The Zen Teaching of Huang Po: On the Transmission of Mind

Zen Master Huang Po

As recorded by the scholar P'ei Hsiu of the T'ang Dynasty. Rendered into English by John Blofeld (Chu Ch'an) [Excerpts. Complete text (.pdf) HERE]

P'ei Hsiu's Preface – The great Zen Master Hsi Yun lived below the Vulture Peak on Mount Huang Po, [From which he takes his posthumous name] in the district of Kao An which forms part of the prefecture of Hung Chou [In the modern province of Kiangsi]. He was third in the direct line of descent from Hui Neng,[Wei Lang] the Sixth Patriarch, and the pupil of a fellow-disciple of Hui Hai. Holding in esteem only the intuitive method of the Highest Vehicle, which cannot be communicated in words, he taught nothing but the doctrine of the One Mind; holding that there is nothing else to teach, in that both mind and substance are void and that the chain of causation is motionless. Mind is like the sun journeying through the sky and emitting glorious light uncontaminated by the finest particle of dust. To those who have realized the nature of Reality, there is nothing old or new, and conceptions of shallowness and depth are meaningless. Those who speak of it do not attempt to explain it, establish no sects and open no doors or windows. That which is before you is it. Begin to reason about it and you will at once fall into error. Only when you have understood this will you perceive your oneness with the original Buddha-nature. Therefore his words were simple, his reasoning direct, his way of life exalted and his habits unlike the habits of other men.

Disciples hastened to him from all quarters, looking up to him as to a lofty mountain, and through their contact with him awoke to Reality. Of the crowds which flocked to see him, there were always more than a thousand with him at a time. In the second year of Hui Ch'ang (A.D. 843), when I was in charge of the district of Chung Lin, I welcomed him on his coming to that city from the mountain where he resided. We stayed together in the Lung Hsing Monastery where, day and night, I questioned him about the Way. Moreover, in the second year of T'ai Chung (A.D. 849), while governing the district of Wan Ling, I again had occasion to welcome him ceremoniously to the place where I was stationed. This time we stayed quietly at the K'ai Yuan Monastery, where also I studied under him day and night. After leaving him, I recorded what I had learnt and, though able to set down only about a fifth of it, I esteem it as a direct transmission of the Doctrine. At first I was diffident about publishing what I had written; but now, fearing that these vital and penetrating teachings will be lost to future generations, I have done so. Moreover, I gave the manuscript to the monks T'ai Chou and Fa Chien, requesting them to return to the Kuang T'ang Monastery on the old mountain land to ask the elder monks there how far it agrees with what they themselves used frequently to hear in the past.

Heart of Perfect Wisdom

Rochester Zen Center

[From WikiPedia:] The Heart of Perfect Wisdom Sutra or Heart Sutra or Essence of Wisdom Sutra (Sanskrit: प्रज्ञापारमिताहृदय Prajñāpāramitā Hṛdaya; Chinese: 摩訶般若波羅蜜多心經) (the word sutra is not present in known Sanskrit manuscripts) is a well-known Mahāyāna Buddhist sutra that is very popular among Mahayana Buddhists both for its brevity and depth of meaning. Buddhist writer and translator Bill Porter calls the Heart Sutra the best known and most popular of all Buddhist scriptures.

The Heart Sutra is a member of the Perfection of Wisdom (Prajñāpāramitā) class of Mahāyāna Buddhist literature, and along with the Diamond Sutra, is perhaps the most prominent representative of the genre.

The Heart Sutra is made up of 14 shlokas in Sanskrit; a shloka composed of 32 syllables. In Chinese, it is 260 Chinese characters, while in English it is composed of sixteen sentences. This makes it one of the most highly abbreviated versions of the Perfection of Wisdom texts, which exist in various lengths up to 100,000 shlokas. According to Buddhist scholar and author Geshe Kelsang Gyatso in his commentary to the Heart Sutra:

The Essence of Wisdom Sutra (Heart Sutra) is much shorter than the other Perfection of Wisdom Sutras but it contains explicitly or implicitly the entire meaning of the longer Sutras.

This sutra is classified by Edward Conze as belonging to the third of four periods in the development of the Perfection of Wisdom canon, although because it contains a mantra (sometimes called a dharani), it does overlap with the final tantric phase of development according to this scheme, and is included in the tantra section of at least some editions of the Kangyur. Conze estimates the sutra's date of origin to be 350 CE; some others consider it to be two centuries older than that. Recent scholarship is unable to verify any date earlier than the 7th century CE.

The Chinese version is frequently chanted (in the local pronunciation) by the Chan (Zen/Seon/Thiền) sects during ceremonies in China, Japan, Korea, and Vietnam respectively. It is also significant to the Shingon Buddhist school in Japan, whose founder Kūkai wrote a commentary on it, and to the various Tibetan Buddhist schools, where it is studied extensively.

The sutra is in a small class of sutras not attributed to the Buddha. In some versions of the text, starting with that of Fayue dating to about 735, the Buddha confirms and praises the words of Avalokiteśvara, although this is not included in the preeminent Chinese version translated by Xuanzang. The Tibetan canon uses the longer version, although Tibetan translations without the framing text have been found at Dunhuang. The Chinese Buddhist canon includes both long and short versions, and both versions exist in Sanskrit.

The Dharma of Mind Transmission: Zen Teachings of Huang-po

Zen Master Huang Po
In the version of Dharma Master Lok To


The Mind is neither large nor small; it is located neither within nor without. It should not be thought about by the mind nor be discussed by the mouth. Ordinarily, it is said that we use the Mind to transmit the Mind, or that we use the Mind to seal the Mind. Actually, however, in transmitting the Mind, there is really no Mind to receive or obtain; and in sealing the Mind, there is really no Mind to seal. If this is the case, then does the Mind exist or does it not exist? Actually, it cannot be said with certainty that the Mind either exists or does not exist, for it is Absolute Reality. This is expressed in the Ch'an Sect by the maxim: "If you open your mouth, you are wrong. If you give rise to a single thought, you are in error." So, if you can quiet your thinking totally, all that remains is voidness and stillness.

The Mind is Buddha; Buddha is the Mind. All sentient beings and all Buddhas have the same Mind, which is without boundaries and void, without name and form and is immeasurable.

What is your Original Face and what is Hua-Tou? Your Original Face is without discrimination. Hua-Tou is the Reality before the arising of a single thought. When this Mind is enlightened, it is the Buddha; but when it is confused, it remains only the mind of sentient beings.

The Ch'an Master Huang-po Tuan-Chi was a major Dharma descendent of the Sixth Patriarch and was the Dharma-son of the Ch'an Master Pai-Chang. He was enlightened by the Supreme Vehicle to realize the Truth. Transmission of Mind is this alone ? nothing else!

The Dharma of Mind Transmission, the teaching of Ch'an Master Huang-po Tuan-Chi, is a cover-title that includes both The Chung-Ling Record and The Wan-Ling Record. These Records are sermons and dialogues of the Master that were collected and recorded by his eminent follower P'ei Hsiu. Both a government official and great scholar, P'ei Hsiu set down what he could recollect of the Master's teaching in 857 C.E., during the T'ang Dynasty, eight years after the Master's death (ca. 850 C. E. ), fifteen years after his first period of instruction by the Master at a temple near Chung Ling (842 C.E.), and nine years after his second period of instruction at a temple near Wan Ling (848 C.E.). The Records were presumably edited and published somewhat later in the T'ang Dynasty by an unknown person, and they contain a "Preface" by the recorder, P'ei Hsiu. I would like to say to all present and future students of the Dharma, both in the East and in the West, and to all my good friends: If you want to practice, you should practice just as this Ch'an Master Huang-po Tuan-Chi did. Then you, too, can realize Sudden Enlightenment.

Dharma Master Lok To
Young Men's Buddhist Association of America
Bronx, New York
December, 1985

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