Buddhism Huineng
by
John M. Thompson
  • LAST REVIEWED: 08 May 2017
  • LAST MODIFIED: 19 March 2013
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195393521-0178

Introduction

Huineng (also Hui-Neng or Hui Neng; Jpn. Enō; b. 638–d. 713), the legendary “Sixth Patriarch” of Chan (Jpn. Zen), is a seminal figure in Buddhist history. The focus of an immense body of lore, Huineng’s life mirrors the fortunes of Chan itself—a provincial Chinese version of Buddhism that rose to become a major cultural force throughout East Asia. Tradition holds that Huineng was an uncouth “barbarian” youth (possibly of Hmong or Miao descent) who, by dint of his innate intuitive insight, surpassed his more cultured fellow monks to earn the official Dharma seal and a lasting place in history. Huineng is intimately associated with the Platform Sutra of the Sixth Patriarch (Liuzi tanjing), one of the most influential of all Chinese Buddhist texts. Alleged to be a sermon from the lips of Huineng himself, this text provides a gripping first-person account of the Master’s life, while its cryptic discussion of Chan practice lays out the central concerns of Chan cultivation: “inherent enlightenment” (ben jue), “sudden awakening” (dun wu), “no thought” (wu nian), and the inseparability of “wisdom” (prajna) and “meditation” (dhyana). Traditions concerning Huineng, the history of early Chan, and the actual text and teachings of the Platform Sutra are so intertwined as to be virtually impossible to disentangle. Thus, while this bibliographic overview separates sources into distinct categories, the reader is advised to bear in mind that criteria for sorting works into these categories are not hard and fast. The author has taken pains to list both popular and scholarly sources, and to identify specific sections or pages focusing on Huineng in more general sources wherever possible.

General Overviews

Chan derives its name from the Chinese term channa, a transcription of the Sanskrit dhyāna (meditation, concentration). When Buddhism entered China, missionaries brought these dhyāna techniques with them, and they proved popular in some circles. By the 6th century, certain monasteries in the mountainous areas of central and southwestern China became known as places reserved for intense meditation training, where masters taught methods so powerful that those willing to persevere could awaken in this very life. It was out of this context that Chan as a distinct school (zong, “lineage”) and the legend of its most famous master arose. Of the works listed here, McRae 1988 (cited under Reference Works) is the most authoritative; Fung Yu-lan 1953 is a classic; and Liu 2006 brings a solid analytic perspective to the discussion. Dumoulin 1988 remains a must-read, although some of Dumoulin’s discussion has been brought into question by recent scholarship. Ford 2006 is good for undergraduates, while Ferguson 2011 and Wu 2003 provide more traditional accounts. The website Way of Perfect Emptiness is accessible, good for students and the merely curious. In addition, The Zen Site is a treasure trove of information, both popular and scholarly.

  • Dumoulin, Heinrich. Zen Buddhism: A History. Vol. 1, India and China. New York: Macmillan, 1988.

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    The first in a two-volume treatment of the history of Chan/Zen. Chapter 8 (pp. 123–154) focuses on Huineng, and the Platform Sutra in particular, although he is also discussed in chapter 7, in the section titled “The Claim of the Southern School” (pp. 111–114). Accessible and detailed, this is a fine scholarly overview for both beginners and experts.

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    • Ferguson, Andrew. Zen’s Chinese Heritage: The Masters and Their Teachings. Expanded ed. Somerville, MA: Wisdom, 2011.

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      Profiles twenty-five generations of Chan teachers, drawing mainly on the Wudeng huiyuan (Compendium of Five Lamps), a collection of patriarch tales compiled in the 12th century. The chapter on Huineng (pp. 43–47) is a short summary, noting historical and hagiographical issues.

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      • Ford, James Ishmael. Zen Master Who? A Guide to the People and Stories of Zen. Boston: Wisdom, 2006.

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        An accessible and entertaining book, more popular than scholarly. A good overview of the basics of Zen, especially as it has unfolded in America. Ford’s insightful reading of Huineng’s story—a real “Dharma talk”—is a fine example of contemporary Zen exegesis. Pages 14 through 20 focus on Huineng.

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        • Fung Yu-lan. “The Ch’an School.” In A History of Chinese Philosophy. Volume II, The Period of Classical Learning (from the Second Century B.C. to the Twentieth Century A.D.). Translated by Derk Bodde, 386–406. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1953.

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          Although dated, this magisterial overview of Chinese intellectual history remains a “must-read” for anyone interested in East Asian thought. The author (pinyin: Feng Youlan) discusses various Chan figures and incidents in addition to Huineng, but his presentation is clearly informed by the legends surrounding the Sixth Patriarch.

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          • Liu, JeeLoo. “The Chan School (Zen Buddhism).” In An Introduction to Chinese Philosophy: From Ancient Philosophy to Chinese Buddhism. By JeeLoo Liu, 304–331. Malden, MA: Blackwell, 2006.

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            Thoughtful presentation of Chan ideas and doctrines, placing them in the larger context of Chinese intellectual and cultural history. Good for undergraduates. Liu’s presentation is informed by her critical engagement with Huineng and the text of the Platform Sutra.

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            • Way of Perfect Emptiness.

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              Very accessible webpage devoted to Huineng, maintained by a nonprofit Daoist organization. Includes links to Huineng’s biography, excerpts from the Price-Wong translation of the Platform Sutra (Price and Wong Mou-lam 1990, cited under The Platform Sutra: Translations), several apocryphal anecdotes, and a paper entitled “Huineng and the Buddha Nature.”

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              • Wu, John C. H. The Golden Age of Zen: Zen Masters of the T’ang Dynasty. Bloomington, IN: World Wisdom, 2003.

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                Readable overview of the early masters of Chan/Zen, more hagiographic than historical. Includes an introduction by Thomas Merton (reprint also has an introduction by Kenneth Kraft), as well as chapters on Huineng’s life (pp. 51–66) and his teachings (pp. 67–80). Wu’s presentation of Huineng reflects a romanticized “Suzuki Zen” perspective, but his comparisons remain suggestive and intriguing. Originally published in 1967.

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                Reference Works

                The sources included here are especially useful as starting points for further research. Jorgensen 2004 provides a good overview of Chan in general. The articles by John McRae (McRae 1988, McRae 2004a, McRae 2004b), as well as Yampolsky 1987, reflect critical (versus traditional sectarian) scholarship. Jorgensen 2000 examines the traditional biography of Huineng and its importance in terms of monastic practice and institutions. Wu 2001 discusses Huineng’s philosophical teachings, while Thompson 2006 explores traditional tales of Huineng in terms of cross-cultural mythic/religious themes.

                • Jorgensen, John. “Huineng.” In Encyclopedia of Monasticism. Vol. 1. Edited by William M. Johnston, 615–616. Chicago: Fitzroy Dearborn, 2000.

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                  Concise two-page summary of hagiography and its appeal, plus a structural analysis and a history of his relics.

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                  • Jorgensen, John. “Chan School.” In Encyclopedia of Buddhism. Vol. 1. Edited by Robert E. Buswell Jr., 130–137. New York: Macmillan Reference USA, 2004.

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                    Solid and useful seven-page overview of Chan history, philosophy, and influence. Notes the important fact that Chan is the “most Confucian” of all forms of Buddhism.

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                    • McRae, John R. “The Story of Early Ch’an.” In Zen: Tradition and Transition: A Sourcebook by Contemporary Zen Masters and Scholars. Edited by Kenneth Kraft, 125–139. New York: Grove, 1988.

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                      A short discussion of Huineng, the Platform Sutra, and their roles in forming Chan as a self-conscious institutional religion. Summarizes much of the critical scholarship and presents it clearly and in a manner that is deeply respectful of the “deeper truths” at work in traditional Chan lore. Makes clear Huineng’s continuing significance in Chan/Zen tradition.

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                      • McRae, John R. “Huineng.” In Encyclopedia of Buddhism. Vol. 1. Edited by Robert E. Buswell Jr., 347–348. New York: Macmillan Reference USA, 2004a.

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                        Concise overview of information on Huineng by one of the great experts on early Chan. Good for undergraduates.

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                        • McRae, John R. “Platform Sūtra of the Sixth Patriarch (Liuzu tanjing).” In Encyclopedia of Buddhism. Vol. 2. Edited by Robert E. Buswell Jr., 655–656 New York: Macmillan Reference USA, 2004b.

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                          Short, useful article, best read in conjunction with McRae 2004a.

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                          • Thompson, John M. “Huineng (Hui-neng) (638–713 CE).” In Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Edited by James Fieser and Bradley Dowden. 2006.

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                            A critical overview of Huineng’s life and teachings, drawing on traditional accounts from the Platform Sutra as well as recent buddhological and sinological scholarship, in addition to religious studies and philosophy.

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                            • Wu, Laurence C. “Hui-neng (Huineng).” In A Companion to the Philosophers. Edited by Robert L. Arrington, 70–74. Malden, MA: Blackwell, 2001.

                              DOI: 10.1111/b.9780631229674.2001.00022.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                              Short overview of Huineng’s philosophical teachings. Good for nonspecialists. Originally published in 1999.

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                              • Yampolsky, Philip. “Huineng.” In Encyclopedia of Religion. Vol. 6. Edited by Mircea Eliade, 495–496. New York: Macmillan, 1987.

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                                A concise yet detailed overview of history and scholarship concerning Huineng, the Platform Sutra, etc. Revised for the second edition (published in 2005) by John R. McRae. Essential starting point for any research on Huineng.

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                                Anthologies

                                Excerpts from The Platform Sutra and other primary texts (along with scholarly introductions and analyses) are typically very useful for gaining more familiarity with Chan/Zen, and are especially appropriate for nonspecialists and undergraduates. Addiss 2008, Chan 1963, and Chan 2006 are especially good. De Bary, et al. 1972 gives a useful but short overview of Chan/Zen. Lu K’uan Yü 1993 is less scholarly but aimed at practitioners. Wong Mou-lam 1994 is technically problematic but important for its influence on American Buddhism in general and Zen in particular.

                                • Addiss, Stephen, trans. “Hui-neng (638–713), Autobiography (Complete) from the Platform Sūtra.” In Zen Sourcebook: Traditional Documents from China, Korea, and Japan. Edited by Stephen Addiss, Stanley Lombardo and Judith Roitman, 19–30. Indianapolis, IN: Hackett, 2008.

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                                  Translation of the autobiographical sections of the Platform Sutra. The book itself is a useful collection of primary Chan texts and features a cover image of Huineng chopping bamboo by Addiss himself (based on the iconic monochrome by the 12th-century Chan artist Liang Kai).

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                                  • Chan, Wing-tsit. “The Platform Scripture.” In A Source Book in Chinese Philosophy. By Wing-tsit Chan, 430–440. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1963.

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                                    Excerpts from Chan’s translation, focusing on Huineng’s teachings. Extensively annotated with the translator’s comments linking Huineng’s discourse to earlier Buddhist and Chinese texts and concepts. Chan’s Source Book is itself a true classic of modern comparative philosophy, and has served as a “work horse” for nearly all students of Chinese thought over the past fifty years.

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                                    • Chan, Wing-tsit. “Huineng, the Platform Scripture.” In Philosophical Classics. Vol. 6, Asian Philosophy. Edited by Forrest S. Baird and Raeburn S. Heimbeck, 474–491. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education, 2006.

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                                      Sections 1–37, often regarded by scholars as the most philosophically important portion, from Chan’s 1963 translation. Good for undergraduates.

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                                      • de Bary, William Theodore, Leon Hurvitz, and Philip Yampolsky. “The Meditation School: ‘Introduction’ and ‘The Platform Scripture of the Sixth Patriarch.’” In The Buddhist Tradition in India, China and Japan. Edited by William Theodore de Bary, 207–225. New York: Vintage, 1972.

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                                        A short overview of Chan/Zen in a useful anthology of primary Buddhist texts. The excerpts from the Platform Sutra, covering mainly Huineng’s “autobiography” and key teachings, are translated from Suzuki’s Japanese rendering of the Dunhuang text.

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                                        • Lu K’uan Yü, trans. “The Altar Sutra of the Sixth Patriarch.” In Ch’an and Zen Teachings. Vol. 3. By Lu K’uan Yü, 15–102. York Beach, ME: Samuel Weiser, 1993.

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                                          Part I of the third volume of the translation and compilation of primary Chan/Zen texts by Lu K’uan Yü, also called Charles Luk. Not scholarly in the modern sense, but intended for the serious Zen practitioner.

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                                          • Wong Mou-lam, trans. “Sutra Spoken by the Sixth Patriarch.” In The Buddhist Bible. 4th ed. Edited by Dwight Goddard, 497–558. Boston: Beacon, 1994.

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                                            An early version of the Price-Wong translation (Price and Wong Mou-lam 1990, cited under The Platform Sutra: Translations), albeit with some terminological differences. Goddard’s Bible is a “classic” in the history of American Buddhism, and it inspired many early American Buddhists, most famously Jack Kerouac. Wong’s translation of the Platform Sutra that’s included here is of the later Song era text, but it bears the signs of Goddard’s editorial hand.

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                                            Biographical and Hagiographical Studies

                                            Modern scholars now agree that many of the stories surrounding Huineng are later “mythical” reconstructions, but rhetorically they make Huineng the key figure in dharma transmission, and all successive Chan/Zen lineages trace themselves back to him. As with many legendary figures, it is difficult to sort fact from fiction when it comes to Huineng, as most of the sources were written long after his lifetime. They probably bear little resemblance to real historical events, and they actually contradict each other on certain details. Jorgensen 2005 is especially good and up to date, as is McRae 2003. Kuiken 2002 challenges some of the mainstream scholarship. Fontein 1993 examines several important archaeological discoveries concerning posthumous memorialization of several early Chan patriarchs that reveal much about the growth of Chan in East Asia and cast doubt on certain incidents in Huineng’s “biography.” Jorgensen 2008 provides some important information on more modern issues. Keremidschieff 2005 gives a concise discussion of history and legend surrounding Huineng. Mou 2006 provides an extensive and detailed overview of recent Chinese studies of Huineng and early Chan that should be particularly useful for those working in Chinese.

                                            • Fontein, Jan. “The Epitaphs of Two Chan Patriarchs.” Artibus Asia 53, Nos 1 & 2 (1993): 98–110.

                                              DOI: 10.2307/3250510Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                              Art historical analysis of archaeological discoveries of pagodas memorializing Sengcan, the “Third Patriarch,” and Shenhui, the “Seventh Patriarch” and Huineng’s Dharma successor. Refers to the apocryphal tale concerning the decapitation of Huineng’s “mummy” and theft of the skull for interment in a Korean Son (Chan) monastery in the 9th century, and casts doubt on the authenticity of the current “mummy” that is alleged to be Huineng’s. Conveys a sense of the posthumous sacred aura that arose around early Chan Patriarchs including Huineng, and provokes many questions about Chan’s development as an institutionalized religion.

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                                              • Jorgensen, John. Inventing Hui-neng, the Sixth Patriarch: Hagiography and Biography in Early Ch’an. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 2005.

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                                                Critical analysis of the Huineng legend and the saga of Early Chan. The author uses the life of Confucius as the model on which Huineng’s biography is based. Very good at showing the influence of Confucianism, politics, etc., on early Chan. The cover photo of Huineng’s alleged “mummy” alone is startling.

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                                                • Jorgensen, John. “Ssanggye-sa and Local Buddhist History: Propaganda and Relics in Struggle for Survival, 1850s–1930s.” Seoul Journal of Korean Studies 21.1 (June 2008): 87–127.

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                                                  Argues that the allegations that a relic (the skull) enshrined at Ssanggye Monastery in Korea is that of Huineng was part of a campaign launched in 1913 to support the monastery. Read in conjunction with Fontein 1993 (cited under Biographical and Hagiographical Studies). Includes full translation of documents.

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                                                  • Keremidschieff, Vladimir. Legends in Ch’an: The Northern/Southern Schools’ Split, Hui-neng and the Platform Sūtra. 2005.

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                                                    Overview of traditional stories concerning Huineng, drawing on critical historical scholarship.

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                                                    • Kuiken, Cornelis Jan. “The Other Neng.” PhD diss., University of Groningen, 2002.

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                                                      Huiken attempts to assert that Huineng was a real person who taught in Hengyang (modern-day Hengzhou) and not Shaozhou, as tradition claims. This is based on a poem by Song Zhiwen (b. c 650–d. c. 712). However, several scholars in prewar years claimed this poem was a forgery.

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                                                      • McRae, John R. Seeing through Zen: Encounter, Transformation, and Genealogy in Chinese Zen Buddhism. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2003.

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                                                        Very thorough scholarly discussion, by one of the leading experts on early Chan, of the rhetorical and historical dimensions involved in the rise of Chan and the creation of the lineage of Patriarchs, especially Huineng. Includes a photo of Huineng’s “Dharma verse” from the Platform Sutra posted in the back window of a taxicab in Tainan, Taiwan (p. 63).

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                                                        • Mou, Yongsheng. “Contemporary Chinese Study of Huineng in Mainland China.” Dao: A Journal of Comparative Philosophy 5.2 (June 2006): 349–369.

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                                                          Meticulous critical summary of scholarship on Huineng conducted in mainland China since the late 1970s. Good source for the increasing interest in Chan and the growing sophistication of Chinese scholarship in this area.

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                                                          Critical Studies of Early Chan

                                                          The publication of Yanagida 1967, along with Yampolsky’s translation of the Platform Sutra (Yampolsky 2012, cited under The Platform Sutra: Translations), revolutionized Chan/Zen scholarship and our understanding of the figure of Huineng. Works listed here are only a small sample. Adamek 2007 is a superb study that clearly owes much to Faure 1995. Cole 2009 works in a similar vein but has a rhetorical style that is challenging yet persuasive. Sharf 1992 provides detailed analysis of how important actual veneration and worship of Chan masters was in medieval China. Hu Shih 1953 is one of the first serious philosophical discussions of Chan for a Western audience. McRae 1986 is groundbreaking for its critical examination of the conflict between “Northern” and “Southern” schools. Maraldo 1985 draws on hermeneutic theory to ask critical questions about modern historical studies of Chan.

                                                          • Adamek, Wendi L. The Mystique of Transmission: On an Early Chan History and Its Contexts. New York: Columbia University Press, 2007.

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                                                            Massive, very specialized study of the Lidai fabao ji (Record of the dharma-jewel through the generations), one of the most important texts laying out the traditional Chan lineage. Exemplary work of scholarship that includes a complete translation of the text; Sections 9 (pp. 320–323) and 11 (pp. 328–330) focus on Huineng.

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                                                            • Cole, Alan. Fathering Your Father: The Zen of Fabrication in Tang Buddhism. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2009.

                                                              DOI: 10.1525/california/9780520254848.001.0001Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                              Provocative and iconoclastic rereading of early Chan texts. Cole takes the familiar “hermeneutics of suspicion” to an extreme but engages in detailed and engaging textual analysis.

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                                                              • Faure, Bernard. The Rhetoric of Immediacy: A Cultural Critique of Chan/Zen Buddhism. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1995.

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                                                                Along with Faure’s Chan Insights and Oversights (1993) and The Will to Orthodoxy: A Critical Genealogy of Northern Chan Buddhism (1997), this work exemplifies the detailed, technical studies of Chan/Zen that have emerged during the past two decades. Faure draws heavily on postmodern figures (Foucault, Derrida) in his powerful, wide-ranging, yet insightful critical “unmasking” of traditional understandings of Chan and Zen.

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                                                                • Hu Shih. “Ch’an (Zen) Buddhism in China: Its History and Method.” Philosophy East and West 3.1 (January 1953): 3–24.

                                                                  DOI: 10.2307/1397361Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                  Classic essay on the rise of Chan, the place of Huineng, the role of Shenhui in creating the “orthodox” lineage, and Chan’s seemingly “illogical” rhetoric. Dated but still important in the scholarly study of Chan/Zen. Interested parties might also wish to read D. T. Suzuki’s “Zen: A Reply to Hu Shih,” pp. 25–46, in the same volume.

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                                                                  • Maraldo, John C. “Is There Historical Consciousness Within Ch’an?.” Japanese Journal of Religious Studies 12.2–3 (June–September 1985): 141–172.

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                                                                    Critical response to a growing body of historical studies of Chan acknowledging that traditional Chan histories do not aim at historical accuracy. Maraldo raises pointed questions regarding the interests of contemporary historians in interpreting Chan.

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                                                                    • McRae, John R. The Northern School and the Formation of Early Ch’an Buddhism. Honolulu: University of Hawai‘i Press, 1986.

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                                                                      A major scholarly work drawing heavily on critical Japanese scholarship. McRae was one of the first to truly take on the traditional Chan/Zen story of the “Northern” versus “Southern” schools. He discusses issues of Huineng’s historical identity (pp. 1–6 and 60–69).

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                                                                      • Sharf, Robert H. “The Idolization of Enlightenment: On the Mummification of Ch’an Masters in Medieval China.” History of Religions 32.1 (August 1992): 1–31.

                                                                        DOI: 10.1086/463304Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                        Groundbreaking discussion of the common practice of mummifying the corpses of Chan masters to serve as icons, and their complex roles in Chan ritual and practice. Specifically discusses Huineng’s mummy (p. 10) and its possible inspiration for the Japanese Vinaya master Ganjin (pp. 688–763) to have his corpse mummified, albeit unsuccessfully (p. 24).

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                                                                        • Yanagida, Seizan. Shoki Zenshū shisho no kenkyū. Kyoto: Hōzōkan, 1967.

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                                                                          The landmark study of Chan/Zen that shifted Japanese scholarship from a more traditional sectarian approach to critical historiography. A bit dated but still valuable. Reissued in 2000 with minor updates as Volume 6 of Yanagida’s collected works, Yanagida Seizan zenshū.

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                                                                          Comparative Studies

                                                                          Chan/Zen has long excited Western scholars from various disciplines, and it continues to be at the forefront of comparative and cross-cultural research, as well as interfaith dialog. The following is just the barest sample of works in this area. Laycock 1985 and Bossart 1986 discuss Huineng’s thought in conjunction with Continental philosophy (Husserl and Sartre, respectively). Webb 1982 and Lee 1984 examine aspects of Huineng’s life and thought in terms of their significance for Christianity. By contrast, Miller 1983 and Sharma 1992 look at traditional stories of Huineng in the larger context of comparative religions. Loy 1997 uses Huineng as part of a larger project on a comparative philosophy of mysticism. Lee 2005 takes a more practical approach, looking at possible applications of Huineng’s thought for contemporary psychotherapy.

                                                                          • Bossart, William. “Sartre’s Theory of Consciousness and the Zen Doctrine of No Mind.” In The Life of the Transcendental Ego. Edited by Edward S. Casey and Donald V. Morano, 126–150. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1986.

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                                                                            Comparative philosophical analysis of Sartre’s pour-soi and Huineng’s wuxin.

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                                                                            • Laycock, Steven W. “Hui-Neng and the Transcendental Standpoint.” Journal of Chinese Philosophy 12 (1985): 179–196.

                                                                              DOI: 10.1111/j.1540-6253.1985.tb00006.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                              Argues that Huineng’s “dharma verse” from the Platform Sutra suggests a perspective similar to Husserlian transcendental phenomenology.

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                                                                              • Lee, Ming. “Chinese Ch’an Buddhism and Mental Culture: Implications of the Sixth Patriarch’s Platform Sutra on Counseling and Psychotherapy.” Hsi Lai Journal of Humanistic Buddhism 6 (2005): 219–228.

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                                                                                Explores possible applications of Chan teachings to counseling and psychotherapy, focusing on the Platform Sutra.

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                                                                                • Lee, Peter K. H. “Christianized hsin-hsing Spirituality.” Ching Feng 28 (1984): 73–93.

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                                                                                  A discussion of the Chinese “heart-nature” theme running through Chinese thought. Focuses on “heart-nature” as central to the spirituality of Mencius, Zhuangzi, and Huineng, and how their views may have relevance for Western Christianity. Highly suggestive explorations in comparative spiritualities.

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                                                                                  • Loy, David. Nonduality: A Study in Comparative Philosophy. Reprint. Atlantic Highlands, NJ: Humanities Press International, 1997.

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                                                                                    An intriguing exercise in comparative mysticisms, both “East” and “West,” focusing especially on Advaita Vedanta, Mahayana Buddhism, and Daoism. Loy is a longtime Zen instructor and international spokesperson for Engaged Buddhism. His discussions of Huineng (p. 32, 142 ff., etc.), although very short, distill the Sixth Patriarch’s teachings so as to mimic the “flash of insight” (satori) so prominent in descriptions of Chan/Zen practice. Originally published in 1988 (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press).

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                                                                                    • Miller, Alan L. “Danger and Distance in the Religious Category of the ‘Saint’: Ruminations on the Morphology of Japanese Hagiography.” Journal of Religious Studies 11 (1983): 31–44.

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                                                                                      A comparative analysis of tales about Kukai and Huineng, viewing them in terms of idealized folktale heroes exhibiting the coincidence of opposites (sacred and profane, danger and protection).

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                                                                                      • Sharma, Arvind. “The Illiteracy of Muhammad and Hui-neng.” In Buddhist Heritage in India and Abroad. Edited by G. Kuppuram and K. Kumudamani, 317–323. Delhi: Sundeep Prakashan, 1992.

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                                                                                        Comparison of the theme of illiteracy in the traditional biographies of the Prophet Muhammad and the Sixth Patriarch. Suggests this is a common cross-cultural motif in hagiographies.

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                                                                                        • Webb, Eugene. “Luther and Zen: Cultural Implications of Doctrines of Sudden Deliverance.” Journal of the American Academy of Religion 48.3–4 (1982): 69–85.

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                                                                                          Unique comparative study of the issue of “sudden vs. gradual” in terms of religious salvation and awakening.

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                                                                                          The Platform Sutra

                                                                                          The Platform Sutra is an immensely complicated text that has undergone numerous revisions over the centuries. Purporting to be a series of sermons delivered by Huineng from a high seat in the lecture hall (the “platform” alluded to in the title) of Dafan Temple, this text remains the only Chinese Buddhist discourse to be accorded sūtra (“scriptural”) status. Currently there are four extant “original” versions of this text: the earliest extant copy, discovered by Aurel Stein in the Dunhuang caves in northwestern China, dates to around 850 but is full of errors—probably to reflect the pronunciations in the local dialect of northwest China. The original Dunhuang manuscript resides in the Stein collection of the British Museum in London. Various later versions are basically expansions attributed to different scribes.

                                                                                          Translations

                                                                                          The Platform Sutra has been translated many times. Yampolsky 2012 (first published in 1967) remains the best English translation of the Dunhuang text, and draws extensively on Suzuki and Rentarō 1934. Chan 1963 is also good, especially when it comes to rendering Chinese idiomatic expressions, while McRae 2000 provides a recent version of the Yuan text. Price and Wong Mou-lam 1990 and Red Pine 2006 are not as scholarly. Jarand 1989 is good for those who also read German. Cleary 1998 is noteworthy for its inclusion of what is purported to be the only surviving commentary by Huineng. Buddhist Text Translation Society 2002 presents a more traditional commentary (along with a translation) that serves as an interesting counterbalance to more secular scholarship.

                                                                                          • Buddhist Text Translation Society. The Sixth Patriarch’s Dharma Jewel Platform Sutra, with the Commentary of Tripitaka Master Hua. 3d ed. Burlingame, CA: The Buddhist Text Translation Society, 2002.

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                                                                                            Based upon the BTTS’s first-edition translation of the standard 13th-century version. This reissue includes a biography of Master Hsuan Hua, his introduction and commentary, and pen-and-ink portraits of several Patriarchs going back to the historical Buddha. Master Hsuan Hua taught at Nan Hua Temple, and his biography includes the story of his vision of Huineng commissioning him to go to America to spread the dharma.

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                                                                                            • Chan, Wing-tsit, trans. The Platform Scripture: The Basic Classic of Zen Buddhism. New York: St. John’s University Press, 1963.

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                                                                                              A complete translation and scholarly discussion of the Dunhuang manuscript (the earliest extant version), following D. T. Suzuki’s annotated Japanese rendition published in 1934.

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                                                                                              • Cleary, Thomas, trans. The Sūtra of Hui-Neng: Grand Master of Zen, with Hui-Neng’s Commentary on the Diamond Sūtra. Boston: Shambhala, 1998.

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                                                                                                Another volume in Shambhala’s “Dragon Editions,” this is a translation of the Zongbao version of the text. Includes detailed notes on each chapter of the sutra and the English translation of what is purported to be the only extant commentary attributed to the Sixth Patriarch himself.

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                                                                                                • Jarand, Ursula, trans. Hui-neng: Das Sutra des Sechsten Patriarchen: Das Leben und die Zen-Lehre des chinesischen Meisters Hui-neng (638–713). Munich: O. W. Barth Verlag, 1989.

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                                                                                                  German translation of the Platform Sutra. Includes Soko Morinaga Roshi’s commentary.

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                                                                                                  • McRae, John, trans. The Platform Sūtra of the Sixth Patriarch. BDK English Tripitaka 73-II. Berkeley, CA: Numata Center for Buddhist Translation and Research, 2000.

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                                                                                                    An English translation of the full 13th-century version of the text by one of the premier scholars of Chan/Zen Buddhism. Excellent; very scholarly.

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                                                                                                    • Price, A. F., and Wong Mou-lam, trans. The Diamond Sutra and the Sutra of Hui-Neng. Boston: Shambhala, 1990.

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                                                                                                      From the “Shambhala Dragon Editions” series, this work presents two of the most important texts in early Chan. Sparse annotation but captures the iconoclastic spirit of Chan—a fact underscored by the cover image of famous 13th-century black ink painting of Huineng tearing up a sutra. Wong’s translation of the Platform Sutra was the first ever done into English (in the 1930s), and for that reason alone it is significant.

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                                                                                                      • Red Pine, trans. The Platform Sūtra: The Zen Teaching of Hui-neng. Berkeley, CA: Counterpoint, 2006.

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                                                                                                        Recent translation of the Dunhuang text with commentary by Red Pine (Bill Porter), along with appendices that include the other sections found in the later expanded versions of the scripture. Also includes Chinese versions of technical Sanskrit terms. Enthusiastically received by many contemporary Zen practitioners, who maintain that it should replace Yampolsky’s version as the definitive English translation.

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                                                                                                        • Suzuki, D. T., and Kōda Rentarō, eds. Tonkō shutsudo Rokuso dankyō. Tokyo: Morie Shoten, 1934.

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                                                                                                          Japanese edition of the Dunhuang text, divided into fifty-seven sections, that has become standard among most later translations.

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                                                                                                          • Yampolsky, Philip B., trans. The Platform Sutra of the Sixth Patriarch: The Text of the Tun-Huang Manuscript. New York: Columbia University Press, 2012.

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                                                                                                            Still the definitive scholarly English translation, based upon the Dunhuang manuscript, and following Suzuki’s punctuation and divisions. Heavily annotated, it includes a lengthy introduction (over one hundred pages), glossary, and a critical edition of the Chinese text at the very end. A must-read for anyone seeking to understand Chan/Zen tradition and its most famous Patriarch. Originally published in 1967. Reissue includes new forward by Morten Schlütter and an updated glossary.

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                                                                                                            Critical Studies

                                                                                                            The Platform Sutra continues to be a rich mine of historical and textual study. Bielefeldt and Lancaster 1975 provides a solid overview of scholarship up to 1975. Yampolsky 1990 and Schlütter 1989 are both good summaries (Yampolsky is especially good for nonspecialists). McRae 1989 is a review of a major international conference on the Platform Sutra that summarizes papers by many of the major figures in the field of Zen studies. Jorgensen 2002 is an overview of more recent critical editions of the sutra. Schlütter 2007 is a comparative textual study looking at four “original” versions of the text, whereas Poceski 2008 provides essential context for understanding the text in terms of Chan liturgy. Schlütter and Teiser 2012 is the most recent collection of scholarly studies of the Platform Sutra and is highly recommended.

                                                                                                            • Bielefeldt, Carl, and Lewis Lancaster. “T’an Ching (Platform Sūtra).” Philosophy East and West 25.2 (1975): 197–222.

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                                                                                                              Review article of scholarship on the Platform Sutra through the mid-1970s. Dated but useful.

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                                                                                                              • Jorgensen, John. “The Platform Sutra and the Corpus of Shenhui: Recent Critical Text Editions and Studies.” Revue Bibliographique de Sinologie 20 (2002): 399–438.

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                                                                                                                Critical overview of recent studies and editions of the Platform Sutra.

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                                                                                                                • McRae, John R. “The Platform Sūtra in Religious and Cultural Perspective.” The Eastern Buddhist 22.2 (1989): 130–135.

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                                                                                                                  Review of the Fo Kuang Shan International Conference on Ch’an Buddhism focusing on the Platform Sutra that was held 9–13 January 1989. Among the major scholars delivering papers were Robert Gimello, Paul Groner, Sungbae Park, and Yanigida Seizan, who delivered the keynote address. A good summary that shows how Huineng and the Platform Sutra continue to be the focus of intense scholarly (and religious) attention.

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                                                                                                                  • Poceski, Mario. “Chan Rituals of the Abbots’ Ascending the Dharma Hall to Preach.” In Zen Ritual: Studies of Zen Buddhist Theory in Practice. Edited by Steven Heine and Dale S. Wright, 83–111. New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008.

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                                                                                                                    Essay focusing on the formal ritual context in which an abbot would deliver a sermon before the entire assembly of monks (and laity as well), tracing such performances back to the very beginnings of Chan. Makes it clear that the Platform Sutra itself is an idealized depiction of a common public ceremony, and as such it exemplifies a long-standing Chan liturgical practice that incorporates elements of older Buddhist rites.

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                                                                                                                    • Schlütter, Morten. “A Study in the Genealogy of the Platform Sutra.” Studies in Central and East Asian Religions 2 (Autumn 1989): 53–115.

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                                                                                                                      Detailed analysis of the textual evolution of the Platform Sutra over time.

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                                                                                                                      • Schlütter, Morten. “Transmission and Enlightenment in Chan Buddhism Seen Through the Platform Sūtra.” Chung-Hwa Buddhist Journal 20 (2007): 379–400.

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                                                                                                                        Critical textual study of canonical versions of the sutra, focusing on depictions of dharma transmission.

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                                                                                                                        • Schlütter, Morten, and Stephen F. Teiser, eds. Readings of the Platform Sūtra. New York: Columbia University Press, 2012.

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                                                                                                                          Recent collection of essays from leading scholars of early Chan discussing issues surrounding the Platform Sutra and Huineng. Aimed at new readers and nonspecialists.

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                                                                                                                          • Yampolsky, Philip B. “The Platform Sūtra of the Sixth Patriarch.” In Eastern Canons: Approaches to the Asian Classics. Edited by William Theodore de Bary and Irene Bloom, 241–250. New York: Columbia University Press, 1990.

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                                                                                                                            A short distillation of the salient points from Yampolsky’s historical-critical introduction to his translation. Very good for a nonspecialist.

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                                                                                                                            Traditional Commentaries and Expositions

                                                                                                                            Because of its importance in the development of Chan, it is helpful to get some familiarity with more traditional sectarian views of the Platform Sutra. Hsing Yun 2010 is particularly detailed and insightful, while Sheng-yen 1992 is a good example of a contemporary master’s style. Morinaga 1990 presents a “Rinzai reading” by a humorous and intriguing modern figure. Chiang 2010 gives a reading of the text specifically pitched to the modern world.

                                                                                                                            • Chiang, Victor. Chan of Master and CEO: Explanatory of Sutra of Platform of Sixth Patriarch of the Chan Sect of China. Charleston, SC: CreateSpace, 2010.

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                                                                                                                              English translation of a modern interpretation by the president of the Buddhist Tripitaka Foundation and a research fellow at Peking University. Originally written for a symposium on Chan held in honor of Huineng’s birthday at Nanhua Temple.

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                                                                                                                              • Hsing Yun. The Rabbit’s Horn: A Commentary on the Platform Sutra. Edited by Yi Chao Si. Hacienda Heights, CA: Buddha’s Light, 2010.

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                                                                                                                                Commentary by lifelong monk/author and founder of the Fo Guang Shan monastic order of “Humanistic Buddhism.” The title comes from a saying of Huineng’s that one must look “past even the rabbit’s horn of textual knowledge to look within and understand one’s true nature.”

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                                                                                                                                • Morinaga, Soko. “The Sixth Patriarch’s True Face.” Middle Way 65 (November 1990): 145–149.

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                                                                                                                                  “Dharma talk” focusing on Huineng by a well-known modern Rinzai master.

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                                                                                                                                  • Sheng-yen. “The Platform Sutra of the Sixth Patriarch.” Translated by Yu Chun-fang. Chung-Hwa Buddhist Journal 3.5 (July 1992): 319–340.

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                                                                                                                                    A traditional Chan exposition of the Platform Sutra by one of the most prolific and scholarly contemporary Chan masters.

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                                                                                                                                    Teachings

                                                                                                                                    Like most sermons, the Platform Sutra does not systematically present doctrines. It addresses the faithful, exhorting them to see into their “original nature” and awaken here and now. Huineng explicitly says that his teachings do not originate with him, but he goes on to introduce several important ideas and initiates the peculiar style of teaching that comes to be enshrined in later Chan/Zen tradition. Suzuki 1972 is a classic study, while Wang 2006 is a good example of modern philosophical discussions of Huineng’s thought. Both Lai 1979 and Demieville 1987 focus on specific metaphors Huineng employs. Cheng 1992 argues that the Platform Sutra actually follows the yin-yang mode of thought underlying the Yijing. Kalupahana 1992 places the sutra in the context of Chan’s development within the larger history of Buddhist discourse. Myers 2000 critically examines the notion of “practice” Huineng preaches. Hershock 2005 is probably the best one-volume presentation of Chan philosophy in English.

                                                                                                                                    • Cheng, Chung-ying. “Relativity and Transcendence in the Platform Sutra of Hui-Neng: On Polarities and Their Philosophical Significance.” Journal of Chinese Philosophy 19 (1992): 73–80.

                                                                                                                                      DOI: 10.1111/j.1540-6253.1992.tb00111.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                      Analysis of the Platform Sutra arguing that the text’s methodological structure is based on modes of thought from the Yijing.

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                                                                                                                                      • Demieville, Paul. “The Mirror of the Mind.” In Sudden and Gradual: Approaches to Enlightenment in Chinese Thought. Edited by Peter N. Gregory, 13–40. Honolulu: University of Hawai‘i Press, 1987.

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                                                                                                                                        Exploration of the “mind as mirror” metaphor found in both Shenxiu and Huineng’s “dharma verses” in the Platform Sutra, tracing its antecedents and subsequent rhetorical uses.

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                                                                                                                                        • Hershock, Peter D. Chan Buddhism. Honolulu: University of Hawai‘i Press, 2005.

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                                                                                                                                          Fine one-volume overview of Chan/Zen philosophy, skillfully steering a “middle way” between critical-historical scholarship and insight into the spiritual meaning of Chan/Zen teachings and practice. Hershock profiles Huineng (pp. 93–109), as well as other Chan masters (Bodhidharma, Mazu, Linji). Remarkable combination of scholarship and spiritual acumen.

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                                                                                                                                          • Kalupahana, David J. “Silent Meditation and Ch’an (Zen): The Voiceless Tradition.” In A History of Buddhist Philosophy: Continuities and Discontinuities. By David J. Kalupahana, 228–236. Honolulu: University of Hawai‘i Press, 1992.

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                                                                                                                                            Kalupahana’s follow-up to his earlier 1976 overview of Buddhist philosophy. In this piece, the author situates the rhetorical dynamic in the Platform Sutra within the context of Buddhist thought as it developed, arguing that Huineng sought to steer a middle path in Buddhist religious life between the extremes of textual study and silent meditation.

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                                                                                                                                            • Lai, Whalen. “Ch’an Metaphors: Waves, Water, Mirror, Lamp.” Philosophy East and West 29.3 (July 1979): 243–253.

                                                                                                                                              DOI: 10.2307/1398930Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                              An illuminating critical discussion of key metaphors used in Chan texts, with special attention to the Platform Sutra.

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                                                                                                                                              • Myers, Steven W. “Practice in the Platform Sūtra of the Sixth Patriarch.” MA diss., McGill University, 2000.

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                                                                                                                                                Critical study of “practice” in the Platform Sutra, arguing that Huineng espouses an intentionless, continuous, yet detached awareness rooted in the “suchness of things” inherent in sentient beings.

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                                                                                                                                                • Suzuki, D. T. The Zen Doctrine of No-Mind: The Significance of the Sūtra of Hui-neng (Wei-lang). York Beach, ME: Weiser, 1972.

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                                                                                                                                                  Originally published in 1969, this is a posthumous work by one of the foremost (and controversial) popularizers of Zen in the West. This book demonstrates Suzuki’s awareness of critical scholarship on Chan/Zen tradition and a real understanding of many of the issues involved in Huineng’s “biography.”

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                                                                                                                                                  • Wang, Youru. “Dao Must Flow Freely: The De-Substantialization of Buddha Nature in Huineng Chan.” International Journal for Field-Being 5.1 (2006): 1–6.

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                                                                                                                                                    Investigation of Huineng’s views from the Platform Sutra as a deconstructive strategy in Chan tradition.

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                                                                                                                                                    Influence on Asian Traditions

                                                                                                                                                    Over time, Huineng became a veritable icon of Chan/Zen, and his legend decisively shaped Chan/Zen tradition. Yet his influence extends far beyond Buddhism, as the development of neo-Confucianism and the rise of later forms of Daoism (especially the Quanzhen school) would be unthinkable without him. As a literary figure and focus of religious devotion, Huineng also exerted considerable influence on popular culture throughout East Asia. Berling 1987 locates Huineng within the development of the Chan genre of “Recorded Sayings.” Both McRae 2000 and Yamada 2004 discuss Huineng’s influence on other distinctive genres (e.g., “encounter dialogs,” koans) in Chan/Zen tradition. Shao 2006 demonstrates how the figure of Huineng influenced Chinese popular culture, especially in the later medieval period.

                                                                                                                                                    • Berling, Judith A. “Bringing the Buddha Down to Earth: Notes on the Emergence of Yü-lu as a Buddhist Genre.” History of Religions 27.1 (August 1987): 56–88.

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                                                                                                                                                      Uses genre theory of Tzvetan Todorov to analyze the development of “Recorded Sayings” in early Chan tradition. Pages 70–71 present Huineng (and the Platform Sutra) as a pivotal moment in the transition from the more “Indic” rhetorical structure and style of the “Perfection of Wisdom” texts to the more “Sinitic” style of later Chan/Zen texts.

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                                                                                                                                                      • McRae, John R. “The Antecedents of Encounter Dialogue in Chinese Ch’an Buddhism.” In The Koan: Texts and Contexts in Zen Buddhism. Edited by Steven Heine and Dale S. Wright, 46–74. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 2000.

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                                                                                                                                                        Historical/literary analysis of the central role played by dialogs and narratives in Chan tradition. Specifically focuses on Huineng on pages 50, 55–56, and 66–69.

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                                                                                                                                                        • Shao, Ping. “Huineng, Subhūti, and Monkey’s Religion in Xiyou ji.” Journal of Asian Studies 65.4 (November 2006): 713–740.

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                                                                                                                                                          Argues that the character of Monkey from the novel The Journey to the West is best understood as an ideal “Buddhist” religious practitioner who combines Huineng and Subhūti. Good example of Huineng’s lasting influence on East Asian popular culture.

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                                                                                                                                                          • Yamada, Koun. The Gateless Gate: The Classic Book of Zen Koans. Somerville, MA: Wisdom Books, 2004.

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                                                                                                                                                            Recent translation with commentary of the Wumen guan, a classic collection of koans (gongan) that has played a large role in later Zen history. Huineng appears in case 17, case 23, and case 29.

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