A Commentary by the Venerable Master Hsuan Hua


Chapter 2



The following day, at the invitation of Magistrate Wei,the Master took his seat and said to the great assembly,“All of you purify your minds and think about Maha Prajna Paramita.”


This second chapter of the Sutra is an explanation of Prajna, given by the Master upon the request of Magistrate Wei.

Prajna is a Sanskrit word which means “wisdom.” There are three kinds of Prajna: literary Prajna, contemplative Prajna, and real mark Prajna.

Because the word Prajna encompasses these three meanings, it has a fuller connotation than the word “wisdom.” Therefore the Chinese translators of Sutras did not translate it, but instead transliterated it.

The Sixth Patriarch took his seat and said, “All of you shouldquit daydreaming. Listen to the Dharma with a pure mind and a united heart. Be mindful of Maha Prajna Paramita.”

Maha Prajna Paramita is called “great wisdom.” Maha meansgreat; Prajna means wisdom; Paramita means arrived at the other shore.


He then said, “Good Knowing Advisors, the wisdom of Bodhi and Prajna is originally possessed by worldly people themselves. It is only because their minds are confused that they are unable to enlighten themselves and must rely on a great Good Knowing Advisor who can lead them to see their Buddha-nature. You should know that the Buddha-nature of stupid and wise people is basically not different. It is only because confusion and enlightenment are different that some are stupid and some are wise. I will now explain for you the Maha Prajna Paramita Dharma in order that each of you may become wise. Pay careful attention, and I will explain it to you.

“Good Knowing Advisors, worldly people recite‘Prajna’ with their mouths all day long and yet do not recognize the Prajna of their self-nature. Just as talking about food will not make you full, so, too, if you only speak of emptiness you will not see your own nature in ten thousand ages. In the end you will not have obtained any benefit.

“Good Knowing Advisors, Maha Prajna Paramita is a Sanskrit word which means ‘great wisdom which has arrived at the other shore.’ It must be practiced in the mind, and not just recited in words. When the mouth recites and the mind does not practice, it is like an illusion, a transformation, dew drops, or lightning. However, when the mouth recites and the mind practices, then mind and mouth are in mutual accord. One’s own original nature is Buddha; apart from the nature there is no other Buddha.”


The Master said, “Worldly people recite ‘Prajna, Prajna, Prajna,’ but they do not know the Prajna of their own original nature, or their own inherent wisdom. You may recite recipes from a cookbook from morning to night saying, ‘This is delicious!’ but you will never fill your stomach that way. Saying ‘Prajna is empty’ is not to do anything about it. In the end it is of no benefit. It is nothing more than ‘head-mouth zen’ and will not help you to see your own inherent Prajna.”

Instead, see everything as empty and put it aside: see it, smash it, and put it down. Empty everything. Then you need not recite it all day long with your mouth. If your mouth recites but your mind does not practice, your recitation is a worthless illusion. If you see the Prajna wisdom of your own nature, you will not become entangled in stupid affairs. You will not be ignorant. If you remain ignorant, your mind is not practicing.

If you use your mind as well as your mouth in cultivating Prajna, you will see that your own fundamental nature is itself the Buddha.

Everyone can realize Buddhahood. You need only cultivate. What should you cultivate? Your nature. Do not seek outside yourself, but turn the light inward; reverse the illumination and look within.


“What is meant by Maha? Maha means ‘great.’ The capacity of the mind is vast and great like empty space, and has no boundaries. It is not square or round, great or small. Neither is it blue, yellow, red or white. It is not above or below, or long or short. It is without anger, without joy, without right, without wrong, without good, without evil, and it has no head or tail.

“All Buddha-lands are ultimately the same as empty space. The wonderful nature of worldly people is originally empty, and there is not a single dharma which can be obtained. The true emptiness of the self-nature is also like this.

“Good Knowing Advisors, do not listen to my explanation of emptiness and then become attached to emptiness. The most important thing is to avoid becoming attached to emptiness. If you sit still with an empty mind you will become attached to undifferentiated emptiness.”


Because the mind first thought of going there, we now send  rockets to the moon. The mind has no limits or boundaries. You can’t say that it is big or small, for there is nothing bigger and nothing smaller.

The self-nature is the Middle Way. Your true mind is neither right nor wrong, true or false. In your true mind there are no thoughts of good or evil. Therefore the Sixth Patriarch asked Hui Ming, the ex-soldier who had come to steal the robe and bowl,“With no thoughts of good and with no thoughts of evil, at just this moment, what is the Superior One Hui Ming’s original face?” He posed this question to reveal that there is neither good nor evil in the true mind. As they say in philosophy, “It has no head or tail!”

There is not even one single dharma. It is empty.

The self-nature is like empty space;
It contains within itself both truth and falsehood.
Enlighten yourself to the original substance;
In one penetration, penetrate all.

“When you hear me say that Prajna is empty, do not become attached to undifferentiated emptiness. If you do you will sit as if dead,” continued the Sixth Patriarch.We should cultivate true emptiness, which is wonderful existence, not vacuity. In true emptiness everything is known and everything is not known.

Understanding, complete and clear,
Like water reflecting the moon.
The mind in samadhi, like the sky,
For ten thousand miles, not a cloud.


“Good Knowing Advisors, the emptiness of the universe is able to contain the forms and shapes of the ten thousand things: the sun, moon, and stars; the mountains, rivers, and the great earth; the fountains, springs, streams, torrents, grasses, trees, thickets, and forests; good and bad people, good and bad dharmas, the heavens and the hells, all the great seas, Sumeru and all mountains–all are contained within emptiness. The emptiness of the nature of worldly men is also like this.

“Good Knowing Advisors, the ability of one’s own nature to contain the ten thousand dharmas is what is meant by ‘great.’ The myriad dharmas are within the nature of all people. If you regard all people, the bad as well as the good, without grasping or rejecting, without producing a defiling attachment, your mind will be like empty space. Therefore it is said to be ‘great,’ ‘Maha.’”


Empty space not only holds all good things, it includes all bad people as well. Empty space would never say, “You bad person! Get out of my empty space! Good people, come on in!”

In the same way, you should see good and bad people without being attached to the good or repulsed by the bad. As I have told you before, bad people have something in them which is extremely good. You should hope that they reform. I have many disciples who do not obey me. I tell them to go south and all day long they run north; I tell them to go east and they go west. Although they disobey, I wait patiently because I know the time will come when they will change.

All good and all bad are included within the self-nature; you should neither grasp it nor cast it aside. Grasping and rejecting are defiling attachments.


“Good Knowing Advisors, the mouth of the confused person speaks, but the mind of the wise person practices. There are deluded men who sit still with empty minds, vainly thinking of nothing and declaring that to be something great. One should not speak with these people because of their deviant views.

“Good Knowing Advisors, the capacity of the mind is vast and great, encompassing the Dharma realm. Its function is to understand clearly and distinctly. Its correct function is to know all. All is one; one is all. Coming and going freely, the mind’s substance is unobstructed. That is Prajna.”


The deluded person does not do what must be done. He merely talks. A wise person, on the other hand, always puts principle into practice, not with head-mouth zen, but with constant cultivation.

The Great Master said, “You are all very wise. The vast mind pervades the all-inclusive Dharma realm. It is like a mirror; when things come, it reflects them; when things go, it is empty. The true mind knows everything when it is used. To have Prajna is to have complete understanding and be free of all stupidity.”


“Good Knowing Advisors, all Prajna wisdom is produced from one’s own nature; it does not enter from the outside. Using the intellect correctly is called the natural function of one’s true nature. One truth is all truth. The mind has the capacity for great things, and is not meant for practicing petty ways. Do not talk about emptiness with your mouth all day and in your mind fail to cultivate the conduct that you talk of. That would be like a common person calling himself the king of a country, which cannot be. People like that are not my disciples.”


Do not seek Prajna outside your self-nature. Do not make the mistake of using the intellect, the discriminating mind. The self-nature is not meant for small things.

The Great Master said, “Do not say, ‘Empty, empty, empty, Prajna, Prajna, Prajna…’ People who do that are not my disciples.” Why? Because they don’t listen. I tell them not to get attached to emptiness, and they get attached to emptiness. I tell them not to get attached to existence and they get attached to existence. I tell them not to have sexual desire, and they still do not cut it off. “Oh, no problem,” they say, “Slowly, slowly.”


“Good Knowing Advisors, what is meant by ‘Prajna?’ Prajna in our language means wisdom. Everywhere and at all times, in thought after thought, remain undeluded and practice wisdom constantly; that is Prajna conduct. Prajna is cut off by a single deluded thought. By one wise thought, Prajna is produced. Worldly men, deluded and confused, do not see Prajna. They speak of it with their mouths, but their minds are always deluded. They constantly say of themselves, ‘I cultivate Prajna!’ and though they continually speak of emptiness, they are unaware of true emptiness. Prajna, without form or mark, is just the wisdom mind. If thus explained, just this is Prajna wisdom.”


If you have Prajna, then in thought after thought you clearly understand; in thought after thought you are not confused; in thought after thought you have no ignorance.

“Prajna is cut off by a single deluded thought.” To speak of it as “cut off” is merely an analogy. Actually it is not cut off. How could proper wisdom, which is without production or destruction, be cut off? “Cutting off” merely describes the moment of delusion, because at that moment Prajna is not apparent.

“By one wise thought Prajna is produced.” When you are not deluded or confused, Prajna is produced. I will give you an example of how confusion cuts off Prajna: When people say that drinking is harmful, smoking is not good, and taking confusing drugs is bad, and you do not believe it, you cut off Prajna. If you change, you give rise to Prajna and true intelligence. When someone tries to teach you, but you refuse to understand or believe, that is delusion. In short, delusion is to know clearly that something is wrong, but to go ahead and do it anyway. Such delusion cuts off Prajna. The great majority of people in this world are deeply deluded, for they do not see Prajna and they do not know how to cultivate it.

Their mouths speak about wisdom, but their actions betray their stupidity. They talk about Prajna saying, “Emptiness is Prajna. There are twenty kinds of emptiness related to Prajna.You should empty everything.” But they do not know true emptiness. Perhaps they understand a little of the Sutras, or recite a few lines of a mantra, but even though they speak they do not change their own faults and therefore do not recognize true emptiness.

You must give up ignorance, bad habits, faults, ando bstructions, if you are to understand true emptiness.

“Prajna, without form or mark, is the wisdom mind.” Wisdom has no form or characteristic. Didn’t the Sixth Patriarch just say that Prajna is neither long nor short, neither square nor round, neither big nor small? Nor is it green, yellow, red, white or black. What is it, then? It is the wise mind, free from ignorance, which knows right dharmas from wrong dharmas.


What is meant by Paramita? It is a Sanskrit word which in our language means ‘arrived at the other shore,’ and is explained as ‘apart from production and extinction.’ When one is attached to states of being, production and extinction arise like waves on water. That is what is meant by ‘this shore.’ To be apart from states of being, with no production or extinction, is to be like freely flowing water. That is what is meant by ‘the other shore.’ Therefore it is called ‘Paramita’.


To reach the other shore is to be separated from birth and death. This shore is birth and death; the other shore is Nirvana. To go from this shore to the other, you must cross the great sea of afflictions. Because there are afflictions, there is also birth, death, and Nirvana. If you have no afflictions, then birth and death are Nirvana and Nirvana is birth and death. Birth, death, and Nirvana are nothing more than names.

The absence of birth and death is Nirvana. If you have no afflictions, then in the midst of birth and death you have no birth and death. We are born and we die because of affliction. This is very important and you should all remember it: birth and death exist because of afflictions; affliction exists because of ignorance; and ignorance is simply whatever you don’t understand.

What don’t you understand? What do you understand? Knowing you do not understand is ignorance. Knowing you do understand is Prajna. There is just that small difference.

“When one is attached to states of being, production and extinction arise like waves on water.” What is meant by the other shore? What is Nirvana? Nirvana is like water without waves. When the wind rises, the waves swell. The wind of ignorance, the waves of affliction are “this shore.”

“To be apart from states, with no production or extinction, is to be like freely flowing water.” The principle is clear: the nature is like water, the water of wisdom. When there are no waves, there is no birth and death.

We should work hard to understand why our minds have so many extraneous thoughts. These thoughts are like so many waves. Without them there would be no production or extinction, no birth or death. With production and extinction you are on this shore, but if you separate yourself from production and extinction you are like freely flowing water, permeating the universe with wisdom. That is what is meant by ‘the other shore.’

That section of text is very useful. Use a little effort and you will understand it and derive from it inexhaustible benefit.


“Good Knowing Advisors, deluded people recite with their mouths, but while they recite they live in falsehood and in error. When there is practice in every thought, that is the true nature. You should understand this dharma, which is the Prajna dharma; and cultivate this conduct, which is the Prajna conduct. Not to cultivate is to be a common person, but in a single thought of cultivation, you are equal to the Buddhas.”


In each thought, avoid doing stupid things. If you understand this dharma, you realize that Prajna is to refrain from stupidity. What is stupidity? Doing what you absolutely should not do. Most important is the matter of sexual desire. You absolutely should not give rise to sexual desire, for when it arises you get confused and forget everything. You forget Prajna, you forget Paramita. At that time you cannot even recite their names. You become involved in it and no longer pay attention to principle.

Although it is the stupidest thing one can do, people still like to do it. They want to be stupid instead of wanting to cultivate the Prajna dharma. If you want to cultivate and practice Prajna for even a single thought, you must cut off desire and cast out love.The absence of sexual desire is the practice of Prajna and “in a single thought of cultivation, you are equal to the Buddhas.”


“Good Knowing Advisors, common people are Buddhas and affliction is Bodhi. Past thoughts deluded are the thoughts of a common person. Future thoughts enlightened are the thoughts of a Buddha. Past thoughts attached to states of being are afflictions, and future thoughts separate from states of being are Bodhi.”


Where does the Buddha come from? He starts out as a common person. Yes, the Buddha was a common person who cultivated and eventually achieved Buddhahood. Why are we common people? Simply because we do not cultivate the Prajna dharma. Our nature flows out and becomes emotion; our emotions flow out and become desire. Common people are that way. But the returning of desire to one’s own nature, so that one is unmoved by ignorance: that is the Buddha.

“Affliction is Bodhi.” Without affliction there is no Bodhi. So you say, “Then I will not get rid of my afflictions. I will keep them.” If you keep them, they are still afflictions, and afflictions are just afflictions. You should use a scientific method to temper your afflictions. How? Actually, this change is no change, it is merely a returning to your original nature.

My hand, for example, has a palm and a back to it. The back of the hand represents affliction and the palm represents Bodhi. All you need to do is flip it over and everything is all right. There is no addition or subtraction required. Just turn it over! If you do not turn it over, you are off by just that margin, and affliction is affliction and Bodhi is Bodhi. But as soon as you turn it around, affliction is Bodhi and birth and death is Nirvana. I have often spoken of this. At Berkeley I said:

Affliction is Bodhi, ice is water,
Birth and death and Nirvana are empty dharmas.

If you understand, then dharmas are also empty. If you do not understand, then there are still dharmas. You should understand that people and dharmas are both empty.

“Past thoughts deluded are the thoughts of a common person. Future thoughts enlightened are the thoughts of a Buddha.” With stupid thoughts, you are common person; with wisdom and enlightenment, you are a Buddha.

“Past thoughts attached to states of being are afflictions, and future thoughts separate from states of being are Bodhi.” When thought is attached to states, affliction arises. You may think,“This is San Francisco. It surely isn’t the same as New York!” Fundamentally San Francisco and New York are the same. They are both big cities. But you make distinctions. “In San Francisco,” you say, “there is no snow, but New York has lots of snow.” This is just the discriminating mind. Basically the two cities are the same.

If you are unattached to states of being, you will not have so much affliction. If you do not use your discriminating mind, there is no affliction. Past thoughts, which were attached to states, discriminated between San Francisco and New York, and therefore affliction arose. A later thought, which is unattached, makes you say, “They are empty! San Francisco and New York are the same. Why bother to discriminate one from the other?” If you do not discriminate, that is Bodhi.

It is easy to speak that way, but putting down all discrimination is another matter. That is difficult. When you understand that kind of state, there is no home and no country. There is nothing at all. This is to “produce that thought which is nowhere supported.” It is also to “produce that body which is nowhere supported.” Not dwelling anywhere, you can manifest a body that can go everywhere. Is this not wonderful dharma? It is nothing less than Bodhi. There’s no need to sigh. If you can been lightened, then you are enlightened. If you can’t be yet, then slowly, slowly, you can be.

Nature in samadhi,
Demons defeated:

False thought
not arising:

When your mind is in samadhi, there is not so much false thinking. Everyday you are happy and at peace. Why are you unhappy now? Because of false thoughts. Without false thoughts, every place is the Land of Ultimate Bliss, and you can “produce that body which is nowhere supported.”


“Good Knowing Advisors, Maha Prajna Paramita is the most honored, the most supreme, the foremost. It does not stay; it does not come or go. All Buddhas of the three periods of time emerge from it. You should use great wisdom to destroy affliction, defilement, and the five skandhic heaps. With such cultivation as that you will certainly realize the Buddha Way, transforming the three poisons into morality, concentration, and wisdom.


The Great Master again addressed the assembly, saying, “In the self-nature of each of you there is limitless wisdom. Maha Prajna Paramita is originally fully present within your self-nature. You need not seek it outside.

“It does not stay; it does not come or go.” The Prajna wisdom of your self-nature is unattached. All Buddhas of the three periods of time, the past, present and future, issue from Maha Prajna Paramita–the highest, most supreme, most honored, number one dharma.

“You should use this great wisdom, not small wisdom, to destroy affliction, defilement and the five skandhic heaps of form, feelings, perceptions, impulses and consciousness. Without Prajna you cannot see that the five heaps are empty, and therefore you have affliction and are unable to cut off defilement. If you wish to have genuine Prajna, you must ‘illumine and view the five skandhas all as empty,’ as Avalokiteshvara did when deeply practicing the Prajna Paramita.

Avalokiteshvara Bodhisattva worked a long time practicing the deep Prajna Paramita. He could not, in just a short time, illumine and view the five heaps as empty. If you practice the deep Prajna Paramita, you can see the five heaps in this way, and when you destroy all affliction and attachment to sense objects, the original Prajna nature manifests itself.

“With such cultivation as that, you will certainly realize the Buddha Way, transforming the three poisons into morality, concentration, and wisdom.” There is no doubt that you will realize the Way, turning greed, hatred, and stupidity into morality, concentration, and wisdom. Let’s see whether or not you can change. If you change, you will dwell in Prajna; if you do not change, you will wander among the deluded.


“Good Knowing Advisors, my Dharma-door produces 84,000 wisdoms from the one Prajna. Why? Because worldly people have 84,000 kinds of defilement. In the absence of defilement, wisdom is always present, since it is not separate from the self-nature.

“Understand that this dharma is just no-thought, no-remembrance, non-attachment, and the non-production of falsehood and error. Use your own true-suchness nature, and, by means of wisdom, contemplate and illuminate all dharmas without grasping or rejecting them. That is to see one’s own nature and realize the Buddha Way.

“Good Knowing Advisors, if you wish to enter the extremely deep Dharma realm and the Prajna samadhi, you must cultivate the practice of Prajna. Hold and recite The Diamond Prajna Sutra and that way you will see your own nature.”


The Sixth Patriarch said, “From one kind of wisdom, measureless Prajnas are produced.” These 84,000 kinds of wisdom are just 84,000 kinds of Prajna. If you change the defilement of external objects, it becomes wisdom.

Do not use your discriminating consciousness to contemplate and illuminate all dharmas. Use wisdom.

If you wish to enter the Sutra store and have wisdom like the sea, if you wish to master all dharmas and the Prajna Samadhi, you must cultivate the Prajna conduct. How do you practice the Prajna Dharma-door? Hold and recite The Diamond Prajna Sutra. Because the Sixth Patriarch became enlightened upon hearing The Diamond Sutra, he tells everyone, “You should all recite The Diamond Sutra. Hold it in your mind. Do not be distracted or forgetful. Hold The Diamond Sutra and you will see your own nature.”

In reciting Sutras it is essential to avoid giving rise to false thinking and extraneous thoughts. Once there was a man who recited The Diamond Sutra every day. One night he dreamt that a ghost asked him to take him across to a more favorable rebirth just as we perform the Ullambana ceremony on the fifteenth day of the seventh month in order to take across parents from this and past lives. The ghost said, “Please recite a Sutra to take me across.”

“How many times shall I recite it?” the man asked.

The ghost said, “One recitation will be enough.”

The next day, halfway through the recitation, one of the man’s servants brought him a cup of tea. He pushed the cup aside, thinking, “I do not want it,” and continued to recite.

That evening the ghost returned. “You promised to recite the Sutra for me,” he said, “but you only recited half of it.”

“What do you mean?” the man replied, “I recited the whole Sutra.”

The ghost said, “You recited the whole Sutra, but halfway through you thought, ‘I do not want it,’ so the merit from the second half of the recitation was lost.”

The man then realized what happened. “Yes,” he replied “I did think, ‘do not want,’ but it was tea I did not want, not the Sutra’s merit.”

It took only these words “I do not want” halfway through the recitation to convince the ghosts and spirits that he did not want the merit. Probably the ghosts took the merit for themselves. The man said, “I will recite it again.” This time he recited without interruption and the next evening the ghost happily bowed to him in thanks for the compassionate recitation.

So when you recite The Diamond Sutra do not think, “I do not want.” Reciting “Subhuti, Subhuti, I don’t want Subhuti,” Subhuti will probably run away.


“You should know that the merit and virtue of this Sutra is immeasurable, unbounded, and indescribable, as the Sutra text itself clearly states.

“This Dharma-door is the Superior Vehicle, taught for people of great wisdom and superior faculties. When people of limited faculties and wisdom hear it, their minds give rise to doubt.

“Why is that? Take for example the rain which the heavenly dragons shower on Jambudvipa. Cities and villages drift about in the flood like thorns and leaves. But if the rain falls on the great sea, its waters neither increase nor decrease.

“If people of the Great Vehicle, the Most Superior Vehicle, hear The Diamond Sutra, their minds open up, awaken, and understand. They then know that their original nature itself possesses the wisdom of Prajna. Because they themselves use this wisdom constantly to contemplate and illuminate, they do not rely on written words.

“Take for example the rain water. It does not come from the sky. The truth is that the dragons cause it to fall in order that all living beings, all plants and trees, all those with feeling and those without feeling may receive its moisture. In a hundred streams it flows into the great sea and there unites in one substance. The wisdom of the Prajna of the original nature of living beings acts the same way.”


People without good roots say, “The Diamond Sutra is meaningless! What good points does reciting it have? If you recite it every day, can you go without eating and still live? Keep reciting and we will see if you can go without eating.” People of shallow roots and wisdom do not believe in this Sutra.

The great sea represents people of great roots and energy. As soon as they hear this dharma, they realize that Prajna is originally complete within the self-nature, and so they believe it. People of small roots and wisdom, however, are like grass and leaves which float on the surface of the water and sink as soon as it rains. They doubt the Great Vehicle Dharma.

Reflecting within, it is not necessary for those of great wisdom to be highly literate in order to understand Prajna wisdom.

The Prajna wisdom of the self-nature of living beings is just like the rain from the heavens which flows into the great sea. The sea represents our inherent wisdom. No matter how much rain falls, the sea neither increases nor decreases.

The Buddhadharma is like a great sea;
Only those with faith can enter.

It may also be said, “Only those with wisdom can enter,” because without wisdom it is difficult to enter this sea.


“Good Knowing Advisors, when people of limited faculties hear this Sudden Teaching, they are like the plants and trees with shallow roots which, washed away by the great rain, are unable to grow. But at the same time, the Prajna wisdom which people of limited faculties possess is fundamentally no different from the Prajna that men of great wisdom possess.

“Hearing this Dharma, why do they not become enlightened? It is because the obstacle of their deviant views is a formidable one and the root of their afflictions is deep. It is like when thick clouds cover the sun: if the wind does not blow, the sunlight will not be visible.

“Prajna wisdom is itself neither great nor small. Living beings differ because their own minds are either confused or enlightened. Those of confused mind look outwardly to cultivate in search of the Buddha. Not having awakened to their self-nature yet, they have small roots.

“When you become enlightened to the Sudden Teaching, you do not grasp onto the cultivation of external things. When your own mind constantly gives rise to right views, afflictions and defilement can never stain you. That is what is meant by seeing your own nature.”


Deluded people do not become enlightened because their deviant views are too strong and too formidable an obstruction, and cause them to disbelieve. Their ignorance is great and they give rise to much affliction, which is like thick clouds covering the sun. The sunlight is simply the Prajna of your self-nature and the clouds are your deviant views and afflictions. If no wind blows the clouds away, the sunlight will not shine through.

Some living beings are heavily afflicted by bad habits. Having created a great deal of bad karma, they are confused. Those with fewer bad habits and lighter karma can become enlightened. The confused person seeks the Dharma outside his own mind. Seeking outwardly, he does not recognize the originally complete Buddha of his own self-nature. The more he seeks the Buddha outside the farther away he goes.

You should enlighten yourself and not seek outside. If you hear the Sudden Teaching you may become enlightened right away. Understand the Prajna of your own nature and always hold to right knowledge and vision. You will then be without affliction or defilement.


“Good Knowing Advisors, the ability to cultivate the conduct of not dwelling inwardly or outwardly, of coming and going freely, of casting away the grasping mind, and of unobstructed penetration, is basically no different from The Prajna Sutra.”


Inside there is no body and mind, outside there is no world. But this is not dull emptiness. It is not to say, “My body and mind do not exist; the world does not exist!” and then to fall into vacuity. What is spoken of here is non-attachment: non-attachment to the body, to the mind, and to the world. Then you may “come and go freely.”

Coming here, going there, coming back to the body and mind, going out into the Dharma Realm, you are free if you are unattached to the coming and the going. If you are attached, you are in bondage.

Unattached, you are free with respect to life and death. “If Iwant to live, I live. If I want to die, I die.” You asked, “Is this suicide?” No. You need simply sit down, enter Dhyana Samadhi, and go. You need not take poison to make sure than you will die. Isn’t this freedom? If it were not freedom, you would not be able to go. How was the Third Patriarch, Seng Ts’an, able to reach up and grasp the limb of a tree and, while hanging there, die? How could he enter Nirvana in this way? He could do this because he was free to live or die, free to come or go.

If I wish to live, then I may never die.
If I wish to die, I die right now.

This is what is meant by “coming and going freely.”

If you are free to come and go, you can end your life even while in the midst of talking, just like the Great Master Tao Sheng. He was really a good sport. The first part of The Mahaparinirvana Sutra said that the icchantikas, those of little faith, do not possess the Buddha nature, but Tao Sheng disagreed: “I say that icchantikas do have the Buddha nature!”

Everyone said, “He’s crazy! He’s mentally ill! He knows what the Sutra says, yet he deliberately contradicts it.” They scolded him, they shunned him. “Get out of here,” they said.

Master Tao Sheng then made a vow. He said, “If my explanation of Dharma is in agreement with the Buddha’s Sutras and the Buddha’s Mind, then in the future I shall end my life while lecturing from the Dharma seat. But if I have spoken contrary to the Buddha’s Mind, this vow will not be fulfilled.”

He then went into the mountains and lectured on Sutras to the rocks and ragged boulders. When the rocks heard him, they nodded their heads in acceptance of his principles.

When Sheng, the Venerable, spoke the Dharma,
Even the rocks bowed.

He continued to lecture on Sutras until once when, mysteriously and wonderfully, he paused while lecturing and died sitting in the Dharma seat. The assembly looked up and cried, “He has gone to rebirth!”

Wasn’t he a good sport? This is what is meant by “coming and going freely.”

You say, “Dharma Master, I quite agree with you. I don’t want to be attached. In fact, I don’t want to follow the rules. After all, the rules are just an attachment.” Wrong! If you can “cast away your grasping mind” and be unattached, you should be unattached to what is wrong, but you should not be unattached to what is right. For example, if you follow the rules you can become a Buddha. But if you think, “I am not attached. I don’t have to follow the rules,” then you cannot become a Buddha.

Go down the right road.
Retreat from the wrong one.

Do not become attached to principles which are in opposition to the Way, but grasp and hold tightly to those principles which are in accord with it. Holding to and reciting may be an attachment, but holding to and reciting The Diamond Sutra is cultivation.

Do not say, “I am attached. I have a small fault which I do not want to give up. What is more, I do not want anyone to know about it.” That is to be even more attached. “All right then,” you say, “I don’t care if anyone knows about it. If people say I am wrong, I will be unattached and pay no attention.” That is deviant knowledge and deviant views. The more you cultivate that way, the farther you drift from the Buddhadharma.

Once you have left attachments behind, you can penetrate and understand without obstruction and be without obstacles to your progress. The ability to cultivate this conduct “is basically no different from The Prajna Sutra.” If you cannot cultivate this conduct, you will be in opposition to the principle of The Diamond Sutra, but if you can cultivate, it is Prajna wisdom manifest.


“Good Knowing Advisors, all Sutras and writings of the Great and Small Vehicles, the twelve divisions of Sutras, have been devised because of people and established because of the nature of wisdom. If there were no people the ten thousand dharmas would not exist. Therefore you should know that all dharmas are originally postulated because of people, and all Sutras are spoken for their sakes.”


On the higher plane, a Sutra tallies with the principles of all the Buddhas, and below, it tallies with the opportunities for teaching living beings; for that reason the word Sutra took on the meaning “to tally.”

The twelve divisions of Sutra text are:

  1. Prose;
  2. Verse;
  3. Transmitting of Predictions;
  4. Interpolations;
  5. The speaking of Dharma without its having been requested;
  6. Discussion of causes and conditions;
  7. Analogies;
  8. Events of the past lives of the Buddhas;
  9. Events of the past lives of the Bodhisattvas and disciples;
  10. Writings which explain principle in an especially expansive way;
  11. Dharma which has never been spoken before;
  12. Commentaries.

Sutras exist because people exist. If there were no people, the Sutras would be useless. In the same way, troubles exist only because there are people to have them. The Dharma teaches people how to end their troubles; to get rid of the 84,000 kinds of defilement and trouble, the Buddha teaches 84,000 Dharma doors. But if there were no people, the troubles would never have arisen.

The Buddha spoke all Dharmas
For the minds of human beings.
If there were no minds
Of what use would Dharmas be?


“Some people are deluded and some are wise; the deluded are small people and the wise are great people. The deluded question the wise and the wise teach Dharma to the deluded. When the deluded people suddenly awaken and understand, their minds open to enlightenment and they are no longer different from the wise.

“Good Knowing Advisors, unenlightened, the Buddha is a living being. At the time of a single enlightened thought, the living being is a Buddha. Therefore you should know that the ten thousand dharmas exist totally within your own mind. Why don’t you, from within your own mind, suddenly see the true-suchness of your original nature?

The Bodhisattva-shila Sutra says, ‘Our fundamental self-nature is clear and pure.’ If we recognize our own mind and see the nature, we shall all perfect the Buddha Way. The Vimalakirti Nirdesha Sutra says, ‘Just then, suddenly regain your original mind.’”


If, in the very shortest space of time, the space of a thought, you suddenly understand, you wake up and become a Buddha. Confused, you are a living being; enlightened, you are a Buddha.

One confused thought: you are a living being.
Thought after thought confused: thought after thought, a living being.
One enlightened thought: you are a Buddha.
Thought after thought enlightened: thought after thought, a Buddha.

What does it mean to be enlightened? Ask yourself! Ultimately, what advantage do emotion and desire have? Emotion and desire harm your body; that is a serious problem. They rob you of your life; they make you stupid. If in thought after thought you have desire, then thought after thought you are deluded. It is said,

Karma ended, emotion emptied, is the true Buddha.
Karma heavy, emotion turbid, is the living being.

Enlightenment is here: put down defiled thoughts and pick up the pure. What are defiled thoughts? Thoughts of desire are defiled thoughts. I will make it even clearer: thoughts of sexual desire are defiled thoughts. You should clearly recognize your thoughts of sexual desire. Should you give way to sexual desire with your body, then the action of your body, your body-karma, is impure. If you talk about sex, the action of your mouth is impure. If you constantly think about sex, your mind-karma is impure. However, if you are without offense in body, mouth, and mind, you are not far from Buddhahood.

Most people turn their backs on enlightenment and unite themselves with the dust of external objects and states. Falling into states of emotion and desire they become defiled. Leaving emotion and desire behind and turning your back on the dust, you are united with enlightenment. You are clear and pure and can realize Buddhahood. However, as long as you have the slightest trace of defilement, you cannot realize Buddhahood; you remain a living being. One confused thought makes you a living being for the space of that thought. If every thought is confused, you are continually a living being. One enlightened thought makes you a Buddha for the space of that thought. If every thought is enlightened, you are always a Buddha.

Do you see? It is very simple. Still, you need the help of a Good Knowing Advisor who will teach you that, in order to be clear and pure, it is of the utmost importance to be unselfish. Not working for your own benefit and being without greed, hatred, stupidity, and a view of self, you may attain purity. That is enlightenment.

Some people hear, “One enlightened thought; you are a Buddha,” and they say, “Everyone is a Buddha!” Right. All living beings are Buddhas, but they must first wake up to it. To say, “Everyone is a Buddha” when you are not enlightened is to be like the common person mentioned earlier in the Sutra who called himself the king. The real king would throw that man in prison.

Heaven cannot hold two suns;
The citizens cannot serve two kings.

Why don’t you cultivate your own mind? Get rid of the defilement and then you can see your own nature as it truly is. See it right now. Do not say, “Wait a minute, wait a minute.” See it immediately!

If you see your nature, you realize Buddhahood. If I see my nature, I realize Buddhahood. If someone else sees his nature he realizes Buddhahood. There is no inequality here. This principleis completely democratic: whoever sees his nature realizes Buddhahood.

You need not wait. See right through it, and suddenly, you don’t know how, you are enlightened. Strange and unspeakably wonderful. You return to yourself and regain your original mind.


“Good Knowing Advisors, when I was with the High Master Jen, I was enlightened as soon as I heard his words, and suddenly saw the true suchness of my own original nature. That is why I am spreading this method of teaching which leads students of the Way to become enlightened suddenly to Bodhi as each contemplates his own mind and sees his own original nature.”


“All of you of great knowledge, hear me!” said the Sixth Patriarch. “I have explained so much Dharma to you. Have you become enlightened yet? When I was with the High Master Jen, the Fifth Patriarch, I awoke as soon as I heard him speak.

“I, the Sixth Patriarch, an illiterate barbarian, a stupid country person, met the High Master Jen.” The Master did not say the Fifth Patriarch’s full name, but merely said “Jen” as a gesture of respect. “The High Master Jen” he said, “endured the temper of many.” Those below him tried to pressure him into transmitting the Dharma to Shen Hsiu. The Fifth Patriarch was not even free to transmit the Dharma, but was forced to endure the tyranny of his own disciples. His name, Jen, means “to endure.” He endured, practicing the perfection of patience until, one day, the barbarian arrived. “I will give the Dharma to the barbarian,” the Fifth Patriarch thought, “and forget about all of you. Do you think you can bully a Patriarch? I will transmit the Dharma to someone who can’t even read. What use is your education now?” Thus, the High Master Jen ceased enduring and transmitted the Dharma to the Sixth Patriarch.

The Sixth Patriarch was a friend who understood. “High Master,” he said, “you have suffered greatly!” Then he told the assembly, “I was enlightened as soon as I heard his words.”

Why did the Fifth Patriarch transmit the Dharma to this barbarian? It was not just because he wanted to defy Shen Hsiu. Rather it was because this barbarian was so intelligent that, as soon as he heard the Fifth Patriarch speak, he said in reply, “So that’s how it is! My self-nature is originally pure. My self-nature is originally bright and light. My self-nature is originally unmoving. How wonderful it is!”

“Yes,” said the Fifth Patriarch, “you are right. It is just that way.”

The Sixth Patriarch told the assembly, “I propagate this Sudden Teaching in order to cause all students of the Way to become enlightened suddenly to their own mind and see their own nature.”


“If you are unable to enlighten yourself, you must seek out a great Good Knowing Advisor, one who understands the Dharma of the Most Superior Vehicle and who will direct you to the right road.

“Such a Good Knowing Advisor possesses great karmic conditions, which is to say that he will transform you and guide you and lead you to see your nature. It is because of the Good Knowing Advisor that all wholesome Dharmas can arise. All the Buddhas of the three periods of time, and the twelve divisions of Sutra texts as well, exist within the nature of people, originally complete within them. If you are unable to enlighten yourself, you should seek out the instruction of a Good Knowing Advisor who will lead you to see your nature.”


If you can’t enlighten yourself, you must seek out a bright-eyed knowing one, one who has “gone through.”

Wishing to travel the mountain tracks,
Ask someone who has taken the trip.

Ask him, “Where does this road lead?” If you do not ask someone who has traveled the road before, but instead ask a blind man for directions, the blind man will say, “Just keep walking. Go wherever you wish.” If you ask the blind man, “Is this emptiness?” he will say: “It certainly is. No one can hinder you here!” But is it really emptiness?

The great Good Knowing Advisor understands the Dharma of the Superior Vehicle and directs you to the right road.

If there is a great affinity between you, you may meet a bright-eyed knowing one who will teach you to understand your mind and see your nature. All good dharmas arise because of him. Your good roots flourish because he watches over their growth. He explains the Dharma to you every day and causes your good roots to grow.

All the Buddhas of the past, present, and future and the twelve divisions of Sutra text are originally complete within your own nature. But if you cannot understand that, you should seek out the instruction of a Good Knowing Advisor. He will teach you to behold the pure and wonderful substance of your self-nature.


“If you are one who enlightens himself, you need not seek a teacher outside. If you insist that it is necessary to seek a Good Knowing Advisor in the hope of obtaining liberation, you are mistaken. Why? Within your own mind there is self-enlightenment which is a Knowing Advisor.

“But if you give rise to deviant confusion, false thoughts, and perversions, although a Good Knowing Advisor external to you instructs you, he cannot save you.”


If you seek outside yourself, you will not obtain it. You must enlighten yourself, by recognizing the Prajna of your self-nature. Your true Good Knowing Advisor is within your self-nature; he is simply your own wisdom.

“Deviant” means “not right.” “Confusion” means, “lack of understanding.” Not understanding what? Not understanding what is right. For example, people have certain fondnesses. Some have the deviant confusion of sex. You should not regard these confusions as unimportant, for when you do, your confusion deepens and the small confusions become large ones. Thinking the large confusions to be unimportant, you arrive at old age with old confusions and go to your death with death confusions. Even at the time of death you are confused and unclear. How pitiful!

“False thoughts” are untrue thoughts. They are vain and unreal. “Perversions” occur when you clearly know that something is wrong, but do it anyway. You understand perfectly well that it is not right, but you say, “It is right! It is right!”

If you continue to do things contrary to Dharma, you are perverted. You are perverted when you not only do these things yourself, but influence others to do them as well. To discuss this thoroughly would take a long time. To have success, students of the Buddhadharma must not be perverted. If you have deviant confusion, false thoughts, and perversions, although a Good Knowing Advisor external to you, such as your good teacher or good friend, instructs you, he cannot save you.

Your good teacher and worthy friend may try to help you, but if you refuse to obey him he can do no more. Your Good Knowing Advisor is not a policeman! If you break his laws, he cannot put you in jail. He can only hope that you will gradually change your faults. If living beings obey, the master is certainly pleased, but if they do not, although he cannot get angry, he is unhappy in his heart because he has no way to help them.


“If you give rise to genuine Prajna contemplation and illumination, in the space of an instant all false thoughts are extinguished. If you recognize your self-nature, in a single moment of enlightenment you will arrive at the stage of a Buddha.”


“Genuine” means “not deviant and confused.” “Prajna” is genuine wisdom. To “contemplate and illuminate” is to slice off deviant confusion, false thought, and upside-down actions with the sword of wisdom. If you do not swing the wisdom-sword and cut through your deviant confusion, your false thinking, and your upside-down actions, you are deluded, lack wisdom and do upside-down things.

Recognize your own original nature. Understand it once, and, in that one moment of enlightenment, you will go to the Buddha realm. On the other hand, where do you go in one moment of confusion? To the ghost realm.

Enlightened, a Buddha.
Confused, a living being.

In the space of an instant all false thoughts are extinguished, destroyed by your wisdom-sword like ice melted by the sun.


“Good Knowing Advisor, when you contemplate and illuminate with the wisdom which brightly penetrates within and without, you recognize your original mind.

“The recognition of your original mind is the original liberation. The attainment of liberation is the Prajna Samadhi, is no-thought.”


Using your inherent wisdom, observe inwardly the mind and body and outwardly the world. Completely understand both, as you would look through a pane of glass: from the outside seeing in and from the inside seeing out. Inwardly, there is no body and mind, and, outwardly, there is no world. But, although there is no body nor mind nor world, the body and mind and the world function in accord with one another. Although they function together, they are not attached to one another. This is called “recognizing your own original mind.” The original self-nature, the true mind, clearly penetrates within and without.

The recognition of your original mind is liberation. When you are not attached to sense objects or false thought, you obtain liberation. This is the Prajna Samadhi of your self-nature and is simply no-thought.

I previously spoke about non-recollection, no-thought, and non-falseness. Non-recollection is morality, no-thought is Samadhi, and non-falseness (i.e. being without false thought) is wisdom. When morality, Samadhi, and wisdom all manifest, greed, hatred, and delusion disappear.


“What is meant by ‘no-thought?’ No-thought means to view all dharmas with a mind undefiled by attachment. The function pervades all places but is nowhere attached. Merely purify your original mind and cause the six consciousnesses to go out the six gates, to be undefiled and unmixed among the six objects, to come and go freely and to penetrate without obstruction. That is the Prajna Samadhi and freedom and liberation, and it is called the practice of no-thought.”


No-thought means to view all dharmas with a mind undefiled by attachment. When the mind is undefiled by attachment, dharmas are empty. If dharmas are empty, then why must you get attached to your bad habits and weaknesses?

Someone hears this and wants to try to become unattached to dharmas by ignoring his faults. He may be unattached to dharmas but he can’t get rid of his faults. How can this be called “undefiled by attachment?” Since to be undefiled by attachment there must be no dharmas, there must even more emphatically be no faults. The Diamond Sutra says, “Even dharmas must be forsaken, so non-dharmas must be forsaken even more.”

If you do not put down your bad habits and your faults, what kind of Buddhadharma do you study? I ask you! You are nothing but a fraud who cheats himself and cheats others. Students of the Dharma must definitely give up their faults. If you cannot, eventhough you may be able to explain a few sentences of Dharma, you are utterly useless. You are at the height of delusion.

“Prajna Samadhi pervades all places” and illuminates all places, but is nowhere attached. It is just like empty space.

“Merely purify your original mind” so that it is undefiled and unattached, and cause the six consciousnesses (visual, auditory, olfactory, gustatory, tactile and mental awareness) to go out the six gates (eye, ear, nose, tongue, body, and mind) and among the six objects (forms, sounds, smells, tastes, touchables and objects of mind), but to be undefiled and untainted to come and go freely, and to penetrate without obstruction.

If you examine this conglomeration, you will see that the six organs and six objects ordinarily unite to form a corporation. Where there is a corporation, there is defilement and mixing. Do not incorporate!

They should freely come and go:
The eyes view forms outside;
Inside there is nothing.
The ears hear sounds outside;
But the mind does not know.

What does this mean? You don’t understand? Then study the Buddhadharma diligently.

At the time of unobstructed penetration, the ten thousand changes and the ten thousand transformations of the correct use are unhindered, unblocked and inexhaustible. “That is Prajna Samadhi, and freedom and liberation, and it is called the practice of no-thought.”


“Not thinking of the hundred things and constantly causing your thought to be cut off is called Dharma-bondage and is an extremist view.”


If you sit, saying, “I am sitting here, not thinking of anything. I am thinking of nothing!” and in this way try to cut off your thought, you still have not cut off the thought of “not thinking of anything.” If you do this, you will be tied up in the dharmas, and will not obtain release. Thought, no-thought: falling into either of the two extremes is not the Middle Way.

In telling you to awaken to the no-thought dharma, it is not to say that you should be like dead ashes or rotten wood. What use are ashes without fire? They are nothing but dirt. What use is rotten wood? You can’t burn it. If you sit, thinking, “Do not think! Do not think of the hundred things!” your thought of not thinking is itself a thought!

Trying not to think is like trying to prevent the grass from growing by pounding on it with a rock and shouting, “Don’t come up!” You push the rock into the soil, but when you move it again the grass grows up thicker, stronger, and more dense than ever.

Then how does one attain to the no-thought dharma? It requires the samadhi power that comes from having right, not deviant, thought.


“Good Knowing Advisors, one who awakens to the no-thought dharma completely penetrates the ten thousand dharmas; one who awakens to the no-thought dharma sees all Buddha realms; one who awakens to the no-thought dharma arrives at the Buddha position.”


Do you know the realms of all Buddhas? Do you know what their state is like? If you do, then you understand the no-thought dharma. “No,” you say, “I do not understand the Buddha realms.” Then you do not understand the no-thought dharma.

Do not be like a certain person who does not know anything at all, who cannot even explain the Five Esoteric Meanings and the Seven Sutra Title Topics, but who still runs around “lecturing” on Sutras and cheating those who do not understand the Buddhadharma. People stream in like ants to hear him. They come marching, “deng, deng, deng.” What for? Who knows? Ultimately, what Buddhadharma do they study? That man reads an English translation of a Sutra aloud; he simply reads it. Anybody can read it: you can read it, he can read it–I couldn’t read it. Why? Because I can’t read English!

To explain Sutras, one must explain every sentence and every word, every paragraph and every chapter. You say, “He doesn’t do it that way.” Of course he doesn’t. He doesn’t know how to, so how could he?

Don’t march off with the ants.

If you enlighten to the dharma of no-thought, you go to the Buddha position. Now, isn’t that important?

When I explain Sutras, people come to hear, not ants. The people are few, but they come to study the Dharma, not to eat honey like ants. Here, we gather to eat bitterness; we don’t come to eat candy.


“Good Knowing Advisors, those of future generations who obtain my Dharma should take up this Sudden Teaching Dharma door and with those of like views and like practice they should vow to receive and uphold it as if serving the Buddhas. To the end of their lives they should not retreat, and they will certainly enter the holy position. In this way it should be transmitted from generation to generation. It is silently transmitted. Do not hide away the orthodox Dharma and do not transmit it to those of different views and different practice who believe in other teachings, since it will harm them and ultimately be of no benefit.”


“All of you Good Knowing Advisors,” continued the Sixth Patriarch, “the Dharma was transmitted from Shakyamuni Buddha to Mahakashyapa, to Ananda, and so forth to Bodhidharma, and then to the Second Patriarch, the Third Patriarch, reaching to me, the Sixth Patriarch. You should transmit the Mind-Seal Dharma-door in just that way, from generation to generation. Do not hide the orthodox Dharma and transmit deviant dharma instead.”

Why was the Great Master a Patriarch? Because he never slighted the lowly. When he was at Huang Mei, everyone looked down on him because he was an illiterate country person. He knew the pain of enduring ridicule himself, and so he did not slight others. He addressed everyone as “Good Knowing Advisors” whether they were or not.

“You should not transmit this Mind-Seal to those of different views and practice,” he said. Why?


“I fear that deluded people may misunderstand and slander this Dharma-door, and will cut off their nature which possesses the seed of Buddhahood for hundreds of ages and thousands of lifetimes.

“Good Knowing Advisors, I have a verse of no-mark which you should all recite. Those at home and those who have left home should cultivate according to it. If you do not cultivate it, memorizing it will be of no use. Listen to my verse:

With speech and mind both understood,
Like the sun whose place is in space,
Just spread the ‘seeing-the-nature way’
Appear in the world to destroy false doctrines.

Dharma is neither sudden nor gradual,
Delusion and awakening are slow and quick
But deluded people cannot comprehend
This Dharma-door of seeing-the-nature.

Although it is said in ten thousand ways,
United, the principles return to one;
In the dark dwelling of defilements,
Always produce the sunlight of wisdom.

The deviant comes and affliction arrives,
The right comes and affliction goes.
The false and true both cast aside,
In clear purity the state of no residue is attained.

Bodhi is the original self-nature;
Giving rise to a thought is wrong;
The pure mind is within the false:
Only the right is without the three obstructions.

If people in the world practice the Way,
They are not hindered by anything.
By constantly seeing their own transgressions,
They are in accord with the Way.

Each kind of form has its own way
Without hindering one another;
Leaving the Way to seek another way
To the end of life is not to see the Way.

A frantic passage through a life,
Will bring regret when it comes to its end.
Should you wish for a vision of the true Way,
Right practice is the Way.

If you don’t have a mind for the Way,
You walk in darkness blind to the Way;
If you truly walk the Way,
You are blind to the faults of the world.

If you attend to others’ faults,
Your fault-finding itself is wrong;
Others’ faults I do not treat as wrong;
My faults are my own transgressions.

Simply cast out the mind that finds fault,
Once cast away, troubles are gone;
When hate and love don’t block the mind,
Stretch out both legs and then lie down.

If you hope and intend to transform others,
You must perfect expedient means.
Don’t cause them to have doubts, and then
Their self-nature will appear.

The Buddhadharma is here in the world;
Enlightenment is not apart from the world.
To search for Bodhi apart from the world
Is like looking for a hare with horns.

Right views are transcendental;
Deviant views are all mundane.
Deviant and right completely destroyed:
The Bodhi nature appears spontaneously.

This verse is the Sudden Teaching,
Also called the great Dharma boat.
Hear in confusion, pass through ages,
In an instant’s space, enlightenment.”


“With speech and mind both understood.” Understanding speech is to know how to lecture on Sutras and explain the Dharma. Understanding the mind refers to the mind-ground Dharma door of Dhyana meditation. If you can lecture on Sutras, speak Dharma, and cultivate Dhyana meditation, you are “Like the sun whose place is in space;” you are like bright light which illuminates the void and yet is nowhere attached.

“Just spread the ‘seeing-the-nature Way’”; the Dharma door which the Sixth Patriarch transmits teaches you to understand your mind and see your nature. Understand the mind and there are no difficulties. See your nature and there is no anxiety. When you see your original face, you understand the Buddhadharma.

“Appear in the world to destroy false doctrines.” This Dharma-door exclusively speaks of transcendental principles, and destroys all heretical, non-Buddhist religions.

Dharma is neither sudden nor gradual,
Delusion and awakening are slow and quick.

Essentially, the Dharma is neither sudden nor gradual. However, confused people must be taught to cultivate gradually, while wise, enlightened people understand the sudden Dharma. If you are stupid, you become enlightened a little slower. If you are intelligent, you become enlightened a little faster.

Today I will tell you the plain truth. Everyday I lecture the sutras, but rarely do I speak plain truth. Today I’ll say a little. Why? I can’t speak much plain truth because you won’t believe it. I say a little and you cannot believe it, so if I were to say more you would believe it even less. That’s because you don’t like to hear the truth, nor do you like to actually cultivate. So I have no way to speak true Dharma for you. I have to wait. I wait for an opportunity. And now an opportunity presents itself because we have come to this verse and the doctrine should be explained here. What is the Sudden Teaching? Sudden means, “cut it off.” Cut what off? Cut off your sexual desire. Can you do it or not? You say, “What’s the use of that?” Do you see? You don’t believe. Very well, then, I will not talk about it. If I say more, you will disbelieve even more strongly. That’s all there is to it. It’s just this much:

Cut Off Ignorance Immediately!

Ignorance is just sexual desire. Can you cut it off? Can you? You can’t cut it off, and so you don’t believe in the true Dharma.

When you do cut it off, you will attain the Sudden Teaching. What is the gradual teaching? “Slowly, slowly,” you say. “I can’t cut it off all at once. How can I put it down? How can I let it go?” The sudden becomes gradual. That’s all there is to it. Do you get the point? I give intelligent people this little bit and they cut it off. But stupid people can’t put their desire down. “I don’t believe this is the true Dharma,” they say. “I don’t believe this is the Sudden Teaching.” That’s why I have never spoken this way before. If you believed, you would have become a Buddha long ago. It’s just because you don’t believe that you are still wallowing in the mud, turning in the six paths of rebirth. If you want to turn, turn. Nobody is forcing you to stop.

It is a question of sooner or later. You may not want to cut it off now, but when you decide to become a Buddha, you will certainly have to cut it off.

But stupid people cannot comprehend
This Dharma-door of seeing the nature.

The Sudden Teaching is the Dharma-door of seeing the nature. If you cut off sexual desire you can understand your mind and see your nature.

Don’t speak of this Dharma to stupid people. They cannot understand it and they won’t believe it, just as now, when I told you to cut it off and you couldn’t do it. Stupid people cannot comprehend, they cannot understand. If you tell them, they won’t believe you.

Although it is said in ten thousand ways,
United, the principles return to one.

There are a thousand, ten thousand, millions of Dharma-doors used to explain this principle. There are 84,000 Dharma-doors to counteract just this kind of affliction, just that kind of ignorance. But when you trace them to the root, they are all just one, just the Sudden Dharma which tells you to cut off ignorance immediately and manifest the Dharma-nature.

In the dark dwelling of defilements,
Always produce the sunlight of wisdom.

Having affliction, you are in a dark room, but having wisdom, you are out in the dazzling sunlight.

The deviant comes and affliction arrives,
The right comes and affliction goes.

Today I will give you a little basic Dharma. If I never say it, you will never know. Deviant refers to the arousing of sexual desire. Do not take it as happiness; it is an affliction.

What is “right” is Prajna wisdom. Genuine wisdom breaks through ignorance and casts out affliction.

The false and true both cast aside,
In clear purity the state of no residue is attained.

This is Nirvana without residue. You say, “The verse says,‘The false and true both cast aside’– I’ll ignore both of them!” If you ignore them, you are still in the dark dwelling. When you have transcended the deviant and the right, then they have nouse. There is only “right” because there is “deviant;” there is only “deviant” because there is “right.” When neither one exists, that is clear purity, Nirvana without residue.

Bodhi is the original self-nature;
Giving rise to a thought is wrong.

Do not seek Bodhi outside yourself. The enlightenment nature is already complete within the Prajna wisdom of your self-nature. Nevertheless you still give rise to false thoughts. Originally, in clear and pure Nirvana without residue, there is no-thought, no recollection, and no falseness. It is complete in samadhi, morality, and wisdom.

The pure mind is within the false:
Only the right is without the three obstructions.

The pure mind is within the false, like water in the ice; the ice has the potential to become water.

In order to separate yourself from the three obstacles, you need only cultivate and uphold the right Dharma. The three obstacles are the karma obstacle, that is, all the karma you have created in past lives and in the present one; the retribution obstacle, that is, your body, which undergoes the obstructive effects of your karma; and the affliction obstacle, that is, all your troubles and worries.

If people in the world practice the Way,
They are not hindered by anything.

You can realize the Way by success in any Dharma-door at all. But first you must understand the true Dharma. Then you can cultivate it walking, standing, sitting, or lying down, with no obstacles whatsoever.

By constantly seeing their own transgressions,
They are in accord with the Way.

Mind your own business. Don’t watch other people, like a camera which can only take pictures of what is outside, but can’t take pictures of itself. You say, “That person is bad! He drinks, smokes, and takes drugs. No one can teach him. He steals! He kills! Just look at him!” You talk nothing but big talk; you only criticize others. You never ask yourself, “Did I kill today? Did I steal? Did I have deviant thoughts of lust? Did I lie or drink?” You never turn the light inward because you are too busy shining it outside.

If you wish to practice the Way, you should cultivate yourself and see your own faults. Then you will be in accord with the Way.

The Sixth Patriarch’s verse is excellent. It is profound, deep, and of inexhaustible use. It is simple and clear: anyone can understand it. If you can understand the meaning, and memorize it as well, it will greatly aid your cultivation.

Each kind of form has its own way
Without hindering one another;

Everything which has a shape and an appearance is a kind of form. While dwelling in forms, if you are able to wake up and understand, to cut off desire and cast out love and be unattached to the forms, then you will naturally possess the Way. You need not look for it anywhere else.

Leaving the Way to seek another way
To the end of life is not to see the Way.

If you understand and are unconfused by forms, then there is no difficulty and no annoyance. But if you leave the Way, saying, “This is not the Way. I am going to find another way,” you are just adding a head on top of a head.

If you see what happens and understand,
you can transcend the world.
If you see what happens and are confused
you fall beneath the wheel.

If you become confused and give rise to view delusion, you fall into the dust of external states and objects and to the end of your life you will not see the Way.

A frantic passage through a life,
Will bring regret when it comes to its end.
Wishing for a vision of the true Way,
Right practice is the way.

When you arrive at the Way, everything you do from morning to night is in accord with Dharma. You do right and proper things, not deviant things. If you leave your daily activities and look elsewhere for the Way, your whole life will be suffering and when you are old you will have regrets. “I have wasted my life!” you will say. “If only I hadn’t drunk so much wine, I wouldn’t be so stupid now. If only I hadn’t gambled, Iwouldn’t be so poor. If someone had just told me, I could have cultivated. But I never met a Good Knowing Advisor.”

You met a Good Knowing Advisor, but you didn’t recognize him. His teaching passed by like the wind–in one ear and out the other. You never reformed your own faults and you never corrected your bad habits and so, at the end, you have regrets.

Cultivate properly. Do not criticize others and wash their clothes for them, saying, “This person’s clothes are filthy! I’d better wash them. And look at him! He’s jealous. He’s afraid others are going to be better than he is.” This is called, “washing other people’s clothes.”

If you don’t have a mind for the Way,
You walk in darkness, blind to the Way.

If you only do things in darkness, if you only do things which you do not wish others to see, you are not practicing the Way.

If you truly walk the Way,
You are blind to the faults of the world.

There are those who say, “The Dharma-ending age is really bad! There is no more Dharma. Cultivators do not give proof to the fruit.” Why don’t you give proof to the fruit? The Dharma itself has no “right,” “image” or “ending” age. If you cultivate the right Dharma, you live in the right Dharma age. If you do not see the faults of the world, but see all living beings as the Buddha, then you yourself are Buddha. If you see all living beings as demons, then you are a demon.

If you attend to others’ faults,
Your fault-finding itself is wrong:

Does the Buddha look at other people’s faults? No. The Buddha sees all living beings as Buddhas.

Others’ faults I do not treat as wrong;
My faults are my own transgressions.

If he is wrong, do not follow his example. If he is wrong, do not join him and do not see his errors. Have great compassion for everyone. Be merciful. Say, “These living beings are indeed pitiful! I vow to take them all to Buddhahood.”

Simply cast out the mind that finds fault,
Once cast away, troubles are gone;
When hate and love don’t block the mind,
Stretch out both legs and lie down.

“I really love him!” you say. “I would gladly give up my life for him.” This is all just emotion. If you truly had the compassionate heart to love and protect all beings, you would say, “I vow to take him to Buddhahood. If he does not realize Buddhahood, I will not realize Buddhahood.”

Today someone asked to formally become a Buddhist by taking refuge in the Triple Jewel, the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha. After taking refuge you must follow the rules. Those who believe in the Buddha should not be as they were before. If they are, others will say, “He is a Buddhist, but he still has his same old life-style. He hasn’t changed.” Therefore I have made this vow: if those who have taken refuge with me do not realize Buddhahood, I will just wait here for them. You must realize Buddhahood before I do. I have no other method. If you take refuge, you should cultivate a little faster. Don’t make me wait for you. I will wait a long time, but eventually I may dislike it and say, “I will wait no longer. I’m finished. This is it!”

“Stretch out both legs and lie down.” This appeals to lazy people! However, this is not laziness or sleep. It represents freedom. Unchained, unshackled, unfettered, and free, you “leave upside-down dream-thinking far behind and attain ultimate Nirvana.” Do not interpret the Sixth Patriarch’s Sutra as saying that you should stretch out both legs and go to sleep.

If you hope and intend to transform others,
You must perfect expedient means;

To practice expedient means, one must know what Dharma should be spoken to what living being. For that one must be unattached.

Don’t cause them to have doubts, and then 
Their self-nature will appear.

Do not cause living beings who hear this Dharma to disbelieve, and you will then be able to use the brilliant wisdom of your own nature.

The Buddhadharma is here in the world;
Enlightenment is not apart from the world.

The Buddhadharma includes both mundane and transcendental dharma. Buddhadharma is in the midst of the world and yet transcends the world. There is no awakening and no Prajna wisdom apart from the world.

To search for Bodhi apart from the world
Is like looking for a hare with horns.

Do you think you can find a rabbit with horns? There is no such thing. If you separate yourself from worldly things to seek the transcendental dharma elsewhere, that is like looking for a rabbit with horns.

Right views are transcendental:
Deviant views are all mundane.

Right views are enlightenment. To what is one enlightened? To the fact that sexual desire must be cut off–that is transcendental dharma. Deviant views are mundane views. When you casually follow your desires, yielding to them instead of causing them to yield to you, you are holding to deviant and mundane views.

Deviant and right completely destroyed:
The Bodhi nature appears spontaneously.

When neither the deviant nor the right remain, the Bodhi nature is spontaneously manifest. You need not look for the Bodhi nature anywhere else.

This verse is the Sudden Teaching
Also called the Great Dharma Boat.

This verse is the verse of sudden enlightenment and the Dharma-door of realizing Buddhahood. It is called the Great Dharma Boat because it can ferry all living beings from the shore of birth and death across the current of affliction to the other shore of Nirvana.

Hear in confusion, pass through ages,
In an instant’s space, enlightenment.

If you are deluded, many ages may pass before you become enlightened. If you are on the verge of enlightenment and can put down every one of your desires, you can suddenly become enlightened in the space of an instant. If you truly, truly understand, you can open enlightenment instantly.


The Master said further, “In the Ta Fan Temple I have just now spoken the Sudden Teaching, making the universal vow that all living beings of the Dharma-realm will see their nature and realize Buddhahood as they hear these words.”

Then among Magistrate Wei and the officials, Taoists and lay-people who heard what the Master said, there were none who did not awaken. Together they made obeisance and exclaimed with delight, “Good indeed! Who would have thought that in Ling Nan a Buddha would appear in the world?”


After they heard the markless verse, they said, “Ah! This is really fine! Who would have imagined that in Ling Nan a Buddha would appear in the world?