The Platform Sutra

Translation Red Pine
Shoemaker&Hoard 2006

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If you wish to hear this teaching of the ancients, you must listen with pure mind. And if you wish to get rid of your delusions, you should understand it as passed generations have.

Good friends! You already possess the prajna wisdom of enlightenment. But because your minds are deluded, you cannot understand by yourselves. You need to find a truly good friend to show you the way to see your nature. Good friends, buddha nature isn’t different for the ignorant and and the wise. It is just that people are deluded or awake. When people are deluded, they are ignorant. When they wake up, they become wise.

Prajna wisdom: Hui-neng is not only differentiating this radical form wisdom from your mundane wisdom and its world of objects, he is also differentiating it from the metaphysical wisdom of Hinyana Buddhism and its world of dharmas. Prajna means “before knowledge”, and knowledge, according to the Mahayana, is just another name for delusion. Hence, prajna is our original mind, our mind before we know anything, if less a person who knows all something known. This non-dual nature is our original nature, our buddha nature.

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One Practice Samadhi means that at all times, whether walking, standing, sitting, or lying down always practicing with a straightforward mind.

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Good friends, the dharma is direct or indirect. Its people sharp or dull. For those who are deluded, there is indirect persuasion. For those who are aware, there is direct cultivation: Know your mind and see your nature. For those are aware, there is basically no separation. For those or aren't aware, they are infinite kalpas on the Wheel of Rebirth.

17 Good friends, since ancient times, this Dharma teaching of ours, both its direct and indirect versions, has proclaimed “no thought” as its doctrine, “no form” as its body, and “no attachment” as its foundation.
What do we mean by a form that is “no form”? To be free of form in the presence of forms. And “no thought”? not to think about thoughts. And “no attachment”, which is everyone's basic nature.

To be free of form in the presence of forms: this is a paraphrase of one of the more famous lines in Diamond Sutra, where the Buddha tells Subhuti, “by means of forms that are no forms the Thatagata can, indeed, be seen.”
everyone's basic nature: when you encounter the good and the bad, the beautiful and the ugly, all the hateful and cherished things of this world, even when words are harsh and deceitful, consider them all empty and don't think of retaliation

Thought after thought, not to become attached. Whether it is past thought, a present thought, or a future thought, let one thought follow another without interruption. Once a thought is interrupted, that Dharma body becomes separated from the material body. When you go from one thought to another, don't become attached to any Dharma. Once one thought becomes attached, every thought becomes attached, which is what we call bondage. But when you go from one thought to another without becoming attached to any dharma, there is no bondage. This is why “no attachment” is our foundation.

To be unaffected by any object is what is meant by “no thought”. To be free of objects in our thoughts and not to give rise to thoughts about dharmas.

When this school proclaims “no thought” as its doctrine, those people would transcend objects and who don't give rise to thoughts, even though they have no thoughts, they do not then proclaim “no thought”. What does “no” negate? and what thought is “thought” about? “No” negates dualities and afflictions. And “thought” is thought about the original nature of reality. Reality is the body of thought, and thought this the function of reality. When your nature gives rise to thought, even though you sense something, remain free of unaffected by the world of objects. The Vimalakirti Sutra says, “Externaly, be skilled at distinguishing the attributes of dharmas, and internally, remain and shaken by the ultimate truth.

143 Hui-neng’s non-dual dialectics: thought and reality, which refers to earlier as nature and mind. If thought this the function of reality, then thought is our nature. And if reality is the body of thought, then reality is our mind. To know reality is to know our mind, and to see our thoughts is to see our nature. But when we stop to think about our thoughts, if we make our thoughts into objects or concepts, we separate them from the reality from which they are born and from which they can be separated in name only. As long as we don't grab hold of “thought” and “reality” and think they actually refer to anything other than our own nature and our mind, we walked the same path Hui-neng walked thirteen hundred years ago.

18 Good friends, in this school of the Dharma, when we practise Zen, we don't contemplate the mind, and we don't contemplate purity, and we don't talk about being dispassionate.

If someone says to contemplate the mind, the mind is basically a delusion. And because a delusion is the same as an illusion, there is nothing to contemplate.

If someone says to contemplate purity, your nature is already pure. It's because of deluded thoughts that reality is obscured. But once you're free of deluded thoughts, your original nature is pure.

And if someone cultivates dispassion, as long as they don't pay attention to the faults of others, then nature is dispassionate. But deluded people act dispassionate then opened their mouths and talk about right and wrong and turn their backs on the Way. Meanwhile, contemplating the mind and contemplating purity are actually what separates them from the Way.

145 Practise Zen: chin. tso-ch’an. Tso normally means“to sit“,but during the T’ang dynasty this word also meant “to do”. Hui-neng’s use of the term was meant to be understood in this broader light, as his school does not restrict Zen to the meditation cushion. Hui-neng’s Zen is sitting-walking-standing-lying down Zen, tea-drinking Zen.

In that case, what do we mean in this school by “to practise Zen”?… we mean not to be obstructed by anything and externally do not give rise to thoughts about objective states. And by “Zen”, we mean to see our nature without being confused.

Externally to be free of form is “Zen”. And internally and not to be confused is “meditation”. Externally, if you are attached to form, internally, your mind will be confused. But if you're free of form externally, internally your nature will not be confused.

Your nature itself is pure and focused. It is just that you come into contact with objects, and as you come into contact, you become confused. When you're free of form and not confused, you are focused. To be free of form externally is “Zen”. Not to be confused internally is “meditation”. External Zen and internal meditation, is what we mean by “Zen meditation”.

The Vimalakirti Sutra says, “Suddenly all at once, we return to our original mind”. And the Bodhisattva Precept Sutra says, “Our original nature is pure”.

Good friends, see the fundamental purity of your own nature. Cultivate and put to work for yourselves that Dharma body of your own nature. Practise for yourselves the practices of a Buddha. Begin and complete for yourselves the path to buddhahood.

Sutra of Hui-neng

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