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Words of Wisdom

Selections from the Platform Sutra of the Sixth Patriarch: Chapter 2, Part 1 of 2

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Venerated Buddhist Master Hui Neng, the Sixth Patriarch of Zen, is a legendary figure in the early history of Chinese Zen Buddhism. Master Hui Neng demonstrated His understanding of the Buddha’s teachings to the fifth patriarch, Daman Hongren, despite His lack of any formal training. As a result, He was chosen as the true successor or the Sixth Patriarch. The Platform Sutra of the Sixth Patriarch is a record of both Buddhist Master Hui Neng’s life and teachings, and is a highly influential scripture in the East Asian meditative tradition. Today, we will read selections from Chapter 2, in “the Platform Sutra of the Sixth Patriarch,” to share with you the ancient wisdom of Zen Buddhism.

“‘Noble friends, prajna, the wisdom of enlightenment, is inherent in all people of the world. Only because their minds are deluded, they fail to realize it themselves. Therefore, they need the guidance of great Masters to see their true nature. Know that Buddha nature is no different in the wise and in the ignorant. What separates them is whether one is enlightened or deluded.’”

“‘Noble friends, people speak of prajna all day, yet they do not recognize the prajna inherent in their nature. Just as talking about food cannot appease your hunger, talking about emptiness for countless kalpas will not reveal your true nature; ultimately it is of no benefit.’”

“‘All Buddha Lands are like empty space. Our inconceivable nature is originally empty; not a single Dharma is tangible. Such is the true emptiness of our inherent nature.’”

“‘Noble friends, our inherent nature can contain myriads of things, that is “greatness”. All things are within this nature. If we see evil or virtue in people without any grasping or rejection, without being defiled by any attachment, the mind will be like empty space. In this way, our mind is great and is therefore called “maha.”’”

“‘Noble friends, do not let your mind be misled! Prajna wisdom arises from our inherent nature and is not acquired externally. Prajna is the function of our true nature. When you understand this one truth, you can understand all truths. The mind is of great capacity; it does not take a narrow path.’”

“‘Noble friends, what is “prajna”? It means wisdom. If at all times and in all places, we cultivate wisdom and every thought is free from ignorance, this is the practice of prajna. With one ignorant thought, prajna ceases; with one wise thought, prajna arises.’”
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