The Forty Transmission Gathas of the Zen Patriarchs of India and China




1

Vipasyin Buddha, the 998th of the Glorious Aeon.

Gatha chanted when transmitting the Dharma to Sikhin Buddha:

The body is created out of nothing
A dream like product of illusion.
Once illusory mind and thought are not,
One leaves behind both weal and woe.

2

Sikhin Buddha, the 999th of the Glorious Aeon.

Gatha chanted when translating the Dharma to Visvabhu Buddha

Good Dharmas arise and evil karma too,
Yet both are but illusions.
The body is like foam, like wind and mind;
Illusion has no base and no reality.

3

Visvabhu Buddha, the 1000th of the Glorious Aeon.

Gathat chanted when translating the Dharma to Krakucchanda Buddha:

When uncreated mind is tied to body,
It works with things and so exists through them.
When objects disappear, so does mind.
Weal and woe arise and vanish like illusions.


4

Krakucchanda Buddha, the first of the Virtuous Aeon.

Gatha translated when transmitting the Dharma to Kana kamuni Buddha:

To see the body as unreal is to see the Body of the Buddha.
To know the mind as an illusion is to know the Illusion of the Buddha.
If a man sees clearly that the mind and body are not real
How does he differ from the Buddha?

5

Kamakamuni Buddha, the second of the Virtuous Aeon.

Gatha chanted by Kama kamuni Buddha when transmitting the Dharma to Kasyapa Buddha:

The real Buddha has a body that no one can perceive,
There is no other Buddha for him who knows himself.
The sage who knows that woe is devoid of nature
Lives at ease and fears not birth and death.

6

Kasyapa Buddha, the third of the Virtuous Aeon.

Gatha chanted when transmitting the Dharma to Shakyamuni Buddha:

Pure and clean is the nature of all living beings.
Since it never was created, it cannot be destroyed.
Body and mind are from an illusion.
In this changing shadow there is neither weal or woe.


7

Shakyamuni Buddha, the fourth of the Virtuous Aeon.

Gatha chanted when transmitting the Dharma to the 1st Ch'an Patriarch Mahakasyapa:

The Dharma's fundamental Dharma has no Dharma,
The Dharma of no-Dharma is Dharma too.
Now that the Dharma of no-Dharma is transmitted,
Has there ever been a Dharma?


8

The First Indian Patriarch Mahakasyapa

Gatha chanted when transmitting the Dharma to the second Patriarch Ananda:

The fundamental Dharma of all Dharma
Is beyond the Dharmas that are false and real.
Why in the one Dharma should
There be Dharma and Not-Dharma?


9

The Second Indian Patriarch Ananda

Gatha chanted when transmitting the Dharma to the Third Patriarch Sanakavasa:

At first there was a Dharma to transmit,
Transmitted it became that of No-Dharma.
Each man should realise the nature of his self,
And then there is not (even) a No-Dharma.


10

The Third Indian Patriarch Sanakavasa

Gatha chanted when transmitting the Dharma to the fourth Patriarch Upagupta:

Dharma and Mind have no (reality)
For there is neither Mind nor Dharma.
When this Mind-Dharma is expounded,
This Dharma is not the Dharma of the Mind.

11

The Fourth Indian Patriarch Upagupta

Gatha chanted when transmitting the Dharma to the Fifth Patriarch Dhrtaka:

Mind is the primal mind
Which is devoid of Dharma.
If Dharma and primal mind exist,
Both mind and primal Dharma will be false.

12

The Fifth Indian Patriarch Dhrtaka

Gatha chanted when transmitting the Dharma to the Sixth Partriarch Miccaka:

When the Dharma of primal mind is really understood,
Neither Dharma nor Not-Dharma can remain.
(After) enlightenment it is the same as it was (before),
For there is neither mind nor Dharma.

13

The Sixth Indian Patriarch Miccaka

Gatha chanted when transmitting the Dharma to the Seventh Patriarch Vasumutra:

There is neither mind nor realisation,
While that which can be realised is not Dharma.
Only when mind is seen to be unreal
Can the Dharma of all minds be truly understood.


14

The Seventh Indian Patriarch Vasumitra

Gatha chanted when transmitting the Dharma to the Eight Patriarch Buddhanandi:

Mind and the vault of space are just the same,
The Dharma, spanning space, is now expounded.
When space is realised as such,
There is no Dharma, whether false or real.


15

The Eighth Indian Patriarch Buddhanandi

Gatha chanted when transmitting the Dharma to the Ninth Patriarch Buddhamitra:

Space and Dharma of the mind
Have naught within nor aught without.
If space is truly understood,
The principle of Suchness will be learnt.



16

The Ninth Indian Patriarch Buddhamitra

Gatha chanted when transmitting the Dharma to the Tenth Patriarch Parsva:

Truth in essence has no name,
Yet now because of name it can be known.
Whoever can receive the Dharma-truth
Will know that it is neither truth nor lies.


17

The Tenth Indian Patriarch Parsva

Gatha chanted when transmitting the Dharma to the Eleventh Patriarch Punyayasas:

The real body is reality existing by itself,
Because of it we can expound the fundamental law.
The apprehension of the Dharma of reality
Is beyond all change and changelessness.


18

The Eleventh Indian Patriarch Punyayasas

Gatha chanted when transmitting the Dharma to the Twelfth Patriarch Asvaghosa:

Delusion and enlightenment are concealing and revealing,
(Like) light and darkness they depend upon each other.
This Dharma that I know transmit
Is neither one nor two.


19

The Twelfth Indian Patriarch Asvaghosa

Gatha chanted when transmitting the Dharma to the Thirteenth
Patriarch Kapimala:

Concealing and revealing are themselves the Dharma,
In essence light and darkness are non-dual.
The Dharma of enlightenment that I now transmit
Cannot be grasped nor can it be understood.


20

The Thirteenth Indian Patriarch Kapimala

Gatha chanted when transmitting the Dharma to the Fourteenth Patriarch Nagarjuna:

The Dharma which conceals not nor reveals
Expounds the region of reality.
To realise this Dharma
Is neither ignorant not wise.


21

The Fourteenth Indian Patriarch Nagarjuna

Gatha chanted when transmitting the Dharma to the Fifteenth Patriarch Kanadeva:

To explain the Dharma of concealing and revealing
The principle of liberation is now taught.
No mind is realised according to this Dharma
And so there is no (cause for) anger or for joy.


22

The Fifteenth Indian Patriarch Kanadeva

Gatha chanted when transmitting the Dharma to the Sixteenth Patriarch Rahulata:

To you who now receive the Dharma
Is taught the principle of liberation.
The Dharma does not realise anything,
For 'tis beyond the end and never had beginning.


23

The Sixteenth Indian Patriarch Rahulata

Gatha chanted when transmitting the Dharma to the Sevententh Patriarch Sanghanandi:

The Dharma does not realise a thing,
Nor can it be grasped or thrown away.
It is beyond what 'is' and what 'is not';
Within is nothing, nor is aught without.


24

The Seventeenth Indian Patriarch Sanganandi

Gatha chanted when transmitting the Dharma to the Eighteenth Patriarch Gayasata (Sanghayasas):

The ground of mind was never once created,
This primal ground results from a concurrent cause.
Both cause and seed do not each other hinder,
While flower and fruit do not obstruct each other.


25

The Eighteenth Indian Patriarch Gayasata (Sanghayasas)

Gatha chanted when transmitting the Dharma to the Nineteenth Patriarch Kumarata:

The self-existing seed and ground of mind
Produce the sprout through a concurrent cause.
Concurrent cause and sprout do not each other hinder,
For that which is produced is not produciable.


26

The Nineteenth Indian Patriarch Kumarata

Gathat chanted when transmitting the Dharma to the Twentieth Patriarch Jayata:

Self nature in its essence never was created,
Or so we teach to those who seek (the truth).
Since Dharma does not lead to any gain,
Why think one or another way about it?.


27

The Twentieth Indian Patriarch Jayata

Gatha chanted when transmitting the Dharma to the Twenty-first Patriarch Vasubandhu:

Instant union with the uncreate
Is how to realise the Dharma nature.
Those who are able to experience this
Understand the oneness of relative and absolute.



28

The Twenty-first Indian Patriarch Vasubandhu

Gatha translated when transmitting the Dharma to the Twenty-second Patriarch Manorhita:

Bubbles and illusions are the omnipresent;
Why cannot this be understood?
The omnipresent Dharma in this world of change
Is not the present now and was not in the past.


29

The Twenty-second Indian Patriarch Manorhita

Gatha chanted when transmitting the Dharma to the Twenty-third Patriarch Haklena:

The mind follows externals in its changing,
While the real is dormant, hidden by their changes,
Yet through them one can find the nature of the self
Which is beyond all joy and sorrow.


30

The Twenty-third Indian Patriarch Haklena

Gatha chanted when transmitting the Dharma to the Twenty-fourth Patriarch Aryasimha:

(Only) when the nature of the mind is realised
Can one say that it cannot be conceived.
Nothing, clearly, can be realised
For if it be, there's no awareness of it.


31

The Twenty-fourth Indian Patriarch Aryasimha

Gatha chanted when transmitting the Dharma to the Twenty-fifth Patriarch Basiasita:

When speaking of awareness.
One finds it is but mind.
Since mind is but awareness,
Dharma is found by him who is aware.



32

The Twenty-fifth Indian Patriarch Basiasita

Gatha chanted when transmitting the Dharma to the Twenty-sixth Patriarch Punyamitra:

The saint speaks of awareness
Beyond both right and wrong.
I have realised the true (self-)nature
Beyond all truth and that which lies behind.


33

The Twenty-sixth Indian Patriarch Punyamitra

Gatha chanted when transmitting the Dharma to the Twenty-seventh Patriarch Prajnatara:

The true nature (of the self) lies in the ground of mind,
It has neither head nor tail.
It manifests to meet the needs of living beings,
For want of better words we call it wisdom.


34

The Twenty-seventh Indian Patriarch Prajnatara

Gatha chanted when transmitting the Dharma to the Twenty-eighth Patriarch Bodhidharma:

The mind-ground is the bed in which all seeds are sown,
Things as they really are can be deduced from their appearances.
When the fruit is ripe enlightenment is won,
When flower blooms the universe is seen.

35

The Twenty-eight Indian Patriarch Bodhidharma
(The First Patriarch of China)

Gatha chanted when transmitting the Dharma to the Twenty-ninth Patriarch Hui K'o:

My aim in coming to this country
Was to transmit the Dharma and liberate all beings.
A flower of five petals
Cannot fail to fruit.


36

The Twenty-ninth Patriarch Hui K'o
(The Second Patriarch of China)

Gatha chanted when transmitting the Dharma to the Thirtieth Patriarch Seng Ts'an:

From the seed-bed (of your mind)
(The Dharma) raises flowers.
Yet there is no seed
Nor are there flowers.


37

The Thirtieth Patriarch Seng Ts'an
(The Third Patriarch of China)

Gatha chanted when transmitting the Dharma to the Thirty-first Patriarch Tao Hsin:

The sowing of flower-seeds requires a causal ground
From which the flowers will grow.
If no one sows there will be
Neither ground nor flowers.


38

The Thirty-first Patriarch Tao Hsin
(The Fourth Patriarch of China)

Gatha chanted when transmitting the Dharma to the Thirty-second Patriarch Hung Jen:

Growth is latent in the seed
Which sprouts when planted in the causal ground.
This Great Cause unites with nature
At the time of growth, yet nothing growths.


39

The Thirty-second Patriarch Hung Jen
(The Fifth Patriarch of China)

Gatha chanted when transmitting the Dharma to the Thirty-third Patriarch Hui Neng:

The seed sown by a sentient being
In causal ground will soon bear fruit.
Without sentience there is no seed
And no fruit without nature.


40

The Thirty-third Patriarch Hui Neng
(The Sixth Patriarch of China)

Gatha chanted when transmitting the Dharma to his disciples:

The Mind-ground holds the (flower) seeds
Which sprout when falls the all-pervading rain.
The wisdom-flower of instantaneous awakening
Cannot fail to bear the Bodhi-fruit.

TRANSLATED BY CHARLES LUK

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