ne day the Fifth Patriarch assembled all his disciples and said to them, "Go and seek for Wisdom in your own mind and then write me a stanza about it. He who understands what the Essence of Mind is will be given the Robe and the Dharma, and I shall make him the Sixth Patriarch. Go away quickly. Delay not in writing the stanza, as deliberation is quite unnecessary and of no use. The man who has realized the Essence of Mind can speak of it at once."
Having received this instruction, the disciples withdrew, but none dared to write a stanza, as they all deferred to the head instructor Shen Hsiu... At 12 o'clock that night Shen Hsiu went secretly with a lamp to write his stanza on the wall of the south corridor, so that the Patriarch might know what spiritual insight he had attained. The stanza read,
Our body is the Bodhi tree,
And our mind a mirror bright,
Carefully we wipe them hour by hour,
And let no dust alight.
...When the Patriarch saw the stanza the next morning, he instructed that it be read and recited by all the disciples, so that they might realize the Essence of Mind. At midnight he sent for Shen Hsiu to come to the hall, and asked him if the stanza was written by him or not. "It was, Sir," replied Shen Hsiu. "I dare not be so vain as to expect to get the Patriarchate, but I wish Your Holiness would kindly tell me whether my stanza shows the least grain of wisdom." "Your stanza," replied the Patriarch, "shows that you have not yet realized the Essence of Mind. So far you have reached the 'door of enlightenment,' but you have not yet entered it. To seek for supreme enlightenment with such an understanding as yours can hardly be successful... You had better go back to think it over again for a couple of days, and submit to me another stanza."
I [Hui Neng] was pounding rice when I heard a young boy reciting the stanza written by Shen Hsiu... I asked him to lead me to the hall and show me the stanza. A petty officer who happened to be there read it out to me. When he had finished reading, I told him that I had also composed a stanza, and asked him to write it on the wall. "Don't despise a beginner," I said. "You should know that the lowest class may have the sharpest wit, while the highest may be in want of intelligence. If you slight others, you commit a very great sin." I dictated my stanza, which read,
There is no Bodhi tree,
Nor stand of a mirror bright.
Since all is void,
Where can the dust alight?
When he had written this, the crowd of disciples was overwhelmed with amazement, but the Patriarch rubbed off the stanza with his shoe, lest jealous ones should do me injury. The next night he invited me secretly to his room, and expounded the Diamond Sutra to me. When he came to the sentence, "One should use one's mind in such a way that it will be free from any attachment," I at once became thoroughly enlightened, and realized that all things in the universe are the Essence of Mind itself. "Who would have thought," I said to the Patriarch, "that the Essence of Mind is intrinsically pure!..." Thus, to the knowledge of no one, the Dharma was transmitted to me at midnight, and I became the Sixth Patriarch.