Sacred Texts  Buddhism  Index  Previous 

p. 310 p. 311

Chapter IX

Final Words and Death of the Patriarch

ON THE 1ST DAY of the 7th Moon, the Patriarch assembled his disciples and addressed them as follows:--

'I am going to leave this world by the 8th Moon. Should any of you have doubts about the teaching, please ask me soon, so that I may clear them away before I go. You may not find any one to teach you after I am gone." (The sad news moved many of them to tears. The Patriarch spoke to them at some length) and then added:--

"Under all circumstances you should free yourselves from attachment to objects; toward them your attitude should be neutral and indifferent. Let neither success nor failure, neither profit nor loss, worry you. Be ever calm and serene, modest and helpful, simple and dispassionate. The Dharma is non-dual as is the mind also. The Path is pure and above all 'form.' You are especially warned not to let the exercise for concentration of mind, fall into mere quiet thinking or into an effort to keep the mind in a blank state. The mind is by nature pure, there is nothing for us to crave or give up."

Realising that the Patriarch would pass away in the near future, Elder Fat-hoi after prostrating himself twice asked, "Sir, upon your entering into Parinirvana, who will be the inheritor of the robe and the (secret) Dharma?"

"(As for the Dharma) all my sermons from the time I preached in the Tai-fan Monastery up to now, may

p. 312

be copied out for circulation. You should take good care of it and hand it down from generation to generation for the salvation of all sentient beings. He who preaches in accordance with its teaching preaches the Orthodox Dharma. I have already made known to you, all the Dharma I know.

"As to the transmission of the robe, this practice is to be discontinued. Why? Because you all have implicit faith in my teaching, you are all free from doubts, therefore, you are all able to carry out the lofty object of our school. It is in accordance with the meaning of the stanza, handed down by Bodhidharma, the First Patriarch, that the robe be no longer handed down to posterity. The verse says:--

'The object of my coming to China,
Was to transmit the Dharma of deliverance to all under delusion.
In five petals, the flower will be complete;
Thereafter, fruit will come to maturity naturally

*        *        *

"Do your best each of you; go wherever circumstances lead you. Listen to this stanza:--

"With those who are sympathetic
You may have discussion about Buddhism.
As to those whose point of view differs from ours,
Treat them politely and try to make them happy.
Disputes are alien to our school,
They are incompatible with its spirit
. p. 313
To be bigoted and to argue with others in disregard of this rule
Is to subject one's Mind-essence to the bitterness of this mundane existence

*        *        *

On the 8th day of the 7th Moon, the Patriarch suddenly gave an order to his disciples to get a boat ready for his return to Sun-chow, (his native place). They entreated him earnestly to remain where he was, but in vain.

"It is only natural," said the Patriarch, "death is the inevitable outcome of birth. Even the Buddhas as they appear in this world must manifest an earthly death before they enter Parinirvana. There will be no exception with me; my physical body must be laid down somewhere. Fallen leaves go back to the place where the root is."

*        *        *

On the 3rd day of the 8th Moon of the Year Kwai Tsau, the 2nd year of the Sin Tan Era, after eating with his disciples at the Kwok-yen Monastery (Sun-chow), the Patriarch spoke as follows:--

"Please sit down in order of seniority; I am going to say good bye to you. After my passing away, do not follow the worldly custom of crying and lamenting. Neither should messages of condolence be accepted, nor should mourning be worn. These things are contrary to orthodox teaching; he who does them is not my disciple. What you should do is to know your own mind

p. 314

and realise your own Buddha-nature, Which neither rests nor moves, neither becomes nor ceases to be, neither comes nor goes, neither affirms nor denies, neither remains nor departs. I repeat this to you that you may surely realise your Mind-essence. If you carry out my instructions after my death and practise them, then my going away will make no difference with you. On the other hand, if you go against my teachings, even if I remained with you, no benefit would be yours." Then he uttered this stanza:--

"Undisturbed and serene, the wise man practises no virtue;
Self-possessed and dispassionate, he commits no sin;
Calm and silent, he gives up seeing and hearing;
Even and upright his mind abides nowhere

Having uttered the stanza, he sat reverently until the third watch of the night, then he said abruptly, "I am going now," and in a moment passed away. At that time, a peculiar fragrance pervaded the room and a lunar rainbow appeared to link the earth and heaven; the trees in the grove turned pale and birds and animals cried mournfully.

*        *        *

In the 11th Moon of that year, the question of the Patriarch's resting place gave rise to a dispute among the government officials of Kwong-chow, Shiu-chow and Sun-chow, each arty being anxious to have the remains of the Patriarch removed to his own district.

p. 315

[paragraph continues] The Patriarch's disciples together with other Bhikkhus and laymen, took part in the controversy. Being unable to come to any agreement, they burnt incense and prayed to the Patriarch to indicate by the drift of the smoke the place he himself would like to rest. As the smoke turned directly to Tso-kai, the sacred shrine together with the inherited robe and bowl were accordingly removed back there on the 13th day of the 11th Moon.

Next year on the 25th day of the 7th Moon, the body was taken from the shrine and re-embalmed and placed in the stupa, and by imperial order, tablets were erected to record the life of the Patriarch.

*        *        *

The Patriarch inherited the robe when he was 24; he was ordained at 39; and died at the age of 76. For thirty-seven years he preached to the benefit of all sentient beings. Forty-three of his disciples inherited the Dharma; while those who attained (a measure of) enlightenment and thereby got out of the rut of the ordinary life were too many to be numbered. The robe transmitted by the First Patriarch, Bodhidharma, as the insignia of the Patriarchship, the Mo La robe and the crystal bowl presented by the Emperor Chung Chung, the Patriarch's image carved by Fong-pin, and other sacred things, were given into the care of the keeper of the stupa. They were to be kept permanently at Po-lam Monastery to guard the welfare of the temple. The Sutra spoken by the Patriarch was published and circulated to make known the principles of

p. 316

the Dhyana School. All these steps were taken for the prosperity of the "Three jewels," Buddha, Dharma and Sangha, as well as for the general welfare of all sentient beings.