The Essence Of Zen, The Platform Sutra Of Sixth Patriarch

Posted by on Jan 8, 2008 in Philosophy | One Comment

All Buddhists know the Sutras originated from Sakyamuni Buddha’s sayings, as remembered by his disciples after Buddha died. But there is one Sutra that didn’t originate from Buddha; “The Platform Sutra of Sixth Patriarch” written about Hui Neng, the sixth Zen patriarch. Hui Neng’s disciple Fa Hai recorded this sutra. It talks about Hui Neng’s life; his thoughts, words and actions. This is the only writing not originating from the Buddha that is accorded the status of a Sutra. With the increasing popularity of Zen philosophy and meditation in the West, the Platform Sutra can benefit those who want to practice Zen and meditation, as this is what it’s concerned with. Below is one chapter from this sutra. It is published and translated by the Buddhist Text Translation Society and can be found at http://online.sfsu.edu/~rone/Buddhism/Platform%20Sutra.pdf

Chapter V: Sitting in Ch’an.
The Master instructed the assembly: “The door of sitting in Ch’an consists fundamentally of attaching oneself neither to the mind nor to purity; it is not non-movement. One might speak of becoming attached to the mind, and yet the mind is fundamentally false. You should know that the mind is like an illusion, and therefore there is nothing to which you can become attached.”

“One might say that to practice Ch’an is to attach oneself to purity, yet the nature of people is basically pure. It is because of false thinking that the True Suchness is obscured. Simply have no false thinking, and the nature will be pure of itself. If an attachment to purity arises in your mind, a deluded idea of purity will result. What is delusory does not exist, and the attachment is false. Purity has no form or mark and yet there are those who set up the mark of purity as an achievement. Those with this view obstruct their own original nature and become bound by purity.”

“Good Knowing Advisors, one who cultivates non-movement does not notice whether other people are right or wrong, good or bad, or whether they have other faults. That is the non-movement of the self-nature.”

“Good Knowing Advisors, although the body of the confused person may not move, as soon as he opens his mouth he speaks of what is right and wrong about others, of their good points and shortcomings, and so he turns his back on the Way. Attachment to the mind and attachment to purity are obstructions to the Way.”

The Master instructed the assembly, “Good Knowing Advisors, what is meant by ‘sitting in Ch’an?’ In this unobstructed and unimpeded Dharma-door, the mind’s thoughts do not arise with respect to any good or evil external state. That is what ‘sitting’ is. To see the unmoving self-nature inwardly is Ch’an.”

“Good Knowing Advisors, what is meant by ‘Ch’an concentration?’ Being separate from external marks is ‘Ch’an.’ Not being confused inwardly is ‘concentration.’ If you become attached to external marks, your mind will be confused inwardly. If you are separate from external marks, inwardly your mind will be unconfused. The original nature is naturally pure, in a natural state of concentration. Confusion arises merely because states are seen and attended to. If the mind remains unconfused when any state is encountered, that is true concentration.”

“Good Knowing Advisors, being separate from all external marks is Ch’an and being inwardly unconfused is concentration. External Ch’an and inward concentration are Ch’an concentration. The Vimalakirti Sutra says, ‘Just then, suddenly return and regain the original mind.’ The Bodhisattva-shila Sutra says, ‘Our basic nature is pure of itself.’ Good Knowing Advisors, in every thought, see your own clear and pure original nature. Cultivate, practice, realize the Buddha Way!”

Usually we say Zen and Tao are beyond language and words. I think Patriarch Hui Neng is the best example of this. We know he was illiterate but it didn’t harm his wisdom. He became enlightened when he heard the sentence, ‘One should use one’s mind in such a way that it will be free from any attachment’. This was read to him by the fifth Patriarch Hongzen expounding from the Diamond Sutra. He realized and understood how all things in the universe are: the Essence of Mind itself. I think the Platform Sutra is the most important sutra in Zen philosophy. After you read it you will have a better understanding of Zen.

–Danny

1 Comment

  1. Teyah
    January 11, 2016

    BION I’m imedpsser! Cool post!

    Reply

Leave a Reply