A verse in praise says:
He did not seek the truth of Sages,
So what successive stages could he fall into?
In the fire was a lotus;
In the snow, a red sun.
There appeared one with great expedients
Who tipped tradition out of its old ruts
And established a model for thousands of generations.
He is a lofty Patriarch of the Three Schools.
He did not seek the truth of Sages, so what successive stages could he fall into? Since the truth of the Sages was not actively sought, there weren't any successive stages at all.
In the fire was a lotus; in the snow, a red sun. In the fire a lotus flower appeared. The snow is white, but in it was a red sun.
There appeared one with great expedients who tipped tradition out of its old ruts. He was a person with great creativity, great transformations, great work, and great ability He revised the old rule. He upset staid tradition.
And established a model for thousands of generations. He is a lofty Patriarch of the Three Schools. He set up new rules for left-home people. The three schools may refer to (1) the Chan School, (2) the Pure Land School (3) the Teaching School. He was a lofty Patriarch. He exerted a tremendous influence.
Another verse says:
Great expedients, great functioning, great spiritual powers,
Not even acting upon the Sages' truth, what family did he have?
The path of words and language cut off, he forgot about stages.
The place of the mind's formations is gone;
distinctions of east and west disappear.
He was assigned to a place to be the Dharma Host,
To instruct and guide the masses so they awaken
to original emptiness.
The traditional rules from ancient times,
he transmitted to coming generations.
Thus I have heard of such work devoid of appearances.
Great expedients, great functioning, great spiritual powers, Patriarch Xingsi of Qingyuan was a person of great expedients and great functioning, and he attained great spiritual penetrations. He asked the Sixth Patriarch about the stage of cultivation, and the Great Master, the Sixth Patriarch, asked him what he did and what dharma he cultivated, since the Master from Qingyuan said he didn't even act upon the truth of the Sages. The "truth of the Sages" refers to the Four Noble Truths. He didn't investigate them. Why? Because he understood. But he really understood; he wasn't like those of us who have come after him and who, not understanding, pretend to understand; who, not knowing, pretend to know. It's not that we truly know. Since he truly knew, he said he didn't even act upon the truth of the Sages.
Not even acting upon the Sages' truth, what family did he have? The Sixth Patriarch said, "Since you don't act upon the truth of the Sages, then what successive stage do you have? What successive stage do you fall into?"
Since Master Qingyuan understood, he replied to the Sixth Patriarch, "What successive stages could there be?"
The Sixth Patriarch said, "Yes, that's how it is. Apply your effort well in that way."
And so he's called one of great expedients, great functioning, and great spiritual power. He didn't have any purport at all. He swept away all dharmas and was apart from all appearances. He understood everything. His was a great penetration, a great awakening. It wasn't that he just pretended and said, "I know everything, I understand everything." Not so.
The path of words and language cut off, he forgot about stages. And so, at that time, the avenue of language and words was cut off. There was nothing that could be expressed in words. Successive stages were all forgotten. He didn't even know what was meant by successive stages. That's what he asked.
The place of the mind's formations is gone; distinctions of east and west disappear. The path the mind traveled also did not exist. There wasn't even any false thinking, no east or west. Everything was ended.
He was assigned to a place to be the Dharma Host And so Caoxi told him to go to a place of his own and become a Dharma host. He was to go to another place to teach and transform people.
Instruct and guide the masses so they awaken to original emptiness. He taught and transformed all living beings so they could awaken to original emptiness— to the fact that everything is basically devoid of a nature of its own. There is no need to be attached to anything. But one must still not do any evil and must offer up all good conduct. Not being attached is one thing, but one must still do good and avoid doing evil.
The traditional rules from ancient times, he transmitted to coming generations. The rules he established were based on the rules set forth from ancient times. Later generations use these as their model.
Thus I have heard of such work devoid of appearances. "I heard about this principle and recognize it as the effortless work in the Way which is without any marks." So it's said that Sages don't have a self. They don't take credit for anything or claim any merit. This is walking the Way without attaining anything. There is nothing to cultivate or certify to. This is called practicing the Way without attainment.