Yoshizen's Blog

Huineng vs Shenxui — Poetry Contest

Provably the most well known Zen story was a contest to became

6th Patriarch of the Zen.

For the contest, the most respected top monk in the monastery,

Shenxui wrote a poem as the answer to the 5th Patriarch, Hongren

who request to show the Zen mind,

Mind is like a mirror, I polish the mirror diligently for

no dust to settle on it”

When an illiterate low-rank monk Huineng who has been working

in the kitchen of the temple heard this, he asked friend monk to

write his poem contesting Shenxui’s,

Since Mirror is not exists in the first place,

where dust could settle”

Hongren saw Huineng has much deeper understanding of Zen,

he chose Huineng for his successor.


This story showed what all about the Zen and its pathway

in amazing clarity.

Shenxui was a well educated, well learned monk, hence he must

have read hundreds of scriptures and understood the attitude to be

a good Buddhist. (in this extent, his answer / poem was quite

appropriate and correct though, it was more like a posture of

Theravada monk, still on the way to the enlightenment, in other

words, he hadn’t broken the barrier, or gone to the other side yet. )

In contrast, Huineng had showed exactly what the notion

of Void in Zen Buddhism.

— How Huineng could get this, while working in the kitchen.


As a son of peasant, Huineng had no education and illiterate hence,

he had no chance to read and study Buddhism other than just pick

up the words, what other monks were talking about.

Anyway, he had to work every day as a casual labourer in the temple,

still, those every day’s continuous repeating work gave him to gain

the essential mind-set to be a Zen Buddhist = Unconditionally

accepting (humble) to be a lowest working monk, hence there

couldn’t be any possibility left to have desire or even an Ego.

And as day by day, the same work continues, the mind

became empty = just the hand repeating the work.

Yet still, by keeping eyes clear, he could see the crux of human

existence = how the Life exists = what the World and the Dharma is.

And he was able to make the straight connection of his state of mind

and the observation, to each notion.   In effect, he had mastered the

Zen in DIY.   Zen doesn’t need to be literate but to have clear eyes to

see inside and outside, with the direction of few key-word.

(This straight connection is behind of

“Sudden Enlightenment” and the “Direct Transmission” )


And this observation lead me to see an amazing parallel in

the history of Buddhism.

Founder of Zen, Master Bodhi Dharma had to establish the way

of Zen in DIY, as there was no text book exist then, even worse in

foreign country. And the situation was more or less the same, when

Lord Buddha started his own teachings = NO Buddhism

textbook at all, of cause, let alone whether even Vada was

available to the public in written form. 😀


But this is what the Buddhism is.

Since, it is the matter of one’s mind-set and the programming of

one’s subconscious = the one has to do it by oneself.

It is literally Do It Yourself / DIY = A book might give a hint, still

the one has to DO the work (practice with good insight) =

Book wouldn’t do the work on behalf. 😀

(Put Buddhist book in a memory of “Automatic Voice Generator”

and make voice out-put of script, wouldn’t make

the Machine enlightened — very fancy though. 😀 )


—– Whether the stories (given in the Platform Sutra) has true

historical fact or not, to make the story in this way itself, was the

reflection of their understanding then = and expressing

supremacy over other sect of “Just reading scripture and sitting”

Illiterate Huineng was THE very typical sample in Zen.



PS :   Still, there are many questions left.   Zen understanding could

be gained without words, since it is not knowledge based intellectual

understanding but to customising the perception and behavioural

pattern in the subconscious level though, whether to compose

a stanza without having enough knowledge of lexical pattern is

possible or not ?   And the script telling the story, “Platform Sutra”

was written long after with a lots of diviating history.

—– Yet the fact is, the mummified body of Huineng has been kept

in the monastery till today and still sitting there !

(you can see the photo by Googling it) —– If he was not such a

great Master in real life, no such things could ever have happened.


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