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Patriarchs on PaperA Critical History of Medieval Chan Literature$
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Alan Cole

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780520284067

Published to California Scholarship Online: May 2017

DOI: 10.1525/california/9780520284067.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM CALIFORNIA SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.california.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright University of California Press, 2022. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in CALSO for personal use.date: 29 June 2022

The Platform Sūtra and Other Conspiracy Theories

The Platform Sūtra and Other Conspiracy Theories

(p.137) 6 The Platform Sūtra and Other Conspiracy Theories
Patriarchs on Paper

Alan Cole

University of California Press

This chapter focuses on the Platform Sūtra. Composed sometime in the late eighth century, Platform Sūtra picks up and works over a number of claims regarding the Bodhidharma clan that had been put forth in earlier Chan works. The text opens with an unusually creative “autobiography” of Huineng, one that circles around an involved conspiracy supposedly orchestrated by master Hongren. As the details of the conspiracy come into focus, the reader learns that Hongren's chosen heir was not Shenxiu, but rather Huineng. With that startling “history” newly revealed roughly one hundred years after the events supposedly took place, the narrative turns to show Huineng giving a formal dharma teaching that, in places, appears to negate many of the building blocks of the Buddhist tradition, while also emphasizing the innate presence of perfect tradition within each person in the form of the buddha-nature.

Keywords:   Platform Sūtra, Bodhidharma clan, Chan works, Huineng, conspiracy, Hongren, Shenxiu, dharma teaching, Buddhist tradition, buddha-nature

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