The most famous classic of Chan Buddhism (Chinese Zen) is the Platform Sutra 六祖壇經. The sutra presents the teachings of Huineng 慧能 (638-713) [However, the text went through many revisions and the ten chapter edition that is currently taken as authoritative actually dates from 1291]. The most read section is the first chapter which records the competition for succession to Hongren 弘忍, the fifth patriarch. There were two contenders, Huineng and Shenxiu 神秀. The competition was conducted by the writing of a verse. The verse should show the author's understanding of the fundamental meaning of Chan.

The verse of Shenxiu is as follows

The body is the bodhi tree,
The mind like a mirror bright.

Ceaselessly, diligently, wipe the mirror
Let no dust alight!

Huineng then wrote a rejoinder to this verse

Fundamentally bodhi has no tree,
The mirror has no stand.
Originally there is not a single thing
Upon which dust could land.

These two verses are of enormous importance in understanding the deep meaning of Buddhism. On the one hand, there is the work of cleaning the mind. On the other hand, there is the realisation that mind itself cannot be contaminated. All delusion is adventitious and ephemeral. To not work at the practice is to sink further into delusion, yet to work too hard at the practice is to take delusion too seriously. What is one to do?

All Buddhist practices seek to cut through this seeming contradiction in one way or another. We could say that if Shenxiu's verse is the thesis, Huineng's is the antithesis; and the task is to find the synthesis.

Whether we see a Bodhi Tree
Or a mirror bright
When we welcome everything
Dust will shine with light.

Views: 166

Replies to This Discussion

It sounds like a koan. It leaves me with a sensation of being naked and foolish in front of the mistery of reality...Like a very little child in front of a tree: "What is this?"

The "sensation" of being naked and foolish is probably not the same thing as actually being naked and foolish. Or, to put the same thing differently, the tree is naked and foolish and doing fine. :-)

:-)

Very nice. Namo Amida Bu :)

eyes are open 
see the light
eyes are closed
the light remains

When Buddha winked, was the light transmitted when the eye was open or when it was closed?

When the wink landed in the eye of the disciple

David Brazier said:

When Buddha winked, was the light transmitted when the eye was open or when it was closed?

From the eye to the heart can be a very short distance.

Palms raised in gassho - deep bow

David Brazier said:

From the eye to the heart can be a very short distance.

Namo Amida Bu _/\_

Namo Amida Bu

It's not up to mind to invite the light. Our true Buddha nature, wordless, patiently awaits Amida's penetration. 

RSS

ITZI Conference 2019

Subscribe to ITZI Conference Newsletter

* indicates required

Blog Posts

GROUP

Posted by David Brazier on January 11, 2019 at 9:43 3 Comments

I’ve always been interested in groupwork. Recently I’ve been facilitating a rather challenging group. It includes an older man who is enjoying his retirement, an outdoor type who does not say so much but clearly regards the other members as wimps, a writer who has an irritating obsession with etymology, one I think of as the wanderer whose life problem seems to be that of never having learnt to settle down, who tells endless entertaining stories of travels, love affairs and so on, and I was…

Continue

Sense on Brexit

Posted by Geeta Chari on December 16, 2018 at 18:51 0 Comments

https://news.liverpool.ac.uk/2018/12/13/full-speech-sir-ivan-rogers-on-brexit/

I found this piece tremendously sensible, well-reasoned, and above all, realistic.

LONG JOURNEY

Posted by David Brazier on December 14, 2018 at 18:52 6 Comments

Carol drove me into Ottawa at midday on Wednesday 12th. I had spent the morning being interviewed and making a short film. In Ottawa we had lunch at the vegetarian restaurant and then went on to the airport where she dropped me off. I was to take a local plane to Montreal then fly to Paris and on to Bilbao in Spain with Air France, due to arrive at nine in the morning local time the following day. F would meet me in Spain and take me back to stay with him in a village near Vittoria.…

Continue

MY REAL LIFE

Posted by David Brazier on December 8, 2018 at 15:00 4 Comments

I'd like to try to say something about real life, which is the only thing that is really interesting.

I have been a bookworm ever since I learnt to read, which was not until I was seven years old. By that time I had already had important spiritual experiences. I was a rather odd child. Many ideas went through my head that tended to set me apart from other children.

Now,…

Continue

© 2019   Created by David Brazier.   Powered by

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service