Bodhi Seal of the Patriarchs

Fifteenth Patriarch Kanadeva

The Venerable One, from Southern India, first sought blessings and enjoyed debate; later he went to pay his respects to the Patriarch Nagarjuna. The Patriarch knew he was a Wise One, so he first sent a messenger and had him place a bowlful of water before the Venerable One's seat. The Venerable One saw it, tossed a needle in it, and came, delighted to join the assembly. The Patriarch then spoke Dharma for him. Without arising from his seat, he manifested the appearance of the Full Moon, and one could only hear his voice, one could not see his form. The Venerable One said to the assembly, "With this auspicious portent the Master shows us the Buddha nature. It means that the Buddhadharma is not in sounds or forms. Then the Patriarch transmitted to him the Great Dharma.

After the Venerable One obtained the Dharma, he traveled and taught until he reached the country of Kapila, where he transmitted the Dharma to Rahulata. Then he entered the Swift Samadhi, emitted eight lights, and departed to stillness.

A verse says:

The countenance of Buddhas and of Patriarchs

--an acquaintance hard for even the wise to come by.

Into a bowl of water, a needle did dart.

It fell twice; it fell thrice.

He, in the Samadhi of Full Moon;

The whole earth, putrid, rank, and foul.

In the end, what's it all about?

Open your eyes; take a good look!

Another verse in his praise says:

The bowlful of water, so clear, was pure of any dust.

The needle tossed in it brought ripples soft disturbances.

The enlightened nature, spirit so bright, is basically not a thing.

So it is, so it is, contemplate your own being.

Good indeed, good indeed, wake up to find who?

Patriarch and Master passed on the "mind," revealing the Great Way.

Words and more words, phrase upon phrase, are but literary vogues.