Sunday, September 12, 2010

The Platform Sutra, 1st Section of Chapter 10

Here's my recent translation of the first section of Chapter 10 of the Platform Sutra of Huineng. This section is especially noteworthy because it is an outline instructing how to explain Zen. Since at the time there was nothing known as the "Chan" (Zen) school or lineage, Huineng called his school "this Dharma Gate."

Huineng's direct teaching about the functioning of the opposites as mutually causative and conditioned became highly condensed and concentrated in the Zen school through the interactions of questions and answers. Huineng's admonition to "not leave your own nature" when responding to student's questions created the context in which the Zen master's pithy and brief responses directly pointed from the condition of one-sidedness inherent in the student’s question to the nondual nature. The recorded collections of these interactions became taken up by others for inquiry into the one-sidedness of mind that each interaction pivoted upon and is how koans came into usage as a methodology.


Platform Sutra of the Dharma Treasure of the Great Master Sixth Ancestor

Tenth: Handing Down Instructions

The master one day summoned the people of the gate, of the rank of Fahai, Zhicheng, Fada, Shenhui, Zhichang, Zhitong, Zhiche, Zhidao, Fazhen, and Faru, saying, “Your rank is not the same as the rest of the people. After my nirvana, each [of you] will become the teacher of one region. I now teach you to explain the Dharma, so the lineage does not lose the root.

“First, [you] must raise the three sections of the Dharma Gate, [next] take up the functions of the 36 paired opposites arising and sinking, then leave both extremes. In explaining everything, do not leave your own nature.

“If there is a person asking you about the Dharma put forth words to exhaust the polarity, and in all cases take hold of the Dharma of the paired opposites and the mutual causation of their coming and going, getting to the very bottom and wiping out the Dharma of duality, while still being without leaving or dwelling.

“The three sections of the Gate of the Dharma are the shadows, realms, and entrances. The shadows are the Five Skandhas, one by one: form (rupa), feelings (vedana), conceptions (samjna), doings (samskara), and consciousness (vijnana). The entrances are the Twelve Ayatanas: the external Six Dusts are, one by one, color (rupa), sound, fragrance, taste, touch, and thing and the internal Six Gates are, one by one, the eyes, ears, nose, tongue, body, and idea. The realms are the 18 Dhatus, which are the Six Dusts, the Six Gates and the Six Consciousnesses.

“The ability of one’s own nature to contain the 10,000 things is called the containing Storehouse Consciousness (alayavijnana). If considering and measuring arise, then consciousness evolves and comes into being as the six consciousnesses (vijnanas) emerging through the six gates viewing the six dusts. Thus are the 18 Realms in all cases following from the function of the arising of one’s own nature. If one’s own nature is wrong, then 18 wrongs arise. If one’s own nature is right, then 18 rights arise. If it is the function of evil, then it is the function of the multitude of beings; if the function of virtue, then it is the function of Buddha. What category is the cause of the functioning? The cause is that one’s own nature has the Dharma of paired-opposites.

“In external phenomena of the insentient, the five paired-opposites are:
the pair of heaven and earth;
the pair of the sun and moon;
the pair of the bright and the dark;
the pair of the shady and the sunny (yin and yang, negative and positive); and
the pair of water and fire.
These are the five paired opposites.

“In the language of the characteristics of things (dharmalaksana), the twelve paired-opposites are:
the pair of language and things (words and thingness);
the pair of existence and non-existence (having and being without);
the pair of having form and being without form;
the pair of having characteristics and being without characteristics;
the pair of having leakage and being without leakage;
the pair of form and emptiness;
the pair of motion and stillness;
the pair of clean and muddy;
the pair of the worldly and the sacred;
the pair of monastics and laity;
the pair of old and young; and
the pair of great and small.
These are the twelve paired opposites.

“In the arising and functioning of one’s own-nature, the nineteen paired-opposites are:
the pair of long and short;
the pair of wrong and right;
the pair of stupidity and wisdom;
the pair of foolishness and intelligence;
the pair of disturbance and samadhi;
the pair of kindness and malice;
the pair of morality (sila) and wrongdoings;
the pair of straight and crooked;
the pair of true and false;
the pair of rugged and even;
the pair of afflictions (klesa) and enlightenment (bodhi);
the pair of permanence and impermanence;
the pair of compassion and cruelty;
the pair of happiness and anger;
the pair of giving and stinginess;
the pair of advance and retreat;
the pair of birth and cessation;
the pair of the Dharma body (Dharmakaya) and the physical body (Rupuakaya); and
the pair of the transforming body (Nirmanakaya) and the reward body (Sambhogakaya). These are the 19 paired-opposites.”

In the words of the master, “If one can untie and use this Dharma of the 36 paired-opposites, then it is the Way that threads though the Dharma of every sutra, and [one’s] going out and entering are then separate from both extremes.

"In the active functioning of your own nature and in conversations with people, while outwardly in appearances, separate from appearances; while inwardly in emptiness, separate from emptiness. If you wholly attach to appearances (i.e., the view of materialism), then your perverted views broaden. If you wholly grasp emptiness (i.e., the view of nihilism), then your ignorance broadens.

"People who grasp emptiness have slandered the Sutras [by saying] “direct words do not use written words.” Since they say “Do not use written words” these people too are not united with [their own] speech, simply as this speech then is the appearance of written words. Again, to say, “The straight Way is not established by written words,” then this “not established” are both words and are written words. On seeing a person who explains, then immediately they slander the other’s words as being attached to written words. You who are ranked [as Dharma heirs] must know self-delusion like this is able repeatedly to slander the Buddha’s Sutras. Do not desire to slander the Sutras; the hindrances of the sin are countless.

“If [one] attaches to external appearances and then seeks the truth in the activity of things, or [one] widely establishes places of the Way (i.e., temples, monasteries, etc.) and explains the mistakes and suffering of existence and nonexistence, people who are like this are unable to see the nature for accumulated aeons.

“Yet to listen to and take refuge in the practice of cultivating the Dharma, while [you] also cannot not think of the 100 objects, nevertheless, in regard to the Way is an obstruction of the nature. If [you] listen to explanations and do not cultivate, [you] cause people to flip-out and give birth to perverted thoughts. Yet taking refuge in the practice of cultivating the Dharma without dwelling in appearances (without stopping appearances) is giving (dana) of the Dharma.

“You who are ranked [as Dharma heirs], if you awaken in accord with this explanation; in accord with this functioning; in accord with this practice; and in accord with these doings; then you do not lose the root of the lineage.

“If there is a person asking you about a meaning, and asks about having one, go to the paired opposite of being without one; if asking about being without one, go to the paired opposite of having one. If one asks about the worldly, use the paired opposite of the saintly; if asking about the saintly use the paired opposite of the worldly. The mutual causation of the Way of dualities, gives birth to the meaning of the Middle Way. So, for a single question, a single pair of opposites, and for other questions the single [pair] that accords with this fashion, then you do not lose the principle.

“Suppose there is a person who asks, ‘What is taken for and called darkness?’ Reply and say, ‘Light is the proximate cause and darkness is the contributory cause. When light is ended, then there is darkness. By the means of light, darkness manifests; by the means of darkness, light manifests. Their coming and going are mutually proximate causes and become the meaning of the Middle Way.’ Other questions are without exception like this. You who are ranked among the descendents transmitting the Dharma, by relying on this teaching of turning around the characteristics you do not lose the taste of the lineage.”

[End of first section of Chapter 10.]