By the Venerable Tripitaka Master Hsuan Hua
Translated by Kuo Yu, Sramanera-in-training
Revised by Bhiksu Heng Kuan


      His name was Upagupta, and calling him venerable is our way of showing respect for him. The Venerable One was from the country of Pataliputra, his place of birth. His clan name was Shudra. He was of the Shudra clan. When he was seventeen, he offered himself to the Third Patriarch as one who has left the home-life. He went to the Third Patriarch, the Venerable Shanakavasa, and sought to leave the home-life. The Patriarch asked him, "How old are you?"

      He answered, "Seventeen." He replied to the Patriarch Shanakavasa, "I am seventeen years old."

      The Patriarch replied, "Is your body seventeen, or is your nature seventeen?" The Third Patriarch said, "Is your body seventeen or is your original nature seventeen?" Now most children would have answered, "I am seventeen years old, so my body is seventeen." But he didn’t answer this question directly.

      Instead he answered, "Your hair has already turned white. Is your hair white or is your mind white?" He said, "Is it the case that your hair has turned white or has your mind turned white?"

      The Patriarch said, "My hair is white, not my mind." He said, "My hair has turned white, not my mind."

      After the Patriarch said this, Upagupta answered, "My body is seventeen, not my nature." He answered, "My body has been around for seventeen years, but my nature does not increase or decrease. Therefore this nature cannot be seventeen or eighteen." The Patriarch knew he was a Dharma vessel. Although his answer was light-hearted, the Third Patriarch still thought it was principled, so he knew he was a Dharma vessel, a person who could choose appropriate Dharmas.

      Accordingly he let fall his hair and he received the complete precepts. After a short time the Third Patriarch shaved his head and he received the complete precepts. Then he told him, "In the past the Thus Come One transmitted the unsurpassed Dharma Eye to Kashyapa." The Patriarch said, "I have the Right Dharma Eye Treasury." What is the Right Dharma Eye Treasury." It is the Dharma-door of the mind seal: one mind seals the other; it is wordless. The Buddha passed the Right Dharma Eye Treasury on to Mahakasyapa, Great Kasyapa. "It was passed down. Kasyapa gave it to Ananda, and Ananda gave it to me?" This is the meaning of passed down. " me. And now I transmit it to you. Now I am passing this Right Dharma Eye Treasury on to you. Do not let it perish. In your travels do not let it perish."

      After the Venerable One obtained the Dharma, he traveled to the appropriate directions, transforming. He went everywhere teaching and transforming living beings. The demon places quaked. Everything he did was true; he followed the proper Dharma, so the demon palaces quaked. Papima was terrified. Papima is another name for a demon king, who was worried and terrified.

      Later he met Dhritaka. Dhritaka is the name of the Fifth Patriarch. He leapt into space. He jumped into space and manifested the eighteen transformations. With the eighteen transformations, one emits water from the top of one’s body and fire from the bottom, or water from the bottom of one’s body and fire from the top. One can lie down, sit, or stand in space, just as if one were supported by an invisible space-platform. Then he sat in full lotus and departed. After he manifested the eighteen transformations, he sat in his scat in full lotus and departed. His time had come so he entered Nirvana.

      A verse in praise says:

What is the relationship

Of seventeen and the body and nature?

He subdued Papima with his boundless strength,

And caused the demon palaces to quake.

His understanding was unequaled.

He was lofty and venerated,

And his light shone

Like the Mid-day sun.

Is the body seventeen, or is the nature seventeen? What relationship exists between them? This kind of talk is putting a head on top of another head, talking too much. He was able to subdue Papima. Upagupta subdued this demon king with boundless strength. No one was as fierce as he was when he faced the demon. Lofty moans that he was a superior one. Venerated means that he was looked up to as being clear-minded. His light illuminated the world just like the sun's light.

      Venerable Master Hua’s verse says:

From birth he was intelligent,

And possessed profound Prajna;

He took on heavy responsibilities,

For he showed the Way out of confusion.

Their dialogue surpassed that

Of the common lot;

Beyond words, he was bound

To the original Truth.

He clearly knew that the origin

Of all dharmas has no self;

And suddenly realized

How could there be people in space?

Papima was terrified

By his constant Playing About,

Which caused a large cloud

To appear in the clear, blue sky.

When Upagupta was born he was very intelligent; he was very sharp and learned quickly. Prajna translated as wisdom, and his wisdom was profound. Why? Because in the past he had read books and sutras and studied the Buddhadharma deeply. Therefore he possessed very profound Prajna wisdom. What did he do with this wisdom? His responsibilities were heavy and his burden was very great. He showed living beings how to escape from confusion. Living beings are trapped in the sea of suffering and the land of confusion. He said, "You can go out this way to escape the sea of suffering. Go this way to reach the other shore. You should come this way; don't go that way." He showed them the way out of confusion.

The dialogue he had with the Third Patriarch was not conducted according to what common people know and perceive. If a common person was asked this question he would certainly have answered it, but Upagupta didn't answer. Why not? If he had said that his body was seventeen, he wouldn't have known whether he was correct, and if he had said his nature was seventeen he wouldn't have known if this was appropriate either. Instead he asked, "Is your hair white or is your nature white?" If the Third Patriarch had answered that his mind was white then he would have had to bring out his mind to be examined, but of course the Third Patriarch couldn't pull his mind out, so the answer was that his hair was white, not his mind. Therefore Upagupta said his body was seventeen, not his nature, because the nature also cannot be seen. This answer was quite different from the views of common people.

Afterwards he never talked with the Third Patriarch. The Third Patriarch knew he was very intelligent and wise so he passed the Dharma on to him. Bound to the Original Truth means he transmitted the True Dharma to Upagupta who's accomplishment was sufficient. He also understood that all dharmas basically have no self: the Actual Appearance of all dharmas. He also understood basically there are no people in space. How can there be people in space? There are none.

What method did he use to frighten Papima? He used his psychic powers by which he traveled about playing freely in space, so the demon king was afraid of him.

Basically there wasn't anything he had to do, but he ran up into the clear sky and manifested a cloud. That is what is meant by finding something to do when one doesn't have anything to do. These types of people all look for something to do because they have nothing to do. They all look for something to occupy themselves.


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