Wishing happiness, joy, freedom from suffering is an energy that is part of our true nature. It is not just repeating the words during our practice. It is transforming who we are at our very core. When we are able to grow in this direction we are no longer able to look at any being that is suffering without feeling that suffering ourselves. We truly understand oneness and totality. We no longer look at those who commit hideous acts of violence with anger and hatred wishing terrible things for them. Instead we are able to feel the suffering that causes them to act in such an erroneous manor. When we are able to do this we have become truly selfless and our entire life is dedicated to helping all beings find liberation and joy.
Zen is slippery, beyond the logic of the intellect. The sixth patriarch in the platform sutra says if we are not attached to anything externally then our minds are not confused internally. This he says is Zen Meditation. When we reach the stage where we can be completely aware of things without being attached to concepts then we can experience the great bliss. There is just this beautiful awareness that there is no separation between observer and observed. Often those teaching the Avatamsaka speak of this as the totallity where realms inter-penetrate without obstruction. I and men far wiser than me can speak thousands of words about it but you must experience it yourself. Yesterday I stepped out my front door and listened. Geese were flying, honking, teaching the Dharma for those who could understand.
When I was a teenager I lived by a small river. I liked to sit at my favorite spot by a rapids and just listen. I used to wish that I could somehow communicate the feeling that I experienced. I didn’t know anything about Buddhism or Zen yet I had this wonderful experience of joy. I often think about it. For me it’s a conformation of everything those Chinese hermit poets were trying to say in their poetry.
I find this experience many places now. There’s a lake I like to visit. On a windy day I listen to the water lapping against the shore speaking it’s wisdom. On a still day there are birds that visit a feeding station maintained by the Audobon society. They give their Dharma talks in song and I experience the great joy.
Oh look how many times I’ve used “I”. It’s so difficult to make it all the way to the other shore. The Diamond Sutra tells us we should let go of all perceptions of a being, a self, a lifespan or a soul. I still have work to do.
Loving Kindness to All.
R C Hess
The Platform Sutra has been a great help to me. It’s not filled with impossible riddles and flowery symbolism. It’s direct and easy to understand. However understanding the concepts is one thing; Putting it into practice in daily meditation and life is quite different. I’m still working on that and I suppose will be for what ever time I have left. The core teaching is: “let go of attachment to external things and see your pure Buddha nature, mind-essence. Sounds easy but it may take life times of determination and practice.
But this post is not about the practice itself but some notes on what we know about how we have come to have the versions that are available to us today.
For many years the English versions that were available were based on a Chinese edition that was edited by the monk Tsung-pao in 1291. As far as I know the first english translation of this edition was produced by Wong Mou-lam in 1930.
The Buddhist Translation Society produced an English version from this Tsungpao version titled The Sixth Patriarch’s Dharma Jewel Platform Sutra. The first edition was published in Hong Kong in 1971. A second edition was published in the USA in 1977.
In 1932 Dwight Goddard published a version based on Wong Mou-lam’s translation in The Buddhist Bible.
Upasake Lu K’uan Yu (Charles Luk) produced a series of three books titled Ch’an and Zen Teaching. His translation of the of the Platform Sutra is found in Series three published in 1962 and is titled The Dharma Treasure of the Alter Sutra.
In 1923 a shorter and older version of the Platform Sutra was found in the British Museum. This document was one of many brought back from the Tunhuang/Dunhuang caves. This version was arranged differently and was shorter than the Tsungpao version. It was believed to have been written sometime around 850 and was based on an earlier version dating back possibly as far as 780. According to history the Platform Sutra was originally written down by a disciple of Hui-neng, Fa-hai. This Tunhuang version was found by a Japanese scholar, Yabuki Keiki. Keiki produced an edited version that was included in Volume 48 of Taisho edition of the Buddhist Canon published in Japan. In 1934 Daisetz Suzuki produced an improved edition and in 1963 Wing-tsit Chan gave us an English translation of Suzuki’s edition. Philip Yampolsky again translated Suzuki’s work into English in 1967 with the title The Platform Sutra of the Sixth Patriarch.
Red Pine’s translation was published 2006 and was based on a Tunhuang copy found in the Chienfotung Caves in 1935. This copy was more legible and had fewer mistakes than the copy found in the British Museum. Red Pine’s notes and commentaries are extensive and thorough. One can spend a lifetime absorbing the wisdom he has brought together in this book. I am no scholar and I only pass along the work of other brilliant men in hopes that you will look into their work yourself and experience your own Buddha Nature.
All of these teachers from the historical buddha up to the present day masters are trying to convey their experience of reality in order to help us find liberation from suffering. There is no short cut to understanding the emptiness (shunyata) of all dharmas including our own bodies. We must study and meditate and we must live moral lives with loving kindness and compassion for all beings. Red Pine tells us that Hui-neng did not teach concepts but only sought to free those in his audience from concepts that blocked them from seeing their Buddha Nature. We too must be determined to find this freedom.
Loving Kindness to All.
R C Hess
Gratitude to these great Buddhist leaders from around the world.
Originally posted on The Sangha Kommune.:
Original Chinese Language Article: By Wei Fang (卫风) Ch’an Culture Network
(Translated by Adrian Chan-Wyles PhD)
Ch’an Culture Network – news from Hubei province, where the Buddha’s joyous light of wisdom shines for thousands of people. On the morning of December the 18th, 2012, the Lingquan Temple was bathed in the warmth of bright sunlight, and the surrounding mountains were free of obscuring clouds. The main entrance of the temple had been washed and swept clean, and was lined with fresh flowers and thousands of devout Buddhists carrying flowers, sandalwood incense sticks, and sutra-banners. The eminent foreign Buddhist monks (who had been especially invited to the ceremony) awaited to enter the temple on foot, under umbrellas. At 9am, the venerable old monk Jing Hui began the ceremony by lighting incense in praise of the Buddha-Dharma. He was joined in…
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My dad abandoned his material body in 2006. He had three brothers and three sisters. Aunt Ruth, the last one living passed away this week and today I attended her funeral. As I looked at some of my cousins and their children I realized that I had prejudices and favorites. That I haven’t completely abandoned self. I thought of a talk given by Guo Xing Fashi, Abbot of Dharmadrum retreat center in New York. The talk is on emptiness, impermanence and no-self. He talks about thoughts that we may have about someone; How we should ask: “is that person really a bad person or am I just having a wondering thought?” It also brought to mind the title of a book, “Thoughts without a thinker“. I realized that I have work to do. But I also realized that the thoughts that I had really didn’t have much affect on me. Non of that uncontrolled feeling that permeates the whole body. So I offered a little prayer of gratitude that I’ve made some progress and also I’m aware that I have work to do. I really need to renew my vow to be more determined. This morning I was reading from the Ten Stages chapter in the Avatamsaka. I was reading about the ten vows that a Bodhisattva makes in stage one, the stage of Extreme Joy. I’m going to review this tonight and meditate on it for the next few days. Loving kindness to ALL
For many Chan Buddhist the Platform Sutra is our primary guide. Although Hui-neng, the supposed author tells us to study the Diamond Sutra. It was upon hearing a line from the Diamond that he realized enlightenment. He claims to have had a deeper experience after Hungren, the fifth patriarch explained the Diamond Sutra to him. This is all explained in the first few sections of the Platform Sutra.
The English translations that have been made are based on Chinese editions found at two different sites. They are the Tunhuang and the Tsungpao editions. The Tunhuang version was written between 700 and 860 depending on which scholar’s guess you think is most accurate. The Tsungpao edition was written in 1291. This seems to be a solid agreed upon date. Red Pines translation is based on a version from Tunhuang site. He gives far more detail concerning what various scholars believe about which is most original and addresses the controversies concerning authorship. I recommend that you read his book. I am only posting here to point you to the moon.
What are the key points of Hui-nengs teachings. The story is that Hui-neng was a poor uneducated boy and was delivering firewood to a customer when he heard someone reciting the Diamond Sutra. He had an enlightenment experience when he heard a line about not being attached to anything and having a mind that does not abide anywhere. His teaching is that all beings have Buddha-nature and we do not have to cultivate it through study. If we create concepts about enlightenment and Buddha we become attached to them and they prevent us from experiencing our true Buddha-nature (mind-essence.)
Hui-neng is constantly leading us out of the world of form into the formless. He gives us the formless precepts: to take refuge in enlightenment within our own bodies, to take refuge in the truth and to take refuge in purity, all within our own bodies. He is continually warning us that if we are looking outside ourselves for some other Buddha or for some experience we are creating concepts that prevent us from seeing our true Buddha-nature.
Hui-neng teaches that when we have good thoughts we are Buddhas and when we have bad thoughts we are ordinary people. In his teaching on the three bodies he tells us that good thoughts come from our dharma-body and because of the transformation-body we are transformed. When every next thought is good that is our realization body. One thing that is apparent here is the connection between mental formations, an object of the mind (one of the six sense gates) and our absolute nature. Thus we can see one-ness or non-duality in operation. It should be noted here that there are differences of opinion as to how much of the Platform Sutra is Hui-neng’s teaching and how much is the teaching of Shen-hui and other deciples.
His teaching on meditation is not what I would have expected. There are no instructions for sitting and he does not present the traditional circle of sila (morality), concentration, and prajna (wisdom or insight). These aspects of meditation are often presented as a sequence beginning with morality and leading to a calm or still mind with leads to wisdom. However Hui-neng tells us that meditation and wisdom are one. One does not lead to the other. He says where there is wisdom there is meditation and where there is meditation there is wisdom. This reminded me of Dogen’s teaching that our practice is enlightenment.
Another Mahayana theme that Hui-neng presents is non-duality or oneness of things. We should not divide things into good and bad, right and wrong, love and hate, etc. This was also the teaching of Sang T’san, the third patriarch in his poem Hsin Hsin Ming.
Traditional Mahayana teachings are woven into the Platform Sutra such as the four Bodhisattva vows: to liberate all beings, to end all afflictions, to master all teachings, and to attain Buddha-hood. He also elaborates on the teaching of Mahaprajnaparamita. Maha means great in sanskrit and prajna is wisdom. Prajnaparamita is ultimate wisdom or the wisdom that leads to the other shore beyond the cycle of birth and death.
OK I’ve mentioned a few key points. I hope this causes enough interest that you will get your own copy of the Platform Sutra or like me will acquire all the different translations you can find. This along with the Heart Sutra, the Diamond Sutra, the Lankavatara Sutra and the Vimalakirty Sutra are my guides. Best Wishes and Loving kindness to you ALL.
Though we are human with defilements we should never give up in our effort to purify our alaya vijnana (storehouse consciousness) and become Buddhas.