The Collected Lectures of Tripitaka Master Hsuan Hua on

The Sixth Patriarch's Dharma Jewel Platform Sutra

Lecture 17: Chapter 2: Prajna



      The following day, at the invitation of Magistrate Wei, the Master took his seat and said to the great assembly, “All of you purify your minds and think about Mahaprajnaparamita.”


Prajna is a Sanskrit word. Translated it means "wisdom." There are three kinds of Prajna:

1. Literary Prajna;

2. Contemplative Prajna

3. Real mark Prajna,

Because the word Prajna encompasses these three meanings, it has a fuller connotation than the word wisdom. Therefore the Chinese translators of Sutras did not translate it, but transliterated it instead. The first chapter of the Sutra dealt with the Sixth Patriarch's autobiography. This chapter is an explanation of Prajna, given by the Master upon request.

The day after the Sixth Patriarch explained the Sharma at Hsiao Kuan to over a thousand people, he was invited to speak the Dharma by Magistrate Wei. The Sixth Patriarch took his seat and said, "All of you should quit daydreaming. Listen to the Dharma with a pure mind and a united heart. Be mindful of Mahaprajnaparamita."


He then said," Good Knowing Advisors, the wisdom of Bodhi and Prajna is originally possessed by worldly men themselves. It is merely because their minds are confused that they are unable to enlighten themselves and must rely on a Good Knowing Advisor who leads them to see (their Buddha) nature. You should know that the Buddha nature of stupid men and wise men is basically not different. It is merely because confusion and enlightenment differ that there are the stupid and the wise. I will now explain for you the Mahaprajnaparamita Dharma in order that you may each obtain wisdom. Pay careful attention, and I will explain it for you.

“Good Knowing Advisor, worldly men recite Prajna with their mouths all day long and yet do not recognize the Prajna of their self nature. Talking about food will not make you full, and in the same way, if your mouth merely speaks of emptiness, in ten-thousand kalpas you will not get to see your nature and so in the end will obtain no benefit.”


The Master said, "Worldly people recite 'Prajna, Prajna, Prajna," but they do not know the Prajna of their own original nature, their own inherent wisdom. You may recite recipes from a cookbook from morning to night, saying, 'This is delicious! but you will never get full. Saying 'Prajna is empty' is not doing anything about it. In the end it is of no benefit. It is nothing more than 'head-mouth zen' and will not cause you to see your own inherent Prajna."


Good Knowing Advisors, Mahaprajniparamita is a Sanskrit word which means 'great wisdom which has arrived at the other shore.' It must be practiced in the mind, and not just verbally recited. When the mouth recites and mind does not practice, this is like an illusion, a transformation, dew drops, or lightning. However, when the mouth recites and the mind practices, then mind and mouth are in mutual accord. The original nature is Buddha; apart from this nature there is no other Buddha."


Mahaprajnaparamita is called "big wisdom." "Maha" means great; "Prajna" means wisdom: "Paramita" means gone to the other shore.

It must be practiced in the mind, and not just verbally recited. See everything as empty and put it aside: See it, smash it, and put it down. Empty everything. Then you need not recite it all day long with your mouth. If your mouth recites, but your mind does not practice, this is like an illusion, a transformation, dewdrops, or lightning. If you see the Prajna wisdom of your nature, you will not become entangled in stupid affairs. You will not be ignorant. If you remain ignorant, your mind is not practicing.

If you use your mind as well as your mouth in cultivating Prajna, you will see that your own nature itself fundamentally is the Buddha.

      Everyone can realize Buddha. You need only cultivate. What should you cultivate? Your nature. Do not seek outwardly, but turn the light inward; reverse the illumination and seek within.


      “What is meant by Maha? Maha means ‘great’. The capacity of the mind is vast and great like empty space, and has no boundaries. It is not square, round, big or small. Neither is it blue, yellow, red, or white. It is not above or below, long, or short. It is without anger, without joy, without right, without wrong, without good, without evil, and it has no head or tail.”


Because the mind first thought of going there, we now send rockets to the moon. The mind has no limits or boundaries. You can't say that it is big or small, for it is big with nothing bigger and small with nothing smaller.

The self nature is the middle way and your true mind has no right or wrong, true or false. In your true mind there are no thoughts of good or evil. Therefore the Sixth Patriarch asked Hui Ming, "With no thoughts of good and with no thoughts of evil, at just this moment, what is the Superior One Hui Ming's original face?" He posed this question to reveal that there is neither good nor evil in the true mind. As they say in philosophy, “It has no head or tail!”


      “All Buddha lands are ultimately the same as empty space. The wonderful nature of worldly men is originally empty and there is not a single dharma, which can be obtained. The true emptiness of the self-nature is also thus.”


There is not even one single dharma. It is empty. Empty.

The self nature is like empty space;

It contains both true and false within.

Enlighten to the original substance:

In one penetration, penetrate all.


"Good Knowing Advisors, do not listen to my explanation of emptiness and then become attached to emptiness. The most important thing is to avoid becoming attached to emptiness. If you sit still with an empty mind you will attach to undifferentiated emptiness."


      “When you hear me say that Prajna is empty, do not attach to emptiness. If you do, you will sit as if dead,” continued the Sixth Patriarch.

      We should cultivate true emptiness, which is wonderful existence, not vacuity. In true emptiness everything is known and everything is not known.

            Understanding, complete and clear,

            Like water reflecting the moon.

            The mind in samadhi, like the sky,

            For ten thousand miles, not a cloud.


“Good Knowing Advisors, the emptiness of the universe is able to contain the forms and shapes of the ten thousand things: the sun, moon, and stars; the mountains, rivers, and the great earth; the fountains, springs, streams, torrents, grasses, trees, thickets, and forests: good and bad men, good and bad dharmas, the heavens and the hells, all the great seas, Sumeru and all mountains—all are contained within emptiness. The emptiness of the nature of worldly men is also thus."


Empty space not only holds all good things, it includes all bad people as well. Empty space would never say, "You bad person! Get out of my empty space!”


"Good Knowing Advisors, the ability of one's own nature to contain the ten thousand dharmas is what is meant by 'great.' These dharmas are within the nature of all men. If you regard all men, the bad as well as the good, without grasping or rejecting or producing defiling attachment, your mind will be like empty space and therefore be called, 'great.' Therefore it is called 'Maha.'"


You should see good and bad people without being attached to the good or "repulsed by the bad. As I have told you before, bad people have something in them which is extremely good. You should hope that they reform. I have many disciples who do not obey me. I tell them to go south and all day long they run north; I tell them to go east and they go west. Although they disobey, I wait patiently because I know the time will come when they will change.

All Good and all bad are included within the self-nature; you should neither grasp it nor cast it aside. Grasping and rejecting are defiling attachments. 


"Good Knowing Advisors, the mouth of the confused man speaks, but the mind of the wise man practices. There are confused men who sit still with empty minds, vainly thinking of nothing and declaring this to be great. One should not speak with these people because of their deviant views.”


The confused man does not do what must be done. He merely talks. A wise man, on the other hand, always puts principle into practice, not with head-mouth zen, but with constant cultivation.


"Good Knowing Advisors, the capacity of the mind is vast and great, encompassing the Dharma realm. Its function is to understand clearly and distinctly. Its responding function is to know all. All is one; one is all. Coming and going freely, the mind's substance is unobstructed. Just this is Prajna."


The Great Master said, “you are all very wise. The vast mind pervades the all-inclusive Dharma realm. It is like a mirror; when things come, it reflects them; when things go, it is empty. When used, this mind knows everything. To have Prajna is to have complete understanding and be free of all stupidity.


"Good Knowing Advisors, all Prajna wisdom is produced from one's own nature; it does not enter from the outside. Using the intellect correctly is called the natural function of one's true nature. One truth is all truth. The mind's capacity is for great affairs. not for practicing petty ways. Do not talk about emptiness with the mouth all day and in the mind fail to cultivate this conduct. Like a common person calling himself the king of a country, this cannot be. Such a person is not my disciple."


      Do not seek Prajna outside (the self-nature). Do not make the mistake of using the intellect, the discriminating mind. The function of the self-nature is not for small affairs.

      The Great Master said, “Do not say, ‘Empty, empty, empty, Prajna, Prajna, Prajna...’ One who does this is not my disciple.” Why? Because he doesn’t listen. I tell him not to attach to emptiness, and he attaches to emptiness. I tell him not to attach to existence, and he attaches to existence. I tell him not to have sexual desire and he still does not cut it off. “Oh, no problem,” he says, “slowly, slowly.”

Lecture 18


"Good Knowing Advisors, what is meant by ‘Prajna?' Prajna in our language means wisdom. The conduct of Prajna is the constant practice of wisdom so that everywhere and at all times, in thought after thought, there are no delusions. In one deluded thought Prajna is cut off. On one wise thought Prajna is produced. Worldly Men, deluded and confused, do not see Prajna. They speak of Prajna with their mouths, but their minds are always deluded. They constantly say, "I cultivate Prajna!' continually speaking of emptiness, but unaware of true emptiness. Prajna, without form or mark, is just the wisdom mind."


If you have Prajna, then thought after thought you clearly understand; thought after thought you are not confused; thought after thought you have no ignorance.

In one deluded thought Prajna is cut off. To speak of it as "cut off" is merely an analogy. Actually it is not cut off. How could proper wisdom, which is without production or destruction, be cut off?" "Cutting off" merely describes the moment of delusion, because at that moment Prajna is not apparent.

In one wise thought Prajna is produced. When you are not stupid or confused, Prajna is produced. I will give you an example of how confusion cuts off Prajna: When people say that drinking is harmful, smoking is not good, and eating confusing drugs is bad, and you do not believe, you cut off Prajna. If you change, you give rise to Prajna and true intelligence. When someone tries to teach you, but you refuse to understand or believe, that is delusion. In short, delusion is to know clearly something is wrong, but to go ahead and do it anyway. Such delusion cuts off Prajna. The great majority of people in this world are incredibly stupid. They do not see Prajna and they do not know how to cultivate it.

Their mouths speak about wisdom, but their actions betray their stupidity. They talk about Prajna saying, “Emptiness is Prajna. There are twenty kinds of emptiness related to Prajna. You should empty everything,” but they do not know true emptiness. Perhaps they understand a little of the Sutras, or recite a few lines of a mantra, but even though they speak they do not change their own faults and therefore do not recognize true emptiness.

You must give up ignorance, bad habits, faults, and obstructions and everything you do not clearly understand, if you are to understand true emptiness.

Prajna, without form or mark, is just the wisdom mind. Wisdom has no form or characteristic. Didn’t I just say that Prajna is neither long nor short, neither square not round, neither big nor small? Nor is it green, yellow, red, white, or black. What is it, then? It is the wise mind, free form ignorance, which knows right dharmas from wrong dharmas. If thus explained, just this is Prajna wisdom.


      What is meant by Paramita? It is a Sanskrit word which in our language means ‘arrived at the other shore,’ and is explained as ‘apart from production and extinction.’ When one is attached to states, production and extinction arise like waves on water. This is what is meant by ‘this shore.’ To be apart from states, with no production or extinction, is to be like freely flowing water. This is what is meant by ‘the other shore.’ Therefore it is called Paramita”.


      To reach the other shore is to separate from birth and death. This shore is birth and death; the other shore is Nirvana. To go from this shore to the other, you must cross' the great sea of afflictions. Because there are afflictions, there is also birth, death, and Nirvana. If you have no afflictions, then birth and death are Nirvana, and Nirvana is birth and death. Birth, death, and Nirvana are nothing more than names.

      The absence of birth and death is Nirvana. If you have no afflictions, then, in the midst of birth and death, you have no birth and death. We are born and die because of affliction. This sentence is very important and you should all remember it: Birth and death exist because of afflictions; affliction exists because of ignorance; and ignorance is simply whatever you don't understand.

      What don't you understand? What do you understand? Knowing you do not understand is ignorance. Knowing you do understand is Prajna. There is just that small difference.

      When one is attached to states, production and extinction arise like waves on water. What is meant by the other shore? What is Nirvana? Nirvana is like water without waves. When the wind rises' the waves swell. The wind of ignorance, the waves of affliction, describe "this shore."

      To be apart from states, with no production or extinction, is to be like freely flowing water. The principle is clear: the nature is like wisdom water. When there are no waves, there is no birth and death.

      We should work hard to understand why our minds have so many extraneous thoughts. These thoughts are like so many waves. Without them there would be no production or extinction, no birth or death. With production and extinction you are on this shore, but if you separate from production and extinction you are like freely flowing water, permeating the universe with wisdom. This is what is meant by 'the other shore.' This section of text is very useful. Use a little effort and you will understand it and derive inexhaustible benefit.


      "Good Knowing Advisors, confused men recite with their mouths, but at the time of reciting they have falsehood and error. If there is practice in every thought, this is called the true nature. Understand this dharma which is the Prajna dharma; cultivate this conduct which is the Prajna conduct. Nor cultivation is common, but in one thought of cultivation, you are equal to the Buddhas.”


In every thought, do not engage in stupid affairs. If you understand this dharma, you realize that Prajna is just to refrain from stupidity. What is stupidity? Doing what you absolutely should not do. Most important is the sexual desire mind. You absolutely should not give rise to sexual desire, for when it arises you get confused and forget everything. You forget Prajna, you forget Paramita. At that time you cannot even recite the names, and so you involve yourself without paying attention to principle. In spite of the fact that this is the most stupid thing one can do, people still like to do it.  This is just wanting to be stupid and not wanting to cultivate the Prajna dharma.

Understand this dharma which is the Prajna dharma; cultivate this conduct which is the Prajna conduct. When you are not doing stupid things, you are practicing Prajna. When you are not practicing Prajna, you are just a common person. But if you cultivate and practice Prajna for even a single thought, you must cut off desire and cast out love. The absence of sexual desire is the practice of Prajna, and in one thought of cultivation, you are equal to the Buddhas.


      “Good Knowing Advisors, common people are Buddhas and affliction is Bodhi. The former thought confused is that of a common person. The latter thought enlightened is that of a Buddha. The former thought attached to states is affliction. The latter thought separate from states is Bodhi.”


      Where does the Buddha come from? He starts out as a common person. The Buddha was a common person who cultivated and so realized Buddhahood. Why are we common people? Simply because we do not cultivate the Prajna dharma. Our nature flows out and becomes emotion; our emotions flow out and become desire. Common people are this way. But returning desire to the nature so that you are unmoved by ignorance is Buddha.

Affliction is Bodhi. Without affliction there is no Bodhi. So you say, "Then I will not get rid of my afflictions. I shall keep them." If you keep them, they are still afflictions, and afflictions are just afflictions. You should use a scientific method to temper your afflictions. How? Actually, this change is no change, it is merely a returning to the original nature.

Take my hand, for example, it has a palm and a back. The back of the hand represents afflictions and the palm represents Bodhi. All one need do is flip it over and everything is all right. There is no adding or subtracting.   Just turn it over. If you do not turn it over you are off by just that margin, and affliction is affliction, and Bodhi is Bodhi. But as soon as you turn it around, affliction is Bodhi and birth and death is Nirvana. I have often spoken of this. At Berkeley I said:

Affliction and Bodhi, ice is water,

Birth and death and Nirvana dharmas empty...

If you understand, then dharmas are also empty. If you do not understand, then there are still dharmas. You should understand that people and dharmas are both empty.

The former thought confused is that of a common person. The latter thought enlightened is that of a Buddha. With stupid thoughts, you are a common person; with wisdom and enlightenment, you are a Buddha.

The former thought attached to states is affliction. The latter thought separate from states is Bodhi. When thought is attached to states, affliction arises. You may think, "This is San Francisco. It sure isn't the same as New York!" Originally San Francisco and New York are the same. They are both big cities. But you make distinctions. "In San Francisco," you say, "there is no snow, but New York has lots of snow." This is just the discriminating mind, because basically the two cities are the same.

If you are unattached to states, you will not have so much affliction. If you do not use your discriminating mind, there is no affliction. The former thought, which was attached to states, discriminated between San Francisco and New York and therefore affliction arose. The latter thought, which is unattached, causes you to say, “They are empty! San Francisco and New York are the same. Why bother to discriminate them?” If you do not discriminate, that is Bodhi...

It is easy to speak like this, but putting down all discrimination is another matter. It is difficult. When you understand this kind of state, there is no home, no country. There is nothing at all. This is to produce "that thought which is nowhere supported." Not dwelling anywhere, manifest a body that can go everywhere. Is this not wonderful dharma? It is just Bodhi. No need to sigh. If you can be like this, then you are this way. If you cannot yet be like this, then slowly, slowly, you can be.

Nature in samadhi, Demons defeated:
False thoughts
Not arising:
Everywhere -- peace.

When your mind is in samadhi, there is not so much false thinking.  Everyday you are happy and at peace. Why are you unhappy? Because of false thought. Without false thoughts, every place is the Land of Ultimate Bliss, and you can "produce that body, which is nowhere supported."

Lecture 19


      “Good Knowing Advisors, Mahaprajnaparamita is the most honored, the most supreme, the foremost. It does not stay; it does not come or go. All Buddhas of the three periods of time emerge from it. You should use great wisdom to destroy the five skandic heaps, affliction, and defilement. With such cultivation you will certainly realize the Buddha way, transforming the three poisons into morality, concentration and wisdom.”


The Great Master again addressed the assembly, saying, “In the self-nature of each of you there is limitless wisdom. Mahaprajnaparamita is the original dwelling place of your self-nature. You need not seek it outside.  This dharma is the most honored, the most supreme, the foremost. There is nothing higher.

It does not stay; it does not come or go. Self-nature Prajna wisdom is unattached. All Buddhas of the past, present, and future issue from Mahaprajnaparamita: the highest and most honored dharma.

You should use this great wisdom, not small wisdom, to destroy the five skandhic heaps, affliction and defilement. Small wisdom cannot destroy the five heaps, cannot break through form, feelings, perceptions, impulses, and consciousness. You cannot see them as empty and therefore you have affliction and are unable to cut off defilement. If you wish to have genuine Prajna, you must "illumine and view the five skandhas all as empty." Doesn't the Heart Sutra say, "Contemplating Own Being Bodhisattva, when deeply practicing the Prajnaparamita, illumined and viewed the five skandhas all as empty?"  Avalokitesvara, Contemplate Own Being Bodhisattva, worked a long time, practicing the deep Prajnaparamita. He could not, in just a short time, illumine and view the five heaps as empty. If you practice the deep Prajnaparamita, you can see the five heaps in this way. When you destroy all affliction and dust fatigue, the original Prajna nature manifests.

With such cultivation you will certainly realize the Buddha way, transforming the three poisons into morality, concentration, and wisdom. There is no doubt that you will realize the way. Turn greed, hatred, and stupidity into morality, concentration, and wisdom. If you are able to change, you dwell in Prajna; if you do not change, you wander among the stupid.


"Good Knowing Advisors, my Dharma door produces 84,000 wisdoms from the one Prajna. Why? Because worldly men have 84,000 kinds of defilement. In the absence of defilement, wisdom is always present, not separate from the self-nature. "


      The Sixth Patriarch said, “From one kind of wisdom, measureless Prajnas are produced.” These 84,000 kinds of wisdom are just 84,000 kinds of Prajna. If you change dust fatigue, it becomes wisdom.


"To understand this dharma is just non-thought, non—remembrance, and non-attachment, and the non-arisal of falsehood and error. Use your own true suchness nature, and by means of wisdom contemplate and illumine all dharmas without grasping or rejecting them. Just this is to see one's own nature and realize the Buddha way."


Do not use your discriminating consciousness to contemplate and illuminate all dharmas. Use wisdom.


"Good Knowing Advisors, if you wish to enter the extremely deep Dharma realm and the Prajna samadhi. You must cultivate the Prajna practice. Hold and recite the Diamond Prajna Sutra and thereby see the nature."


If you wish to enter the Sutra store and have wisdom like the sea, if you wish to master all Dharmas and the Prajna samadhi, you must cultivate the Prajna conduct. How do you practice the Prajna Dharma door? Hold and recite the Diamond Prajna Sutra. Because the Sixth Patriarch became enlightened upon hearing the Diamond Sutra, he tells everyone, "You should all recite the Diamond Sutra. Hold it in your mind, do not be distracted or forgetful. Hold the Diamond Sutra and thereby see the nature."

In reciting Sutras it is essential to avoid giving rise to false thinking and extraneous thoughts. Once there was a man who recited the Diamond Sutra every day. One night he dreamt that a ghost asked him to take him across, as on the fifteenth day of the seventh month when we perform the Ullambana ceremony to take across parents from this and past lives. The ghost said, "Please recite a Sutra to take me across."

"How many times shall I recite it?" the man asked. 

The ghost said, "Once will be enough."

The next day, halfway through the recitation, one of the man's servants brought him a cup of tea. He pushed the cup aside, thinking, "I do not want it," and continued to recite.

That evening the ghost returned. "You promised to recite a Sutra for me," he said, "but you only recited half of it.”

      “What do you mean?” the man replied. “I recited the whole Sutra.”

      The ghost said, “You recited the whole Sutra, but halfway through you thought, ‘I do not want it,’ so the merit from the second half of the recitation was lost.” 

      The man then realized what had happened. “Yes,” he replied, “I did think, ‘I do not want it,’ but it was tea I did not want, not the Sutra’s merit.”

      It took only these words “I do not want” halfway through the recitation to convince the ghosts and spirits that he did not want the merit. Probably the ghosts took the merit for themselves. The man said, “I will recite it again.” This time he recited without interruption and the next evening the ghost happily bowed to him in thanks for the compassionate recitation.

      So when you recite the Diamond Sutra, do not think, “I do not want.” Reciting “Subhuti, Subhuti, I don’t want Subhuti,” Subhuti will probably leave.


"You should know that the merit and virtue of this Sutra is immeasurable, unbounded, and indescribable, as the sutra text itself clearly states. "This Dharma door is the Superior Vehicle, taught for men of great wisdom and superior faculties. When men of small faculties and wisdom here it, their minds give rise to doubt. "


Men without good roots say, "This Sutra is meaningless. What advantage is there to reciting it? If you recite it every day, can you go without eating and still live? Keep reciting and we will see if you can go without eating." People of shallow roots and wisdom do not believe in this Sutra.


"What is the reason? Take for example the rain which the heavenly dragons shower on Jambudvipa. Cities and villages drift about in the flood like thorns and leaves. But if the rain falls on the...great sea. The waters neither increase nor decrease."


      The great sea represents men of great roots and energy. As soon as they hear this dharma, they realize that (Prajna) is originally complete within the self-nature, and so they believe. People of small roots and wisdom, however, are like grass and leaves, which float on the surface of the water and drown as soon as it rains. They doubt the Great Vehicle Dharma.


"If men of the Great Vehicle, the Most Superior Vehicle, hear the Diamond Sutra, their minds open, awaken, and understand. They then know that their original nature itself possesses the wisdom of Prajna. Because they themselves use this wisdom constantly to contemplate and illuminate, they do not rely on written words."


Reflecting within, it is unnecessary for them to be highly literate to understand Prajna wisdom. 


"Take for example the rain water. It does not come from the sky.  Originally the dragons cause it to fall in order that all-living beings, all plants and trees, all those with feeling and those without feeling may receive its moisture. In a hundred streams it flows into the great sea and there unites in one substance. The wisdom of the Prajna of the original nature of living beings is also thus."


The Prajna wisdom of the self-nature of living beings is just like the rain from the heavens, which flows into the great sea. The sea represents our inherent wisdom. No matter how much rain falls the sea neither increases nor decreases.

The Buddhadharma is like a great sea:

Only those with faith can enter.


      “Good Knowing Advisors, when men of small faculties hear this Sudden Teaching, they are like the plants and trees with shallow roots which, overturned buy the great rain, are unable to grow. Men of small faculties are also thus: The Prajna wisdom, which they possess, is fundamentally not different from that of men of great wisdom.”


When men of small, shallow roots hear this Sudden Teaching Dharma door of using the mind to seal the mind, directly pointing to man's mind to see the nature and realize Buddhahood, they are like the plants and trees which are overturned by the great rain. The water should help them to grow. What a pity that, because of their small roots, they are swept away instead.

The self-nature Prajna of the stupid and the wise is basically no different. It is just that the wise can use it and the stupid cannot.


"Hearing this Dharma, why do they not become enlightened? It is because the obstacle of their deviant views is heavy and the root of their afflictions deep, like thick clouds covering the sun. If the wind does not blow, the sunlight will not appear."


They do not become enlightened because their deviant views are too heavy and obstruct them, causing them to disbelieve. Their ignorance is heavy and they give rise to much affliction, like thick clouds covering the sun. The sunlight is just your self-nature Prajna and the clouds are your deviant Views and afflictions. If no wind blows the clouds away, the sunlight will not shine.


"Prajna wisdom is neither great nor small. Living beings differ because their own minds are either confused or enlightened. Those of confused mind look outwardly to cultivate in search of the Buddha. Not yet having awakened to their self-nature, they possess small roots.”


      Some living beings have heavy bad habits. Having created much bad karma, they are confused. Those with fewer bad habits and lighter karma can become enlightened. The confused man seeks the Dharma outside his own mind. Seeking outwardly, he does not recognize the originally complete Buddha of the self-nature, his own self-nature’s Prajna. Seeking the Buddha outside, the more he seeks, the farther away he goes.


"If you become enlightened to the Sudden Teaching you do not grasp at outward cultivation. When your own mind constantly gives rise to right views, affliction and defilement can never stain you. Just this is seeing your nature."


You should enlighten yourself and not seek outside. If you hear the Sudden Teaching you may become enlightened right away. Understand your own nature's Prajna and always hold right knowledge and vision. You will then be without affliction or defilement. Just this is seeing the nature.


"Good Knowing Advisors, the ability to cultivate the conduct of not dwelling inwardly or outwardly, of coming and going freely, of casting away the grasping mind, and of unobstructed penetration, basically not different from the Prajna Sutra."


Inside there is no body and mind, outside there is no world. But this is not dull emptiness. This is not to say, "My body and mind do not exist; the world does not exist." What is spoken of here is non-attachment, non-attachment to the body and mind and to the world. Then you may come and go freely.

Coming and going at will you are free.  You may come back to the body and mind or go out into the Dharma Realm. If you are unattached coming and going, this is freedom. If you are attached, this is bondage. When you are unattached, your mind and nature are free to come and go.

You are also free with respect to life and death. "If I want to live, I live. If I want to die, I die." You ask, "Is this suicide?" No. You need simply sit down, enter Dhyana samadhi, and go. You need not take poison to make sure that you will die. Isn't this freedom? If it were not freedom, you would probably not be able to go. How was the Third Patriarch, Seng Tsan, able to reach up and grasp the limb of a tree and, while hanging there, die?  How could he enter Nirvana in this way? He could do this because he was free to live or die, free to come or go.

If I wish to live, then I may never die.

If I wish to die, I die right now.

This is what is meant by "coming and going freely."

If you are free to come and go, you can end your life even while in the midst of talking, just like Great Master Tao Sheng. He was really a good sport. The Mahaparinirvana Sutra said that icchantikas do not possess the Buddha nature, but Tao Sheng disagreed: "I say that icchantikas do have the Buddha nature!"

Everyone said, "He's insane. He knows what the Sutra says, yet he deliberately contradicts it." They scolded him, they shunned him.

Master Tao Sheng then made a vow. He said, "If my explanation of the Dharma accords with the Buddha's. Sutras and the Buddha's mind, then in the future I shall end my life while lecturing on the Dharma seat. But if I have spoken contrary to the Buddha's mind, this vow will not be fulfilled."

He then went into the mountains and lecture on Sutras to the rocks and boulders. When the rocks heard him, they nodded in acceptance of his principles.

When the Venerable Sheng spoke the Dharma,

Even the rocks bowed their heads.

He continued to lecture on Sutras until one time, mysteriously and wonderfully, he paused while lecturing and died sitting in the Dharma seat.  The assembly looked up and exclaimed, "He has gone to rebirth!" This is what is meant by coming and going freely.

...of casting away the grasping mind. You say, "Dharma Master, I quite agree with you. I do not want to be attached. I simply do not want to follow the rules. The rules are just an attachment." Wrong. If you can get rid of your grasping mind and be unattached, you should be unattached to what is wrong, not to what is right. For example, if you follow the rules you can become a Buddha. But if you think, “I am not attached. I don’t have to follow the rules,” then you cannot become a Buddha.

      Do not attach to principles which oppose the way, but grasp and hold tightly those principles which accord with it. Holding and reciting may be an attachment, but holding and reciting the Diamond Sutra is cultivation.

      Do not say, “I am attached. I have a small fault which I do not want to give up. What is more, I do not want anyone to know about it.” This is even more attached. “All right then,” you say, “I don’t care if anyone knows about it. If people say I am wrong, I will be unattached and pay no attention.” This is deviant knowledge and views. The more you cultivate in this way, the further you drift from the Buddhadharma.

      ...unobstructed penetration. Once you have separated from attachments, you can penetrate without obstruction and be without obstacles. The ability to cultivate this conduct is basically no different from the Prajna Sutra. If you cannot cultivate this conduct, you oppose the wonderful Prajna principle of the Diamond Sutra, but if you can cultivate it, just that is Prajna wisdom.

Lecture 20


"Good-Knowing Advisors, all Sutras and writings of the Great and Small Vehicles, the twelve divisions of Sutras, are devised because of men and established because of the nature of wisdom. If there were no men then the ten thousand dharmas would not exist. Therefore you should know that all dharmas are originally postulated because of men and all Sutras are spoken because of them."


Above, a Sutra tallies with the principles of all Buddhas, and below, it tallies with the opportunities for teaching living beings; thus the word Sutra takes on the meaning, "to tally."

      The twelve divisions of Sutra text are:

1. Prose

2. Verse

3. Interjections

4. Bestowal of predictions

5. Speaking without request

6. Causes and conditions

7. Analogies

8. Events of past lives of the Buddhas

9. Events of the present lives of the Buddhas

10. Universally expansive (Vaipulya) writings

11. That which has never been (spoken) before

12. Commentaries

      Sutras exist because there are people. If there were no people, Sutras would be useless. Troubles exist because there are people who have them. If there were no people, there would be no troubles. The Dharma teaches people how to end their troubles: for the eighty-four thousand defilements and troubles, the Buddha teaches eighty-four thousand Dharma doors as a cure. But if there were no people, troubles would not arise.

            The Buddha spoke all Dharmas

            For the minds of men.

            If there were no men,

            What use would Dharmas be?


      "Some men are deluded and some are wise. The deluded are small, men and the wise are great men. The deluded question the wise and the wise teach Dharma to the deluded. When the deluded men suddenly awaken and understand, their minds open up and they are then no different from the wise.


      When children don't understand something, they ask their parents to explain it. The adults instruct the children and cause them to understand.  When those who have wisdom instruct those who are stupid, the stupid are caused to understand.


      "Good Knowing Advisors, unenlightened, the Buddha is a living being. At the time of an enlightened thought, the living being becomes a Buddha.  Therefore, know that the ten thousand dharmas exist within your own mind. Why do you not, from within your own mind, suddenly see the true suchness of the original nature?”


If, in the very shortest space of time, the space of a thought, you suddenly understand, you wake up and become a Buddha. Confused, you are a living being; enlightened, you are a Buddha.

One confused thought: you are a living being.

Thought after thought confused: thought after thought: a living being.

One enlightened thought: you are a Buddha.

Thought after thought enlightened: thought after thought a Buddha.

What does it mean to be enlightened? Ask yourself. Ultimately, what advantage does emotional desire have? Emotional desire harms your body; this is a serious problem. Emotional desire robs you of your life; this is a serious problem. Emotional desire makes you stupid. If thought after thought you have desire, then thought a after thought you are stupid. It is said, "Karma ended, emotion emptied, is the true Buddha. Karma heavy, emotion turbid, is the living being."

Enlightenment is here: put down defiled thoughts and pick up the pure.  What are defiled thoughts? Thoughts of desire are defiled thoughts. I will make it even clearer: thoughts of sexual desire are defiled thoughts. You should clearly discern thoughts of sexual desire. Should you practice sexual desire with your body, your body karma is impure. If you talk about sex, your mouth karma is impure. If you constantly think about sex, your mind karma is impure. However, if you are without offense in karma of body, mouth, and mind, you are not far from Buddhahood.

Most people turn their backs on enlightenment and unite with the dust.  Falling into emotional desire, they become defiled. Leaving emotional desire and turning your back on the dust, you unite with enlightenment. In this way, clear and pure, you can realize Buddhahood. However, if you have even the slightest trace of defilement you cannot realize Buddhahood; you remain a living being.

Do you see? It is very simple. Still you need the help of a Good Knowing Advisor. This good Knowing Advisor will teach you that, in order to be clear and pure, it is most important to be unselfish. Not working for your own benefit and being without greed, hatred, and stupidity, you may attain purity. Enlightenment is to have no view of a self.

      Some people hear, “One enlightened thought; you are a Buddha,” and they say, “Everyone is a Buddha!” Right. All living beings are Buddha, but they must first wake up. To say, “Everyone is Buddha,” when you are not enlightened is to be like the common person mentioned earlier in the Sutra who called himself the king. The real king would throw this man in prison. So it is said, “Heaven cannot hold two suns; The citizens cannot serve two kings.”

      Why do you not, from within your own mind, suddenly see the true suchness of the original nature? Why don’t you cultivate your own mind? Get rid of the dirt, get rid of the defilement and then you can see your truly such original nature. See it suddenly. Do not say, “Wait a minute, wait a minute.” See it immediately. See what? See the truly such self-nature; see the truly such original nature.


"The Bodhisatva-sila Sutra says. "Our fundamental self-nature is clear and pure. If we recognize our mind and see the nature, we shall all perfect the Buddha way. The Vimalakirti Nirdesa Sutra says, 'Just then, suddenly return: obtain the original mind.'"


If you see your nature, you realize Buddhahood. If I see my nature, I realize Buddhahood. If he sees his nature, he realizes Buddhahood. There is no inequality here. This principle is the most democratic: whoever sees his nature realizes Buddhahood. 

You need not wait. Become enlightened right now. See right through it, and suddenly, you don't know how, you enlighten. Strange. Unspeakably wonderful. You Return and obtain your original mind.


"Good Knowing Advisors, when I was with High Master Jen. I was enlightened as soon as I heard his words, and suddenly saw the true suchness, the original nature. That is why I am spreading this teaching method which leads students of the way to become suddenly enlightened to Bodhi, each contemplating his mind and seeing his original nature.”


      “All you of great knowledge, hear me!” said the Sixth Patriarch. “I have explained so much Dharma to you. Have you been enlightened yet? When I was with High Master Jen, I awoke right when I heard him speak.”

"I, the Sixth Patriarch, an illiterate barbarian, a stupid country person, met the High Master Jen." The Great Master did not say the Fifth Patriarch's full name, but merely said, "Jen" as a gesture of great respect.  "The High Master Jen," he said, "endured the temper of many. Those below him tried to pressure him into transmitting the Dharma to Shen Hsiu."

"High Master," they would say, "if you transmit the Dharma to anyone other than Shen Hsiu, Shen Hsiu won't be able to forget. He will send his men to kill whoever receives the transmission."

The Fifth Patriarch was not even free to transmit the Dharma, but was forced to endure the tyranny of his own: disciples. His name, Jen, means "to endure." He endured, he endured, practicing the perfection of patience until, one day, the barbarian arrived. "I will give the Dharma to the barbarian," the Fifth Patriarch thought, "and forget about all of you. Do you think you can bully a Patriarch? I will transmit the Dharma to someone who can't even read. What use is your education now?" Thus, the High Master Jen ceased enduring and transmitted the Dharma to the Sixth Patriarch.

The Sixth Patriarch was one who knew the sound. "High Master," he said, "you have suffered greatly!" Then he told the assembly, "I was enlightened as soon as I heard his words."

Why did the Fifth Patriarch transmit the Dharma to this barbarian? It was not just because he wanted to defy Shen Hsiu. Rather it was because this barbarian was so intelligent that, as soon as he heard the Fifth Patriarch speak, he said in reply, "So that's how it is! My self-nature is originally pure. My self-nature is originally bright and light. My self-nature is originally unmoving. How wonderful it is!"

"Yes," said the Fifth Patriarch, "you are right. It is just that way."

The Sixth Patriarch told the assembly, "I propagate this Sudden Teaching in order to cause all student of the way to enlighten suddenly to their own mind and see their own nature."


      “If you are unable to enlighten yourself, you must seek out a great Good Knowing Advisor, one who understands the Dharma of the Most Superior Vehicle, who will direct you to the right road.”


If you can't enlighten yourself, you must seek out a bright-eyed knowing one, one who has "gone through." "Wishing to travel the mountain tracks, Ask someone who has taken the trip." Ask him, "Where does this road lead?" If you do not ask someone who has traveled the road before, but instead ask a blind man for directions, the blind man will say, "Just keep walking. Go wherever you wish." If you ask a blind man, "Is this emptiness?"  he will say, "It certainly is. No one can hinder you here." But is this really emptiness?

The great Good Knowing Advisor understands the Superior Vehicle Dharma and directs you to the right road.


"This Good Knowing Advisor possesses great karmic conditions, which is to say that he will transform and guide you and lead you to see your nature.  It is because of a Good Knowing Advisor that all wholesome Dharmas can arise.  All Buddhas of the three periods of time as well as the twelve divisions of Sutra texts exist in the nature of man, originally complete therein. If you are unable to enlighten yourself, you should seek out the instruction of a Good Knowing Advisor who will lead you to see (your nature):"


If there is a great affinity between you, you may meet a bright-eyed knowing one who will teach you to understand your mind and see your nature.  All good Dharmas arise because of him. Your good roots flourish because he watches over their growth. He explains the Dharma to you every day and causes your good roots to grow.

All the Buddhas of the past, present, and future as well as the twelve divisions of Sutra text, are originally complete within your own nature. But if you cannot understand this, you should seek out the instruction of a Good Knowing Advisor. He will teach you to behold the pure and wonderful substance of the self-nature.



Above, a Sutra tallies with the principles of all Buddhas, and below, it tallies with the opportunities for teaching living beings; thus the word Sutra takes on the meaning, "to tally."


~ Book Reviews ~

Buddhist Philosophy In Theory and Practice; Herbert V. Guenther; Penguin Books, Maryland; 240 pages, paperback; $2.45

Professor Guenther covers the range of Buddhist philosophy as it is found in two sources of Tibetan tradition, from the beginnings of the primitive epistemology of perception belonging to the Hinayana, up to the vivid ontology of the Tantras. Realizing that Buddhist thought does not necessarily match up with the various schools of the West, he discusses it on its own merits, and within its own framework, thereby presenting a clear and accurate view of Buddhist philosophy as a comprehensive system within itself.

Having begun with an introductory chapter which deals with the development of Buddhist philosophy as a whole, he goes on to devote a chapter each to the Vaibhasikas, and the Sautrantikas as the major representative, of the Small Vehicle. Each of these chapters closes with two translations; the first selected from "The Jewel Garland of the Dissertation on Philosophical Systems," a dGe-lugs-pa work, and the other from the "Summary of Philosophical Systems as Detailed In The Treasure Which Is Like A Wish-Fulfilling Gem, "written in the present century by a member of the Nying-ma-pas. 'The Jewel Garland' takes a traditional epistemological approach, offering straightforward discussion and comparison of each system. The 'Summary of Philosophical Systems' takes a more critical approach, resolving the faults in each system with the higher teachings.

Professor Guenther then devotes a chapter to the two schools of the Yogacarins, whom he terms 'mentalists', discussing their characteristics and the contents of their teaching both as a self-contained system and in reference to the other Buddhist schools. Again, each is accompanied by a selection from 'The Jewel Garland' and 'The Summary of Philosophical Systems', which authoritatively complement Guenther's work. The major schools of Midhyamika thought, the Svatrantikas and the Prasanghikas are dealt with in the same concise manner.

The remainder of Buddhist Philosophy is devoted to the Tantras as the Superior teaching. Guenther uses an entire chapter to discuss the term 'tantra', which has been so unfortunately misconstrued in the West. Most of the so-called practitioners of Tantrism in the West could benefit greatly from a closer study of this work. The four kinds of tantra are then discussed in the same manner as were the previous schools, and illustrated by similar textual material from 'The Jewel Garland' and 'The Summary of Philosophical Systems.'

The greatest strength of Guenther's work is its absolute clarity, greatly enhanced by the restatement offered by the two textual quotes at the end of 'each chapter. Professor Guenther also gives the Tibetan terms in italics in the body of the work, as well as useful footnotes which further illustrate material not fully developed in the text.

In the course of the text he discusses the various possible alternatives for translation of certain key terms. One of the most interesting aspects of this book is the translator's mind at work as he explains the problems inherent in using various Western philosophical terms, as well as earlier out-moded translations, finally resolving his investigation with a new translation. All in all, this is one of the best books to appear in the expanding field of works on Buddhism, a breath of vigorous mountain air in the midst of all the soggy zen.

- Bhiksu Heng Shoou


Coming Attractions...

      Don’t miss the discussion of the T’ien T’ai doctrine of the Six Levels of Identity with the Buddha, in next month’s portion of the lectures on the Wonderful Dharma Lotus Blossom Sutra.