MASTER SHEN-LONG | First Meeting Between the Fifth Patriarch and the Monk Hui-Neng
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First Meeting Between the Fifth Patriarch and the Monk Hui-Neng

First Meeting Between the Fifth Patriarch and the Monk Hui-Neng

(Excerpt from the Platform Sutra of the Sixth Patriarch, expounded by Master Shen-Long, Chapter 1 Cultivation Cause, pg. 35)

 

[Sutra Text Translation]

Master Shen-Long, Eternal Tranquil Light (常寂光), 1991, oil on canvas, 4ft x 3 ft. Copyright Master Shen-Long

Master Shen-Long, Eternal Tranquil Light (常寂光), 1991, oil on canvas, 4ft x 3 ft. Copyright Master Shen-Long.

After Hui-Neng made arrangements for his mother’s welfare, he took his leave. In less than thirty days he arrived at Huangmei and paid obeisance to the Fifth Patriarch.

The Fifth Patriarch asked him: “Which province are you from? What do you seek?”

Hui-Neng replied: “This disciple is a commoner from Guangzhou, from the south of China, I travelled far to be here, I want to become a Buddha under the teaching of the Fifth Patriarch, nothing else.”

The Fifth Patriarch said: “You are a person from the south of China, a ‘geliao’ – a barbarian (slang for an uncivilized ethnic group), how can you become a Buddha?”

Hui-Neng said: “Although people can come from the North or the South, Buddha-nature inherently does not have North or South. While the position of the geliao-barbarian and that of the venerable monk are not alike, however what difference do they have in their Buddha-nature?”

Explained by Master Shen-Long:

If Hui-Neng were born into this world now, he would not have any faithful friends. When we go to see an eminent Great Master, would we say that the purpose of us coming to visit is to become Buddha? The average person would not ask this.

So let us study his language carefully; he wholeheartedly wanted to recover his inherently pure self-nature.  The common person would not be this way.  When they go to a monastery, the first thing they seek for  is safety and blessing; or to gain some benefits from the school of Buddhism. They have purpose, so their minds are already not purified of defiling illusion. People go there either to perform charitable deeds, or sow discord among the people in the school of Buddhism, or do other chores.

However, Hui-Neng states: “I want to become a Buddha, nothing else“.  He arrived there from far away covered in dust, and all he wanted was to become Buddha under the teaching of the Fifth Patriarch!

The Fifth Patriarch said: “You are a person from the south of China, a  geliao.”  A  ‘geliao‘ is a barbarian (slang for an uncivilized ethnic group), at that time they were looked down upon. The Chinese had their scholar-bureaucratic concepts similar to a time in Ancient India – many Asian societies still retain this.  This scholar-bureaucratic concept has not changed even now:

                  To be a scholar is to be at the top of society, the worth of other pursuits is small, the one who studies books exceeds them all.

This statement made sense during the era of the scholar-bureaucratic class because studying books produced wisdom. Nowadays in the scientific era, where all skills and technologies are proceeding simultaneously, many social structures have to rely on the great bulk of the population, not just scholars. However in the past, the qualification of scholars was different; besides statesmanship (the art of leading a country), one was well-rounded and also knows about military strategy, structure engineering, and construction, etc.

How can you become a Buddha?” The Fifth Patriarch tested him by devaluing him and scolding him.

Huineng said: “Although people can come from the North or the South”,  as people can be poor and lowly, noble or rich, strong or weak;  Buddha-nature inherently does not have North or South. There does not exist east, south, west or north within Buddha-nature. This means that when the Sixth Patriarch went to meet with the Fifth Patriarch, his mind was crystal clear and understood things thoroughly. He already beheld his Buddha-nature to become Buddha; this was his performance to show the people at that moment! As a geliao – an uncivilized ethnic group of the borderlands and a very pitiful person who has a different status from a Buddhist monk, what differences do they have in their Buddha-nature with us?

 

摘錄神龍道人講解六祖壇經之第一品: 行由

[經文]

惠能安置母畢,即便辭違,不經三十余日,便至黃梅,禮拜五祖。

祖問曰:「汝何方人。欲求何物?」

惠能對曰:「弟子是嶺南新州百姓,遠來禮師,惟求作佛,不求余物。」

五祖言:「汝是嶺南人,又是獦獠,若為堪作佛?」

惠能曰:「人雖有南北,佛性本無南北;獦獠身與和尚不同,佛性有何差別?」

惠能安置好母親,即便辭違,不到三十日,便來到黃梅,禮拜五祖。五祖問他:「你從那兒來?你來求什麼?」

惠能答:「弟子嶺南新州百姓,遠道而來,我來求成佛。」惠能如果是生在這個世界,我看連一個知音都沒有。我們去見這些有名的大師,我們會不會講來見你的目地是來成佛的? 凡夫不會問這些。

你注意看他的語言當中,他是一心一意要恢復他原有清淨的自性。凡夫不是的。凡夫到寺院,第一個是求平安、求保佑。好像從佛門裡能得到一些有的、沒有的東西,對不對?他有目的,心早就不清淨了。要嘛,在佛門做善事,要嘛,在佛門挑撥是非,要嘛,又這樣或那樣。這裡講:「惟求作佛,不求余物。」風塵墣墣來見五祖, 希望在五祖會下成佛。

五祖說:「你是從嶺南人,又是獦獠」獦獠沒有開化的民族,南蠻子當時是被瞧不起的。中國的士代夫觀念很重,士代夫觀念到現在還是改不了。萬般皆下品,唯有讀書高。本來這句話在士代夫階級中這樣講,是可以的,講得通。為什麼?讀書生智慧。現在不是,百工技藝同時進行時代, 很多社會結構要靠大眾, 而不是只有讀書人。所以讀書人現在人家笑, 手無服肌之力,光說不練。不過以前讀書人和現代的不太相同。除精石學問以外,通兵法、建築工程、全材都有。「你怎麼能夠做佛?」五祖試他。先扁他、罵他。

惠能答:「人雖有南北,佛性本無南北。」人雖有高低,貧賤貴富,有南方有北方;「佛性沒有南北」,佛性東南西北都沒有,怎麼會有南和北?這表示當六祖去見五祖,他心裡是清清楚楚。他早已經見性成佛了,他是來演戲給當時的眾生看。「獦獠身與和尚不同」我是邊疆窮老百姓,很可憐,和和尚身分是不同。佛性有什麼差別?

 

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