Hui-Neng-From Illiterate Woodcutter
to Sixth Patriarch
From the biography:
and disciples to seek equanimity and understanding of the true or essential nature,
Hui-Neng cautioned against stagnation. He emphasized humility rather than self-aggrandizement,
detachment from thoughts, and remaining true to one's essential nature. Shaving
one's head and receiving ordination as monks and nuns was fruitless without eveness
of mind and straightforwardness of action. The way to enlightenment or buddhahood,
advised Hui-Neng, was through purification of the mind and recognition of the
Pure Land within the body. Rebirth without enlightenment, he counseled, is a long
road. Better, he taught, to realize the "birthless reality of immediacy."
From the enlightenment story:
"After having gotten my mother settled,
I left right away and reached Huang-mei within thirty-odd days. There I paid respects
to the Fifth Grand Master.
The Grand Master asked, "Where are you from,
and what do you want?"
I replied, "I am a peasant from Hsin Province
in Ling-nan. I have come from far away to pay my respects to you only because
I seek to be a buddha, nothing else."
The Grand Master said, "You
are a southerner, and an aborigine; how can you be a buddha?"
"People may be southemers or northemers, but the buddha-nature originally
has no south or north. As an aborigine, my social status is not the same as yours,
but what difference is there in our buddha-nature?"
The Grand Master
wanted to talk with me more, but he saw that his followers were all around, so
he had me do chores with the workers.
I said to him, "My own mind always
produces wisdom. Not being alienated from one's own essential nature is itself
a field of blessings. What work would you have me do?"
The Grand Master
said, "This aborigine is very sharp! Don't say any more. Go work in the mill."