The Platform Sutra
The Zen Teaching of Hui-Neng
from the translation
by Red Pine
Red Rocks Zen Circle Spring Retreat 2019
Meditation and Wisdom:
Section 13: This
Dharma teaching is based on meditation and wisdom. But don’t make the mistake of thinking that
meditation and wisdom are separate.
Meditation and wisdom are of one essence and not two. Meditation is the body of wisdom, and wisdom
is the function of meditation.
Section 15: Good
friends, what are meditation and wisdom like?
They are like a lamp and its light.
When there’s a lamp, there’s light.
The lamp is the light’s body, and light is the lamp’s function. They have two names but not two bodies. This teaching concerning meditation and
wisdom is also like this.
Section 14. One-Practice
Samadhi means at all times, whether walking, standing, sitting or lying down,
always practicing with a straightforward mind. …. Simply practice with a
straightforward mind and don’t become attached.
Section 14: Deluded
people …. say that sitting motionless, eliminating delusions, and not thinking
thoughts are One-Practice Samadhi. But ….
this is lifelessness and is an obstruction of the Way. The Way has to flow freely. Why block it up? The Way flows freely when the mind doesn’t
dwell on anything.
See Your Nature
Section 16: Know your
mind and see your nature. For those who
are aware, there is basically no separation.
Section 19: What do
we mean “to practice Zen?” It means not
to be obstructed by anything, and not to give rise to thoughts about objective
states. And by “Zen”, we mean to see our
nature without being confused.
The Four Vows
Section 21: Good
friends, recite after me:
I vow to save all beings, no matter now numberless.
I vow to send all afflictions, no matter how countless.
I vow to master all teachings, no matter how limitless.
I vow to attain Buddhahood, no matter how transcendent.
Good friends, as for “I vow to save all beings”, it isn’t
Hui-Neng who does the saving. Every
being you can think of saves themselves with their own nature in their own bodies. What does this mean? They ….. already possess the nature of
original enlightenment …. And this saves them with right views. Once they realize the prajna wisdom of right
views, they dispel their ignorance and delusion, and each being saves
themselves. The false are saved with
truth. The deluded are saved with awareness.
The ignorant are saved with wisdom.
The bad are saved with goodness.
And the afflicted are saved with enlightenment. Those who are saved like this are truly
As for “I vow to end all afflictions”, this means to get rid
of the delusions of your own mind. “I
vow to master all teachings” means to study the true, unexcelled Dharma. And “I vow to attain Buddhahood” means always
to practice with humility, to respect all beings, to avoid attachments, to give
rise to prajna from your own awareness, and to put an end to delusions. It is through self-realization that
Buddhahood is attained. This is the
power of making vows.
The two poems, from the life story of Hui-Neng:
(Sections 6 and 8)
Poem of the Head
Monk Poem of Hui Neng
This body is a Bodhi tree Bodhi
doesn’t have any trees
The mind is like a standing mirror This mirror doesn’t have a stand
Always try to keep it clean Our
Buddha nature is forever pure
Don’t let it gather dust Where
do you get this dust?
And, from the Mumonkan,
Koan #23, taken from the Platform Sutra:
The Sixth Ancestor (Hui-Neng) was once pursued by Monk Myo
to Daiyurei. The Ancestor, seeing Myo
coming, laid the robe and bowl (given to him by his teacher as symbols of
dharma transmission) on a stone, and said, “This robe symbolizes faith; how can
it be fought for by force? I will leave
it to you to take it.” Myo tried to take
up the robe, but it was as immovable as a mountain. Myo was terrified and hesitated. He said, “I have come for the Dharma, not for
the robe. I beg you, please teach me, O
lay brother!” The Sixth Ancestor said,
“Think neither good nor evil. At such a
moment, what is the True Self of Monk Myo?”
At this, Myo was at once enlightened.