The Collected Lectures of Tripitaka Master Hsuan Hua on The Sixth Patriarch's Dharma

Jewel Platform Sutra

Translated by The Buddhist Text Translation Society



      At the moment of hearing this, Hui Neng had the great enlightenment (and he knew) that all the ten-thousand dharmas are not separate from the self-nature. He said to the Patriarch:

How surprising is it that the self-nature is originally pure of itself!

How surprising it is that the self-nature is originally not produced or destroyed!

How surprising it is that the self-nature is originally complete in itself!

How surprising it is that the self-nature is originally unmoving!

How surprising it is that the self-nature can produce the ten-thousand dharmas!”


The Fifth Patriarch explained the Diamond Sutra for the Sixth Patriarch. "Do not be attached to emotion," he said, "and do not be attached to love. Be neither attached to emptiness nor to existence. You should 'produce that thought which is nowhere supported!'" Hearing this, the Sixth Patriarch suddenly attained great enlightenment.

     Great enlightenment penetrates to the beginning and to the end; it is a complete understanding of the deep prajna wisdom. Because the Sixth Patriarch understood this deep prajna wisdom, he said, “The ten-thousand dharmas are not separate from the self-nature. The mind produces the ten-thousand dharmas and the ten-thousand dharmas originate from the mind.”

“How surprising it is that the self-nature is originally pure of itself!”

"I never would have thought that the self-nature is neither defiled nor pure. It is clear and pure, pure and clear," said the Sixth Patriarch.

He only said that it is neither defiled nor pure. Then why does the Sutra say that the self-nature is pure? Isn't pure the opposite of defiled?  The term "pure" is used to represent the appearance of the original substance, because this concept cannot be represented in any other way. Here, the term "pure" means "originally clear and pure", and does not mean the purity which is the opposite of defilement.

“How surprising it is that the self-nature is originally not produced or destroyed!”

"Inconceivable! I never would have thought that my own nature is not born and does not die!" Birth and death occur because living beings become attached. If living beings had no attachments, then from what place would birth and death arise, and from where would they be extinguished? There is no such thing as birth and death!

     How surprising it is that the self-nature is originally complete in itself!”

      “I never imagined that my self-nature originally is complete, with nothing lacking and nothing in excess. It isn’t more or less, it cannot be added to or depleted. On the part of the Buddha there is no increase, on the part of living beings not know this? It is because they turn their backs on enlightenment and unite with externals. With their backs turned, they cannot recognize the precious things that originally are theirs. They cast the root aside and grasp at the branches, seeking happy sensations which are false. They grasp at fame and profit. This is just too dumb! Too  stupid! But now I know that the self-nature is complete with everything!”

      How surprising it is that the self-nature is originally unmoving!”

Living beings are topsy-turvy; they have no concentration power. But, nevertheless, their self-nature is unmoving and unshaking.

Not only is this true for the Sixth Patriarch's self-nature, but it is also the case for the self nature of all living beings, all are equal.

“How surprising it is that the self-nature can produce the ten-thousand dharmas!”

"I never would have thought of it, never! The ten-thousand dharmas are originally produced from the self-nature, and the self nature includes all of existence." He hadn't comprehended this before, but now at last he attained the way and suddenly understood the wonderful principle. Unspeakably miraculous!


      The Fifth Patriarch knew of this enlightenment to the original nature and said to Hui Neng, “To study the Dharma without having recognized your original mind is of no benefit. If one recognizes his own original mind and sees his own original nature, then, and only then, he is called a great man, a teacher of gods and men, a Buddha.”


Hearing the Sixth Patriarch speak in this way, the Fifth Patriarch knew that he had become enlightened, had recognized his original face, and knew whether his nostrils faced up or down. When he held his hand over his head, the Sixth Patriarch knew whether it was upside-down or right side up.  Recently I asked you all, "When your hand hangs at your side, is it upside-down and when you raise it over your head is it right side up? Or is it that when it hangs at your side it is right-side-up and when you raise it over your head it is upside-down?" None of you understood this principle. Why?  Because there is no such thing as upside-down or right side up. The Sixth Patriarch was especially clear about such questions. The Fifth Patriarch knew that he understood and so he covered the two of them with his robe and said, “To study the Dharma without having recognized your original mind is of no benefit.”

      It is said, "If one recognizes his mind, the great earth doesn't have an inch of dirt." If you recognize your mind, the great earth changes into yellow gold, adorned with the seven precious things. You say, "Well, I look at it, but I don't see it that way." Of course when you look at it it's not like that. You haven't recognized your original mind! When you recognize it, you will see things differently. It is like wearing tinted glasses. If you wear red glasses, people look red; if you wear green glasses, people look green. If your glasses are yellow, then you see everything as yellow. Everyone is yellow because you have not recognized your original mind. It is just the same when you see the great earth as dirt. It appears to be dirt because the dirt in you is so great. What is this dirt? It is simply your scattered thoughts, for without scattered thoughts, the great earth doesn't have an inch of dirt!

Studying the Buddhadharma is of no benefit if you don't recognize your original mind. Look at it! What color is it? Is it green, yellow, red, white, or black? Is it long or short, square or round? What is its appearance?  Saying it has an appearance is an analogy, because fundamentally it has no appearance. If you recognize this "no appearance" you will know. But, before you have recognized it, you must not speak about it in a way, which will lead to confusion.

When you recognize your original mind and see your nature, just then you are Buddha, because originally living beings are Buddha and the Buddha is originally a living being. Because we living beings are originally Buddhas, we now have the opportunity to realize Buddhahood. Recognize your original nature and just then you attain that status. Not recognizing, not seeing, you still must study the Buddhadharma much more.


      He received the Dharma in the third watch and no one at all knew. The Fifth Patriarch also transmitted the sudden (enlightenment) teaching and the robe and bowl saying, “You are the Sixth Patriarch. Protect yourself well. In all ways, take living beings across and spread the teaching for those in the future. Do not allow it to be cut off.”


At midnight, the Fifth Patriarch transmitted the wonderful Dharma to the Sixth Patriarch, using the mind to seal the mind, and no one at all knew about it. The insiders didn't know, the outsiders had no idea, and not even the ghosts and spirits knew.

The Fifth Patriarch also transmitted the teaching of sudden enlightenment. "You should think this over," he said. "Do not allow the Dharma to become extinct. You are the Sixth Patriarch and in cultivating the Buddhadharma you should walk on the true path and not use head-mouth zen, saying, 'I've studied the Dharma to the point that, when there is no principle, I can make one up. I can prove that there is no true and no false and just this is the complete understanding of the middle way!' This is just talk, just head-mouth zen, because there is no real cultivation. You are just jealous and obstructed, always wanting to be number one. If you are this way, you certainly can't be the Sixth Patriarch!"

Shen Hsiu's followers pushed him up high, sure that he would become the next patriarch. They made it known that if the Dharma were transmitted to anyone other than Shen Hsiu, that person would be murdered on the spot. But they didn't know that the Fifth Patriarch was a bright-eyed knowing one who read their scheming minds. "Since they intend to kill him," he thought, "I will transmit it in secret so they will not know."

He transmitted the Dharma to Hui Neng because Hui Neng always practiced the Bodhisattva way. He pounded rice for everyone to eat and thus helped them in their cultivation. The same Bodhisattva conduct is practiced in the kitchen of this temple by the people who cook food for everyone to eat. They make extremely fine food! However, when I eat, I don’t notice, because I don’t have time to investigate eating dharmas. Today at lunch didn’t I say that if one tastes his food and thinks that it is good or bad, then he has no spiritual skill?

Those who practice the Bodhisattva way help others on all levels, not obstructing them, but, like the Superior Man, mentioning their good points.  For instance, when I announced that several people were going to leave home and asked if anyone objected, no one did. You said, "I commend those who want to leave home!" Your not objecting is practicing the Bodhisattva way.

However, I objected. Why? Because if I take bad disciples, people will say. "Whose disciple is that?" and I will lose face. Did you hear clearly? I objected, but everyone else approved and so I had to agree, because I am just one person, and the decision rests with the majority.

Late at night, the Sixth Patriarch easily obtained the Patriarchate.  The Fifth Patriarch approved, but he didn't consult anyone because he knew they all would have protested. Thus, the transmission of the Dharma was a private affair.

"Go out into the world," said the Fifth Patriarch. "Protect the robe and bowl for they have been handed down from Sakyamuni Buddha, generation after generation. Take everyone across and spread the Buddhadharma into the future. Do not let it be cut off!"

The Fifth Patriarch, sad and worried, was on the verge of tears. How do I know he wanted to cry? You will remember that the Second Patriarch, at his execution, wept as he said, “During the time of the Fourth Patriarch the Lankavatara Sutra will become a mere name and appearance. No one will understand it.” Now, in the same, way, the Fifth Patriarch’s heart welled as he said, “Don’t allow the Dharma to be cut off. Be careful! Pay attention! Don’t be muddled or take your job lightly, for it is extremely important that the Dharma not be cut off!”


      “Listen to my gatha:

      With feeling comes the planting of the seed.

      Because of the ground the fruit is born again.

      Without feeling there is just no seed.

      Without the nature there is, as well, no birth.”


"Listen to my verse," said the Great Master, "there are many ways to explain it."

With feeling comes the planting of the seed.

      I have a feeling of loving kindness and so I come to plant a seed.  "Feeling" can mean compassion. That is, I have a compassionate feeling and come to plant the seed and transmit the Buddhadharma to you.

      Because of the ground, the fruit is born again.

This transmission is like putting a seed into the ground so that the plant can grow and bear fruit.

      Without feeling there is just no seed.

Without feeling, no seed is planted. If no one transmits the Buddhadharma, there is no Bodhi-seed.

      Without the nature there is, as well, no birth.

Where there is no nature, there is no birth. This is one way to explain this gatha. There is another way:

      With feeling comes the planting of the seed.

The feeling is an emotional feeling of love. The seed is planted because of this loving feeling and the people here study the Buddhadharma because of it. If they are not relatives, they are friends. Relatives have relative's emotional feelings, and friends have friend's emotional feelings.  Because you have these emotional feelings, you come to study the Buddhadharma, you come to plant the seed.

      Because of the ground, the fruit is born again.

Emotional feeling plants the seed of Bodhi because of the ground. The ground is a place where one can reap the fruit. On this piece of ground, you can grow the Bodhi-fruit.

      Without feeling there is just no seed.

If there is no feeling and no emotion, there is no seed. That is, if no one came to this Bodhimandala to study the Dharma, there would be no feeling and no seed planted.

      Without the nature there is, as well, no birth.

You cannot realize Buddhahood without the Buddha nature. Now, the Buddha nature is here and you should realize Buddhahood.

One may explain this gatha in many ways, as long as one is in accord with principle.


      The Patriarch moreover said, “Formerly, when the Great Master Bodhidharma first came to this land, because people did not yet believe him, he transmitted this robe as a symbol of faith to be handed down from generation to generation. The Dharma is transmitted mind to mind, leading all to self-awakening and self-enlightenment.


      Didn’t I say before that Chinese people have no respect for Indian people? When Bodhidharma arrived in China, everyone said, “He’s a hick!” No one knew who he was. Even after five years in China, he was not recognized as the Patriarch.

True patriarchs accept the robe as certification of their rightly inherited position, whereas counterfeit patriarchs may try to steal the robe and take the Dharma by force. Shen Hsiu was menacing. "Either give me the Dharma," he said, "or whoever you give it to is going to die!" He thought a forced inheritance would be real, but the position obtained by stealing the robe would only be false.


      “From ancient times, Buddha only transmits the original substance (of enlightenment) to Buddha; master secretly transmits the original mind to master. Since the robe is a source of contention, it should stop with you. Do not transmit it. If you transmit this robe, your life will hang by a thread.”


During the time of the Fourth Patriarch, three attempts were made to steal the robe, and during the time of the Fifth Patriarch there were also three attempts. But the thieves always failed because the Bodhisattvas came to the Patriarchs' aid.

When the Sixth Patriarch was guarding the robe, six attempts were made.  Later, the robe and bowl were requested and taken by Empress Wu Tsai T'ien and perhaps entrusted to her later.

The Fifth Patriarch cautioned Hui Neng: "If you suspend a hundred pound rock from a thread, it is certain to snap; so with your life if you continue to transmit the robe."




      Dr. Edward Conze – Visiting Professor of Religious Studies at the
                          University of California at Berkeley.

      Dr. T. R. V. Murti – Professor of Religion, McMasters University.

February 12 & 19

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$12.00 for both Saturdays

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