Sunday, April 05, 2009

Thought without support - Platform Sutra of Sixth Patriarch

Reposted from My Zen Experience

*** Text and commentary from Platform Sutra translated by Buddhist Text Translation Society ****

Once a customer bought firewood and ordered it
delivered to his shop. When the delivery had been made,
and Hui Neng had received the money, he went outside
the gate, where he noticed a customer reciting a Sutra.
Upon once hearing the words of this Sutra: “One should
produce that thought which is nowhere supported.” Hui
Neng’s mind immediately opened to enlightenment.

Because the Sixth Patriarch’s family was poor, he received
little formal schooling and could not read. At that time in China
one needed money to go to school. But in spite of his illiteracy,
the Sixth Patriarch’s disposition was extremely sharp; and as
soon as he heard the line of the Sutra which says that one should
have a true mind which is nowhere attached
, he immediately
became enlightened. He understood what he had never
understood before.

Many will hear the sentence; “One should produce that
thought which is nowhere supported.” Are there any who will
open to enlightenment?

Someone exclaims, “Why, I have!”

I ask you, what is the enlightenment you have opened? What
is the enlightenment unopened? Ask yourself.

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At April 05, 2009, Blogger Jordan said...


At April 05, 2009, Blogger Ted Biringer said...

Thank you Myochi.

Dogen uses this traditional story of Huineng to illustrate the essence and fucnction of Zen Transmission. Here is part of something I posted at Aitken Roshi's blog that relates to this:

After reminding us that Huineng was never exposed to the “eternal teachings”, and yet he was “Suddenly illuminated” when he heard the Diamond Sutra being recited, Dogen says:

This is just the truth of Those who have wisdom, if they hear [the Dharma], Are able to believe and understand at once. This wisdom is neither learned from other people nor established by oneself: wisdom is able to transmit wisdom, and wisdom directly searches out wisdom… Wisdom is beyond intention and wisdom is beyond no intention. Wisdom is beyond consciousness and wisdom is beyond unconsciousness… The point is that although [the Sixth Patriarch] does not even know what the Buddha Dharma is… when he hears the Dharma, he makes light of his debt of gratitude and forgets his own body and; such things happen because the body-and-mind of those who have wisdom is already not their own. This is the state called able to believe and understand at once. No-one knows how many rounds of life-and-death [people] spend, even while possessing this wisdom, in futile dusty toil. They are like a stone enveloping a jewel, the jewel not knowing that it is enveloped by a stone, and the stone not knowing that it is enveloping a jewel. [When] a human being recognizes this [jewel], a human being seizes it. This is neither something that the jewel expecting nor something that the stone is awaiting: it does not require knowledge from the stone and it is beyond thinking by the jewel. In other words, a human being and wisdom do not know each other, but it seems that the truth is unfailingly discerned by wisdom.
Shobogenzo, Inmo, Gudo Nishijima & Mike Cross

Dogen’s words, “wisdom is able to transmit wisdom, and wisdom directly searches out wisdom”, seems to me, the very definition of Dharma-transmission. According to the Sutras, in its highest sense, wisdom (prajna) is Buddha-nature. ‘Transmitting’ and ‘receiving’ (like ordinary beings and Buddhas) are two aspects of one process. Thus wisdom transmits wisdom and is received by wisdom.

Thanks again.


At April 20, 2009, Blogger MyoChi said...

Ted - I agree that this wisdom is neither learned nor comes by itself. It has to be transmitted by wisdom. I was really moved by the phrase "thought without support". Come to think of it - there is no thought without support in wordly sense. Thoughts are made of support. And if I would have heard that sentence, I could not have made anything of it. I just started reading Sixth Patriarch's sutra and it is full of treaures!


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