Great Master Hung Jeh
There is not enough time to explain the
biography of the Sixth Patriarch in great detail. However, this
Sutra itself tells the events in the life of the Great Master, so a
deeper explanation here is unnecessary. Now I shall explain the
title of the Sutra.
The Sixth Patriarch. From the time of Sakyamuni
Buddha, the Sixth Patriarch is calculated as the Thirty-third
Patriarch, and from Bodhidharma, the Sixth. That is to say, from
Sakyamuni Buddha to the Sixth Patriarch, the Great Vehicle
Buddhadharma was transmitted through thirty-three successive generations.
Dharma. Dharma is method. It means a rule, a
model or a pattern. It also means a method cultivated by people. If
one cultivates in accord with a model or pattern, then that is "Dharma".
Jewel. The two words, “dharma"
and "jewel" can be explained simply as the jewel of the Dharma. They
can also be explained as an analogy, likening Dharma to the most
precious jewels. Therefore, it can be said that this Sutra title is
"complete-in-one", established by "person", "Dharma",
and "analogy". (See this issue's Lotus Sutra
commentary for a description of the Seven Classifications of Sutra Titles.)
Platform. In discussing the elements, which
make up this Sutra's title, the word "place", which refers to the
"platform" may be added. When Dharma is spoken from a platform, it
is called a Dharma Seat. Dharma Seats may be raised above the ground
by three, five, or nine feet, but in general, may not be raised
beyond ten feet; a table to hold Sutras is set up in front of the
high seat. Dharma Masters speak Dharma, administer the Three
Refuges, and transmit precepts from the Dharma Seat. Dharma
protectors, good spirits, and numerous Vajra-Store
Bodhisattvas take turns surrounding and protecting the Dharma platform.
Sutra. The Sixth Patriarch's Dharma Jewel
Platform is the "specific name" of the Sutra, and the word Sutra
is its "general name". Just as every person is called a "person",
all Sutras are called "Sutra". In addition to his general name, each
person has a "specific name". The specific name is his family and
personal name; it is his own name.
"Sutra" is a Sanskrit word, which translated
means "a tally". What is meant by "a tally"? Above, it tallies with
the true principle of all Buddhas; below, it tallies with the
opportunities for teaching living beings. Above, it tallies with the
true suchness, with the miraculous principle of all Buddhas; below
it tallies with the opportunities of living beings who ought to be
taught and transformed. This is called "Sutra". It tallies with both
the principle and the opportunity.
The word "sutra" has four additional meanings. They are:
- String together;
1. String together.
What is meant by "string
together"? Do you see these beads? These beads have been "strung
together" on a length of string. In this way, the principles and the
meanings are linked together to make a Sutra.
A Sutra gathers opportunities for
transformation. After the meanings have been strung together, the
Sutra is used to teach and transform living beings. Teaching and
transforming living beings is like using a lodestone. If you have a
lodestone, you need only be concerned about a lack of iron. If there
is iron, it can be attracted to the lodestone.
In the case of a Buddhist Sutra, fear only the
lack of living beings. If there are living beings who wish to study
the Buddhadharma, then they can be attracted to the principles of
the Sutra, like iron filings attracted to a lodestone. The principle is the same.
What is meant by "permanent"?
It means "not changing from antiquity to the present". One meaning
cannot be removed, nor can one meaning be added. Therefore, it is
called a sutra. Sutras cannot be increased nor decreased. This is
called "permanent", and it means, "constantly not changing".
Sutra is a "method". A method is
respected through the three periods of time. In the past, all living
beings from the realm of common people until the accomplishment of Buddhahood have relied on this method. Now, all living beings depend
on this method to move from foolish common people to the position of
Buddhahood. In the future, all beings will also accord with this
method. From foolish common people, they will cultivate to the fruit
position of Buddhahood. This is what is meant by "revered throughout
the three periods of time".
The term "sutra" is not limited to these four
meanings. If it were explained more fully, there would be many more.
If you know these four meanings, however, you understand the basic meaning of "sutra".
For example, "sutra" means spring, because it
is like a spring bubbling forth water from the earth. It also has
the meaning of a line-marking cord such as that used by carpenters.
Such a cord is chalked with colored chalk-dust, stretched between
the two end-points of the line to be made, plucked up in the middle
and snapped, making a perfectly straight and clear guideline. "Sutra"
has many other meanings, and later there will be an opportunity to explain them.
A GENERAL INTRODUCTION
The General Introduction of The Sixth
Patriarch's Dharma Jewel Platform Sutra does not dwell on details in
its discussion of the life of the Great Master, because the first
chapter of the Sutra text is devoted to his biography. An
explanation of the general introduction follows.
Edited by Bhiksu Fa Hai of the T’ang Dynasty
This introduction was written by a T'ang（唐）Dynasty disciple of the Sixth Patriarch, named Fa Hai（法海）.
The Platform Sutra was originally spoken by the Sixth Patriarch, but he did not
write it down. Master Fa Hai collected and edited it, following the
Sixth Patriarch wherever he went to speak Dharma, and taking down
everything essential spoken by the Master. If he had not done this,
we would have no way to study and recite the Dharma spoken by the
Sixth Patriarch. We should all certainly be thankful for such
compassion on the part of Dhyana Master Fa Hai.
Master Fa Hai had the family surname "Chang（張）" and
was from Ch'u Chiang（曲江）which is about ten miles from Nan Hua（南華）Monastery. I've been there and have also lived for a time in Nan Hua
Monastery. The common name by which Master Fa Hai was known is "Wen
Yun（文允）". He was a "room-entering" disciple of the Patriarch. This means
he was a disciple to whom the Sixth Patriarch had transmitted the
The great master was
named Hui Neng. His father was of the Lu family and had the personal
name Hsing T'ao. His mother was of the Li family. The master was
born in the twelfth year of the Chen Kuan Reign during the T'ang
Dynasty; it was the Period Tzu on the eighth day of the second
month, in the cyclical year Wu Hsu.
The Great Master. What is meant by "Great
Master"? "Great" means great merit and virtue, great wisdom, and
great compassion. "Master" means a teaching master of gods and men.
Was named Hui Neng. "Hui（惠）", "kind", means he is
able to bestow kindness and compassion to benefit living beings. "Neng（能）",
"able", means he is able to do the Buddha's work.
His father was of the Lu family and had the
personal name Hsing T'ao. When one is alive, he has a "personal"
name. After he has died, that name is avoided, hence it is called a
"personal" name, a name which is not spoken. Hsing T'ao（行滔）was the
personal name of the Master's father and Lu（盧） was his family name.
His mother was of the Li（李）family. The Master was
born in the twelfth year of the Chen Kuan（貞觀）Reign during the T'ang
Dynasty; it was the Period Tzu（子時）on the eighth day of the second
month, in the cyclical year Wu Hsu（戊戌）(approximately 639 A.D.).
At that time, a beam of
light ascended into space and a strange fragrance filled the room.
At dawn, two strange Bhiksus came to visit. They addressed the
Master's father saying, "Last night, there was a son born to you; we
come now to name him. It can be above, 'Hui' and below, 'Neng'."
At that time, a beam of light ascended into
space. When his mother gave birth to the Great Master, there arose a
fine beam of light like that, which the Buddha emits from his
forehead. This brightness flashed like lightning.
And a strange fragrance filled the room. A
strange incense which had never been smelled before, filled the room
where the Sixth Patriarch was born.
At dawn, two strange Bhiksus came to visit. At
dawn, just before daybreak, the heavens are half dark and
half-light. Chu Hsi（朱熹）, in “The Song of Household Affairs”, said:
At dawn, get up; sprinkle and sweep the hall.
Inside and outside, it should all be clean.
At that time there was no linoleum in China;
the floors were mud. In the morning, they sprinkled water on the
earth, waited a bit, and then swept it, making the place clean inside and out.
The two strange Bhiksus who came to visit were
very unusual, quite different from everyone else. They were like the
Fourth Patriarch Tao Hsin（道信）, who, whenever he opened his eyes, caused
everyone to tremble in fright as if there were an earthquake. The
two strange Bhiksus came to pay homage.
They addressed the Master's father saying, "Last night, there was a son born to you; we come now to name him."
The two Bhiksus also came to give the Sixth Patriarch his name. Is
that strange or not? Now, who is it who has two Bhiksus come to name him?
"It can be above, 'Hui', and below, 'Neng'." In
Buddhism, this is the most respectful way to say a person's name.
The two Bhiksus gave the Master the name "Hui Neng".
The father said, "Why is
his name Hui Neng?" The Bhiksu said, "Hui, 'kind', means to kindly
bestow the Dharma upon living beings. Neng, 'able', means to be able
to do the Buddha's work." When they had finished speaking, they
left. It is not known where they went.
The father said, "Why is his name Hui Neng?"
The Bhiksu said, "Hui, 'kind', means to kindly bestow the Dharma
upon living beings." "Hui" means to use the Buddhadharma with
kindness to teach and transform living beings.
"Neng, 'able', means to be able to do the
Buddha's work." "Neng" means having the ability to do everything
that the Buddha does. When they had finished speaking, they left. It
is not known where they went.
The master did not drink
milk. At night, spirits appeared and poured sweet dew over him. He
grew up and at the age of twenty-four, he hear the Sutra and was
enlightened to the way. He went to Huang Mei to seek the seal of approval.
The Master did not drink milk. At night,
spirits appeared and poured sweet dew over him. When the Sixth
Patriarch was born, he would not drink milk. Spirits came at night
and poured sweet dew over him. This is what the newly born Patriarch ate.
He grew up and at the age of twenty-four. Some
people say that the Sixth Patriarch was twenty-four, and others say
that he was twenty-two. As the Chinese count, he was twenty-four and
as Westerners count, he was twenty-two. Whether he was twenty-two or
twenty-four is not really important.
He heard the Sutra and was enlightened to the
way. At that time, the Sixth Patriarch heard a Sutra and awakened.
What Sutra did he hear? It was The Diamond Sutra. When a layman
reciting The Diamond Sutra came to the line, "One should, not
dwelling anywhere, produce a thought"; the Sixth Patriarch heard
this and said, "Ohhhh? Not dwelling anywhere produce a thought?"
Then he immediately opened enlightenment.
How many people had heard The Diamond Sutra? A
great many had heard, but none had opened enlightenment. Now in the
West, perhaps there will be someone who will hear "One should, not
dwelling anywhere, produce a thought", and understanding the
principle, open enlightenment. This is what I hope. But whether or
not it will actually happen is another matter.
He went to Huang Mei to seek the seal of
approval. After becoming enlightened, he did not say "Hah! I have
become enlightened!" He was not like some people today who don't
understand even a hair's breadth of the Buddhadharma, yet claim to
have opened enlightenment.
The ancients, even when they did become
enlightened, did not just recklessly say, "I've become enlightened!"
How much the less would those who had not opened enlightenment say,
"I've become enlightened!" It is certainly necessary to seek
certification from a good knowing advisor, a person who has already
awakened. This is why the Sixth Patriarch went to Huang Mei（黃梅）to seek
the Fifth Patriarch's seal of certification. Huang Mei means yellow
plum. It is the name of a county. The Fifth Patriarch had his
Bodhimandala there on P'ing Mao（憑茂）Mountain.
Enlightened Ancients did not attempt to certify
themselves. Today, however, there are those who have not become
enlightened and yet say that they have. Enlightened and not
enlightened are as different as heaven and earth.
Moreover, how many naive people take stupefying
drugs and claim to have "gone to the void". Many confused demons who
pose as good knowing advisors certify the naive ones, saying, "Yes
indeed! You have attained emptiness; but in emptiness, there is no
house, no place to live!...And now you have come back. Come to my
place. I'll show you the way! My place in empty space has buildings
and houses. It's a vacation home!"
Those naive ones say, "Hey!...That's not bad at
all!" and recognize the demons as teachers. But these "not knowing
advisors" ultimately do not know themselves whether their speech is
true or false. You and I do not know either.
But now we can use the Sutras for
certification. In the Sutras, it does not say that any foolish
ordinary person has a vacation place in empty space. Even though
rockets now go to the moon, space settlements have not yet been
built. So, this kind of talk has been tested and has "failed".
Now we are exceedingly busy. In the morning,
everyone gets up at four o'clock and at four-thirty we recite
Sutras. Why are we so busy? We are building houses. But these houses
are being built on the Earth, not in heaven. Why? We are all people
on Earth, so these houses of ours should be built on the Earth. What
are these houses we are building? We are forging our bodies to make vajra indestructible houses. Our bodies are our houses, but there
are times when they can go bad. Now from morning until night we are
busy constructing them, and cultivating to be in the end like vajra.
We are training them so that they become vajra indestructible
If you have a vajra indestructible body, then
you can go wherever you wish. If you wish to go to empty space, you
can go to empty space. If you wish to go up to the heavens or down
into the earth, or if you wish to go the palace of the dragon kings,
it is very simple. Wherever you wish to go, you are really free.
There is no need to carry a passport or consult a schedule. You can
take off at your own convenience. But first you must construct your
vajra indestructible body. Then you can do it.