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Excerpted from Water Mirror Reflecting Heaven
by Venerable Master Hsuan Hua

A General Discussion on the Chan School

The Chan Sect is the leader among the Five Great Schools of Buddhism, in that it transmits the Buddha's Mind Seal, pointing directly to the mind so that one sees the nature and becomes a Buddha. 

When Bodhidharma came from India, he widely propagated this method.  At that time the practitioners of Buddhism were still very enamored of literary prajna, exerting their efforts in composition and phrasing, vying to outdo one another. Even in lecturing the Sutras they argued over long and short points, and in speaking Dharma they would praise themselves and deprecate others. 

Different sects were set up, and to do battle with words was the mode of the times.  Some resorted to individualism, and in an attempt to be unique, they set up theories that were distinctly different from the mainstream, and perfected the art of unobstructed and clever debate. 

People wrote books and set up doctrines, disparaging others while advertising themselves.  In this way they forsook the root and ran after the branches, and the theories of the Teaching School flourished widely.

When the Venerable Sheng Kung was slandered, he retreated to Tiger Mountain and spoke Dharma to the rocks.  From this came the saying that even "inert rocks nodded their heads in agreement."  The Vinaya Master Tao Hsuan hid his tracks in Chung Nan Mountain, where he enjoyed food offerings of the gods.  The Great Master Chih Che ("Wise One") proclaimed the Teachings, and Master Lu Shan propagated the Pure Land Method. 

Those who believed looked up to this, while scholars were confused by it.  Everybody had a different opinion, and one was at a loss as to which way to follow.  One stood perplexed at the crossroads, not knowing which way to turn.  Gazing out at the vast ocean of different teachings, one heaved a big sigh.

In light of such circumstances, the First Patriarch Bodhidharma made amendments for such biased teachings and patched up the flows.  His compassionate instructions were apart from speech; his teachings were not imparted through words.  He taught that this mind of ours is just the Buddha, that the precious pearl hidden within our robe is not something gotten from outside. 

One only needs to concentrate one's energy and refine the mind to a single focus, and in an instant one will open profuse enlightenment.  At this time, the outer and inner aspects of all things, whether subtle or gross, are completely penetrated without remainder, and the great functioning of the entire substance of our minds is completely made clear.  One opens vast and ultimate enlightenment, returns to the source and plumbs the origin. 

At this time one can appreciate the subtlety behind this interchange:  the World Honored One held up a flower, Mahakashyapa, the Golden-Hued Dhuta, broke out into a smile--originally it was like this!

This method is one in which the mind seals the mind, transmitted outside of the teachings.  One crosses over one's self-nature.  And, after one has made one's way across the river, one leaves the raft behind.  How can there be anything else but this?

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