Collected Lectures of Tripitaka Master
TRANSLATED BY SINO-AMERICAN BUDDHIST ASSOCIATION
THE GREAT MASTER SPOKE TO THE ASSEMBLY SAYING: “GOOD KNOWING ADVISORS, THE BODHI SELF-NATURE ORIGINALLY IS CLEAR AND PURE. MERELY USE THIS MIND AND YOU WILL STRAIGHTWAY ACCOMPLISH BUDDHAHOOD. GOOD KNOWING ADVISORS, LISTEN TO THE EVENTS OF HUI NENG’S CONDUCT AND ORIGIN, AND THE REASONS WHY HE OBTAINED THE DHARMA.
HUI NENG’S STRICT FATHER WAS ORIGINALLY FROM FAN YANG. HE DESCENDED FROM THE LEFT AND CAME TO LING NAN TO BE A COMMON PERSON IN HSIN CHOU. HUI NENG’S LIFE WAS UNFORTUNATE; HIS FATHER DIED EARLY AND HIS AGING MOTHER WAS LEFT ALONE. HUI NENG AND HIS MOTHER MOVED TO NAN HAI WHERE THEY WERE IN POOR AND BITTER STRAITS. HE SOLD FIREWOOD IN THE MARKET PLACE.”
The Great Master spoke to the assembly saying:" Good Knowing Advisors, the Bodhi self-nature originally is clear and pure. Merely use this mind and you will straightway accomplish Buddhahood.” The Great Master spoke to the assembly saying, “You are people with good roots and much wisdom. The Bodhi self-nature is one’s own originally enlightened clear and pure nature. It is not produced and not destroyed, not defiled and not pure, not increasing and not decreasing. Use this mind, don’t use your false thinking mind.”
“Good Knowing Advisors, listen to the events of Hui Neng’s conduct and origin, and the reasons why he obtained the Dharma.” Decorously using his own name, the Sixth Patriarch called himself “Hui Neng”, saying, “Now I will tell you how Hui Neng obtained the Dharma. Listen!”
“Hui Neng‘s strict father was originally from Fan Yang. He descended from the left and Came to Ling Nanto be a common person in Hsin Chou.” From his native district of Fan Yang, which is now a district in Ho Pei, Hui Neng’s father was sent to Ling Nan. Because the father is more apt to discipline the children, he is respectfully called “strict”. The mother ordinarily offers loving kindness to her children, and so she is spoken of as “compassionate”. To come to Fan Yang would be to “ascend from the right”; however, Hui Neng’s father “descended from the left” and, literally, “flowed” to Ling Nan, just as water flows to a very far place.
Ling Nan, now known as Canton Province, was a frontier region during the T’ang Dynasty, inhabited by government exiles. The Sixth Patriarch’s father, an official, may have been convicted of an offence and banished to Ling Nan, where he became a citizen of Hsin Chou.
Hui Neng’s life was unfortunate; his father died early and his mother moved to Nan Hai where they were in poor and bitter straits. He sold firewood in the market place. His “life was unfortunate” means that he was unlucky. His father died when the Master was between the ages of three and five years, leaving him alone with his widowed mother. He and his mother then moved to Nan Hai where they endured the difficulties and suffering of poverty. How did they survive? Master Hui Neng went into the mountains and chopped wood; on his return he sold firewood in the market place, and used the money to buy rice for his mother and himself.
ONE TIME A CUSTOMER BOUGHT FIREWOOD AND ORDERED IT DELIVERED TO HIS SHOP. WHEN THE DELIVERY HAD BEEN MADE, AND HUI NENG HAD RECEIVED THE MONEY, HE WENT OUT THE DOOR WHERE HE NOTICED A CUSTOMER RECITING A SUTRA. ON ONCE HEARING THE WORDS OF THE SUTRA WHICH SAID, “ONE SHOULD, NOT DWELLING ANYWHERE, PRODUCE A THOUGHT,” HUI NENG’S MIND IMMEDIATELY OPENED ENLIGHTENMENT. THEREUPON HE ASKED THE CUSTOMER WHAT SUTRA HE WAS RECITING. THE CUSTOMER REPLIED, ‘THE DIAMOND SUTRA’.
THEN HE AGAIN ASKED, “FROM WHAT PLACE DO YOU COME, MAINTAINING THIS SUTRA?”
THE CUSTOMER SAID, “FROM TUNG CH’AN MONESTARY IN CHI CHOU. THE ABBOT OF THAT MONASTERY IS THE FIFTH PATRIARCH, THE GREAT MASTER HUNG JEN. THERE HE TEACHES OVER ONE THOUSAND DISCIPLES. I WENT THERE TO PAY HOMAGE TO HEAR AND RECEIVE THIS SUTRA.”
One time a customer bought firewood and ordered it delivered to his shop. When the delivery had been made and Hui Neng had received the money, he went out the door where he noticed a customer reciting a sutra. On once hearing the words of the sutra which said. “One should, not dwelling anywhere, produce a thought.” Hui Neng’s mind immediately opened enlightenment. The Sixth Patriarch’s disposition was especially sharp; as soon as he heard the line of the sutra which says that one should produce a true mind without being attached anywhere, he immediately opened enlightenment. He understood, without obstruction, that which he had never before understood.
Now there are many people who will hear this sentence “One should, not dwelling anywhere, produce a thought.” Are there any who will open enlightenment? You should reflect upon your self nature and look within; ask yourself, “Why haven’t I opened enlightenment?”
Someone exclaims, “Why, I have opened enlightenment!” But, what enlightenment have you opened?
Then you will say, “Why did I hear this sentence and not open enlightenment?”
I ask you, “The enlightenment you didn’t open is what unopened enlightenment? Ask yourself.”
“Thereupon he asked the customer what sutra he was reciting. The customer replied, ‘The DIAMOND SUTRA.’
Then again he asked. ‘From what place do you come, maintaining this sutra?’
The customer said. ‘From Tung Ch’an Monastery in Chi Chou. The Abbot of that Monastery is the Fifth Patriarch, the Great Master Hung Jen. There he teaches over one thousand disciples.’”
The Great Master lived in Tung Ch’an Monastery with more than a thousand disciples whom he taught and translated. At that time in China, the study of Buddhism was so fervently pursued that it was not unusual to have a thousand people on one mountain studying the Buddhadharma together.
Now, where in America are there a thousand Buddhist disciples studying the Buddhadharma together? Such a country yet there is no such place. It is possible however that later there will be more than ten thousand people studying the Buddhadharma. But, this is not fixed. We will have to watch Heng Ch’ien and Heng Ching and others to see how hard they work. Then perhaps there will be over ten thousand people studying together, because there are many people in America.
Most Americans are intelligent, but there are some whose intelligence surpasses itself. Every day from morning to night they are caught-up taking confusing drugs. Through eating these drugs they may attain small and different consciousness states, which they cannot obtain without drugs. These people try drugs again and again until one day they see that it is useless. They think, “I’ve been taking dope for such a long time now and I still have not opened enlightenment.” When they realize this, they may turn towards the truth.
Now I teach you Buddhadharma so in the future you can speak the Dharma to teach and transform living beings. Do not be careless, but work well and without confusion and then many will come to study.
“I went there to pay homage, to hear and receive this sutra.”’ You who are now studying THE SIXTH PATRIARCH’ S DHARMA JEWEL PLATFORM SUTRA must know the origin of your learning. When people ask, “Where did you study the Buddhadharma?”, you can reply, “We studied at the Buddhist Lecture Hall of the Sino-American Buddhist Association.” This is just what is meant in the passage quoted here.
“‘THE GREAT MASTER OFTEN EXHORTS SANGHA AND LAITY ONLY TO MAINTAIN THE DIAMOND SUTRA IN ORDER TO SEE THE NATURE THEMSELVES AND STRAIGHTWAY ACCOMPLISH BUDDHAHOOD.’
HUI NENG HEARD THIS AND WISHED TO GO SEEK DHARMA, BUT HE RECALLED THAT HIS MOTHER HAD NO SUPPORT. HOWEVER, FROM FORMER TIMES THERE WERE CONDITIONS WHICH LED A CUSTOMER TO GIVE HUI NENG A POUND OF SILVER SO THAT HE COULD SUPPLY HIS MOTHER WITH CLOTHING AND PROVISIONS THE CUSTOMER FURTHER INSTRUCTED HIM TO GO TO HUANG MEI TO CALL UPON AND BOW TO THE FIFTH PATRIARCH.”
“‘The Great Master often exhorts Sangha and laity only to maintain the DIAMOND SUTRA in order to see the nature themselves and straightway accomplish Buddhahood.
Hui Neng heard this and wished to go seek Dharma. but he recalled that his mother had no support.’ The “Great Master” referred to in this passage is the Fifth Patriarch, not the Sixth Patriarch. You have to be clear at this point.
When Hui Neng heard that there was a place where over one thousand people were studying the Buddhadharma together, he became very excited. “What am I to do? I really want to go study there,” he probably exclaimed to the customer. “I heard you recite the DIAMOND SUTRA I understood the principles, and I want to go seek the Buddhadharma, but I have an aging mother who would have no one to care for her. What can I do?” In this way he voiced his suffering to the customer.
“However, from former times there were conditions which led a customer to give Hui Neng a pound of silver so that he could supply his mother with clothing and provisions. The customer further instructed him to go to Huan Mei to call upon and bow to the Fifth Patriarch.” Since Bodhisattvas do not seek fame the Sixth Patriarch did not say which great Bodhisattva helped him at this time, it simply says that, because of former conditions, a customer gave Hui Neng a pound of silver. This was certainly a valuable offering. The yield of a day’s work chopping firewood was worth only a few copper pennies in the market place, so even if Hui Neng had sold all the wood gathered in a thousand days, its value would not have equaled the silver given by the customer.
The silver provided for his mother’s food and lodging. Perhaps the customer said, “You are poor and you want to study the Buddhadharma. Here, I will help you a bit“, and gave an offering to a flesh-body Bodhisattva so that he could go and seek Dharma. The merit and virtue of this offering was great, and in the future that man will certainly be a flesh—body Bodhisattva. Now, perhaps one of us is doing this kind of work; think to yourself, “Have I done this kind of merit?” You don’t recall? It does not matter, there is no need to strike up false thinking about it.
The customer urged him saying, “You have such great faith that as soon as you heard this sutra, you opened enlightenment and understood the principle. Hurry! Go right away to see the Great Master at Huang Mei! If you go to that place, it will surely be worthwhile. Do not delay! Go quickly!”
“AFTER HUI NENG HAD MADE ARRANGEMENTS FOR HIS MOTHER’S WELFARE, HE TOOK HIS LEAVE. NOT MORE THAN THIRTY DAYS PASSED AND HE ARRIVED AT HUANG MEI. HE MADE OBEISANCE TO THE FIFTH PATRIARCH WHO ASKED HIM, ‘WHERE YOU FROM? WHAT DO YOU SEEK?’
HUI NENG REPLIED, ‘YOUR DISCIPLE IS A COMMONER FROM HSIN CHOU IN LING NAN AND COMES FROM AFAR TO BOW TO THE MASTER. HE ONLY SEEKS TO BE A BUDDHA, AND DOES NOT SEEK ANYTHING ELSE.’
THE PATRIARCH SAID, ‘YOU ARE FROM LING NAN, AND ARE THEREFORE, A BARBARIAN, HOW DO YOU QUALIFY FOR BUDDHAHOOD?’
HUI NENG SAID, ‘ALTHOUGH THERE ARE NORTHERN AND SOUTHERN PEOPLE, THE BUDDHA-NATURE FUNDAMENTALLY HAS NO NORTH OR SOUTH. THE BODY OF THE BARBARIAN AND THAT OF HIGH MASTER ARE NOT THE SAME, BUT WHAT DISTINCTION HAS THE BUDDHA-NATURE?’
THE FIFTH PATRIARCH WISHED TO SPEAK FURTHER, BUT SEEING THE GATHERING OF FOLLOWERS HE ORDERED HIM TO FOLLOW THE ASSEMBLY TO WORK. HUI NENG SAID, ‘HUI NENG INFORMS THE HIGH MASTER THAT THIS DISCIPLE’S OWN MIND ALWAYS PRODUCES WISDOM, AND DOES NOT SEPARATE FROM HIS OWN NATURE. THIS IS JUST THE FIELD OF MERIT. IT IS NOT YET DECIDED WHAT WORK THE HIGH MASTER WILL INSTRUCT ME TO DO.’
THE FIFTH PATRIARCH SAID, ‘THIS BARBARIAN’S ROOT NATURE IS TOO SHARP, DO NOT SPEAK FURTHER. GO BACK TO THE COURTYARD.’ HUI NENG WITHDREW TO THE BACK COURTYARD WHERE A CULTIVATOR ORDERED HIM TO SPLIT FIREWOOD AND THRESH RICE.
MORE THAN EIGHT MONTHS HAD PASSED WHEN THE PATRIARCH ONE DAY SUDDENLY SAW HUI NENG AND SAID, ‘I THINK YOU CAN BE OF USE BUT FEAR THAT EVIL MEN MAY HARM YOU. FOR THIS REASON I HAVE NOT SPOKEN WITH YOU. DID YOU KNOW THIS?’
HUI NENG REPLIED, ‘YOUR DISCIPLE KNEW THE MASTER’S INTENTION, AND HAS NOT VENTURED INTO THE FRONT HALL, IN ORDER THAT OTHERS MIGHT NOT NOTICE HIM.”’
“After Hui Neng had made arrangements for his mother’s welfare he took his leave. Not more than thirty days passed and he arrived at Huang Mei.” As soon as the Sixth Patriarch used the silver to settle the affairs of his mother’s care, he left. Some thirty days later he arrived at the east side of Double Peak Mountain, at Tung Ch’an Monastery. During his journey he did not have any false thoughts, and so he was unaware of how much time had passed before he arrived at Huang Mei.
“He made obeisance to the Fifth Patriarch who asked him. ‘Where are you from? What do you seek?’
Hui Neng replied. ‘Your disciple is a commoner from Hsin Chou in Ling Nan and comes from afar to bow to the Master. He only seeks to be a Buddha. and does not seek anything else.’
The Patriarch said. ‘You are from Ling Nan, and are, therefore, a barbarian, how do you qualify for Buddhahood?’
Hui Neng said. ‘Although there are northern and southern people, the Buddha—nature fundamentally has no north or south. The body of the barbarian and that of the High Master are not the same, but what distinction has the Buddha-nature?’” When the Great Master asked from where he had come, Hui Neng told him he came from the South, from Hsin Chou in Canton. He said to the Great Master, ‘I don’t want anything at all! I only want to be a Buddha. All the rest are irrelevant affairs.’ You can see that the Sixth Patriarch went to that place for the sole purpose of attaining Buddhahood.
The Fifth Patriarch said, ‘You are Cantonese and Cantonese are barbarians.’ The word barbarian is two words in Chinese: “ke liao”. “Ke” is a dog—like animal with an extremely short snout. “Liao” refers to coarse people of the borderlands. Basically the meaning__ is that those who can’t understand the true principles of being human belong to the category of animals. “How are you able to be a Buddha?” the Fifth Patriarch asked.
Hui Neng said, “Although people have north and south, the Buddha—nature is one and is everywhere equal.”
“The Fifth Patriarch wished to speak further, but seeing the gathering of followers he ordered him to follow the assembly to work. Hui Neng said, ‘Hui Neng informs the High Master that this disciple’s own mind always produces wisdom, and does not separate from his own nature. This is just the field of merit. It is yet decided what work the High Master will instruct me to do.’” Because the Fifth Patriarch’s disciples are followers were gathered around him, he spoke no more. He just told the Sixth Patriarch, “Good, you have come. Now, go and follow the others to work. Hurry off.”
Hui Neng said his own mind always produced wisdom. This wisdom is produced from the self—nature, and the fields of merit are not separate from the self—nature. “Now I do not yet know what the Master wants me to do,” he said.
“The Fifth Patriarch said. ‘This barbarian’s root nature is too sharp, do not speak further. Go back to the courtyard,’ Hui Neng withdrew to the back court—where a cultivator ordered him to split firewood and thresh rice.
More than eight months had Passed when the Patriarch one day suddenly saw Hui Neng and said, ‘I think you can be of use but fear that evil men may harm you. For this reason I have not spoken with you. Did you know this?’
Hui Neng replied. ‘Your disciple knew the Master’s intention, and has not ventured into the front hall, in order that others might not notice him.’” The Patriarch heard Hui Neng talking like this and said, “Ohh, this barbarian really has sharp roots.” Aloud he said, “Speak no more!” cautioning Hui Neng to be more discreet and not talk so much. “Go to the back courtyard,” he ordered.
In the back courtyard there was a cultivator who told Hui Neng what to do. When people first come to a place, they are always bullied. In this instance a worker, one who himself had not left home, said to Hui Neng, “You! Every day you must cut wood, build the fire as well as cook the food. Here’s an axe to cut firewood; be sure to cut kindling, too! Besides that, every day you must thresh the rice.” Hui Neng threshed rice by operating a machine with a foot pedal.
Over eight months later, the Patriarch saw Hui Neng working on the threshing ground and said to him, “I think that your wisdom and views can be used, but because jealous people might harm you, I have not spoken with you too much. Did you know that?”
Hui Neng said, “I understand. I have not ventured to the front of the dharma hall to speak with the Master so that other people would not notice my actions or the Master’s compassion toward me.”
Previous translations of the SIXTH PATRIARCH’S SUTRA, in spite of their eloquence, have occasionally missed the original intention and have not penetrated the meaning. As a remedy for these failings, members of the Buddhist Text Translation Society are working together to make a complete and accurate translation. The cultivating Bhiksus and Bhiksunis, laymen, and students and scholars of Chinese are carefully editing the work and its detailed commentary. If you want to investigate the genuine Buddhadharma, this is the Sutra to study.
Even though others may have lectured this Sutra, this is the first time the mind seal dharma—door of the Great Master, the Sixth Patriarch, has been opened and spoken clearly for the benefit of all who hear. Those who wish to cultivate, to actually do the work, do not want to miss this publication of the best translation and commentary ever compiled. Those who have not digested it have not adequately investigated the Buddhadharma.
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