An Invitation for the Patriarch

An Invitation for the Patriarch February 9, 2021

An Invitation for the Patriarch.

This is Case 3 from the Book of Equanimity.

The ruler of a country invited the 27th ancestor Hannyatara for a meal. The ruler asked, “Why don’t you read sutras?” The ancestor replied, “This poor follower of the way , when breathing in does not dwell in the realm of the skandhas, and when breathing out is not caught up in many externals. I always turn countless rolls of sutras.”

Hannyatara was Bodhidharma’s teacher. He’s unattached, so he says he doesn’t dwell in the realm of skandhas – form, sensation, perception, conception, and consciousness. He’s not caught up the idea of a separate self, so these things don’t carry him around the way they do you and me. He’s not attached to any of these things. “Sutra” usually refers to the teachings of the Buddha, but really it’s anything that’s undeniably true. So, for Hannyatara, breathign and being fully present in the moment is like the wisdom of countless Sutras.

Because the truth is present in the Sutras, but it’s also present in each breath. There’s some extra meaning in his word choice. He calls himself a “poor follower of the way.” He’s, in a sense, poor because he has nothing and holds on to nothing. There’s freedom in holding on to nothing.

This is how to be free: breathe in without attaching to what’s inside you, breathe out without attaching to what’s outside. If we can do that, we can see things with clarity. Breath in, don’t attach to delusion. Breathe out, don’t cling to judgments and desires. If we can be fully present and genuine in the world, then we’re revolving Sutras.

Completely become the act of breathing and that’s all there is.


Daniel is an American Buddhist Teacher based in Kansas City. In his day job he’s a union labor activist. Daniel was given teaching authority by the International Chan Buddhism Institute and gives talks at the One Mind Zen Hermitage.

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