SUTRA SPOKEN BY THE SIXTH PATRIARCH ON THE HIGH SEAT OF "THE TREASURE OF THE LAW"
Translated by A.F.Price and Wong Mou-Lam
An edict dated the 15th day of the first Moon of the first year of Shen Lung, issued by the Empress Dowager Tse T'ien and the Emperor Chung Tsung ran as follows: "Since we invited Grand Masters Hui An and Shen Hsiu to stay in the palace to receive our offerings, we have studied the 'Buddha Vehicle' under them whenever we could find time after attending to our imperial duties. Out of sheer modesty, these two Masters recommended that we should seek the advice of Dhyana Master Hui Neng of the South, who has esoterically inherited the Dharma and the robe of the Fifth Patriarch as well as the 'Heart Seal' of Lord Buddha. "We hereby send Hsueh Chien as the courier of this Edict to invite His Holiness to come, and trust His Holiness will graciously favor us with an early visit to the capital." On the ground of illness, the Patriarch sent a reply to decline the royal invitation and asked to be allowed to spend his remaining years 'in the forest'. "Dhyana experts in the capital," said Hsueh Chien (when interviewing the Patriarch), "unanimously advise people to meditate in the sitting position to attain Samadhi. They say that this is the only way to realize the Norm (Tao), and that it is impossible for anyone to obtain liberation without going through meditation exercises. May I know your way of teaching, Sir?" "The Norm is to be realized by the mind," replied the Patriarch, "and does not depend on the sitting position. The Diamond Sutra says that it is wrong for anyone to assert that the Tathagata comes or goes, sits or reclines. Why? Because the Tathagata's 'Dhyana of Purity' implies neither coming from anywhere nor going to anywhere, neither becoming nor causing to be. All Dharmas are calm and void, and such is the Tathagata's 'Seat of Purity'. Strictly speaking, there is even no such thing as 'attainment'; why then should we bother ourselves about the sitting position?" "Upon my return," said Hsueh Chien, "Their Majesties will certainly ask me to make a report. Will you, Sir, kindly give me some essential hints on your teaching, so that I can make them known not only to Their Majesties, but also to all Buddhist scholars in the capital? As the flame of one lamp may kindle hundreds or thousands of others, so the ignorant will be enlightened (by your teaching), and light will produce light without end." "The Norm implies neither light nor darkness," replied the Patriarch. "Light and darkness signify the idea of alternation. (It is not correct to say) that light will produce light without end, because there is an end, since light and darkness are a pair of opposites. The Vimalakirti Nirdesa Sutra says, 'The Norm has no comparison, since it is not a relative term'." "Light signifies wisdom," argued Hsueh Chien, "and darkness signifies klesa (defilement). If a treader of the Path does not break up klesa with the force of wisdom, how is he going to free himself from the 'wheel of birth and death', which is beginningless?" "Klesa is Bodhi," rejoined the Patriarch. "The two are the same and not different. To break up klesa with wisdom is the teaching of the Sravaka (Arhat) School and the Pratyeka Buddha School, the followers of which are of the 'Goat Vehicle' and 'Deer Vehicle' standard respectively. To those of superior mental dispositions such teaching would be of no use at all." "What then, is the teaching of the Mahayana School?" asked Hsueh Chien. "From the point of view of ordinary men," replied the Patriarch, "enlightenment and ignorance are two separate things. Wise men who realize thoroughly the Essence of Mind know that they are of the same nature. This same nature or non-dual nature is what is called the 'real nature', which neither decreases in the case of ordinary men and ignorant persons, nor increases in the case of the enlightened sage; which is not disturbed in a state of annoyance, nor calm in a state of Samadhi. It is neither eternal nor non-eternal; it neither goes nor comes; it is not to be found in the exterior, nor in the interior, nor in the space between the two. It is above existence and non-existence; its nature and its phenomena are always in a state of 'Thusness'; it is permanent and immutable. Such is the Norm." Hsueh Chien asked, "You say that it is above existence and non-existence. How then do you differentiate it from the teaching of the heretics who teach the same thing?" "In the teaching of the heretics," replied the Patriarch, "'non-existence' means the end of 'existence', while 'existence' is used in contrast with 'non-existence'. What they mean by 'non-existence' is not actually annihilation and what they call 'existence' does not really exist. What I mean by 'above existence and non-existence' is this; intrinsically it exists not, and at the present moment it will not be annihilated. Such is the difference between my teaching and that of the heretics. "If you wish to know the essential points of my teaching, you should free yourself from all thoughts, good ones as well as bad; then your mind will be in a state of purity, calm and serene all the time, and its usefulness as manifold as the grains of sand in the Ganges." The preaching of the Patriarch suddenly awoke Hsueh Chien to full enlightenment. He made obeisance and bid the Patriarch adieu. Upon his return to the palace, he reported what the Patriarch had said to Their Majesties. In that same year, on the third day of the ninth Moon, an edict was issued commending the Patriarch in the following terms: "On the ground of old age and poor health, the Patriarch declined our invitation to come to the capital. Devoting his life to the practice of Buddhism for our benefit, he is indeed the 'field of merit' of the nation. Like Vimalakirti, he widely spreads the Mahayana teaching, transmits the doctrine of the Dhyana School, and expounds the system of 'Non-dual' Law. "Through the medium of Hsueh Chien, to whom the Patriarch has imparted the 'Buddha-knowledge', we are fortunate enough to have a chance to understand for ourselves the teaching of the Supreme Vehicle. This must be due to our accumulated merits and our 'root of goodness' planted in past lives; otherwise, we should not be the contemporaries of His Holiness. "In appreciation of the graciousness of the Patriarch, we present to him herewith a Mo Na robe (a valuable Buddhist robe made in Korea) and a crystal bowl. The Prefect of Shao Chou is hereby ordered to renovate his monastery and to convert his old residence into a temple which is to be named 'Kuo En' (State Munificence)."