(Blogger’s note: Please see “Blogger’s note” on my post dated 4 January.)

Chapter VI:  On Repentance and Remorse

(Translated from Chinese original of 六祖壇經 by Justin Lam) 

Once the Master saw that many gentry scholars and commoners from the Guangzhou and Shaozhou areas had gathered at the monastery to hear the Dharma, so he ascended the pulpit and said to the crowd, “Come, Learned Audience.  It all begins with our self-nature.  It won’t be a waste for you to come here, if at all times and at every moment of thought you purify your mind, cultivate and practice for yourselves,  see your own dharmakāya, see the buddha within your mind, attain your own salvation and take your own precepts by ourselves.  That we’re all interconnected can be seen from the fact that we all gather here from afar.  Now everyone may sit in the Indian fashion (Translator’s note: right knee on the ground, left knee up), and I’ll transmit to you first the Five Dharmakāya Incenses of the self-nature, and then the Formless Repentance and Remorse.”

The crowd all sat down.

The master said, “First is the Precepts Incense.  It means having no wrongdoing, no evil, no jealousy, no greed, no anger and no harm within our own mind.  This is called the Precepts Incense.

“Second is the Meditation Incense.  It means keeping our mind unperturbed upon seeing the realms and characteristics of the various good and evil.  This is called the Meditation Incense.

“Third is the Wisdom Incense.  It refers to one’s mind being without hindrance and constantly contemplating on one’s self nature with wisdom, without committing various evils.  Although one cultivates the various good deeds, one’s mind does not become attached.  One respects one’s superiors and be considerate to our inferiors, sympathetic for the destitute and the poor.  This is called Wisdom Incense.

“Fourth is the Liberation Incense.  It means that our mind clings to nothing and makes no judgment on good and evil and thus is in a free state without hindrance.  This is called the Liberation Incense.

“Fifth is the Liberated-understanding Incense.  Now that our mind doesn’t cling to good or evil, we should avoid becoming immersed in emptiness and attached to tranquility.  Rather, we should become knowledgeable by studying extensively, so that we recognize our own mind and understand various Buddhist doctrines.  We would then become congenial to others when dealing with them, unaware of the distinction between self and other, thus proceeding to bodhi and to our unchanging true nature.  This is called the Liberated-understanding Incense.

“Learned Audience, these incenses fumigates each of us from within, so let’s not seek them from without.  Now I’ll transmit to you the Formless Repentance and Remorse for eradicating transgressions in the time of past, current and future lives and for purifying karmas of deeds, speech and thoughts.  Learned Audience, please say after me the following together:

“‘May we the disciples not be tainted by foolishness and delusion in all our past, current and future thoughts.  We repent of sins of all past bad karma due to foolishness and delusion.  May all such sins be eradicated at once and never arise again.

“‘May we the disciples not be tainted by arrogance and dishonesty in all our past, current and future thoughts.  We repent of sins of all past bad karma due to arrogance and dishonesty.  May all such sins be eradicated at once and never arise again.

“‘May we the disciples not be tainted by grudge and jealousy in all our past, current and future thoughts.  We repent of sins of all past bad karma due to grudge and jealousy.  May all such sins be eradicated at once and never arise again.’

“Learned Audience, such are the Formless Repentance and Remorse.  So what does it mean by ‘to repent’ (chan) and ‘to have remorse’ (hui)?  To repent is to repent of one’s past faults, i.e. to repent of all bad karma, namely, all sins of foolishness, delusion, arrogance, dishonesty, grudge and jealousy, so that they will never arise again.  That’s what ‘to repent’ means.  To have remorse is to have remorse for future misdeeds, willing that from now on one has become enlightened to the extent of not committing any bad karma, namely, all sins of foolishness, delusion, arrogance, dishonesty, grudge and jealousy.  That’s what is ‘to have remorse’ means.  Therefore, together they are called ‘repentance and remorse (chanhui).  Ordinary people, out of foolishness and delusion, only repent of their past faults but fail to have remorse for their future misdeeds.  Because they have no such remorse, they commit future misdeeds while their past faults are yet to eradicate.  So how can one call it repentance and remorse if future misdeeds arise at the time when past faults are yet to be eradicated?

“Learned Audience, now that we have done the repentance and remorse, let’s take the Four Grand Vows.  Listen carefully: I vow to ferry the innumerable number of sentient beings of my mind to enlightenment; I vow to eradicate the limitless defilements in my mind; I vow to learn the inexhaustible teaching of my self-nature; I vow to attain the supreme buddhahood of my self-nature.

“Learned Audience, didn’t you all say that you vow to ferry the innumerable number of sentient beings to enlightenment?  But how?  Well, I’m not the one to do the ferrying.  Learned Audience, the sentient beings of our mind refer to our deluded mind, our arrogant mind, our unkind mind, our jealous mind, our wicked mind, and the like.  Each of them needs to undergo the self-ferrying of its self-nature.  This is called genuine ferrying.  What does it mean by “undergoing the self-ferrying of its self-nature”?  It is to ferry the sentient beings of wrong views, defilements and delusions in our mind with the right views.  Equipped with the right views, the sentient beings of foolishness and delusion will each ferry on its own by destroying itself with prajna wisdom.  So by ferrying wrong with right, delusion with enlightenment, foolishness with wisdom, evil with good, it is then genuine ferrying.

“And, by vowing to eradicate the limitless defilements, it means removing our illusive and unreliable thoughts with the prajna wisdom of our self-nature. 

“And, by vowing to learn the inexhaustible teaching, it means the need of seeing the nature on our own and constantly practicing the authentic Dharma.  We can call that “true learning”.

“And, by vowing to attain the supreme buddhahood, it means constantly practicing the true and correct with a humble mind, transcending delusion and enlightenment, constantly arousing prajna, and eradicating the true and the false.  By doing so, one sees the buddha-nature immediately.  In other words, one attains buddhahood.  The important way to achieve this vow is to be constantly mindful of cultivation and practicing.

“Learned Audience, now that we have taken the Four Grand Vows, I’ll transmit the Formless Precept of Triple Refuge.  Take refuge in enlightenment, which is the most-honored among men and devas (Translator’s note: literally: two-foot-most honored, which means a buddha in human form.  Here it is translated into “the most-honored among men and devas” because men and devas are two-footed).  Take refuge in orthodoxy, which is most useful in getting rid of desire.  Take refuge in purity, which is the noblest quality among mankind.  From now on, be a disciple of enlightenment, and don’t take refuge in the heretical paths any more.  Instead, constantly ascertain yourselves with the three gems of self-nature.  I exhort you, Learned Audience, to take refuge in the three gems of self-nature: the Buddha, which stands for enlightenment, the Dharma, which stands for orthodoxy, and the Sangha, which stands for purity.

“With our own mind taking refuge in enlightenment, it won’t generate wickedness and delusion.  We’ll be content, and have little desire, and so can stay away from wealth and lust.  This is called the most-honored among men and devas.

“With our own mind taking refuge in orthodoxy, it won’t have any wrong views in all its thoughts.  Without wrong views, there will be no egotism, arrogance, greed or attachment.  This is called the most useful in getting rid of desire.

“With our own mind taking refuge in purity, it will naturally be immune from all wearisome sense-objects, craving and desire.  This is called the noblest quality among mankind.

“Only by cultivating this practice is one taking refuge on one’s own.  Ordinary people take the Precept of Triple Refuge from morning to night without understanding this.  When they say ‘take refuge in the Buddha’, do they know where the Buddha is?  If they don’t see the Buddha, how can they take refuge in him?  In that case what they say would become false words.

Learned Audience, let’s each examine this for ourselves and not make it wrong.  The sutras clearly say that one should take refuge in the Buddha within oneself.  They do not say take refuge in some other buddha.  There’s nowhere to rely on if one doesn’t take refuge in the Buddha within oneself.  Now that you’re self-enlightened, each of you should take refuge in the three gems within your own mind, which means regulating your mind and nature from within, and respecting others from without. 

“Learned Audience, now that we have taken refuge in the three gems within us, let each of us focus our mind, and I’ll explain to you what is meant by the “Three-kaya body of the Buddha of self-nature”, so as to enable you to see the three bodies of the Buddha and understand what self-enlightenment and self-nature are.  Now everyone please say after me, ‘With my physical body, I take refuge in the clear and pure dharmakāya Buddha; with my physical body, I take refuge in the perfect and complete sambhogakāya Buddha; with my physical body, I take refuge in the billions of nirmānakāya buddhas.’

“Learned Audience, our physical body is just a house for abode, and there is no way that we can take refuge in it.  Universal to everyone in the world, the trikaya buddhas have always been within our self-nature.  It is only because when our mind becomes deluded we do not see our inner nature, and we seek the trikaya Tathāgata from without instead of seeing it from within.  Please listen to what I’ll be saying, which will enable you to see that within your self-nature there are the trikaya buddhas.  These trikaya buddhas are generated from self-nature, not attained from the external.

“What is clear and pure dharmakāya buddha?  Originally, people’s nature is clear and pure, and the myriad of dharmas are generated from the self-nature.  Evil deeds are generated when one thinks of all the evil things, and good deeds are generated when one thinks of all the good things.  In this sense, in self-nature, the myriad of dharmas are constantly as clear and pure as the sky, and as bright as the Sun and the Moon, only that they are covered by floating clouds, thus resulting in a situation in which the sky is bright on its upper part and dark on its lower part.  When suddenly there is wind and the clouds get blown away, then both the lower and the upper parts of the sky become bright, and everything manifests itself.  People’s nature floats and wanders constantly, like clouds in the sky.  Learned Audience, understanding is like the Sun, and wisdom is like the Moon.  Understanding and wisdom are always bright, but they lose their brightness when we become attached externally to sensory realms, and our self nature becomes covered by the floating clouds of wrong thoughts.  When we see a spiritual master and hear the true Dharma from him, and subsequently eradicate our delusion and falsity within ourselves and become clear both within and without, then the myriad dharmas within our self-nature will manifest.  The same occurs to those who see the nature.  This is called the clear and pure dharmakāya buddha.

“Learned Audience, taking refuge in the true buddha occurs when we take refuge in our self-nature from within.  Taking refuge from within means eradicating states of mind such as wickedness, jealousy, flattering, selfishness, deceit, falsehood, snobbishness, arrogance, pride and all unwholesome deeds that exist in our self-nature.  Taking refuge means to be constantly aware of our faults, and never speak of other people’s good or bad points.  We should be constantly humble and respectful to everyone, in which case we will see the nature penetratingly without any hindrance. 

“What is perfect and complete sambhogakāya?  While a single lamp can end darkness that has been there for a long, long time, a moment of wisdom can eliminate foolishness that has existed for even a longer time.  Let’s not think back, as all that has happened cannot be reverted.  By constantly thinking ahead and maintaining all our thoughts perfect and clear, we’ll naturally see our self-nature.  While good and evil are different, there is no duality in our root nature.  Non-dualistic nature is called solid nature, which, unstained with good or evil, is the perfect and complete sambhogakāya.  When a single thought of evil arises in our self-nature, numerous kalpas of good causes get eradicated.  When a single thought of goodness arises in our self-nature, sins as plenty as sands of the Ganges River get eliminated and supreme bodhi is attained.  Sambhogakāya is when we see our self without losing the fundamental thought.

“What are the billions of nirmānakāya?  Our nature remains void as long as we dwell no thought on the dharmas.  Once we do so, transformation takes place. When we dwell our mind on evil things, hell arises.  When we dwell our mind on good things, heaven arises.  Dragons and snakes are transformation of venomous hatred, and bodhisattvas are personifications of compassion.  Wisdom crystallizes into the upper realms, and foolishness brings about the lower realms.  Self-nature can have numerous transformations, and yet the deluded fail to realize this.  Their thoughts keep activating wickedness and they acts keep doing evil.  Despite so, as soon as a thought of goodness arises in them, wisdom is generated.  This is called the nirmānakāya buddha of the self-nature.

“Learned Audience, the dharmakāya is intrinsically within us.  We are the sambhogakāya buddha if we see our own self-nature in every moment of thought.  And by dwelling our mind on the sambhogakāya, the nirmānakāya Buddha arises.  Genuine refuge-taking occurs when we attain enlightenment on our own and practice the merits of self-nature.  Our skin and flesh constitute the physical body, which is merely a house for abode, and there is no way that we can take refuge in it.  But we get to know the Buddha of self-nature as soon as we understand the three bodies of the self-nature.  Here I have a formless verse.  If you can recite and practice it, the delusions and sins that you have accumulated over millions of kalpas will be eradicated at once.  The verse goes:

“‘Deluded people accumulate merits but do not practice the Path, Saying that merit-accumulating is the Path; While alms giving and offering bring about infinite merits, the ultimate source of sins is the three poisons within our mind.

‘They want to eradicate their sins through accumulating merits, Yet the sins will still be there in future lives despite obtaining merits; Why not eradicate the cause of sins within the mind, by really repenting and having remorse within the self-nature?

‘He who suddenly realizes the Mahayana teaching and truly repents, Become sinless immediately when removing wickedness and doing the right things; He who studies the Path constantly contemplates on his self-nature, Will immediately be in the same group as various buddhas.

‘Our patriarchs have transmitted only this sudden teaching, May all of you see the one-ness of the nature; If you came to seek the dharmakāya, Transcend and wash away the characteristics of the dharmas within your mind.

‘Work hard to see the nature yourselves and relax not, And bear in mind that death may come to put an abrupt end to life; He who desires to understand the Mahayana teaching and to see the nature, Should reverently hold his palms together and earnestly seek so.’”

The master then concluded, “Learned Audience, take this verse away, recite it and practice in accordance with it.  If you see the nature through hearing these words, then it’ll be like you’re beside me all the time even though you are far away from me.  If you do not become enlightened through these words, then it’ll be like we’re miles apart even if we are physically face to face, and in that case, why bother to come from afar?  Now take care, and goodbye.”  

After hearing the teaching, everyone became enlightened and joyfully undertook the practice.

Chinese original of this Chapter:

懺悔品第六 

時大師見廣韶洎四方士庶駢集山中聽法,於是陞座,告眾曰:「來,諸善知識!此事須從自性中起。於一切時,念念自淨其心,自修自行,見自己法身,見自心佛,自度自戒,始得不假到此。既從遠來,一會於此,皆共有緣。今可各各胡跪,先為傳自性五分法身香,次授無相懺悔。」

眾胡跪。

師曰:「一、戒香,即自心中無非無惡、無嫉妒、無貪瞋、無劫害,名戒香。

「二、定香,即睹諸善惡境相,自心不亂,名定香。

「三、慧香,自心無礙,常以智慧觀照自性,不造諸惡,雖修眾善,心不執著,敬上念下,矜恤孤貧,名慧香。

「四、解脫香,即自心無所攀緣,不思善,不思惡,自在無礙,名解脫香。

「五、解脫知見香,自心既無所攀緣善惡,不可沉空守寂,即須廣學多聞,識自本心,達諸佛理,和光接物,無我無人,直至菩提,真性不易,名解脫知見香。

「善知識!此香各自內熏,莫向外覓。今與汝等授無相懺悔,滅三世罪,令得三業清淨。善知識!各隨我語,一時道:

「『弟子等,從前念,今念及後念,念念不被愚迷染,從前所有惡業愚迷等罪,悉皆懺悔,願一時銷滅,永不復起。

「『弟子等,從前念、今念及後念,念念不被憍誑染,從前所有惡業憍誑等罪,悉皆懺悔,願一時銷滅,永不復起。

「『弟子等,從前念、今念及後念,念念不被嫉妒染,從前所有惡業嫉妒等罪,悉皆懺悔,願一時銷滅,永不復起。』

「善知識!以上是為無相懺悔。云何名懺?云何名悔?懺者,懺其前愆,從前所有惡業、愚迷、憍誑、嫉妒等罪,悉皆盡懺,永不復起,是名為懺。悔者,悔其後過,從今以後,所有惡業、愚迷、憍誑、嫉妒等罪,今已覺悟,悉皆永斷,更不復作,是名為悔。故稱懺悔。凡夫愚迷,只知懺其前愆,不知悔其後過。以不悔故,前愆不滅,後過又生。前愆既不滅,後過復又生,何名懺悔?

「善知識!既懺悔已,與善知識發四弘誓願,各須用心正聽:自心眾生無邊誓願度,自心煩惱無盡誓願斷,自性法門無量誓願學,自性佛道無上誓願成。

「善知識!大家豈不道眾生無邊誓願度?恁麼道,且不是惠能度。善知識!心中眾生,所謂邪迷心、誑妄心、不善心、嫉妒心、惡毒心,如是等心,盡是眾生,各須自性自度,是名真度。何名自性自度?即自心中邪見、煩惱、愚癡眾生,將正見度。既有正見,使般若智打破愚癡迷妄眾生,各各自度。邪來正度,迷來悟度,愚來智度,惡來善度,如是度者,名為真度。

「又煩惱無盡誓願斷,將自性般若智除卻虛妄思想心是也。

「又法門無量誓願學,須自見性,常行正法,是名真學。

「又佛道無上誓願成,既常能下心,行於真正,離迷離覺,常生般若,除真除妄,即見佛性,即言下佛道成。常念修行,是願力法。

「善知識!今發四弘願了,更與善知識授無相三歸依戒。

「善知識!歸依覺,兩足尊;歸依正,離欲尊;歸依淨,眾中尊。從今日去,稱覺為師,更不歸依邪魔外道。以自性三寶常自證明,勸善知識歸依自性三寶:佛者,覺也;法者,正也;僧者,淨也。

「自心歸依覺,邪迷不生,少欲知足,能離財色,名兩足尊。

「自心歸依正,念念無邪見,以無邪見故,即無人我貢高貪愛執著,名離欲尊。

「自心歸依淨,一切塵勞愛欲境界,自性皆不染著,名眾中尊。

若修此行,是自歸依。凡夫不會,從日至夜,受三歸戒;若言歸依佛,佛在何處?若不見佛,憑何所歸?言卻成妄。

「善知識!各自觀察,莫錯用心。經文分明言自歸依佛,不言歸依他佛。自佛不歸,無所依處。今既自悟,各須歸依自心三寶,內調心性,外敬他人,是自歸依也。

「善知識!既歸依自三寶竟,各各志心,吾與說『一體三身自性佛』,令汝等見三身,了然自悟自性。總隨我道:『於自色身歸依清淨法身佛,於自色身歸依圓滿報身佛,於自色身歸依千百億化身佛。』

「善知識!色身是舍宅,不可言歸。向者三身佛在自性中,世人總有。為自心迷,不見內性,外覓三身如來,不見自身中有三身佛。汝等聽說,令汝等於自身中見自性有三身佛。此三身佛從自性生,不從外得。

「何名清淨法身佛。世人性本清淨,萬法從自性生。思量一切惡事,即生惡行;思量一切善事,即生善行。如是諸法,在自性中,如天常清,日月常明,為浮雲蓋覆,上明下暗,忽遇風吹雲散,上下俱明,萬象皆現。世人性常浮游,如彼天雲。善知識!智如日,慧如月,智慧常明,於外著境,被妄念浮雲蓋覆自性,不得明朗。若遇善知識,聞真正法,自除迷妄,內外明徹,於自性中,萬法皆現。見性之人亦復如是。此名清淨法身佛。

「善知識!自心歸依自性,是歸依真佛。自歸依者,除卻自性中不善心、嫉妒心、諂曲心、吾我心、誑妄心、輕人心、慢他心、邪見心、貢高心,及一切時中不善之行,常自見己過,不說他人好惡,是自歸依;常須下心,普行恭敬,即是見性通達,更無滯礙,是自歸依。

「何名圓滿報身?譬如一燈能除千年暗,一智能滅萬年愚。莫思向前,已過不可得;常思於後,念念圓明,自見本性。善惡雖殊,本性無二;無二之性,名為實性。於實性中,不染善惡,此名圓滿報身佛。自性起一念惡,滅萬劫善因,自性起一念善,得恒沙惡盡,直至無上菩提,念念自見,不失本念,名為報身。

「何名千百億化身?若不思萬法,性本如空,一念思量,名為變化。思量惡事,化為地獄;思量善事,化為天堂;毒害,化為龍蛇;慈悲,化為菩薩;智慧,化為上界;愚癡,化為下方。自性變化甚多,迷人不能省覺,念念起惡,常行惡道,迴一念善,智慧即生,此名自性化身佛。

「善知識!法身本具,念念自性自見,即是報身佛。從報身思量,即是化身佛。自悟自修自性功德,是真歸依。皮肉是色身,色身是舍宅,不言歸依也。但悟自性三身,即識自性佛。吾有一無相頌,若能誦持,言下令汝積劫迷罪,一時銷滅。頌曰:

「『迷人修福不修道,只言修福便是道;布施供養福無邊,心中三惡元來造。

『擬將修福欲滅罪,後世得福罪還在;但向心中除罪緣,各自性中真懺悔。

『忽悟大乘真懺悔,除邪行正即無罪;學道常於自性觀,即與諸佛同一類。

『吾祖惟傳此頓法,普願見性同一體;若欲當來覓法身,離諸法相心中洗。

『努力自見莫悠悠,後念忽絕一世休;若悟大乘得見性,虔恭合掌至心求。』」

師言:「善知識!總須誦取,依此修行,言下見性,雖去吾千里,如常在吾邊;

於此言下不悟,即對面千里,何勤遠來?珍重,好去」

一眾聞法,靡不開悟,歡喜奉行。