"Subhuti, if someone were to say that the view of a self, the view of others, the view of living beings, and the view of a life are spoken of by the Buddha, Subhuti, what do you think? Does that person understand the meaning of my teaching?"
"No, World Honored One, that person does not understand the meaning of the Tathagata's teaching. And why? The view of a self, the view of others, the view of living beings, and the view of a life are spoken of by the World Honored One as no view of self, no view of others, no view of living beings, and no view of a life. Therefore they are called the view of self, the view of others, the view of living beings, and the view of a life."
"Subhuti, those who have resolved their hearts on
Anuttarasamyaksambodhi should thus know, thus view, thus believe and understand all
dharmas, and not produce the marks of
dharmas. Subhuti, the marks of
dharmas are spoken of by the
Tathagata as no marks of dharmas, therefore they are called the marks of
The Vajra Sutra expresses prajna, the wonderful principle of true emptiness, and also expresses the dharma door of equality found within the wonderful principle of prajna. In general there are Five Aspects of Equality evident in the Sutra: 1) the equality of living beings and Buddhas; 2) the equality of emptiness and existence; 3) the equality of all dharmas; 4) the equality of one and many; and 5) the equality of all views. Most people do not understand equality Dharma-doors, so they put a head on top of a head, add marks to marks, and change what is basically equal to what is unequal.
1. The equality of living beings and Buddhas. When I was sixteen I wrote a matched couplet upon reading the Sixth Patriarch Sutra. Having lectured to the place where the text says "Dharma is not sudden or gradual, confusion and enlightenment are slow and quick." I thought, "How can there still be a sudden and a gradual? What is sudden? What is gradual? Are sudden and gradual different? Are they two? So I wrote the following:
Although sudden and gradual are different,
Upon completion they are one.
Why make divisions of North and South?
Sagely and common are parts of the one:
The basic nature is absolutely the same.
Do not discuss east and west.
Although sudden and gradual are different, upon completion they are one. Sudden refers to instantaneous realization of Buddhahood; gradual refers to slow cultivation to Buddhahood. Sudden and gradual are two distinct methods, but when one finishes the work, there is not sudden and no gradual in evidence. They no longer exist.
Why make divisions of north and south? The South refers to the Sixth Patriarch, the Great Master Hui Neng who taught sudden dharmas; North refers to the Great Master Shen Hsiu who advocated gradual dharmas. In the south the Sixth Patriarch's disciples said, "We are the true, authentic Ch'an sect." In the north, the disciples of Great Master Shen Hsiu said, "Our Master was with the Fifth Patriarch for several decades. All the Heart-Dharma of the Fifth Patriarch has been transmitted to him." Each following of disciples argued that their master was authentic. Let me make clear at this point that no matter whom you meet, you should not try to assist your Master by pleading his case. Instead of asserting that your Master transmits the proper Dharma, you may say, "Our Master is empty, false, and unreal. There is no Dharma which can be spoken. There is no true, no false, no right, and no wrong. One should not speak of people's good points or their faults." That is what you should say. Do not be like the disciples of the Sixth Patriarch and the Great Master Shen Hsiu who carried on a running battle in which they criticized one another's teacher. That quarrel grew until it became the division into sudden and gradual teachings, North and South.
When I read the Sixth Patriarch Sutra, I thought that the reference to sudden and gradual lacked equality, so I wrote the line, "Although sudden and gradual are different, upon completion they are one." What is the origin of sudden? Although one suddenly attains enlightenment, one cultivates life after life for a long time within the Buddhadharma prior to that enlightenment. When one reaps the fruit of that long process of cultivation, that is called sudden. Gradual refers to the long process of cultivation, but the day the cultivation is complete, there is sudden enlightenment. For that reason I say there is no sudden or gradual.