Having spoken the verse the Master continued, “All of you should take care. After my extinction, do not act with worldly emotion. If you weep in sorrow, receive condolences, or wear mourning clothes, you are not my disciples, for that is contrary to the proper Dharma. Simply recognize your own original mind and see your own original nature which is neither moving nor still, neither produced nor extinguished, neither coming nor going, neither right nor wrong, neither dwelling nor departing.”
The Master said, “Unlike common, vulgar, worldly folk, do not make an emotional display of your feelings. Don’t behave like that. Don’t weep tears like rain to irrigate the fields. My disciples have to obey me! If you do such things, not only are you not my disciples, but you are also contradicting the Buddhadharma.
“Do not strike up false thinking. Don’t fail to put it down. Don’t fail to break through it. You must see through it, smash it, and put it all down. Then you can be free.”
“If we are not supposed to mourn, then what should we do?” the disciples wondered.
“Recognize your original mind. What is it like? It doesn’t move and it isn’t still. It doesn’t come or go. It’s not right or wrong, good or bad, black or white, long or short. It doesn’t stay and it doesn’t leave. It’s neither here nor there. Work to see the self-nature; understand your mind. Then you will not have wasted your time.”
“Because I am afraid that your confused minds will misunderstand my intention, I will instruct you again so that you may see your nature. After my extinction, continue to cultivate accordingly, as if I were still present. Should you disregard my teaching, then even if I were to remain in the world, you would obtain no benefit.”
He further spoke this verse:
Firm, firm: Do not cultivate the good.
High, high: Do not do evil.
Still, still: Cut off sight and sound.
Vast, vast: The mind unattached.
“Firm, firm” means not moving: “thus, thus unmoving,” clear, clear, and constantly bright. “Do not cultivate the good,” does not mean that you should not cultivate good. It just means that you should not be attached when you cultivate the good. Don’t be like that greedy-minded ghost Emperor Wu of Liang who thought, “Look at all my merit!”
“High, high,” means happy and cheerful, independent and content from morning to night. Do not do evil does not mean that you can think, “I am not attached to doing evil, so it’s no problem.” Attached or not attached, you should not do evil. What is evil? Killing, stealing, and sexual misconduct.
Of the ten-thousand evils
Licentiousness is the worst.
Do not walk down
This road of death.
Do not walk this road. Do not do evil.
“Still, still: Cut off sight and sound.” This state is peaceful, comfortable, and happy. Still, still, quiet, quiet, you cut off sight and sound by not producing deviant thoughts at the gates of the six sense organs. It is all right to have proper thoughts, but cut off the deviant ones. Cut off deviant sights and sounds. For example, if people are speaking improperly, don’t listen.
“Vast, vast: The mind unattached.” This mind’s capacity extends throughout the universe and fills up heaven and earth. It is high, great, broad, vast, limitless, and unbounded, and it is not attached anywhere.
After speaking this verse, the Master sat upright until the third watch, when suddenly he said to his disciples, “I am going!” In an instant he changed, and a rare fragrance filled the room. A white rainbow linked with the earth, and the trees in the wood turned white. The birds and the beasts cried out in sorrow.
The Master sat meditating with his disciples until the middle of the night, at twelve o’clock, when he said, “The time has come to go. See you all again!” His energy was cut off and he no longer moved. He had entered Nirvana. “He changed” means that he moved to a new house. Who moved? The flesh-body Bodhisattva!
The forest turned white because the white rainbow light shone on it. You could also say that the trees knew the Master was dead and so they expressed their grief by wearing the white clothes of mourning.
All the animals on the mountain cried uncontrollably. Grass and trees seem to be without feelings, but they put on mourning clothes; birds and beasts ordinarily don’t understand very much, but they showed forth a spiritual nature and wept.
In the eleventh month, a dispute arose among the officials, disciples, Sangha, and laity of the three countries of Kuang Chou, Shao Chou, and Hsin Chou as to who should receive the true body.
As they could not agree, they lit incense and prayed saying, “The Master will be returned to the place indicated by the incense smoke.”
The smoke went directly to Ts’ao Hsi and so, on the thirteenth day of the eleventh month, the reliquary and the transmitted robe and bowl were returned there. In the following year, on the twenty-fifth day of the seventh month, the body was removed from the reliquary and Disciple Fang Pien anointed it with incense paste.
Remembering the prophecy that his head would be taken, the disciples wrapped sheets of iron and lacquered cloth around his neck for protection and then placed his body in the pagoda. Just then a white light appeared within the pagoda, shot up into the sky, and did not fade for three days. The Magistrate of Shao Chou reported this to the Emperor and received an imperial order to erect a stone tablet commemorating the Master’s conduct in the Way.
The Master’s springs and autumns were seventy-six. The robe was transmitted to him when he was twenty-four and when he was thirty-nine his hair was cut. For thirty-seven years he spoke Dharma to benefit living beings. Forty-three men inherited his Dharma, and an uncountable number awoke to the Way and overstepped the common lot.
The robe of belief transmitted from Bodhidharma, the Mo Na robe and precious bowl conferred by Emperor Chung Tsung, as well as the lifelike image sculpted by Fang Pien and other articles of the Way, were entrusted to the attendant in charge of the stupa and were permanently retained at the Pao Lin Bodhimandala for the Bodhimanda’s protection.
The Platfom Sutra has been transmitted to set forth the principles of our school, to glorify the Triple Jewel, and to benefit all living beings.
Those from Kuang Chou wanted to take the body to Fa Hsing Temple. “The Sixth Patriarch had his head shaved here. He should return here now to receive offerings.”
The Hsin Chou people all said, “The Great Master is a native of Hsin Chou. He should return there!” and those of Shao Chou insisted that since the Patriarch had expounded his teaching there he should not be returned to that place.
While the Patriarch was alive, they had never quarreled over him, for he had been most independent. But now the Master had completed the stillness and everyone felt as if they personally had the right to remove his body and make offerings to it.
“Wasn’t the Sixth Patriarch originally from Hsin Chou? And didn’t the Master himself say, ‘Falling leaves return to the root?’”
“But the Sixth Patriarch himself built Nan Hua Temple,” said those of Shao Chou. “He really should return there.”
“The Patriarch left home in Kuang Chou. He let his hair fall there and his Dharma should all fall back to us!”
The text says that “they could not agree,” and that indicates that the situation was extremely grave; it was a crisis. Everyone was trying to take the body away by force. They argued and argued until one intelligent person said, “Stop! While he was alive, we obeyed the Master’s instructions. Now that he has died, we should still listen to him. Let’s ask the Master to decide!”
“But he’s already dead,” they said. “How can he tell us where he wants to go?”
“The Master has great spiritual powers,” he said, “And he knows all of our thoughts. It must displease him to see us here fighting over the right to make offerings to his body. Let’s light some incense, and in whatever direction the smoke drifts, that is where the Master wants to go. Then no one can argue about it.”
The smoke went straight to Nan Hua Temple and there was nothing that the people from Kuang Chou and Hsin Chou could say.
The lectures are now complete and the Sutra has been explained. You have undergone much suffering, but I don’t know whether you realized it was suffering or not. If you felt it was suffering, you are just a common person, but if you did not feel that it was suffering, then you are just a rock or a piece of wood. Well, was it suffering?
As to my explanation, I don’t know whether I explained well or badly, and I also don’t know if you listened well or badly. Good and bad–get rid of them both! Explaining is just explaining and listening is just listening.
We have met because of a karmic affinity. We have heard the story of the Sixth Patriarch’s life and of his cultivation of the Way. You should not look for good or bad points, but look instead to see whether you believe. Advance down the right road and retreat from the wrong.
You should cultivate according to the Dharma. Memorize the last verse of this Sutra and recite it often, for if you reflect on its meaning you will certainly realize Buddhahood. And don’t discriminate as to whether I explained the Sutra well or not. Just look to see whether or not you cultivate. If you cultivate, what is bad is good, but if you do not cultivate, what is good is bad.
Now I am going to ask you a question. The Sixth Patriarch was an illiterate, and illiterates cannot have much knowledge. How could someone who couldn’t even read speak a Sutra? What does this mean?
[Student: “I think the Sutra shows that you don’t need a lot of scholarly learning in order to become enlightened. The Sudden Teaching is just the mind, realizing the mind, and we should do it.]
Who else has a view? This is a democracy. Speak up!
[Student: “In the Sixth Patriarch’s Dharma explanation, where could a word arise?”]
[Student: “The principles contained in the Sutra are so clear and out in front, that, every time I try to say something about them, I get tied up in dualism and feel hopelessly overwhelmed.”]
Does anyone else have an opinion?
[Student: “Master, when the Sixth Patriarch was about to enter Nirvana, he said, ‘See you later.’ Where is he now?”]
He comes right from where you are speaking!
Now, why was it that the Master never learned to read? During the time of the Sixth Patriarch, schools were not available to all, and to attend, you had to have money. The Sixth Patriarch’s family was extremely poor, because his father was an honest official who never took bribes. As a boy, even getting food to eat was a problem for the Master, so of course he couldn’t go to school. It was a question of environment, then. He never learned to read because his family was poor and because schools were not available.
But there is yet another reason. Why did the Sixth Patriarch choose to appear in a poor family? He did it to show us that even illiterates can realize Buddhahood and become Patriarchs. Thus he raised the hopes of those who could not read.
Seeing the Sixth Patriarch, everyone thought, “He never went to school but he cultivated and obtained the fruit of the Way. We can do it too!” It is not the case that if you can’t read, you can’t cultivate. If you think, “Only educated people can cultivate,” you are holding a prejudice. The Sixth Patriarch appeared to cause us all to lay down such prejudices. As I see it, these are three reasons why the Sixth Patriarch never learned to read.
There’s one more thing you should recognize clearly about the Sixth Patriarch. He was not lazy. He always practiced the Buddhadharma. He became enlightened and after his enlightenment he spoke the Platform Sutra. Being able to read is just worldly knowledge. The Sixth Patriarch understood his mind, saw his nature, and opened up to his inherent wisdom. Because this Sutra was spoken from the bright light of this wisdom, its value is incomparable. It is the same as Sutras spoken by the Buddha, so do not take him lightly just because he couldn’t read.
The Sutra is now complete, and, after teaching it, I make that statement to all of you.
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