Making the Western Paradise Appear
35. The prefect bowed deeply and asked: I notice that some monks and laymen always invoke the Buddha Amitabha and desire to be reborn in the West [Paradise].1 I beg of you to explain whether one can be born there or not, and thus resolve my doubts.
The Master said: Prefect, listen and I shall explain things for you. At Sravasti the World-Honored One preached of the Western Land in order to convert people, and it is clearly stated in the sutra, “It is not far.” It was only for the sake of people of inferior capacity that the Buddha spoke of remoteness; to speak of nearness is only for those of superior attainments. Although in man there are naturally two types, in the Dharma there is no inequality. In delusion and awakening there is a difference, as may be seen in slowness and quickness of understanding. The deluded person concentrates on Buddha and wishes to be born in the other land; the awakened person purifies his own mind. Therefore the Buddha said: “In so much as the mind is pure, the Buddha land is pure.”
Prefect, if people of the East [China] have a pure mind, they are without fault; if people of the West have an impure mind, they have fault. The deluded person wishes to be born in the East or West; [for the enlightened] all lands are exactly the same. If only the mind is free of impurity the Western Land is not far. If the mind allows impurities to arise, even though you invoke the Buddha and seek to be reborn, it will be difficult to reach. If you eliminate the ten evils 2 you will travel one hundred thousand li; if you do away with the eight wrong discriminations 3 you will travel eight thousand li.4 But if you practice straightforward mind, you will arrive there in an instant.
Prefect, just practice the ten virtues. Why seek rebirth? If you do not cut off the ten evils, what Buddha can you ask to come welcome you? If you awaken to the Sudden Teaching of birthlessness, you will see the Western Land in an instant. If you do not awaken to the Sudden Teaching of Mahayana, even if you concentrate on the Buddha and seek to be reborn, the road will be long. How can you hope to get there?
The Sixth Patriarch said: I will move the Western Land in an instant and display it for you, right before your eyes. Does the prefect wish to see it or not?
The prefect bowed deeply: If I can see it here, why should I be reborn there? I ask you in your compassion to make the Western Land appear for my sake. It would be wonderful.
The Master said: There is no doubt that the Western Land can be seen here in China. [Here there is the character t’ang: passageway] 5 Now let us disperse. The assembly was amazed and did not know what to do.
1. The Western Paradise is the form or astral realm.
2. Killing, stealing, sexual misconduct, lying, sowing discord, harsh speech, idle chatter, covetousness, ill will, and wrong views.
3. Pa-hsieh The eight wrong discriminations: birth and destruction, simplicity and multiplicity, past and future, permanence and impermanence.
4. The theory that the Western Paradise was located 108,000 li from China has not been found in any canonical work. The Sukhsvativyuha Sutra, locates it “a hundred thousand Buddhalands to the West.” There is a story, whose source I have not been able to trace, which states that from the west gate of Ch’ang-an to the east gate of Kapilavastu is 108,000 li.
5. The translation here is tentative. Chan, The Platform Scripture, p. 93, 182, n. 156, following Ui, Zenshu shi kenkyu, II, 148, translates t’ang as “passageway.” Later texts omit this passage.
Yampolsky, Philip B. (1967). The Platform Sutra of the Sixth Patriarch. (The text of the Tun-Huang manuscript) New York: Columbia University Press (p. 156-158) (http://www.fodian.net/world/Platform_Sutra_Yampolsky.pdf)
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Compassion for a hired assassin
Brother Chih Ch’e, whose secular name was Chang Hsing-Ch’ang, was a native of Kiangsi. As a young man, he was fond of chivalric exploits (swordsmanship). Since the two Dhyana Schools, Hui-Neng of the South and Shen Hsiu of the North, flourished side by side, a strong sectarian feeling ran high on the part of the disciples, in spite of the tolerant spirit shown by both masters. As they called their own teacher, Shen Hsiu, the Sixth Patriarch on no better authority than their own, the followers of the Northern School were jealous of the rightful owner of that title whose claim, supported by the inherited robe, was too well known to be ignored. (So in order to get rid of the rival teacher) they sent Chang Hsing Ch’ang (a layman) to murder the Patriarch. With his psychic power of mind-reading the Patriarch was able to know of the plot beforehand. (Making ready for the coming of the assailant), he put ten taels by the side of his own seat. Chang duly arrived, and at night entered the Patriarch’s room to carry out the murder. With outstretched neck the Patriarch waited for the fatal blow. Thrice did Chang strike, (but) not a single wound was thereby inflicted! The Patriarch then addressed him as follows:
A straight sword is not crooked,
A crooked one is not straight.
I owe you money only;
But my life I do not owe you.
The surprise was too great for Chang; he fell into a swoon and did not revive for a long while. Remorseful and penitent, he asked for mercy and volunteered to join the Order at once. Handing him the money, the Patriarch said, “You had better not remain here, lest my followers should do you harm. Come to see me in disguise some other time, and I will take good care of you.” As directed, Chang ran away the same night. Subsequently, he joined the Order and, when fully ordained, proved himself to be a very diligent monk.
Price, A. F. and Wong Mou-Lam (2004). Sutra Spoken by the Sixth Patriarch on the High Seat of “The Treasure of the Law”. Kessinger Publishing Company. (https://terebess.hu/zen/PlatformPrice.pdf)