A Commentary by the Venerable Master Hsuan Hua


Chapter 7



The Master obtained the Dharma at Huang Mei and returned to Ts’ao HouVillage in Shao Chou where no one knew him. But Liu Chih Liao, a scholar, received him with great courtesy. Chih Liao’s aunt, Bhikshuni Wu Chin Tsang, constantly recited the Mahaparinirvana Sutra. When the Master heard it, he instantly grasped its wonderful principle and explained it to her. The Bhikshuni then held out a scroll and asked about some characters. 

The Master said, “I cannot read; please ask about the meaning.”

“If you cannot even read, how can you understand the meaning?” asked the Bhikshuni.

The Master replied, “The subtle meaning of all Buddhas is not based on language.”

The Bhikshuni was startled and she announced to all the elders and virtuous ones in the village: “Here is a gentleman who possesses the Way. We should ask him to stay and receive our offerings.” Ts’ao Shu Liang, great-grandson of the Marquis Wu of the Wei dynasty, came rushing to pay homage, along with the people of the village.

At that time the pure dwellings of the ancient Pao Lin Temple, which had been destroyed by war and fire at the end of the Sui dynasty, were rebuilt on their old foundation. The Master was invited to stay and soon the temple became a revered place. He dwelt there a little over nine months when he was once again pursued by evil men.

The Master hid in the mountain in the front of the temple, and when they set fire to the brush and trees, he escaped by crawling into a rock to hide. The rock still bears the imprints of the Master’s knees and of his robe where he sat in lotus posture. Because of this it is called “The Rock of Refuge.” Remembering the Fifth Patriarch’s instructions to stop at Huai and hide at Hui, he went to conceal himself in those two cities.


After receiving the mind-seal Dharma from the Fifth Patriarch Hung Jen, the Sixth Patriarch returned to Shao Chou. He thereupon went to Ts’ao Hou Village, the present day Shao Kuan in Chü Chiang District. When he arrived in the vicinity of Nan Hua Temple, which before had been Pao Lin Temple, no one knew that he was the one who held the robe and bowl.

Liu Chih Liao was a wealthy retired official who enjoyed studying the Buddhadharma. He welcomed the Master reverently and made offerings to him. Chih Liao and his aunt, Bhikshuni Wu Chin Tsang, “limitless treasury,” were the Sixth Patriarch’s great Dharma protectors. Wu Chin Tsang liked to recite the Mahaparinirvana Sutra. This Sutra, in ten volumes, was spoken by the Buddha just before he went to Nirvana. Hearing the recitation, the Sixth Patriarch understood the subtle principle and explained it to the Bhikshuni. Probably she couldn’t read very well, because she asked the Master, “What is this word?”

“Do you mean you can’t read it?” said the Master.

“No, I can’t,” she said.

“Well, I can’t either!” said the Master, “But if you ask about the meaning I can explain it for you.”

“If you can’t even read it, how can you know what it means?” she asked.

The Master said, “The Buddha’s heart, the mind-Dharma, the wonderful principle of Sudden Enlightenment, has nothing to do with words. Instead, it points directly to the mind so that we can see our own nature and become Buddhas. Since it is not based on language it doesn’t matter whether you can read.”

Bhikshuni Wu Chin Tsang thought that was very strange indeed. She told everyone in the village, “Here is a gentleman who has the Way! He is a virtuous Dharma Master. He may not be able to read, but he’s enlightened, so we should make offerings to him.”

Although she didn’t know a lot of characters, Wu Chin Tsang was nevertheless an incredible Bhikshuni. She ate one meal a day and never lay down to sleep, because she knew that the Fourth Patriarch recommended these practices. Although her family was wealthy, she kept the precept of never holding money. She studied and recited Sutras industriously, and when the time came, she died sitting up in meditation. Many days, many years have passed and her body still has not decayed. Because she was vigorous and worked hard at cultivation and had no sexual desire, her flesh transformed into indestructible vajra. I saw the body in a temple in Chü Chiang. It is truly awesome.

Among the villagers who paid homage to the Great Master was the great-grandson of Marquis Wu. Marquis Wu was very intelligent. He was, in fact, as clever as a fox. He was a genius, but he had a tendency to be jealous.

Bhikshuni Wu Chin Tsang promoted the Sixth Patriarch: “Do you know who he is?” she would say, “He’s the rightful successor to the Fifth Patriarch! He holds the robe and bowl.”

One flower may be beautiful, but it looks much better surrounded by greenery. If no one had protected him, the Sixth Patriarch would surely have been murdered by Shen Hsiu’s gang, or those of other religions. His Dharma assembly flourished because his disciples and laypeople such as Bhikshuni Wu Chin Tsang and her nephew, Liu Chih Liao, the scholar, guarded and protected him. Vinaya Master T’ung Ying also brought several hundred of his students to study with the Master, and each student told his friends to come. So every day for lunch there were between 1,500 and 2,000 people, seven or eight hundred of whom were members of the Sangha.

Everyone made heartfelt offerings to help rebuild Nan Hua Temple. Some gave ten thousand ounces of silver, some gave a million. They asked the Master to live there and before long it was a great Bodhimanda, big enough for several thousand people.

A little over nine months later, several hundred of Shen Hsiu’s men left Huang Mei, passing through the Ta Yü mountain range on their way to Nan Hua Temple. They traveled for over two months. If they hadn’t been intent on killing the Master and stealing the robe and bowl, they would have given up after a couple of days. Think it over: Sixteen or seventeen years had passed since the transmission, and the Master had only been staying at Nan Hua for nine months when the evil men returned. It’s not easy to be a Patriarch, unless you are a phony. Real Patriarchs live in great danger.

The Sixth Patriarch had spiritual powers and he knew that not just one or two, but several hundred men were after him. He hid in the “Rock of Refuge” which is just big enough to hold one person sitting in meditation. The evil men mingled in with the large crowd and stealthily set fire to the mountain. They burned off the entire area, but never found the Master. While hiding, the Master probably meditated with great intensity because the texture of his robe and the marks of his knees can still be seen imprinted in the rock. When I was at Nan Hua Temple I sat in the rock for a time, but I wasn’t seeking refuge, I was just trying it out. When you sit inside it, no one can see you.

Bhikshu Fa Hai


When Bhikshu Fa Hai of Chü Chiang city in Shao Chou first called on the Patriarch, he asked, “Will you please instruct me on the sentence, ‘Mind is Buddha’?”

The Master said, “When one’s preceding thoughts are not produced this is mind and when one’s subsequent thoughts are not extinguished this is Buddha. The setting up of marks is mind, and separation from them is Buddha. Were I to explain it fully, I would not finish before the end of the present age.

“Listen to my verse:

When the mind is called wisdom, 
Then the Buddha is called concentration. 
When concentration and wisdom are equal. 
The intellect is pure.

Understand this Dharma teaching 
By practicing within your own nature. 
The function is basically unproduced; 
It is right to cultivate both.”

At these words, Fa Hai was greatly enlightened and spoke a verse in praise

This mind is basically Buddha; 
By not understanding I disgrace myself. 
I know the cause of concentration and wisdom 
Is to cultivate both and separate myself from all things.


Bhikshu Fa Hai, also called Wen Yün, compiled and edited the Platform Sutra from the Sixth Patriarch’s lectures. Although I dare not say that he liked to be first, when he wrote this chapter he certainly thought, “I am the Master’s number one great disciple!” and consequently wrote about himself first.

“Great Master,” said Fa Hai, “I don’t understand the sentence ‘This mind is Buddha.’ Please explain it.”

“Do not produce the former thought,” said the Master, “and just that is mind. Do not extinguish the latter thought and just that is Buddha. With neither production nor extinction, the mind itself is Buddha. All appearances are set up by the mind, and if you can set up all appearances and be separate from them, that is Buddha.”

The mind is called wisdom and the Buddha is called concentration. When concentration and wisdom are equal, the mind is Buddha and Buddha is the mind. They are one substance. When thought is pure, then wisdom and concentration, mind and Buddha, are equal. If you understand the Sudden Teaching you know that the Buddha is not separate from the mind and the mind is not separate from the Buddha; concentration is not separate from wisdom and wisdom is not separate from concentration.

You don’t understand because you have accumulated bad habits for many ages. The wonderful function of the self-nature is basically unproduced and undestroyed, so when you cultivate the mind, you cultivate the Buddha; when you cultivate the Buddha, you cultivate the mind. The same applies to concentration and wisdom. You should cultivate them equally.

When you don’t understand, there are two: mind and Buddha, When you understand you know that they are originally one. In cultivating concentration and wisdom, you should separate yourself from all marks.

Bhikshu Fa Ta


Bhikshu Fa Ta of Hung Chou left home at age seven and constantly recited the Dharma Flower Sutra, but when he came to bow before the Patriarch, his head did not touch the ground. The Master scolded him, saying, “If you do not touch the ground, isn’t it better not to bow? There must be something on your mind. What do you practice?”

“I have recited the Dharma Flower Sutra over three thousand times,” he replied.

The Master said, “I don’t care if you have recited it ten thousand times. If you understood the Sutra’s meaning, you would not be so overbearing, and you could walk along with me. You have failed in your work and do not even recognize your error.

Listen to my verse:

As bowing is basically to cut off arrogance, 
Why don’t you touch your head to the ground? 
When you possess a self, offenses arise, 
But forgetting merit brings supreme blessings.”

The Master asked further, “What is your name?”

“Fa Ta,” he replied.

The Master said, “Your name means ‘Dharma Penetration,’ but what Dharma have you penetrated?” He then spoke a verse:

Your name means Dharma Penetration, 
And you earnestly recite without pause to rest. 
Recitation is mere sound, 
But one who understands his mind is called a Bodhisattva. 
Now, because of your karmic conditions, 
I will explain it to you: 
Believe only that the Buddha is without words 
And the lotus blossom will bloom from your mouth. 


Dharma Masters Fa Hai (Dharma Sea) and Fa Ta (Dharma Penetration) both received the Sixth Patriarch’s Dharma. Fa Ta left home at age seven and constantly recited the Lotus Sutra, but when he met the Patriarch he didn’t bow properly, he just pretended. He had to make some sort of show of it since everybody knew that the Great Master held Huang Mei’s robe and bowl. But the most respect he could muster was to throw himself hastily on the ground, without even touching his head to the floor, and in his heart he felt that his own merit certainly was greater than the Master’s. “After all,” he thought, “I’ve recited the Sutra over three thousand times.” When Fa Ta saw ordinary people, he couldn’t even manage a half bow. He was like a rich snob who only sees other rich snobs and looks down on everyone else. The Sixth Patriarch took one look and knew that Fa Ta had something on his mind.

The Lotus Sutra is seven volumes long and, reciting quickly, you could read through it once in a day, or three hundred and sixty-five times a year. Therefore Fa Ta had been reciting it for over ten years.

“I don’t care if you’ve recited it ten thousand times!” said the Master. “If you really understood it you wouldn’t revel in your own merit and could study with me. Not everyone can study with a Patriarch, you know. If you have obstructions and afflictions, he may not want you.”

Therefore, if you come to study here but break the rules, you are not welcome. In order to cultivate with me you must offer up your conduct in accord with the teaching.

“So many recitations,” said the Master, “and you still don’t know how conceited you are! No doubt you think your merit is even greater than mine. Such pride is an offense. But if you could forget your merit and consider your three thousand recitations as no recitations, then your merit would be limitless and boundless.”

“Speak up, Dharma Penetration!” the Master continued, “What Dharma have you penetrated?”

Fa Ta was speechless.

“Not bad,” the Master said, “You work hard. However, your recitation is of no benefit because you don’t understand what the Sutra means. If you could only understand your mind and see your nature, you would be a Bodhisattva. You have come all this way from Hung Chou because we have an affinity from circumstances in former lives. Now just believe that the Buddha is without words, and the lotus blossom will bloom from your mouth. Believe! The Buddha never said a thing, and if you recite without understanding the principle, you are wasting your time.”

The Diamond Sutra says,

One who sees me by form 
Or seeks me in sound,
Walks a deviant path 

Not seeing the Tathagata. 

The Buddha taught for forty-nine years in over three hundred Dharma assemblies, but when he was about to enter Nirvana and his disciples asked him about the Sutras, he said, “I never said a word.” Was he lying?

The Sixth Patriarch also taught that the Buddha said nothing, and if you believe this the Lotus will bloom from your mouth. But how does one obtain such rare faith?

The Sutra’s principles exist in the minds of people; they can be spoken by you; they can be spoken by me. Everyone has this wisdom and everyone can speak the Sutras. The Buddha spoke the Sutras for living beings and the Sutras flow from the minds of living beings. Therefore the Buddha spoke without speaking. This means that you should not be attached to Dharma or to emptiness. Nevertheless, you cannot say, “I don’t know any Dharma. I’m empty!”

To understand that the Buddha spoke and yet did not speak is the most difficult and yet the easiest thing one can do. Can you do it? If you can, the Buddha has not spoken. If you cannot, then the Buddha has said too much.


Hearing the verse, Fa Ta was remorseful and he said, “From now on I will respect everyone. Your disciple recites the Dharma Flower Sutra but has not yet understood its meaning. His mind often has doubts. High Master, your wisdom is vast and great. Will you please explain the general meaning of the Sutra for me?”

The Master said, “Dharma Penetration, the Dharma is extremely penetrating, but your mind does not penetrate it. There is basically nothing doubtful in the Sutra. The doubts are in your own mind. You recite this Sutra, but what do you think its teaching is?”

Fa Ta said, “This student’s faculties are dull and dim. Since I have only recited it by rote, how could I understand its doctrine?”

The Master said, “I cannot read, but if you take the Sutra and read it once, I will explain it to you.”

Fa Ta recited loudly until he came to the “Analogies Chapter.” The Master said, “Stop! This Sutra fundamentally is based on the principles underlying the causes and conditions of the Buddha’s appearance in the world. None of the analogies spoken go beyond that. What are the causes and conditions?

The Sutra says, ‘All Buddhas, the World-Honored Ones, appear in the world for the causes and conditions of the One Important Matter.’ The One Important Matter is the knowledge and vision of the Buddha. Worldly people, deluded by the external world, attach themselves to marks, and deluded by the inner world, they attach themselves to emptiness. If you can live among marks and yet be separate from it, then you will be confused by neither the internal nor the external. If you awaken to this Dharma, in one moment your mind will open to enlightenment. The knowledge and vision of the Buddha is simply that.

The Buddha is enlightenment. There are four divisions:

  1. Opening to the enlightened knowledge and vision;
  2. Demonstrating the enlightened knowledge and vision;
  3. Awakening to the enlightened knowledge and vision; and
  4. Entering the enlightened knowledge and vision.

If you listen to the opening and demonstrating (of the Dharma), you can easily awaken and enter. That is the enlightened knowledge and vision, the original true nature becoming manifest. Be careful not to misinterpret the Sutra by thinking that the opening, demonstrating, awakening, and entering of which it speaks is the Buddha’s knowledge and vision and that we have no share in it. To explain it that way would be to slander the Sutra and defame the Buddha.

Since he is already a Buddha, perfect in knowledge and vision, what is the use of his opening to it again? You should now believe that the Buddha’s knowledge and vision is simply your own mind, for there is no other Buddha.

“But, because living beings cover their brilliance with greed and with the love of states of defilement, external conditions and inner disturbance make slaves of them. That troubles the World-Honored One to rise from Samadhi, and with various reproaches and expedients, he exhorts living beings to stop and rest, not to seek outside themselves, and to make themselves the same as he is. That is called ‘opening the knowledge and vision of the Buddha.’ I, too, am always exhorting all people to open to the knowledge and vision of the Buddha within their own minds.

“The minds of worldly people are deviant. Confused and deluded, they commit offenses. Their speech may be good, but their minds are evil. They are greedy, hateful, envious, given over to flattery, deceit, and arrogance. They oppress one another and harm living creatures, thus they open not the knowledge and vision of Buddhas but that of living beings. If you can with an upright mind constantly bring forth wisdom, contemplating and illumining your own mind, and if you can practice the good and refrain from evil, you, yourself will open to the knowledge and vision of the Buddha.

“In every thought you should open up to the knowledge and vision of the Buddha; do not open up to the knowledge and vision of living beings. To be open to the knowledge and vision of the Buddha is transcendental; to be open to the knowledge and vision of living beings is mundane. If you exert yourself in recitation, clinging to it as a meritorious exercise, how does that make you different from a yak who loves his own tail?”


To be unconfused, be unattached. Do not get attached to emptiness or fall into existence. If you suddenly awaken to this dharma your heart will open to the knowledge and vision of the Buddha.

If you listen to opening and demonstrating, that is, to instruction on the principles of the Sutras, you can easily wake up and understand the enlightened knowledge and vision. The Buddha’s knowledge and vision is simply that of your own mind, because your mind fundamentally is the Buddha.

What darkens your light?

Thoughts of greed 
Create thoughts of love. 
Greed is dirt, 
And love defiled. 
The impurities 
Of greed and love 
Cause self-seeking 
And make you a slave.
By now you should 
Have become enlightened. 
Stop depending on 
Outer conditions 
Which only make trouble within. 
Without them there is 
No trouble: there is 
Peace and purity. 

There are many varieties of external conditions: eyes, ears, noses, tongues, bodies, and minds; forms, sounds, smells, tastes, tangible objects, and objects of the mind; and the six consciousnesses where sense-organs and sense-objects meet. When you seek outside yourself, your mind is not at peace; you are upset and anxious, and your mind, originally the master, becomes the body’s slave. The Buddhas trouble themselves to arise from Samadhi just to tell you not to seek outside yourself. When you quit seeking outside, you are one with the Buddhas; you open up to their knowledge and vision and become just like them.

The deviant views and delusion of ordinary people causes them to perform offensive acts. While their speech may be as compassionate as the Buddha, their minds are as poisonous as a snake. Of the offenses they commit, greed, hate, and jealousy are the worst. But when they shine the light within and straighten out their own minds, they naturally are open to the knowledge and vision of the Buddha.


Fa Ta said, “If this is so, then I need only understand the meaning and need not exert myself in reciting the Sutra. Isn’t that correct?”

The Master replied, “What fault does the Sutra have that would stop you from reciting it? Confusion and enlightenment are in you. Loss or gain comes from yourself. If your mouth recites and your mind practices, you ‘turn’ the Sutra, but if your mouth recites and your mind does not practice, the Sutra ‘turns’ you. Listen to my verse:

When the mind is confused, 
the Dharma Flower turns it. 
The enlightened mind 
will turn the Dharma Flower.

Reciting the Sutra so long 
without understanding 
Has made you an enemy 
of its meaning.

Without a thought 
your recitation is right. 
With thought, 
your recitation is wrong.

With no “with” 
and no “without” 
You may ride forever 
in the White Ox Cart.

Fa Ta heard this verse and wept without knowing it. At the moment the words were spoken, he achieved a great enlightenment and said to the Master, “Until today I have never actually turned the Dharma Flower; instead it has turned me.”


If you are confused, your recitation is of no benefit, but if you are enlightened, there is merit. What does this have to do with the Sutra? If you recite the Sutra and put it into practice as well, you are truly reciting the Sutra and turning the Dharma wheel. You set the Dharma Flower spinning. But if you recite the Sutra with a confused mind, the reciting turns you around so that, the more recitation you do, the less you understand. After more than ten years of work, Fa Ta was still unclear; he was a stranger to the Sutra. Without false thoughts, recitation is a correct thing, but with arrogant thoughts and conceit about your merit and virtue, your recitation becomes deviant. You should pay no attention to having or not having merit, and recite as if not reciting. Do not be attached, and you will always ride in the White Ox Cart. The White Ox Cart is an analogy for The One Buddha Vehicle.

You ask, “If I recite as if not reciting, then may I not recite as if reciting?” If you don’t recite it, you cannot understand the Sutra’s principles, and it is not as if you were reciting it. The phrase:

Reciting as if not reciting, 
Not reciting as if reciting,

is to instruct you to be unattached. But you cannot say, “I’ll be unattached and forget about reciting the Sutra.”

After listening to the Master, Fa Ta wept without even knowing it, but it wasn’t because he had been bullied or tricked. Before, he had stupidly wasted his time reciting the Sutra without obtaining the slightest benefit. Now, at the Master’s explanation, he was so overcome with joy that he burst into tears, just like friends or relatives do when they meet after a long separation He cried because of his great enlightenment.


Fa Ta asked further, “The Lotus Sutra says, ‘If everyone from Shravakas up to the Bodhisattvas were to exhaust all their thought in order to measure the Buddha’s wisdom, they still could not fathom it.’ Now, you cause common people merely to understand their own minds, and you call that the knowledge and vision of the Buddha. Because of this, I am afraid that those without superior faculties will not be able to avoid doubting and slandering the Sutra. The Sutra also speaks of three carts. How do the sheep, deer, and ox carts differ from the White Ox Cart? I pray the High Master will once again instruct me.”

The Master said, “The Sutra’s meaning is clear. You yourself are confused. Disciples of all three vehicles are unable to fathom the Buddha’s wisdom; the fault is in their thinking and measuring. The more they think, the further away they go. From the start the Buddha speaks for the sake of common people, not for the sake of other Buddhas. Those who chose not to believe were free to leave the assembly. Not knowing that they were sitting in the White Ox Cart, they sought three vehicles outside the gate. What is more, the Sutra text clearly tells you ‘There is only the One Buddha Vehicle, no other vehicle, whether two or three, and the same is true for countless expedients, for various causes and conditions, and for analogies and rhetoric. All these Dharmas are for the sake of the One Buddha Vehicle.’”


The Lotus Sutra says,

If the world were filled 
With those like Shariputra 
Exhausting their thought to measure the Buddha’s wisdom, 
They couldn’t fathom it.

Fa Ta questioned the Master: “Shariputra was the wisest of the Buddha’s disciples. Now, if you filled the entire universe with Shariputras, and they all tried to fathom the Buddha’s wisdom, they wouldn’t be able to do it. Great Master, how can you say that when common people merely understand their own minds, they are open to the knowledge and vision of the Buddhas? I am afraid that unless one had supreme wisdom and good roots, one couldn’t avoid slandering the Sutra. Please be compassionate and tell me how the sheep and deer carts differ from the White Ox Cart.”

The Master said, “The Sutra is perfectly clear on this point. The Shravakas, Pratyekabuddhas and Bodhisattvas cannot know the Buddha’s wisdom simply because they do try to measure it. If their minds did not have such calculating thoughts, they could understand it.

The Buddha spoke Sutras for common people, not for other Buddhas. If you don’t believe the Sutras, you can get up and walk out as you please. What is more, there is only One Buddha Vehicle; there are no other vehicles, whether two (Shravakas and Pratyeka Buddhas) or three (Shravakas, Pratyeka Buddhas, and Bodhisattvas) or any number of parables, causes and conditions, and uncountable expedient devices: all are spoken for the sake of the One Buddha Vehicle.”


“Why don’t you wake up? The three carts are false, because they are preliminary. The one vehicle is real because it is the immediate present. You are merely taught to go from the false and return to the real. Once you have returned to reality, the real is also nameless. You should know that all the treasure and wealth is ultimately your own, for your own use. Do not think further of the father, nor of the son, nor of the use. That is called maintaining the Dharma Flower Sutra. Then from eon to eon your hands will never let go of the scrolls; from morning to night you will recite it unceasingly.”

Fa Ta received this instruction and, overwhelmed with joy, he spoke a verse:

Three thousand Sutra recitations: 
At Ts’ao Hsi not one single word. 
Before I knew why he appeared in the world, 
How could I stop the madness of accumulated births?
Sheep, deer, and ox provisionally set up; 
Beginning, middle, end, well set forth. 
Who would have thought that within the burning house
Originally the king of Dharma dwelt? 

The Master said, “From now on you may be called the monk mindful of the Sutra.” From then on, although he understood the profound meaning, Fa Ta continued to recite the Sutra unceasingly.


Once you have returned to the real vehicle, even the real is nameless; you should discard the notion of reality. All the treasure and wealth of the Buddhadharma is yours, originally. It is the wind and light of your homeland; use it as you wish. But do not think, “These were given to me by my father. I have received them as an inheritance.” You shouldn’t think of the father, the son, or the use: just use them, that’s all. That is genuine recitation of the Sutra. From the first to the last eon, your hands won’t set the text down and you will recite it from morning to night.

“Before I knew why the Buddha appeared in the world,” said Fa Ta, “I had no way to stop the karmic process of this mad mind. But now I know that the beginning Shravaka vehicle, the middle Pratyekabuddha Vehicle, and the Mahayana Bodhisattva vehicle are nothing but expedient devices. They are not real. Who would have guessed? Who would have guessed! Nobody! Why, it’s just right here in the flaming house of the triple world, the realm of desire, the realm of form, and the formless realm, that one can cultivate, realize Buddhahood and be a Great Dharma King!”

“Yes,” said the Master, “I see that you understand, and so now you have the right to be called a Sutra-reciting monk.”

Fa Ta understood the doctrine, but he did not make the mistake some people might have and think, “I understand it, so I don’t have to recite it. I have reached the level where I:

Recite and yet do not recite; 
Do not recite and yet recite. 

If this is the case, then can you:

Eat as if not eating, and 
Not eat as if eating; 


Steal as if not stealing, and 
Not steal as if stealing; 

or even

Kill as if not killing, and
Not kill as if killing?

Can you get away with this? Of course not! If you truly understand and are unattached to what you do, you will not babble intellectual zen and say that you recite without reciting. Before you can make that claim, you must first have reached that level of accomplishment.

Bhikshu Chih T’ung


Bhikshu Chih T’ung, a native of An Feng in Shao Chou, had read the Lankavatara Sutra over a thousand times but still did not understand the three bodies and the four wisdoms. He made obeisance to the Master, seeking an explanation of the meaning.

The Master said, “The three bodies are: the clear, pure Dharma-body, which is your nature; the perfect, full Reward-body, which is your wisdom; and the hundred thousand myriad Transformation bodies, which are your conduct. To speak of the three bodies as separate from your original nature is to have the bodies but not the wisdoms. To remember that the three bodies have no self-nature is to understand the four wisdoms of Bodhi. Listen to my verse:

Three bodies complete in your own self-nature 
When understood become four wisdoms. 
While not apart from seeing and hearing 
Transcend them and ascend to the Buddha realm.

I will now explain it for you. 
If you are attentive and faithful, you will never be deluded. 
Don’t run outside in search of them, 
By saying ‘Bodhi’ to the end of your days. 

Chih T’ung asked further, “May I hear about the meaning of the four wisdoms?”

The Master said, “Since you understand the three bodies, you should also understand the four wisdoms. Why do you ask again? To speak of the four wisdoms as separate from the three bodies is to have the wisdoms but not the bodies, in which case the wisdoms become non-wisdoms.” He then spoke this verse:

The wisdom of the great, perfect mirror 
Is your clear, pure nature. 
The wisdom of equal nature 
Is the mind without disease. 
Wonderfully observing wisdom 
Is seeing without effort. 
Perfecting wisdom is 
The same as the perfect mirror.

Five, eight, six, seven– 
Effect and cause both turn; 
Merely useful names: 
They are without real nature. 
If, in the place of turning, 
Emotion is not kept, 
You always and forever dwell 
In Naga concentration.


Bhikshu Chih T’ung studied the Lankavatara Sutra because Bodhidharma recommended it above all other texts for the Ch’an School. Although he had read it over a thousand times, he still had to ask the Master about the three bodies and the four wisdoms. The Master always teaches Dharma of and from self-nature.

“The clear, pure Dharma-body is your own original nature,” he said, “and the Reward-body is your wisdom. The transformation-bodies are your conduct, because you are what you do; you are transformed according to what you practice. If you try to explain the three bodies as something apart from your self-nature, you have the bodies, but not the wisdoms. But when you understand that the three bodies are devoid of self-nature, you possess the four wisdoms of Bodhi.

“When you understand that the three bodies are immanent in the self-nature, you realize the four wisdoms. Without being separated from the conditions of sight and hearing, you ascend directly to the Buddha-realm. Now, I have spoken this verse,” the Sixth Patriarch said, “and you must truly believe it. Then you will never again be confused like those people who go around saying ‘Bodhi, Bodhi, Bodhi’ all day long, but who never practice or understand Bodhi. Don’t chatter ‘head-mouth’ zen! You must truly understand the three bodies for it to count.

The Master continued, “Since you understand the three bodies, you should understand the four wisdoms as well. If you try to explain the four wisdoms as something apart from the three bodies, then although you know the name ‘four wisdoms’ you do not possess their actual substance or know their function. Your wisdoms are non-wisdoms.”

The Buddha has four wisdoms. The wisdom of the great, perfect mirror is the eighth consciousness (alayavijnana) when it has been transformed from consciousness into wisdom. The eighth consciousness is also called the “store” consciousness, because it stores up all the good and bad seeds you have planted in the past, all the good and bad things you have done in this and past lives. If you have planted good causes, you reap good effects; if you have planted bad causes, you reap bad effects. As the potential of all good and bad karma is stored in the eighth consciousness, it also comes to be called the “field of the eighth-consciousness,” because whatever you plant in it eventually sprouts.

When you are unable to use it, it is merely consciousness, but when you return to the root and go back to the source, the eighth consciousness is transmuted into the great perfect mirror wisdom, which in its essence is pure and undefiled.

The wisdom of equal nature is the seventh consciousness when it has been transformed from consciousness into wisdom. Before you understand, it is the seventh consciousness, but once you are enlightened, it is the wisdom of equal nature.

The seventh consciousness is also called the “transmitting consciousness” because it acts as a transmitter between the sixth and eighth consciousness. It is called “the wisdom of equal nature” because the minds of all Buddhas and living beings are equal when the latter’s consciousness have been transformed into wisdom. “The mind without disease” means that there is no obstruction, no jealousy, no greed, hate, or stupidity. Without these defilements the seventh consciousness is transmuted into the wisdom of equal nature.

The wonderful observing wisdom is the sixth consciousness when it has been transformed into wisdom. It is the wisdom of subtle observation. The sixth consciousness, what we think of as the ordinary mind, is the consciousness of discrimination; it discriminates good and evil, right and wrong, male and female. Such discrimination is not actually the work of intelligence, as it seems to be, but is merely a kind of consciousness. When you turn it into wisdom, it becomes wonderfully observing wisdom, which sees all realms without having to go through the process of discrimination. This wonderful observation is quite different from mere discriminative thoughts.

When certified Arhats wish to use the wonderful observing wisdom to know something, they must first sit quietly in meditation and intentionally observe, for unless they intentionally observe, their minds are no different from those of ordinary people. By intentionally observing, they can know the events of the past eighty thousand eons.

Perfecting wisdom comes from the transformation of the first five consciousnesses–eye, ear, nose, tongue, and body–into wisdom.

“Five, eight, six, seven–effect and cause both turn.” The five consciousnesses and the eighth consciousness are transformed in the period of reaping effects and the sixth and seventh are transformed in the period of planting causes. In transforming the consciousnesses into the four wisdoms, first turn the sixth and seventh in the period of planting causes, and next the eighth and five in the period of reaping effects.

“Merely useful names: they are without real nature.” Although they are said to be changed in the realms of causes and effects, there is nothing in reality which corresponds to them; they are merely names and nothing more.

“If, in the place of ‘turning,’ emotion isn’t kept;” if, in the place where your emotional feelings are being ‘turned’ you do not use your common mind and become caught up in the ‘turning…’

“You always and forever dwell in Naga concentration.” At all times you are in Naga samadhi. Naga means “dragon.” Dragons can magically appear in big or small bodies because they have a great deal of concentration. As Fa Hai tells us in his introduction to the Sutra, the Sixth Patriarch defeated a dragon by saying, “If you are really a magic dragon, you should be able to appear in a small body as well as a large one.” Then, when the dragon turned up in a small body the Master dared him to climb into his bowl. As the little dragon had a big temper and much ignorance, he jumped at the dare; but when he tried to jump out again, he couldn’t do it. The Master explained the Dharma to the dragon and the dragon then went to rebirth.

The dragon may have been constantly in samadhi, but he had not destroyed his ignorance and therefore lost his temper. “I’ll show you!” he said, “I’ll change my body into a little one right now!” If he had really been in samadhi he would have said, “You say I can’t appear in a small body? O.K. So what? I’ll just appear in this large one.” But he lost his concentration and was ‘turned,’ caught, and defeated by the Great Master.

Still, Naga samadhi is an inconceivable state. How do dragons get to be dragons? They study the Buddhadharma with mighty effort, morning to night, but they do not keep the precepts. “Precepts are for common people,” they say. “I’m extraordinary. I’m not in the same category as they are, and I do not have to keep precepts!” That’s how they turn into dragons.


Note: The transformation of consciousness into wisdom has been described. The teaching says, “The first five consciousnesses turned become the perfecting wisdom; the sixth consciousness turned becomes the wonderfully observing wisdom; the seventh consciousness turned becomes the wisdom of equal nature, the eighth consciousness turned becomes the wisdom of the great perfect mirror.”

Although the sixth and seventh are turned in the cause and the first five and the eighth in the effect, it is merely the names which turn. Their substance does not turn.


The above passage was not part of the original text, but was added later.


Instantly enlightened to the nature of wisdom, Chih T’ung submitted the following verse:

Three bodies are my basic substance, 
Four wisdoms my original bright mind. 
Body and wisdom in unobstructed fusion: 
In response to beings I accordingly take form. 
Arising to cultivate them is false movement. 
Holding to or pondering over them a waste of effort. 
Through the Master I know the wonderful principle, 
And in the end I lose the stain of names. 


Chih T’ung understood the function of the three bodies and the four wisdoms. “The three bodies are not to be found outside of my own body,” he said, “and the four wisdoms, too, are produced from my own bright, understanding mind. When the bodies and wisdoms interpenetrate, then I may dispense the Dharma in accord with the needs of living beings–in accord with external conditions and yet not changing; unchanging, and yet in accord with conditions. If you wonder, “How can I cultivate the three bodies and four wisdoms?” that is nothing but false thinking, false movement. The same is true of holding to them and being attached to them.

From beginning to end there is no stain of names. What is unstained by names is the original self-nature, which is untouched by worldly emotion. Unless you have no defilement, you cannot return to the root and go back to the source, which is undefiled.

Bhikshu Chih Ch’ang


Bhikshu Chih Ch’ang, a native of Kuei Hsi in Hsin Chou, left home when he was a child and resolutely sought to see his own nature. One day he called on the Master, who asked him, “Where are you from and what do you want?”

Chih Ch’ang replied, “Your student has recently been to Pai Feng Mountain in Hung Chou to call on the High Master Ta T’ung and receive his instruction on the principle of seeing one’s nature and realizing Buddhahood. As I have not yet resolved my doubts, I have come from a great distance to bow reverently and request the Master’s compassionate instruction.”

The Master said, “What instruction did he give you? Try to repeat it to me.”

Chih Ch’ang said, “After arriving there, three months passed and still I had received no instruction. Being eager for the Dharma, one evening I went alone into the Abbot’s room and asked him, ‘What is my original mind and original substance?’”

“Ta T’ung then said to me, ‘Do you see empty space?’

“‘Yes,’ I said, ‘I see it.’

“Ta T’ung said, ‘Do you know what appearance it has?’

“I replied, ‘Empty space has no form. How could it have an appearance?’

“Ta T’ung said, ‘Your original mind is just like empty space. To understand that nothing can be seen is called right seeing; to know that nothing can be known is called true knowing. There is nothing blue or yellow, long or short. Simply seeing the clear, pure original source, the perfect, bright enlightened substance, this is what is called ‘seeing one’s nature and realizing Buddhahood.’ It is also called ‘the knowledge and vision of the Tathagata.’

“Although I heard his instruction, I still do not understand and beg you, O Master to instruct me.”

The Master said, “Your former master’s explanation still retains the concepts of knowing and seeing; and that is why you have not understood. Now, I will teach you with a verse:

Not to see a single dharma still retains no-seeing, 
Greatly resembling floating clouds covering the sun. 
Not to know a single dharma holds to empty knowing, 
Even as a lightning flash comes out of empty space. 
This knowing and seeing arise in an instant. 
When seen wrongly, can expedients be understood? 
If, in the space of a thought, you can know your own error, 
Your own spiritual light will always be manifest. 


Bhikshu Chih Ch’ang left home at the early age of seven or eight. When he called on the Sixth Patriarch, the Master remembered his first meeting with the Fifth Patriarch, who had asked him, “Where are you from and what do you seek?”

“I’m from Hsin Chou,” the Master had said, “and I seek nothing but Buddhahood.”

“Hsin Chou people are barbarians,” the Fifth Patriarch had said. “How can you become a Buddha?”

“The Barbarian’s body and the High Master’s body are not the same,” countered the Sixth Patriarch, “but in the Buddha nature where is the distinction?”

Remembering this, the Sixth Patriarch asked Chih Ch’ang, “Where are you from? Just what do you think you’re doing?”

Chih Ch’ang had received instruction on seeing the nature and realizing Buddhahood, but he still had doubts. The Chinese word for doubts is literally “fox doubt” because foxes are wary of everything. When a fox walks across the ice, he takes a step, cocks his head, and listens: if the ice crackles he runs back to shore; if it does not, he keeps on walking and listening, walking and listening. Although foxes are extremely intelligent, they are full of doubts.

In his verse the Sixth Patriarch explains, “If you do not see a single dharma and the ten thousand dharmas all are empty, you still have the view of not seeing any dharmas; you still hold that view. This is just like floating clouds covering the sun, because if you truly do not see anything, you are free of the idea of not seeing.

“In the same way, if you don’t establish a single dharma and don’t know a single dharma, but still have the knowledge that you neither establish nor know dharmas, you still hold on to an empty, false kind of knowing. Your principles seem coherent, but knowing and seeing still remain. This is like the great void: originally there is nothing there, but suddenly there is a flash of lightning. Now, do you see, or not?

“This ‘knowing and seeing’ arise in an instant.” Your seeing nothing and your empty knowing, your view of not seeing and your knowledge of knowing nothing, are there before your eyes.

You should understand right this instant that you are wrong in holding to the idea of seeing nothing and knowing emptiness. Then your original wisdom, your original intelligence, your inherent Buddha nature which is the Tathagata’s Treasury will always be manifest.


Hearing the verse, Chih Ch’ang understood it with his heart and mind, and he composed this verse:

Without beginning, knowing and seeing arise. 
When one is attached to marks bodhi is sought out.
Clinging to a thought of enlightenment, 
Do I rise above my former confusion? 
The inherently enlightened substance of my nature 
Illuminates the turning twisting flow.
But had I not entered the Patriarch’s room, 

I’d still be running, lost between the two extremes. 


When Chih Ch’ang heard this verse, he put it all down. Having put it all down he didn’t say, “I put it all down!” If you put it down, put it down; don’t keep saying, “I put it down!” If you keep on saying that you’ve put it down, you haven’t really done it. If you truly have no knowledge or view and have returned to the root and gone back to the source, why do you keep a ‘knowing’ and a ‘viewing’?

Chih Ch’ang understood and spoke a wonderful verse: “Without beginning, knowing and seeing arise.” Without a head, without a tail, the idea of seeing nothing and the knowledge of emptiness arise from no beginning, without a causal basis or foundation. Though one is attached to marks, Bodhi is sought out. You should not be attached to marks, but now you have become attached to seeing nothing and knowing emptiness. Previously, when I explained “no-thought,” I said that if you think, “I have no thought,” just that is a thought. Isn’t it?

If you really are without thought, you are also without no-thought. The concept of no-thought is just another thought.

In Ch’an (Dhyana) meditation, when we reflect on the question, “Who is reciting the Buddha’s name?” we search for the “who” but don’t find it, because basically there is no “who.” But people can’t understand, and keep looking for a “self,” saying “Who?” In your search, do not be attached to marks; do not be attached to the mark of self when you seek Bodhi.

When you think, “I’m seeing emptiness and there is nothing at all!” you still have the thought of knowing; you still have the thought of seeing, and you don’t overcome your confusion. This is certainly not enlightenment.

“The inherently enlightened substance of my nature illuminates the turning, twisting flow.” The basic substance of the self-nature, which is enlightened from the beginning, is in accord with the shift and flow of external conditions, and yet it does not change. Understanding this, Chih Ch’ang finds the middle way between the “two extremes” of ‘seeing’ nothing and ‘knowing’ emptiness.


One day Chih Ch’ang asked the Master, “The Buddha taught the dharma of the three vehicles and also the Supreme Vehicle. Your disciple has not yet understood that and would like to be instructed.”

The Master said, “Contemplate only your own original mind and do not be attached to the marks of external dharmas. The Dharma doesn’t have four vehicles; it is people’s minds that differ. Seeing, hearing, and reciting is the small vehicle. Awakening to the Dharma and understanding the meaning is the middle vehicle. Cultivating in accord with Dharma is the great vehicle. To penetrate the ten thousand dharmas entirely and completely while remaining without defilement, and to sever attachment to the marks of all the dharmas with nothing whatsoever gained in return: that is the Supreme Vehicle. Vehicles are methods of practice, not subjects for debate. Cultivate on your own and do not ask me, for at all times your own self-nature is itself ‘thus.’”

Chih Ch’ang bowed and thanked the Master and served him to the end of the Master’s life.


The Master said, “Chih Ch’ang, the Dharma doesn’t even have one vehicle, much less four! People’s minds are what differ. If you see, hear, and recite, you belong to the small vehicle; if you understand and awaken, you belong to the middle vehicle; if you practice in accord with the Dharma, you belong to the great vehicle. When you understand all dharmas, when they are perfected in your own mind without any obstruction, and when you know that the ten thousand dharmas are the mind and the mind is the ten thousand dharmas, and further when you are not defiled by any state, then you belong to the Supreme Vehicle. But you must cultivate on your own; I can’t do it for you.

Eat your own food and fill yourself;
End your own birth and death. 

From that time on, Chih Ch’ang served the Master. When he wanted a cup of tea, Chih Ch’ang brought it for him; when he was hungry, Chih Ch’ang brought him food. He served the Master right up until the Master’s death, at which time he left Nan Hua Temple.

Bhikshu Chih Tao


Bhikshu Chih Tao, a native of Nan Hai in Kuang Chou, asked a favor: “Since leaving home, your student has studied the Nirvana Sutra for over ten years and has still not understood its great purport. I hope that the High Master will bestow his instruction.”

The Master said, “What point haven’t you understood?”

Chih Tao replied,

“All activities are impermanent, 
Characterized by production and extinction; 
When production and extinction are extinguished,
That still extinction is bliss. 

My doubts are with respect to this passage.”


Once in the past, during the period when Shakyamuni Buddha was cultivating to plant causes for the attainment of Buddhahood, he was a Brahman. Deep in the mountains he cultivated many Dharma doors so heroically that the god Shakra was moved and said, “He works so hard! I wonder if I can break him?” and he transformed himself into a rakshasa ghost to test the Brahman. He told him, “The Buddha known as ‘Free from Fear’ said, ‘All activities are impermanent, characterized by production and extinction.’”

“Who said that?” said the Brahman.

The rakshasa ghost, who was hideously ugly, appeared and said, “I was just quoting a verse spoken by the Buddha who is free from fear.”

“But you didn’t recite the entire verse, only the first half. Please complete it,” said the Brahman.

“I don’t have the energy because I haven’t eaten for several days. Find me something to eat and I will speak it for you,” the ghost said.

“What would you like?” asked the Brahman.

“I don’t eat anything but fresh, warm, human meat,” said the ghost.

“In that case,” replied the Brahman, “you may speak the verse and then I will give you my own body to eat.”

The ghost stared at him. “Can you really do such an awesome deed? Can you really give up your body for half a verse?”

“I speak the truth; I do not lie,” said the Brahman, “and if you don’t believe me I can ask the Buddhas of the ten directions to bear testimony to the fact. Now, recite the verse and then I will feed you.”

The ghost quickly recited, “‘All activities are impermanent, characterized by production and extinction; When production and extinction are extinguished, that still extinction is bliss.’ Now give me your body!”

“Wait a minute,” said the Brahman. “Once you have eaten me there will be nothing left of the verse unless I write it down. Let me carve it on this tree so that future generations may cultivate according to it.” Then he stripped the bark from a tree and carved the verse on its trunk.

The ghost said, “Can I eat you now?”

“Just a minute…” said the Brahman.

“So you’re backing out, are you?” the ghost said.

“No, I’m not,” said the Brahman, “but what I have written on the tree will eventually be worn away by the wind and rain. I want to carve the verse in stone so that it will last forever. I’ll gladly give you my body, but I must also leave the Buddhadharma for those of the future.”

“Not a bad idea,” said the ghost.

The Brahman carved the words in stone and said, “All right, I’ve done what I had to do. I give my body to you as an offering. You may eat me now,” and he shut his eyes and waited for the ghost to devour him. But just then the ghost flew up into empty space, transformed himself back into Shakra and said, “Very good! Very good! You are a true cultivator, one who gives up his own body for the sake of the Buddha Way. In the future you are sure to become a Buddha!”

This is an event in a former life of Shakyamuni Buddha, when, as a Brahman, he offered his life for half a verse.


The Master said, “What are your doubts?”

“All living beings have two bodies,” Chih Tao replied, “the physical body and the Dharma-body. The physical body is impermanent and is produced and destroyed. The Dharma-body is permanent and is without knowing or awareness. The Sutra says that the extinction of production and extinction is bliss, but I do not know which body is in tranquil extinction and which receives the bliss.

“How could it be the physical body which receives the bliss? When this physical body is extinguished, the four elements scatter. That is total suffering and suffering cannot be called bliss. If the Dharma-body were extinguished it would become like grass, trees, tiles, or stones; then what would receive the bliss?

“Moreover, the Dharma-nature is the substance of production and extinction and the five heaps are the function of production and extinction. With one body having five functions, production and extinction are permanent; at the time of production, the functions arise from the substance, and at the time of extinction, the functions return to the substance. If there were rebirth then sentient beings would not cease to exist or be extinguished. If there were not rebirth, they would return to tranquil extinction and be just like insentient objects. Thus all dharmas would be suppressed by Nirvana and there would not even be production. How could there be bliss?”

The Master said, “You are a son of Shakya! How can you hold the deviant views of annihilationism and permanence which belongs to other religions and criticise the Supreme Vehicle Dharma! According to what you say, there is a Dharma-body that exists apart from physical form and a tranquil extinction to be sought apart from production and extinction. Moreover you propose that there is a body which enjoys the permanence and bliss of Nirvana. But that is to grasp tightly onto birth and death and indulge in worldly bliss.”


“Is it the physical body which is extinct and the Dharma body which receives the bliss?” Chih Tao wanted to know, “or is it the Dharma body which is extinct and the physical body which receives the bliss?

“How could it be the physical body which receives the bliss? The body is composed of the elements earth, air, fire, and water. At death, the elements scatter and that is a state of unspeakable suffering. You can’t call suffering happiness.”

“Hey!” said the Great Master, “you are a disciple of Shakyamuni Buddha. You have left home and are a member of the Sangha. How can you harbor the deviant views and deviant knowledge of non-Buddhist religions? You say that there is a Dharma-body apart from the physical body and its extinction and that there is a tranquil extinction apart from the process of production and extinction. Isn’t this what you’re saying? You also say that there is a body which enjoys the four virtues of Nirvana: permanence, bliss, true self, and purity. In fact, your theories are nothing but niggardly attachment to birth and death and worldly pleasure. Stuck in the mundane world, you cannot possibly know transcendental bliss.”


“You should now know that deluded people mistook the union of five heaps for their own bodies and discriminated dharmas as external to themselves. They loved life, dreaded death, and drifted from thought to thought, not knowing that this illusory dream is empty and false. They turned vainly around on the wheel of birth and death and mistook the permanence and bliss of Nirvana for a form of suffering. All day long they sought after something else.

“Taking pity on them, the Buddha made manifest in the space of an instant the true bliss of Nirvana, which has no mark of production or extinction; it has no production or extinction to be extinguished. That, then, is the manifestation of tranquil extinction. Its manifestation cannot be reckoned; it is permanent and blissful. The bliss has neither an enjoyer nor a non-enjoyer. How can you call it ‘one substance with five functions?’ Worse, how can you say that Nirvana suppresses all dharmas, causing them to be forever unproduced? That is to slander the Buddha and defame the Dharma.”


The Buddha spoke for those who thought that their bodies were actually made up of a union of the five heaps, and who thought dharmas were something external to themselves. They were attached to life and death because they didn’t know that everything is like a dream, a bubble, a lightning flash, or a dew drop–illusory. They underwent birth and death over and over again, uselessly and pitifully spinning on the wheel of the six paths of rebirth.

Some people thought that the wonderful virtues of Nirvana were a kind of suffering, but the Buddha mercifully revealed to them the true happiness of Nirvana, where there is no mark of production and no mark of extinction. Further, there is absolutely no extinction of production and extinction, because right within production and extinction there appears the state of non-production and non-extinction. That is the manifestation of tranquil extinction.

You can’t say that the manifestation of tranquil extinction is so long or so short, so high or so wide. It’s a kind of permanent happiness which is without an enjoyer or a non-enjoyer. If you would like to have this kind of happiness, you should know that there is no one who enjoys it or does not enjoy it. Why? It is the manifestation of the original self-nature.


“Listen to my verse:

Supreme, great Nirvana is bright 
Perfect, permanent, still and shining. 
Deluded common people call it death, 
Other teachings hold it to be annihilation. 
All those who seek two vehicles 
Regard it as non-action. 
Ultimately these notions arise from feeling, 
And form the basis for sixty-two views, 
Wrongly establishing unreal names. 
What is the true, real principle? 
Only one who has gone beyond measuring 
Penetrates without grasping or rejecting, 
And knows that the dharma of the five heaps 
And the self within the heaps, 
The outward appearances–a mass of images– 
The mark of every sound,
Are equally like the illusion of dreams, 
For him, views of common and holy do not arise 
Nor are explanations of Nirvana made. 
The two boundaries, the three limits are cut off. 
All organs have their function, 
But there never arises the thought of the function. 
All dharmas are discriminated 
Without a thought of discrimination arising. 
When the fire at the eon’s end 
burns the bottom of the sea 
And the winds blow the mountains 
against each other, 
The true, permanent, still extinct bliss, 
The mark of Nirvana is ‘thus.’ 
I have struggled to explain it, 
To cause you to reject your false views. 
Don’t understand it by words alone 
And maybe you’ll understand a bit of this.”

After hearing this verse, Chih Tao was greatly enlightened. Overwhelmed with joy, he made obeisance and withdrew.


The Sixth Patriarch said, “Listen. Great Nirvana is full, complete and bright. It’s permanent, unchanging, and constantly illuminating. Ordinary people say that it is death, and those of non-Buddhist religions say that it is annihilation. The two vehicles of the Shravakas and Pratyeka Buddhas think that it is non-action; that it is uncreated and arises spontaneously. But these are all discriminations which arise from emotion, and they form the basis of sixty-two wrong views. What are the sixty-two wrong views?

  1. The heap (skandha) is big and I am contained in the heap.
  2. I am big and the heap is contained in me.
  3. The heap itself is me.
  4. I am separate from the heap.

When each of the four above are applied to the five heaps– form, feelings, perceptions, impulses, and consciousness–they make twenty. The twenty multiplied by the three periods of time–past, present, and future–make sixty. Adding the two extremes of permanence and annihilation makes sixty-two. None of them are real; they are all empty and false.”

Then “what is the true real principle?” Only one who has gone beyond measuring penetrates without grasping at or rejecting them. Therefore he truly understands that the dharma of the five heaps and the self within those heaps, the marks of form and sound, are all like dreams, illusions, bubbles and shadows.

“For him, views of common and holy do not arise.” He doesn’t have the views of a common person, he doesn’t have the understanding of the sage, and he doesn’t try to explain the bliss of Nirvana. “The two boundaries, the three limits are cut off.” He is attached neither to the boundary of emptiness, nor to the boundary of existence. Therefore the three limits of the past, present, and future are cut off and he is not attached to them.

“All organs have their function, but there never arises the thought of the function.” The true suchness self-nature has the ability to function in accord with external conditions and yet not change. It’s responsiveness is inexhaustible and yet there is no thought of “Ah! I am functioning!” All “Dharmas are discriminated without a thought of discrimination arising.” You don’t think, “I am not making discriminations.” If you do think that, you have the mark of discrimination. To be truly without discrimination is to be without the mark of non-discrimination as well.

“When the fire at the end of the eon burns the bottom of the sea and the wind blows the mountains against each other:” At the end of an eon, there are three disasters: flood, fire, and wind. “The true permanent, still, extinct bliss, the mark of Nirvana is ‘thus.’” If you have attained true permanence and the bliss of tranquil extinction, then the mark of Nirvana is just as it was explained above, and the three disasters cannot affect you.

The Great Master concludes by saying that he has spoken the verse to encourage his listeners to cast aside their present knowledge and views. “When you no longer rely on the text in order to explain the Sutras,” he said, “I will grant that you understand just a little bit of what I’ve said.”

Bhikshu Hsing Szu 


Dhyana Master Hsing Szu was born into the Liu family, which lived in An Ch’eng district in Chi Chou. Hearing of the flourishing influence of the Ts’ao Hsi Dharma Assembly, Hsing Szu went directly there to pay homage and asked, “What is required to avoid falling into successive stages?”

The Master said, “What did you do before coming here?”

He replied, “I did not even practice the Holy Truths.”

The Master said, “Then into what successive states could you fall?”

He replied, “If one isn’t practicing the Four Holy Truths, what successive stages are there?”

The Master greatly admired his capacity and made him the leader of the assembly.

One day the Master said, “You should go elsewhere to teach. Do not allow the teaching to be cut off.”

Having obtained the Dharma, Hsing Szu returned to Ch’ing Yüan Mountain in Chi Chou, to propagate the Dharma and transform living beings. After his death he was given the posthumous title “Dhyana Master Hung Chi.”


Dhyana Master Hsing Szu walked and thought about things at the same time. What did he think about? Do you know? I know. He walked and thought, “Who is mindful of the Buddha? Who is mindful of the Buddha?” and so he was called Hsing Szu, “walking thinker.”

At that time the reputation of the Dharma Assembly at Ts’ao Hsi had spread all over China. Everyone knew that the person to whom the Fifth Patriarch had transmitted the robe and bowl was spreading the Dharma there. People “drift away from the empty and gather with the flourishing.” If there are only a few people in your place, it will soon be empty. For instance, here there are thirty people, but if there were only three or four people, soon they would all run away. The more people there are, the more will come from the outside. “There are a lot of people at the Buddhist Lecture Hall!” “Hippies who go there cut their hair and shave their beards. It’s inconceivable. There must be something happening there. Let’s go and see!”

The Dharma Assembly at Ts’ao Hsi flourished. “Gather with the flourishing” can also be explained as “gather with the sages,” because in Chinese the words “flourishing” and “sage” sound the same. Many sages and common people came to support the Patriarch.

Hsing Szu asked the Patriarch which Dharma door he should cultivate in order to avoid the successive stages of the gradual teaching. The sudden teaching does not have successive stages. Therefore, what he actually asked was, “How do I cultivate the sudden dharma?” He must have heard someone say, “The Sixth Patriarch is truly inconceivable. He has the five eyes and the six spiritual penetrations. I went there and didn’t say a thing and he knew what I was thinking and asked me about, it!”

The Master regarded Hsing Szu highly. “What this man says makes sense,” he thought. “He surely must have good roots.” He appointed Hsing Szu head of the assembly and thereafter Hsing Szu always walked in front, leading the others during the ceremonies.

The Sixth Patriarch saw Hsing Szu as a vessel of the Dharma, a Dharma-door “elephant and dragon.” This means that he had the capability of a patriarch, not a self-made patriarch, but one who had received the Sixth Patriarch’s certification and permission to teach. “Go and teach elsewhere,” said the Master. “You should not stay here with me but should go in such and such a direction to be a teaching master. Do not let the Dharma become extinct!”

Hsing Szu received the robe and bowl and carried the transmission of the lamp of the wonderful Dharma.

The posthumous title was conferred by the Emperor. Hsing Szu was given the name Hung Chi, “extensive crossing,” just as the Sixth Patriarch received the name Ta Chien, “great mirror.”

Dhyana Master Huai Jang


Dhyana Master Huai Jang was the son of the Tu family in Chin Chou. He first visited National Master An of Sung Mountain, who told him to go to Ts’ao Hsi to pay homage. When he arrived, he bowed, and the Master asked him, “What has come?”

He replied, “Sung Shan.”

The Master said, “What thing is it and how does it come?”

He replied, “To say that it is like a thing is to miss the point.”

The Master said, “Then can there still be that which is cultivated and certified?”

He replied, “Cultivation and certification are not absent, but there can be no defilement.”

The Master said, “It is just the lack of defilement of which all Buddhas are mindful and protective. You are like that, and I am like that, too. In the West, Prajnatara predicted that a colt would run from under your feet, trampling and killing people under heaven. You should keep that in mind, but do not speak of it too soon.”

Huai Jang suddenly understood. Accordingly he waited upon the Master for fifteen years, daily penetrating more deeply into the profound and mysterious. He later went to Nan Yao where he spread the Dhyana School. The title “Dhyana Master Ta Hui” was bestowed upon him posthumously.


Huai Jang received the Dharma-transmission from the Great Master and became the Seventh Patriarch. Huai means “to cherish.” What did he cherish? Jang, which means “to yield.” He was never arrogant toward anyone, but kept his mind humble and modest, respecting everyone above and below him. In his mind he always cherished politeness. What this Dhyana Master had, he appeared to be without; what was real appeared false. Although he had the Way, it seemed as though he didn’t. He was actually highly educated, but if anyone brought it up, he politely insisted that he was really just a beginner.

He first went to study the Buddhadharma with National Master An. National Master An sent him to study at Ts’ao Hsi, because at that time everyone knew that Ts’ao Hsi was the place of the true orthodox Buddhadharma. If you really wanted to study and cultivate faith in the Buddhadharma you went to Ts’ao Hsi. Now, in America, if you really want to study the Buddhadharma, you should come and study the Sutras here. Don’t fear difficulty! Don’t fear suffering! Don’t be lazy! Study the Buddhadharma.

At that time at Nan Hua Temple, the site of the platform of the Sixth Patriarch, there was Dhyana meditation and work on the mountain slopes every day. Everyone got up at three-thirty in the morning. At four o’clock they went to morning recitation, which was very vigorous and lasted until five-thirty. Then they sat in meditation until sunrise. After they had eaten some rice gruel, there was another hour of meditation. At eight o’clock they went out on the mountain slopes for two hours until ten o’clock. Because there were about two thousand people, in two hours they were able to do a lot of work. It was not like one or two people doing the work and not being able to finish it.

At ten they returned from the slopes and rested until eleven, at which time they ate. From twelve to two they sat in meditation, and at two o’clock they went back out on the mountain slopes to work for two more hours. Then they returned and sat in meditation for six hours until ten o’clock. Afterwards, some did their own work, bowing in homage to the Sutras, or performing repentance ceremonies, until midnight. Every day it was this way.

The “wind of the Way” blew severely at Nan Hua Temple. Everyone had to follow the rules. There were several thousand people and you never heard a person speak. No one spoke because they feared that they might strike up false thinking and then their work would not succeed. If you single-mindedly apply effort, you never pursue any train of random thought whatsoever. The Sixth Patriarch therefore established work in common which was very rigorous.

When Dhyana Master Huai Jang arrived at Nan Hua Temple he bowed, and the Master said, “What has come?” This is Ch’an. In the Ch’an School, one never speaks of the principle outright. He merely said, “What has come?” Ostensibly it was a Bhikshu, but he said, “What comes?” At least he didn’t ask if it was a ghost.

Huai Jang replied, “Sung Shan.” He meant, “I am from Sung Mountain.”

The two were using the language of the Ch’an School– repartee.

“Cultivation and certification are not absent, but there can be no defilement.” Cultivation has that which is cultivated and certification has that which is certified. Therefore cultivation and certification are not non-existent. So cultivation and certification can exist, but defilement cannot; that is, you cannot be stained. The self-nature must be bright and light.

When Huai Jang said this, the Master replied that there was no defilement, no filth in the self-nature. The defilements are self-seeking, jealousy, greed, hate, and delusion. “Without these defilements,” he said, “you are ‘thus’, just as I am. We two are the same–equal.”

The Twenty-seventh Indian Patriarch, Prajnatara, the predecessor of Bodhidharma, had said that a colt would run from under Huai Jang’s feet. Who was the colt? He was Huai Jang’s Dharma successor, Great Master Ma Tsu “horse patriarch” Tao I.

“Under your feet” means that the colt would be Huai Jang’s disciple, because a disciple behaves as if he were under his teacher’s foot. “In the future,” Prajnatara had said, “a colt will run out of your gate, trampling people all over the world. No other Dharma Master will match his superb eloquence and vast wisdom. None will defeat him. Under heaven, he will be supreme.”

Master Huai Jang became the Sixth Patriarch’s personal attendant. Later he went to Heng Mountain in Nan Yao, which is in Hu Nan Province in south-central China, to propagate the Dhyana School. After Huai Jang died, the Emperor gave him the title “Great Master Ta Hui,” “Great Wisdom.”

Dhyana Master Hsüan Chiao


Dhyana Master Hsüan Chiao of Yung Chia was the son of a family called Tai in Wen Chou. When he was young he studied the Sutras and commentaries and was skilled in the T’ien T’ai Dharma-door of “Stop and Look.” Upon reading the Vimalakirti Sutra, he understood the mind-ground. One day he happened to meet the Master’s disciple Hsüan Ch’e and they had a pleasant talk. As Hsüan Chiao’s words were consonant with the words of all the Patriarchs, Hsüan Ch’e asked him, “Kind Sir, from whom did you obtain the Dharma?”

He replied, “I have heard the Vaipulya Sutras and Shastras, receiving each from a master. Later, upon reading the Vimalakirti Sutra, I awakened to the doctrine of the Buddha-mind, but as yet no one has certified me.”

Hsüan Ch’e said, “That was acceptable before the time of the Buddha called the Awesome-Voiced King. But since the coming of that Buddha, all those who ‘self-enlighten’ without a master belong to other religions which hold to the tenet of spontaneity.”

“Then will you please certify me, Kind Sir?” said Hsüan Chiao.

Hsüan Ch’e said, “My words are of little worth, but the Great Master, the Sixth Patriarch, is at Ts’ao Hsi, where people gather like clouds from the four directions. He is one who has received the Dharma. If you wish to go, I will accompany you.”


Yung Chia is the name of a place. Because everyone greatly respected this Dharma Master, they addressed him after the name of his birthplace, according to Chinese custom. When he was young Yung Chia investigated the Buddhist Sutras and the commentaries written by the Patriarchs. When he read the Vimalakirti Sutra, he understood the Dharma-door of his own mind-ground. One day he had a chat with the Sixth Patriarch’s disciple Hsüan Ch’e, and Hsüan Ch’e found that their views were in agreement and that they both agreed with the principles of the Patriarchs. Supposing him to be a member of his own school, Hsüan Ch’e asked, “Who transmitted our Dharma to you, Great Master Hsüan Chiao? Who certified you?”

When he learned Hsüan Chiao had enlightened himself by reading Vimalakirti Sutra, he said, “Before the time of Awesome-Voiced King Buddha, that would have been all right. But he was the first Buddha, and now, since his advent, anyone who claims to be enlightened without a master’s certification is simply not a Buddhist.”

“Not a Buddhist? Oh no!” said Hsüan Chiao. “Then please certify me!”

I don’t know what certain people in America who certify themselves and then lecture on The Sixth Patriarch’s Sutra do when they come to this passage of text. How do they explain it?

Awesome-Voiced King Buddha’s name means that the sound of his voice penetrates to the most remote places, through the wind and light to the original ground.

“I can’t certify you,” said Hsüan Ch’e, “because I don’t have the authority. Besides, it’s not certain that I myself am enlightened. However the Sixth Patriarch is at Nan Hua Temple. The Fifth Patriarch has transmitted both the Dharma and Bodhidharma’s robe and bowl to him.”


Thereupon Hsüan Chiao went with Hsüan Ch’e to call upon the Master. On arriving, he circumambulated the Master three times, shook his staff, and stood in front of him. The Master said, “Inasmuch as a Shramana has perfected the three thousand awesome deportments and the eighty thousand fine practices, where does this Virtuous One come from and what makes him so arrogant?”

Hsüan Chiao said, “The affair of birth and death is great and impermanence comes quickly.”

The Master said, “Why not embody non-production and understand that which is not quick?”

He replied, “The body itself is not produced and fundamentally there is no quickness.”

The Master said, “So it is; so it is.”


When the two arrived at Ts’ao Hsi, Hsüan Chiao marched around the Sixth Patriarch three times, pounded his tin staff into the ground, and stood there as if angry.

The Sixth Patriarch politely asked, “How did you get here and why are you so obnoxious? One who has left home has perfected the three thousand awesome deportments and the eighty thousand fine practices, and yet you didn’t even bow to me.”

There are two hundred and fifty deportments for each of the four body postures: standing, sitting, walking, and lying down. These thousand comportments multiplied by the past, present, and future make three thousand. There are actually eighty four thousand fine practices, although the text here gives the number as eighty thousand.

Hsüan Chiao said, “I act this way because birth and death is a serious problem and one never knows when the Ghost of Impermanence will pay his inevitable call. It all happens very fast, you know.” What Hsüan Chiao actually meant was, “I am trying to end birth and death and I have no time for good manners. Besides, I’ve put that sort of thing down.”

“Then why don’t you think of a way to embody and comprehend that which is not produced and to understand what is not quick?” said the Master. “You should be clear about the principles of non-production and quickness.”

“The body itself is not produced,” said Hsüan Chiao, “and, fundamentally the understanding is without quickness. That is, if I clearly understand birth and death, then there is no birth and death, and if I maintain that clear understanding, then in fact there is no quickness. Why then should I fear the Ghost of Impermanence?”

Seeing that he understood, the Sixth Patriarch certified him saying, “Right! Good work! It’s just as you say.”


Hsüan Chiao then made obeisance with perfect awesome deportment. A short while later he announced that he was leaving and the Master said, “Aren’t you leaving too quickly?”

He replied, “Fundamentally I don’t move; how can I be quick?”

The Master said, “Who knows you don’t move?”

He replied, “Kind Sir, you yourself make this discrimination.”

The Master said, “You have truly got the idea of non-production.”

“But does non-production possess an ‘idea’?” asked Hsüan Chiao.

“If it is without ideas, then who discriminates it?” said the Master.

“What discriminates is not an idea either,” he replied.

The Master exclaimed, “Good indeed! Please stay for a night.”

During his time he was called “The One Enlightened Overnight” and later he wrote the “Song of Certifying to the Way,” which circulated widely in the world. His posthumous title is “Great Master Wu Hsiang,” and during his lifetime he was called “Chen Chiao.”


The Master and Hsüan Chiao carried on some repartee: “Your eloquence indicates that you have truly understood the idea of non-production,” said the Master.

“How can non-production have an idea?” Hsüan Chiao replied.

“Without ideas, who could discriminate it?” said the Master.

Hsüan Chiao said, “Although there is discrimination, it is not done on the basis of the mind’s ideas; it is not the intellect engaging in intellection which discriminates. Rather, it is the Buddha’s wonderful observing wisdom which has no need to resort to the process of reasoning and which yet knows everything. Therefore, what discriminates is not an idea either.”

“You’re absolutely right,” said the Master.

Hsüan Chiao stayed one night at Nan Hua Temple and became enlightened, so everyone called him “The One Enlightened Overnight.” Later on, he wrote the “Song of Certifying to the Way” which I am sure you all know. It begins:

Have you not seen the man of the Way 
Who has cut off learning and, in leisure, does nothing
Who does not reject false thinking or seek reality? 

For him, the real nature of ignorance is the Buddha nature 
And the empty body of illusion is the Dharma-body. 

After he died, the Emperor gave him the title, “Wu Hsiang” which means, “without marks,” and his contemporaries called him “Chen Chiao,” “true enlightenment.”

Dhyana Master Chih Huang


Dhyana cultivator Chih Huang had formerly studied under the Fifth Patriarch and said of himself that he had attained to the “right reception.” He lived in a hut, constantly sitting, for twenty years.

In his travels, the Master’s disciple Hsüan Ch’e reached Ho Shuo, where he heard of Chih Huang’s reputation. He paid a visit to his hut and asked him, “What are you doing here?”

“Entering concentration,” replied Chih Huang.

Hsüan Ch’e said, “You say you are entering concentration. Do you enter with thought or without thought? If you enter without thought, then all insentient things, such as grass, trees, tiles, and stones, should likewise attain concentration. If you enter with thought, then all sentient things which have consciousness should also attain concentration.”

Chih Huang said, “When I properly enter concentration I do not notice whether I have thought or not.”

Hsüan Ch’e said, “Not to notice whether or not you have thought is eternal concentration. How can you enter it or come out of it? If you come out of it or enter it, it is not the great concentration.”

Chih Huang was speechless. After a long while, he finally asked, “Who is your teacher?”

Hsüan Ch’e said, “My master is the Sixth Patriarch at Ts’ao Hsi.”

Chih Huang said, “What does your master take to be Dhyana Concentration?”


Chih Huang practiced Dhyana meditation; his first teacher was the Fifth Patriarch, Hung Jen. Formerly, when cultivators left the home-life they would travel everywhere in search of a “bright-eyed knowing one.”

Hsüan Ch’e did public relations work for the Sixth Patriarch. He traveled all over China saying, “My teacher is the Sixth Patriarch, the genuine recipient of the robe and bowl!” When he heard about Chih Huang’s cultivation he went to visit him and said, “Hey! What are you doing here, huh?”

Chih Huang just said, “I am entering concentration.”

“You say you are entering concentration,” said Hsüan Ch’e. “Tell me, do you do it with the thought in mind that you want to enter concentration, or don’t you have such a thought? If you do not enter it with such a thought in mind, then all inanimate objects could also enter concentration, because they don’t have thought either. But if you do, then all living, conscious creatures could enter as well.”

Chih Huang said, “When I enter concentration I don’t notice whether I have thought or not. At that time I’m empty.”

Hsüan Ch’e said, “If you don’t notice whether or not you have thought, then that is permanent concentration. How can you come out of it or enter it? How do you go in? How do you come out? If you can enter or leave it, it’s not the great concentration of the Buddha.”

Chih Huang was dumbfounded. “What am I going to do?” he thought. “I do go into concentration and come out of it.” He couldn’t open his mouth for a long time. He knew that his own words had no principle, that Hsüan Ch’e’s wisdom was higher than his own, and that he had no means to debate with him. Finally he asked, “Who is your teacher? Your eloquence is superb. Surely your master is even more clever than you. Who transmitted the Dharma to you?”

“My teacher is the Sixth Patriarch, the Abbot of Nan Hua Temple in Ts’ao Hsi,” said Hsüan Ch’e.

“What does he take to be Dhyana concentration?” Chih Huang asked.


Hsüan Ch’e said, “My teacher speaks of the wonderful, clear, perfect stillness, the suchness of the substance and function, the fundamental emptiness of the five skandhas, and the non-existence of the six organs. There is neither emerging nor entering, neither concentration nor confusion. The nature of Dhyana is non-dwelling and is beyond the act of dwelling in Dhyana stillness. The nature of Dhyana is unproduced and beyond the production of the thought of Dhyana. The mind is like empty space and is without the measure of empty space.”


The Sixth Patriarch says that the original nature is wonderful, clear, perfectly still and unmoving. Its substance and function both are “thus, thus unmoving, clear, clear, and illuminating.” The five shadows, i.e. the five skandhic heaps of form, feeling, perception, impulses, and consciousness are fundamentally void and the six sense objects of form, sound, smell, taste, tangible objects, and objects of the mind are also non-existent.

When you understand the wonderful function of the original substance, there is no question of either dwelling or not dwelling in Dhyana. The Dhyana nature transcends that kind of “dead Dhyana” which is attached to stillness.

The nature of Dhyana itself is unproduced and transcends such thoughts as, “Here I sit in Dhyana meditation.”


Hearing this explanation, Chih Huang went directly to visit the Master. The Master asked him, “Kind Sir, where are you from?” Chih Huang related the above incident in detail. The Master then said, “It is truly just as he said. Simply let your mind be like empty space without being attached to the idea of emptiness and the correct function of the self-nature will no longer be obstructed. Have no thought, whether in motion or stillness; forget any feeling of being common or holy, put an end to both subject and object. The nature and mark will be ‘thus, thus,’ and at no time will you be out of the state of concentration.”


“What Hsüan Ch’e told you was correct,” said the Master. “Just make your mind like empty space, but do not hold onto the idea of empty space. You will then function in an unhindered way. When something presents itself, you will respond and when it passes, you will be still. This is to be unobstructed.

Whether moving or still, whether walking, standing, sitting, or lying down, have no thought. Do not think, “I’m a sage!” and do not think, “I’m just a common person.” Forget about feeling holy or common; get rid of emotional feelings altogether. Be without subject or object: do not have something which sees and something which is seen, something which makes empty and something which is made empty.

You should know that when you see brightness, your seeing is not bright; when you see darkness, your seeing is not dark; when you see emptiness, your seeing is not empty; when you see form, your seeing has no form; when you see existence, your seeing is not existent; and when you see non-existence, your seeing is not non-existent.

The Shurangama Sutra says, “When your seeing sees the seeing (nature), that seeing is no (longer) seeing. Your seeing nature is beyond your seeing and your seeing cannot reach it.” Your seeing nature should be separate from and unattached to your false discriminating seeing and you should not hold onto the thought of seeing. If you adhere to the idea of subject and object, maintaining that there is someone who sees as well as an emptiness which is seen, you are left with just that knowledge and vision. You should put an end to both subject and object.


Just then Chih Huang attained the great enlightenment. What he had gained in twenty years vanished from his mind without a trace. That night the people of Hopei heard a voice in space announcing, “Today, Dhyana Master Chih Huang has attained the Way.” Later, he made obeisance and left, returning to Hopei to teach and convert the four assemblies there.


All of a sudden, Chih Huang had a great, not a small, enlightenment and the skill he had acquired in twenty years of diligent cultivation completely left him. There was not a trace, not an echo. Before he had entered samadhi thinking, “I am entering samadhi,” but now he had nothing at all. Everything was empty. He had returned to the root and source of all dharmas.

Although Chih Huang himself was in Ho Shuo, that night in his native village on the outskirts of Peking, his neighbors, disciples, and Dharma protectors all heard a voice in space saying, “You should all know that today Dhyana Master Chih Huang reached enlightenment.”

Later, Chih Huang bowed to the Sixth Patriarch, took leave and returned to Hopei to teach the Bhikshus, Bhikshunis, laymen, and laywomen there.

Hopei is about fifteen hundred miles from Ho Shuo. That’s a long walk.

One Member Of The Sangha


One of the Sangha asked the Master, “Who got the principle of Huang Mei?”

The Master replied, “The one who understands the Buddhadharma.”

The Sangha member said, “High Master, have you obtained it?”

“I do not understand the Buddhadharma,” the Master replied.


This member of the Sangha was truly a barbarian, an uneducated savage. He rudely confronted the Master and asked, “Who got the robe and bowl of the Fifth Patriarch Hung Jen of Huang Mei?” He knew very well that the Sixth Patriarch had it, but he asked anyway. From this we know that among those who came to the Master for instruction there were rude country peasants as well as good disciples. He knew that his question was insulting to the Master and what he meant by it was, “You can’t even read. How can you be worthy of the robe and bowl?”

The Master said, “One who thoroughly comprehends the Buddhadharma obtains that principle and the Fifth Patriarch’s robe and bowl.”

“But High Master,” the Bhikshu said, “have you got it or not?” He didn’t believe that the Master had received the transmission.

The Sixth Patriarch didn’t say yes and he didn’t say no, he simply said, “I don’t understand the Buddhadharma.” What do you think? Was he telling the truth?

Bhikshu Fang Pien


One day the Master wanted to wash the robe which he had inherited, but there was no clear stream nearby. He walked about two miles behind the temple where he saw good energies revolving in a dense grove of trees. He shook his staff, stuck it in the ground, and a spring bubbled up and formed a pool.


The Master walked about two miles behind the temple, where he found a luxuriant grove filled with tall trees and good vibrations. People who have opened their five eyes and obtained the six spiritual powers can tell at a glance the geomantic properties of any particular piece of land. So when the Master planted his tin staff in the ground, the nine metal rings which hung from the head of his staff echoed through the wood, and a spring gushed forth to form a clear, pure pool.

The public washing stream is about a third of a mile behind Nan Hua Temple. Whether this present stream is the same source that was used during the Sixth Patriarch’s time is uncertain.


As he knelt to wash his robe on a rock, suddenly a monk came up and bowed before him saying, “I am Fang Pien, a native of Hsi Shu. A while ago I was in India, where I visited the Great Master Bodhidharma. He told me to return to China immediately, saying, ‘The orthodox Dharma Eye Treasury and the samghati robe which I inherited from Mahakashyapa has been transmitted to the sixth generation at Ts’ao Hsi, Shao Chou. Go there and pay reverence.’ Fang Pien has come from afar, hoping to see the robe and bowl that his Master transmitted.”

The Master showed them to him and asked, “Superior One, what work do you do?”

“I am good at sculpting,” he replied.

Keeping a straight face, the Master said, “Then sculpt something for me to see.”

Fang Pien was bewildered, but after several days he completed a lifelike image of the Patriarch, seven inches high and wonderful in every detail. The Master laughed and said, “You only understand the nature of sculpture; you do not understand the nature of the Buddha.” Then the Master stretched out his hand and rubbed the crown of Fang Pien’s head, saying, “You will forever be a field of blessing for gods and humans.”

The Master rewarded him with a robe, which Fang Pien divided into three parts: one he used to wrap the sculpture, one he kept for himself, and the third he wrapped in palm leaves and buried in the ground, vowing, “In the future, when this robe is found again, I will appear in the world to be abbot here and restore these buildings.”

Note: During the Sung Dynasty in the eighth year of the Chia Yu reign period (1063 A.D.), while Bhikshu Wei Hsien was repairing the hall, he excavated the earth and found the robe which was like new. The image is at Kao Ch’üanTemple and those who pray before it obtain a quick response.


Think about it: Bodhidharma had long since died in China, but Bhikshu Fang Pien met him in India. That is not surprising, however, because to this day no one knows exactly what happened to Bodhidharma.

I will now tell you a true story. While I was living in Manchuria I decided, for various reasons, to leave the home-life and cultivate the Way. The man I most respected was Wang Hsiao Tzu, ‘Filial-Son Wang.’ When he was twenty-eight years old his mother died and he practiced filial piety by sitting beside her grave. He built a small hut out of scrap lumber to protect himself from the bitter Manchurian cold and lived there for three years, according to the Confucian custom. When the first three years were up he decided to stay for another three years, so in all he practiced for six years.

During the second three-year period he did not speak, no matter who came. Every day he sat in his hut, meditating and reciting the Diamond Sutra. Toward the end of the sixth year he had a daydream. “In Ch’ien and Kuang Ling Mountains,” he thought, “there are cultivators who live for over a thousand years. When I fulfill my filial obligations I’ll go there to cultivate.”

The following morning, during meditation, he heard a Dharma Protector say, “Today an important guest will visit you.” He thought perhaps a great official was coming and he waited until ten o’clock when he saw a monk approaching wearing rag robes and carrying a bumble stick. Filial Son Wang did not speak out loud, but in his mind he wondered, “Where is he from?”

The monk replied, “I’m from Kuang Ling Mountain.”

Filial Son Wang then thought, “What is his name?” The monk told him his name and added, “In the Ming dynasty I was a general and later I left home to cultivate. We two have a karmic affinity for one another, and so when I heard that you wanted to go to Kuang Ling Mountain, I felt I should advise you that the monks there cultivate solely for their own benefit. You, on the other hand, should cultivate for the good of all. After you have finished your act of filial piety, build a temple right here and spread the Buddhadharma.”

Now, ‘Filial-Son Wang’ hadn’t spoken to the monk, and yet the monk read the questions in his mind. That shows that the monk had the spiritual power of knowing others’ thoughts and had obtained the five eyes and six spiritual penetrations. He said he was from the Ming dynasty. ‘Filial-Son Wang’ lived during the first years of the Republic, some three hundred years later. So you see that Bodhidharma could easily have been seen in southern India several hundred years after his disappearance from China. That he met Fang Pien there and told him about the robe and bowl is a very ordinary matter–nothing strange at all.

Bhikshu Fang Pien knew how to make Buddha images. He carved them in wood and molded them in clay. The Master very solemnly said to him, “Please sculpt an image for me to see”

Caught off guard, Fang Pien just stood there in silence, but a few days later he had finished making a true image of the Patriarch. It looked just like the Master. The nose, ears, eyes, all the features were exactly right. It was a perfect likeness right down to the finest detail.

When the Master saw the little statue of himself he couldn’t help but smile. “Fang Pien,” he said, “you may know how to model clay, but you don’t know the Buddha nature. In any case, you should leave home in every life, become a Bhikshu, and act as a field of blessing for humans and gods.”

Master Wo Lun’s Verse


One Bhikshu was reciting Dhyana Master Wo Lun’s verse:

Wo Lun has the talent 
To stop the hundred thoughts: 
Facing situations his mind won’t move; 
Bodhi grows day by day.

When the Master heard it he said, “This verse shows no understanding of the mind-ground, and to cultivate according to it will increase one’s bondage. Then he spoke this verse: 

Hui Neng has no talent 
To stop the hundred thoughts. 
Facing situations his mind often moves; 
How can Bodhi grow? 


The name of the reciter of Wo Lun’s verse is not given. Perhaps he had no name or perhaps he didn’t want to be famous.

Dhyana Master Wo Lun could cut off his thoughts, but Wo Lun himself, the cutter-off of thoughts, still remained. Thus he had fallen into the second or third position. He was not in the first position.

Upon hearing Wo Lun’s verse, the Great Master replied,

I haven’t a single talent, 
Nor even the thought of cutting off thought. 
My mind responds in a natural way: 
Who cares whether Bodhi grows or not?

Here he expresses the same principle as in the verse he wrote while still a layman at Huang Mei: “Originally there is not one thing. Where can the dust alight?” The absolute is pure; what need is there to dust it off?

Print Friendly, PDF & Email