Great Master Hui Neng
The Fifth Patriarch
measured his capacity and transmitted the robe and Dharma. Causing
him to inherit the Patriarchy. The time was the first year of the
reign period Lung Shuo, cyclical year using Yu. He returned South
and hid for sixteen years.
The Fifth Patriarch
measured his capacity. What is meant by measuring his
capacity? The Fifth Patriarch considered the Great Master a Dharma
vessel, measured this container, and found it capable of holding
And transmitted the robe
and Dharma. Causing him to inherit the Patriarchy. The Fifth
Patriarch transmitted the robe and bowl, and the Dharma to the Sixth Patriarch,
causing the Patriarchal line to continue.
The time was the first
year of the reign period Lung Shuo（龍朔）, cyclical year Hsing Yu（辛酉）(c.a. 661A.D.). This
cyclical arrangement of years has a period of sixty years.
He returned South and hid
for sixteen years. After the Sixth Patriarch left Huang
Mei, he had no safe place to live, because the disciples of Shen
Hsiu（神秀） and followers of outside ways all wished to harm him. Having no
recourse, he went to live among hunters for a period of sixteen years.
What did the Great Master do during those
years? He watched the nets confining animals and birds which had
been captured by the hunters. He did not hurt the animals, and they
were not killed by the hunters, but some were injured and only half
alive. Because so many animals were kept together, the hunters did
not notice that the Great Master secretly released those with only
light injuries who could still travel safely.
Since the hunters ate meat, what did the Sixth
Patriarch do? The Great Master ate only vegetables cooked alongside
the meat. The hunters ate the flesh of the tiger, bear, panther and
other wild animals. The Sixth Patriarch gathered plants growing on
the mountainside, or vegetables he planted himself, and cooked them
on the side in the meat pot. When the meat was done, his vegetables
were also done.
Concerning the practice of eating pure
vegetarian food rather than impure food or meat: In the small
vehicle countries of Burma, Cambodia, and Ceylon, as well as India,
Bhiksus do not necessarily adhere to the practice of pure eating, but
they eat meat when it is placed in their bowls on begging rounds from house
to house. The Bhiksus simply eat whatever they are
given; therefore, there is no fixed rule that they must eat pure
vegetarian food. The Great Master knew this principle, and while he
hid among the hunters he ate his vegetables alongside the meat.
While he lived among the hunters, no one knew
that the Great Master was the Sixth Patriarch. What did he do during
those sixteen years? He worked hard practicing Dhyana meditation.
While watching over the captured animals and birds, he had much time
to work hard cultivating. During those sixteen years no one was able
to find him to cause him trouble.
When people who cultivate the way do not truly
cultivate, all affairs are very convenient and there is no trouble.
On the other hand, if you truly cultivate, then many demon obstacles
suddenly arise from the four corners and the eight directions. Unexpected
circumstances prevail. Things you never dreamed could happen, happen.
In his sixteen years with the hunters, the
Sixth Patriarch dwelt without disturbance, living just as they did.
This is genuine hiding. He did not seek fame or profit and did not
have a mind which climbs on conditions. This is genuine cultivation.
These sixteen years were a very good time for cultivation and hard work.
On the eighth day of the first month in
the first year of the reign period I Feng, the cyclical year Ping Tsu,
he met Dharma Master Yin Tsung. Together they investigated and discussed
the profound and mysterious. Yin Tsung awakened and realized the
On the eighth day of the first month in the first
year of the reign period I Feng（儀鳳）, the cyclical year Ping Tsu（丙子）, he met Dharma Master
Yin Tsung（印宗）. Yin Tsung was a great and virtuous Dharma Master of that time.
Together they investigated and discussed the
profound and mysterious. Discuss means they talked back and forth, querying each
other on principle. Who asked whom? Dharma Master Yin Tsung asked the Great Master, the Sixth Patriarch. How did this come
While Dharma Master Yin Tsung lectured
Sutras, outside a flag was fluttering in the wind. Dharma Master Yin Tsung
asked the assembly, "Ultimately, is it the flag or the wind which moves?
If you say it is the flag, when the wind is not present, theflag will
not move. If you say it is the wind which moves, in the absence of
the flag you cannot detect its movement. Finally, what is it that moves?
One attached person answered, "Certainly it is
the wind which is moving!”
Another said, "It must be the flag, of
course!" They argued incessantly back and forth, and Dharma Master
Yin Tsung had no principle with which to decide the matter.
At this time, although the Sixth Patriarch was
still an Upasaka, a Buddhist layman, he had wisdom and unobstructed
eloquence, and genuinely cultivated according to the Buddhadharma.
He was not the type of person who hangs out his name like a sign,
saying "I am a Buddhist Layman", and then does all kinds of bad
things and exhibits all manner of muddled behavior, casually
ignoring the rules. You cannot speak of this kind of person as
truly being a Buddhist layman.
If you are a layman you should certainly follow
the rules. If you do not follow the rules, then you certainly cannot
call yourself a layman.
The Sixth Patriarch, there among the assembly
listening to Sutras, finally said, "It is neither the wind nor the
flag which moves. It is the minds of the Humane Ones which move."
Dharma Master Yin Tsung heard him say this and
was astounded that a layman could speak the principle in such a deep
and wonderful way. "He says it is the mind which moves!" he
exclaimed. Thereupon he descended the Dharma high seat and came up
to this layman. "Where did you come from and what is your name?" he
asked. "Where did you learn this way of speaking?" He then escorted
the Sixth Patriarch to the Abbot's room to chat with him, It was
then that Dharma Master Yin Tsung knew this lay man was a
room-entering disciple, the one to whom the Fifth Patriarch had
transmitted the Dharma. Realizing he was the Sixth Patriarch, Dharma
Master Yin Tsung immediately bowed to the Great Master. This is what
is meant when it says "Together they investigated and discussed the
profound and mysterious". "Profound and mysterious" refers to the
discussion of the flag and the wind.
Yin Tsung awakened and
realized the Master's principle, Dharma Master Yin Tsung, although a Dharma Master, still
had not properly understood the principle of the Dhyana School. But
after talking with the Sixth Patriarch, he awakened and united with
the Sixth Patriarch's principle.
On the fifteenth day of this month at a
universal meeting of the four assemblies, the Master's head was shaved.
On the eighth day of the second month, all those of well-known
virtue gathered together to administer the complete precepts.
On the fifteenth day of this month at a
universal meeting of the four assemblies, the Master's head was shaved.
During the week of the eighth to the fifteenth day of the first month,
Dharma Master Yin Tsung gathered together the four assemblies of disciples:
the Bhiksus, Bhiksunis, Upasakas, and Upasikas. The purpose of the meeting
was to shave the Great Master's head so that he could become a Bhiksu, one who has left home.
There is not just one kind of leaving home. I
have spoken this before. Many kinds of people leave home. Some leave
home for the sake of clothing and food. Finding it extremely
difficult to obtain food and clothing, they see that the clothes and
food of those who have left home just spontaneously appear, and so
they leave home. This is leaving home for the sake of clothing and food.
There are others who leave home because of old
age with no progeny. These people, old and without children to care
for them, think, "I will leave home and afterwards take a young
disciple. This will be like having a son to care for me." It is not
certain that those who leave home for the sake of food and clothing,
and those of old age who leave home to gain a son, are cultivators.
Still others who leave home to become
Bhiksus are those who have undergone the pressures of environmental
circumstances. These people, perhaps bandits or thieves are
fugitives from the law, and are pursued by a government bent on
removing their heads. These people leave home and cut off their hair
so that the government will not find them and cut off their heads.
Yet another kind of leaving home is called "left home when small".
You say, "Ahhh, then one could truly cultivate!" Perhaps yes,
perhaps no. Why? Some people have confused beliefs. Confused
beliefs, often called superstition, are considered evil by many. But
although confused, they still believe, and this is good. They do not
understand, but they have faith.
For instance, there are children who are born
stricken with disease. The parents of such children do not understand,
but have faith, so they say, "Ohh, this child has so much sickness and
suffering! Probably he will die instead of growing up healthy and strong.
His life will not be long. If we give this child to a temple he will
be able to live. He can be a Bhiksu and live at the temple. We can still
go there and see him. This is better than having him die." So out of confused
belief these parents give this child to a temple. Thus the child is one who "left home
Before I said those with "confused belief" were
not necessarily evil. There are others, however, who have "belief in
the confused", and this is definitely not good. They have faith, but
they believe in the ways of confused people. Confused themselves,
they believe in a confused way. This belief in the confused is
confusion within confusion, and is not good.
There is yet another kind of people who are
"confused and without belief". They are confused and do not believe in anything.
Finally there are the "believing and
unconfused". With a genuinely believing mind these people study
until they have wisdom and are no longer confused.
Of these four kinds of leaving home, one cannot
say that the people of any of them will be able to cultivate, and
one cannot say that they certainly cannot cultivate. Among these
people, perhaps one or two percent can cultivate. Someone with a
true mind, who sincerely brings forth the Bodhi heart for the sake
of exhausting birth and death, can surely, upon leaving home, cultivate.
Again there are those who no longer have a
family and leave their worldly homes.
There are those who leave the home of the three
realms: the desire realm, the form realm, and the formless realm.
Once out of these three realms there is no desire, no form dust, and
no formless realm consciousness. These people view the three realms
as empty. They are unattached and so it is said that they have left
the home of the three realms.
There are those who leave the home of
afflictions, The most important matter is to leave behind
afflictions. If you do not cut off afflictions, then, although you
have left home, it is very difficult to understand the path. So if
you want to understand the way you must cut off afflictions.
Of these kinds of people who have left home,
which kind was the Sixth Patriarch? He was not any of these, The
Great Master was a special case. Fundamentally he haS had success.
Whether or not he had left home, he was basically the same. He had a
layman's body, but he practiced the deep Bodhisattva conduct. He did
not have any left over layman's habits. So the Sixth Patriarch's
leaving home was not the same as the rest of the assembly's.
On the eighth day of the second month,
all those of well-known virtue gathered together to administer
the complete precepts. The eighth day of the second month is the date on
which Sakyamuni Buddha left home. On the anniversary of that day
those of well-known virtue gathered together, illustrious Dharma
Masters, virtuous Dharma Masters, and learned Dharma Masters. Not
from just one place, they came from the ten directions. There were
Chinese Dharma Masters and Indian Dharma Masters, all gathering
together on the second day of the eighth month to administer the
complete precepts to the Great Master, the Sixth Patriarch.
Bhiksus have two hundred and fifty precepts.
Bhiksunis have three hundred and forty-eight precepts. "Complete"
means full. This means the ten precepts of Sramanera have been
taken, the two hundred and fifty bhiksu precepts have been taken,
and the ten heavy and forty-eight light precepts of a Bodhisattva
have been taken. Taking the three platforms of great precepts is
called taking the complete precepts.
In response to a question. Master Tu Lun said: "In the study of Buddhadharma all Five Schools 1 are equal; there is
no high or low. You must know and cultivate each of these to find
the one from which you have the greatest response and then cultivate
that one to completion."
A student asked, "Which one do you study?"
Master replied, "I am a no-school Dharma Master. I talk according to
living beings' desire. I speak whatever is right for them to hear.
So I have no teaching. I am from the 'no change' school, in which
there is nothing old and nothing new."
—Taken from notes of Disciple Bhiksuni Heng Ch'ih
- The Five Schools: the five major Dharma-doors are the Ch'an (meditation)
School; the Pure Land (recitation) School; Teaching (studying Sutras) School;
Secret (mantras) School; and the Vinaya (precepts) School.