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The Ancient Buddhist Pantheon
The ancient Buddhist pantheon was full of deities or Buddhas,...

The Parable Of The Monk And The Stupid Woman
The confused or unenlightened may be compared with a monk and...

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

Enlightened Consciousness
In addition to these considerations, which mainly depend on i...

A Sutra Equal In Size To The Whole World
The holy writ that Zen masters admire is not one of parchment...

Zen Is Iconoclastic
For the followers of Bodhidharma, however, this conception of...

Life And Change
A peculiar phase of life is change which appears in the form ...

The Parable Of A Drunkard
Now the question arises, If all human beings are endowed with...

Bodhidharma And His Successor The Second Patriarch
China was not, however, an uncultivated land for the seed of ...

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

Zen After The Downfall Of The Ho-jo Regency
Towards the end of the Ho-Jo period, and after the downfall o...

Zen In The Dark Age
The latter half of the Ashikaga period was the age of arms an...

Man Is Not Good-natured Nor Bad-natured But Buddha-natured
We have had already occasion to observe that Zen teaches Bud...

Each Smile A Hymn Each Kindly Word A Prayer
The glorious sun of Buddha-nature shines in the zenith of Enl...

Difficulties Are No Match For The Optimist
How can we suppose that we, the children of Buddha, are put a...

Great Men And Nature
All great men, whether they be poets or scientists or religio...

Enlightened Consciousness Is Not An Intellectual Insight
Enlightened Consciousness is not a bare intellectual insight,...

Let Go Of Your Idle Thoughts
A famous Zenist, Mu-go-koku-shi, is said to have replied ...

The Introduction Of The So-to School Of Zen
This school was started by Tsing-Yuen (Sei-gen), an emine...

Life And Change
Transformation and change are the essential features of life;...

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.
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."

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,
Nor is there a mirror stand.
Nothing exists from the first
What can be dimmed by dust and dirt?"

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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