Chapter X – His Final Instructions

One day the Patriarch sent for his disciples, Fat Hoi, Chi Shing, Fat Tat, Shin Wui, Chi Sheung, Chi Tong, Chi Chai, Chi Tao, Fat Chun, Fat U, etc., and addressed them as follows:-

“You men are different from the common lot. After my entering into Parinirvana, each of you will be the Dhyana Master of a certain district. I am, therefore, going to give you some hints on preaching, so that when doing so, you may keep up the tradition of our School.

Parinirvana of Buddha
Parinirvana of Buddha Sakyamuni (Image by Albert Dezetter from Pixabay)

First mention the three Categories of Dharmas, and then the thirty-six ‘pairs of opposites’ in the activities (of the Essence of Mind). Then teach how to avoid the two extremes of ‘coming in’ or ‘going out’. In all preaching, stray not from the Essence of Mind.

Whenever a man puts a question to you, answer him in antonyms, so that a ‘pair of opposites’ will be formed. (For example), ‘coming’ and ‘going’ are the reciprocal cause of each other; when the interdependence of the two is entirely done away with there would be, in the absolute sense, neither ‘coming’ nor ‘going’.

The three categories of Dharmas are:-

  1. Skandhas (aggregates),
  2. Ayatanas (places or spheres of meeting),
  3. Dhatus (factors of consciousness).

The five Skandhas are:

  1. Rupa (matter),
  2. Vedana (sensation),
  3. Samjna (perception),
  4. Samskara (tendencies of mind), and
  5. Vijnana (consciousness).

The twelve Ayatanas are:

Six Sense Objects (external) Six Sense Organs (internal)
Object of sight  Organ of sight
Object of hearing Organ of hearing
Object of smell  Organ of smell
Object of taste  Organ of taste
Object of touch    Organ of touch
Object of thought  Organ of thought

The eighteen Dhatus are:

The six sense objects,
six sense organs, and
six recipient vijnanas.

“Since the Essence of Mind is the embodiment of all Dharmas, it is called the Repository Consciousness (Alaya). But as soon as the process of thinking or reasoning is started, the Essence of Mind is transmuted into (various) vijnanas. When the six recipient vijnanas come into being, they perceive the six sense objects through the six ‘doors’ (of sense). Thus, the functioning of the eighteen Dhatus derives their impetus from the Essence of Mind.

Whether they function with an evil tendency or a good one depends upon that mood – good or evil – the Essence of Mind is in. Evil functioning is that of a common man, while good functioning is that of a Buddha. It is because there are ‘pairs of opposites’ inherent in the Essence of Mind that the functioning of the eighteen Dhatus derive their impetus thereform.

“The thirty-six ‘Pairs of opposites’ are:

Five external inanimate ones:

  1. Heaven and earth,
  2. sun and moon,
  3. light and darkness,
  4. positive element and negative element,
  5. fire and water.

Twelve Dharmalaksana
(Phenomenal objects):

  1. Speech and dharma,
  2. affirmation and negation,
  3. matter and non-matter,
  4. form and without form,
  5. taints (asravas) and absence of taint,
  6. matter and void,
  7. motion and quiescence,
  8. purity and foulness,
  9. ordinary people and sages,
  10. the Sangha and the laity,
  11. the aged and the young,
  12. the big and the small.

Nineteen pairs denoting the functioning of the Essence of Mind:

  1. Long and short,
  2. good and evil,
  3. infatuated and enlightened,
  4. ignorant and wise,
  5. perturbed and calm,
  6. merciful and wicked,
  7. abstinent (Sila) and indulgent,
  8. straight and crooked,
  9. full and empty,
  10. steep and level,
  11. Klesa and Bodhi,
  12. permanent and transient,
  13. compassionate and cruel,
  14. happy and angry,
  15. generous and mean,
  16. forward and backward,
  17. existent and non-existent,
  18. Dharmakaya and physical body,
  19. Sambhogakaya and Nirmanakaya.

“He who knows how to use these thirty-six pairs realises the all-pervading principle which goes through the teaching of all Sutras. Whether he is ‘coming in’ or ‘going out’, he is able to avoid the two extremes.”

Yin & Yang
Pairs of opposites (whether ‘coming in’ or ‘going out’, avoid the two extremes)

“In the functioning of the Essence of Mind and in conversation with others, outwardly we should free ourselves from attachment to objects, whence come contact with objects; and inwardly, with regard to the teaching of the ‘Void,” we should free ourselves from the idea of Nihilism. To believe in the reality of objects or in Nihilism would result in deep-rooted fallacious views or intensified ignorance respectively.”

“A bigoted believer in Nihilism would blaspheme against the Sutras on the ground that literature (i.e., the Buddhist Scriptures) is unnecessary (for the study of Buddhism). If that were so, then neither would it be right for us to speak, since speech forms the substance of literature. He would also argue that in the direct method (literally, the straight Path) literature is discarded. But does he appreciate that the two words ‘is discarded’ are also literature?

Upon hearing others speak of Sutras, such a man would criticise the speakers as ‘addicted to scriptural authority’. It is bad enough for him to confine this mistaken notion to himself, but in addition, he blasphemes against the Buddhist scriptures. You men should know that it is a serious offence to speak ill of the Sutras, for the consequence is a very grave one indeed! “

“He who believes in the reality of outward objects tries to seek the form (from without) by practicing a certain system of doctrine. He may furnish spacious lecture-halls for the discussion of Realism or Nihilism, but such a man will not for numerous Kalpas realise the Essence of Mind.”

“We should tread the Path according to the teaching of the Law, and not keep our mind in a state of indolence, thereby creating obstacles to the understanding of the Norm. To preach or to hear the Law without practising it would give occasion for the arising of heretical views. Hence,

we should tread the Path according to the teaching of the Law, and in the dissemination of the Dharma we should not be influenced by the concept of the reality of objects.”
“If you understand what I say, and make use of it in preaching, in practice, and in your daily life, you will grasp the distinguishing feature of our School.”

“Whenever a question is put to you, answer it in the negative, if it is an affirmative one; and vice versa. If you are asked about an ordinary man, tell the enquirer something about a sage; and vice versa. From the correlation or interdependence of the two opposites, the doctrine of the ‘Mean’ may be grasped. If all other questions are answered in this manner, you will not be far away from the truth.

“(Let me explain more fully). Supposing someone asks you what is darkness, answer him thus: Light is the Hetu (root condition) and darkness is the Pratyaya (conditions which bring about any given phenomenon). When light disappears, darkness is the consequence. The two are in contrast to each other. From the correlation or interdependence of the two, the doctrine of the ‘Mean’ arises.

“In this way all other questions are to be answered. To ensure the perpetuation of the aim and object of our School in the transmission of the Dharma to your successors, this instruction should be handed down from one generation to another.”

In the seventh Moon of the year of Yen Chi, the 1st year of Tai Kik or Yen Wo Era, the Patriarch sent some of his disciples to Sun Chow to have a shrine (stupa) built within the Kwok Yen Monastery, with instructions that the work should be completed as soon as possible. Next year, when Summer was well-nigh spent, the stupa was duly completed.

On the 1st day of the 7th Moon, the Patriarch assembled his disciples and addressed them as follows:-

I am going to leave this world by the 8th Moon. Should you have any doubts (on the doctrine) please ask me in time, so that I can clear them up for you. You may find no one to teach you after my departure.”

The sad news moved Fat Hoi and other disciples to tears. Shin Wui, on the other hand, remained unperturbed. Commending him, the Patriarch said, “Young Master Shin Wui is the only one here who has attained that state of mind,

  • which sees no difference in good or evil,
  • knows neither sorrow nor happiness, and
  • is unmoved by praise or blame.

After so many years training in this mountain, what progress have you made? What are you crying for now? Are you worrying for me because I do not know whither I shall go?

But I do know; otherwise, I could not tell you beforehand what will happen.

What really makes you cry is that you don’t know whither I am going. If you did, there would be no occasion for you to cry. In Suchness (Tathata) there is intrinsically neither coming nor going, neither becoming nor cessation. Sit down, all of you, and let me read you a stanza on
Reality and Illusion and on
Motion and Quietude.
Read it, and your opinion will accord with mine.
Practise it, and you will grasp the aim and object of our School.”

The assembly made obeisance and asked the Patriarch to let them hear the stanza, which read as follows:-

In all things there is nothing real,
And so we should free ourselves from the concept of the reality of objects.
He who believes in the reality of objects
Is bound by this very concept, which is entirely illusive.
He who realises the ‘Reality’ (i.e., the Essence of Mind) within himself
Knows that the ‘True Mind‘ is to be sought apart from false phenomena.
If one’s mind is bound by illusive phenomena
Where is Reality to be found, when all phenomena are unreal?
Sentient beings are mobile;
Inanimate objects are stationary.
He who trains himself by exercise to be motionless
(Gets no benefit) other than making himself as still as an inanimate object.
Should you find the true type of Immobility
There would be Immobility within Activity.
Immobility alone (like that of inanimate objects) is Immobility (and not Dhyana),
And in inanimate objects the seed of Buddhahood is not to be found.
He who is adept in the discrimination of various Dharmalaksana
Abides immovably in the ‘First Principle‘ (Nirvana).

Thus are all things to be perceived,
And this is the functioning of Tathata (Suchness).
Treaders of the Path,
Exert yourself and take heed
That as followers of the Mahayana School
You do not embrace that sort of knowledge
Which binds you to the wheel of birth and death.
With those who are sympathetic
Let us have discussion on Buddhism.
As for those whose point of view differs from ours
Let us treat them politely and thus make them happy.
(But) disputes are alien to our School,
For they are incompatible with its doctrine.
To be bigoted and to argue with others in disregard of this rule
Is to subjects one’s Essence of Mind to the bitterness of mundane existence.

Having heard this stanza, the assembly made obeisance in a body. In accordance with the wishes of the Patriarch, all of them concentrated their minds to put the stanza into actual practice, and refrained from further religious controversy.

Seeing that the Patriarch would pass away in the near future, Elder Fat Hoi, after prostrating himself twice asked, “Sir, upon your entering into Parinirvana, who will be the inheritor of the robe and the Dharma?”

“All my sermons,” replied the Patriarch, “from the time I preached in Tai Fan Monastery up to now, may be copied out for circulation in a volume to be entitled

‘Sutra Spoken on the High Seat of the Treasure of the Law’

Take good care of it and hand it down from one generation to another for the salvation of all sentient beings. He who preaches in accordance with its teachings preaches the Orthodox Dharma.

“So much for the Dharma. As to transmission of the robe, this practice is to be discontinued. Why? Because you all have implicit faith in my teaching, and being free from all doubts you are able to carry out the lofty object of our School. Furthermore, according to the implied meaning of the stanza by Bodhidharma, the first Patriarch, on Law Transmission, the robe need not be handed down to posterity. The stanza reads:-

The object of my coming to this land (i.e., China)
Is to transmit the Law (Dharma) for the deliverance of those under delusion.
In five petals the flowers will be complete.
Thereafter, the fruit will come to bearing naturally.
Bodhidharma mission to China Is to transmit the Law (Dharma) for the deliverance of those under delusion.

The Patriarch added, “Learned Audience, purify your minds and listen to me. He who wishes to attain the All-knowing Knowledge of a Buddha should know,
the ‘Samadhi of Specific Object and, 
the ‘Samadhi of Specific Mode‘.

In all circumstances, we should free ourselves from attachment to objects, and our attitude towards them should be neutral and indifferent.
Let neither success nor failure, neither profit nor loss, worry us.
Let us be calm and serene, modest and accommodating, simple and dispassionate.

Such is the Samadhi of Specific Object.

On all occasions, whether we are standing, walking, sitting or reclining, let us be absolutely straightforward. Then, remaining in our sanctuary, and without the least movement, we shall virtually be in the Kingdom of Pure Land.

Such is the ‘Samadhi of Specific Mode‘.

He who is complete with these two forms of Samadhi may be likened to the ground with seeds sown therein. Covered up in the mud, the seeds receive nourishment therefrom and grow until the fruit comes into bearing.

My preaching to you now may be likened to the seasonable rain which brings moisture to a vast area of land. The Buddha-nature within you may be likened to the seed which, being moistened by the rain, will grow rapidly. He who carries out my instructions will certainly attain Bodhi. He who follows my teaching will certainly attain the superb fruit (of Buddhahood). Listen to my stanza:-

Buddha-seeds latent in our mind
Will sprout upon the coming of the all-pervading rain.
The ‘flower’ of the doctrine having been intuitively grasped,
One is bound to reap the fruit of Enlightenment.”

Then he added,

“The Dharma is non-dual and so is the mind. The Path is pure and above all forms. I warn you not to use those exercises for meditation on quietude or for keeping the mind a blank. The mind is by nature pure, so there is nothing for us to crave for or give up. Do your best, each of you, and go (to preach) wherever circumstances may lead.”

Thereupon the disciples made obeisance and withdrew.

On the 8th day of the 7th Moon, the Patriarch gave a sudden order to his disciples to get ready a boat for his going back to Sun Chow (his native place). In a body they entreated him earnestly and pitifully to stay.

“It is only natural that I should go,” said the Patriarch, “for death is the inevitable outcome of birth, and even the various Buddhas who appear in this world have to go through an earthly death before entering Parinirvana. There can be no exception for my physical body, which must be laid down somewhere.”
The Cycle of Life & Death (Reincarnation)
Death is the inevitable outcome of birth and even the various Buddhas who appear in this world have to go through an earthly death before entering Parinirvana.

“After your visit to Sun Chow,” entreated the assembly, “please return here sooner or later.”

“Fallen leaves go back to where the root is, and when I first came, mouth I had not,” replied the Patriarch.

Then they asked, “To whom, Sir, do you transmit the Womb of the Eye of the Orthodox Law?”

“Men of principle will get it, and those who are free from arbitrary concepts (literally, mindless) will understand it.”

They further asked, “Will any calamity befall you hereafter?”

“Five or six years after my death,” replied the Patriarch, “a certain man will come to cut off my head. I have made the following prophecy of which please take note:-

To the top of the parent’s head, offerings are made,
For the mouth must be fed.
When the calamity of ‘Mun’ befalls,
Young and Liu will be the officials.”

He then added, “Seventy years after my departure two Bodhisattvas from the East, one a layman and the other a Bhikkhu, will preach contemporaneously, disseminate the Law widely, establish our School on a firm basis, renovate our monasteries and transmit the doctrine to numerous promising successors.”

“Can you let us know for how many generations the Dharma has been transmitted, from the appearance of the earliest Buddha up to now?” asked the disciples.

The Buddhas who have appeared in this world are too many to be counted,” replied the Patriarch. “But let us start from the last seven Buddhas. They are:-

Of the last Kalpa, the Alamkarakalpa.

Buddha Vipassin
Buddha Sikhin

Buddha Vessabhu

Of the present Kalpa, the Bhadrakalpa.

Buddha Kakusundha
Buddha Konagamana
Buddha Kassapa
Buddha Gautama

“From Buddha Gautama,
the Law was first transmitted to the:

1st Patriarch Arya Mahakasyapa
(It was then in turn transmitted to)
2nd Patriarch Arya Ananda
3rd Patriarch Arya Sanavasa
4th Patriarch Arya Upagupta
5th Patriarch Arya Dhritaka
6th Patriarch Arya Michaka
7th Patriarch Arya Vasumitra
8th Patriarch Arya Buddhanandi
9th Patriarch Arya Buddhamitra
10th Patriarch Arya Parsva
11th Patriarch Arya Punyayasas
12th Patriarch Bodhisattva Asvaghosa
13th Patriarch Arya Kapimala
14th Patriarch Bodhisattva Nagarjuna
15th Patriarch Kanadeva
16th Patriarch Arya Rahulata
17th Patriarch Arya Sanghanandi
18th Patriarch Arya Sanghayasas
19th Patriarch Arya Kumarata
20th Patriarch Arya Jayata
21st Patriarch Arya Vasubandhu
22nd Patriarch Arya Manura
23rd Patriarch Arya Haklenayasas
24th Patriarch Arya Sinha
25th Patriarch Arya Vasiastia
26th Patriarch Arya Punyamitra
27th Patriarch Arya Prajnatara
28th Patriarch Arya Bodhidharma
(the 1st Patriarch in China)
29th Patriarch Grand Master Wei Ho
30th Patriarch Grand Master Tsang Tsan
31st Patriarch Grand Master Tu Shun
32nd Patriarch Grand Master Hwang Yan

And I am the 33rd Patriarch (i.e., the 6th Patriarch in China). Thus, by pupillary succession, the Dharma was handed down from one Patriarch to another. Hereafter, you men should in turn transmit it to posterity by passing it on from one generation to another, so that the tradition may be maintained.

The Heritage of Tao
The Buddhas who have appeared in this world are too many to be counted. The above chart is, from Chapter 36 – Heritage of Tao (The Answers to the Truth), for comparison.

On the 3rd day of the 8th Moon of the year of Kwai Tsau, the 2nd Year of Sin Tin Era (A.D. 713), after taking food at the Kwok Yen Monastery, the Patriarch addressed his disciples as follows:-

“Please sit down in order of seniority, for I am going to say good-bye.

Thereupon Fat Hoi spoke to the Patriarch, “Sir, will you please leave to posterity definite instructions whereby people under delusion may realise the Buddha nature.”

“It is not impossible,” replied the Patriarch, “for these men to realise the Buddha-nature, provided they acquaint themselves with the nature of ordinary sentient beings. But to seek Buddhahood without such knowledge would be in vain even if one shall spend aeons of time in the search.

Now, let me show you

how to get acquainted with the nature of the sentient beings within your mind, and thereby realise the Buddha-nature latent in you.

Knowing Buddha means nothing else than knowing sentient beings; for it is the latter who ignore that they are Buddhas in potentiality, whereas a Buddha sees no difference between himself and other beings. When sentient beings realise the Essence of Mind, they are Buddhas. If a Buddha is under delusion in his Essence of Mind, he is then an ordinary being.

Purity in the Essence of Mind makes ordinary beings Buddhas.

Impurity in the Essence of Mind reverts even a Buddha to an ordinary being.

When your mind is crooked or depraved, you are ordinary beings with Buddha-nature latent in you. On the other hand, when you direct your mind to purity and straightforwardness even for one moment, you are a Buddha.

Within our mind there is a Buddha, and that Buddha within is the real Buddha.

If Buddha is not to be sought within our mind, where shall we find the real Buddha?

Doubt not that Buddha is within your mind, apart from which nothing can exist. Since all things or phenomena are the productions of our mind, the Sutra says,

‘When mental activity begins,
various things come into being;

when mental activity ceases,
they too cease to exist.’

In parting from you, let me leave you a stanza entitled

‘The Real Buddha
of the Essence of Mind’

People of future generations who understand its meaning will realise the Essence of Mind and attain Buddhahood accordingly. It reads:-

The Essence of Mind or Tathata (Suchness) is the real Buddha,
While heretical views and the three poisonous elements are Mara (Satan).
Enlightened by Right Views, we call forth the Buddha within us.
When our nature is dominated by the three poisonous elements as a result of heretical views
We are said to be possessed by Mara;
But when Right Views eliminate from our mind these poisonous elements, Mara will be transformed into a real Buddha.
The Dharmakaya, the Sambhogakaya, and the Nirmanakaya
These three Bodies emanate from one (i.e., the Essence of Mind).
He who is able to realise this fact intuitively
Has sown the seed, and will reap the fruit of Enlightenment.
It is from the Nirmanakaya that our ‘Pure Nature emanates;
Within the former, the latter is always to be found.
Guided by ‘Pure Nature, the Nirmanakaya treads the Right Path,
And will someday attain to the Sambhogakaya, perfect and infinite.
Pure Nature‘ is an outgrowth of our sensual instincts;
By getting rid of sensually, we attain the Pure Dharmakaya.
When our temperament is such that we are no longer the slaves of the five sense-objects,
And when we have realised the Essence of Mind even for one Ksana (moment) only, then Truth is known to us.
Should we be so fortunate as to be the followers of the Sudden School in this life,
In a sudden, we shall see the Bhagavat of our Essence of Mind.
He who seeks the Buddha (from without) by practising certain doctrines
Knows not where the real Buddha is to be found.
He who is able to realize the Truth within his own mind
Has sown the seed of Buddhahood.
He who has not realised the Essence of Mind and seeks the Buddha from without
Is a fool motivated by wrong desires.
I have hereby left to posterity the teaching of the Sudden School
For the salvation of all sentient beings who care to practise it.
Hear me, ye future disciples!
Your time will have been badly wasted if you neglect to put this teaching into practice.”

Having recited the stanza, he added, “Take good care of yourselves. After my passing away, do not follow the worldly tradition, and cry or lament. Neither should messages of condolence be accepted, nor mourning be worn. These things are contrary to the Orthodox Teaching, and he who does them is not my disciple.

What you should do is to know your own mind and realise your own Buddha-nature,

  • which neither rests nor moves,
  • neither becomes nor ceases to be,
  • neither comes nor goes,
  • neither affirms nor denies,
  • neither stays nor departs.

Lest your mind should be under delusion and thus fail to catch my meaning, I repeat this to you to enable you to realise your Essence of Mind.

After my death, if you carry out my instructions and practise them accordingly, my being away from you will make no difference.
On the other hand, if you go against my teaching, no benefit would be obtained, even if I continued to stay here.”

Then he uttered another stanza:-

“Imperturbable and serene the ideal man practises no virtue.
Self-possessed and dispassionate, he commits no sin.
Calm and silent, he gives up seeing and hearing.
Even and upright, his mind abides nowhere.”

Having uttered the stanza, he sat reverently until the third watch of the night. Then he said abruptly to his disciples, “I am going now,” and in a sudden passed away. A peculiar fragrance pervaded his room, and a lunar rainbow appeared which seemed to join up earth and sky. The trees in the wood turned white, and birds and beasts cried mournfully.

In the 11th Moon of that year the question of the Patriarch’s resting place gave rise to a dispute among the government officials of Kwong Chow, Shiu Chow and Sun Chow, each party being anxious to have the remains of the Patriarch removed to its own district. The Patriarch’s disciples, together with other Bhikkhus and laymen, took part in the controversy.

Being unable to come to any settlement among themselves, they burnt incense and prayed to the Patriarch to indicate by the direction of the drift of the smoke the place which he himself would choose. As the smoke turned directly to Tso Kai, the shrine (in which the body was kept) together with the inherited robe and bowl was accordingly taken back there on the 13th day of the 11th Moon.

Next year, on the 25th day of the 7th Moon, the body was taken out of the shrine, and Fong Pin, a disciple of the Patriarch, plastered it with incense-clay. Recollecting the Patriarch’s prediction that someone would take away his head, the disciples, as a matter of precaution, strengthened his neck by wrapping it with iron sheets and lacquered cloth before the body was placed in the stupa. Suddenly, a flash of white light rushed out from the stupa, went straight towards the sky, and did not disperse until three days after. The incident was duly reported to the Throne by the officials of Shiu Chow District. By imperial order, tablets were erected to record the life of the Patriarch.

The Patriarch inherited the robe when he was 24, had his hair shaved (i.e., was ordained) at 39, and died at the age of 76. For thirty-seven years he preached for the benefit of all sentient beings. Forty-three of his disciples inherited the Dharma, and by his express consent, became his successors; while those who attained enlightenment and thereby got out of the rut of the ordinary man were too numerous to be calculated.

The robe transmitted by Bodhidharma as the insignia of Patriarchship, the Mo La robe and the crystal bowl presented by Emperor Chung Chung, the Patriarch’s statue made by Fong Pin, and other sacred articles, were put in charge of the keeper of the stupa. They were to be kept permanently in Po Lam Monastery to guard the welfare of the temple.

The Sutra spoken by the Patriarch was published and circulated to make known the principles and objects of the Dharma School. All these steps were taken for the prosperity of the ‘Three Gems’ (i.e., Buddha, Law, and Order) as well as for the general welfare of all sentient beings.


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