A Farewell Stanza from Hui-neng



The Master passed away on the third day of the eighth month of the second year of Hsien-t’ien (= August 28,713). On the eighth day of the seventh month he called his disciples together and bade them farewell. In the first year of Hsien-t’ien the Master had constructed a pagoda at the Kuo-en Temple in Hsin-chou, and now in the seventh month of the second year of Hsien-t’ien he was taking his leave.

The Master said: “Come close. In the eighth month I intend to leave this world. If any of you have doubts, ask about them quickly, and I shall resolve them for you. I must bring your delusions to an end and make it possible for you to gain peace. After I have gone there will be no one to teach you.”

Fa-hai and the other monks heard him to the end and wept tears of sorrow. Only Shen-hui was not impressed, nor did he weep. The Sixth Patriarch said: “Shen-hui, you are a young monk, yet you have attained the [status of awakening] in which good and not good are identical, and you are not moved by judgments of praise and blame. You others have not yet understood: what have you been practicing at this temple these several years? You’re crying now, but who is there who’s really worried that I don’t know the place to which I’m going? If I didn’t know where I was going then I wouldn’t be leaving you. You’re crying just because you don’t know where I’m going. If you knew where I was going you wouldn’t be crying. The nature itself is without birth and without destruction, without going and without coming. 

All of you sit down. I shall give you a verse, the verse of the true-false moving-quiet. All of you recite it, and if you understand its meaning, you will be the same as I. If you practice with it, you will not lose the essence of the teaching:

Nowhere is there anything true;
Don’t try to see the True in any way.
If you try to see the True,
Your seeing will be in no way true.
If you yourself would gain the True,
Separate from the false; there the mind is true.
If the mind itself does not separate from the false,
There is no True. What place is there for it to be?
Sentient beings can move,
Non-sentient things are without motion;
If you undertake the practices of non-motion,
You will be identical with the non-motion of the non-sentient.
If the true non-motion is observed,
It is but non-motion postulated on motion.
Non-motion is no more than no motion itself;
Non-sentient beings contain no Buddha seed.
Distinguishing well the forms [of the various dharmas],
Remain firm within the First Principle.
This then is the functioning of True Reality.
Let me tell all you students of the Way
That you must exert your utmost efforts.
Do not, in the teaching of the Mahayana,
Cling to the knowledge of birth and death.
When in the future you encounter a person you are destined to meet,
Then discuss together the words of the Buddha.
If he is really not such a person,
Then, with palms joined, have him strive for the good.
From the outset this teaching has never engaged in disputes;
Disputations will betray the intention of the Way.
If you cling to delusions and argue about the teaching,
Your own natures will enter into the cycle of birth and death.

Hui-neng’s teachings wind down with further emphasis upon the premier position of the Platform Sutra over the former transmission of Bodhidharma’s Robe and Bowl. Just prior to Hui-neng’s passing into pari-nirvana, he offered the above stanza as a comfort for his disciples; he also implored them to meditate upon it often and through Right Action, incorporate its spirit into their very hearts. It’s also good to note here how Shen-hui is singularly pointed-out as the Sudden School’s most eminent student; he has clearly developed to a dharma-stage that keeps all the skandhas in-check. He alone was able to escape the awful pangs of sorrow upon Hui-neng’s departure since he knew that the deathless Dharmakayic Rapture awaited him.

The stanza itself is a marvelous disclosure revealing how the True Mind of Bodhi is the True Reality. Hui-neng follows the Diamond Sutra’s lead in presenting how Pure Mind is never synonymous with phenomena. This is in direct contrast to the mistake in Dogenism that eventually disfigured the True Face of Zen by equating Mind with phenomenal manifestations; this is the same quagmire from which modern-day zen and material-buddhism can never escape. Hui-neng even goes so far here as to assert that those who embrace this adharmic principle become ensnared like motionless flies on their rumps of deep-seated attachment to the malignant web of phenomena. The sure way to prevent this mad decree of Self-immolation from taking root is by remaining “firm within the First Principle.” As enumerated earlier, this is putting on the very True Nirvanic Mind Itself That is perfumed with the imageless fragrance of Wu-hsin. To try to exclusively relate with any portion of the six samsaric realms is an insult to the Buddhadharma; yea, this is the exact antithesis of Wu-hsin (True Mind) by putting on the false mind (the five-folded {wu-hsing} skandhic-inducement ) of Mara instead. Hui-neng closes on a note of practical advice: spend time in solitude with fellow authentic adepts of the Buddhadharma; never engage in disputes with those who are alien to the True Mind of Ch’an/Zen. If one disregards this advice, then don’t be surprised when another cycle of rebirth in one of those six samsaric realms comes knocking at the door in the Bardo of Re-becoming. This is indeed a Timeless Lesson, one that is mystically reinforced with the following video from the Dragon Mind of Zen:

This entry was posted in The Platform Sutra, Zen and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to A Farewell Stanza from Hui-neng

  1. Mark Errington says:

    I know this post is over 6 years old, but I’ve only just come across your blog. Great work !
    You said : “This is in direct contrast to the mistake in Dogenism that eventually disfigured the True Face of Zen by equating Mind with phenomenal manifestations; this is the same quagmire from which modern-day zen and material-buddhism can never escape”

    At one point in my Dharma journey, I too got sucked into ‘Dogenism’. If it wasn’t for my exploration of the ancient Ch’an masters I would have stayed there also. Thanks for posting this. I hope many other Zen practitioners see this and find the True Dharma Way.
    Best wishes

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Enter Captcha Here : *

Reload Image