The Sixth Patriarch's Dharma Jewel Platform Sutra

Chapter 7



Dhyana Master Hsüan Chiao


Dhyana Master Hsüan Chiao of Yung Chia was the son of a family called Tai in Wen Chou. When he was young he studied the Sutras and commentaries and was skilled in the T’ien T’ai Dharma-door of “Stop and Look.” Upon reading the Vimalakirti Sutra, he understood the mind-ground. One day he happened to meet the Master’s disciple Hsüan Ch’e and they had a pleasant talk. As Hsüan Chiao’s words were consonant with the words of all the Patriarchs, Hsüan Ch’e asked him, “Kind Sir, from whom did you obtain the Dharma?”

He replied, “I have heard the Vaipulya Sutras and Shastras, receiving each from a master. Later, upon reading the Vimalakirti Sutra, I awakened to the doctrine of the Buddha-mind, but as yet no one has certified me.”

Hsüan Ch’e said, “That was acceptable before the time of the Buddha called the Awesome-Voiced King. But since the coming of that Buddha, all those who ‘self-enlighten’ without a master belong to other religions which hold to the tenet of spontaneity.”

“Then will you please certify me, Kind Sir?” said Hsüan Chiao.

Hsüan Ch’e said, “My words are of little worth, but the Great Master, the Sixth Patriarch, is at Ts’ao Hsi, where people gather like clouds from the four directions. He is one who has received the Dharma. If you wish to go, I will accompany you.”


Yung Chia is the name of a place. Because everyone greatly respected this Dharma Master, they addressed him after the name of his birthplace, according to Chinese custom. When he was young Yung Chia investigated the Buddhist Sutras and the commentaries written by the Patriarchs. When he read the Vimalakirti Sutra, he understood the Dharma-door of his own mind-ground. One day he had a chat with the Sixth Patriarch’s disciple Hsüan Ch’e, and Hsüan Ch’e found that their views were in agreement and that they both agreed with the principles of the Patriarchs. Supposing him to be a member of his own school, Hsüan Ch’e asked, “Who transmitted our Dharma to you, Great Master Hsüan Chiao? Who certified you?”

When he learned Hsüan Chiao had enlightened himself by reading Vimalakirti Sutra, he said, “Before the time of Awesome-Voiced King Buddha, that would have been all right. But he was the first Buddha, and now, since his advent, anyone who claims to be enlightened without a master’s certification is simply not a Buddhist.”

“Not a Buddhist? Oh no!” said Hsüan Chiao. “Then please certify me!”

I don’t know what certain people in America who certify themselves and then lecture on The Sixth Patriarch’s Sutra do when they come to this passage of text. How do they explain it?

Awesome-Voiced King Buddha’s name means that the sound of his voice penetrates to the most remote places, through the wind and light to the original ground.

“I can’t certify you,” said Hsüan Ch’e, “because I don’t have the authority. Besides, it’s not certain that I myself am enlightened. However the Sixth Patriarch is at Nan Hua Temple. The Fifth Patriarch has transmitted both the Dharma and Bodhidharma’s robe and bowl to him.”


Thereupon Hsüan Chiao went with Hsüan Ch’e to call upon the Master. On arriving, he circumambulated the Master three times, shook his staff, and stood in front of him. The Master said, “Inasmuch as a Shramana has perfected the three thousand awesome deportments and the eighty thousand fine practices, where does this Virtuous One come from and what makes him so arrogant?”

Hsüan Chiao said, “The affair of birth and death is great and impermanence comes quickly.”

The Master said, “Why not embody non-production and understand that which is not quick?”

He replied, “The body itself is not produced and fundamentally there is no quickness.”

The Master said, “So it is; so it is.”


When the two arrived at Ts’ao Hsi, Hsüan Chiao marched around the Sixth Patriarch three times, pounded his tin staff into the ground, and stood there as if angry.

The Sixth Patriarch politely asked, “How did you get here and why are you so obnoxious? One who has left home has perfected the three thousand awesome deportments and the eighty thousand fine practices, and yet you didn’t even bow to me.”

There are two hundred and fifty deportments for each of the four body postures: standing, sitting, walking, and lying down. These thousand comportments multiplied by the past, present, and future make three thousand. There are actually eighty four thousand fine practices, although the text here gives the number as eighty thousand.

Hsüan Chiao said, “I act this way because birth and death is a serious problem and one never knows when the Ghost of Impermanence will pay his inevitable call. It all happens very fast, you know.” What Hsüan Chiao actually meant was, “I am trying to end birth and death and I have no time for good manners. Besides, I’ve put that sort of thing down.”

“Then why don’t you think of a way to embody and comprehend that which is not produced and to understand what is not quick?” said the Master. “You should be clear about the principles of non-production and quickness.”

“The body itself is not produced,” said Hsüan Chiao, “and, fundamentally the understanding is without quickness. That is, if I clearly understand birth and death, then there is no birth and death, and if I maintain that clear understanding, then in fact there is no quickness. Why then should I fear the Ghost of Impermanence?”

Seeing that he understood, the Sixth Patriarch certified him saying, “Right! Good work! It’s just as you say.”


Hsüan Chiao then made obeisance with perfect awesome deportment. A short while later he announced that he was leaving and the Master said, “Aren’t you leaving too quickly?”

He replied, “Fundamentally I don’t move; how can I be quick?”

The Master said, “Who knows you don’t move?”

He replied, “Kind Sir, you yourself make this discrimination.”

The Master said, “You have truly got the idea of non-production.”

“But does non-production possess an ‘idea’?” asked Hsüan Chiao.

“If it is without ideas, then who discriminates it?” said the Master.

“What discriminates is not an idea either,” he replied.

The Master exclaimed, “Good indeed! Please stay for a night.”

During his time he was called “The One Enlightened Overnight” and later he wrote the “Song of Certifying to the Way,” which circulated widely in the world. His posthumous title is “Great Master Wu Hsiang,” and during his lifetime he was called “Chen Chiao.”


The Master and Hsüan Chiao carried on some repartee: “Your eloquence indicates that you have truly understood the idea of non-production,” said the Master.

“How can non-production have an idea?” Hsüan Chiao replied.

“Without ideas, who could discriminate it?” said the Master.

Hsüan Chiao said, “Although there is discrimination, it is not done on the basis of the mind’s ideas; it is not the intellect engaging in intellection which discriminates. Rather, it is the Buddha’s wonderful observing wisdom which has no need to resort to the process of reasoning and which yet knows everything. Therefore, what discriminates is not an idea either.”

“You’re absolutely right,” said the Master.

Hsüan Chiao stayed one night at Nan Hua Temple and became enlightened, so everyone called him “The One Enlightened Overnight.” Later on, he wrote the “Song of Certifying to the Way” which I am sure you all know. It begins:

Have you not seen the man of the Way
Who has cut off learning and, in leisure, does nothing
Who does not reject false thinking or seek reality?

For him, the real nature of ignorance is the Buddha nature
And the empty body of illusion is the Dharma-body.

After he died, the Emperor gave him the title, “Wu Hsiang” which means, “without marks,” and his contemporaries called him “Chen Chiao,” “true enlightenment.”

Dhyana Master Chih Huang


Dhyana cultivator Chih Huang had formerly studied under the Fifth Patriarch and said of himself that he had attained to the “right reception.” He lived in a hut, constantly sitting, for twenty years.

In his travels, the Master’s disciple Hsüan Ch’e reached Ho Shuo, where he heard of Chih Huang’s reputation. He paid a visit to his hut and asked him, “What are you doing here?”

“Entering concentration,” replied Chih Huang.

Hsüan Ch’e said, “You say you are entering concentration. Do you enter with thought or without thought? If you enter without thought, then all insentient things, such as grass, trees, tiles, and stones, should likewise attain concentration. If you enter with thought, then all sentient things which have consciousness should also attain concentration.”

Chih Huang said, “When I properly enter concentration I do not notice whether I have thought or not.”

Hsüan Ch’e said, “Not to notice whether or not you have thought is eternal concentration. How can you enter it or come out of it? If you come out of it or enter it, it is not the great concentration.”

Chih Huang was speechless. After a long while, he finally asked, “Who is your teacher?”

Hsüan Ch’e said, “My master is the Sixth Patriarch at Ts’ao Hsi.”

Chih Huang said, “What does your master take to be Dhyana Concentration?”


Chih Huang practiced Dhyana meditation; his first teacher was the Fifth Patriarch, Hung Jen. Formerly, when cultivators left the home-life they would travel everywhere in search of a “bright-eyed knowing one.”

Hsüan Ch’e did public relations work for the Sixth Patriarch. He traveled all over China saying, “My teacher is the Sixth Patriarch, the genuine recipient of the robe and bowl!” When he heard about Chih Huang’s cultivation he went to visit him and said, “Hey! What are you doing here, huh?”

Chih Huang just said, “I am entering concentration.”

“You say you are entering concentration,” said Hsüan Ch’e. “Tell me, do you do it with the thought in mind that you want to enter concentration, or don’t you have such a thought? If you do not enter it with such a thought in mind, then all inanimate objects could also enter concentration, because they don’t have thought either. But if you do, then all living, conscious creatures could enter as well.”

Chih Huang said, “When I enter concentration I don’t notice whether I have thought or not. At that time I’m empty.”

Hsüan Ch’e said, “If you don’t notice whether or not you have thought, then that is permanent concentration. How can you come out of it or enter it? How do you go in? How do you come out? If you can enter or leave it, it’s not the great concentration of the Buddha.”

Chih Huang was dumbfounded. “What am I going to do?” he thought. “I do go into concentration and come out of it.” He couldn’t open his mouth for a long time. He knew that his own words had no principle, that Hsüan Ch’e’s wisdom was higher than his own, and that he had no means to debate with him. Finally he asked, “Who is your teacher? Your eloquence is superb. Surely your master is even more clever than you. Who transmitted the Dharma to you?”

“My teacher is the Sixth Patriarch, the Abbot of Nan Hua Temple in Ts’ao Hsi,” said Hsüan Ch’e.

“What does he take to be Dhyana concentration?” Chih Huang asked.


Hsüan Ch’e said, “My teacher speaks of the wonderful, clear, perfect stillness, the suchness of the substance and function, the fundamental emptiness of the five skandhas, and the non-existence of the six organs. There is neither emerging nor entering, neither concentration nor confusion. The nature of Dhyana is non-dwelling and is beyond the act of dwelling in Dhyana stillness. The nature of Dhyana is unproduced and beyond the production of the thought of Dhyana. The mind is like empty space and is without the measure of empty space.”


The Sixth Patriarch says that the original nature is wonderful, clear, perfectly still and unmoving. Its substance and function both are “thus, thus unmoving, clear, clear, and illuminating.” The five shadows, i.e. the five skandhic heaps of form, feeling, perception, impulses, and consciousness are fundamentally void and the six sense objects of form, sound, smell, taste, tangible objects, and objects of the mind are also non-existent.

When you understand the wonderful function of the original substance, there is no question of either dwelling or not dwelling in Dhyana. The Dhyana nature transcends that kind of “dead Dhyana” which is attached to stillness.

The nature of Dhyana itself is unproduced and transcends such thoughts as, “Here I sit in Dhyana meditation.”


Hearing this explanation, Chih Huang went directly to visit the Master. The Master asked him, “Kind Sir, where are you from?” Chih Huang related the above incident in detail. The Master then said, “It is truly just as he said. Simply let your mind be like empty space without being attached to the idea of emptiness and the correct function of the self-nature will no longer be obstructed. Have no thought, whether in motion or stillness; forget any feeling of being common or holy, put an end to both subject and object. The nature and mark will be ‘thus, thus,’ and at no time will you be out of the state of concentration.”


“What Hsüan Ch’e told you was correct,” said the Master. “Just make your mind like empty space, but do not hold onto the idea of empty space. You will then function in an unhindered way. When something presents itself, you will respond and when it passes, you will be still. This is to be unobstructed.

Whether moving or still, whether walking, standing, sitting, or lying down, have no thought. Do not think, “I’m a sage!” and do not think, “I’m just a common person.” Forget about feeling holy or common; get rid of emotional feelings altogether. Be without subject or object: do not have something which sees and something which is seen, something which makes empty and something which is made empty.

You should know that when you see brightness, your seeing is not bright; when you see darkness, your seeing is not dark; when you see emptiness, your seeing is not empty; when you see form, your seeing has no form; when you see existence, your seeing is not existent; and when you see non-existence, your seeing is not non-existent.

The Shurangama Sutra says, “When your seeing sees the seeing (nature), that seeing is no (longer) seeing. Your seeing nature is beyond your seeing and your seeing cannot reach it.” Your seeing nature should be separate from and unattached to your false discriminating seeing and you should not hold onto the thought of seeing. If you adhere to the idea of subject and object, maintaining that there is someone who sees as well as an emptiness which is seen, you are left with just that knowledge and vision. You should put an end to both subject and object.


Just then Chih Huang attained the great enlightenment. What he had gained in twenty years vanished from his mind without a trace. That night the people of Hopei heard a voice in space announcing, “Today, Dhyana Master Chih Huang has attained the Way.” Later, he made obeisance and left, returning to Hopei to teach and convert the four assemblies there.


All of a sudden, Chih Huang had a great, not a small, enlightenment and the skill he had acquired in twenty years of diligent cultivation completely left him. There was not a trace, not an echo. Before he had entered samadhi thinking, “I am entering samadhi,” but now he had nothing at all. Everything was empty. He had returned to the root and source of all dharmas.

Although Chih Huang himself was in Ho Shuo, that night in his native village on the outskirts of Peking, his neighbors, disciples, and Dharma protectors all heard a voice in space saying, “You should all know that today Dhyana Master Chih Huang reached enlightenment.”

Later, Chih Huang bowed to the Sixth Patriarch, took leave and returned to Hopei to teach the Bhikshus, Bhikshunis, laymen, and laywomen there.

Hopei is about fifteen hundred miles from Ho Shuo. That’s a long walk.

One Member Of The Sangha


One of the Sangha asked the Master, “Who got the principle of Huang Mei?”

The Master replied, “The one who understands the Buddhadharma.”

The Sangha member said, “High Master, have you obtained it?”

“I do not understand the Buddhadharma,” the Master replied.


This member of the Sangha was truly a barbarian, an uneducated savage. He rudely confronted the Master and asked, “Who got the robe and bowl of the Fifth Patriarch Hung Jen of Huang Mei?” He knew very well that the Sixth Patriarch had it, but he asked anyway. From this we know that among those who came to the Master for instruction there were rude country peasants as well as good disciples. He knew that his question was insulting to the Master and what he meant by it was, “You can’t even read. How can you be worthy of the robe and bowl?”

The Master said, “One who thoroughly comprehends the Buddhadharma obtains that principle and the Fifth Patriarch’s robe and bowl.”

“But High Master,” the Bhikshu said, “have you got it or not?” He didn’t believe that the Master had received the transmission.

The Sixth Patriarch didn’t say yes and he didn’t say no, he simply said, “I don’t understand the Buddhadharma.” What do you think? Was he telling the truth?

Bhikshu Fang Pien


One day the Master wanted to wash the robe which he had inherited, but there was no clear stream nearby. He walked about two miles behind the temple where he saw good energies revolving in a dense grove of trees. He shook his staff, stuck it in the ground, and a spring bubbled up and formed a pool.


The Master walked about two miles behind the temple, where he found a luxuriant grove filled with tall trees and good vibrations. People who have opened their five eyes and obtained the six spiritual powers can tell at a glance the geomantic properties of any particular piece of land. So when the Master planted his tin staff in the ground, the nine metal rings which hung from the head of his staff echoed through the wood, and a spring gushed forth to form a clear, pure pool.

The public washing stream is about a third of a mile behind Nan Hua Temple. Whether this present stream is the same source that was used during the Sixth Patriarch’s time is uncertain.


As he knelt to wash his robe on a rock, suddenly a monk came up and bowed before him saying, “I am Fang Pien, a native of Hsi Shu. A while ago I was in India, where I visited the Great Master Bodhidharma. He told me to return to China immediately, saying, ‘The orthodox Dharma Eye Treasury and the samghati robe which I inherited from Mahakashyapa has been transmitted to the sixth generation at Ts’ao Hsi, Shao Chou. Go there and pay reverence.’ Fang Pien has come from afar, hoping to see the robe and bowl that his Master transmitted.”

The Master showed them to him and asked, “Superior One, what work do you do?”

“I am good at sculpting,” he replied.

Keeping a straight face, the Master said, “Then sculpt something for me to see.”

Fang Pien was bewildered, but after several days he completed a lifelike image of the Patriarch, seven inches high and wonderful in every detail. The Master laughed and said, “You only understand the nature of sculpture; you do not understand the nature of the Buddha.” Then the Master stretched out his hand and rubbed the crown of Fang Pien’s head, saying, “You will forever be a field of blessing for gods and humans.”

The Master rewarded him with a robe, which Fang Pien divided into three parts: one he used to wrap the sculpture, one he kept for himself, and the third he wrapped in palm leaves and buried in the ground, vowing, “In the future, when this robe is found again, I will appear in the world to be abbot here and restore these buildings.”

Note: During the Sung Dynasty in the eighth year of the Chia Yu reign period (1063 A.D.), while Bhikshu Wei Hsien was repairing the hall, he excavated the earth and found the robe which was like new. The image is at Kao Ch’üan
Temple and those who pray before it obtain a quick response.


Think about it: Bodhidharma had long since died in China, but Bhikshu Fang Pien met him in India. That is not surprising, however, because to this day no one knows exactly what happened to Bodhidharma.

I will now tell you a true story. While I was living in Manchuria I decided, for various reasons, to leave the home-life and cultivate the Way. The man I most respected was Wang Hsiao Tzu, ‘Filial-Son Wang.’ When he was twenty-eight years old his mother died and he practiced filial piety by sitting beside her grave. He built a small hut out of scrap lumber to protect himself from the bitter Manchurian cold and lived there for three years, according to the Confucian custom. When the first three years were up he decided to stay for another three years, so in all he practiced for six years.

During the second three-year period he did not speak, no matter who came. Every day he sat in his hut, meditating and reciting the Diamond Sutra. Toward the end of the sixth year he had a daydream. “In Ch’ien and Kuang Ling Mountains,” he thought, “there are cultivators who live for over a thousand years. When I fulfill my filial obligations I’ll go there to cultivate.”

The following morning, during meditation, he heard a Dharma Protector say, “Today an important guest will visit you.” He thought perhaps a great official was coming and he waited until ten o’clock when he saw a monk approaching wearing rag robes and carrying a bumble stick. Filial Son Wang did not speak out loud, but in his mind he wondered, “Where is he from?”

The monk replied, “I’m from Kuang Ling Mountain.”

Filial Son Wang then thought, “What is his name?” The monk told him his name and added, “In the Ming dynasty I was a general and later I left home to cultivate. We two have a karmic affinity for one another, and so when I heard that you wanted to go to Kuang Ling Mountain, I felt I should advise you that the monks there cultivate solely for their own benefit. You, on the other hand, should cultivate for the good of all. After you have finished your act of filial piety, build a temple right here and spread the Buddhadharma.”

Now, ‘Filial-Son Wang’ hadn’t spoken to the monk, and yet the monk read the questions in his mind. That shows that the monk had the spiritual power of knowing others’ thoughts and had obtained the five eyes and six spiritual penetrations. He said he was from the Ming dynasty. ‘Filial-Son Wang’ lived during the first years of the Republic, some three hundred years later. So you see that Bodhidharma could easily have been seen in southern India several hundred years after his disappearance from China. That he met Fang Pien there and told him about the robe and bowl is a very ordinary matter–nothing strange at all.

Bhikshu Fang Pien knew how to make Buddha images. He carved them in wood and molded them in clay. The Master very solemnly said to him, “Please sculpt an image for me to see”

Caught off guard, Fang Pien just stood there in silence, but a few days later he had finished making a true image of the Patriarch. It looked just like the Master. The nose, ears, eyes, all the features were exactly right. It was a perfect likeness right down to the finest detail.

When the Master saw the little statue of himself he couldn’t help but smile. “Fang Pien,” he said, “you may know how to model clay, but you don’t know the Buddha nature. In any case, you should leave home in every life, become a Bhikshu, and act as a field of blessing for humans and gods.”

Master Wo Lun’s Verse


One Bhikshu was reciting Dhyana Master Wo Lun’s verse:

Wo Lun has the talent
To stop the hundred thoughts:
Facing situations his mind won’t move;
Bodhi grows day by day.

When the Master heard it he said, “This verse shows no understanding of the mind-ground, and to cultivate according to it will increase one’s bondage. Then he spoke this verse:

Hui Neng has no talent
To stop the hundred thoughts.
Facing situations his mind often moves;
How can Bodhi grow?


The name of the reciter of Wo Lun’s verse is not given. Perhaps he had no name or perhaps he didn’t want to be famous.

Dhyana Master Wo Lun could cut off his thoughts, but Wo Lun himself, the cutter-off of thoughts, still remained. Thus he had fallen into the second or third position. He was not in the first position.

Upon hearing Wo Lun’s verse, the Great Master replied,

I haven’t a single talent,
Nor even the thought of cutting off thought.
My mind responds in a natural way:
Who cares whether Bodhi grows or not?

Here he expresses the same principle as in the verse he wrote while still a layman at Huang Mei: “Originally there is not one thing. Where can the dust alight?” The absolute is pure; what need is there to dust it off?

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