The Sixth Patriarch of Zen

Master Huineng was the sixth patriarch of Zen. Remember, he was an illiterate who had to have the announcements on the bulletin board read to him. He had to have someone write his response to the fifth patriarch’s (Hongren) quiz.

He tells us that “Constant sitting restricts the body.” It cannot help us to find the truth.

Stinking Bones | September 3, 2014

To stop the mind and contemplate stillness is a sickness, not Chan meditation. Constant sitting restricts the body—how could it help towards discovering truth? Listen to my verse:

You can sit without lying down from the moment you’re born,

But when you die, you’ll lie down, never again to sit.

How could you build a solid practice

On a set of stinking bones?!

– Master Huineng, “Direct and Gradual”

Mummy of Huineng

Mummy of Huineng from Wikipedia article

The introduction to the article states,

The Platform Sutra, a classic of Zen Buddhism attributed to the Sixth Patriarch Huineng, tells the story of the aftermath of the religion’s split into two schools: Northern and Southern. In this selection, the Northern Master Shenxiu sends a spy to gather teachings from the Southern Master Huineng. But the reconnaissance does not go as planned.

It turns out that the spy, who had been with Shenxiu for nine years had not gained enlightenment. A few words from Huineng caused his mind to open and he became united with his original mind.

The above quote is in references to the split of the transmission into the two schools. The Northern School is the school of gradual enlightenment, while the Southern School is the school of sudden enlightenment.

Now do you understand what Huineng said about constant sitting? Which school attracts you the most?

The Platform Sutra: The Zen Teaching of Hui-neng

The Platform Sutra occupies a central place in Zen (Ch’an) Buddhist instruction for students and spiritual seekers worldwide. It is often linked with The Heart Sutra and The Diamond Sutra to form a trio of texts that have been revered and studied for centuries. However, u… [Read More…]

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