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The Sixth Patriarch’s Dharma Jewel Platform Sutra


(Continued from issue #257)




Originally in the comments by Ding Fu Bao, Chapter 9 was erroneously called 'Protecting the Dharma'. It should be called 'Proclamations of Imperial Orders'. Announcing aloud the imperial order inviting the Sixth Patriarch to the palace to receive offering cannot be categorized as protecting the dharma.

Xue Jian said, "The Dhyana Masters and great Virtuous Ones at the capital all say that to understand the Way one must sit in Dhyana meditation and practice concentration, for without Dhyana concentration, liberation is impossible. I do not know how the Master explains this dharma."


The Master said, "The Way is awakened from within the mind. How can it be found while sitting? The Diamond Sutra states that anyone saying that the Tathagata either sits or reclines; is walking the deviant path. Why? The clear and pure Dhyana of the Tathagata comes from nowhere and goes nowhere; it is neither produced, nor extinguished. The Tathagata's clear and pure 'sitting' is the state of all dharmas which is empty and still. Ultimately there is no certification. How can there be any 'sitting?'"


Although the Sixth Patriarch was illiterate, whatever he said is beyond the understanding of ordinary people. He said, "You're awaken to the Way from within your mind. You can't just sit there. You have to understand and become aware of the principles of the Buddhadharma. 'Awakening' pertains to 'understanding'; 'sitting' pertains to 'practicing'. Practicing without understanding is ignorant; understanding without practicing is only intellectual zen. After you have understood, you must apply the principles in actual practice, which is more than just sitting. Sitting for several decades without understanding the principles, your mind will not attain enlightenment."

The Diamond Sutra states, "To say that the Tathagata either comes and goes, either sits or reclines, is to walk a deviant path. Such a person does not understand the principles as I said. Why? The clear pure Dhyana of the Tathagata comes from nowhere and goes nowhere; it is neither produced nor extinguished. The Tathagata's clear pure 'sitting' is the state of all dharmas which is empty and still. Ultimately there is nothing to certify to. How can it be that you are expected to stay 'sitting'? Opting to remain 'sitting' is also an attachment."


Xue Jian said, "When this disciple returns to the capital, he will surely be questioned by the emperor. Will the High Master please be compassionate and instruct me on the essentials of the mind so that I can transmit them to the two palaces and to the students of the Way at the capital? It will be like one lamp lighting up a hundred thousand lamps, bringing endless brightness to darkness."

The Master said, "There is neither brightness nor darkness in the Way. Brightness and darkness are expressions of transformation. Endless brightness has an end, too, because such terms are relative. Therefore the Vimalakirti Sutra says, 'The Dharma is incomparable because it is not relative.'"


Xue Jian wished for instruction on the essentials of the mind-seal dharma so that he can report back to the emperor and let students of the Way know the teaching. It would be like one lamp lighting up a hundred thousand lamps, bringing infinite brightness.

The Master said, "The fundamental substance of the Way is the fundamental substance of self-nature. There is neither brightness nor darkness. Brightness and darkness are mere expressions of transformation. When brightness comes, darkness goes. When darkness comes, brightness goes. Brightness replaces darkness; darkness replaces brightness. Endless brightness has an end, too, by virtue of relativity. Therefore the Vimalakirti Sutra says, 'The Dharma is incomparable because it is not relative.'"


Xue Jian said, "Brightness is like wisdom; darkness, affliction. If cultivators of the Way do not smash afflictions with wisdom, how can they break free from endless cycle of birth-and-death?"
The Master said, "Affliction is Bodhi; they are one and the same. One who uses wisdom to smash affliction has the views and understanding of the Two Vehicles, and the potential of those in the sheep and deer carts. Those of superior wisdom and great roots are completely different."


Xue Jian said, "Brightness is like wisdom and darkness is like affliction. If cultivators of the Way do not use wisdom to expose and smash affliction, how can they escape from their endless cycle of birth-and-death?"

The Master said, "Affliction and Bodhi are the same. Do not separate them into two. One who uses wisdom to expose and smash affliction has the views and understanding of the Two Vehicles (Shravakas and Pratyekabuddhas), not of the Great Vehicle íV the one and only Buddha Way. Shravakas and Pratyekabuddhas typify the potential of those in the sheep and deer carts. The method of cultivation of those of superior wisdom and great roots is completely different.


Xue Jian said, "What are the views and understanding of the Great Vehicle?"
The Master said, "The common person sees understanding and ignorance as two; wise ones comprehend understanding and ignorance as non-dual. The non-dual nature is the real nature. Real nature neither decrease in common people nor increases in worthy sages. In the midst of afflictions, it remains clear. Dwelling in Dhyana concentration, it is not quiescent. It is neither terminable nor perpetual. It neither comes nor goes. It is not inside, outside or in the middle. It is neither produced nor destroyed. Nature and mark is 'thus, thus.' It is permanently existing and does not change. It is called the'Way.'"


Xue Jian asked, "What are the views and understanding of the Great Vehicle?"
The Master said, "Ordinary people see understanding and ignorance as utterly different. People with wisdom know that in essence they are one, not two. Non-dual nature is the real nature. What is 'real nature'? It neither diminishes in common people nor increases in worthy sages. In states of affliction, it is not confused; in Dhyana concentration, it is not quiescent. It is both moving and unmoving. It is not terminable and not everlasting. It does not come or go. It is not inside, outside, or in the middle. It is not produced or destroyed. Both nature and mark is 'thus, thus', permanently dwelling and unmoving. Hence, it is called the 'Way.'"


Xue Jian said, "How does your explanation of the self-nature as neither existence nor extinction differ from that of the heretics?"
The Master answered, "As non-existence and non-extinction are explained by the heretics extinction ends existence and existence evokes extinction. Their extinction seems non-extinct. They call existence as non-existence. My explanation of non-existence and non-extinction is this: originally there was no existence, and now there is no extinction. For this reason my explanation differs from that of the heretics. If you wish to know the essentials of the mind, simply do not deliberate on good and evil. Then, you will naturally enter the clear, pure substance of the mind, which is always quiescent and the wonderful functions of which are as numerous as the sand grains in the Ganges River."


Xue Jian said, "How does your explanation of the self-nature as neither existence nor extinction differ from that of the heretics?"

The Master explained, "Heretics see existence and extinction as two. They say that extinction puts an end to existence and that existence revokes extinction. What they refer as extinction is not real extinction. They claim non-existence even though existence continues on. Here is my explanation of non-existence and non-extinction: Originally, there was no existence; so now there is no extinction. Therefore, my explanation differs from that of the heretics. If you would like to know the wonderful dharma of mind-transmission and the significance of the mind-ground Dharma door, then you should not deliberate on everything that is good or evil. Eventually, you will understand this principle and move into the innate pure substance of your mind. The innate mind-substance is constantly pure and clean, not temporary. Although constantly in quiescence, within its true emptiness lies wonderful existence, and its wonderful functions are infinite."


Xue Jian received this instruction and was suddenly greatly enlightened. He bowed, took leave, and returned to the palace to report the Master's words of teaching. That year on the third day of the ninth month, a decree was issued in praise of the Master. It states, "The Master has declined our invitation because of old age and illness. He cultivates the Way for us and is a field of blessings for the country. The Master is like Vimalakirti who pleaded illness in Vaishali. He proclaims the teachings of the Great Vehicle, transmits the Buddha-mind and speaks of the non-dual Dharma. Xue Jian has conveyed the Master's instructions, the knowledge and vision of the Tathagata. It must be due to accumulated good acts, abundant blessings, and good roots planted in former lives that I now have met with the Master when he appears in the world, enabling me to suddenly enlighten to the Supreme Vehicle. I am extremely grateful for his kindness and hold his teachings on high. Now, I offer in gratitude a Mo Na robe and a crystal bowl. I ordered the Magistrate of Shao Zhou to rebuild the temple buildings and convert the Master's former dwelling into a temple to be called Guo-en (Nation's Gratitude) Temple."


After receiving the Master's instructional teaching, Xue Jian was suddenly enlightened. He bowed to the Master in parting and returned to the palace. He submitted a written report to the empress, outlining the principles the Master had expounded. On the third day of the ninth month, the palace issued a decree in praise of the Master, stating, "Great Master, you have declined the royal invitation due to old age and sickness. You are like layman Vimalakirti, who pleaded illness in Vaishali. Nonetheless, you cultivate the Way for me. You are truly the nation's field of blessing, the nation's high sanghan with the highest cultivation. You propagate the teachings of Mahayana Buddhism, and transmit the Buddha-mind, the mind-seal of all Buddhas. At Nan Hua Temple, you expound the non-dual Dharma door, i.e. the suchness of production and extinction, the non-duality of nature and mark.

On his return, Xue Jian conveyed to me all the principles you imparted. Your knowledge and vision are that of the Buddha. I must have vastly done good deeds in many kalpas to be so blessed. I must have planted many good roots in my past life that leads me to encounter the Great Master who enables me to immediately understand the wonderful principles of the Supreme Vehicle. I am eternally grateful for your teaching. Every day, I hold high and bow to your teachings. So, now I offer the Master a precious Mo Na robe (patchwork robe), which is a tribute from Korea."

I have seen the robe given by Wu Ze Tian to the Sixth Patriarch. It was a patchwork robe with many patches. Each patch has an embroidered Buddha image. Some said that Wu Ze Tian embroidered them herself, but there is no way to know for sure.

The decree continued, "I also offered the Master an alms bowl made of crystal. (It is clearly translucent like glass.) I mandated the Magistrate of Shao Chou to reconstruct your temple structures and to convert the Master's former dwelling place into a temple named Guo-en (Nation's Gratitude) Temple."



(To be continued ..)



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