Sutra: (in Chinese)

The Master obtained the Dharma at Huang Mei and returned to Ts’ao Hou Village 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. Then he was once again pursued by evil men. The Master hid in the mountain in 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 Chu Chiang District. When he arrived in the vicinity of Nan Hua Temple, which before had been Pao Lin Temple in the past, 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 Mater 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 could not 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 or not."

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 sti1l 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 Chu 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.

Bhkshuni 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 beautifu1, 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 nourished because his disciples and lay people 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 Yu 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 about it: 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 power 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

Sutra: (in Chinese)

When Bhikshu Fa Hai of Chi 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 Yun, 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!" Consequently, he 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. 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

Sutra: (in Chinese)

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 basically to cut 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 Mater 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 call 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 every one else. The Sixth Patriarch took one look and knew that Fa Ta had something on his mind.

The Lotus Sutra is in 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.


Sutra: (in Chinese)

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 Mastery your wisdom is vast and great. Will you please explain the general meaning of the Sutra for me?"

The Mater 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 so 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.


Sutra: (in Chinese)

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 though,
    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 m 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, 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'1l 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.


Sutra: (in Chinese)

Fa Ta asked further, "The Lotus Sutra says, 'If everyone from Shravakas up to the Bodhisattvas here 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 Sutra 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 my number of parables, causes and conditions, and uncountable expedient devices: all are spoken for the sake of the One Buddha Vehicle."


Sutra: (in Chinese)

"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 birth?
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 naming 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

Sutra: (in Chinese)

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 /bur wisdom.
White 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
In 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 wisdom’ 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 (alaya-vijnana) 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 from evil, right from wrong and male from 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;" 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.

Sutra: (in Chinese)

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


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


Sutra: (in Chinese)

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

Sutra: (in Chinese)

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 gave 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 fight
    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 a 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 verses the Sixth Patriarch explains, "If you do not see that a single dharma and the ten thousand dharmas are all 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.

"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 in 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 manifested.



Sutra: (in Chinese)

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 (Dhynana) 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.


Sutra: (in Chinese)

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 on, 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 to 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.