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The Sixth Patriarch's Dharma Jewel Platform Sutra
Lecture III

Text and Commentary as Explained by Tripitaka Master Hsuan Hua
Translated by The Buddhist Text Translation Society, Sino-American Buddhist Association

The Third Patriarch,
Great Master Seng Ts’an

The Second Patriarch, Hui K'o of the Northern Ch'i period, was formerly named Shen Kuang. When he was born, his parents saw Wei T'ou Bodhisattva who appeared as a spirit emitting golden light to offer protection. Thereupon they named their son Shen Kuang which means "Spiritual Light". Not only was the Patriarch intelligent, he also had an excellent memory. His skill and powers of discrimination were so remarkable that he could read ten lines in the time it took an ordinary person to read one. In a gathering of one hundred people, all talking simultaneously, he was able to clearly distinguish each conversation.

The Great Master, however, had great anger; he disagreed with everyone and always wanted to hit people, When he explained Sutras and spoke Dharma, he used his iron beads to resolve controversy and level opposition, and had ended his discussion with Bodhidharma by cracking him across the mouth. But later he knelt for nine years before the First Patriarch, and finally sliced off his arm seeking the Dharma. It was Shen Kuang's great anger, which enabled him to cut off his own arm and feel no pain. It was also because of his anger that his shoulder hurt. Had he been without the affliction of anger, he would not have felt pain. Pain is just affliction, and affliction is the cause of pain.

The Second Patriarch was forty years old when he left Bodhidharma. Having obtained the Dharma, he went into hiding because P'u T'i Liu Chih and Vinaya Master Kuang T'ung who had made six attempts to kill Bodhidharma, also wished to kill his disciples. Although Hui K'o had great anger, nevertheless, he listened to his teacher and went into hiding for forty years. When he was eighty he began to propagate the Buddhadharma, teaching and transforming living beings.

Later, P'u T'i Liu Chih, Vinaya Master Kuang T'ung, and their disciples and followers tried to kill Master Hui K'o who feigned insanity to lessen the jealousy of his rivals. Nevertheless, he continued to cross over living beings who were ready to receive his teaching. Because so many people continued to trust the Second Patriarch, P'u T'i Liu Chih's disciples and followers were still jealous, and reported Hui K'o to the government, accusing him of being a weird inhuman creature. "He confuses those people who follow him," they charged, "he is not a person at all." The government informed the Emperor, who sent down an edict ordering the district magistrate to seize the strange creature. He was locked up and questioned:

"Are you human or are you a freak?" asked the magistrate.

"I'm a freak," replied Master Hui K'o.

The magistrate knew that the Patriarch spoke to avoid causing jealousy, so he ordered him to tell the truth. "Speak clearly," he demanded, "What are you?"

The Great Master replied, "I'm still a freak."

Since governments can't allow strange freaks on the earth, a decree was issued ordering his execution. Now, isn't this a worldly principle?

The Patriarch said to his disciples, "I must undergo this retribution," and then he wept. The Great Master was a fiercely courageous Patriarch, endowed with great spleen and certainly not one to cry out of a fear of death. "The Buddhadharma will not flourish until the time of the Fourth Patriarch," Hui K'o said, sad that during his lifetime the Dharma had not become widely known and understood in China.

He said to the executioner, "Come. Kill me!" The executioner raised his axe and wheeled it swiftly toward the Master's neck. What happened?

At this point you are probably thinking, "He was a patriarch with great spiritual power. Certainly the blade shattered and his head wasn't even scratched." NO! The axe lopped off his head, and it didn't grow back. However, no blood spurted forth. Instead, a white milky liquid flowed from the Master's neck onto the chopping block.

You think, "Now really, this is just too far out." If you believe it, that's fine. If you don't believe it, that's fine too. Just forget it. However, I will give you a simple principle to explain why blood didn't pour from the Patriarch's body. When a sage enters the "White Yang Realm", his blood becomes white because his substance has completely transformed to yang, leaving no traces of yin. "I don't believe it," you think Of course you don't believe it. If you really believed, you would be just like the Second Patriarch.

The executioner saw that the Master did not bleed and exclaimed, "Wow, he really is a freak! I chopped off his head and no blood came out! There's just this milky stuff, and his face looks exactly the same as when he was alive!" The magistrate quickly informed the Emperor, who knew immediately that they had executed a holy man. He remembered that the Twenty-Fourth Indian Patriarch, Aryasimha, had also been beheaded and had not bled either. This Patriarch, too, had been without outflows. To be without outflows is to have no ignorance. Because he was without ignorance, he attained the "White Yang Realm".

Now you are going to think, "But you just said that Patriarch Hui K'o had extremely great anger. How could he have had no ignorance?" You are certainly more clever than I. I didn't think of this question, but now that you've thought of it, I will answer it. His was not this petty anger of ours which explodes like firecrackers, "Pop! Pop! Pop!" His anger was wisdom and because he was wise, his substance completely changed to yang.

Because the Emperor realized that Hui K'o was a flesh-body Bodhisattva, he was deeply repentant. "A true Bodhisattva came to our country," he lamented, "and instead of offering protection, we killed him." Then, the Emperor had all the great officials take refuge with this strange Bhiksu. So, although the Second Patriarch, Master Hui K'o, had already been executed, nevertheless he accepted disciples.

The Third Patriarch was Dharma Master Seng Ts'an, of the Sui Dynasty, whose family name and origin are unknown. When he first came to visit the Second Patriarch, his body was covered with repulsive sores like those of a leper.

"Where are you from?" asked the Second Patriarch, "What are you doing here?"

"I have come to take refuge with the High Master, and to study and cultivate the Buddhadharma," answered Seng Ts'an.

"You have a loathsome disease and your body is filthy. How can you study the Buddhadharma?" Master Hui K'o was clever, but Dhyana Master Seng Ts'an was even more clever. "I am a sick man and you are a high master," he said, "but in true mind where is the distinction?"

"Don't say any more," said the Second Patriarch. Thereupon he transmitted the Dharma to him, saying, "This robe and bowl, which I hand on to you, have been passed on from Bodhidharma. They certify that you have received the Dharma Seal. In order to protect it you must go into hiding, because the Indian Bhiksu P'u T'I Liu Chih and his followers will try to harm you. Be very careful and let no one know."

At this time the Third Patriarch Seng Ts'an, using his teacher's method, also feigned insanity while he went everywhere teaching and transforming living beings. During the persecution of Buddhism by the Emperor Wu of the Later Chou Dynasty, he fled into the mountains. Although he dwelt in places ordinarily inhabited by tigers, wolves, and leopards, during the ten years when he hid, all those fierce animals disappeared.

After he had transmitted the Dharma to the Fourth Patriarch, Tao Hsin, Master Seng Ts'an invited a thousand Bhiksus to a great vegetarian feast. After they had eaten, he said, "You think that to sit in full lotus is the finest way to go. Just watch! I'll show you a special style to demonstrate independence over birth and death!" Thereupon the Master strode out of the dining hall followed by the thousand Bhiksus and halted by the trunk of a great tree. After pausing for a moment, he leapt up and grabbed a big branch. Then, while still swinging from the tree by one hand, he entered Nirvana. In the end no one knew his name, how old he was, or from where he had come. This was the Third Patriarch, Master Seng Ts'an.

Someone is afraid and is thinking, "The First Patriarch was poisoned, the Second Patriarch had his head chopped off, and the Third Patriarch died hanging from a tree. No matter what happens, I don't want to be a patriarch. It's much too dangerous." With this attitude, even if you wanted to be a patriarch you couldn't. As long as you fear your own death, as long as you fear anything at all, you can't even become a patriarch's disciple. Patriarchs are not afraid of suffering or difficulty, of life or of death. Making no distinction between birth and death, they play about among people, teaching and transforming living beings. Like F'o T'o and Yeh Shih, the two disciples of Bodhidharma, they realize that affliction is just Bodhi, that birth and death is just Nirvana. So, tell me now, who is not afraid of death? If there is such a one, I'll make him a Patriarch.

The Fourth Patriarch's name was Tao Hsin. In the seventeenth year of Chen Kuan, of the T'ang Dynasty, while still very young, Dharma Master Tao Hsin left home to follow Master Seng Ts'an. For sixty years he sat in Dhyana concentration, without lying down or stretching out to rest. Although he seldom opened his eyes, he wasn't asleep. Instead, he applied effort in cultivation. When he did open his eyes, everyone was too terrified to even look at him. Because of his awesome virtue and powerful appearance, they stood trembling and shaking as if in the midst of an earthquake.

The Emperor heard of the great virtue of the Fourth Patriarch and sent a messenger to invite him to come to the imperial palace to accept the Emperor as a disciple and receive offerings. The Patriarch declined the invitation. Unlike we common people, who would attempt to wedge ourselves into the imperial court without being asked, the Fourth Patriarch refused a personal invitation saying, "Ah, I'm too old and ill to travel. The journey would be tiring and eating on the road would be difficult. I can't undergo such hardship."

The messenger returned to the court to deliver the Master's reply. The Emperor commanded, "Go back and get him. He must come. Tell him the Emperor says that no matter how old he is and no matter how difficult the journey, the Emperor still orders him to please come to the palace."

The messenger returned to the Patriarch and said, "Master, regardless of your health, you must come to the court of the Emperor. If it's necessary, we'll carry you back." At that time, since there were no airplanes or cars and travel was difficult, he offered to carry the Fourth Patriarch.

"No, I can't go," replied the Master. "I am too old and ill. It's impossible. However, if you insist, you may take my head, but my heart won't follow."

The messenger heard this and thought, "There is nothing to do but go back without him. I can't just take his head and give it to the Emperor. This Bhiksu is very strange; he's hardly human." He hurried back to inform the Emperor, "Your Excellency, you may have the Master's head, but his heart won't move."

"Very well, go get his head," demanded the Emperor. He took a box, placed a knife in it, and handed it to the messenger, saying, "Take this knife and slice off his head!" "And furthermore," the Emperor added, "Under no circumstances should you harm that Bhiksu."

The messenger understood what was to be done and returned again to see the Fourth Patriarch. He said, "Venerable Master, if you again refuse to come, the Emperor has ordered me to use this knife to remove your head."

The Patriarch Tao Hsin replied, "That's fine. Good indeed. If in this very life my head gets to see the Emperor, what a great glory that will be! You may remove my head now." The messenger took the knife and prepared to cut off the head. The Great Master closed his eyes and waited calmly. The messenger however, placed the knife back in the box. For perhaps ten minutes the Patriarch sat and waited with his eyes closed. Maybe it was ten minutes, or perhaps it was eleven or nine. Don't get attached, because it's certainly not fixed how long he waited. But nothing happened, and finally Master Tao Hsin got angry, just like the Second Patriarch, and shouted, "Hey!!! Why don't you slice it off?"

"The Emperor certainly had no intention of harming you. Master," the messenger quickly replied, "He was just talking."

The Patriarch heard this and laughed aloud. Then he said to the Emperor's messenger, "Now you know that there is still a man in the world who does not fear death."


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