The Sixth Patriarch, Hui Neng*, addressed a gathering with the following words:
Learned Audience, the Wisdom of Enlightenment (Bodhiprajna) is inherent in every one of us. It is because of the delusion under which our mind works that we fail to realize it ourselves, and that we have to seek the advice and the guidance of enlightened ones before we can know our own Essence of Mind. You should know that so far as Buddha-nature is concerned, there is no difference between an enlightened man and an ignorant one. What makes the difference is that one realizes it, while the other is ignorant of it. Now, let me talk to you about Maha Prajnaparamita [Great Wisdom to cross to the other shore], so that each of you can attain wisdom.
Learned Audience, those who recite the word ‘Prajna’ [wisdom] the whole day long do not seem to know that Prajna is inherent in their own nature. But mere talking on food will not appease hunger, and this is exactly the case with these people. We might talk on Sunyata [Emptiness] for myriads of kalpas, but talking alone will not enable us to realize the Essence of Mind, and it serves no purpose in the end.
The word ‘Mahaprajnaparamita’ is Sanskrit, and means ‘great wisdom to reach the opposite shore’ [of the sea of existence]. What we have to do is to put it into practice with our mind; whether we recite it or not does not matter. Mere reciting it without mental practice may be likened to a phantasm, a magical delusion, a flash of lightning or a dewdrop. On the other hand, if we do both, then our mind will be in accord with what we repeat orally.
Our very nature is Buddha, and apart from this nature there is no other Buddha.
What is Maha? It means ‘great’. The capacity of the mind is as great as that of space. It is infinite, neither round nor square, neither great nor small, neither green nor yellow, neither red nor white, neither above nor below, neither long nor short, neither angry nor happy, neither right nor wrong, neither good nor evil, neither first nor last. All Buddha-Lands are as empty as space. Intrinsically our transcendental nature is empty and not a single dharma [thing, phenomenon] can be attained. It is the same with the Essence of Mind, which is a state of ‘Absolute Emptiness’ (i.e., the Emptiness of Form).
*Hui Neng (638–713) was a Chinese Buddhist, and became the sixth and last ‘patriarch’ of the Chan School, from which subsequently arose Zen Buddhism in Japan.