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Platform Sutra

DOI: 10.4324/9780415249126-G042-1
Version: v1,  Published online: 1998
Retrieved April 12, 2024, from

Article Summary

The Platform Sutra is the single most important work of early Chinese Chan Buddhism, perhaps of the entire Chan/Sôn/Zen tradition. It purports to contain the teachings of the Sixth Patriarch Huineng (638–713), whom it celebrates as an illiterate but enlightened sage. The centrepiece is an exchange of verses attributed to Shenxiu (606?–706) and Huineng, generally taken to represent, respectively, a gradual or progressive self-cultivation leading to perfect enlightenment and a sudden or subitist style of practice in which enlightenment is attained all at once. The Platform Sutra was actually composed around 780, more than a century after the events it describes. Its reportage is demonstrably inaccurate and its traditional interpretation problematic, but this does not alter the profound mythopoeic importance of the text.

Citing this article:
McRae, John R.. Platform Sutra, 1998, doi:10.4324/9780415249126-G042-1. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Taylor and Francis,
Copyright © 1998-2024 Routledge.

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