Thread: Huineng Platform Sutra

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    Forums Member Rodsent's Avatar
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    Huineng Platform Sutra

    I've read the Platform sutra several time's, but never quite understood how Huineng's verse beat Shenxiu's verse.

    Shenxiu:
    The body is the bodhi tree;
    The mind is like a bright mirror’s stand.
    Be always diligent in rubbing it—
    Do not let it attract any dust.

    Huineng:
    Bodhi is fundamentally without any tree; (?)
    The bright mirror is also not a stand. (?)
    Fundamentally there is not a single thing— (?)
    Where could any dust be attracted? (?)

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    Forums Member Trilaksana's Avatar
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    In Zen there is emphasis on our original mind and Buddha nature. Zen master Dogen as well as many other Zen masters taught that we are in a way already enlightened. Our mind (the mirror) is naturally pure we just need to realize its nature. There is often an emphasis on emptiness in Zen as well.

    So my interpretation of Huineng's poem is that the first three verse are about emptiness. So at the end he's saying because of emptiness how could no (empty) dust appear on no (empty) mirror. Also the idea that the mind is naturally pure minds that the truth is always apparent for one to see no matter how much dust is around it does not affect your Buddha nature it always remains pure so there's no need to rub the mirror. I don't know how accurate my interpretation is. But that's it for what it's worth.

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    Forums Member Rodsent's Avatar
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    So huineng is pointing out that fundamentally their is no independent mind or dust to ultimately or permanently effect each other?

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    Forums Member OriginalMind's Avatar
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    Imagine all the mental objects that arise in your mind like thoughts and feelings as clouds and your original mind the blue sky. No matter how cloudy the infinite boundless blue sky always remains. In Chan Buddhism the clouds would represent the illusional way most people understand the world. In Mahayana and especially Zen there is often an emphasis on not seeking because seeking enlightenment means you are not focused on this moment, you are focused on something other than what you are now which is an illusion. In Soto Zen the act of sitting in meditation is in fact an expression of original mind, it is an expression of enlightenment. This is why Zen Monasteries are renowned for being extremely strict, every moment is practice. So Chan Buddhists did believe that there was always a Buddha Nature/Original mind but that it was hidden or invisible from people.

    Trying to understand Chan/Zen Buddhism is impossible, the entire framework of the practice is based on paradoxical statements. If you ask a Soto Zen monk why they do practice they will just laugh, because that it not the point. Obviously it brings peace, but you are not supposed to cling to the peace nor seek it when meditating. You are not supposed to DO anything, in Zen Buddhism there is no you that does practice. Meditation practices meditation, zazen sits zazen. That is the nature of emptiness in Chan/Zen.

    In terms of Chan, really, i think its the state of confusion that this poem brings you that is important. This is your beginners mind, when you think you have understood thats when problems arise.

    In terms of intellectual consideration, in the first two lines he is separating bodhi from tree and mirror from stand. This is a poetic way of breaking down our assumptions of the nature of all phenomena. Bodhi is without tree does not make sense, but that is the point. Our Buddha nature is hidden from us BECAUSE of the illusion that Bodhi is with tree. It is the illusion that there is a mind that stops us from seeing the fundamental Buddha Nature, therefore for Huineng the concept that one must dust off the mind is also illusory. This kind of view point is common throughout Chan/Zen.

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    Forums Member Trilaksana's Avatar
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    OriginalMind you said it much better than I. Thanks.

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    Forums Member Rodsent's Avatar
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    Ok so it sounds like Huineng is representing sudden realization and Shenxiu is representing gradual realization. I myself see both as true, I agree with Huineng that self realization of ones true nature is sudden and undisputable, but I also agree with Shenxiu that one must increase their awareness of it, so it can reach maturity and dominate one's mind.

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    Forums Member OriginalMind's Avatar
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    Huineng was indeed famous for his belief in sudden enlightenment, his own story starts with a sudden awakening from hearing the Diamond Sutra. These issues were very important during the golden age of Chan Buddhism.

    Huineng is negating everything Shenxiu stated because 'enlightenment but later' was an illusory way of understanding for him, for Huineng enlightenment is here and now. I think the main difference isnt 'when' its going to happen. I dont think Huineng is saying it will happen suddenly but later.

    The thing is, when you get this deep into Chan/Zen it starts getting confusing or hard to understand. In practice its best to let go of understanding because when we try to intellectualise we begin to think in the very illusory terms Huineng is pointing us away from.

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    Forums Member Rodsent's Avatar
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    So in other word's every time I say to myself "that's what he means" or "that's it" it will always be wrong because it is an illusory understanding of something unfathomable like the clouds in the sky. It sounds like the only way to understand it is after reading that quote I remain silent.

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    Forums Member OriginalMind's Avatar
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    It depends if you want to follow Zen Buddhism. If you follow Zen and want to learn from the teachings of the Patriarchs including Huineng then every moment should be one of practice. There should be little to no differentiation between meditation and everyday life. If every moment is an inward and outer expression of your original mind then in each moment there will be enlightenment. This is how one would practice Huineng's teaching.

    If you are interested in Zen I would recommend the modern Zen classic "Zen Mind Beginners Mind" by Shunryu Suzuki Roshi. Another book I would recommend to get a grasp of key Mahayana ideas is "The Diamond Sutra: Transforming the Way We Perceive the World" by Mu Soeng.

    All the best in your practice.

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