Chapter 7   OPPORTUNITIES AND CONDITIONS   (continued)

Bhikshu Chih Tao

Sutra: (in Chinese)

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 wil1give you my own body to eat."

The ghost stared at him. "Can you really do such an awesome deed? Can you rea1ly 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 quick1y 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 the 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 1ife of Shakyamuni Buddha, when, as a Brahman, he offered his life for half a verse.

Sutra: (in Chinese)

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 received 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 things like grass, trees, tiles, 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 criticize the Supreme Vehicle Dharma! According to what you said, 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 said 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 said 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."

Sutra: (in Chinese)

"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.

Sutra: (in Chinese)

"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 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 thee 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 such1ess self-nature has the ability to function in accord with external conditions and yet not change. It's responsiveness is inexhaustib1e 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

Sutra: (in Chinese)

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 Yan 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. 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 His 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 nourishing." 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 nourished. "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 waked 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 say 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

Sutra: (in Chinese)

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 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 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 Hsuan Chiao

Sutra: (in Chinese)

Dhyana Master Hsuan 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 Hsuan Ch'e and they had a pleasant talk. As Hsuan Chiao's words were consonant with the words of all the Patriarch, Hsuan 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."

Hsuan Ch'e said, "That was acceptable before the time of the Buddha called the Awesome-Voiced King. But I 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 Hsuan Chiao.

Hsuan Ch'e said, "My words are of little worth, but the Great Master, the Sixth Patriarch, 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 Hsuan Ch’e, and Hsuan 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, Hsuan Ch’e asked, "Who transmitted our Dharma to you, Great Master Hsuan Chiao? Who certified you?"

When he learned Hsuan 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 a simply not a Buddhist."

‘Not a Buddhist? Oh no!" said Hsuan Chiao. "Then please certify me!"

I don't know what certain people in America who certify themselves and then lecture on The Sixth Patriarch 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 Hsuan 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."

Sutra: (in Chinese)

Thereupon Hsuan Chiao went with Hsuan 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?"

Hsuan 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, Hsuan 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.

Hsuan 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 Hsuan 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 Hsuan 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 world! It's just as you say."

Sutra: (in Chinese)

Hsuan 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 Hsuan 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 Hsuan 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?" Hsuan Chiao replied.

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

Hsuan 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.

Hsuan Chiao stayed one night at Nan Hua Temple and he came 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 how. 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
For him, the real nature of ignorance is the
    Buddha nature
And the empty body of illusion is the

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

Sutra: (in Chinese)

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 Hsuan 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.

Hsuan 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."

Huuan 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?"

Hsuan 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."

Hsuan 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 Hsuan 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."

Hsuan 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 Hsuan Ch'e’s wisdom was higher than his own, and that he had no means to debate with him. Finally he asked, "Who is you 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 Hsuan Ch'e.

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

Sutra: (in Chinese)

Hsuan 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."

Sutra: (in Chinese)

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 Hsuan 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, you 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.

Sutra: (in Chinese)

Just then Chit 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, Chit 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

Sutra: (in Chinese)

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

Sutra: (in Chinese)

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 waked 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 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.

Sutra: (in Chinese)

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 (1063A.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'űan Temple 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 l 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 customs. 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 you 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 then 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 my 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

Sutra: (in Chinese)

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 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?