As cultivators of the Way, no matter where we are, we should “hide our light and cover our tracks.” We shouldn’t let our light shine outwardly. Only in this way can we cultivate.
The Sixth Patriarch, Great Master Huineng (Kind and Able), received the mind-to-mind seal from the Fifth Patriarch, Great Master Hongren (Vast Patience), at Dongshan (East Mountain) Monastery in Huangmei. After the transmission, the Fifth Patriarch instructed him to quickly return to his hometown in Canton and to seclude himself from worldly affairs, to avoid showing off, seeking fame, or courting publicity. The Sixth Patriarch did go into hiding, but he didn’t hide away in a mountain cave where no one could see him. You should understand this. Where did the Sixth Patriarch hide? Since he could feel at home in any situation, he mingled among hunters. He hid among them for fifteen years, keeping a low profile as he cultivated. In the midst of worldly people, he diligently cultivated the Way. No one knew he had obtained the Dharma. At that time, the Sixth Patriarch was still a layperson.
As cultivators of the Way, no matter where we are, we should “hide our light and cover our tracks.” We shouldn’t let our light shine outwardly. Only in this way can we cultivate. If we show off, it won’t be easy to cultivate. You shouldn’t go around advertising yourself, saying things like, “I have such-and-such spiritual skills; I’ve been practicing Chan meditation for so many years,” passing yourself off as a seasoned cultivator. That’s not the way a left-home person should behave. You must honestly and truly practice. Don’t go around trying to impress people. If you do, you are making a tremendous mistake and forfeiting your position as a left-home person. A proverb says: “When the musk-deer arrives, everyone can smell its scent. What need is there for fanfare?”