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. 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 [heaven]; 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, people of the East [China], if they have a pure mind, are without fault; people of the West, if they have an impure mind, have fault. The deluded person wishes to be born in the East or West; [for the enlightened person] 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 177 you will travel one hundred thousand li; if you do away with the eight wrong discriminations 178 you will travel eight thousand li.179 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 show it to 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] 180 Now let us disperse.” The assembly was amazed and did not know what to do.
177 Killing, stealing, adultery, lying, hypocrisy, coarse language, filthy language, covetousness, anger, and perverted views.
178 Pa-hsieh The eight delusions and attachments that arise in opposition to the true form of the various dharmas: birth and destruction, oneness and multiplicity, past and future, permanence and impermanence.
179 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.
180 The translation here is tentative. Chan, The Platform Scripture, p. 93, 182, n. 156, following Ui, Zenshu shi kenkyu, II, 148, translates T’ang [the Chinese dynasty] as “passageway.” This would appear to be a quite dubious rendering. Later texts omit this passage.
Yampolsky, Philip B. The Platform Sutra of the Sixth Patriarch. (The text of the Tun-Huang manuscript with translation, introduction and notes by Philip B. Yampolsky.) Columbia University Press, 1967 (p. 156-158) (http://www.fodian.net/world/Platform_Sutra_Yampolsky.pdf)