Second Patriarch Hui-k’o

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


A certain person asked Master K’o: How can one become a sage?
K’o: All ordinary men and sages are creations of false imagination.
Another question: Since they are false thoughts, how does one cultivate the Way?
K’o: What sort of thing is the Way that you want to cultivate it? Things do not have the attributes of superior or inferior; things do not have the attributes of going or coming


Again he was asked: Will you pacify your disciple’s mind?
K’o: Bring your mind to me and I will pacify it for you.
Again he asked: Just pacify my mind!
K’o: What you are asking is like asking a tailor to cut the cloth for your clothes. Only when the tailor gets your silk can he put his scissors to work. If he hasn’t first seen the silk, how can he cut the garment out of empty space? Since you cannot bring your mind to me, I don’t know what kind of mind I should pacify for you. I cannot pacify empty space.


Another: Administer confession to your disciple.
K’o: Bring your sins here and I will absolve you.
Questioner: Sins lack any attributes of form that can be taken hold of. I don’t know what to bring!
K’o: I have absolved you, so cast it aside.

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 hindrances.
K’o: Where are the hindrances 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 empty space. You don’t know what they are like, 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 imaginations projected by your own mind.


Another question: All the buddhas of the ten directions have cut off hindrances and completed the Buddha-Way.
K’o: You recklessly make such an assertion without any basis.
Another question: How does the Buddha liberate creatures?
K’o: When the image in a mirror liberates creatures, the Buddha will liberate creatures.


Another question: I fear the hells, I go to confession, and I cultivate the Way.
K’o: Where is your I? And what sort of a thing is your I?
Questioner: I don’t know where it is.
K’o: Since you don’t even know where this I is, who is it that falls into a hell? Since you don’t know what sort of a thing it is, it must be an existence born of the imagination. You have a hell precisely because of an existence born of the imagination.


Another question. You have said: This Way is entirely a creation of the imagination. What is creation by imagination?

K’o: The Dharma has no great or small, forms or attributes, high or low. It is just as if there were a great slab of stone in the front of the courtyard of your home. Should you fall asleep on it or sit on it you would not feel apprehensive about it. Suddenly you decide to create an image, so you hire someone to carve an image of the Buddha in it. Your mind, interpreting it as being the Buddha, fears committing a sin and you no longer dare to sit on it. It is the same rock, but this Buddha interpretation was created by your mind.

What sort of thing, then, is the mind? Everything is painted by the brush of your thoughts (manovijnana). You have made yourself apprehensive; you have frightened yourself. In reality, there is neither sin nor merit in the stone; your own mind creates these interpretations. It is like a man who paints the figures of yaksas and ghosts, and who also paints the figures of dragons and tigers. When he sees what he has painted, he becomes frightened. In the paint there is ultimately nothing to be afraid of; it is all created by the discrimination of the brush of his thoughts. How can there be anything that is not created by your imagination?

(Broughton pp. 42-43) (J. 333-338)

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

Jorgensen, John A. (1979). The Earliest Text of Ch’an Buddhism: The Long Scroll. The Australian National University.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s