Proclamation of the Bodhi-Dharma




(Wong Mou-Lam) 

Learned Audience, when we use Prajñā for introspection we are illumined within and without, and in a position to know our own mind. To know our mind is to obtain liberation. To obtain liberation is to attain Samādhi of Prajñā, which is *’thoughtlessness’. What is ‘thoughtlessness’? ‘Thoughtlessness’ is to see and to know all Dharmas (things) with a mind free from attachment. When in use it pervades everywhere, and yet it sticks nowhere. What we have to do is to purify our mind so that the six vijnanas (aspects of consciousness), in passing through the six gates (sense organs) will neither be defiled by nor attached to the six sense-objects. When our mind works freely without any hindrance, and is at liberty to ‘come’ or to ‘go’, we attain Samādhi of Prajñā, or liberation. Such a state is called the function of ‘thoughtlessness’. But to refrain from thinking of anything, so that all thoughts are suppressed, is to be Dharma-ridden, and this is an erroneous view. 


Hui-neng asserts that the Samādhi of Prajñā is synonymous with no-mind (Wu-hsin). IT is not time-bound yet it pervades everywhere. Tozen describes this on the homepage of his dharma-school, “This great Mind of all Buddhas; Not standing still, not moving. Solid as a mountain’s wall, swift as a lightning flash!” In like fashion, Hui-neng solidly portrays that this true Mind-Prajñā is won when the skandhas themselves are eclipsed as swift as lightning when Mind moves freely without any discriminatory hindrances, since ITs Essential-Solid-Stature is motionless, i.e., perceiving like Bodhidharma’s Wall perceives—not like a dead-dunce staring at a wall, but completely impervious to all passing phenomena which can never penetrate the Purity of Mind’s Substance. He ends with a caveat, however, because this has nothing to do with shutting-down passing phenomena since this would, in effect, give undue credit to something that is not self-substantial in the first place.

Learned Audience, those who understand the way of ‘thoughtlessness’ will know everything, will have the experience all Buddhas have had, and attain Buddhahood. In the future, if an initiate of my School should make a vow in company with his fellow-disciples to devote his whole life without retrogression to the practice of the teachings of this ‘Sudden’ School, in the same spirit as that for serving Buddha, he would reach without failure the Path of Holiness. (To the right men) he should transmit from heart to heart the instructions handed down from one Patriarch to another; and no attempt should be made to conceal the orthodox teaching. To those who belong to other schools, and whose views and objects are different from ours, the Dharma should not be transmitted, since it will be anything but good for them. This step is taken lest ignorant persons who cannot understand our system should make slanderous remarks about it and thereby annihilate their seed of Buddha-nature for hundreds of kalpas and thousands of incarnations.

This is a truly motivational segment depicting how those who have incorporated Wu-hsin into the very fiber of their being will Put-On the very Tathatic-Mind of Buddhahood Itself. Hui-neng says that if one faithfully, and without transgression, puts on the dharma-armor of the ‘Sudden School’ in the spirit as if serving the Buddha, such a one will be in league with those who have reached the Other Shore of Tathagatahood. He then proceeds to make a firm injunction, however, that no attempt should be made to transmit the Buddhadharma to anyone who lacks the self-same Resilient-Spirit. In the long run it would do them no good and most likely cause them to make slanderous remarks against the Buddhadharma; this would prove to be a most disastrous occurrence, since in doing so their incorrigible mind-set will condemn them to incalculable kalpas and incarnations devoid of Buddha-nature; yea, they would remain bodhi-less on the corruptible web of their own endless ignorance (avidya).

Learned Audience, I have a ‘formless {signless}’ stanza for you all to recite. Both laity and monks should put its teaching into practice, without which it would be useless to remember my words alone. Listen to this stanza:

A master of the Buddhist Canon as well as of the teaching of the Dhyana School May be likened unto the blazing sun sitting high in his meridian tower.
Such a man would teach nothing but the Dharma for realizing the Essence of Mind, And his object in coming to this world would be to vanquish the heretical sects.
We can hardly classify the Dharmas into ‘Sudden’ and ‘Gradual’, But some men will attain enlightenment much quicker than others.
For example, this system for realizing the Essence of Mind Is above the comprehension of the ignorant.
We may explain it in ten thousand ways, But all those explanations may be traced back to one principle.
To illumine our gloomy tabernacle, which is stained by defilement, We should constantly set up the Light of Wisdom.
Erroneous views keep us in defilement While right views remove us from it, But when we are in a position to discard both of them We are then absolutely pure.
Bodhi is immanent in our Essence of Mind, An attempt to look for it elsewhere is erroneous.
Within our impure mind the pure one is to be found,
And once our mind is set right, we are free from the three kinds of beclouding (hatred, lust and illusion).
If we are treading the Path of Enlightenment We need not be worried by stumbling-blocks. Provided we keep a constant eye on our own faults We cannot go astray from the right path.
Since every species of life has its own way of salvation They will not interfere with or be antagonistic to one another.
But if we leave our own path and seek some other way of salvation We shall not find it, And though we plod on till death overtakes us We shall find only penitence in the end.
If you wish to find the true way Right action will lead you to it directly; But if you do not strive for Buddhahood You will grope in the dark and never find it.
He who treads the Path in earnest Sees not the mistakes of the world; If we find fault with others We ourselves are also in the wrong.
When other people are in the wrong, we should ignore it, For it is wrong for us to find fault.
By getting rid of the habit of fault-finding We cut off a source of defilement.
When neither hatred nor love disturb our mind Serenely we sleep.
Those who intend to be the teachers of others Should themselves be skilled in the various expedients which lead others to enlightenment.
When the disciple is free from all doubts It indicates that his Essence of Mind has been found.
The Kingdom of Buddha is in this world, Within which enlightenment is to be sought.
To seek enlightenment by separating from this world Is as absurd as to search for a rabbit’s horn.
Right views are called ‘transcendental’; Erroneous views are called ‘worldly’.
When all views, right or erroneous, are discarded Then the essence of Bodhi appears.
This stanza is for the ‘Sudden’ School. It is also called the ‘Great Ship of Dharma’ (for sailing across the ocean of existence).
Kalpa after kalpa a man may be under delusion, But once enlightened it takes him only a moment to attain Buddhahood.

Before conclusion, the Patriarch added, “Now, in this Ta Fan Temple, I have addressed you on the teaching of the ‘Sudden’ School. May all sentient beings of the Dharmadhatu instantly understand the Law and attain Buddhahood.” After hearing what the Patriarch said, the Prefect Wei, government officials, Taoists and laymen were all enlightened. They made obeisance in a body and exclaimed unanimously, “Well done! Well done! Who would have expected that a Buddha was born in Kwangtung?”

This is the summation of Chapter II in the Platform Sutra, “On Prajñā”. Without question, Hui-neng’s eloquence rises to the occasion via the splendid verses (akin to those very signless precepts) that, one can say without hesitation, are akin to a Proclamation of the Bodhi-Dharma (not to be confused with Bodhidharma, the first Patriarch of Ch’an Buddhism). In itself, it could be studied and contemplated upon for a lifetime since it systematically depicts all the salient teachings within the Platform Sutra and the ‘Sudden School’ in general. Perhaps the one dominant Bodhi-Pearl that stands out is the One Principle—THAT which, as Hui-neng says, “Lights-up our gloomy tabernacle.” Yea, the Illuminating Principle that is like a darkness to the senses, yet a blazing Unborn Light for the spirit of those who are properly attuned to IT. The Light of Bodhi is like that faithful sanctuary lamp that forever burns in the presence of the Tabernacle of the Tathagata-kaya. It is within this Light of all Lights that all dichotomous notions—rightness or wrongness—are forever discarded as the Quiescent Mind erases all dualities as the Unborn unfolds of Its own accord with no-thing arising or cessating. In the spirit of Tsung-mi, this hidden Light of Prajñā takes but a moment’s Self-realization, but also a lifetime of proper cultivation—like faithfully attending to that sanctuary lamp so that the Undying Flame of Numinous Noble-Wisdom is never extinguished.

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