Altar Sutra: Final Instructions

One day the Patriarch summoned his most realized students.
“I am going to give you some hints on teaching so that you can become teachers after I am gone.
First mention the three categories of the Dharma. Then the thirty six pairs of opposites. Then teach how to avoid extremes
.
In all teaching do not stray from Buddha nature.

The three categories of Dharmas are:
Skandhas (aggregates), Ayatanas (places of meeting), and Dhatus (factors of consciousness.)
The five Skandhas are: matter, sensation, perception, mental tendencies, and consciousness.

The Five Skandhas are a Buddhist teaching that essentially we are made up of these five things. If any of these five are taken away, then there is no self that we can point to.

The twelve Ayatanas are: the Six Sense Objects and the Six Sense Organs.
We know the traditional five senses: sight, sound, touch, taste, and smell. Buddhist teaching often adds a sixth and that is consciousness or awareness. The Avatanas represent our senses as well as how we relate to them. So, for example something we see and how we judge what we are seeing.

The eighteen Dhatus are:
The six sense objects, six sense organs and six recipient thoughts.
To teach or hear the Dharma without practicing causes the arising of erroneous views. We should walk the path according to the teachings. If you understand what I say and you put it into practice, then you will grasp the teachings of our School. To ensure the spread of our School, hand down these teachings from one generation to the next.”

This is the last teaching the Patriarch gave before his death:
“In all things nothing is real. So we should free ourselves from attachment to the reality of objects. One who realizes the Buddha nature within himself knows that the True self can’t be found outside the self. The truth is within.

Followers of the Path, exert yourselves and take heed that as followers of the Mahayana we will attain Enlightenment.
As for those with different points of view, treat them with respect. Disputes are foreign to our school and are not compatible with it’s doctrine. To argue with others is pointless controversy.
One who follows my teachings will attain Enlightenment.
The Dharma is non-dual and so is the mind. The Path is pure and beyond forms. Them mind is by nature pure, so there is really nothing for you to give up. Do your best and go wherever circumstances lead.”

At this point, Hui-neng recited his lineage to the students:
“From the Buddha Sakyamuni, the Dharma was transmitted to the:
1st Patriarch Arya Mahakasyapa 2nd Patriarch Arya Ananda 3rd Patriarch Arya Sanakavasa 4th Patriarch Arya Upagupta 5th Patriarch Arya Dhritaka 6th Patriarch Arya Michaka 7th Patriarch Arya Vasumitra 8th Patriarch Arya Buddhanandi 9th Patriarch Arya Buddhamitra 10th Patriarch Arya Parsva 11th Patriarch Arya Punyayasas 12th Patriarch Bodhisattva Asvaghosa 13th Patriarch Arya Kapimala 14th Patriarch Bodhisattva Nagarjuna 15th Patriarch Kanadeva 16th Patriarch Arya Rahulata 17th Patriarch Arya Sanghanandi 18th Patriarch Arya Gayasata 19th Patriarch Arya Kumarata 20th Patriarch Arya Jayata 21st Patriarch Arya Vasubandhu
22nd Patriarch Arya Manorhita 23rd Patriarch Arya Haklenayasas 24thPatriarch Arya Simha 25th Patriarch Arya Basiasita 26th Patriarch Arya Punyamitra 27th Patriarch Arya Prajnatara 28th Patriarch Arya Bodhidharma (the first Patriarch in China) 29th Patriarch Grand Master Hui K’u 30th Patriarch Grand Master Seng Ts’an 31st Patriarch Grand Master Tao Hsin 32nd Patriarch Grand Master Hung Yen.

I am the 33rd Patriarch. (the sixth in China).

Within our mind is the true Buddha. The Buddha must be sought within our minds.
Let this stanza be called The Real Buddha of the Essence of Mind:
Buddha Nature is the real Buddha.
Enlightened by Right Views, we awaken the Buddha within. When Right Views eliminate delusion from our minds, we are transformed into Awakened ones.
One who is able to realize the Truth within has planted the seeds of Awakening.
I have given this teaching for all future students to attain Enlightenment.

Undisturbed and serene, the Awakened one practice no virtue. Self-possessed and unattached, he commits no sin. He is calm and silent. His mind abides nowhere.”
The Sutra spoken by the Patriarch was published and circulated. These steps were taken to spread the teachings.

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About Daniel Scharpenburg

Daniel Scharpenburg is an independent dharma teacher living in Kansas City. He gives online teachings through the Open Heart Project, the largest virtual mindfulness community in the world. His writing has appeared in Lion's Roar, Patheos, Tattooed Buddha, and Elephant Journal.

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