Readings of the Platform Sutra

Readings of the Platform Sutra

Morten Schlütter
Stephen F. Teiser
Copyright Date: 2012
Pages: 232
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.7312/schl15820
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    Readings of the Platform Sutra
    Book Description:

    The Platform Sutra comprises a wide range of important Chan/Zen Buddhist teachings. Purported to contain the autobiography and sermons of Huineng (638--713), the legendary Sixth Patriarch of Chan, the sutra has been popular among monastics and the educated elite for centuries. The first study of its kind in English, this volume offers essays that introduce the history and ideas of the sutra to a general audience and interpret its practices. Leading specialists on Buddhism discuss the text's historical background and its vaunted legacy in Chinese culture.

    Incorporating recent scholarship and theory, chapters include an overview of Chinese Buddhism, the crucial role of the Platform Sutra in the Chan tradition, and the dynamics of Huineng's biography. They probe the sutra's key philosophical arguments, its paradoxical teachings about transmission, and its position on ordination and other institutions. The book includes a character glossary and extensive bibliography, with helpful references for students, general readers, and specialists throughout. The editors and contributors are among the most respected scholars in the study of Buddhism, and they assess the place of the Platform Sutra in the broader context of Chinese thought, opening the text to all readers interested in Asian culture, literature, spirituality, and religion.

    eISBN: 978-0-231-50055-5
    Subjects: Religion, Philosophy, Language & Literature

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. PREFACE
    (pp. vii-xii)
    MORTEN SCHLÜTTER and STEPHEN F. TEISER
  4. 1 INTRODUCTION: The Platform Sūtra, Buddhism, and Chinese Religion
    (pp. 1-24)
    MORTEN SCHLÜTTER

    The Platform Sūtra is a formative scripture of the Chan school (known in Japan as Zen) and one of the most popular texts ever produced in Chinese Buddhism. It has been widely read in East Asia for twelve centuries by both monastics and laypeople, and in recent decades it has also become well known in Europe and the English-speaking world in translation.¹ Through its dissemination in the modern world, the Platform Sūtra has become increasingly important as a statement of Chan/Zen in the West as well as in East Asia, where a renewed interest in Buddhism has resulted in many...

  5. 2 THE FIGURE OF HUINENG
    (pp. 25-52)
    JOHN JORGENSEN

    The biography of Huineng offered in the Platform Sūtra is a compelling story of a hero who perseveres against great odds. Focusing closely on that narrative, this chapter presents the plot, traces the historical process through which it was created, discusses variations in the story, and considers related genres of writing in order to understand the Platform Sūtra’s long-lasting appeal.

    The Platform Sūtra is a composite text, combining what purports to be an autobiography with sermons, interviews with students, and deathbed instructions. However, the autobiography is not actually by Huineng (638–713); rather, it should be understood as a hagiography,...

  6. 3 THE HISTORY AND PRACTICE OF EARLY CHAN
    (pp. 53-76)
    HENRIK H. SØRENSEN

    Traditional Chinese accounts of the history of Chan Buddhism depict it as originating with the historical founder of Buddhism, śākyamuni, whose truth of enlightenment was passed down through a succession of Indian patriarchs until it reached the famed Bodhidharma (d. ca. 530), the First Patriarch, who traveled to China, where the lineage continued until it reached the Sixth Patriarch, Huineng (638–713). In other words, the history of Chan Buddhism was perceived as the unfolding of a monolithic tradition grounded in, and essentially identical with, the message of liberation taught by the Buddha. This claim was conveyed as part of...

  7. 4 THE PLATFORM SŪTRA AS THE SUDDEN TEACHING
    (pp. 77-108)
    PETER N. GREGORY

    The full title of the Platform Sūtra proclaims it as the sudden teaching. This chapter will try to unpack what that means by focusing on a close reading of the first two segments of the text: the story of the poetry contest for the mantle of the Sixth Patriarch related in the opening autobiographical portion (Yampolsky, secs. 2–11) and the core section of Huineng’s sermon that follows (secs. 12–19). I will argue that the sudden teaching is both a teaching and a method. Its doctrinal content is the teaching of nondualism. As a method, it entails the rejection...

  8. 5 TRANSMITTING NOTIONS OF TRANSMISSION
    (pp. 109-133)
    WENDI L. ADAMEK

    “Transmission” in the context or contexts that produced the Platform Sūtra is by no means a self-evident concept. There are at least three levels involved: transmission of a particular approach to the Buddhist teachings of liberation from suffering, transmission of the text itself as a kind of token or talisman conveying efficacy and authority, and transmission as part of an ideology legitimating a particular approach, efficacy, and authority. All of these levels involve contestation. If one approach to liberation, one form of Buddhist soteriology, is promoted, then others are explicitly or implicitly deemphasized or even dismissed. If a text or...

  9. 6 ORDINATION AND PRECEPTS IN THE PLATFORM SŪTRA
    (pp. 134-160)
    PAUL GRONER

    Monastic life has always occupied a central place in Chinese Buddhism and the forms of Buddhism imported into China from India and Central Asia. For more than two millennia Buddhist traditions have been devoted to interpreting and refining the ceremony of initiation (ordination) into the order of monks and nuns and the sets of rules (precepts) regulating the collective life of monastics. At the same time, the tradition has grappled to find ways of meaningfully involving laypeople in a religion that has traditionally been centered around monasteries and their residents. The Platform Sūtra occupies an important position in the perennial...

  10. 7 THE PLATFORM SUTRA AND CHINESE PHILOSOPHY
    (pp. 161-188)
    BROOK ZIPORYN

    The Chan movement is sometimes considered one of several attempts to “sinify” Buddhism, making it more accessible and palatable to Chinese audiences. The Platform Sūtra may be understood as a watershed in this process. This view is supported not only by the doctrinal ideas put forward in the text, to be discussed at length below, but even by its title and literary form.¹ The first thing that strikes us when we open this text is the vivid depiction of Huineng, the central figure, as an illiterate rustic possessed of an unschooled natural wisdom, confounding the more sophisticated book learning of...

  11. CHARACTER GLOSSARY
    (pp. 189-194)
  12. BIBLIOGRAPHY
    (pp. 195-208)
  13. CONTRIBUTORS
    (pp. 209-210)
  14. INDEX
    (pp. 211-220)