“Good Knowing Advisors, now that you have taken refuge with the Triple Jewel, you should listen carefully while I explain to you the three bodies of a single substance, the self-nature of the Buddha, so that you may see the three bodies and become completely enlightened to your own self-nature.
“Repeat after me,
I take refuge with the clear, pure Dharma-body
of the Buddha within my own body.
I take refuge with the hundred thousand myriad
Transformation-bodies of the Buddha
within my own body.
I take refuge with the complete and full Reward body
of the Buddha within my own body.
“Good Knowing Advisors, the form-body is an inn; it cannot be returned to. The three bodies of the Buddha exist within the self-nature of worldly people, but because they are confused, they do not see the nature within them and so seek the three bodies of the Tathagata outside themselves. They do not see that the three bodies of the Buddha are within their own bodies.
“Listen to what I say, for it can cause you to see the three bodies of your own self-nature within your own body. The three bodies of the Buddha arise from your own self-nature and are not obtained from outside.
“What is the clear, pure Dharma-body Buddha? The worldly person’s nature is basically clear and pure, and the ten thousand dharmas are produced from it. The thought of evil produces evil actions and the thought of good produces good actions. Thus all dharmas exist within the self-nature.
"This is like the sky which is always clear, and the sun and moon which are always bright, so that if they are obscured by floating clouds it is bright above the clouds and dark below them. But if the wind suddenly blows and scatters the clouds, there is brightness above and below, and the myriad forms appear. The worldly person’s nature constantly drifts like those clouds in the sky.
“Good Knowing Advisors, intelligence is like the sun and wisdom is like the moon. Intelligence and wisdom are constantly bright, but if you are attached to external states, the floating clouds of false thought cover the selfnature so that it cannot shine.
“If you meet a Good Knowing Advisor, if you listen to the true and right Dharma and cast out your own confusion and falseness, then inside and out there will be penetrating brightness, and within the self-nature all the ten thousand dharmas will appear. That is how it is with those who see their own nature. It is called the clear, pure Dharma-body of the Buddha.”
Your physical body is like a house. You must not take refuge in it, but rather take refuge with your own self-nature. Everyone has the three Buddha-bodies within themselves, but because of their delusion they don’t know it.
Break through the clouds of illusion! It is just because you have not broken through them that you are deluded and have no wisdom. But if you do away with troubles and ignorance and listen to a Clear-eyed Advisor’s explanation of the orthodox Teaching, your own nature will reflect all the dharmas, like a luminous crystal.
Those who see their nature and know their original mind are like a clear sky:
The heart calm–
All worries go away;
The mind still–
Heaven has no clouds.
When your heart is upset there is chaos, but when your mind is calm and resolved, everything is auspicious.
The pure heart like the moon in water;
The quiet mind like a cloudless sky;
True wealth: the mind stopped, thought cut off;
True field of blessing: all passions put to an end.
You must end your delusion and greed, still the mind and cut off thought. That is true wealth. Truly wealthy people are not greedy. Those who are greedy are thereby poor. They may have a little money, but they are never satisfied.
The passions are just selfish desires and without them you are a true field of merit.
“Good Knowing Advisors, when your own mind takes refuge with your self-nature, it takes refuge with the true Buddha. To take refuge is to rid your self-nature of egotism and unwholesome thoughts as well as of jealousy, obsequiousness, deceitfulness, contempt, pride, conceit, and deviant views, and all other unwholesome tendencies whenever they arise.
“To take refuge is to be always aware of your own transgressions and never to speak of other people’s good or bad traits. Always to be humble and polite is to have penetrated to the self-nature without any obstacle. That is taking refuge.
If you turn the light around and reverse the illumination, you take refuge with the true Buddha. Be careful not to envy others. Would you like to know why you are so deluded? It is because in past lives, life after life, you envied others. You envied their intelligence and so now you are stupid; you envied their talent and so now you have none. You were jealous then and now you are inferior.
You should not be devious and indirect. Get rid of egotism: “I, I, me, myself, everything revolves around me!” You should not be deceitful, full of self-importance, and contemptuous of others.
To have deviant views is to misjudge every situation you encounter and then go off in the wrong direction. Deviant views are easy to come by. If you wish to take refuge, see your own faults and quit talking about other people. Criticism is yin and praise is yang. You should find the Middle Way.
“What is the perfect, full Reward-body of the Buddha? Just as one lamp can disperse the darkness of a thousand years, one thought of wisdom can destroy ten thousand years of delusion.
“Do not think of the past; it is gone and can never be recovered. Instead think always of the future and in every thought, perfect and clear, see your own original nature. Although good and evil differ, the original nature is non-dual. That non-dual nature is the real nature. Undefiled by either good or evil, it is the perfect, full Reward-body of the Buddha.
“One evil thought arising from the self-nature destroys ten thousand eons’ worth of good karma. One good thought arising from the self-nature ends evils as numerous as the sand-grains in the Ganges River. To reach the unsurpassed Bodhi directly, see it for yourself in every thought and do not lose the original thought. That is the Reward-body of the Buddha.”
When you bring forth wisdom, not just ten thousand years, but ten thousand eons of delusion are wiped away.
Do not regret the past or be anxious about the future. “What am I going to do next?” you ask. If you plant good causes, you will reap good results; if you plant bad causes, you will reap bad results. So do good things and good things will happen; do bad and bad things will happen. Your thoughts should be proper, perfectly lucid, and full of light, not deviant, selfish, and selfseeking, obstructive or jealous. If you are not afraid that others will be better than you, it may be that you are a little better than they are. But if you fear that they will surpass you, then they are all better than you.
The good and evil natures within the self-nature differ, but the self-nature is not dual. The non-dual suchness self-nature is the real nature. Yung Chia wrote in his “Song of Enlightenment”:
Ignorance and the real nature are just the Buddha nature;
The illusory empty body is just the Dharma body.
In the original, real nature, there is no good or evil. It is entirely perfect and wonderful in itself, far reaching in its penetration, and broad in understanding.
One vicious thought, such as Bodhiruci’s desire to poison Bodhidharma, destroys ten thousand eons of good karma, whereas one good thought melts away evil karma as immense as the number of sandgrains in the Ganges. One good thought can cause the realization of Buddhahood, and one bad thought is cause enough for going to hell. If you would like to know whether you are going to become a Buddha or go to hell, take a look at what kind of thoughts you have.
To arrive at Buddhahood directly, see it for yourself in every thought. Understand your own mind and see your own original nature. Do not lose the original thought, the true thought, the true nature.
“What are the hundred thousand myriad Transformation bodies of the Buddha? If you are free of any thought of the ten thousand dharmas, then your nature is basically like emptiness, but in one thought of calculation, transformation occurs. Evil thoughts are transformed into hell-beings and good thoughts into heavenly beings. Viciousness is transformed into dragons and snakes, and compassion into Bodhisattvas.
"Wisdom is transformed into the upper realms, and delusion into the lower realms. The transformations of the self-nature are extremely many, and yet the confused person, unawakened to that truth, continually gives rise to evil and walks evil paths. Turn a single thought back to goodness, and wisdom is produced. That is the Transformation-body of the Buddha within your self-nature.”
Having discussed the perfect full Reward-body which lacks nothing and has nothing in excess, which obtains nothing and loses nothing and is neither defiled nor immaculate, increasing nor decreasing, male nor female, good nor evil–but which is perfect Bodhi that returns to non-attainment–the Sixth Patriarch asks, “What are the hundred-thousand myriad Transformation bodies?”
“We have one body,” you say. “How can we have a hundred thousand myriad bodies? What do the Buddha’s transformation-bodies have to do with me?”
These transformation-bodies are simply a hundred thousand myriad thoughts and calculations. Shakyamuni Buddha can transform himself to appear in any one of the ten Dharma Realms. That is, he can become a Buddha, a Bodhisattva, a Pratyekabuddha, an Arhat, a god, asura, human, hell-being, hungry ghost, or animal.
You might also say that you and I have a hundred thousand myriad transformation-bodies. I have taken a hundred thousand myriad disciples and all of them imitate their teacher in cultivation. They see their teacher eating only one meal a day, before noon, and say, “I’m going to do that too.” I tell them, “I never stick out my hand and beg. I don’t depend on external situations and neither should you. If no one makes offerings to me and I die, that’s just fine. Those who leave the home life under me must follow my Three Conditions, as I do:
Freezing, I don’t beg,
Starving, I don’t scheme, and
Dying of poverty, I ask for nothing.
The disciples say, “All right! Even if we starve to death, we won’t beg or scheme.”
Because they copy me, they are my transformation bodies. In the future you will have transformation bodies, too. If you have a good way of doing things, you will have a hundred thousand myriad good transformation bodies. If you have an evil, ghostly way, you will have that many ghostly transformation bodies.
“If you are free of any thought of the ten thousand Dharmas, then your nature is basically like emptiness...”
One thought not produced,
The entire substance manifests.
If you do not give rise to a single thought, your original Buddha nature appears. But aren’t you producing a thought? Are you without false thinking? Are you not thinking, “What will I eat tomorrow? What time will I get to bed tonight?” or, “I’m thirsty. I think I’ll have a cup of tea?”
Without false thinking, you are a Buddha. But if you can’t cut off your false thinking, you must not claim to be a Buddha; you must cultivate the Way. If you haven’t cultivated and say, “Hey! I’m a Buddha!” you are just a dog of a Buddha. You can’t simply say that everyone is Buddha, you have to cultivate and realize Buddhahood. Without cultivation, people are people, animals are animals, and dogs are dogs. But do not be offended. Dogs also have the Buddha nature. They have to cultivate, that’s all.
Six roots suddenly move:
A covering of clouds.
When you see something and think it beautiful or hear something and think, “Music!” you are being influenced by externals. Using the six sense organs, the six sense objects and the six consciousnesses in this way, you cover yourself with clouds.
“Evil thoughts are transformed into hell-beings...” Suppose you think, “How can I get famous? How can I succeed? I’ll start a riot, murder people, set fires, and loot the streets.”
“...and good thoughts into heavenly beings.” “Oh,” you say, “I want to help people. You have no money? Here is a million to help you get by.” Or you think, “No one makes offerings to the Americans who have left home. I’ll make an offering.” Don’t wait for America, such an affluent nation, to allow its new Buddhist Sangha to starve to death: transform into the heavens.
“Wisdom is transformed into the upper realms, and delusion into the lower realms.” With intelligence, you go up, but if you are deluded, you fall.
The Superior one mounts on high.
The petty person travels a lower road.
“The transformations of the self-nature are extremely many, and yet the confused person, unawakened to that truth, continually gives rise to evil, and walks evil paths.” The confused person’s every thought is evil: “That person mistreats me! I’m going to ruin him.” The Great Master Shen Hsiu was one who walked evil paths by repeatedly sending hired killers after the Sixth Patriarch.
“Turn a single thought back to goodness, and wisdom is produced. That is the Transformation-body of the Buddha within your self-nature.” Do you understand? If you do, you are a Good Knowing Advisor; if you don’t, you’re an evil knowing advisor. Wouldn’t you rather be a Good Knowing Advisor?
“Good Knowing Advisors, the Dharma body of the Buddha is basically complete. To see your own nature in every thought is the Reward body of the Buddha. When the Reward body thinks and calculates, it is the Transformation body of the Buddha. Awaken and cultivate by your own efforts the merit and virtue of your self-nature. That is truly taking refuge.
“The skin and flesh of the physical body are like an inn to which you cannot return. Simply awaken to the three bodies of your self-nature and you will understand the self-nature Buddha.”
You yourself must wake up and cultivate on your own. Do not babble intellectual zen all day, “Yak, yak, yak!” talking but never practicing. Talking a yard is not as good as practicing an inch. If you do nothing but talk, you are cheating people. So pay no attention to whether my lectures are good or bad. Look instead to see if I have ever cheated you.
The Sixth Patriarch tells you to awaken to the three bodies of your self-nature, so you say, “Then taking refuge with myself is to take refuge with my body.” No. If you take refuge with your body you are just adding a head on top of a head, like Yajnadatta in the Shurangama Sutra who ran everywhere looking for his head. Your physical body is an inn where your self-nature temporarily dwells.
Therefore you cannot say, “My body is me.” Your body is not you. Then is it someone else’s? No your body is yours, it is not mine or his. It is yours, but it is not you. Don’t I always say that if you live in a house, you can say the house is yours but you certainly cannot say the house is you? If you say that it is you, everyone will say, “He doesn’t even know who he is! He thinks his house is him, but it’s just a thing.” Your body is like a house; don’t mistake it for being you. Understand?
Don’t take refuge with the physical body, take refuge with your self-nature. Awaken to the clear, pure Dharma-body Buddha, the perfect, full Reward-body Buddha, and the hundred thousand myriad Transformation-body Buddhas within your own nature. By understanding the Buddha of your self-nature you may perfect the three bodies.
“I have a verse without marks. If you can recite and memorize it, it will wipe away-accumulated eons of confusion and offenses as soon as the words are spoken. The verse runs:
A confused person will foster blessings,
but not cultivate the Way;
And say, “To practice for the blessings
is practice of the Way.”
While giving and making offerings
brings blessings without limit,
It is in the mind that the three evils
have their origin.
By seeking blessings you may wish
to obliterate offenses;
But in the future, though you are blessed,
offenses still remain.
You ought to simply strike the evil
conditions from your mind;
By true repentance and reform
within your own self-nature.
A sudden awakening: the true repentance and
reform of the Great Vehicle;
You must cast out the deviant, and practice
the right, to be without offense.
To study the Way, always look
within your own self-nature;
You are then the same in kind
and lineage as all Buddhas.
Our Patriarch passed along only
this Sudden Teaching;
Wishing that all might see the nature
and be of one substance.
In the future if you wish
to find the Dharma body;
Detach yourself from Dharma marks
and inwardly wash the mind.
Strive to see it for yourself
and do not waste your time,
For when the final thought has stopped
your life comes to an end.
Enlightened to the Great Vehicle
you can see your nature;
So reverently join your palms
and seek it with all your heart.
“Don’t be nervous,” continued the Great Master, “I have some good news! Don’t you know? I have a verse without marks. Do you want to hear it? If you do, I’ll recite; if not, I’ll just put it away.”
“Yes!” everyone exclaimed, “we definitely do want to hear it. Please be compassionate and recite it.”
“If you can learn this verse by heart,” the Master said, “it will cause the confusions and crimes accumulated from beginningless time, passing through limitless ages, life after life, to be eradicated immediately. Where will they go? Do you mean you still want to look for them? What a waste of effort!”
A confused person will foster blessing, but if you tell him to cultivate with vigor, he won’t do it. Although there are not many students here, those present are extremely sincere. They do not fear leg-pain, back-pain, any pain whatever. “I will endure this pain and cultivate the Way, even if it means giving up my life!” they say. Such rare determination makes me happy, but I don’t show my happiness by joking with you all day. It’s not that kind of happiness; it’s true happiness.
Deluded people say, “To practice for the blessings is practice of the Way.” This is like the Emperor Wu of Liang who said, “I have taken Bhikshus across and have built many temples. I have made offerings and practiced charity and arranged vegetarian banquets. What great merit I must have! It’s probably even greater than Shakyamuni Buddha’s!”
Giving and making offerings brings limitless blessings, but the origin of the three evils is within the mind. What are the three evils? Greed, hate, and delusion.
Greed: “I think I’ll eat a few more peanuts and then I won’t be hungry today.” Hate: “Hey! Who ate all the peanuts?” Delusion: Hating the one who ate the peanuts which makes you unreasonable and stupid. Cultivating blessings while neglecting wisdom has made you so stupid that you can’t quit over-eating and even have the gall to speak of it as a bitter practice.
You cannot get rid of offenses by cultivating blessings, because although you obtain the blessings, the offenses still remain. What you should do is rid the mind of all evil conditions, i.e. thoughts of greed, hate, delusion, jealousy, obstructiveness, conceit, obsequiousness, viciousness and deceitfulness.
“But they’re my old friends,” you say. “We’ve been together for millions of years. How can I part with them?” Fine. If you can’t part with them, then there’s nothing to do but follow them down to hell.
To practice true repentance and reform is to understand the Great Vehicle and immediately get rid of all evil thoughts. It is very clear; no analogies are needed. You truly repent when you “get rid of the deviant and practice the right,” as the Sixth Patriarch’s verse says. Then you may walk down the straight, great bright road and be without offense.
“To study the Way, always look within the self-nature.” Ask yourself, “What am I doing? Am I acting like a person or a ghost, an animal, a horse or a cow?” You are what you do. If you act like a Buddha, you are a Buddha. The Buddha practices friendliness, compassion, sympathetic joy, and giving. His compassion is genuine, not false and greedy. He never thinks, “If I am a little compassionate to you, you will be greatly compassionate to me.”
There are no ulterior motives in the compassion I have for you. I would not give you a brick and expect a piece of jade in return.
Cultivators, turn the light around, reverse its illumination, and ask yourself, “Am I thinking like a demon or a Buddha? Am I selfish or generous, self-seeking or charitable?” If you are charitable you are the “same in kind as all the Buddhas.” If you act like a Buddha, you are a Buddha, but if you act like a ghost, how can you be a Buddha?
By “our Patriarch” the Sixth Patriarch means Bodhidharma, who transmitted only the Sudden Teaching Dharma-door because he wanted everyone to see the Buddha nature and realize the Buddha Way together.
“If you wish to find the Dharma-body,” then separate yourself from all marks. Do not be attached, jealous, obstructive, ignorant, afflicted, or snobbish. You cannot think, as the Buddha did, “In the heavens and below, I alone am honored.” The Diamond Sutra says, “One who has left all marks is called a Buddha.” Apart from marks and unattached to self and to dharmas, the mind-ground is cleansed.
“Strive to see it for yourself” and go forward with heroic vigor. You’ll never succeed if you’re lazy and waste your time, saying “Wait, I’ll cultivate tomorrow. Wait, I’ll translate tomorrow.” Even at lunchtime you say, “Wait, I’ll eat later.” Wait, wait, until it’s time to die and King Yama won’t listen to you when you say, “Wait! I’ll die later.” If you are truly free, you come and go in birth and death and yet are not subject to birth and death. King Yama has no control over you. This is like the Third Patriarch, Seng Ts’an, who said, “You see others sit in lotus posture to die and think it special. Watch this!” and grabbed a tree branch with one hand and went to Nirvana, just hanging there. Wasn’t he free?
If you wait until your dying breath to cultivate, it will be too late, “for when the final thought has stopped, your life comes to an end. Earlier, in Chapter IV, didn’t the Sutra say that you should not cut off your thought, because when the last thought is cut off you die and then undergo rebirth in some other place? At the time of death there is nothing–no fame, no riches. Both your hands will be empty and you’ll be forced to put down what you can’t put down. No matter how dear your loved ones are, you’ll have to part with them.
Enlightened to the Great Vehicle
you can see the nature;
So reverently join your palms and
seek it with all your heart.
See the nature and humbly seek to follow the unsurpassed Way.
The Master said, “Good Knowing Advisors, all of you should take up this verse and cultivate according to it. If you see your nature at the moment these words are spoken, even if we are a thousand miles apart you will always be by my side. If you do not awaken at the moment of speaking, then, face to face we are a thousand miles apart, so why did you bother to come from so far? Take care of yourselves and go well.”
The united assembly heard this Dharma and there were none who did not awaken. They received it with delight and practiced in accord with it.
I think the Sixth Patriarch liked to talk and so he delivered this Platform Sutra. If he hadn’t liked to speak, he wouldn’t have taught any Sutra at all.
Now I am teaching it to all of you:
“You are quite intelligent,” the Master said, “and you have good roots. We have an affinity which goes back for many lifetimes and many ages, and therefore we have met here today.” Of course, there were no foreigners in the Master’s Dharma-assembly; they were all Chinese. That I have met with so many Americans must be a case of even greater affinity.
“If you understand the verse I have recited,” said the Master, “you will ‘get rid of the deviant, practice the right, and be without offense,’ and although we are a thousand miles apart, you will be right beside me.”
If my disciples understand and remember the Sutras I have explained, they will be right beside me. But if instead they take advantage of external circumstances or get jealous and angry, they will have studied the Way in vain. If they don’t understand this verse, then even if we should stand face to face, we would still be a thousand miles apart.
If they believe in me, although we are a thousand miles apart, we are face to face. “Are you trying to make people believe in you?” you ask. No! Why should I want you to believe in me? You’re better off believing in yourself, because if you cultivate, you do it for yourself. You don’t eat to make me full. All I do is teach you the methods. If you have come all this way just to be a thousand miles from me, why did you bother to come at all?
“Take care of yourselves.” Don’t look down on yourself and say, “I’m not going to cultivate. I’m nothing but a dog anyway.” See yourself as a person, not a dog, and go to a good place, not a bad one.
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