Second Patriarch Hui-k’o

Record II of The Long Scroll, Text No. 6.

57. A certain person asked Master K’o: How can one become a sage?
K’o: All common men and sages are created by the expectations (samskara) sown by false thoughts.

Another question: Since they are false thoughts, how does one cultivate the path?
K’o: What sort of thing is the path, that you want to cultivate it? Dharmas do not have the characteristics of superior or inferior; dharmas do not have the characteristics of going or coming [superior and inferior—the path; going or coming—beings going through death and rebirth].

58. Another question: Teach me, your disciple, to quiet my mind.
K’o: Bring your mind here and I will quiet it for you.
Questioner: Just quiet my mind for me!
K’o: This is like asking a tailor to cut out a garment. When the tailor obtains your silk, then and only then can he put his scissors to work. Without having seen the silk to begin with, how can he cut the pattern for you out of empty space? Since you are unable to present your mind to me, I don’t know what mind I should quiet for you—I certainly cannot quiet empty space!

59. Another: Administer confession to me, your disciple.
K’o: Bring your sins here, and I will absolve you.
Questioner: Sins lack any characteristics of form that can be taken hold of. I don’t know what to bring!
K’o: My hearing of your confession is over. Go to your quarters.

Comment: If there is a sin, one must go to confession; but since he did not know of any sins, it was unnecessary for him to have his confession heard.

Another: Teach me to cut off the defilements (samskara).
K’o: Where are the defilements that you want to cut off?
Questioner: I confess I don’t know where they are.
K’o: If you don’t know where they are, they are like space. You don’t know what they are like and yet you desire to cut off space.

Another: The sutra says: “Cut off every evil, cultivate every good, and you will be able to become a Buddha.”
K’o: These are false thoughts manifested by your own mind.

60. Another question: All the Buddhas of the ten directions have cut off the defilements and completed the path of the Buddhas.
K’o: You recklessly make such an assertion without any fixed frame of reference.

Another question: How do Buddhas lead sentient beings across to nirvana?
K’o: When the image in a mirror leads sentient beings across, Buddhas will lead sentient beings across.

61. Another question: I fear the hells, I go to confession, and I cultivate the path.
K’o: Where is the “I” located? And what is this “I” like?
Questioner: I don’t know where it is.
K’o: You don’t even know where this “I” is, so who falls into a hell? Since you do not know what it is like, this is a case of false thoughts asserting existence. The hells are precisely because false thoughts assert existence.

62. Another question: You have said: “This path is entirely a creation of false thought.” What is creation by false thought?
K’o: The Dharma has no great or small, forms or characteristics, high or low. It is as if there were a great rock in the front of your garden. Should you fall asleep on it or sit on it, you would be neither alarmed nor afraid. Then you get the idea to create an image. You hire someone to paint an image of the Buddha on it. When you mind creates the notion of the Buddha, then you no longer dare to sit on top of the rock because you are afraid of committing a sin. It is the same old rock, but your mind has created this notion of the Buddha.

What is the mind like? It is only your mind-consciousness brush painting and creating these interpretations. You yourself bring on the anxiety, you yourself bring on the fear; but in reality  there is neither sin nor merit within the stone. Your mind itself creates these notions. It is as if someone were to paint the forms of yaksas, ghosts, dragons and tigers. He paints them himself, but then when looks at them he becomes afraid. In the painting there is ultimately nothing to be feared; it is only your mind-consciousness brush discriminating and creating these notions. How could there be a single thing? It is always your false thoughts creating these notions.

(Broughton pp. 42-43)

Record III, Text No. 7

77. The nun Yuan-chi says: All dharmas are nonreacting. They are intrinsically liberated. Why? When the eye sees forms, there are no forms seen. Even when the mind consciousness knows something, there is nothing to not know and nothing to know. At the moment of delusion there is no understanding; at the moment of understanding there is no delusion. During a dream there is no awakening; at the moment of awakening there is no dream. Therefore, the sutra says: “The great assembly, having seen Akshobhya Boddha, no longer saw that Buddha. Ananda! No dharma has contact with the eyes and ears to produce a reaction. Why? Dharmas do not see dharmas; dharmas do not know dharmas.” Furthermore, the sutra says: “The nonproduction of consciousness (vijnanas) due to forms is called not seeing forms.” (p. 47)


Broughton, Jeffrey L. (1999). The Bodhidharma Anthology: The Earliest Records of Zen. University of California Press.

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