The Sixth Patriarch's Dharma Jewel Platform Sutra
WITH COMMENTARY BY TRIPITAKA MASTER HSUAN HUA TRANSLATED BY SINO-AMERICAN BUDDHIST ASSOCIATION BUDDHIST TEXT TRANSLATION SOCIETY
The Fifth Patriarch measured his capacity. What is meant by measuring his capacity? The Fifth Patriarch considered the Great Master a Dharma vessel, measured this container, and found it capable of holding anything.
And transmitted the robe and Dharma. causing him to inherit the Patriarchy. The Fifth Patriarch transmitted the robe and bowl, and the Dharma to the Sixth Patriarch, causing the Patriarchal line to continue.
The time was the first year of the reign period Lung Shuo cyclical year Hsing. This cyclical arrangement of years has a period of sixty years.
He returned South and hid for sixteen years. After the Sixth Patriarch left Huang Mei, he had no safe place to live, because the disciples of Shen Hsiu ) and followers of outside ways all wished to harm him. Having no recourse, he went to live among hunters for a period of sixteen years.
What did the Great Master do during those years? He watched the nets confining animals and birds which had been captured by the hunters. He did not hurt the animals, and they were not killed by the hunters, but some were injured and only half alive. Because so many animals were kept together, the hunters did not notice that the Great Master secretly released those with only- light injuries who could still travel safely.
Since the hunters ate meat, what did the Sixth Patriarch do? The Great Master ate only vegetables cooked alongside the meat. The hunters ate the flesh of the tiger, bear, panther and other wild animals. The Sixth Patriarch gathered plants growing on the mountainside, or vegetables he planted himself, and cooked them on the side in the meat pot. When the meat was done, his vegetables were also done.
Concerning the practice of eating pure vegetarian food rather than impure food or meat: In the small vehicle countries of Burma, Cambodia, and Ceylon, as well as India, bhiksus do not necessarily adhere to the practice of pure eating, but they eat meat when it is placed in their bowls on begging rounds from house to house. The bhiksus simply eat whatever they are given; therefore, there is no fixed rule that they must eat pure vegetarian food. The Great Master knew this principle, and while he hid among the hunters he ate his vegetables alongside the meat.
While he lived among the hunters, no one knew that the Great Master was the Sixth Patriarch. What did he do during those sixteen years? He worked hard practicing Dhyana meditation. While watching over the captured animals and birds, he had much time to work hard cultivating. During those sixteen years no one was able to find him to cause him trouble.
When people who cultivate the way do not truly cultivate, all affairs are very convenient and there is no trouble. On the other hand, if you truly cultivate, then many demon obstacles suddenly arise from the four corners and the eight directions. Unexpected circumstances prevail. Things you never dreamed could happen, happen.
In his sixteen years with the hunters, the Sixth Patriarch dwelt without disturbance, living just as they did. This is genuine hiding. He did not seek fame or profit and did not have a mind which climbs on conditions. This is genuine cultivation. These sixteen years were a very good time for Cultivation and hard work.
ON THE EIGHTH DAY OF THE FIRST MONTH IN THE FIRST YEAR OF THE REIGN PERIOD I FENG. THE CYCLICAL YEAR PING. TSU. HE MET DHARMA. MASTER YIN TSUNG. TOGETHER THEY IN— VESTIGA.TED AND DISCUSSED THE PROFOUND AND MYSTERIOUS. YIN TSUNG AWAKENED AND REALIZED THE MASTER'S PRINCIPLE.
On the eighth day of the first month in the first year of the reign period I Feng. the cyclical year Ping Tsu . he met Dharma Master Yin Tsumj Yin Tsung was a great and virtuous Dharma Master of that time.
Together they investigated and discussed the profound and mysterious. Discuss means they talked back and forth, querying each other on principle. Who asked whom? Dharma Master Yin Tsung asked the Great Master, the Sixth Patriarch. How did this come about?
While Dharma Master Yin Tsung lectured sutras, outside a flag was fluttering in the wind. Dharma Master Yin Tsung asked the assembly, "Ultimately, is it the flag or the wind which moves? If you say it is the flag, when the wind is not present, the flag will not move. If you say it is the wind which moves, in the absence of the flag you cannot detect its movement. Finally, what is it that moves.
One attached person answered, "Certainly it is the wind which is moving!”
Another said, "It must be the flag, of course!" They argued incessantly back and forth, and Dharma Master Yin Tsung had no principle with which to decide the matter.
At this time, although the Sixth Patriarch was still an Upasaka, a Buddhist layman, he had wisdom and unobstructed eloquence, and genuinely cultivated according to the Buddhadharma. He was not the type of person who hangs out his name like a sign, saying "I am a Buddhist Layman", and then does all kinds of bad things and exhibits all manner of muddled behavior, casually ignoring the rules. You can not speak of this kind of person as truly being a Buddhist layman.
If you are a layman you should certainly follow the rules. If you do not follow the rules, then you certainly cannot call yourself a layman.
The Sixth Patriarch, there among the assembly listening to sutras, finally said, "It is neither the wind nor the flag which moves. It is the minds of the Humane Ones which move."
Dharma Master Yin Tsung heard him say this and was astounded that a layman could speak the principle in such a deep and wonderful way. "He says it is the mind which moves!" he exclaimed. Thereupon he descended the Dharma high seat and came up to this layman. "Where did you come from and what is your name?" he asked. "Where did you learn this way of speaking?" He then escorted the Sixth Patriarch to the Abbot's room to chat with him, It was then that Dharma Master Yin Tsung knew this lay man was a room-entering disciple, the one to whom the Fifth Patriarch had transmitted the Dharma. Realizing he was the Sixth Patriarch, Dharma Master Yin Tsung immediately bowed to the Great Master. This is what is meant when it says "Together they investigated and discussed the profound and mysterious." "Profound and mysterious" refers to the discussion of the flag and the wind.
Yin Tsung awakened and realized the Master's principle, Dharma Master Yin Tsung, although a Dharma Master, still had not properly understood the principle of the Dhyana School. But after talking with the Sixth Patriarch, he awakened and united with the Sixth Patriarch's principle.
ON THE FIFTEENTH DAY OF THIS MONTH. AT A UUIVERSAL MEETING OF THE FOUR ASSEMBLIES. THE MASTER'S HEAD WAS SHAVED. ON THE EIGHTH DAY OF THE SECOND MONTH. ALLTHOSE _OF WELL- KNOWN VIRTUE GATHERED TOGETHER TO ADMINISTER THE COMPLETE PRECEPTS.
On the fifteenth day of this month, at a universal meeting of the four assemblies, the Master's head was shaved. During the week of the eighth to the fifteenth day of the first month, Dharma Master Yin Tsung gathered together the four assemblies of disciples: the bhiksus, bhiksunis, upasakas, and upasikas. The purpose of the meeting was to shave the Great Master's head so that he could become a bhiksu, one who has left home.
There is not just one kind of leaving home. I have spoken this before. Many kinds of people leave home. Some leave home for the sake of clothing and food. Finding it extremely difficult to obtain food and clothing, they see that the clothes and food of those who have left home just spontaneously appear, and so they leave home. This is leaving home for the sake of clothing and food.
There are others who leave home because of old age with no progeny. These people, old and without children to care for them, think, "I will leave home and afterwards take a young disciple. This will be like having a son to care for me." It is not certain that those who leave home for the sake of food and clothing, and those of old age who leave home to gain a son, are cultivators.
Still others who leave home to become bhiksus are those who have undergone the pressures of environmental circumstances. These people, perhaps bandits or thieves are fugitives from the law, and are pursued by a government bent on removing their heads. These people leave home and cut off their hair so that the government will not find them and cut off their heads. Yet another kind of leaving home is called "left home when small". You say, "Ahhh, then one could truly cultivate I" Perhaps yes, perhaps no. Why? Some people have confused beliefs. Confused beliefs, often called superstition, are considered evil by many. But although confused, they still believe, and this is good. They do not understand, but they have faith.
For instance, there are children who are born stricken with disease. The parents of such children do not understand, but have faith, so they say, "Ohh, this child has so much sickness and suffering! Probably he will die instead of growing up healthy and strong. His life will not be long. If we give this child to a temple he will be able to live. He can be a bhiksu and live at the temple. We can still go there and see him. This is better than having him die." So out of confused belief these parents give this child to a temple. Thus the child is one who "left home when small".
Before I said those with "confused belief" were not necessarily evil. There are others, however, who have "belief in the confused", and this is definitely not good. They have faith, but they believe in the ways of confused people. Confused themselves, they believe in a confused way. This belief in the confused is confusion within confusion, and is not good.
There is yet another kind of people who are "confused and without belief". They are confused and do not believe in anything.
Finally there are the "believing and unconfused". With a genuinely believing mind these people study until they have wisdom and are no longer confused.
Of these four kinds of leaving home, one cannot say that the people of any of them will be able to cultivate, and one cannot say that they certainly cannot cultivate. Among these people, perhaps one or two percent can cultivate. Someone with a true mind, who sincerely brings forth the Bodhi heart for the sake of exhausting birth and death, can surely, upon leaving home, cultivate.
Again there are those who no longer have a family and leave their worldly homes.
There are those who leave the home of the three realms: the desire realm, the form realm, and the formless realm. Once out of these three realms there is no desire, no form dust, and no formless realm consciousness. These people view the three realms as empty. They are unattached and so it is said that they have left the home of the three realms.
There are those who leave the home of afflictions, The most important matter is to leave behind afflictions. If you do not cut off afflictions, then, although you have left home, it is very difficult to understand the path. So if you want to understand the way you must cut off afflictions.
Of these kinds of people who have left home, which kind was the Sixth Patriarch? He was not any of these, The Great Master was a special case. Fundamentally he had had success. Whether or not he had left home, he was basically the same. He had a layman's body, but he practiced the deep Bodhisattva conduct. He did not have any left over layman's habits. So the Sixth Patriarch's leaving home was not the same as the rest of the assembly's.
On the eighth day of the second month, all those of well-known virtue gathered together to administer the complete precepts. The eighth day of the second month is the date on which Sakyamuni Buddha left home. On the anniversary of that day those of well-known virtue gathered together, illustrious Dharma Masters, virtuous Dharma Masters, and learned Dharma Masters. Not from just one place, they came from the ten directions. There were Chinese Dharma Masters and Indian Dharma Masters, all gathering together on the second day of the eighth month to administer the complete precepts to the Great Master, the Sixth Patriarch.
Bhiksus have two hundred and fifty precepts. Bhiksunis have three hundred and forty-eight precepts. Complete" means full. This means the ten precepts of Sramanera have been taken, the two hundred and fifty bhiksu precepts have been taken, and the ten heavy and forty-eight light precepts of a Bodhisattva have been taken. Taking the three platforms of great precepts is called taking the complete precepts.
In response to a question. Master Tu Lun said: "In the study of Buddhadharma all Five Schools* are equal; there is no high or low. You must know and cultivate each of these to find the one from which you have the greatest response and then cultivate that one to completion."
A student asked, "Which one do you study?" The Master replied, "I am a no-school Dharma Master. I talk according to living beings' desire. I speak whatever is right for them to hear. So I have no teaching. I am from the 'no change' school, in which there is nothing old and nothing new."
—Taken from notes of Disciple Bhiksuni Heng Ch':
*The Five Schools: the five major dharma-doors are the Ch'an (meditation) School; the Pure Land (recitation) School; Teaching (studying sutras) School; Secret (mantras) School; and the Vinaya (precepts! School.