4 Monks in Procession at Baolin Gate (Nanhua Temple)
5 Zen Origins at Vulture Peak I have the Treasury of the True Dharma Eye, the sublime mind of nirvana, whose true sign is signlessness, the sublime dharma gate, which without words or phrases, is transmitted outside of the [standard] teachings, and which I bestow upon Mahakasyapa.Ich besitze die Schatzkammer des wahren Dharma-Auges, den wunderbaren Geist des Nirvana, dessen wahre Essenz die Merkmalslosigkeit ist, das großartige Dharma-Tor, welches ohne Worte außerhalb der Schriften weitergegeben wird, und übertrage es nun auf Mahakasyapa.吾有正法眼藏，涅槃妙心，實相無相，微妙法門，不立文字，教外別傳，付囑摩訶迦葉
6 The meaning of “wuxiang” 無相 SignlessThe meaning of “wuxiang” 無相The Chinese word used to describe the “sublime mind of Nirvana is wuxiang 無相, meaning “signless.” This is not the same as the Chinese word wuxing無形,meaning “formless.”“Signless” may also be translated as “featureless,” “lacking appearance” or “lacking marks.”The important point is that it does not mean the opposite of physicality i.e. form vs. formless.
8 By Gukei (Jap.) By Liang Kai Signlessness in Zen Art (Shakyamuni Descending the Mountain)By Gukei (Jap.)By Liang Kai
9 Signlessness in Zen Art (Shakyamuni Descending the Mountain) 14th Century (unknown)By Lao Weng
10 Sechsten Patriarchen Huineng Platform Sutra Platform Sutra of Huineng
11 The Platform Sutra begins with the story of the Sixth Ancestor Huineng learning of the Dharma. He hears someone reciting the Diamond Sutra. He awakens to the truth of Dharma and then travels to the Fifth Patriarch’s temple at Huangmei.Fifth Patriarch’s Temple at Huangmei
12 Fifth Patriarch Hongren There, in a famous exchange with Hongren, the Fifth Patriarch, Huineng displays his understanding of “self-nature.”Hongren asked, “What ability do you have. What are you seeking?”Huineng said, “I’m a commoner from Xinzhou south of the mountains. I’ve come from afar to honor you. I only seek Buddhahood, I don’t seek anything else.”Hongren said, “You are from south of the mountains and thus a barbarian. How can you aspire to be a Buddha?”Huineng said, “Althoug among people there is “south” and “north,” and there is a difference between you and “barbarians,” there is no difference in our Buddha-nature.”祖问曰：“汝何才人。欲求何物？”惠能对曰：“弟子是岭南新州百姓，远水礼师，惟求作佛，不求馀物。”祖言：“汝是岭南人，又是獦獠，若为堪作佛？”惠能曰：“人虽有南北，佛性本无南北；獦獠身与和尚不同，佛性有何差Fifth Patriarch Hongren
13 Hongren then sent Huineng to work in the kitchen, pounding rice. Later, Hongren organized a “poetry contest” whereby monks could demonstrate their understanding of the Dharma.Rice Pounding Machine at the Fifth Patriarch’s Temple
14 In the “poetry contest” the head monk Shenxiu displayed his understanding with the following poem: The body is the Tree of Wisdom,The mind but a bright mirror,At all times diligently polish it,To remain untainted by dust.Place of Legendary Poetry Contest at Fifth Patriarch’s Temple
15 The illiterate Huineng asked someone to read Shenxiu’s verse The illiterate Huineng asked someone to read Shenxiu’s verse. Then he had the person brush Huineng’s own verse. It said,The Tree of Wisdom fundamentally does not exist,Nor is there a stand for the mirror,Originally, there is not a single thing,So where would dust alight?Ancient tree at the site of the “poetry contest” that symbolizes the tree in Huineng’s poem.
16 Upon reading Huineng’s verse, Hongren realized that he had the superior understanding of Dharma. Thereupon he secretly passed to him the robe and bowl of succession. Hongren advised Huineng to leave, which he did. The other monks, upon learning this news, were shocked. Some set out after Huineng. The monk Huiming caught up with Huineng. Huineng threw the bowl on the ground but Huiming couldn’t lift it. He then recognized Huineng as his teacher and is considered to be his first disciple. Huineng then dropped out of sight for 16 years, living in the area of Shaoguan City.
17 The monk Yin Zong expounded on the Buddhist sutras The monk Yin Zong expounded on the Buddhist sutras. One day during his lecture a storm came up. Seeing a banner waving in the wind, he asked his audience, “Is the wind moving or is the flag moving?”Someone said, “The wind is moving.”Someone else said, “The flag is moving.”The two people held fast to their viewpoints and asked Yin Zong to say who was right. But Yin Zong had no way to decide, so he asked Huineng, who was standing nearby, to resolve the issue.Huineng said, “Neither the wind nor the flag is moving.”Yin Zong said, “Then, what is it that is moving?”Huineng said, “Your mind is moving.”Guangxiao Temple – legendary site of the “Flag Waving in the Wind” story
18 While the “poetry contest” story is quite famous, the real significance of the Platform Sutra lies in its revolutionary ordination ceremony. There, Huineng introduces the “Signless Precepts”Why are the “Signless Precepts” called “revolutionary” by Chinese scholars?
19 In China, Zen originally faithfully followed the home leaving, world renouncing ideal of the mendicant’s life (Chinese 头陀行).
20 But in northern climates, and especially in China, cold weather required the building of monasteries. Thus many Buddhists worked to convert the emperor to Buddhism to help propagate the religion. Thus the state would pay for the building of monasteries to house the Sangha.
21 Emperors naturally wanted to make use of Buddhism, its sutras and its philosophy to enhance their own status and power. They also controlled the religion so that it conformed with the needs of the state. They did this using several methods.
22 They controlled who could become home leavers by means of examinations They controlled who could become home leavers by means of examinations. Prospective monks must pass a test, usually consisting of the memorizing of long passages of sutras, to qualify to be a novitiate monk. Such tests were controlled by the throne.The emperors appointed abbots who recognized the emperor as the head of the Buddhist religion. Emperors called themselves “Tathagatas” and “Bodhisattvas.” They thus had exalted spiritual status in a “home-leaving” religion.
23 3) Emperors even determined what vows would be said by the monks upon their ordination. A close relationship between emperors and the Vinaya (Precepts) School of Buddhism existed through most of Chinese history.
24 For example, although Shaolin Temple is the nominal home of Zen Buddhism, it remained under imperial control as a Vinaya temple for most of its history.Shaolin Temple
25 Emperors needed to keep control of Buddhism Emperors needed to keep control of Buddhism. They needed to limit the power of the Buddhist church and keep too many people from becoming monks and nuns (emperors need taxpayers, women giving birth, farmers, laborers, and soldiers more than they need monks). Also, monks outside the religious establishment often led rebellions against the throne. Thus, the “itinerant” ideal of Zen was often perceived as a political threat. This was especially true during the time of Emperor Xiao Wen, the emperor who ruled north China when Bodhidharma arrived in that country around the year 470 CE. Itinerant monks led at least three rebellions against Emperor Xiao Wen and his religious establishment.
26 Emperor Wu (left), revised the Bodhisattva Precepts, calling them the “Home leaving, Home Abiding Bodhisattva Precepts” This allowed emperors (and other lay people) to take the same precepts as monks and gain similar exalted spiritual status. Prior to Emperor Wu, only home-leaving monks normally took the Bodhisattva Precepts.Emperor Wu of the Liang Dynasty
27 Bodhidharma and his first generations of disciples resisted having any contact with the Imperial court. They did not want the political strings that accompanied financial dependence upon the emperor and the ruling class. The story of Bodhidharma’s sitting in a cave may have come in part from his refusal to sit in Shaolin Temple or similar temples that were controlled by the emperor’s hand picked abbots.Bodhidharma’s Cave (near Shaolin Temple)
28 The first three Zen patriarchs, Bodhidharma, Huike, and Sengcan, all lived and taught from temples that were of other Buddhist schools. It was not until the 4th Patriarch Daoxin established the Zen school at Potou Shan (Broken Top Mountain) that Bodhidharma’s Zen had its own monastery. Chinese scholars believe that Daoxin and his monks farmed the land in order to survive and stay independent.Fourth Patriarch’s Monastery at Potou Mountain, where “Farming Zen” Began
29 The Fourth Patriarch Daoxin faced a problem The Fourth Patriarch Daoxin faced a problem. The traditional Buddhist precepts forbade manual labor and farming. Thus, the Zen school, in order to remain economically independent, needed to adopt a different emphasis for their precepts. The Bodhisattva Precepts served this purpose. By emphasizing what was called the “Single Practice Samadhi” of “observing mind” Zen sidestepped ethical questions related to farming.Fourth Zen Patriarch Daoxin
30 “The Tang Dynasty Zen Master Daoxin of Qizhou promoted the Zen Gate throughout the realm. He used a text of the Bodhisattva Precepts [for ordination ceremonies] and established the ‘Expedient Dharma Gate of the Serene Mind’ for those who were ready and capable to receive this this teaching.” …Record of the Lankavatara MastersFourth Zen Patriarch Daoxin
31 “In the year Gui Mao , the emperor Tai Zong, hearing about Daoxin’s reputation, invited the master to the capital city. Daoxin declined the invitation. Three times the emperor invited the master and three times he declined. On the fourth occasion, the emperor said to his emissary, “This time if he doesn’t come, bring back his head.”When the emissary delivered the emperor’s edict to the mountain, Daoxin simply exposed and stretched his neck to allow his head to be cut off, and stood there in a dignified manner. This shocked the emissary. When he reported this situation, the emperor changed his intention and honored Daoxin. He presented the master with valuable silk and venerated him as an example.”The Fourth Patriarch Daoxin in particular resisted interference from the imperial court and worked to stay away from imperial influence. The story about this from the Zen Lamp Records is shown at right.
32 While emperors used the “Bodhisattva Precepts” to allow lay people (particularly themselves) to gain spiritual status, the Zen school also used the same precepts for its own special purposes. First, this allowed the central teaching about “mind” to take precedence over blind adherence to the traditional precepts.
33 Daoxin, the Fourth Patriarch, thus started two critical aspects that led to Zen’s success in China. First, he maintained independence from the throne by farming. He also used the Bodhisattva Precepts to give Zen ordination authority that was resisted by the Vinaya School. Daoxin’s importance to Zen was very great.Fourth Zen Patriarch Daoxin
34 The two Zen “revolutions” started by Daoxin were further developed and codified by two key Patriarchs that followed. The Sixth Patriarch Huineng revised the Zen precepts in the Platform Sutra to better reflect Zen’s view on Buddha’s awakening.Later, Baizhang Huaihai codified the “work ethic” and rules for a working Zen monastery that Daoxin had started.HuinengBaizhang
35 Sechsten Patriarchen Huineng Platform Sutra Platform Sutra of HuinengThe Platform Sutra (Dunhuang version) was recorded by Huineng’s disciple Fahai at Dafan Temple in Shaozhou (near Nanhua Temple in modern Shaoguan).
36 Sechsten Patriarchen Huineng Platform Sutra Platform Sutra of HuinengThe Sixth Ancestor Huineng offered, in the “Platform Sutra,” a precepts and ordination ceremony aligned with Bodhidharma’s teachings on the nature of the “signless” mind. What Daoxin called “Buddha-nature,” and “mind-nature,” Huineng referred to as “self-nature.”
37 The Platform Sutra has many different versions The Platform Sutra has many different versions. Much of the text was added by later writers over the centuries and different versions have different content. Therefore, the original text has been amended with much material that later writers wanted to ascribe to Huineng’s teaching. In this we see the creation of Zen’s view of itself in history.The central idea of the text conforms to the idea of “See [mind or self] nature and become Buddha.”
38 法 fa Dharma 僧 seng Sangha 佛 fo Buddha Traditional “Refuges” are:“This “self-nature” is the “signless” mind of nirvana. So Huineng offers taking refuges not in the traditional “Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha,” but in three signless aspects of mind that are the “Zen mind” equivalents of the Three Treasures.佛 fo Buddha法 fa Dharma僧 seng Sangha
39 Huineng instructs those taking their vows as follows: “From today, declare truth to be your teacher. Don’t take refuge in some external heretical way. Instead take refuge in the Three Treasures of self-nature and always demonstrate this [in your life]. I admonish you all to take refuge in the Three Treasures of self-nature [which arise from the truth that] Buddha is enlightenment. Dharma is truth. Sangha is purity.从今日起，称觉为师，更不归依邪魔外道。以自性三宝，常自证明，劝善知识，归依自性三宝。佛者觉也，法者正也，僧者净也。The “Three Refuges” of the Platform Sutra are Huineng’s “mind”equivalents of the traditional Three Refuges. They are :Enlightenment (Buddha) Truth (Dharma)Purity (Sangha)
40 Similarly, versions of the Platform Sutra also recite the four great Bodhisattva Vows using “mind” as their basis. Huineng’s version is as follows:自心众生无边誓愿度，自心烦恼无边誓愿断，自性法门无尽誓愿学，自性无上佛道誓愿成。I vow to save limitless beings in my mind,I vow to cut off limitless delusions in my mind,I vow to study the limitless Dharma gates of self-nature,I vow to attain the unsurpassed Buddha Way of self-nature.
41 日用常行饶益，成道非由施钱。菩提只向心见，何劳向什求玄？听说依此修行，天堂只在目前。” In the Platform Sutra Huineng went further and provided, for lay persons, the “Song of Signlessness.”When one’s mind is at ease why uphold the precepts?When one’s actions are true why practice Zen?Benevolence is the support of one’s parents,Righteousness is sympathy for all,Allowance is equally perceiving the noble and the despised alike,Forbearance is not complaining about the myriad faults,In this manner one is like a tree unmolested by fire,Like a red lotus growing steadily in mud,Bitter words are good medicine,Criticism is faithful speech,To change is to manifest wisdom,Holding fast to a narrow view is not noble,One may spend one’s time concerned with wealth,But giving dana is not attaining the Way,For Bodhi wisdom you must only see the mind,Why belabor pursuing metaphysics?Practice in the manner I speak,And heaven will be before your eyes.无相颂“心平何劳持戒？行直何用修禅？恩则亲养父母，义则上下相怜。让则尊卑和睦，忍则众恶无喧。若能锁木出火，淤泥定生红莲。苦口的是良药，逆耳必是忠言。改过必生智慧，护短心内非贤。日用常行饶益，成道非由施钱。菩提只向心见，何劳向什求玄？听说依此修行，天堂只在目前。”
42 The “Song of Signlessness” for lay persons established a moral equivalence between correct lay practice and home leaving practice. This broadened and popularized Zen’s appeal to the lay community.Lay people in lay robes bowing to Bodhidharma during his annual memorial ceremony at Empty Form Temple, Henan Province.
43 By offering its own precepts ceremony, Zen usurped the traditional authority of the Vinaya School and at the same time encroached upon the prerogatives of “Imperial Buddhism,” the Buddhism of the emperors.Zen claimed authority to do this by saying that Zen represents the essence of Buddha’s teaching, and the Vinaya school only represents the organization of Buddhists in the age when Buddha’s original teaching is degraded (the “mofa” or “mopo” age).
44 The most famous Chinese Buddhist Vinaya master and scholar in history, named Dao Xuan (596—667) , was founder of the unified “South Mountain” school of Chinese Vinaya Buddhism. He indirectly lent support to this Zen doctrine of being a superior teaching. In Dao Xuan’s famous work “Biographies of Eminent Monks” he said…If someone were to ask, I’d say that the Zen practiced and promoted [during Bodhidharma’s time] was the true appearance of Buddha’s teaching. Yet now, at this later time [about 125 years later], the threads of those arguments are no longer spoken of. Now we are in what is called the “Dharma-ending age,” in which adherence to the precepts is our practice. This [precepts practice] is now ascendant. And if you ask me to explain this, then I must say that the true teaching which reached China due to the great function of those former [Zen] masters was not understood or practiced correctly. As a result within the teachings there developed two types of believers. There was a division between those who are clever and those who are not. If we all could return to the source and experience the profound truth [of Buddha’s genuine teaching], then the virtue of those who study [mind] and the rest of the Buddha world could be unified, as in the true Dharma of the first thousand years [of Buddha’s teaching]. And this would be called realizing the unending true enlightenment of Buddha.“mo fa”End of Dharma
45 The political meaning of the Platform Sutra As I explained, by establishing the “Signless Precepts” Huineng not only provided Zen with its own interpretation of ordination, it also marked the difference between Imperial influenced Vinaya Buddhism and Zen.This should be seen in the context of the ongoing attempts by Bodhidharma’s tradition to remain outside the grasp of Imperial Buddhism.The Platform Sutra references the legendary meeting between Emperor Wu and Bodhidharma and points out that Wu’s imperial form of Buddhism had no merit. This is the “read between the lines” message concerning imperial Buddhism that the Platform Sutra implicitly criticizes.BodhidharmaEmperor Wu
46 However, the Fifth Patriarch’s disciple s Shenxiu and Lao An succumbed to imperial pressure and visited the court to teach. In history, Shenxiu’s teachings were accused of favoring “gradual” enlightenment as opposed to Huineng’s “sudden” enlightenment. However, Huineng himself, in the Platform Sutra, claimed there was no such difference. The real difference between “Northern” and “Southern” Zen lay mainly in their different relationships with the emperor. Shenxiu became the “teacher of three emperors.” Huineng refused to ever travel to the court. Huineng upheld Bodhidharma’s avoidance of imperial interference with the home-leaving ideal.Traditional portrait of “Old An,” one of the Fifth Patriarch’s disciples who lived on Mt. Song
47 The “Northern School” was almost completely destroyed when the general An Lushan rebelled against the imperial court and destroyed the northern cities of Luoyang and Changan. As a result, the “Southern School” of Huineng remained as the primary school of Chinese Zen. Bodhidharma’s fear of involvement with the imperial court was well founded.Nine Dragon Springs at Nanhua Temple – said to be discovered by Huineng.
48 Nanhua Temple is the site where the Sixth Ancestor established his Dharma seat . It remains one of the most visited temples in China with thousands of visitors arriving there daily.