The Platform Sutra of the Sixth Patriarch: The Essence of Zen


Prefect Wei then asked the next question.  "I notice that it is a common practice for monks and laymen to recite the name of Amitabha with the hope of being born in the Pure Land of the West.  To clear up my doubts, will you please tell me whether it is possible for them to be born there or not.“ “Listen to me carefully, Sir, ” replied the Patriarch, “and I will explain.

According to the Sutra spoken by the Bhagavat in Shravasti City for leading people to the Pure Land of the West, it is quite clear that the Pure Land is not far from here… To those of inferior mentality certainly it is far away, but to superior men we may say that it is quite near.  

Although the Dharma is uniform, men vary in their mentality. Because they differ from one another in their degree of enlightenment or ignorance, therefore some understand the Law quicker than others.

While ignorant men recite the name of Amitabha and pray to be born in the Pure Land, the enlightened purify their mind, for, as the Buddha said, ‘When the mind is pure, the Buddha Land is simultaneously pure…

Ordinary men and ignorant people understand neither the Essence of Mind nor the Pure Land within themselves, so they wish to be born in the East or the West.  But to the enlightened everywhere is the same.

As the Buddha said, ‘No matter where they happen to be, they are always happy and comfortable.  ’"Sir, if your mind is free from evil the West is not far from here; but difficult indeed it would be for one whose heart is impure to be born there by invoking Amitabha!… 

If we can realize the Essence of Mind at all times and behave in a straightforward manner on all occasions, in the twinkling of an eye we may reach the Pure Land and there see Amitabha.

If you only put into practice the ten good deeds, there would be no necessity for you to be born there.  On the other hand, if you do not do away with the ‘ten evils’ in your mind, which Buddha will take you there?…

We should work for Buddhahood within the Essence of Mind, and we should not look for it apart from ourselves.  He who is kept in ignorance of his Essence of Mind is an ordinary being.  He who is enlightened in his Essence of Mind is a Buddha.  

To be merciful is Avalokitesvara (one of the two principal Bodhisattvas of the Pure Land).  To take pleasure in almsgiving is Mahasthama (the other Bodhisattva).  Competence for a pure life is Sakyamuni (one of the titles of Gautama Buddha).  Equality and straightforwardness is Amitabha…

Now, if we do not train ourselves up to this standard, how can we reach the Pure Land? ” Having heard what the Patriarch said, the congregation knew their Essence of Mind very clearly.  They made obeisance and exclaimed in one voice, “Well done!” They also chanted, “May all the sentient beings of this Universe who have heard this sermon at once understand it intuitively." 

The Patriarch added, "Learned Audience, those who wish to train themselves (spiritually) may do so at home.  It is quite unnecessary for them to stay in monasteries.  Those who train themselves at home may be likened unto a native of the East who is kind-hearted, while those who stay in monasteries but neglect their work differ not from a native of the West who is evil in heart.  

So far as the mind is pure, it is the ‘Western Pure Land of one’s own Essence of Mind’.