Missionary Activity Of The Sixth Patriarch

As we have seen above, the Sixth Patriarch was a great genius, and

may be justly called a born Zen teacher. He was a man of no

erudition, being a poor farmer, who had served under the Fifth

Patriarch as a rice-pounder only for eight months, but he could find

a new meaning in Buddhist terms, and show how to apply it to

practical life. On one occasion, for instance, Fah Tah (Ho-tatsu), a

monk who had read over the Saddharma-pundarika-sutra[FN#46] three

thousand times, visited him to be instructed in Zen. Even if you

read the sutra ten thousand times, said the Sixth Patriarch, who

could never read the text, it will do you no good, if you cannot

grasp the spirit of the sutra. I have simply recited the book,

confessed the monk, as it is written in characters. How could such

a dull fellow as I grasp its spirit? Then recite it once,

responded the master; I shall explain its spirit. Hereupon Fah Tah

began to recite the sutra, and when he read it until the end of the

second chapter the teacher stopped him, saying: You may stop there.

Now I know that this sutra was preached to show the so-called

greatest object of Shakya Muni's appearing on earth. That greatest

object was to have all sentient beings Enlightened just as He

Himself. In this way the Sixth Patriarch grasped the essentials of

the Mahayana sutras, and freely made use of them as the explanation

of the practical questions about Zen.

[FN#46] One of the most noted Mahayana sutras, translated by

Dharmaraksa (A.D. 286) and by Kumarajiva (A.D. 406). The reader has

to note that the author states the essential doctrine in the second

chapter. See Sacred Books of the East, vol. xxi., pp. 30-59.

Man Is Not Good-natured Nor Bad-natured But Buddha-natured Nature And Her Lesson facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail