THE SAGELY CITY OF TEN THOUSAND BUDDHAS

 

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C H A P T E R   V I I

OPPORTUNITIES AND CONDITIONS

Sutra:

The Master obtained the Dharma at Huang Mei and returned to Ts’ao Hou
Village in Shao Chou where no one knew him. But Liu Chih Liao, a scholar, received him with great courtesy. Chih Liao’s aunt, Bhikshuni Wu Chin Tsang, constantly recited the Mahaparinirvana Sutra. When the Master heard it, he instantly grasped its wonderful principle and explained it to her. The Bhikshuni then held out a scroll and asked about some characters.

The Master said, “I cannot read; please ask about the meaning.”

“If you cannot even read, how can you understand the meaning?” asked the Bhikshuni.

The Master replied, “The subtle meaning of all Buddhas is not based on language.”

The Bhikshuni was startled and she announced to all the elders and virtuous ones in the village: “Here is a gentleman who possesses the Way. We should ask him to stay and receive our offerings.” Ts’ao Shu Liang, great-grandson of the Marquis Wu of the Wei dynasty, came rushing to pay homage, along with the people of the village.

At that time the pure dwellings of the ancient Pao Lin Temple, which had been destroyed by war and fire at the end of the Sui dynasty, were rebuilt on their old foundation. The Master was invited to stay and soon the temple became a revered place. He dwelt there a little over nine months when he was once again pursued by evil men. The Master hid in the mountain in the front of the temple, and when they set fire to the brush and trees, he escaped by crawling into a rock to hide. The rock still bears the imprints of the Master’s knees and of his robe where he sat in lotus posture. Because of this it is called “The Rock of Refuge.” Remembering the Fifth Patriarch’s instructions to stop at Huai and hide at Hui, he went to conceal himself in those two cities.

Commentary:

After receiving the mind-seal Dharma from the Fifth Patriarch Hung Jen, the Sixth Patriarch returned to Shao Chou. He thereupon went to Ts’ao Hou Village, the present day Shao Kuan in Chü Chiang District. When he arrived in the vicinity of Nan Hua Temple, which before had been Pao Lin Temple, no one knew that he was the one who held the robe and bowl.

Liu Chih Liao was a wealthy retired official who enjoyed studying the Buddhadharma. He welcomed the Master reverently and made offerings to him. Chih Liao and his aunt, Bhikshuni Wu Chin Tsang, “limitless treasury,” were the Sixth Patriarch’s great Dharma protectors. Wu Chin Tsang liked to recite the Mahaparinirvana Sutra. This Sutra, in ten volumes, was spoken by the Buddha just before he went to Nirvana. Hearing the recitation, the Sixth Patriarch understood the subtle principle and explained it to the Bhikshuni. Probably she couldn’t read very well, because she asked the Master, “What is this word?”

“Do you mean you can’t read it?” said the Master.

“No, I can’t,” she said.

“Well, I can’t either!” said the Master, “But if you ask about the meaning I can explain it for you.”

“If you can’t even read it, how can you know what it means?” she asked.

The Master said, “The Buddha’s heart, the mind-Dharma, the wonderful principle of Sudden Enlightenment, has nothing to do with words. Instead, it points directly to the mind so that we can see our own nature and become Buddhas. Since it is not based on language it doesn’t matter whether you can read.”

Bhikshuni Wu Chin Tsang thought that was very strange indeed. She told everyone in the village, “Here is a gentleman who has the Way! He is a virtuous Dharma Master. He may not be able to read, but he’s enlightened, so we should make offerings to him.”

Although she didn’t know a lot of characters, Wu Chin Tsang was nevertheless an incredible Bhikshuni. She ate one meal a day and never lay down to sleep, because she knew that the Fourth Patriarch recommended these practices. Although her family was wealthy, she kept the precept of never holding money. She studied and recited Sutras industriously, and when the time came, she died sitting up in meditation. Many days, many years have passed and her body still has not decayed. Because she was vigorous and worked hard at cultivation and had no sexual desire, her flesh transformed into indestructible vajra. I saw the body in a temple in Chü Chiang. It is truly awesome.

Among the villagers who paid homage to the Great Master was the great-grandson of Marquis Wu. Marquis Wu was very intelligent. He was, in fact, as clever as a fox. He was a genius, but he had a tendency to be jealous.

Bhikshuni Wu Chin Tsang promoted the Sixth Patriarch: “Do you know who he is?” she would say, “He’s the rightful successor to the Fifth Patriarch! He holds the robe and bowl.”

One flower may be beautiful, but it looks much better surrounded by greenery. If no one had protected him, the Sixth Patriarch would surely have been murdered by Shen Hsiu’s gang, or those of other religions. His Dharma assembly flourished because his disciples and laypeople such as Bhikshuni Wu Chin Tsang and her nephew, Liu Chih Liao, the scholar, guarded and protected him. Vinaya Master T’ung Ying also brought several hundred of his students to study with the Master, and each student told his friends to come. So every day for lunch there were between 1,500 and 2,000 people, seven or eight hundred of whom were members of the Sangha.

Everyone made heartfelt offerings to help rebuild Nan Hua Temple. Some gave ten thousand ounces of silver, some gave a million. They asked the Master to live there and before long it was a great Bodhimanda, big enough for several thousand people.

A little over nine months later, several hundred of Shen Hsiu’s men left Huang Mei, passing through the Ta Yü mountain range on their way to Nan Hua Temple. They traveled for over two months. If they hadn’t been intent on killing the Master and stealing the robe and bowl, they would have given up after a couple of days. Think it over: Sixteen or seventeen years had passed since the transmission, and the Master had only been staying at Nan Hua for nine months when the evil men returned. It’s not easy to be a Patriarch, unless you are a phony. Real Patriarchs live in great danger.

The Sixth Patriarch had spiritual powers and he knew that not just one or two, but several hundred men were after him. He hid in the “Rock of Refuge” which is just big enough to hold one person sitting in meditation. The evil men mingled in with the large crowd and stealthily set fire to the mountain. They burned off the entire area, but never found the Master. While hiding, the Master probably meditated with great intensity because the texture of his robe and the marks of his knees can still be seen imprinted in the rock. When I was at Nan Hua Temple I sat in the rock for a time, but I wasn’t seeking refuge, I was just trying it out. When you sit inside it, no one can see you.

Bhikshu Fa Hai

Sutra:

When Bhikshu Fa Hai of Chü Chiang city in Shao Chou first called on the Patriarch, he asked, “Will you please instruct me on the sentence, ‘Mind is Buddha’?”

The Master said, “When one’s preceding thoughts are not produced this is mind and when one’s subsequent thoughts are not extinguished this is Buddha. The setting up of marks is mind, and separation from them is Buddha. Were I to explain it fully, I would not finish before the end of the present age.

“Listen to my verse:

When the mind is called wisdom,
Then the Buddha is called concentration.
When concentration and wisdom are equal.
The intellect is pure.

Understand this Dharma teaching
By practicing within your own nature.
The function is basically unproduced;
It is right to cultivate both.”

At these words, Fa Hai was greatly enlightened and spoke a verse in praise

This mind is basically Buddha;
By not understanding I disgrace myself.
I know the cause of concentration and wisdom
Is to cultivate both and separate myself from all things.

Commentary:

Bhikshu Fa Hai, also called Wen Yün, compiled and edited the Platform Sutra from the Sixth Patriarch’s lectures. Although I dare not say that he liked to be first, when he wrote this chapter he certainly thought, “I am the Master’s number one great disciple!” and consequently wrote about himself first.

“Great Master,” said Fa Hai, “I don’t understand the sentence ‘This mind is Buddha.’ Please explain it.”

“Do not produce the former thought,” said the Master, “and just that is mind. Do not extinguish the latter thought and just that is Buddha. With neither production nor extinction, the mind itself is Buddha. All appearances are set up by the mind, and if you can set up all appearances and be separate from them, that is Buddha.”

The mind is called wisdom and the Buddha is called concentration. When concentration and wisdom are equal, the mind is Buddha and Buddha is the mind. They are one substance. When thought is pure, then wisdom and concentration, mind and Buddha, are equal. If you understand the Sudden Teaching you know that the Buddha is not separate from the mind and the mind is not separate from the Buddha; concentration is not separate from wisdom and wisdom is not separate from concentration.

You don’t understand because you have accumulated bad habits for many ages. The wonderful function of the self-nature is basically unproduced and undestroyed, so when you cultivate the mind, you cultivate the Buddha; when you cultivate the Buddha, you cultivate the mind. The same applies to concentration and wisdom. You should cultivate them equally.

When you don’t understand, there are two: mind and Buddha, When you understand you know that they are originally one. In cultivating concentration and wisdom, you should separate yourself from all marks.

Bhikshu Fa Ta

Sutra:

Bhikshu Fa Ta of Hung Chou left home at age seven and constantly recited the Dharma Flower Sutra, but when he came to bow before the Patriarch, his head did not touch the ground. The Master scolded him, saying, “If you do not touch the ground, isn’t it better not to bow? There must be something on your mind. What do you practice?”

“I have recited the Dharma Flower Sutra over three thousand times,” he replied.

The Master said, “I don’t care if you have recited it ten thousand times. If you understood the Sutra’s meaning, you would not be so overbearing, and you could walk along with me. You have failed in your work and do not even recognize your error.

Listen to my verse:

As bowing is basically to cut off arrogance,
Why don’t you touch your head to the ground?
When you possess a self, offenses arise,
But forgetting merit brings supreme blessings.”

The Master asked further, “What is your name?”

“Fa Ta,” he replied.

The Master said, “Your name means ‘Dharma Penetration,’ but what Dharma have you penetrated?” He then spoke a verse:

Your name means Dharma Penetration,
And you earnestly recite without pause to rest.
Recitation is mere sound,
But one who understands his mind is called a Bodhisattva.
Now, because of your karmic conditions,
I will explain it to you:
Believe only that the Buddha is without words
And the lotus blossom will bloom from your mouth.

Commentary:

Dharma Masters Fa Hai (Dharma Sea) and Fa Ta (Dharma Penetration) both received the Sixth Patriarch’s Dharma. Fa Ta left home at age seven and constantly recited the Lotus Sutra, but when he met the Patriarch he didn’t bow properly, he just pretended. He had to make some sort of show of it since everybody knew that the Great Master held Huang Mei’s robe and bowl. But the most respect he could muster was to throw himself hastily on the ground, without even touching his head to the floor, and in his heart he felt that his own merit certainly was greater than the Master’s. “After all,” he thought, “I’ve recited the Sutra over three thousand times.” When Fa Ta saw ordinary people, he couldn’t even manage a half bow. He was like a rich snob who only sees other rich snobs and looks down on everyone else. The Sixth Patriarch took one look and knew that Fa Ta had something on his mind.

The Lotus Sutra is seven volumes long and, reciting quickly, you could read through it once in a day, or three hundred and sixty-five times a year. Therefore Fa Ta had been reciting it for over ten years.

“I don’t care if you’ve recited it ten thousand times!” said the Master. “If you really understood it you wouldn’t revel in your own merit and could study with me. Not everyone can study with a Patriarch, you know. If you have obstructions and afflictions, he may not want you.”

Therefore, if you come to study here but break the rules, you are not welcome. In order to cultivate with me you must offer up your conduct in accord with the teaching.

“So many recitations,” said the Master, “and you still don’t know how conceited you are! No doubt you think your merit is even greater than mine. Such pride is an offense. But if you could forget your merit and consider your three thousand recitations as no recitations, then your merit would be limitless and boundless.”

“Speak up, Dharma Penetration!” the Master continued, “What Dharma have you penetrated?”

Fa Ta was speechless.

“Not bad,” the Master said, “You work hard. However, your recitation is of no benefit because you don’t understand what the Sutra means. If you could only understand your mind and see your nature, you would be a Bodhisattva. You have come all this way from Hung Chou because we have an affinity from circumstances in former lives. Now just believe that the Buddha is without words, and the lotus blossom will bloom from your mouth. Believe! The Buddha never said a thing, and if you recite without understanding the principle, you are wasting your time.”

The Diamond Sutra says,

One who sees me by form
Or seeks me in sound,
Walks a deviant path

Not seeing the Tathagata.

The Buddha taught for forty-nine years in over three hundred Dharma assemblies, but when he was about to enter Nirvana and his disciples asked him about the Sutras, he said, “I never said a word.” Was he lying?

The Sixth Patriarch also taught that the Buddha said nothing, and if you believe this the Lotus will bloom from your mouth. But how does one obtain such rare faith?

The Sutra’s principles exist in the minds of people; they can be spoken by you; they can be spoken by me. Everyone has this wisdom and everyone can speak the Sutras. The Buddha spoke the Sutras for living beings and the Sutras flow from the minds of living beings. Therefore the Buddha spoke without speaking. This means that you should not be attached to Dharma or to emptiness. Nevertheless, you cannot say, “I don’t know any Dharma. I’m empty!”

To understand that the Buddha spoke and yet did not speak is the most difficult and yet the easiest thing one can do. Can you do it? If you can, the Buddha has not spoken. If you cannot, then the Buddha has said too much.

Sutra:

Hearing the verse, Fa Ta was remorseful and he said, “From now on I will respect everyone. Your disciple recites the Dharma Flower Sutra but has not yet understood its meaning. His mind often has doubts. High Master, your wisdom is vast and great. Will you please explain the general meaning of the Sutra for me?”

The Master said, “Dharma Penetration, the Dharma is extremely penetrating, but your mind does not penetrate it. There is basically nothing doubtful in the Sutra. The doubts are in your own mind. You recite this Sutra, but what do you think its teaching is?”

Fa Ta said, “This student’s faculties are dull and dim. Since I have only recited it by rote, how could I understand its doctrine?”

The Master said, “I cannot read, but if you take the Sutra and read it once, I will explain it to you.”

Fa Ta recited loudly until he came to the “Analogies Chapter.” The Master said, “Stop! This Sutra fundamentally is based on the principles underlying the causes and conditions of the Buddha’s appearance in the world. None of the analogies spoken go beyond that. What are the causes and conditions? The Sutra says, ‘All Buddhas, the World-Honored Ones, appear in the world for the causes and conditions of the One Important Matter.’ The One Important Matter is the knowledge and vision of the Buddha. Worldly people, deluded by the external world, attach themselves to marks, and deluded by the inner world, they attach themselves to emptiness. If you can live among marks and yet be separate from it, then you will be confused by neither the internal nor the external. If you awaken to this Dharma, in one moment your mind will open to enlightenment. The knowledge and vision of the Buddha is simply that.

The Buddha is enlightenment. There are four divisions:

  1. Opening to the enlightened knowledge and vision;
  2. Demonstrating the enlightened knowledge and vision;
  3. Awakening to the enlightened knowledge and vision; and
  4. Entering the enlightened knowledge and vision.

If you listen to the opening and demonstrating (of the Dharma), you can easily awaken and enter. That is the enlightened knowledge and vision, the original true nature becoming manifest. Be careful not to misinterpret the Sutra by thinking that the opening, demonstrating, awakening, and entering of which it speaks is the Buddha’s knowledge and vision and that we have no share in it. To explain it that way would be to slander the Sutra and defame the Buddha. Since he is already a Buddha, perfect in knowledge and vision, what is the use of his opening to it again? You should now believe that the Buddha’s knowledge and vision is simply your own mind, for there is no other Buddha.

“But, because living beings cover their brilliance with greed and with the love of states of defilement, external conditions and inner disturbance make slaves of them. That troubles the World-Honored One to rise from Samadhi, and with various reproaches and expedients, he exhorts living beings to stop and rest, not to seek outside themselves, and to make themselves the same as he is. That is called ‘opening the knowledge and vision of the Buddha.’ I, too, am always exhorting all people to open to the knowledge and vision of the Buddha within their own minds.

“The minds of worldly people are deviant. Confused and deluded, they commit offenses. Their speech may be good, but their minds are evil. They are greedy, hateful, envious, given over to flattery, deceit, and arrogance. They oppress one another and harm living creatures, thus they open not the knowledge and vision of Buddhas but that of living beings. If you can with an upright mind constantly bring forth wisdom, contemplating and illumining your own mind, and if you can practice the good and refrain from evil, you, yourself will open to the knowledge and vision of the Buddha. In every thought you should open up to the knowledge and vision of the Buddha; do not open up to the knowledge and vision of living beings. To be open to the knowledge and vision of the Buddha is transcendental; to be open to the knowledge and vision of living beings is mundane. If you exert yourself in recitation, clinging to it as a meritorious exercise, how does that make you different from a yak who loves his own tail?”

Commentary:

To be unconfused, be unattached. Do not get attached to emptiness or fall into existence. If you suddenly awaken to this dharma your heart will open to the knowledge and vision of the Buddha.

If you listen to opening and demonstrating, that is, to instruction on the principles of the Sutras, you can easily wake up and understand the enlightened knowledge and vision. The Buddha’s knowledge and vision is simply that of your own mind, because your mind fundamentally is the Buddha.

What darkens your light?

Thoughts of greed
Create thoughts of love.
Greed is dirt,
And love defiled.
The impurities
Of greed and love
Cause self-seeking
And make you a slave.
By now you should
Have become enlightened.
Stop depending on
Outer conditions
Which only make trouble within.
Without them there is
No trouble: there is
Peace and purity.

There are many varieties of external conditions: eyes, ears, noses, tongues, bodies, and minds; forms, sounds, smells, tastes, tangible objects, and objects of the mind; and the six consciousnesses where sense-organs and sense-objects meet. When you seek outside yourself, your mind is not at peace; you are upset and anxious, and your mind, originally the master, becomes the body’s slave. The Buddhas trouble themselves to arise from Samadhi just to tell you not to seek outside yourself. When you quit seeking outside, you are one with the Buddhas; you open up to their knowledge and vision and become just like them.

The deviant views and delusion of ordinary people causes them to perform offensive acts. While their speech may be as compassionate as the Buddha, their minds are as poisonous as a snake. Of the offenses they commit, greed, hate, and jealousy are the worst. But when they shine the light within and straighten out their own minds, they naturally are open to the knowledge and vision of the Buddha.

Sutra:

Fa Ta said, “If this is so, then I need only understand the meaning and need not exert myself in reciting the Sutra. Isn’t that correct?”

The Master replied, “What fault does the Sutra have that would stop you from reciting it? Confusion and enlightenment are in you. Loss or gain comes from yourself. If your mouth recites and your mind practices, you ‘turn’ the Sutra, but if your mouth recites and your mind does not practice, the Sutra ‘turns’ you. Listen to my verse:

When the mind is confused,
the Dharma Flower turns it.
The enlightened mind
will turn the Dharma Flower.

Reciting the Sutra so long
without understanding
Has made you an enemy
of its meaning.

Without a thought
your recitation is right.
With thought,
your recitation is wrong.

With no “with”
and no “without”
You may ride forever
in the White Ox Cart.

Fa Ta heard this verse and wept without knowing it. At the moment the words were spoken, he achieved a great enlightenment and said to the Master, “Until today I have never actually turned the Dharma Flower; instead it has turned me.”

Commentary:

If you are confused, your recitation is of no benefit, but if you are enlightened, there is merit. What does this have to do with the Sutra? If you recite the Sutra and put it into practice as well, you are truly reciting the Sutra and turning the Dharma wheel. You set the Dharma Flower spinning. But if you recite the Sutra with a confused mind, the reciting turns you around so that, the more recitation you do, the less you understand. After more than ten years of work, Fa Ta was still unclear; he was a stranger to the Sutra. Without false thoughts, recitation is a correct thing, but with arrogant thoughts and conceit about your merit and virtue, your recitation becomes deviant. You should pay no attention to having or not having merit, and recite as if not reciting. Do not be attached, and you will always ride in the White Ox Cart. The White Ox Cart is an analogy for The One Buddha Vehicle.

You ask, “If I recite as if not reciting, then may I not recite as if reciting?” If you don’t recite it, you cannot understand the Sutra’s principles, and it is not as if you were reciting it. The phrase:

Reciting as if not reciting,
Not reciting as if reciting,

is to instruct you to be unattached. But you cannot say, “I’ll be unattached and forget about reciting the Sutra.”

After listening to the Master, Fa Ta wept without even knowing it, but it wasn’t because he had been bullied or tricked. Before, he had stupidly wasted his time reciting the Sutra without obtaining the slightest benefit. Now, at the Master’s explanation, he was so overcome with joy that he burst into tears, just like friends or relatives do when they meet after a long separation He cried because of his great enlightenment.

Sutra:

Fa Ta asked further, “The Lotus Sutra says, ‘If everyone from Shravakas up to the Bodhisattvas were to exhaust all their thought in order to measure the Buddha’s wisdom, they still could not fathom it.’ Now, you cause common people merely to understand their own minds, and you call that the knowledge and vision of the Buddha. Because of this, I am afraid that those without superior faculties will not be able to avoid doubting and slandering the Sutra. The Sutra also speaks of three carts. How do the sheep, deer, and ox carts differ from the White Ox Cart? I pray the High Master will once again instruct me.”

The Master said, “The Sutra’s meaning is clear. You yourself are confused. Disciples of all three vehicles are unable to fathom the Buddha’s wisdom; the fault is in their thinking and measuring. The more they think, the further away they go. From the start the Buddha speaks for the sake of common people, not for the sake of other Buddhas. Those who chose not to believe were free to leave the assembly. Not knowing that they were sitting in the White Ox Cart, they sought three vehicles outside the gate. What is more, the Sutra text clearly tells you ‘There is only the One Buddha Vehicle, no other vehicle, whether two or three, and the same is true for countless expedients, for various causes and conditions, and for analogies and rhetoric. All these Dharmas are for the sake of the One Buddha Vehicle.’”

Commentary:

The Lotus Sutra says,

If the world were filled
With those like Shariputra
Exhausting their thought to measure the Buddha’s wisdom,
They couldn’t fathom it.

Fa Ta questioned the Master: “Shariputra was the wisest of the Buddha’s disciples. Now, if you filled the entire universe with Shariputras, and they all tried to fathom the Buddha’s wisdom, they wouldn’t be able to do it. Great Master, how can you say that when common people merely understand their own minds, they are open to the knowledge and vision of the Buddhas? I am afraid that unless one had supreme wisdom and good roots, one couldn’t avoid slandering the Sutra. Please be compassionate and tell me how the sheep and deer carts differ from the White Ox Cart.”

The Master said, “The Sutra is perfectly clear on this point. The Shravakas, Pratyekabuddhas and Bodhisattvas cannot know the Buddha’s wisdom simply because they do try to measure it. If their minds did not have such calculating thoughts, they could understand it. The Buddha spoke Sutras for common people, not for other Buddhas. If you don’t believe the Sutras, you can get up and walk out as you please. What is more, there is only One Buddha Vehicle; there are no other vehicles, whether two (Shravakas and Pratyeka Buddhas) or three (Shravakas, Pratyeka Buddhas, and Bodhisattvas) or any number of parables, causes and conditions, and uncountable expedient devices: all are spoken for the sake of the One Buddha Vehicle.”

Sutra:

“Why don’t you wake up? The three carts are false, because they are preliminary. The one vehicle is real because it is the immediate present. You are merely taught to go from the false and return to the real. Once you have returned to reality, the real is also nameless. You should know that all the treasure and wealth is ultimately your own, for your own use. Do not think further of the father, nor of the son, nor of the use. That is called maintaining the Dharma Flower Sutra. Then from eon to eon your hands will never let go of the scrolls; from morning to night you will recite it unceasingly.”

Fa Ta received this instruction and, overwhelmed with joy, he spoke a verse:

Three thousand Sutra recitations:
At Ts’ao Hsi not one single word.
Before I knew why he appeared in the world,
How could I stop the madness of accumulated births?
Sheep, deer, and ox provisionally set up;
Beginning, middle, end, well set forth.
Who would have thought that within the burning house
Originally the king of Dharma dwelt?

The Master said, “From now on you may be called the monk mindful of the Sutra.” From then on, although he understood the profound meaning, Fa Ta continued to recite the Sutra unceasingly.

Commentary:

Once you have returned to the real vehicle, even the real is nameless; you should discard the notion of reality. All the treasure and wealth of the Buddhadharma is yours, originally. It is the wind and light of your homeland; use it as you wish. But do not think, “These were given to me by my father. I have received them as an inheritance.” You shouldn’t think of the father, the son, or the use: just use them, that’s all. That is genuine recitation of the Sutra. From the first to the last eon, your hands won’t set the text down and you will recite it from morning to night.

“Before I knew why the Buddha appeared in the world,” said Fa Ta, “I had no way to stop the karmic process of this mad mind. But now I know that the beginning Shravaka vehicle, the middle Pratyekabuddha Vehicle, and the Mahayana Bodhisattva vehicle are nothing but expedient devices. They are not real. Who would have guessed? Who would have guessed! Nobody! Why, it’s just right here in the flaming house of the triple world, the realm of desire, the realm of form, and the formless realm, that one can cultivate, realize Buddhahood and be a Great Dharma King!”

“Yes,” said the Master, “I see that you understand, and so now you have the right to be called a Sutra-reciting monk.”

Fa Ta understood the doctrine, but he did not make the mistake some people might have and think, “I understand it, so I don’t have to recite it. I have reached the level where I:

Recite and yet do not recite;
Do not recite and yet recite.

If this is the case, then can you:

Eat as if not eating, and
Not eat as if eating;

or

Steal as if not stealing, and
Not steal as if stealing;

or even

Kill as if not killing, and
Not kill as if killing?

Can you get away with this? Of course not! If you truly understand and are unattached to what you do, you will not babble intellectual zen and say that you recite without reciting. Before you can make that claim, you must first have reached that level of accomplishment.

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