(Continued from issue #256)
The Master said, "Shen Hui, if your mind is clouded and you cannot see the true nature, then ask a Good Knowing Advisor to teach you how to cultivate. If your mind is enlightened, you have understood the mind and seen the nature, then you should cultivate accordingly to the Dharma. Now, you haven't even seen your pure mind, and yet you come to ask me whether or not I have been able to see my own. If I had seen it, that's my own business and has nothing to do with your delusion. If you've seen the true nature and are able to understand the original mind, that has nothing to do with me either. Why not turn the light around and focus on discovering whether you've seen your own mind or not? Isn't that better than trading Zen banter with me? What is it to you whether I've seen it or not?"
After listening to the Sixth Patriarch's admonition, Shen Hui was really sorry for his wrongdoing. Why had he been so impetous? There is an idiom "Selling nondescript manuscript to the Sagely Ones." It is similar to selling dime novels to Confucius, bragging the value of your nondescript manuscript. Who do you think will buy into your misguided rhetoric? It can also be likened to the phrase "Showing off one's proficiency with the axe before Luban the Master Carpenter".
Shen Hui bowed to the Sixth Patriarch over a hundred times, pleading for forgiveness, "Please forgive me, Venerable One. I messed up. I'm a reckless kid who didn't understand. I am clueless to the extent of the heavens and earth." After begging forgiveness, Shen Hui stayed at the Sixth Patriarch's Wayplace. He toiled away on all chores. Everyday, he followed the Master everywhere he gave sutra-lectures or dharma talks. He became the Master's attendant. Being the youngest amongst the Master's disciples, he was the naughtiest.
One day the Master asked the assembly, "I have one thing. It has no head or tail, no name or label, no back or front. Do you know what it is?" (For example: My name is An Ci, dubbed Du Lun. Hsuan Hua is my dharma name.) Everyone kept quiet. Whether they knew the answer or not, no one said a word. Seeing this, young Shen Hui jumped out from the assembly and said, "I know what it is! It's the fundamental source of all Buddhas: my Buddha nature!"
The Master said, "I told you that it has no name or label, and you call it the fundamental source of all Buddhas! Go build a thatched hut over your head! As a student of the Chan School, you have the knowledge, views and explanations yet you have no genuine understanding."Although it sounded like a scolding, it was in reality an affirmation of Shen Hui's degree of achievement. It is not easy to reach the level of one who has the knowledge to explain the principles.
After the Sixth Patriarch entered nirvana, Shen Hui went to the capital city of Loyang, where he widely preached the Sudden Teaching of the Cao Xi School. He later wrote the Xian Zong Ji - a pamphlet on the Northern and Southern Schools, declaring Shen Hsiu (Northern School) as a bogus self-proclaimed Sixth Patriarch and declaring Great Master Hui Neng (Southern School) as the genuine Sixth Patriarch, the recipient of the Buddha's mind-seal. Had Shen Hui not written this pamphlet, Shen Hsiu's followers would have grabbed the title 'Sixth Patriarch'. After this pamphlet was published, Shen Hsiu could no longer masquerade as the Sixth Patriarch. Dharma Master Shen Hui was also called Chan Master He Ze, which is the name of the place where he went to live.
The Master saw many disciples of other schools, many with evil intentions that gathered under him and challenged him with difficult questions. Feeling sorry for them, he said, "Students of the Way should completely cast away all thoughts of good or evil. What cannot be named by any name is called the true self-nature. True nature does not have good or evil and it is within the real nature that all teaching Doors are established. You can see this for yourselves." Hearing this, they all became devoted followers and requested him to be their master.
At that time, it was not only Shen Hsiu's followers who wanted to murder the Great Master. The elders of the various sects, such as the Consciousness-Only School and the Avatamsaka School, likewise send their cronies to challenge the Master, asking difficult questions such as, "Which came first, the Buddha or the Dharma? Where does the Buddhadharma spring from?"
The Sixth Patriarch replied, "If you can speak the Dharma, then it's the Buddha first, then the Dharma. If you can listen to the Dharma, then it's the Dharma first, then the Buddha. The Buddhadharma emanates from the minds of living beings."
Even though the Sixth Patriarch answered all the challenging questions they threw at him, he saw the situation as becoming increasingly more troublesome. The outsiders who came to be near him all had the intention of killing him or poisoning him. These wicked ones and spies came to stay with him so they could harm him easily. See how much opposition a patriarch has to deal with!
Out of his compassion for the spies and would-be assassins, the Sixth Patriarch addressed the assembly, "Cultivators should not hold any thought of good or evil. What cannot be named by any name is called the true self-nature. The self-nature is non-dual; it is also called the real nature, the real mark. Within the real mark all schools and sects are established. Real mark is not simply a conversation topic. You must understand the principle of real mark and immediately certify to its meaning and substance." Hearing these words, the assembly realized that their thoughts had been bound up in good and evil and they were greatly ashamed. Now that they have understood, they bowed down before the Master and said, "We will reform our ways and start anew. Please let us bow to you as our teacher, Great Master."
Shen Lung is the name of the reign of Emperor Zhong Zong of Tang Dynasty. Wu Ze Tian was the empress during the Tang dynasty. On one hand, she believed in the Buddha and supported Buddhism. She'd invite all the high monks to the palace to receive offerings. On the other hand, she was unruly and unafraid to commit improper acts. Not long after her son, Emperor Zhong Zong, ascended the throne, she usurped the throne by having him exiled to Lu Ling where he stayed as the local king. What we are discussing now is the period when Wu Ze Tian was the empress.
Decree refers to a written imperial order by the Emperor. When ordinary people received a decree, they bowed to it as a gesture of respect to the emperor. However, since the empress believed in the Buddha, monastic people don't have to bow when they received a decree. Here is what Emperor Wu Ze Tian's imperial ordered stated: Wishing to study the Sudden Teaching Dharma Door in my spare time after conducting national affairs, I have invited Masters Hui An and Shen Hsiu to the palace to receive offerings. But they refused, claiming, "We do not have enough virtue. You should invite Great Master Hui Neng, who has received the Fifth Patriarch's robe and bowl and is a true successor to the Buddha's mind-seal transmission. Hence, I am now sending my attendant, Chamberlain Xue Jian, to invite you to the capital, Ch'ang An. I hope the Great Master will comply out of compassion for living beings."The chamberlain was an official of the inner court. He was a eunuch.
The Sixth Patriarch wrote back, "I am plagued with many illnesses." In actuality, he wasn't ill. Nevertheless, he utilized this expediency. This is not considered as telling a lie. Why? The Sixth Patriarch did not wish to visit a ruler. Moreover, he did not wish to visit an empress. It would have been against the rules. On top of this, Wu Ze Tian is one who does not follow morals or any rules and standards. But the Sixth Patriarch couldn't say, "You are an empress and I am a Patriarch and I don't have to visit you," so he said, "I am old, in sickness and in pain. I wish to spend my remaining years at the foot of the mountain."
(To be continued ..)