The Sixth Patriarch's Dharma Jewel Platform Sutra

Chapter 2





“Good Knowing Advisors, the ability to cultivate the conduct of not dwelling inwardly or outwardly, of coming and going freely, of casting away the grasping mind, and of unobstructed penetration, is basically no different from The Prajna Sutra.”


Inside there is no body and mind, outside there is no world. But this is not dull emptiness. It is not to say, “My body and mind do not exist; the world does not exist!” and then to fall into vacuity. What is spoken of here is non-attachment: non-attachment to the body, to the mind, and to the world. Then you may “come and go freely.”

Coming here, going there, coming back to the body and mind, going out into the Dharma Realm, you are free if you are unattached to the coming and the going. If you are attached, you are in bondage.

Unattached, you are free with respect to life and death. “If Iwant to live, I live. If I want to die, I die.” You asked, “Is this suicide?” No. You need simply sit down, enter Dhyana Samadhi, and go. You need not take poison to make sure than you will die. Isn’t this freedom? If it were not freedom, you would not be able to go. How was the Third Patriarch, Seng Ts’an, able to reach up and grasp the limb of a tree and, while hanging there, die? How could he enter Nirvana in this way? He could do this because he was free to live or die, free to come or go.

If I wish to live, then I may never die.
If I wish to die, I die right now.

This is what is meant by “coming and going freely.”

If you are free to come and go, you can end your life even while in the midst of talking, just like the Great Master Tao Sheng. He was really a good sport. The first part of The Mahaparinirvana Sutra said that the icchantikas, those of little faith, do not possess the Buddha nature, but Tao Sheng disagreed: “I say that icchantikas do have the Buddha nature!”

Everyone said, “He’s crazy! He’s mentally ill! He knows what the Sutra says, yet he deliberately contradicts it.” They scolded him, they shunned him. “Get out of here,” they said.

Master Tao Sheng then made a vow. He said, “If my explanation of Dharma is in agreement with the Buddha’s Sutras and the Buddha’s Mind, then in the future I shall end my life while lecturing from the Dharma seat. But if I have spoken contrary to the Buddha’s Mind, this vow will not be fulfilled.”

He then went into the mountains and lectured on Sutras to the rocks and ragged boulders. When the rocks heard him, they nodded their heads in acceptance of his principles.

When Sheng, the Venerable, spoke the Dharma,
Even the rocks bowed.

He continued to lecture on Sutras until once when, mysteriously and wonderfully, he paused while lecturing and died sitting in the Dharma seat. The assembly looked up and cried, “He has gone to rebirth!”

Wasn’t he a good sport? This is what is meant by “coming and going freely.”

You say, “Dharma Master, I quite agree with you. I don’t want to be attached. In fact, I don’t want to follow the rules. After all, the rules are just an attachment.” Wrong! If you can “cast away your grasping mind” and be unattached, you should be unattached to what is wrong, but you should not be unattached to what is right. For example, if you follow the rules you can become a Buddha. But if you think, “I am not attached. I don’t have to follow the rules,” then you cannot become a Buddha.

Go down the right road.
Retreat from the wrong one.

Do not become attached to principles which are in opposition to the Way, but grasp and hold tightly to those principles which are in accord with it. Holding to and reciting may be an attachment, but holding to and reciting The Diamond Sutra is cultivation.

Do not say, “I am attached. I have a small fault which I do not want to give up. What is more, I do not want anyone to know about it.” That is to be even more attached. “All right then,” you say, “I don’t care if anyone knows about it. If people say I am wrong, I will be unattached and pay no attention.” That is deviant knowledge and deviant views. The more you cultivate that way, the farther you drift from the Buddhadharma.

Once you have left attachments behind, you can penetrate and understand without obstruction and be without obstacles to your progress. The ability to cultivate this conduct “is basically no different from The Prajna Sutra.” If you cannot cultivate this conduct, you will be in opposition to the principle of The Diamond Sutra, but if you can cultivate, it is Prajna wisdom manifest.


“Good Knowing Advisors, all Sutras and writings of the Great and Small Vehicles, the twelve divisions of Sutras, have been devised because of people and established because of the nature of wisdom. If there were no people the ten thousand dharmas would not exist. Therefore you should know that all dharmas are originally postulated because of people, and all Sutras are spoken for their sakes.”


On the higher plane, a Sutra tallies with the principles of all the Buddhas, and below, it tallies with the opportunities for teaching living beings; for that reason the word Sutra took on the meaning “to tally.”

The twelve divisions of Sutra text are:

  1. Prose;
  2. Verse;
  3. Transmitting of Predictions;
  4. Interpolations;
  5. The speaking of Dharma without its having been requested;
  6. Discussion of causes and conditions;
  7. Analogies;
  8. Events of the past lives of the Buddhas;
  9. Events of the past lives of the Bodhisattvas and disciples;
  10. Writings which explain principle in an especially expansive way;
  11. Dharma which has never been spoken before;
  12. Commentaries.

Sutras exist because people exist. If there were no people, the Sutras would be useless. In the same way, troubles exist only because there are people to have them. The Dharma teaches people how to end their troubles; to get rid of the 84,000 kinds of defilement and trouble, the Buddha teaches 84,000 Dharma doors. But if there were no people, the troubles would never have arisen.

The Buddha spoke all Dharmas
For the minds of human beings.
If there were no minds
Of what use would Dharmas be?


“Some people are deluded and some are wise; the deluded are small people and the wise are great people. The deluded question the wise and the wise teach Dharma to the deluded. When the deluded people suddenly awaken and understand, their minds open to enlightenment and they are no longer different from the wise.

“Good Knowing Advisors, unenlightened, the Buddha is a living being. At the time of a single enlightened thought, the living being is a Buddha. Therefore you should know that the ten thousand dharmas exist totally within your own mind. Why don’t you, from within your own mind, suddenly see the true-suchness of your original nature?

The Bodhisattva-shila Sutra says, ‘Our fundamental self-nature is clear and pure.’ If we recognize our own mind and see the nature, we shall all perfect the Buddha Way. The Vimalakirti Nirdesha Sutra says, ‘Just then, suddenly regain your original mind.’”


If, in the very shortest space of time, the space of a thought, you suddenly understand, you wake up and become a Buddha. Confused, you are a living being; enlightened, you are a Buddha.

One confused thought: you are a living being.
Thought after thought confused: thought after thought, a living being.
One enlightened thought: you are a Buddha.
Thought after thought enlightened: thought after thought, a Buddha.

What does it mean to be enlightened? Ask yourself! Ultimately, what advantage do emotion and desire have? Emotion and desire harm your body; that is a serious problem. They rob you of your life; they make you stupid. If in thought after thought you have desire, then thought after thought you are deluded. It is said,

Karma ended, emotion emptied, is the true Buddha.
Karma heavy, emotion turbid, is the living being.

Enlightenment is here: put down defiled thoughts and pick up the pure. What are defiled thoughts? Thoughts of desire are defiled thoughts. I will make it even clearer: thoughts of sexual desire are defiled thoughts. You should clearly recognize your thoughts of sexual desire. Should you give way to sexual desire with your body, then the action of your body, your body-karma, is impure. If you talk about sex, the action of your mouth is impure. If you constantly think about sex, your mind-karma is impure. However, if you are without offense in body, mouth, and mind, you are not far from Buddhahood.

Most people turn their backs on enlightenment and unite themselves with the dust of external objects and states. Falling into states of emotion and desire they become defiled. Leaving emotion and desire behind and turning your back on the dust, you are united with enlightenment. You are clear and pure and can realize Buddhahood. However, as long as you have the slightest trace of defilement, you cannot realize Buddhahood; you remain a living being. One confused thought makes you a living being for the space of that thought. If every thought is confused, you are continually a living being. One enlightened thought makes you a Buddha for the space of that thought. If every thought is enlightened, you are always a Buddha.

Do you see? It is very simple. Still, you need the help of a Good Knowing Advisor who will teach you that, in order to be clear and pure, it is of the utmost importance to be unselfish. Not working for your own benefit and being without greed, hatred, stupidity, and a view of self, you may attain purity. That is enlightenment.

Some people hear, “One enlightened thought; you are a Buddha,” and they say, “Everyone is a Buddha!” Right. All living beings are Buddhas, but they must first wake up to it. To say, “Everyone is a Buddha” when you are not enlightened is to be like the common person mentioned earlier in the Sutra who called himself the king. The real king would throw that man in prison.

Heaven cannot hold two suns;
The citizens cannot serve two kings.

Why don’t you cultivate your own mind? Get rid of the defilement and then you can see your own nature as it truly is. See it right now. Do not say, “Wait a minute, wait a minute.” See it immediately!

If you see your nature, you realize Buddhahood. If I see my nature, I realize Buddhahood. If someone else sees his nature he realizes Buddhahood. There is no inequality here. This principleis completely democratic: whoever sees his nature realizes Buddhahood.

You need not wait. See right through it, and suddenly, you don’t know how, you are enlightened. Strange and unspeakably wonderful. You return to yourself and regain your original mind.


“Good Knowing Advisors, when I was with the High Master Jen, I was enlightened as soon as I heard his words, and suddenly saw the true suchness of my own original nature. That is why I am spreading this method of teaching which leads students of the Way to become enlightened suddenly to Bodhi as each contemplates his own mind and sees his own original nature.”


“All of you of great knowledge, hear me!” said the Sixth Patriarch. “I have explained so much Dharma to you. Have you become enlightened yet? When I was with the High Master Jen, the Fifth Patriarch, I awoke as soon as I heard him speak.

“I, the Sixth Patriarch, an illiterate barbarian, a stupid country person, met the High Master Jen.” The Master did not say the Fifth Patriarch’s full name, but merely said “Jen” as a gesture of respect. “The High Master Jen” he said, “endured the temper of many.” Those below him tried to pressure him into transmitting the Dharma to Shen Hsiu. The Fifth Patriarch was not even free to transmit the Dharma, but was forced to endure the tyranny of his own disciples. His name, Jen, means “to endure.” He endured, practicing the perfection of patience until, one day, the barbarian arrived. “I will give the Dharma to the barbarian,” the Fifth Patriarch thought, “and forget about all of you. Do you think you can bully a Patriarch? I will transmit the Dharma to someone who can’t even read. What use is your education now?” Thus, the High Master Jen ceased enduring and transmitted the Dharma to the Sixth Patriarch.

The Sixth Patriarch was a friend who understood. “High Master,” he said, “you have suffered greatly!” Then he told the assembly, “I was enlightened as soon as I heard his words.”

Why did the Fifth Patriarch transmit the Dharma to this barbarian? It was not just because he wanted to defy Shen Hsiu. Rather it was because this barbarian was so intelligent that, as soon as he heard the Fifth Patriarch speak, he said in reply, “So that’s how it is! My self-nature is originally pure. My self-nature is originally bright and light. My self-nature is originally unmoving. How wonderful it is!”

“Yes,” said the Fifth Patriarch, “you are right. It is just that way.”

The Sixth Patriarch told the assembly, “I propagate this Sudden Teaching in order to cause all students of the Way to become enlightened suddenly to their own mind and see their own nature.”


“If you are unable to enlighten yourself, you must seek out a great Good Knowing Advisor, one who understands the Dharma of the Most Superior Vehicle and who will direct you to the right road.

“Such a Good Knowing Advisor possesses great karmic conditions, which is to say that he will transform you and guide you and lead you to see your nature. It is because of the Good Knowing Advisor that all wholesome Dharmas can arise. All the Buddhas of the three periods of time, and the twelve divisions of Sutra texts as well, exist within the nature of people, originally complete within them. If you are unable to enlighten yourself, you should seek out the instruction of a Good Knowing Advisor who will lead you to see your nature.”


If you can’t enlighten yourself, you must seek out a bright-eyed knowing one, one who has “gone through.”

Wishing to travel the mountain tracks,
Ask someone who has taken the trip.

Ask him, “Where does this road lead?” If you do not ask someone who has traveled the road before, but instead ask a blind man for directions, the blind man will say, “Just keep walking. Go wherever you wish.” If you ask the blind man, “Is this emptiness?” he will say: “It certainly is. No one can hinder you here!” But is it really emptiness?

The great Good Knowing Advisor understands the Dharma of the Superior Vehicle and directs you to the right road.

If there is a great affinity between you, you may meet a bright-eyed knowing one who will teach you to understand your mind and see your nature. All good dharmas arise because of him. Your good roots flourish because he watches over their growth. He explains the Dharma to you every day and causes your good roots to grow.

All the Buddhas of the past, present, and future and the twelve divisions of Sutra text are originally complete within your own nature. But if you cannot understand that, you should seek out the instruction of a Good Knowing Advisor. He will teach you to behold the pure and wonderful substance of your self-nature.


“If you are one who enlightens himself, you need not seek a teacher outside. If you insist that it is necessary to seek a Good Knowing Advisor in the hope of obtaining liberation, you are mistaken. Why? Within your own mind there is self-enlightenment which is a Knowing Advisor.

“But if you give rise to deviant confusion, false thoughts, and perversions, although a Good Knowing Advisor external to you instructs you, he cannot save you.”


If you seek outside yourself, you will not obtain it. You must enlighten yourself, by recognizing the Prajna of your self-nature. Your true Good Knowing Advisor is within your self-nature; he is simply your own wisdom.

“Deviant” means “not right.” “Confusion” means, “lack of understanding.” Not understanding what? Not understanding what is right. For example, people have certain fondnesses. Some have the deviant confusion of sex. You should not regard these confusions as unimportant, for when you do, your confusion deepens and the small confusions become large ones. Thinking the large confusions to be unimportant, you arrive at old age with old confusions and go to your death with death confusions. Even at the time of death you are confused and unclear. How pitiful!

“False thoughts” are untrue thoughts. They are vain and unreal. “Perversions” occur when you clearly know that something is wrong, but do it anyway. You understand perfectly well that it is not right, but you say, “It is right! It is right!”

If you continue to do things contrary to Dharma, you are perverted. You are perverted when you not only do these things yourself, but influence others to do them as well. To discuss this thoroughly would take a long time. To have success, students of the Buddhadharma must not be perverted. If you have deviant confusion, false thoughts, and perversions, although a Good Knowing Advisor external to you, such as your good teacher or good friend, instructs you, he cannot save you.

Your good teacher and worthy friend may try to help you, but if you refuse to obey him he can do no more. Your Good Knowing Advisor is not a policeman! If you break his laws, he cannot put you in jail. He can only hope that you will gradually change your faults. If living beings obey, the master is certainly pleased, but if they do not, although he cannot get angry, he is unhappy in his heart because he has no way to help them.


“If you give rise to genuine Prajna contemplation and illumination, in the space of an instant all false thoughts are extinguished. If you recognize your self-nature, in a single moment of enlightenment you will arrive at the stage of a Buddha.”


“Genuine” means “not deviant and confused.” “Prajna” is genuine wisdom. To “contemplate and illuminate” is to slice off deviant confusion, false thought, and upside-down actions with the sword of wisdom. If you do not swing the wisdom-sword and cut through your deviant confusion, your false thinking, and your upside-down actions, you are deluded, lack wisdom and do upside-down things.

Recognize your own original nature. Understand it once, and, in that one moment of enlightenment, you will go to the Buddha realm. On the other hand, where do you go in one moment of confusion? To the ghost realm.

Enlightened, a Buddha.
Confused, a living being.

In the space of an instant all false thoughts are extinguished, destroyed by your wisdom-sword like ice melted by the sun.


“Good Knowing Advisor, when you contemplate and illuminate with the wisdom which brightly penetrates within and without, you recognize your original mind.

“The recognition of your original mind is the original liberation. The attainment of liberation is the Prajna Samadhi, is no-thought.”


Using your inherent wisdom, observe inwardly the mind and body and outwardly the world. Completely understand both, as you would look through a pane of glass: from the outside seeing in and from the inside seeing out. Inwardly, there is no body and mind, and, outwardly, there is no world. But, although there is no body nor mind nor world, the body and mind and the world function in accord with one another. Although they function together, they are not attached to one another. This is called “recognizing your own original mind.” The original self-nature, the true mind, clearly penetrates within and without.

The recognition of your original mind is liberation. When you are not attached to sense objects or false thought, you obtain liberation. This is the Prajna Samadhi of your self-nature and is simply no-thought.

I previously spoke about non-recollection, no-thought, and non-falseness. Non-recollection is morality, no-thought is Samadhi, and non-falseness (i.e. being without false thought) is wisdom. When morality, Samadhi, and wisdom all manifest, greed, hatred, and delusion disappear.


“What is meant by ‘no-thought?’ No-thought means to view all dharmas with a mind undefiled by attachment. The function pervades all places but is nowhere attached. Merely purify your original mind and cause the six consciousnesses to go out the six gates, to be undefiled and unmixed among the six objects, to come and go freely and to penetrate without obstruction. That is the Prajna Samadhi and freedom and liberation, and it is called the practice of no-thought.”


No-thought means to view all dharmas with a mind undefiled by attachment. When the mind is undefiled by attachment, dharmas are empty. If dharmas are empty, then why must you get attached to your bad habits and weaknesses?

Someone hears this and wants to try to become unattached to dharmas by ignoring his faults. He may be unattached to dharmas but he can’t get rid of his faults. How can this be called “undefiled by attachment?” Since to be undefiled by attachment there must be no dharmas, there must even more emphatically be no faults. The Diamond Sutra says, “Even dharmas must be forsaken, so non-dharmas must be forsaken even more.”

If you do not put down your bad habits and your faults, what kind of Buddhadharma do you study? I ask you! You are nothing but a fraud who cheats himself and cheats others. Students of the Dharma must definitely give up their faults. If you cannot, eventhough you may be able to explain a few sentences of Dharma, you are utterly useless. You are at the height of delusion.

“Prajna Samadhi pervades all places” and illuminates all places, but is nowhere attached. It is just like empty space.

“Merely purify your original mind” so that it is undefiled and unattached, and cause the six consciousnesses (visual, auditory, olfactory, gustatory, tactile and mental awareness) to go out the six gates (eye, ear, nose, tongue, body, and mind) and among the six objects (forms, sounds, smells, tastes, touchables and objects of mind), but to be undefiled and untainted to come and go freely, and to penetrate without obstruction.

If you examine this conglomeration, you will see that the six organs and six objects ordinarily unite to form a corporation. Where there is a corporation, there is defilement and mixing. Do not incorporate!

They should freely come and go:
The eyes view forms outside;
Inside there is nothing.
The ears hear sounds outside;
But the mind does not know.

What does this mean? You don’t understand? Then study the Buddhadharma diligently.

At the time of unobstructed penetration, the ten thousand changes and the ten thousand transformations of the correct use are unhindered, unblocked and inexhaustible. “That is Prajna Samadhi, and freedom and liberation, and it is called the practice of no-thought.”


“Not thinking of the hundred things and constantly causing your thought to be cut off is called Dharma-bondage and is an extremist view.”


If you sit, saying, “I am sitting here, not thinking of anything. I am thinking of nothing!” and in this way try to cut off your thought, you still have not cut off the thought of “not thinking of anything.” If you do this, you will be tied up in the dharmas, and will not obtain release. Thought, no-thought: falling into either of the two extremes is not the Middle Way.

In telling you to awaken to the no-thought dharma, it is not to say that you should be like dead ashes or rotten wood. What use are ashes without fire? They are nothing but dirt. What use is rotten wood? You can’t burn it. If you sit, thinking, “Do not think! Do not think of the hundred things!” your thought of not thinking is itself a thought!

Trying not to think is like trying to prevent the grass from growing by pounding on it with a rock and shouting, “Don’t come up!” You push the rock into the soil, but when you move it again the grass grows up thicker, stronger, and more dense than ever.

Then how does one attain to the no-thought dharma? It requires the samadhi power that comes from having right, not deviant, thought.


“Good Knowing Advisors, one who awakens to the no-thought dharma completely penetrates the ten thousand dharmas; one who awakens to the no-thought dharma sees all Buddha realms; one who awakens to the no-thought dharma arrives at the Buddha position.”


Do you know the realms of all Buddhas? Do you know what their state is like? If you do, then you understand the no-thought dharma. “No,” you say, “I do not understand the Buddha realms.” Then you do not understand the no-thought dharma.

Do not be like a certain person who does not know anything at all, who cannot even explain the Five Esoteric Meanings and the Seven Sutra Title Topics, but who still runs around “lecturing” on Sutras and cheating those who do not understand the Buddhadharma. People stream in like ants to hear him. They come marching, “deng, deng, deng.” What for? Who knows? Ultimately, what Buddhadharma do they study? That man reads an English translation of a Sutra aloud; he simply reads it. Anybody can read it: you can read it, he can read it–I couldn’t read it. Why? Because I can’t read English!

To explain Sutras, one must explain every sentence and every word, every paragraph and every chapter. You say, “He doesn’t do it that way.” Of course he doesn’t. He doesn’t know how to, so how could he?

Don’t march off with the ants.

If you enlighten to the dharma of no-thought, you go to the Buddha position. Now, isn’t that important?

When I explain Sutras, people come to hear, not ants. The people are few, but they come to study the Dharma, not to eat honey like ants. Here, we gather to eat bitterness; we don’t come to eat candy.


“Good Knowing Advisors, those of future generations who obtain my Dharma should take up this Sudden Teaching Dharma door and with those of like views and like practice they should vow to receive and uphold it as if serving the Buddhas. To the end of their lives they should not retreat, and they will certainly enter the holy position. In this way it should be transmitted from generation to generation. It is silently transmitted. Do not hide away the orthodox Dharma and do not transmit it to those of different views and different practice who believe in other teachings, since it will harm them and ultimately be of no benefit.”


“All of you Good Knowing Advisors,” continued the Sixth Patriarch, “the Dharma was transmitted from Shakyamuni Buddha to Mahakashyapa, to Ananda, and so forth to Bodhidharma, and then to the Second Patriarch, the Third Patriarch, reaching to me, the Sixth Patriarch. You should transmit the Mind-Seal Dharma-door in just that way, from generation to generation. Do not hide the orthodox Dharma and transmit deviant dharma instead.”

Why was the Great Master a Patriarch? Because he never slighted the lowly. When he was at Huang Mei, everyone looked down on him because he was an illiterate country person. He knew the pain of enduring ridicule himself, and so he did not slight others. He addressed everyone as “Good Knowing Advisors” whether they were or not.

“You should not transmit this Mind-Seal to those of different views and practice,” he said. Why?

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