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’. Continue reading “Chapter X – His Final Instructions”

Chapter VIII – The Sudden School and the Gradual School*

*Note by the late Mr. Dwight Goddard.
When Hui-Neng (Wei Lang) was at the Patriarch’s monastery at Wong-mui, the Master (or Dean as we should call him) was Shin-shau, a notably learned monk of the Dhyana School. After Hui-Neng left Wong-mui he lived in retirement for a number of years, but Shin-shau, in disappointment at not receiving the appointment of Sixth Patriarch, returned to his home in the North and founded his own School which later, under Imperial patronage, came into great prominence. But after the death of Shin-shau the School steadily lost prestige, and later dropped out of importance. But the different principles of the two schools, “Sudden Enlightenment” of the Sixth Patriarch’s Sudden School and “Gradual Attainment” of Shin-shau’s Northern School, have continued to divide Buddhism and do so today. The principle in dispute is whether enlightenment comes as a gradual attainment, through study of the scriptures and the practice of Dhyana or, as the Japanese say, it comes in some sudden and convincing “satori.” It is not a question of quickness or slowness in arriving at it; “gradual attainment” may arrive sooner than “sudden enlightenment.” It is the question whether enlightenment comes as the culmination of a gradual process of mental growth, or whether it is a sudden turning at the seat of consciousness, from a habitual reliance on the thinking faculty (a looking outward) to a new use of a higher intuitive faculty (a looking inward).

While the Patriarch was living in Po Lam Monastery, the Grand Master Shin Shau was preaching in Yuk Chuen Monastery of King Nam. At that time the two Schools, that of Wei Lang of the South and Shin Shau of the North, flourished side by side. As the two Schools were distinguished from each other by the names “Sudden” (the South) and “Gradual” (the North), the question which sect they should follow baffled certain Buddhist scholars (of that time). Continue reading “Chapter VIII – The Sudden School and the Gradual School*

Chapter IV – Samadhi and Prajna

The Patriarch on another occasion preached to the assembly as follows:-

Learned Audience, in my system Samadhi and Prajna are fundamental. But do not be under the wrong impression that these two are independent of each other, for they are inseparably united and are not two entities.

Samadhi is the quintessence of Prajna,
while
Prajna is the activity of Samadhi.

Continue reading “Chapter IV – Samadhi and Prajna”

Chapter II – On Prajna

Next day Prefect Wai asked the Patriarch to give another address. Thereupon, having taken his seat and asked the assembly to purify their mind collectively, and to recite the Maha PrajnaparamitaSutra, he gave the following address:-

Learned Audience, the Wisdom of Enlightenment is inherent in every one of us. It is because of the delusion under which our mind works that we fail to realise it ourselves, and that we have to seek the advice and the guidance of enlightened ones before we can know our own Essence of Mind. You should know that

so far as Buddha-nature is concerned,
there is no difference between an
enlightened man and an ignorant one.

What makes the difference is that
one realises it, while the other
is ignorant of it.

Now, let me talk to you about Maha Prajnaparamita, so that each of you can attain wisdom.

Learned Audience, those who recite the word ‘Prajna‘ the whole day long do not seem to know that Prajna is inherent in their own nature. But mere talking on food will not appease hunger, and this is exactly the case with these people. Continue reading “Chapter II – On Prajna”

Chapter I – Autobiography

Once, when the Patriarch had arrived at Pao Lam Monastery, Prefect Wai of Shiu Chow and other officials went there to ask him to deliver public lectures on Buddhism in the hall of Tai Fan Temple in the City (of Canton).

In due course, there were assembled (in the lecture hall) Prefect Wai, government officials and Confucian scholars, about thirty each, and Bhikkhus, Bhikkhunis, Taoists and laymen, to the number of about one thousand. After the Patriarch had taken his seat, the congregation in a body paid him homage and asked him to preach on the fundamental laws of Buddhism. Whereupon, His Holiness delivered the following address:-

Learned Audience,

our Essence of Mind
(literally, self-nature)
which is the seed or
kernel of enlightenment (Bodhi)
is pure by nature, and
by making use of this mind alone
we can reach Buddhahood directly.

Continue reading “Chapter I – Autobiography”