The Body is the Bodhi Tree

The Platform Sutra of the Sixth patriarch tells the story – and it is a story, it didn’t actually happen – of the contest to the succesion of the fifth patriarch, Hongren. He asked his followers to write a poem to demonstrate their understanding. His senior disciple, Shexiu was the only monk who wrote a poem, which was as follows:

The body is the bodhi tree
the mind the bright mirrors stand
always polish attentively
to prevent dust from settling.

This was famously countered by an illiterate labourer staying in the monastery, Huineng, who responded:

Bodhi originally has no tree
the mirror has no stand
the buddha nature is always clear and pure
where is there room for dust?

In this video the meaning of the first line of Shexiu’s poem is explored.

Video teaching adapted from Kusen given on 23rd May 2020

More on the mind verses competition can be found here:

further references on the mind verses competition can be found here: