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The Sixth Patriarch’s Dharma Jewel Platform Sutra


(Continued from issue #254)





The Master said, "Impermanence is just the Buddha nature and permanence is just the mind discriminating good and evil dharmas." "High Master, your explanation contradicts the Sutra text!" Xing Ch'ang said.
The Master said, "I transmit the Buddha's mind-seal. How could I dare to contradict the Buddhas' Sutras?"Xing Ch'ang replied, "The Sutra says that the Buddha nature is permanent; the High Master says that it is impermanent. The Sutra says that good and evil dharmas, up to the Bodhi Mind, are impermanent; the High Master says that they are permanent. These contradictions intensify your student's doubts and delusions."
The Master said, "In the past, I once heard Bhikshuni Wu Jin Zang recited the Nirvana Sutra. Afterwards, I explained the sutra to her. There was not one word or principle that did not accord with the Sutra text. My explanation to you now is the same."
Xing Ch'ang replied, "Your student's ability to understand is shallow. I wish the High Master to please explain further?"
The Master said, "Do you know that if the Buddha nature were permanent, then it is not necessary to speak of good and evil dharmas. To the end of eons, not one person produced the Bodhi Mind. Therefore, I said the Buddha nature is impermanent. That is exactly what the Buddha explained as the meaning of true permanence. If the myriad dharma were impermanent, all things would have a self-nature subject to birth and death, and the true permanent nature would not pervade all places. Therefore, I said it is permanent. That is exactly what the Buddha explained as the meaning of true impermanence. Commoners and heretics cling to deviant views of permanence; those of the Two Vehicles (Sravakas and Pratyekabuddhas) always insist on impermanence. Together, they formed the eight topsy-turvy views. For this reason, the Buddha expounded the ultimate Nirvana teaching to smash their prejudiced views. He clearly explained true permanence, true bliss, true self, and true purity. You now contradict this meaning by relying on words, taking annihilation as impermanence and getting fixated on lifeless permanence. You have misinterpreted the perfectly wonderful subtle last words of the Buddha. If you continue this way, it would be useless even if you read the Nirvana Sutra a thousand times."


The Great Master said, "Impermanence is just the Buddha nature and permanence is just the mind discriminating good and evil dharmas." Thinking that the Sixth Patriarch had said it wrong, Xing Chang said, "High Master, your explanation contradicts the Sutra text!".

The Great Master said, "I transmit the Buddha's mind-seal. How could I dare to contradict the Buddhas' Sutras?"

Xing Chang said, "It says in the Nirvana Sutra that the Buddha nature is permanent, yet the High Master said impermanent. It says that good and evil dharmas, up to the Bodhi Mind, are impermanent, yet the High Master said permanent. These contradictions make me more doubtful and confused."

The Great Master said, "In the past, I once heard Bhikshuni Wu Jin Zang read the Nirvana Sutra. Afterwards, I explained the sutra to her. There was not one word or principle that did not accord with the Sutra text. My explanation to you now is the same."

Xing Chang replied, "Your student's ability to understand is shallow. I wish the High Master to please explain further."

The Great Master said, "You should know that when the Buddha said that Buddha nature is permanent, his intention is to break the attachment of those fixated in impermanence. When the Buddha said that Buddha nature is impermanent, it is intended for those attached to permanence. If you say that the Buddha nature is permanent, then there is no good and evil dharmas to speak of. Living beings would have all become Buddhas. There would be no need to speak the Dharma for them to take them across. How come no one truly resolve for Bodhi for so many great kalpas past? If the Buddha nature is permanent, everyone should have resolved for Bodhi and should have become a Buddha. For this reason, I said that the Buddha nature is impermanent. Otherwise, everyone would have become a Buddha without cultivating the Way. So, my explanation of the Buddha nature as impermanent is exactly what the Buddha meant when he spoke of the principle of inextinguishable true permanence."

"Furthermore, if the myriad dharma were impermanent, all things would have a self-nature and should no longer be subject to birth and death. How come they are still subject to birth and death? If everything has the nature of true permanence, then it would not pervade all places. What I told you about permanence is exactly what the Buddha explained as the meaning of true impermanence."

Basically, the Buddha nature is neither permanent nor impermanent. That is the ultimate principle of the middle way. Then why did the Sixth Patriarch say that it was impermanent? Why did he say that the mind which discriminates good and evil was permanent? He did it to rid Xing Chang of his attachments. The Buddhadharma serves as an antidote to living beings' attachments. Once you are rid of attachments, you do not need the Buddhadharma. The Buddhadharma is neither permanent nor impermanent. The Sixth Patriarch spoke the dharma according to the potential of the living being. He used this opportunity to rid Xing Chang of his attachments. It is not that he said the same thing to everyone.

The Sixth Patriarch told Xing Chang, "Commoners and heretics cling to deviant permanence; Shravakas and Pratyekabuddhas mistake permanence for impermanence. These two groups each have four topsy-turvy views, making eight in all. Originally, there were four topsy-turvy views. However, people's status and way of thinking differs, plus those with the two dispositions, forming the eight topsy-turviness. All the principles are expounded based on the potential of the recipient. You can either say it is permanent or impermanent. Commoners and heretics turn the four marks of conditioned existence upside-down, saying: 1. The suffering of conditioned existence is bliss;2. Its impermanence is permanent;3. Its impurity is pure; 4. Its "no-self" is "self."
Those of the Two Vehicles turn the four virtues of Nirvana upside-down, saying: 1. The bliss of Nirvana is suffering; 2. Its permanence is impermanent; 3. Its purity is impure; 4. Its "self" is "no-self." All in all, these form the eight topsy-turviness.

In the ultimate Nirvana teaching, categorized as the perfect and wonderful flavor of ghee, the Buddha smashed the prejudiced views of the commoners and those of the Two Vehicles. He clearly explained the principles of true permanence, true bliss, true self, and true purity. Now, you follow the Buddha's words but contradict the principles he taught. Taking annihilated impermanence and lifeless permanence, you misinterpret the most perfect and the most subtly wonderful last words of the Buddha. Even if you read the Nirvana Sutra a thousand times, it is useless.


Xing Chang suddenly became greatly enlightened and spoke this verse:



To those who hold impermanence in mind,
the Buddha speaks of the permanent nature;
Not knowing expedients is likened to
pebble-picking from spring ponds.
But now, without an effort
the Buddha nature manifests;
The Master did not transmit it,
And I did not obtain a thing.



The Master said, "Now you have thoroughly understood! You should be called 'Chih Che' (resolve to thoroughly understand)." Chih Che bowed in gratitude to the Master, and withdrew.


Hearing the Master's explanations, Xing Chang was suddenly enlightened and spoke a verse.

I am attached to the notion of impermanence, so the Buddha spoke the nature of permanence. Not recognizing what the Buddha said as expedient teaching, I was like collecting pebbles from the bottom of a pool, utterly useless. Now, effortlessly, I returned to the source and returned to my hometown. The perfect and wonderful Buddha nature manifests. Suddenly I am enlightened, clearly seeing my mind and self-nature. But this enlightenment was not given to me by the Sixth Patriarch. This attainment is actually no attainment. This has been my inherent wisdom. Hence, not a single dharma was obtained.

The Sixth Patriarch certified him, saying, "Now that you are enlightened, I'll give you the name 'Chih Che. Do you like this name?"

Chih Che said, "This is a nice name." He bowed in gratitude to the Master, and withdrew.



(To be continued ..)



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