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The Development Of The Southern And Of The Northern School Of Zen
After the death of the Fifth Patriarch the venerable Shang Si...

The Buddha Of Mercy
Milton says: Virtue may be assailed, but never hurt; Surp...

Man Is Good-natured According To Mencius
Oriental scholars, especially the Chinese men of letters, se...

Zazen Or The Sitting In Meditation
Habit comes out of practice, and forms character by degrees, ...

Where Then Does The Error Lie?
Where, then, does the error lie in the four possible proposit...

The Fifth And The Sixth Patriarchs
Tao Sin transmitted the Law to Hung Jan (Ko-nin), who being e...

Zen Under The Toku-gana Shogunate
Peace was at last restored by Iye-yasu, the founder of the To...

Zazen And The Forgetting Of Self
Zazen is a most effectual means of destroying selfishness, th...

Do Thy Best And Leave The Rest To Providence
There is another point of view which enables us to enjoy life...

The Eternal Life As Taught By Professor Munsterberg
Some philosophical pessimists undervalue life simply because ...

The Beatitude Of Zen
We are far from denying, as already shown in the foregoing ch...

Personalism Of B P Bowne
B. P. Bowne[FN#204] says: They (phenomena) are not phantoms o...

Enlightenment Is Beyond Description And Analysis
In the foregoing chapters we have had several occasions to re...

The Mystery Of Life
Thus far we have pointed out the inevitable conflictions in l...

The Errors Of Philosophical Pessimists And Religious Optimists
Philosophical pessimists[FN#214] maintain that there are on e...

The Social State Of Japan When Zen Was Established By Ei-sai And Do-gen
Now we have to observe the condition of the country when Zen ...

Poetical Intuition And Zen
Since Universal Life or Spirit permeates the universe, the po...

Three Important Elements Of Zen
To understand how Zen developed during some four hundred year...

Life Change And Hope
The doctrine of Transcience never drives us to the pessimisti...

Zen After The Restoration
After the Restoration of the Mei-ji (1867) the popularity of ...

The Spiritual Attainment Of The Sixth Patriarch

Some time before his death (in 675 A.D.) the Fifth Patriarch
announced to all disciples that the Spirit of Shakya Muni is hard to
realize, that they should express their own views on it, on condition
that anyone who could prove his right realization should be given
with the Kachaya and created the Sixth Patriarch. Then the venerable
Sung Siu, the head of the seven hundred disciples, who was considered
by his brothers to be the man entitled to the honour, composed the
following verses:

The body is the Bodhi-tree.[FN#43]
The mind is like a mirror bright on its stand.
Dust it and wipe it from time to time,
Lest it be dimmed by dust and dirt.

[FN#43] The idea expressed by these lines is clear enough. Body is
likened to the Bodhi-tree, under which Shakya Muni attained to his
supreme enlightenment; for it is not in another body in the future
existence, but in this very body that one had to get enlightened.
And mind is pure and bright in its nature like a mirror, but the dirt
and dust of passions and of low desires often pollute and dim it.
Therefore one should dust and wipe it from time to time in order to
keep it bright.

All who read these lines thought that the writer was worthy of the
expected reward, and the Fifth Patriarch also, appreciating the
significance of the verses, said: If men in the future would
practise Zen according to this view, they would acquire an excellent
result. Hwui Nang, the rice-pounder, hearing of them, however,
secretly remarked that they are beautiful, but hardly expressive of
the Spirit of Shakya Muni, and wrote his own verses, which ran as

There is no Bodhi-tree,[FN#44]
Nor is there a mirror stand.
Nothing exists from the first
What can be dimmed by dust and dirt?

[FN#44] These verses have often been misunderstood as expressive of
a nihilistic view, but the real meaning is anything but nihilistic.
Mind is pure and bright in its essence. It is always free from
passions and mean desires, just as the sun is always bright, despite
of cloud and mist that cover its face. Therefore one must get an
insight into this essential nature of Mind, and realize that one has
no mean desires and passions from the first, and also that there is
no tree of Bodhi nor the mirror of Enlightenment without him, but
they are within him.

Perhaps nobody ever dreamed such an insignificant fellow as the
rice-pounder could surpass the venerable scholar in a religious
insight, but the Fifth Patriarch saw at once an Enlightened Soul
expressed in those lines; therefore he made up his mind to give the
Kachaya to the writer, in whom he found a great spiritual leader of
future generations. But he did it secretly at midnight, lest some of
the disciples from envy do violence to Hwui Nang. He was, moreover,
cautious enough to advise his successor to leave the Monastery at
once, and go back to the South, that the latter might conceal his
Enlightenment until a time would come for his missionary activities.

Next: Flight Of The Sixth Patriarch

Previous: The Fifth And The Sixth Patriarchs

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