On the High Seat of "The Treasure of the Law"
The Sutra of the 6 th Patriarch, Hui Neng
(Translated by A.F.Price and Wong Mou-Lam)
Chapter X. His Final Instructions
One day the Patriarch sent for his
disciples, Fa Hai, Chih Ch'eng, FaTa, Shen Hui, Chih Ch'ang, Chih Tung, Chih
Ch'e, Chih Tao, Fa Chen, Fa Ju,
etc., and addressed them as follows: "You men are different from the
common lot. After my entering into Nirvana, each of you will be the
Master of a certain district. I am, therefore, going to give you some
hints on preaching, so that you may keep up the tradition of our
"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
preaching, stray not from the Essence of Mind. Whenever a man puts a
to you, answer him in antonyms, so that a 'pair of opposites' will be
such as 'coming' and 'going'. 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:
Skandhas (aggregates), Ayatanas (places 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 Alaya (Repository) Consciousness. 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 (impurity) 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, and inwardly, we should free ourselves from attachment to the idea of the Void.
To believe in the reality of objects or in Nihilism results in 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 recite the 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 offense 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 its understanding.
To preach or to hear the Law without practicing it gives 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. "Supposing 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 appears. 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 seventh Moon of the year of Jen Tzu, the first year of T'ai Chi or Yen Ho Era, the Patriarch sent some of his disciples to Hsin Chou to have a shrine (stupa) built within the Kuo 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 first day of the seventh Moon, the Patriarch assembled his disciples and addressed them as follows: "I am going to leave this world by the eighth 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 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 Essence of Mind within himself Knows that the 'True Mind' is to be sought apart from 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 find true Immobility There is Immobility within activity. Immobility (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 argue with others in disregard of this rule 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 Ta 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'. 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.
"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 the transmission of the Dharma, the robe need not be handed down. 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 there from 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 eighth day of the seventh Moon, the Patriarch gave a sudden order to his disciples to get ready a boat for Hsin Chou (his native place). In a body they entreated him earnestly and pitifully to stay. "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 Nirvana. There can be no exception for my physical body, which must be laid down somewhere." "After your visit to Hsin Chou," entreated the assembly, "please return here sooner or later." "Fallen leaves go back to where the root is, and when I first came I had no mouth," 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 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 Vipasyin Buddha Sikhin Buddha Visvabhu Of the present kalpa (the Bhadrakalpa): Buddha Krakucchanda Buddha Kanakamuni Buddha Kasyapa Buddha Sakyamuni "From the Buddha Sakyamuni, the Law was transmitted to the:
1st Patriarch Arya Mahakasyapa 2nd Patriarch Arya Ananda 3rd Patriarch Arya Sanakavasa 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 Gayasata 19th Patriarch Arya Kumarata 20th Patriarch Arya Jayata 21st Patriarch Arya Vasubandhu
22nd Patriarch Arya Manorhita 23rd Patriarch Arya Haklenayasas 24th Patriarch Arya Simha 25th Patriarch Arya Basiasita 26th Patriarch Arya Punyamitra 27th Patriarch Arya Prajnatara 28th Patriarch Arya Bodhidharma (the first Patriarch in China) 29th Patriarch Grand Master Hui K'u 30th Patriarch Grand Master Seng Ts'an 31st Patriarch Grand Master Tao Hsin 32nd Patriarch Grand Master Hung Yen And I am the 33rd Patriarch (the sixth Patriarch in China). Thus the Dharma was handed down from one Patriarch to another. Hereafter, you men should in turn transmit it to posterity, from one generation to another, so that the tradition may be maintained. On the third day of the eighth Moon of the year of Kuei Chou, the second Year of HsienT'ien Era (A.D. 713), after taking food at the Kuo 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. 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, 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 (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 eleventh Moon of that year the question of the Patriarch's resting place gave rise to a dispute among the government officials of Kuang Chow, Shao Chou and Hsin Chou, each party being anxious to have the remains of the Patriarch removed to its own district. The Patriarch's disciples, together with other monks 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 Ts'ao Ch'i, 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 seventh Moon, the body was taken out of the shrine, and Fang Pien, 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 Chou 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 Chung Tsung, the Patriarch's statue made by Fang Pien, and other sacred articles, were put in charge of the keeper of the stupa. They were to be kept permanently in Pao 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.