The Sixth Patriarch's Dharma Jewel Platform Sutra

Chapter 10





They further asked, “In the future, there won’t be any difficulties, will there?

The Master said, “Five or six years after my extinction, a man will come to take my head. Listen to my verse:

Offerings to the parents with bowed head.
There must be food in the mouth.
When the difficulty of ‘Man’ is met,
The officials will be Yang and Liu.


Remembering the demonic difficulties which had beset the Master during his lifetime–assassination attempts, arson, thievery, and spying–the Master’s disciples wondered what would happen when he was gone.

I know that the Sutra does not record all of the hardships the Master underwent. There were at least six attempts made to steal the robe and bowl and the thieves were armed and prepared to kill the Master, if necessary. So his disciples asked hopefully, “There won’t be any difficulties like that in the future, will there? No one will want to kill us, will they? Will they try to kill us instead of you?”

While he was alive, they tried to take his life. After his death, they tried to steal his head. In those days it wasn’t easy to be Patriarch. It’s not so difficult today, however, so don’t retreat.

The Sixth Patriarch’s verse was a prophecy. No one understood it at the time, but later it came true. Five or six years after the Master’s death, a Korean monk named Chin Ta Pei hired Chan Ching Man of Hung Chou to steal the Patriarch’s head and bring it back to Korea so that he could make offerings to it.

Chan Ching Man was poor and hungry and so he took the money because “there must be food in the mouth.” The Korean monk was no doubt very rich.

At the time of the “difficulty” of Chan Chin “Man,” the Magistrate was named Liu T’ien and the Governor was named Yang K’an.

The flesh-body of the Patriarch was housed in the pagoda. Having heard the Master’s prediction, his disciples had bound his neck with sheets of iron for protection. Chan Ching Man chopped at it with his knife, but he wasn’t able to remove the Master’s head. He made a lot of noise, and when the Bhikshus came running to catch him they saw a man wearing white mourning clothes run from the pagoda. The Bhikshus reported the incident to the police and within five days the thief was arrested and brought to Nan Hua Temple to be tried.

“Why did you try to steal the Sixth Patriarch’s head?” they asked.

“A Korean monk paid me to do it,” he said, “and I was hungry, so I took his money.”

The Magistrate turned to the Master’s disciple Ling T’ao and said, “What do we do now?”

Ling T’ao said, “According to the law, he deserves to die, but in the Buddha’s teaching there are no friends or enemies. Besides, the Master predicted this would happen. Let him go.”

“The Buddha’s gate is indeed wide,” said the Magistrate, and he set the criminal free.


The Master also said, “Seventy years after my departure, two Bodhisattvas, one who has left home and one who is a layman will simultaneously come from the east to propagate and transform. They will establish my School, build and restore monasteries, and glorify the Dharma for its heirs.”


The Bodhisattva who had left home was Patriarch Ma Tsu Tao I. He built many monasteries in China. It is said, “Ma Tsu built the temples and Pai Chang wrote the rules.” Pai Chang was Ma Tsu’s Dharma successor.

The Bodhisattva who had not left home was P’ang Yün, the enlightened layman. His entire family was enlightened, wife, daughter, and son, and they all went to Nirvana. Layman P’ang had been incredibly wealthy, but he built a big boat one day, put all of his money in it, sailed out to sea, and dumped it overboard.

Some say that the two Bodhisattvas are Dhyana Master Huang Po and layman P’ei Hsiu. You may explain it any way you like, as long as you pick two people: a monk and a layman.

Layman P’ang gave all his money as a gift to use for remodeling the Dragon Palace at the bottom of the sea. He returned to his home and took up a lowly occupation, and in the midst of their bitter poverty, the P’ang family cultivated the Way.

One day, Mr. P’ang sighed,

It’s hard, it’s hard
It’s really just as hard as putting seeds
On all the leaves
Of trees in the yard.

“What do you know, old man?” said Mrs. P’ang. “It’s not hard at all. In fact,

It’s easy, it’s easy
It’s easy, because I find
On the tip of every blade of grass
The Patriarch’s mind.”

She thought it was easy and he thought it was hard. Then their little daughter came and disagreed with both of them:

It’s not easy,
 It’s not hard;
I eat when I’m hungry and
I sleep when I’m tired!

“There’s nothing to it!” she said.

Although Mr. P’ang was married, he and his wife were like good friends and did not carry on like ordinary men and women. As a consequence, they became enlightened. Lay people should all imitate their inconceivable purity.


The assembly made obeisance again and asked, “Will you please let us know for how many generations the teaching has been transmitted since the first Buddhas and Patriarchs appeared in the world?”

The Master said, “The Buddhas of antiquity who have responded to appear in the world are numberless and uncountable.”


“Their number is incalculable,” said the Master. “Besides, I never learned to read or write and I’m not very good at arithmetic. So let’s not count them.”


“But now I will begin with the last seven Buddhas. In the Past ‘Adorned Eon’ there were Vipashyin Buddha, Shikhin Buddha, and Vishvabhu Buddha. In the present ‘Worthy Eon’ there have been Krakucchanda Buddha, Kanakamuni Buddha, Kashyapa Buddha, and Shakyamuni Buddha.”


In the Adorned Eon (Alamkarakalpa) a thousand Buddhas appeared in the world. The 998th Buddha of that kalpa was Vipashyin Buddha. His name means “Victorious Contemplation,” “Every Kind of Contemplation,” “Victorious View,” or “Every Kind of View.” If you just remember “Vipashyin Buddha” that will do for general purposes.

“Shikhin Buddha.” Shikhin is translated as “fire.” “Vishvabhu Buddha” was the last Buddha of the Adorned Eon.

We are now living in the Worthy Eon (Bhadrakalpa), socalled because many worthy sages will appear during it.

Of the thousand Buddhas of this eon, Krakucchanda Buddha was the first. His name means “Worthy of Offerings,” because he should receive the offerings of humans and gods. His name also means “Adornment.”

The second Buddha was Kanakamuni, the third, Kashyapa, and the fourth, Shakyamuni. These are the most recent Buddhas.


“From Shakyamuni Buddha, the transmission went to Arya Mahakashyapa, Arya Ananda, Arya Sanakavasa, Arya Upagupta, Arya Dhrtaka, Arya Miccaka, Arya Vasumitra, Arya Buddhanandi, Arya Buddhamitra, Arya Parshva...”


Shakyamuni Buddha, in the midst of the millions of humans and gods who were circumambulating him, picked up a flower and Mahakashyapa, the First Patriarch, had to smile. No one knew what was happening when Shakyamuni Buddha said, “I have the Right Dharma-eye Treasury, the wonderful mind of Nirvana, the real mark, which is unmarked. This is the mind-tomind transmission, transmitted outside the teaching. I have already given it to Mahakashyapa in mind-to-mind transmission.”

The Third Patriarch, the 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 a white beard, just like Lao Tzu in China.

Lao Tzu lived in his mother’s womb for eighty-one years and was born with white hair and a long white beard. They named him “Lao Tzu” which means “Old Child,” but he was actually a reincarnation of Mahakashyapa. He was reborn in China because Shakyamuni Buddha had noticed that the Chinese had good karmic roots. Most of them did not believe in the Buddha, however, so Mahakashyapa was sent to China to found the religion of Taoism, which is the same as the Brahman religion of India and which cultivates purity of conduct.

Arya Parshva, the Tenth Patriarch, was born with a liking for cultivation. When he met the Ninth Patriarch, Buddhamitra, he left home and the Dharma door of the Buddha’s mind-seal was transmitted to him.


“...Arya Punyayashas, Mahasattva Ashvaghosha, Arya Kapimala, Mahasattva Nagarjuna, Arya Kanadeva, Arya Rahulata, Arya Sanghanandi, Arya Gayashata...”


When the Eleventh Patriarch, Punyayashas, met Parshva he asked him, “How can I realize Buddhahood?”

Parshva said, “You wish to realize Buddhahood? It is just your present non-realization.”

Punyayashas said, “You say that my present non-realization is the Buddha, but how can I know that?”

Parshva replied, “How can you know that your present nonrealization is not the Buddha?”

With that question and that answer, Punyayashas became enlightened and received the Dharma transmission. Later on, he met the Great Master Ashvaghosha, the Eleventh Patriarch. Mahasattva Ashvaghosha was extremely intelligent. Punyayashas knew that Ashvaghosha’s conditions were ripe–he was ready to become the twelfth Patriarch. When Punyayashas went to teach him, Ashvaghosha asked, “How can I know the Buddha?’”

Punyayashas said, “You wish to know the Buddha? He is just your not knowing.”

Ashvaghosha said, “Not knowing the Buddha, how can I know that my not knowing is the Buddha?”

Punyayashas said, “If you do not know the Buddha, how can you know that your not knowing is not the Buddha?”

Ashvaghosha said, “Ah! So this is the meaning of sawing! You say this and I say that, and we hack at the principle like sawing through a piece of wood.”

Punyayashas replied, “Ah! So that is the meaning 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 liberated by me.”

Ashvaghosha was instantaneously enlightened. He left home, received the transmission, and became the Twelfth Patriarch. He was called Ashvaghosha, “horse cry,” because when he spoke the Dharma all the horses cried out. He was a Mahasattva, that is, a “great being,” a great Bodhisattva.

Nagarjuna Bodhisattva, the Fourteenth Patriarch, is the one who went to the Dragon Palace and brought back the Avatamsaka Sutra. He was very, very wise.

Sanghanandi, the Seventeenth Patriarch, asked Gayashata, the Eighteenth Patriarch, “How old are you?”

The child replied, “I’m one hundred years old.”

“But 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.”

Hearing such an intelligent answer, the Seventeenth Patriarch let the child leave the home life under him and later transmitted the Dharma to him.


“...Arya Kumarata, Arya Jayata, Arya Vasubandhu, Arya Manorhita, Arya Haklena, Arya Aryasimha, Arya Basiasita, Arya Punyamitra, Arya Prajnatara, Arya Bodhidharma, Great Master Hui K’o, Great Master Seng Ts’an, Great Master Tao Hsin, Great Master Hung Jen, and I, Hui Neng, am the Thirty-Third Patriarch. Thus the transmission has been handed down from patriarch to patriarch. In the future 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.


Aryasimha, the Twenty-Fourth Patriarch, was a native of Central India. In his practice of the Buddhadharma, he traveled to Kashmir. The King of Kashmir did not believe in the Buddha, but instead followed two non-Buddhist leaders who were intent on destroying Buddhism. As Bhikshus were not allowed within the country, the King demanded of Aryasimha, “Have you ended birth and death?”

Aryasimha wanted to convert the King. “I have ended it,” he answered.

“The Buddha’s teaching says that practicing the Bodhisattva way, you must give up your head, your eyes, your brains, and your blood. You must give up whatever someone happens to need. Now, I need your head. Give it to me! Since you have ended birth and death, you must give me your head. Can you do it?”

“I don’t even have birth or death,” said Aryasimha. “What does it matter if I lose my head? It’s yours. Take it.”

The King sliced off Aryasimha’s head but instead of blood, a milky white fluid ran out of his neck. The King’s arm fell to the ground. No one cut it off; it fell off by itself because he had murdered an Arhat. The King then put the two leaders of the non-Buddhist religion to death, but there was nothing special about their executions. They bled just like everyone else. The King prohibited their non-Buddhist religion and spread the Buddhadharma widely.


On the third day of the eighth month of the year Kuei Ch’ou, the second year of the Hsien T’ien reign (A.A. 713), after a meal in Kuo En Temple, the Master said, “Each of you take your seat, for I am going to say goodbye.”

Fa Hai said, “What teaching dharma will the High Master leave behind so that confused people can be led to see the Buddha-nature?”

The Master said, “All of you please listen carefully. If those of future generations recognize living beings, they will have perceived the Buddha-nature. If they do not recognize living beings, they may seek the Buddha throughout many eons, but he will be difficult to meet.

“I will now teach you how to recognize the living beings within your mind and how to see the Buddha-nature there. If you wish to see the Buddha, simply recognize living beings, for it is living beings who are confused about the Buddha and not the Buddha who is confused about living beings.

“When enlightened to the self-nature, the living being is a Buddha. If confused about the self-nature, the Buddha is a living being. When the self-nature is impartial, the living being is the Buddha. When the selfnature is biased, the Buddha is a living being.

“If your thoughts are devious and malicious, the Buddha dwells within the living being, but by means of one impartial thought, the living being becomes a Buddha. Our minds have their own Buddha and that Buddha is the true Buddha. If the mind does not have its own Buddha, where can the true Buddha be sought? Your own minds are the Buddha; have no further doubts. Nothing can be established outside the mind, for the original mind produces the ten thousand dharmas. Therefore the Sutras say, ‘The mind produced, all dharmas are produced; the mind extinguished, all dharmas are extinguished.’”


The Great Master instructed his disciples to take their seats. In Buddhism, everything has a fixed order. Those who take precepts first stand or sit in front of those who take them later. If you have held precepts for even one day longer, you sit in front.

Once again Fa Hai, number one, heard that the Sixth Patriarch was going, and so he acted as spokesman. He was the oldest, so naturally he was higher than everyone else. “What Dharma will you leave with us, High Master, so that we can teach the deluded ones of future generations to understand the mind and see the nature?”

The Master said, “If you want to find the Buddha, you must look among living beings. If you recognize living beings, you recognize the Buddha-nature.” Why does Never-Slighting Bodhisattva bow before everyone he meets? Because he knows that everyone is a Buddha, he will accomplish Buddhahood himself. If he saw everyone as a demon, he would become a demon.

See the Buddha within your own mind; don’t seek him outside. If you wish to see the Buddha you must first respect living beings and recognize them all as the Buddha; then you’ve understood the mind and seen your nature. Confused living beings do not recognize the Buddha, but the Buddha recognizes living beings.

If you are biased and continually pick at other people’s faults, even if you are a Buddha, you turn into a living being. Living beings and the Buddha are a thought apart.

Buddha is mind; mind is Buddha. Right thoughts are the Buddha; deviant thoughts are the demon. Pure thoughts are the Buddha; defiled thoughts are the demon. Take a look at your thoughts. If you can keep your mind clean, that is the real Buddha. Without a clear, pure, genuine Buddha-mind, where can you go to find the Buddha? You’ll never find him. The Buddha is made in your mind; do not seek him outside.

Nothing is separate from the self-nature. Nothing is separate from your own mind. The ten thousand dharmas are all produced from your mind, not from outside.

The Buddha spoke all dharmas
For the minds of living beings.
If there were no minds,
What use would dharmas be?


“Now, to say goodbye, I will leave you a verse called the ‘Self-Nature’s True Buddha Verse.’ People of the future who understand its meaning will see their original mind and realize the Buddha Way. The verse runs:

The true-suchness self-nature
is the true Buddha.
Deviant views, the three poisons,
are the demon king.


The most important part of the Platform Sutra is this last verse. It explains everything extremely well. The Sixth Patriarch left it not just for the people of his day, but for us, now, to cultivate according to its principles. He saw that you and I would be here listening. We all have a share, and we should cultivate according to this verse because we are all people of future generations, not animals. The animals of future generations will have to be reborn as people before they can have a share. The Sixth Patriarch spoke this verse for people, not animals. Animals who wish to become Buddhas must first be reborn as human beings.

We should not lose this opportunity.

“The true-suchness self-nature is the true Buddha.” The selfnature is your mind. Your true-suchness self-nature is also called the real mark, the Tathagata Store, the Buddha-nature, and your own nature. True suchness is just your own nature which is the true Buddha.

“Deviant views, the three poisons, are the demon king.” If you know the true Buddha, you should also know the demon king. The demon king is just your deviant views: greed, hate, and delusion, the three poisons. Greed for riches, greed for sex, greed for anything at all is nothing but poison.

If, after you leave home, you are still greedy and self-seeking, that too is poison. If you scheme to get more disciples, that is poison.

So, you see, we have been here for a long time and not many have taken refuge and become disciples. Those who take refuge must do it on their own. No one advises them. If I told you to take refuge with me, you might wonder if I had the right to be your teacher and Good Knowing Advisor. I don’t know myself whether I am a Good Knowing Advisor, and so I do not go about it in this way.


At times of deviant confusion the demon king is in the house;
But when you have proper views the Buddha is in the hall.
Deviant views, the three poisons produced within the nature,
Are just the demon king come to dwell in the house.
Proper views casting out three poisons of the mind
Transform the demon into Buddha–-true, not false.


“Deviant confusion” is ignorance. Ignorance creates love and desire, and that is the demon king dwelling in your house.

If you have proper views and not the wrong ones of greed, hate, and delusion, then your mind is pure and the Buddha is in the hall.

The Buddha and the demon are both manifested from your own nature. When you hold deviant views, the three poisons arise, and the demon comes to dwell in your house. What is your house? Your body.

Proper views spontaneously expel the three poisons, and the demon immediately changes into Buddha. This principle is absolutely true; it cannot possibly be false. You need only hold proper views, and that is the Buddha. Improper views are the demon.


Dharma-body, Reward-body, and Transformation-body:
Fundamentally the three bodies are one body.
Seeing that for yourself within your own nature
Is the Bodhi-cause for realizing Buddhahood.
The pure nature is originally produced from the Transformation-body.
The pure nature is ever-present within the Transformation-body,
One’s nature leads the Transformation-body down the right road.
And in the future the full perfection is truly without end.


Although spoken of as three, the clear, pure Dharma-body, the perfect, full Reward-body, and the hundred thousand myriads of Transformation bodies are fundamentally one. The three bodies are simply transformations of your one body. This is called “Three in one, one in three.”

Your seeing for yourself the true Buddha within your selfnature is a cause for your future realization of Buddhahood. It is a seed of Buddhahood. Having planted the Bodhi-seed, you will certainly reap the Bodhi-fruit and become a Buddha.

The clear, pure self-nature originally arises from the Transformation-body. Your pure self-nature, your pure Dharmabody, is within your Transformation body.

In the future, your Bodhi self-nature will be perfected, and the perfect, full Reward-body will be truly inexhaustible.


The root cause of purity
is the lust nature,
For once rid of lust,
the substance of the nature is pure.
Each of you, within your natures;
abandon the five desires.
In an instant, see your nature–it is true.


Everyone has sexual desire, but you do not need to be afraid of it. In The Shurangama Sutra we read about Ucchusma, the “Fire-Head Vajra” whose sexual desire was unbearably intense when he first began to cultivate. But he was able to discipline and temper the fire of lust, transforming it into the fire of wisdom and transforming himself into the “Fire-Head Vajra.”

“The root cause of purity is the lust nature.” Proper thoughts are the cause of purity in the nature, and deviant thoughts the cause of impurity. Therefore cut off the nature of sexual desire, which means transform it. This certainly is not telling you to castrate yourself. That’s not the answer. Just change your thoughts and make them pure in nature. You don’t have to cut off sexual desire. Don’t cut it off, transform it instead. Transform lust into purity, which is simply proper knowledge and proper views. The lust within the nature is simply deviant knowledge and deviant views.

“Once rid of lust, the substance of the nature is pure.” To get rid of lust means to transform it. You don’t have to throw it away, all you have to do is transform it. You don’t have to throw it away, all you have to do is change your thoughts and direct them to the pure nature. That is the clear, pure, substance of the self-nature, the Dharma-body.

The five desires are for wealth, sex, fame, food, and sleep. They may also be explained as forms, sounds, smells, tastes, tangible objects, and objects of the mind. In general, stay far away from them; do not have deviant thoughts within your selfnature. Cultivate proper knowledge and proper views, and abandon the five desires. Once you leave the five desires, you can see the nature in an instant and obtain your own truesuchness wonderful nature.


If in this life you encounter the door of the Sudden Teaching
You will be suddenly enlightened to your selfnature, and see the Honored of the World.
If you wish to cultivate and aspire to Buddhahood,
You won’t know where the truth is to be sought
Unless you can see the truth within your own mind,
This truth which is the cause of realizing Buddhahood.
Not to see your self-nature but to seek the Buddha outside:
If you think that way, you are deluded indeed.
I now leave behind the Dharma-door of the Sudden Teaching
To liberate worldly people who must cultivate themselves.
I announce to you and to future students of the Way:
If you do not hold these views you will only waste your time.


Having encountered the Sudden Teaching of the Dhyana School, you may become instantly enlightened and understand your original mind and see your original nature. At that moment you will personally meet the World Honored Ones, the Buddhas of the ten directions; you can see them all.

Unless you apply effort in the self-nature instead of looking outside, you will never find the genuine Buddha. Understand your mind and see your nature: that is the way to realize Buddhahood.

If you do not turn the light around and seek within yourself, but run outside instead to look for the Buddha, you are being stupid, stupid, extremely stupid.

You must cultivate the Dharma of Sudden Enlightenment on your own. Do not fail to cultivate. If you do not hold the notions expressed in this verse, you are wasting your time. You’ll never obtain the smallest advantage.

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