(Continued from issue #264)
Shakyamuni Buddha, at one time in a dharma assembly in the midst of the millions of humans and gods who were circumambulating him, twirled a golden Chandana flower offered by the Great Brahma Heavenly King and showed it to the crowd. The assembly did not know what is happening, but Venerable Mahakashyapa broke into a smile, then Shakyamuni Buddha said, "I have the Proper Dharma-eye Treasury, the wonderful mind of Nirvana, the real mark, which is unmarked. This is the mind-to-mind transmission, transmitted outside the teaching. I have already given Mahakashyapa the mind-to-mind transmission." Later on, it was transmitted to the Second Patriarch, Venerable Ananda.
The Third Patriarch, Venerable Sanakavasa, was born wearing clothes, and, as he grew, his clothes grew along with him. After he left home under Arya Ananda, his clothes changed into a great Samghati robe. Just before he died, he said, "This robe will not decay until Shakyamuni Buddha's Dharma is completely extinguished."
The Tenth Patriarch, Arya Parshva, lived in his mother's womb for more than sixty years. He was born with white hair and white beard, just like Lao Tzu in China. Arya Parshva was born with a propensity to cultivate the Way. When he met the Ninth Patriarch, Buddhamitra, he left home and the Dharma door of the Buddha's mind-seal was transmitted to him.
When the Eleventh Patriarch, Punyayashas, met Parshva he asked him, "How can I realize Buddhahood?"
Parshva said, "You wish to realize Buddhahood? Your present non-realization is just it."
Punyayashas said, "If my present non-realization is the Buddha, how can I know that?"
Parshva replied, "How can you know that your present non-realization is not the Buddha?"
With such repartee, Punyayashas became enlightened. Venerable Parshva transmitted to him the mind dharma.
Later on, Venerable Punyayashas met Great Knight Ashvaghosha. Great Knight Ashvaghosha was extremely intelligent. Venerable Punyayashas knew that Ashvaghosha's conditions were ripe, that he was ready to become the twelfth Patriarch.
Therefore, Venerable Punyayashas went to where Ashvaghosha was. Ashvaghosha asked, "How can I know the Buddha?'"
Punyayashas said, "You wish to know the Buddha? Your not knowing is just it."
Ashvaghosha said, "What I do not know is the Buddha. Not knowing the Buddha, how can I know he is the Buddha?"
Punyayashas said, "Since you do not know the Buddha, how can you know that he is not the Buddha?"
Such repartee is similar to the one between Venerable Parshva and Venerable Punyayashas.
Ashvaghosha said, "Ah! So this is the essence of sawing! You say this and I say that, going back and forth like cutting with a saw. "
Punyayashas replied, "Ah! That is the essence of wood! But what is the meaning of sawing?"
Ashvaghosha said, "It's just what you are! And what is the meaning of wood?"
Punyayashas said, "You have just been sawed open by me; you have just been set free by me." Ashvaghosha was instantaneously enlightened. He left home and received the dharma transmission from Punyayashas. He became the Twelfth Patriarch.
The Chinese characters for Ashvaghosha are °¨(horse)»ï(neigh). Whenever he spoke the Dharma, all the horses would neigh in response, hence the name Great Knight Horse Neigh. 'Great Knight' is another appellation for 'Bodhisattva'.
Nagarjuna Bodhisattva, the Fourteenth Patriarch, is the one who went to the Dragon Palace and brought back the Avatamsaka Sutra. He was extraordinarily wise.
Sanghanandi, the Seventeenth Patriarch, asked Gayashata, the Eighteenth Patriarch, "How old are you?"
The child replied, "I'm one hundred years old."
"You're so young," said the Patriarch, "how can you be a hundred years old?"
"If I were a hundred years old and did not understand the Buddhadharma, I would not be as good as a one-day-old baby who did."
Seeing such intelligence, the Seventeenth Patriarch let the child leave the home life under him and later transmitted the Dharma to him, making him the Eighteenth Patriarch.
Aryasimha, the Twenty-Fourth Patriarch, was a native of Central India. In his propagation of the Buddhadharma, he traveled to Kashmir to save and convert the King of Kashmir. The King of Kashmir did not believe in the Buddha, but instead followed two heretic leaders, Mamokuta and Torakusha, who were intent on destroying Buddhism. At that time, bhikshus were not allowed in the country. The King asked Araysimha, "Have you ended birth and death?"Aryasimha said, "I have."
The King said, "Buddhism advocates practicing the Bodhisattva Way. You must give up whatever people want from you (e.g., your head, your eyes, your brains, and your marrow). Now, I want your head. Since you have ended birth and death, you should give me your head. Can you do it?"
"Yes, I can. I have ended birth and death," said Aryasimha. "What does this head matter? It's yours to take."
Hearing this, the King took his precious sword and chopped off Aryasimha's head. Immediately, a milky white fluid oozed from the decapitated head, there's no blood. At the same time, the King's arm fell to the ground. No one cut it off; it fell off by itself because he had committed an offense in slaying an Arhat. In that moment, the King started to believe in how inconceivable the Buddhadharma is. He had the two leaders of the heretic sect beheaded. They did not exude any milky white fluid or any extraordinary phenomenon. They bled just like any ordinary person. From then on, the King announced to all his people that heretics are prohibited in his country. He revived Buddhism in his country. Afterward, Buddhism greatly flourished.
The Sixth Patriarch said, "All the Patriarchs have transmitted the dharma mind-to-mind. In the future, you should transmit it accordingly from generation to generation. Do not allow it to become extinct." The assembly heard and faithfully accepted what the Master had said, bowed, and withdrew.
(To be continued ..)