One day the Master summoned his disciples Fa Hai, Chih Ch’eng, Fa Ta, Shen Hui, Chih Ch’ang, Chih T’ung, Chih Ch’e, Chih Tao, Fa Chen and Fa Ju, and said to them, “You are not like other people. After my passage into extinction, you should each be a master in a different direction. I will now teach you how to explain the Dharma without deviating from the tradition of our school.
“First bring up the three classes of Dharma-doors, and then use the thirty-six pairs of opposites, so that, whether coming or going, you remain in the Bodhimandala. While explaining all the dharmas, do not become separated from your self-nature. Should someone suddenly ask you about a dharma, answer him with its opposite. If you always answer with the opposite, both will be eliminated and nothing will be left, since each depends on the other for existence.”
One day the Master called his room-entering disciples together for a talk. They are called room-entering disciples because they had received the transmission of the Master’s Dharma and were therefore permitted to enter his room.
The first of the ten was Fa Hai. You remember him. He edited The Sixth Patriarch Sutra and was a great disciple. He put his name at the head of the list here because, no matter what, he had to be number one.
Chih Ch’eng was the Dharma-thief who later reformed and joined the Master. Fa Ta was the arrogant, Bhikshu who had read The Lotus Sutra over three thousand times but couldn’t bring himself to put his head on the ground before the Master even once. Shen Hui was the thirteen-year-old child who had talked back to the Master. There was also Chih Ch’ang, Chih T’ung, and Chih Ch’e, also known as Flying Cat Chang; Chih Tao, Fa Chen, and Fa Ju. These were the Master’s ten great disciples.
The Master said, “You ten men should each be a master teacher in a certain direction and receive offerings there from humans and gods. I will now teach you how to spread the Dharma without straying from the tradition of our Sudden Enlightenment Dharma Door Teaching.
“In speaking the Dharma,” the Master went on, “the most important thing is to base your speech on the self-nature. How does one do this? Suppose someone asks you a question about the Buddhadharma. Whatever his principle may be, it’s bound to have an opposite. You should answer him with the opposite dharma.
For example, coming and going are relative concepts. Without a coming there is no going; without a going there is no coming. Coming is the prerequisite of going and going can only result from coming. Since opposites depend upon each other for existence, ultimately they both will be cast out, canceling each other out so that nothing is left behind. There will be no coming and no going, for there will be no place left to go.
“The three classes of Dharma doors are the heaps, the realms, and the entrances. The five heaps are: form, feeling, perception, impulses, and consciousness. The twelve entrances are the six sense objects outside: forms, sounds, smells, tastes, tangible objects, and objects of the mind, and the six sense organs within: eye, ear, nose, tongue, body, and mind. The eighteen realms are the six sense objects, the six sense organs and the six consciousnesses.
“The self-nature is able to contain all dharmas; it is the ‘store-enveloping consciousness.’ If one gives rise to a thought, it turns into consciousness, and the six consciousnesses are produced which go out the six organs and perceive the six sense objects.
“Thus the eighteen realms arise as a function of the self-nature. If the self-nature is wrong, it gives rise to eighteen wrongs; if the self-nature is right it gives rise to eighteen rights. Evil functioning is that of a living being, while good functioning is that of a Buddha. What is the functioning based on? It is based on opposing dharmas within the self-nature.”
The self-nature includes all dharma doors, and so it is called the “store-enveloping consciousness.” This is the eighth consciousness, which may be transformed into the wisdom of the great perfect mirror. If you give rise to thinking and considering, the store–enveloping consciousness turns to the seventh consciousness which in turn produces the six consciousnesses which go out the six organs and perceive the six sense objects.
If you use the self-nature correctly, it is the Buddha-use, but if you misuse it you are just a living being. How do the different usages arise? They come from the opposites within the self-nature.
“External insentient things have five pairs of opposites: heaven and earth, sun and moon, light and darkness, yin and yang, and water and fire.
“In speaking of the marks of dharmas one should delineate twelve opposites: speech and dharmas, existence and non-existence, form and formlessness, the marked and the unmarked, the presence of outflows and the lack of outflows, form and emptiness, motion and stillness, clarity and turbidity, the common and the holy, membership in the Sangha and membership in the laity, old age and youth, and largeness and smallness.
“From the self-nature nineteen pairs of opposites arise: length and shortness, deviance and orthodoxy, foolishness and wisdom, stupidity and intelligence, confusion and concentration, kindness and cruelty, morality and immorality, straightness and crookedness, reality and unreality, danger and safety, affliction and Bodhi, permanence and impermanence, compassion and harm, joy and anger, generosity and stinginess, advance and retreat, production and extinction, the Dharma-body and the Form-body, the Transformation-body and the Reward-body.”
The Master said, “If you can understand and use these thirty-six pairs of opposites you can connect yourself with the dharmas of all the Sutras and avoid extremes, whether coming or going. When you act from your self-nature in speaking with others, you are separate from external marks while in the midst of them and separate from inward emptiness while in the midst of emptiness. If you are attached to marks, you will add to your wrong views and if you grasp at emptiness, you will increase your ignorance.”
“Opposite” means mutually dependent and mutually opposed. Nineteen opposites arise as a function of the truesuchness self-nature. For example, if there was no long, there would be no short. Long is the opposite of short and short is the opposite of long. Long and short are relative terms and between them is the Middle Way.
Kindness bestows happiness and is the opposite of cruelty. Morality and immorality are opposites. Morality is the practice of all good actions and the absence of all evil. Compassion pulls living beings out of suffering and is the opposite of harmfulness. Generosity means giving; if you can give, you are not stingy. The Dharma-body pervades all places and is the opposite of the form-body.
“Those who grasp at emptiness slander the Sutras by maintaining that written words have no use. Since they maintain they have no need of written words, they should not speak either, because written words are merely the marks of spoken language. They also maintain that the direct way cannot be established by written words, and yet these two words, ‘not established’ are themselves written.
“When they hear others speaking, they slander them by saying that they are attached to written words. You should know that to be confused as they are may be permissible, but to slander the Buddha’s Sutras is not. Do not slander the Sutras for if you do, your offense will create countless obstacles for you.
“One who attaches himself to external marks and practices dharmas in search of truth, or who builds many Bodhimandalas and speaks of the error and evil of existence and non-existence will not see his nature for many eons.
“Listen to the Dharma and cultivate accordingly. Do not think of the hundred things, for that will obstruct the nature of the Way. Listening without cultivating will cause others to form deviant views. Simply cultivate according to the Dharma, and do not dwell in marks when bestowing it.”
People who are attached to emptiness say that they don’t need anything at all. They say that it isn’t necessary to study the Sutras. They say that they don’t use written words. “Everything’s empty,” they say, don’t use words. Words are nothing but an attachment to marks! If that is so, then nobody should even speak, because written words are simply the visible manifestation of spoken language.
They also say, “The direct mind is the Bodhimandala. Do not set up written words.” But unless you quit speaking altogether, you still have language, and the phrase “do not set up” is itself made up of words.
“Your own confusion is your own business,” the Master adds, “but do not slander the Buddha’s Sutras. You should not refrain from thinking, for if you do, you fall into a useless, dull kind of emptiness. You should cultivate in the way I have instructed you. Do not become attached to appearances.
“If you understand, then speak accordingly, function accordingly, practice accordingly, and act accordingly, and you will not stray from the basis of our school.
“If someone asks you about a meaning, and the question is about existence, answer with non-existence; if you are asked about non-existence, answer with existence; asked about the common life, answer with the holy life; asked about the holy life, answer with the common life. Since in each case the two principles are interdependent, the meaning of the Middle Way will arise between them. If you answer every question with an opposite, you will not stray from the basic principle.
“Suppose someone asks, ‘What is darkness?’ You should answer, ‘Brightness is the cause and darkness the condition. When there is no brightness, there is darkness. Brightness reveals darkness and darkness reveals brightness.’ Since opposites are interdependent, the principle of the Middle Way is established.
“Answer every question that way, and in the future, when you transmit the Dharma, transmit it in the way I am instructing you. Then you will not stray from the tradition of our school.”
If you answer every question with an opposite dharma, you will not deviate from the basic principle of the Sudden Enlightenment doctrine.
In the seventh month of the year Jen Tsu, the first year of the T’ai Chi and Yen Ho reigns (ca 712 A.D.), the Master sent his disciples to Hsin Chou to build a pagoda at Kuo En Temple. He ordered them to hurry the work and it was completed by the end of the summer of the following year.
During the cyclical year Jen Tsu, the reign was renamed twice. In the fifth month it was changed from T’ai Chi to Yen Ho. In the seventh month the emperor abdicated in favor of his son and in the eighth month the reign was renamed Hsien T’ien.
Hsin Chou was the Master’s homeland. His disciples built a pagoda there so that the Master’s body might rest in it after his death.
On the first day of the seventh month he gathered his disciples together and said, “In the eighth month I wish to leave this world. Those of you with doubts should ask about them soon so that I may resolve them for you and put an end to your confusion, because when I am gone there will be no one to teach you.”
Hearing this, Fa Hai and the others wept. Only Shen Hui was unmoved and did not cry. The Master said, “Little Master Shen Hui has attained to the equality of good and evil. He is not moved by blame or praise and does not feel sadness or joy. None of the rest of you have attained that. All these years on the mountain–how have you been cultivating?
“Now you cry. Who are you worrying about? Are you worrying that I don’t know where I’m going? I know where I’m going. If I didn’t know, I wouldn’t have been able to tell you about it in advance. No doubt you are crying because you don’t know where I am going, but if you knew you wouldn’t need to cry. Originally the Dharma nature is not produced or extinguished; it does not come or go.”
The Great Master rang the bell and beat the drum. The sound rang out, summoning all of his disciples to his side. “Pay attention!” he said. “In the eighth month of this year I am going to leave this world.”
Then here he is again! Fa Hai–number one! He didn’t even list the names of the other disciples; he just said, “Fa Hai and the others.”
They all wept. Their eyes ran with tears and their noses ran with snot, just like children who have lost their mother and have no milk to drink. “Waaah! Waaah!” They cried like babies. Some of them cried in secret, some cried openly, and some faked tears, fearing it would be bad manners not to cry along with everyone else. There was both truth and falsehood in the situation; it was exactly like a play.
But the youngest of the babies did not cry. Was it because he was too young to understand or care that he was about to lose his mother, or in this case, his teacher? Was it that?
No. Shen Hui was young in years, but old in wisdom. He understood the principle of not moving in any state. Mencius was forty years old before he reached that level. With an unmoving mind,
They praise: you are not pleased;
They scold: you are not annoyed.
They say you work hard, you are not moved.
They say you are lazy: no matter what
You are not moved.
However, when you are really being lazy and someone scolds you, you can’t say, “I have samadhi. He doesn’t bother me at all.” You must have a true unmoving mind, like that of little Shen Hui.
The Sixth Patriarch called Shen Hui “Little Master.” In the first ten years after taking precepts one is called a “little master,” or “junior-seated.” From ten to twenty years one is “middleseated” and from twenty to thirty years one is “senior seated.”
“Little Master Shen Hui is better than all of you,” the Master said, “because he doesn’t have a discriminating mind. He has truly turned his consciousness into wisdom.”
Shen Hui was not moved by praise or blame. “That Dharma Master does not cultivate! All he does is run after women.” Criticism like that didn’t bother him. “He really works hard. Not only does he not sleep, he doesn’t even lie down. And he only eats once a day. Such austerity!” Praise like that didn’t affect him either.
If you don’t react, then people can slander you but it’s as if nothing happened. “You’re a pig,” they may say. “Fine,” you answer, “I’m a pig. No problem.” If you don’t react, then they can praise you and it doesn’t matter either. “You have both virtue and learning,” they may say, but you pay no attention.
If you are pleased when someone praises your learning, then you really have no learning at all. If you get angry when someone scolds you, you have been influenced by an outside state. To be unmoved by any state is to neither grasp nor reject, neither love nor hate.
You can tell Little Master Shen Hui that he is good, but he will not be happy; you can tell him he is bad, but he will not get angry. He has no thoughts of misery or delight. There truly is complete understanding of the Middle Way. Rare indeed!
“You old ones,” the Master said, “you middle-aged ones, none of you passes. None of you has out-waited the fire.”
When anger sets you ablaze, you should think, “Wait. Wait a minute. Wait a minute and then get angry.” Then you wait, and your anger disappears. That is called “out-waiting the fire.” If you don’t wait, the fire burns, but if you can wait, it will die out.
When steel is red hot, you can shape it into a vessel. But unless you wait for the fire to burn it red hot, you can’t mold the metal; you haven’t out-waited the fire.
“You have been on the mountain for so many years,” said the Master. “What have you been doing all this time? Huh? You hear that I am going to complete the stillness and you cry like babies; you’re all worthless. How have you been cultivating? By eating and sleeping! Are you upset because you think I don’t know where I’m going? I will tell you something! I do know. Of course I know! There is no reason for you to worry about me. I can take care of myself:
No big, no small,
No within or without;
You cultivate, you understand:
You make the arrangements yourself.”
“All of you sit down, and I will recite a verse called ‘The True-False Motion-Stillness Verse.’ If you take it up and recite it, you will be of the same mind as I am. If you rely on it to cultivate, you will not stray from the true principle of our school.”
The assembly bowed and begged the Master to recite the verse.
There is nothing true in anything,
So don’t view anything as true.
If you view anything as true,
Your view will be completely false.
You can know what is true by yourself.
Being apart from the false is the truth of the mind.
When your own mind is not apart from the false
And lacks the truth, then where is the truth?
“Now don’t be nervous,” the Master said. “Sit down and don’t jump around. Don’t cry right in front of me like that. Really, you are undisciplined disciples. Listen to my verse. It discusses the true and the false and the principles of motion and stillness. If you can understand it and bear it in mind, you won’t deviate from the Sudden Teaching.”
“Turn the light around,” said the Master. “Shine it inside at your own self-nature, and you can know the truth. To find your true mind is simply to separate yourself from all the false forms and images of this world. If there is no truth within your own mind, where will you find the truth? The truth is not apart from the self-nature; apart from the self-nature there is no truth.”
Sentient beings understand motion.
Insentient beings do not move.
If you cultivate the work of non-movement,
Like insentient beings, you will not move.
If you seek the true non-movement,
In movement, there is non-movement.
Non-movement is non-movement, but
Things without sentience lack the Buddha-seed.
Fully able to discriminate among marks,
But unmoving in the primary meaning:
The very act of viewing in this way,
Itself is the function of true suchness.
Do not seek non-movement apart from movement, for it is just within movement that stillness can be found. All sentient beings move, but if you can be still while remaining sentient, that is true non-movement. If, as a sentient being, you are able to clearly distinguish the marks of all dharmas, not with your consciousness but with wisdom, you can give proof to the attainment of the substantive principle of your self-nature and achieve the ultimate state. That is true, proper non-movement.
I tell you, students of the Way,
Apply your minds with effort and take care,
At the gate of the Great Vehicle
Do not grasp the wisdom of birth and death.
If there is response at these words,
Then let us discuss the Buddha’s meaning together.
If there is no response,
Join your hands together and make others glad.
The basis of this school is non-contention.
Contention is not the meaning of the Way.
For in grasping at the Dharma doors of
contradiction and contention,
The self-nature enters birth and death.
You are face to face with the Great Vehicle Buddhadharma; do not continue to grasp at your understanding which binds you up in birth and death, at the kind of wisdom that is still attached to marks. If you can’t understand what I am trying to tell you, then put your hands together to please living beings. My school of Sudden Enlightenment is based on the cultivation of the patience of unproduced Dharmas. There should be no debating. When you argue with others you lose the meaning of the Way.
Debating, the thoughts of victory and defeat
Stand in contradiction to the Way.
Giving rise to the four-mark mind,
How can samadhi be obtained?
If you insist on arguing, your self-nature won’t escape the revolving wheel. Giving rise to the marks of a self, others, living beings, and a life, you will certainly continue to undergo birth and death.
When the followers heard this verse, they understood its meaning and bowed down before the Master. They made up their minds to practice in accord with the Dharma and not to argue, knowing that the Great Master would not remain long in the world.
The Senior Seated Fa Hai bowed again and asked, “After the High Master enters extinction, who will inherit the robe and Dharma?”
Fa Hai never forgets himself. No doubt he wanted the robe and bowl for himself.
The Master said, “Since the time I lectured on the Dharma in the Ta Fan Temple, transcriptions of my lectures have been circulated. They are to be called The Dharma Jewel Platform Sutra. Protect and transmit them in order to take humankind across. If you speak according to them, you will be speaking the Orthodox Dharma. I will explain the Dharma to you, but I will not transmit the robe, because your roots of faith are pure and ripe. You certainly have no doubts and are worthy of the great Work. According to the meaning of the transmission verse of the First Patriarch Bodhidharma, the robe should not be transmitted. His verse said,
Originally I came to this land,
Transmitting Dharma, saving living beings.
One flower opens; five petals and
The fruit comes to bear of itself.”
The students didn’t have tape-recorders as we do, so they wrote down their notes with brush and ink and compared them among themselves.
“You should take good care of these lectures,” the Master said. “They are Dharma jewels. Print and distribute them and so take living beings across. I know that you all believe in me, and so I don’t need to transmit the robe. Besides, the Great Master Bodhidharma said that beginning with the Sixth Patriarch the robe should not be transmitted. He said, ‘I originally came to China in order to transmit the right Dharma and take across all these confused living beings. From me, this one flower, in the future five petals will open–the Second, Third, Fourth, Fifth and Sixth Patriarchs. And the fruit will come to bear of itself; that is, there will be no need to transmit the robe. Transmitting the Dharma will suffice.’
This is why the Fifth Patriarch told the Sixth Patriarch, “As the robe is a source of contention, do not transmit it. Should you continue to transmit it, your life will hang by a thread.”
“The fruit comes to bear of itself.” You should know that the fruit which ripens in this line is just all of you who have taken refuge with me. The first character of your Dharma-names is “Kuo” and it means “fruit” or “result.” So don’t forget to ripen.
All of you should ripen right away. Most importantly don’t be lazy! Bodhidharma gave you all predictions long ago. The Sixth Patriarch himself said, “The Bodhi fruit accomplishes itself.” They both knew that, in the future, there would be all of you disciples in America with the first name “Kuo,” fruit. The fruit they spoke of is just all of you. That fruit is you; you are that fruit. The two are one.
The Master added, “All of you Good Knowing Advisors should purify your minds and listen to my explanation of the Dharma. If you wish to realize all knowledge, you must understand the Samadhi of One Mark and the Samadhi of One Conduct.
“If you do not dwell in marks anywhere and do not give rise to hate or love, do not grasp or reject, and do not calculate advantage or disadvantage, production and destruction while in the midst of marks, but instead remain tranquil, calm, and yielding, then you will have achieved the Samadhi of One Mark.
“In all places, whether walking, standing, sitting, or lying down, to maintain a straight and uniform mind, to attain the unmoving Bodhimanda and the true realization of the Pure Land. That is called the Samadhi of One Conduct.”
“Wash your minds clean,” said the Master, “and get rid of greed, hate, and delusion. If you wish to realize all knowledge, you need to understand the Samadhi of One Mark, which consists in not dwelling in marks, and the Samadhi of One Conduct, which consists in not dwelling in conduct.
The Samadhi of One Mark: whether you are in a good place or a bad place, whether moving or still, do not dwell in marks. While in the midst of marks, do not give rise to dislike or to fondness.
Neither love nor hate
Should move the mind;
The mind should not
Grasp or reject.
If you have a thought of love, you will grasp at the object of your desire. The twelve conditioned causes say, “love conditions grasping, grasping conditions existence...”
To reject means to cast away. If you hate something then you reject it. Love and hate cause grasping and rejecting. Do not calculate advantage and disadvantage. If you think, “What’s in it for me?” you are just being greedy, self-seeking, and impure. Do you understand? You should not have such thoughts.
You should remain tranquil, with nothing at all to do, and calm, like water without waves. “No waves” means no afflictions, no love, no hate, no grasping, no rejecting, no advantage, no disadvantage, no success and no failure. You should be yielding, like empty space. Take a look: everything comes from empty space and yet empty space does nothing at all. It does not set itself up as boss and say, “Go be born! Go die!” Everything is born and dies within it, undergoing transformations in a most natural way without the slightest difficulty. Yield and be flexible. If you are flexible then whatever happens just happens. That’s the way it is. There is no greed, hatred, or delusion; there is nothing at all. With few wants, one is content, being without longing or self-seeking.
It is no use to think, “Wait until my book gets published. I will be a famous scholar.”
You may want to do something strange to make the world take notice of you; but you should not have such ideas. You should decrease your desires, no matter what they are, and always be content.
Knowing enough, you’re always happy.
Able to be patient, you’re at peace.
If you can be tranquil, calm, and yielding, and leave marks while in the midst of them, if you can transcend the dust while in the dust, just that is the Samadhi of One Mark.
The Samadhi of One Conduct: no matter where you are, in a good place, a bad place, a wholesome place, an unwholesome place, a right place, a wrong place–walking, standing, sitting or lying down–maintain a direct mind. The direct mind is the Bodhimandala. Students of the Buddhadharma should not be devious.
Be direct in your thoughts, words, and deeds. Speak your mind; don’t think east and speak west. The straight mind is the Bodhimandala. If the cause is not straight, the result will be crooked. Your mind should be uniform and of one purity. You who cultivate the Way: toward others, toward yourself, toward everything, be straightforward. Don’t try to trick people out of their money, no matter how poor you are. If you borrow a little money and return it right away, you have not lost the virtue of a gentleman, but if you borrow and don’t return it, your position is very low.
Be an unmoving Bodhimandala with a straightforward mind, for that is the realization of the Pure Land and is called the Samadhi of One Conduct.
“One who perfects the two samadhis is like earth in which seeds are planted; buried in the ground, they are nourished and grow, ripening and bearing fruit. The One Mark and One Conduct are just like that.
“I now speak the Dharma which is like the falling of the timely rain, moistening the great earth. Your Buddha-nature is like the seeds which, receiving moisture, will sprout and grow. Those who receive my teaching will surely obtain Bodhi and those who practice my conduct will certainly certify to the wonderful fruit. Listen to my verse:
The mind-ground contains every seed;
Under the universal rain they all sprout
Flower and feeling–Sudden Enlightenment:
The Bodhi-fruit accomplishes itself.”
After speaking the verse the Master said, “Dharma is not dual nor is the mind, and the Way is pure and without marks. All of you take care not to contemplate stillness or empty the mind. The mind is basically pure and does not grasp or reject anything. Each of you work hard, and go well, in harmony with circumstances.”
At that time, his followers made obeisance and withdrew.
The timely rain falls just when it is needed. If it falls too soon, it may drown the crops, and if it comes too late, they may wither and die. The Sixth Patriarch’s Dharma is like the timely rain which moistens all of the great earth. Your own inherent Buddha-nature is like seeds which receive the moisture and flourish ripening into Bodhi-fruits. The Bodhi-sprouts become Bodhi-fruits.
The Master went on, “You who understand my doctrine are certain to obtain Bodhi. If you cultivate according to this method, you will surely obtain the wonderful Bodhi-fruit. Now that I have spoken so much Dharma for you, you are probably all flustered, so pay attention while I speak this verse. Purify your minds!
Your self-nature contains every seed;
At the timely rain they all sprout.
When sentient beings suddenly enlighten,
The Flower opens, the fruit is ripened.
And the Bodhi-fruit accomplishes itself.
The wonderful fruit of Bodhi ripens of itself. Bodhidharma said, “The fruit comes to bear of itself,” and the Sixth Patriarch said, “The Bodhi fruit accomplishes itself.” They were speaking of all of you who have the Dharma name “Kuo” (fruit). You should ripen throughout the world. All places should reap this fruit. What fruit? The Bodhi-fruit. The Sixth Patriarch was afraid that you might not have understood and so he spoke it very clearly. “The Bodhi fruit accomplishes itself.” You should all ripen on your own. I cannot help you. If you don’t ripen you are just cheating yourselves. So ripen!
Isn’t this strange? Your Dharma names all begin with the word “fruit,” and our School’s transmission verse says also:
Contemplating, cultivating the
ever blissful fruit;
Personally transmitting the
In the future all of you will personally transmit the unconditioned teaching.
The Master went on, “My Sudden Enlightenment Dharma door is not two, it is one. What is the one? It is just the Sudden Teaching. The mind is not two either; therefore it should return to the one. The Way we cultivate is pure and without marks.
“Although it is without marks, don’t make the mistake of contemplating stillness because that is just another attachment. Do not loiter in dull emptiness either, because the mind of living beings is naturally and fundamentally pure. The original substance of the mind is pure and immaculate, without grasping or rejecting.
“Work hard, all of you. Go forward and don’t be lazy. Go where circumstances take you and build Bodhimandalas. Be good, cultivate good conduct and work hard.”
On the eighth day of the seventh month, the Master suddenly said to his disciples, “I wish to return to Hsin Chou. Quickly ready a boat and oars.”
The great assembly entreated him earnestly to stay, but the Master said, “All Buddhas appear in the world and then are seen to enter Nirvana. This body of mine must return somewhere.”
The assembly said, “Master, you are leaving, but sooner or later you will return.”
The Master said, “Falling leaves return to the root. There was no day on which I came.”
They further asked, “Who has received the transmission of the Right Dharma-eye Treasury?”
The Master said, “The one who has the Way obtains it; the one without a mind penetrates it.”
“Patriarch,” said the assembly, “you are leaving now, but we can’t believe that you will enter Nirvana. Sooner or later you will come back, won’t you?”
The Master said, “Just as leaves fall and return to the root of the trees, I must go. Besides, there was no day on which I came.”
The Chinese text reads, “When I came I had no mouth,” but this is a misprint for the word “day.” However, you can also explain it as, “When I came I had no mouth.” On the day when the Patriarch came into this world, he had no mouth; that is, he had no words. He did not speak Dharma when he came and he did not speak Dharma when he left; coming and going he did not speak Dharma. The Dharma does not increase or decrease and although he spoke Dharma for so many years, he never spoke Dharma at all.
There are no fixed Dharmas. You can explain it any way you wish, as long as you are in accord with principle. But if you don’t explain it correctly, you can explain your listeners right into the hells, and that is taking the unfixed Dharma too far.
The Patriarch’s disciples, unable to bear the thought of their Master’s imminent departure, tried to delay him with questions until the Master, in exasperation, probably decided that they were just too much trouble. “I’m getting out of here,” he probably thought.
The “Right Dharma-eye Treasury” refers to the robe and bowl. So many disciples, and yet not one of them knew who had received the Dharma transmission. If they hadn’t been greedy for it themselves, they wouldn’t have asked this question. Why else would they be “standing by the river and gazing out into the sea?” If you weren’t longing for the sea, why would you be standing there? Everyone thought the robe and bowl was extremely important, but the Sixth Patriarch was not a business man. If he had been, at $65.00 a transmission, he could have made a lot of money.
“Who got the transmission? The one who has the Way obtains it; the one without a mind penetrates it. Whoever has no self-seeking mind understands my Dharma, because he has obtained the Samadhis of the One Mark and the One Conduct.”
The Sixth Patriarch’s Dharma is to be found in these verses and these principles, and if you cultivate according to them you will obtain his Dharma.
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