The Sixth Patriarch’s Dharma Jewel
 Platform Sutra



      The assembly agreed.

      The next day the Patriarch secretly came to the threshing floor where he saw Hui Neng pounding rice with a stone tied around his waist and said, “A seeker of the way would forget his very life for the Dharma. Is this not the case?”


"Yes," said the followers, "he has not seen his nature." Although they agreed, no one knew whether or not the gatha was right. The first gatha said, "Bodhi is a tree," the second said, "Bodhi has no tree". The first gatha said, "The bright mirror has a stand", the second said, "There is no mirror stand". Which was right? Which was wrong? No one understood. None of them had become enlightened, so they couldn't recognize an enlightened gatha. It is like judging a doctoral dissertation: If you only have a Master's Degree, you cannot judge a doctoral dissertation. It is the same with the enlightened and the unenlightened: not enlightened themselves, the assembly did not understand, so they simply agreed with the Master and said, "No, this one has not yet seen his nature."

The next day everyone was quiet and no longer worrying about who was enlightened and who was not. The Fifth Patriarch secretly left his room and went quickly to the threshing floor to see the Great Master Hui Neng. As he went he peered about to see if anyone was looking; just like Shen Hsiu when he had finished writing the gatha, silently he ran, darting glances over his shoulder to make sure no one saw him.

When the Fifth Patriarch got to the threshing floor, he saw Hui Neng pounding rice. He had tied a stone around his waist to increase his weight and relieve a little of the pain in his back by giving him more force in pounding. Seeing this, the Fifth Patriarch exclaimed, “One who seeks the way should forget his very life for the Dharma. Do you agree?”

As I have told you before, even if your body catches fire inside and burns up, you should pay no attention. Burning to death is no problem, for who is not going to die? In the future, everyone will die, so cultivating to the point of death brings infinite merit.

In order to seek the supreme Dharma, Sakyamuni Buddha gave up his life as many times as there are particles of fine dust. If you cannot give up just this one life, what way are you cultivating? Do not worry about death. If no one makes offerings to you and you starve to death, that is very good. Having no food to eat, no clothes to wear, no house to live in presents no problem.  Just cultivate, that is all.

The Sixth Patriarch forgot his own body for the sake of Dharma. He tied a stone around his waist and pounded rice so that others could eat. What was he doing? He was practicing the Bodhisattva Way, forgetting others and having no (notion of) self. He did not think, "Why should I pound rice for you to eat? You don't work. You don’t do anything hard at all! I pound rice all day and it is very difficult!” He did not think this way. Instead, he thought, “You do not work? Fine, I will do it myself,” just like my disciple Kuo Ch’ien who is so busy that when he is called to lunch he says, “Wait a minute, wait a minute!” I really like this kind of disciple, but not everyone can be this way.

      Is this not the case?” Remember this. It ought, it must be this way: not fearing difficulty to the point of forgetting to eat. No one knows how many days the Sixth Patriarch went without eating. No one called him to eat, and he himself forgot about it until he had no strength. He tied a heavy rock around his waist to add weight to his body so that he could pound the rice. I think he used this stone because he had not eaten for some time; however, you should not be attached and think, “Certainly it was this way!” On the other hand, do not think, “Certainly it was not this way!” The profound insight is just in this kind of non-attachment.


      Then he asked, “Is the rice ready?”

      Hui Neng replied, “The rice has long been ready. It now waits only for the sieve.”

      The Patriarch rapped the pestle three times with his staff and left. Hui Neng then knew the Patriarch’s intention, and at the third watch he went into the Patriarch’s room.


      This passage in the Sixth Patriarch’s Sutra is extremely important. The Fifth Patriarch found the Great Master Hui Neng toiling on the threshing floor and asked him, “Is the rice ready?” One meaning here is, “Have you finished threshing the rice?” Another meaning is, “Have your efforts been successful? Has your work taken you up the road?” Earlier, I told you that we apply effort and go up the path; this is what is meant by, “Is the rice ready?

Why does the Sutra say "rice"? Because rice is made up of many grains, perfectly shaped, thus symbolizing the precious mani jewel of the self nature. "Is the mani jewel of your nature ready? Is your mind's light completely full? Is your nature light completely full?  Is your body light completely full? Are the three lights of your mind, nature, and body complete and full?"

When the raw grain of the rice is boiled in water it becomes edible.  This is yet another meaning of "Is the rice ready?" That is, "How is your cultivation of the way? You have been pounding rice and cultivating dhyana.  How is your dhyana skill?" There are many levels of meaning in the words of this question. The Sixth Patriarch, of course, understood the Fifth Patriarch's question, for it is said,

"One gone through knows one gone through;

Those who do know those who do."

"The rice has long been ready. My skill was perfected long ago," answered the Sixth Patriarch, "it now waits only for the sieve." In threshing rice, a sieve is used to sift out the husks. Here, the sieve represents getting rid of the shit. In the fourth chapter of the Wonderful Dharma Lotus Flower Sutra titled, "Belief and Understanding", it talks about the poor son who spent twenty years sweeping shit: twenty years getting rid of the shit of (false) view delusion and thought delusion. This is the work being discussed here. Although the Sixth Patriarch’s spiritual skill was perfected, it still waited for the sieve; he still had to sweep out the shit of view and thought delusion. Do you understand now why Sutras must be explained? If they were not explained, you would not know to sweep shit, and you would be utterly useless.

      The Patriarch rapped the pestle three times with his staff and left. Old monks who have left home often carry a walking stick. Sometimes these staffs are made from twisted vines. The Great Master Hsu Yun said:

We go to pick the ivy,
Lively like a dragon,
Beating wind and rain,
Beating empty space.

The ivy vine curves and twists like a dragon, beating the wind and rain, beating empty space. This certainly is a case of going out to look for trouble. If that vine were as busy as Kuo Ch'ien, it would have no time to beat space and wind.

"Knock, knock, knock," went his staff, and how do you think he left? If you know, then you know. If you don't know, then you must wait until I tell you. He went out with his two hands behind his back, holding his crooked staff.

Why did the Patriarch rap three times? Do you understand the meaning of this? The Sixth Patriarch understood right away. Why did he rap three times?  It meant, "Come to my room at the third watch, at midnight." This is called "speaking the Dharma without words." Here in this meditation hall, for example, when the wooden fish is hit twice, it means "Walk"; hit once, it means "Stop and sit down"; and hit three times, is means, "Meditate I  Work hard!" All this is "Speaking the Dharma without words.”

      Why did the Fifth Patriarch carry his staff behind his back? Now you are going to ask me, “How do you know he carried it behind his back?” Well, how do you not know? I know you do not know. He carried it behind his back to indicate that the Sixth Patriarch should come in by the back door. “Do not let the others see you come in!”

      The Fifth Patriarch spoke in this symbolic way to say, "Do not come too quickly. Come slowly, slowly, step by step, and do not let anyone see you. Come into my room by the back door; come at midnight." The Sixth Patriarch understood, for he knew what the rapping meant.

At midnight, as soon as the Sixth Patriarch entered the room, there was a quick exchange. "What are you doing here?" demanded the Fifth Patriarch.

"But the Patriarch told me to come at the third watch!" came the reply.

"Really? Did I tell you that? How could I have forgotten?  What do you think you are doing? Why did you come in the back door instead of the front door?"

"Did the Master not tell me to use the back entrance?'

The Fifth Patriarch laughed and said, "You are not bad, really not bad!  You are alright!"

You ask how I know this? I ask, "How do you not know it?


      The Patriarch covered them with his pieced Dharma robe, not allowing others to see and explained the Diamond Sutra for him down to the line, “He should produce that thought which is nowhere supported.”


The Fifth Patriarch was afraid that someone might have seen the Great Master Hui Neng enter his room and might be outside the window eavesdropping. At that time the windows were made of thin paper, so to insure privacy, the Fifth Patriarch pulled his robe over both their heads.

The Fifth Patriarch's explanation of the Diamond Sutra was not a public one, such as I have given you. His was a secret explanation, telling the Sixth Patriarch how to forge an indestructible vajra body. When he heard the words, "He should produce that thought which is nowhere supported", Hui Neng achieved the great enlightenment and knew that all the ten thousand dharmas are not separate from the self nature. He suddenly experienced this even greater enlightenment. This method of explanation is very difficult, very special, and so the Fifth Patriarch wrapped his robe around their heads and spoke it privately. It was very, very secret and difficult to explain.

When the Sixth Patriarch said that the rice was ready and waited only for the sieve, this referred to "getting rid of the shit", the affliction of views and thought. Although he knew the method, the afflictions had not yet been completely swept out. That he was waiting for the sieve can also mean that no one had certified him. Even though he had reached this high peak, and the fire in the censor was pure green, he had not yet been certified by a good knowing advisor. So when the Fifth Patriarch heard him say that the rice was ready and merely waiting for the sieve, he prepared to certify the Sixth Patriarch.

      If the Fifth Patriarch had said openly, “Come to my room at the third watch and we’ll have a little talk,” I am sure that the word would have spread like fire to Shen Hsiu’s ears, and Shen Hsiu and his disciples would not have been very kind to the Sixth Patriarch. The Fifth Patriarch tested the Sixth Patriarch’s wisdom by rapping his staff three times and putting it behind his back.

      The Sixth Patriarch understood but no one else did. They were all as if deaf and dumb, without any idea as to what had transpired in this wordless Dharma exchange. It was spoken without a sound; there was no way to wire-tap or tape-record the conversation, and no way to broadcast or play it back for Shen Hsiu. This is an important point.

      That night, under the robe where no one could see, in addition to the explanation of the Diamond Sutra, some other matters were discussed. Because I have a kind of radar, I was able to record this conversation and I shall now replay it for you. Keep in mind that this is a T’ang Dynasty recording, not a present day one:

      “Do you want to reach Buddhahood?” asked the Fifth Patriarch.

      "Yes," said the Sixth Patriarch, "I just want to become a Buddha. I do not seek any other thing. I only want to attain Buddhahood."

      "Your resolution is extremely firm," replied the Fifth Patriarch, "but if you want to realize Buddhahood, you must first cut off ignorance, for it is ignorance which produces the afflictions of delusion which is brought on by false views and discursive thought. If you want to cut off these afflictions, you must first cut off ignorance. Ignorance arises with any state you do not understand.

"For example, the cycle of birth and death is based on the state of emotional love. When one breaks through ignorance then the delusion of false views and discursive thought which are tied to birth and death cease to exist, for ignorance is the root of birth and death. If you want to cut off ignorance and thereby put an end to birth and death, then, as the Diamond Sutra says, "Produce that thought which is nowhere supported." This means, do not dwell in emotional love, get rid of desire, cut off craving and then you can bring an end to birth and death."

The Sixth Patriarch heard this and suddenly became enlightened. He saw through to his original face and said, "Ah! It is basically just like this! It is not difficult at all! In fact, it's very easy!" Thus he became enlightened.

This has been a T'ang Dynasty recording which has just been played for you to hear.

      In cultivating and studying the Buddhadharma, you should produce an unsupported thought. That means to dwell neither in emotion or love. If you dwell in emotion and love, you dwell in ignorance, and thus in birth and death. If you do not dwell in emotion, do not dwell in love, do not dwell in existence or nonexistence, you know the middle way. The middle way is not without existence and is not separate from emptiness, nor does it exist elsewhere. It is just the ability to change and transform emotion and love into genuine prajna wisdom that is enlightenment. Not changing them is confusion. It is said, “Although the sea of suffering is inexhaustible, a turn of the head is the other shore.” The difference between confusion and enlightenment is just in knowing how to turn. If you accept emotion and love and run after desire, then, the more you run, the more confused you become. If you can turn your head, you arrive at the other shore, Nirvana. If you do not turn your head, you become more and more confused. The more confused, the farther away you are. The more confused, the deeper you sink into confusion. But, although you are extremely far off, one turn can be sudden enlightenment. Sudden enlightenment is awakening. Awakening is Buddha.

      You may be thinking, "If I become a Buddha, there won't be any work for me to do. Wouldn't I just sit in a lotus flower all day and wait for people to come and light incense and bow before me? Frankly, I don't think that sounds the least bit interesting!" If that is what you think, you can go on being a living being, but you can be a living being who is a friend to others, taking them across to Buddhahood.

When you accomplish Buddhahood, although you might feel that it is uninteresting, you need not worry about that. Yesterday I talked about the ghost who had no trouble and as a consequence did not want to become a person:

"I've been a ghost for three thousand years,
Without happiness, without fears.
Shen Kung tells me to go be a man,
But I really just don't think I can!"

      The ghosts have no fears, but they only come out at night, because they belong to the yin, the darkness principle. The Buddha is totally yang, like the light of the sun. So you decide: do you want to be a ghost or a Buddha? If you want to be a ghost, then it is alright to have emotion and love. But if you want to be a Buddha, you must “produce that thought which is nowhere supported”.


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Dharma Master Ju Hsiu left home in 1947 at Yun Meng Temple in Hu Pei, China. His Master was the Venerable Master Chih Ch’in. Later he received the complete precepts at Kuei Yun Temple in Han Yang, under Precept Master Kuo Yuan. For there he went to Canton where he studied with Venerable Master Ming Kuang at Liu Ying Temple. In 1949 he went to Hong Kong,

Dharma Master
Ju Hsiu

Tung P’u T’o where he studied with the Venerable Masters Tan Hsu, Ting His, and Mao Feng. Since then he has traveled to America, visiting San Francisco, New York, and Vancouver, Canada, before returning to Hong Kong. He Concentrates on cultivation of Recollection of the Buddha.



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