid coming near the fire."
31. The Buddha said, "There was once a man who, being in despair over his inability to
control his passions, wished to multilate himself." The Buddha said to Him, "Better
destroy your own evil thoughts than do harm to your own person. The mind is lord.
When the lord himself is claimed the servant will themselves be yielding. If your mind is
purified of evil passions, what avails it to multilate yourself?" Thereupon, the Buddha
recited the gatha:
"Passions grow from the will,
The will grows from thought and imagination.
When both are calmed,
There is neither sensualism nor transmigration."
The Buddha said that this gatha was taught by Kashyapa Buddha.
32. The Buddha said, "From the passions arise worry, and from worry arises fear.
Away with passions, and no fear, no worry."
33. The Buddha said, "Those who follow the Way are like unto warriors who fight
single-handed with a multitude of foes. They may al go out of the fort in full armour;
but among them are some who are faint-hearted, and some who go halfway and beat
a retreat, and some who are killed in the affray, and some who come home victorious.
O monks! If you desire to attain enlightenment, you should steadily walk in your Way,
with a resolute heart, with courage, and should be fearless in whatever environment
you may happen to be, and destroy every evil influence that you may across for thus
you shall reach the goal."
34. One night a monk was reciting a sutra, bequeathed by Kashyapa Buddha. His tone
was so mournful and his voice was so fainting, as if he was going out of existence. The
Buddha asked him, "What was your occupation before you become a homeless monk?"
The monk replied, "I was very fond of playing a stringed instrument." The Buddha
said, "How did you find it when the strings were too loose?" "No sound is possible."
was the reply. "How did you find it when the strings were too tight?" "They will break."
"How did you find when they were neither too tight nor too loose?" "Every note sounds
in its proper tone."
35. The Buddha then said to the monk, "Religious discipline is also like unto playing
such a stringed instrument. When the mind is properly adjusted and quietly applied,
the Way is attainable. But when you are too feverntly bent on it, your body grows tired,
and when your body is tired, your spirit becomes weary, your discipline will relax, and
with the relaxation of discipline there follows many an evil. Therefore, be calm and pure,
and the Way will be gained."
36. The Buddha said, "Even if one escapes from the evil creations, it is one's rare
fortune to be born as a human being. Even if one is born as a human, it is one's rare
fortune to be born as a man and not a woman. Even if one is born as a man, it is one's
rare fortune to be perfected in all the six senses. Even if he is perfected in all the six
senses, it is his rare fortune to be born in the middle kingdom. Even if he is born in
the middle kingdom, it is rare fortune to be born in the time of a Buddha. Even if he
is born in the time of a Buddha, it is rare fortunate to see the Enlightened One. Even
if he is able to see the Enlightened One, it is his rare fortune to have his heart
awakened in faith. Even if he has faith, it is his rare fortune to awaken the heart of
wisdom. Even if he awakens the heart of wisdom, it is his rare fortune to realise a
spiritual state which is above discipline and attainment."
37. The Buddha said, "O Sons of the Buddha! You are away from me ever so many
miles, but if you remember and think of my precepts, you shall surely gain the fruit
of enlightenment. You may standing by my side, see me always, but if you observe
not my precepts, you shall never gain enlightenment."
38. The Buddha asked another monk, "How do you measure the length of a man's
life?" He answered, "By days." The Buddha said, "You do not understand the Way."
The Buddha asked another monk, "How do you measure the length of a man's life?"
The monk answered, "By the time that passes during a meal." The Buddha said, "You
do not understand the Way." The Buddha asked the third monk, "How do you measure
the length of a man's life?" The monk answered, "By the breadth." The Buddha
said, "Very well, you know the Way."
39. The Buddha said, "Those who study the doctrine of the Buddhas will do well to
believe and observe all that is taught by them. It is like unto honey; it is sweet
within, it is sweet without, it is sweet throughout; so is the Buddhas' teaching."
40. The Buddha said, "O monks, you must not walk on the way as the ox is attached
to the wheel. His body moves, but his heart is not willing. But when your hearts are in
accord with the Way, there is no need of troubling yourselves about your outward
41. The Buddha said, "Those who practice the Way might well follow the example
of an ox that marches through the deep mire carrying a heavy load. He is tired, but
he is steadily gazed, looking forward. Will never relax until he comes out of the mire,
and it is only then that he takes a respite. O monks, remember that passions and sins
are more than filthy mire, and that you can escape misery only by earnestly and
steadily thinking of the Way."
42. The Buddha said, "I consider the dignities of kings and lords as a particle of dust
that floats in the sunbeam. I consider the treasure of precious metals and stones as
bricks and pebbles. I consider the gaudy dress of silk and brocades as a worn-out rag.
I consider this universe as small as the holila fruit. I consider thelake of Anavatapa
as a drop of oil which one smears the feet. I consider the various methods of salvation
taught by the Buddhas as a treasure created by imagination. I consider the profound
doctrine of the Buddhas as precious metal or priceless fabric seen in a dream. I consider
the teaching of the Buddhas as a flower before my eyes. I consider the practice of
Dhyana as a pillar supporting the Mount Sumeru. I consider Nirvana as awakening
from a day dream or nightmare. I consider the struggle between the heterdox and
orthodox as the antics of the six (mythical) dragons. I consider the doctrine of equality
as the absolute ground of reality. I consider all the religious works done for universal
salvation as like the plants in the four seasons."
H.H. the Sixth Patriarch Hui Neng
Hui-neng -- Patriarch of Zen Buddhism
Story of Hui Neng, the Sixth Patriarch
Hui-neng - The Platform Sutra
The Platform Sutra of Hui-neng
Formless Stanza of Hui-neng On the Teaching of the Sudden Way
Further Readings About Zen