The verse written by Hui-neng mentioned by sensei
above is part of a famous story that is often told to capture the meaning of Zen
The story goes that Hung-jan, the Fifth patriarch of Zen/Chan Buddhism in China, realised that he was dying, and ordered that whoever could write a poem that best encapsulated the nature of Chan Buddhism would be the next Patriarch. With the office went the famous begging bowl of Guatama.
The foremost of his disciples was Shen-xiu, who composed the poem:
The body is a bodhi tree
The mind is like a mirror bright
Polish it with diligence
And let no dust adhere
Hung-jan was extremely happy, and said that whoever practiced this would surely reach enlightenment
. The next night however, Hui-neng, at that time a lowly peasant
rice-pounder, posted his poem next to it:
There is no bodhi tree
And no mirror bright standing
And since no thing exists
Where can the dust cling?
Hung-jan immediately realised the profundity of this poem and installed Hui-neng as the sixth patriarch of Chan Buddhism.
After Hui-neng died, his body was preserved and lacquered (yes, lacquered) at Hua-nan monastery, in Guangdong, China. It was smashed by the People's Liberation Army during the Cultural Revolution, but the remains were preserved.