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Chapter VIII

Royal Patronage

AN EDICT DATED the 15th day of the First Moon of the 1st year of Shin Lung, issued by the Empress Dowager Chek Tin and the Emperor Chung Chung, read as follows:--

"Since we have invited Grand Masters Wei-on and Shin-shau to stay in the Palace and receive our offerings, we have continued to study under them as far as we could find time after attending to our imperial duties. Out of sheer modesty, these two Masters recommended that we should seek the advice of Dhyana Master Hui-neng of the South, who had inherited the secret Dharma and the robe of the Fifth Patriarch as well as the 'Heart Seal' of the Lord Buddha.

"We hereby send Eunuch, Sit Kan, as the courier of this Edict to invite His Eminence to come, and we trust His Eminence will graciously favor us with an early visit, etc., etc."

On the ground of illness, the Patriarch sent a reply declining the royal invitation and craved permission to be allowed to spend his remaining years in the "forest."

(In due time Sit Kan, the imperial envoy, arrived at Tso-kai and interviewed the Patriarch as follows):

"In the capitol, Dhyana experts unanimously advise people to meditate in the 'crosslegged' position to attain Samadhi; they say that this is the only way to realise the 'Norm' and that it is impossible for any one to obtain liberation without going through this meditation

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exercise. May I know your way of teaching, Sir?"

"The Norm is to be realised by the mind," replied the Patriarch, "it does not depend upon the crosslegged position. The Vajrakkhedika Sutra says that it is wrong 'for any one to assert that Tathagata comes or goes, sits or reclines.' Why? Because Tathagata's Dhyana of Purity implies neither coming from anywhere nor going to anywhere, neither becoming nor annihilation. All Dharmas are calm and void, such is Tathagata's Seat of Purity. Strictly speaking, there is no such thing as 'attainment'; why should we bother ourselves about the crosslegged position?"

"Upon my return," said Sit Kan, "Their Majesties will ask me to make a report. Sir, will you kindly give me some hints as to your essential teachings, so that I may make them known, not only to Their Majesties, but also to all Buddhist scholars at the Capital. As the flame of one lamp may kindle hundreds of thousands of others, the ignorant will be enlightened and light will produce light without end."

"The Norm implies neither light nor darkness," replied the Patriarch. "Light and darkness signify the idea of alternation. (It is not correct to say) 'light will produce light without end'; since light and darkness are a pair of opposites, there must be an end as well as a beginning. The Vimalakirti Nirdesa Sutra says, 'The Norm has no analogy; it is not a relative term.'"

"Light signifies wisdom, and darkness signifies defilement. If a pilgrim of the Path does not get rid of defilement by wisdom, how is he going to free himself from the 'wheel of birth and death,' which is beginningless?"

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The Patriarch continued, "Defilement (klesa) is wisdom (bodhi); The two are the same and are not different from each other. To break up klasa by Bodhi is only a teaching of the followers of the 'Small' and 'Middle' vehicles. To those of keen intellect and superior mental attainment, such teaching is disapproved."

"What, then, is the teaching of the Mahayana?"

"From the point of ordinary men," replied the Patriarch, "enlightenment and ignorance are two separate things. Wise men who thoroughly realise Mind-essence, know that they are of the same nature. This sameness of nature, that is, this non-duality of nature, is what is called 'true nature'; it neither decreases in the case of an ordinary man and ignorant person, nor increases in the case of an enlightened sage; it is undisturbed in an annoying situation, and is calm in Samadhi. It is neither eternal, nor not-eternal; it neither goes, nor comes, it is to be found neither in the interior, nor in exterior, nor in the space intervening between. It is beyond existence and nonexistence; its nature and its phenomena are always in a state of 'tathata'; it is both permanent and immutable. Such is the Norm."

Sit Kan asked, "You speak of it as beyond existence and non-existence. How do you differentiate it from the teaching of the heretics, who teach the same thing?"

The Patriarch replied: "In the teaching of the heretics, non-existence means the 'end' of existence, while existence is used in contrast with non-existence. What they mean by 'non-existence' is not actual annihilation,

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and what they mean by 'existence' really does not exist. What I mean by 'beyond existence and non-existence' is this: intrinsically it exists not, and at the present moment it is not annihilated. Such is the difference between my teaching and the teaching of the heretics. If you wish to know the essentials of my teaching, you should free yourself from all thought--good ones as well as bad ones--then your mind will be in a state of purity, ever calm and serene, the usefulness of which will be as apparent as the sands of the Ganges."

This preaching of the Patriarch, awoke Sit Kan to full enlightenment. He made obeisance to the Patriarch and bade him, adieu. Upon his return to the Palace, he reported to Their Majesties, what the Patriarch had said.

In that same year on the 3d day of the 9th Moon, an Edict was issued commending the Patriarch in the following terms:--

"On the ground of old age and poor health, the Patriarch declined our invitation to the Capital. Devoting his life, as he does, to the practice of Buddhism for the benefit of us all, he is, indeed, 'a field of merit' for the nation. Following the example of Vimalakirti who recuperated in Vaisali, he widely spreads the Mahayana-teaching, transmitting the doctrines of the Dhyana School, expounding especially the 'non-dual' Dharma. Through the medium of Sit Kan to whom the Patriarch imparted the 'Buddha-knowledge,' we are fortunate enough to have an opportunity to understand clearly his teachings of Higher Buddhism. This must be due to the accumulated merit and our 'root of

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goodness' planted in past lives, otherwise we would not be contemporaries of His Eminence.

"In appreciation of the graciousness of the Patriarch, we find ourselves hardly able to express our gratitude. (As a token of our great regard for him) we present him herewith a Korean Mo-la robe and a crystal bowl. The Prefect of Shiu-chow is hereby ordered to renovate his monastery, and to convert his old residence into a temple which is to be named, Kwok-yen. By royal favor, etc., etc."

Next: Chapter IX. Final Words and Death of the Patriarch