The Platform Sutra of Hui Neng

The Platform Sutra of Hui Neng

Sutra Opening Verse

Translated by the Chung Tai Translation Committee  October 2009  From the Chinese by  The Sixth Patriarch Hui Neng, 8th Century  The following prior English translations were used as references: “The Sixth Patriarch’s  Dharma Jewel Platform Sutra” by The Buddhist Text Translation Society, “The  Platform Scripture” by Wing-tsit Chan, “The Sutra of Hui-Neng Grand Master of Zen” by Thomas Cleary, “The Altar Sutra of the Sixth Patriarch” by Charles Luk, “The  Platform Sutra the Zen Teaching of Hui-Neng” by Red Pine, and “Sutra Spoken by the  Sixth Patriarch on the High Seat of the Treasure of the Law” by Wong Mou-Lam.  The Chung Tai Translation Committee comprises of Dharma Masters and lay disciples  and convenes regularly. To view or download other sutra translations by CTTC, visit  “Dharma Gems” on Comments and suggestions may be sent  to

Sutra Opening Verse

The Dharma, infinitely profound and subtle,  

Is rarely encountered even in a million kalpas.  

Now we are able to hear, study, and follow it,  

May we fully realize the Tathagata’s true meaning.  

開 經 偈 

無 上 甚 深 微 妙 法 

百 千 萬 劫 難 遭 遇 

我 今 見 聞 得 受 持 

願 解 如 來 真 實 義



次日,韋使君請益,師陞座,告大眾曰: 「總淨心念摩訶般若波羅蜜多。」復云: 「善知識!菩提般若之智,世人本自有之, 只緣心迷,不能自悟,須假大善知識示導見 性!當知愚人智人,佛性本無差別,只緣迷 悟不同,所以有愚有智。吾今為說摩訶般若 波羅蜜法,使汝等各得智慧。志心諦聽!吾 為汝說:

善知識!世人終日口念般若,不識自性般 若,猶如說食不飽。口但說空,萬劫不得見 性,終無有益。善知識!摩訶般若波羅蜜是 梵語,此言大智慧到彼岸。此須心行,不在 口念。口念心不行,如幻如化,如露如電; 口念心行,則心口相應。本性是佛,離性無 別佛。



On the following day, upon Governor Wei’s request, the  Master took his seat and addressed the assembly, “Let us  purify our thoughts and mindfully recite Maha-prajnaparamita.” Then he said: Noble friends, prajna, the wisdom  of enlightenment, is inherent in all people of the world. Only  because their minds are deluded, they fail to realize it  themselves. Therefore, they need the guidance of great  masters to see their true nature. Know that Buddha nature  is no different in the wise and in the ignorant. What  separates them is whether one is enlightened or deluded. I  will now teach the maha-prajna-paramita so that each of  you may attain wisdom. Listen attentively! I will explain it  to you. 

 Noble friends, people speak of prajna all day, yet they do  not recognize the prajna inherent in their nature. Just as  talking about food cannot appease your hunger, talking  about emptiness for countless kalpas will not reveal your  true nature; ultimately it is of no benefit. Noble friends,  maha-prajna-paramita is a Sanskrit term meaning “the great  wisdom leading to the other shore.” It must be practiced  from the mind and not merely spoken of. Prajna, only  spoken of but not practiced, is like an illusion, a mirage, a  dewdrop, or lightning. By doing both, our speech and mind  are in mutual accord. Our original nature is Buddha, apart  from this nature there is no other Buddha.  

Chapter 1

何名摩訶?摩訶是大。心量廣大,猶如虛 空,無有邊畔,亦無方圓大小,亦非青黃赤 白,亦無上下長短,亦無瞋無喜,無是無 非,無善無惡,無有頭尾。

諸佛剎土,盡同虛空。世人妙性本空,無有 一法可得,自性真空亦復如是。

善知識!莫聞吾說空,便即著空!第一莫著 空!若空心靜坐,即著無記空。

善知識!世界虛空,能含萬物色像:日月星 宿,山河大地,泉源谿澗,草木叢林,惡人 善人,惡法善法,天堂地獄,一切大海,須 彌諸山,總在空中。世人性空亦復如是。

善知識!自性能含萬法是大,萬法在諸人性 中。若見一切人『惡之與善』,盡皆不取不 捨,亦不染著,心如虛空,名之為大,故曰 摩訶。 

What is “maha”? Maha means great. The mind is like the  great empty space of the universe; it has no boundaries. It  is neither square nor round, neither great nor small, neither  blue yellow, red, nor white, neither above nor below,  neither long nor short, neither angry nor happy, neither  right nor wrong, neither good nor evil, has neither beginning nor end.

  All Buddha Lands are like empty space. Our inconceivable  nature is originally empty; not a single dharma is tangible.  Such is the true emptiness of our inherent nature.

  Noble friends, when you hear me speak of emptiness, do  not cling to it. First and foremost, you must not cling to the  concept of emptiness. If you sit in meditation with a mind  devoid of awareness; that is called clinging to idle  emptiness. 

 Noble friends, the universe is empty therefore it can contain  things of every color and form—the sun, moon, and stars;  rivers, hills, and the plains; springs, streams, grasses, and  forests; virtuous and evil people, good deeds and bad deeds,  heaven and hell, all the oceans, mountain ranges, and  Mount Sumeru. All these are possible because of  emptiness. In the same way, our true nature is empty.

  Noble friends, our inherent nature can contain myriads of  things, that is ‘greatness’. All things are within this nature.  If we see evil or virtue in people without any grasping or  rejection, without being defiled by any attachment, the  mind will be like empty space. In this way, our mind is  great and is therefore called ‘maha’.  

Chapter 2

善知識!迷人口說,智者心行。又有迷人, 空心靜坐,百無所思,自稱為大;此一輩 人,不可與語,為邪見故。

善知識!心量廣大,遍周法界,用即了了分 明,應用便知一切。一切即一,一即一切, 去來自由,心體無滯,即是般若。

善知識!一切般若智,皆從自性而生,不從 外入,莫錯用意!名為真性自用。一真一切 真。心量大事,不行小道。口莫終日說空, 心中不修此行,恰似凡人自稱國王,終不可 得,非吾弟子!

善知識!何名般若?般若者,唐言智慧也。 一切處所,一切時中,念念不愚,常行智 慧,即是般若行。一念愚即般若絕,一念智 即般若生。世人愚迷,不見般若;口說般 若,心中常愚。常自言我修般若,念念說 空,不識真空。般若無形相,智慧心即是。 若作如是解,即名般若智。

 Noble friends, the wise cultivate the mind while the  deluded merely talk about it. Then there are some who sit  in meditation devoid of awareness, believing that to not  think of anything is great. Because of their erroneous  views, it is futile to discuss prajna with them.

  Noble friends, the mind has great capacity, pervading the  dharma realm; clear and perceiving all, it can understand  anything wherever applied. Everything is one and one is  everything. Coming and going freely, the mind is  unobstructed. This is the state of prajna.

  Noble friends, do not let your mind be misled! Prajna  wisdom arises from our inherent nature and is not acquired  externally. Prajna is the function of our true nature. When  you understand this one truth, you can understand all truths.  The mind is of great capacity; it does not take a narrow  path. Do not just speak of emptiness all day while the mind  fails to cultivate prajna. This is like an ordinary person who  proclaims himself a king but can never be one. Such people  are not my disciples. 

 Noble friends, what is “prajna”? It means wisdom. If at all  times and in all places, we cultivate wisdom and every  thought is free from ignorance, this is the practice of prajna.  With one ignorant thought, prajna ceases; with one wise  thought, prajna arises. Ordinary people are deluded and do  not understand prajna. They speak of prajna but their minds  remain ignorant. They always talk about emptiness and say  that they practice prajna, but they do not understand the  meaning of true emptiness. Prajna has neither shape nor  form; it is the mind of wisdom. To have such understanding  is prajna wisdom.

Chapter 3

何名波羅蜜?此是西國語,唐言到彼岸,解 義離生滅。著境生滅起,如水有波浪,即名 為此岸;離境無生滅,如水常通流,即名為 彼岸;故號波羅蜜。善知識!迷人口念,當 念之時,有妄有非。念念若行,是名真性。 悟此法者,是般若法;修此行者,是般若 行。不修,即凡;一念修行,自身等佛。

善知識!凡夫即佛,煩惱即菩提。前念迷即 凡夫,後念悟即佛;前念著境即煩惱,後念 離境即菩提。

善知識!摩訶般若波羅蜜,最尊最上最第 一,無住無往亦無來,三世諸佛從中出。當 用大智慧,打破五蘊煩惱塵勞。如此修行, 定成佛道,戒定慧。

善知識!我此法,從一般若生四千慧。何以故?為世人有四千塵勞,若無 塵勞,智慧常,不離自性。

What is “paramita”? It is a Sanskrit word for “reaching the  other shore” which in Buddhism means to be free from  birth and death. When we cling, birth and death result, like  water that breaks into waves—this is called “this shore.”  When we are detached, birth and death cease, like water  that flows freely and smoothly—this is paramita, “the other  shore.” Noble friends, the deluded merely recite prajna,  while erroneous and deceptive [thoughts] continue to  arise. When every thought is in accordance with prajna,  that is our true nature. To understand this teaching is to  understand prajna, to cultivate it is to apply prajna. If you  do not apply it you are an ordinary person, but the moment  you put prajna into practice you are equal to the buddhas.

  Noble friends, the ordinary person is Buddha. Affliction is  enlightenment. A deluded thought makes you an ordinary  person, an enlightened thought makes you a buddha. To  have a clinging thought one moment is affliction, to be free  from attachment the next is enlightenment.

  Noble friends, the Maha-prajna-paramita is the most noble,  most exalted, and foremost. It neither stays nor comes nor  goes. Buddhas of the past, present, and future all emerge  from it. We should use this great wisdom to break through  the burdensome afflictions of the five skandhas. Practicing  this way, one will certainly attain Buddhahood,  transforming the three poisons into sila (precepts), samadhi,  and prajna.

  Noble friends, in my teaching, this prajna gives rise to  84,000 kinds of wisdom. Why? It is because people of the  world have 84,000 defilements. If you are free from defilements, wisdom constantly manifests and you will not  deviate from your inherent nature.  

Chapter 4

悟此法者,即是無念憶、無著,不起妄,用自真如性,以智慧觀照一切法不 取不捨,即是見性佛道。

善知識!若甚深法界般若三者,須 修般若行,持誦《金剛般若經》,即得見 性。當知此經功德,無量無邊,中分明,莫能說。此法是最上,為大智人 說,為上人說。小小智人聞,心生不 。何以故?

如天雨於閻浮提,城邑聚落流,如漂棗葉。若大海,不。若大 若最上人,聞說《金剛經》,心悟解,故知本性自有般若之智;自用智慧常 觀照故,不假文字水,不從天有, 興致一切眾生一切草木蒙潤。百眾流入大海,為一體。眾生本性般若之智亦復如是。

 When you are awakened to this teaching, there is “no  thought”— you are free from recollection and attachments,  and do not give rise to delusions. From your own true  suchness, illuminate and observe with wisdom, neither  grasp nor reject anything—this is to see your true nature  and attain Buddhahood. 

 Noble friends, if you wish to enter the most profound realm  of reality (Dharma realm) and the samadhi of prajna, you  must cultivate prajna paramita, uphold and recite the  Diamond Sutra, then you will realize your true nature. You  should know that the benefits of this sutra as clearly  extolled in the text itself are boundless and immeasurable  and cannot be fully conveyed in words. This is a teaching  of the Supreme Vehicle and is spoken for the benefit of the  very wise and those with superior faculties. When those  with lesser faculties and little wisdom hear it, their minds  give rise to doubts. Why?

  Just as when the celestial dragon sends rain to Jambudvipa,  the cities and villages will be flooded and drift about like  leaves and twigs. But should it rain on the great ocean, the  ocean water will neither increase nor decrease. When  practitioners of the Great Vehicle or Supreme Vehicle hear  the Diamond Sutra, their minds awaken and are open to  true understanding. We therefore know that the wisdom of  prajna is inherent in our nature. By always using this  inherent wisdom to illuminate and observe clearly, we need  not rely on words. Similarly, the rains do not originate from  the sky but are brought forth from the ocean by the celestial  dragon, to nourish all animates and inanimates, sentient  beings, trees, and grasses. Hundreds of streams flow into  the ocean and merge into one body. Such is the prajna  wisdom of our intrinsic nature.

Chapter 5

善知識!小之人聞此頓教,猶如草木,性小者,若皆自,不能長, 之人亦復如是,有般若之智,與大智 無差別,何聞法不自悟?緣邪見,煩惱根深,猶如大雲覆蓋於日,不得,日

般若之智亦無大小,為一切眾生自心迷悟不 同。迷心外見,修行佛,悟自性,即是 。若頓教,不外修,但自心常 見,煩惱塵勞常不能染,即是見性。

善知識!外不住,去來自由,能除執心, 。能修此行,與般若本無差別。

善知識!一切修多羅文字,大小二乘十二部經,皆智慧性,方能。若無世人,一切萬法本自不有。故知萬 法本自人,一切經書因人說有。

Noble friends, people of lesser faculties who hear this  teaching of Sudden Enlightenment are like plants with  shallow roots; overwhelmed by heavy rains, their growth is  stunted. The fundamental prajna wisdom in people of  lesser faculties is no different from those who have great  wisdom. Why are they not awakened when they hear the  Dharma? It is because their mistaken views are hardened  and their afflictions are deeply rooted. It is like dense  clouds that obscure the sun; without winds to clear them  away, the sunlight cannot shine through. 

 Likewise, prajna wisdom is neither great nor small. What  makes the difference is whether one’s mind is deluded or  enlightened. Those with deluded views seeking  Buddhahood outside of their minds do not realize their  inherent nature; these are people of lesser faculties. Those  who realize this teaching of Sudden Enlightenment do not  cling to external practices. When the right view arises in  their minds at all times, defilements and afflictions can  never contaminate them. This is to see one’s true nature. 

 Noble friends, abiding neither within nor without, coming  and going freely, clearing the mind of attachments with  thorough and unimpeded comprehension – being able to  cultivate this way, one is in complete accord with the  Prajna Sutra. 

 Noble friends, all the sutras and writings of the Greater and  Lesser Vehicles, the twelve divisions of the Buddhist Canon,  were established for the people. These teachings were  possible because of the nature of people’s wisdom. If it  weren’t for the people in the world, no dharma would exist.  Therefore, we know that all dharmas originate from human  beings and all sutras were spoken because of people’s needs.  

Chapter 6

人中有愚有智,愚為小人,智為大人。 愚者問於智人,智者與愚人說法。愚人忽然 悟解心,即與智人無別。

善知識!不悟,即佛是眾生;一念悟時,眾 生是佛。故知萬法盡在自心,何不從自心中 見真如本性?薩戒經》云:『我本自性淨,若識自心見性,皆佛道。』 淨名經》云:『即時豁然得本心。』

善知識!我於忍和尚處一聞,言下便悟,見真如本性。是以法流行,令學道者 悟菩提,各自心,自見本性。

若自不悟,須大善知識,解最上法者, 正路。是善知識有大緣,所化導得見性,一切善法善知識能起故。

 Yet, some people are wise and some are ignorant. The  ignorant are considered inferior and the wise superior.  When the ignorant question the wise, the wise teach them  the Dharma. When the ignorant suddenly awaken and are  open to true understanding, they will be no different than  the wise.

  Noble friends, without enlightenment, buddhas are just  sentient beings; the moment the mind is enlightened,  sentient beings are buddhas. Therefore you should know  that all dharmas are intrinsic to the mind. Why not immediately realize in your own mind the intrinsic nature  of suchness? The Bodhisattva Sila Sutra says, “Our  inherent nature is originally pure. If you realize your mind  and see its true nature, you will attain Buddhahood.” The  Vimalakirti Sutra says, “Suddenly, seeing everything  clearly, you return to your original mind.”

  Noble friends, when the Fifth Patriarch spoke to me in his  quarters, I immediately attained enlightenment, realizing  the true nature of suchness. Therefore, I pass down this  teaching so that cultivators can attain sudden enlightenment.  By contemplating their own mind, everyone can realize  their intrinsic nature. 

 Should you fail to enlighten yourself, you must seek out  great masters who understand this supreme doctrine; they  can directly show you the right path. These masters are here  for a great cause, that is, they will guide you toward the  realization of your true nature; all wholesome dharmas  arise because of them.  

Chapter 7

三世諸佛,十二部經,在人性中本自有, 不能自悟,須善知識示方見。若自悟 者,不假外;若一向執善知識方 得解者,無有是處。何以故?自心有知 識自悟。若起邪迷,妄念顛倒,外善知識教授不可得。若起真般若觀照,一 那間,妄念滅;若識自性,一悟即地。

善知識!智慧觀照外明,識自本心。 若識本心,即本解。若得解,即是般若 ,即是無念。何名無念?若見一切法, 心不染著,是為無念。用即遍一切處,亦不 著一切處;但淨本心,使識出六門於六 中無染無,來去自由,通用無滯,即是 般若三,自在解,名無念行。若百物不 思,當念絕,即是法,即名邊見。

 Buddhas of the past, present, and future and the twelve  divisions of the Canon are fully present in our nature. If  you cannot enlighten yourselves, you should seek out  masters for guidance; if you can, you do not need to seek  externally. Moreover, it is wrong to rely solely on a  master for liberation. Why? Because the mind has a  master within, it can enlighten itself. If you give in to  erroneous, deluded, and distorted thoughts, even a great  master’s teaching would be futile. If you give rise to  genuine prajna contemplation, in an instant all deluded  thoughts will cease; if you realize your inherent nature,  you awaken and you arrive at the stage of a buddha.

Noble friends, by observing and contemplating with  wisdom, which illuminates within and without, we realize  our original mind. Realization of the original mind is true  liberation. To attain liberation is to attain prajna  samadhi. Prajna samadhi is “no thought.” What is “no  thought”? To understand and perceive all dharmas, with a  mind free from attachment and defilement, that is “no  thought.” When in use, this mind pervades everywhere,  yet it does not cling to anything. We only have to purify  our mind so that the six consciousnesses exit the six gates  (senses) without being contaminated or defiled by the six  dusts (sense objects). Coming and going freely, the mind  functions without hindrances, that is prajna samadhi; that  is to be free and liberated. That is the practice of “no  thought.” But if we suppress all thoughts and do not think  of anything, that is Dharma bondage and is an extreme  view.