The remainder of the Platform Sutra consists in an assortment of miscellaneous and unrelated subject matter. A portion amounts to a repetition of the sermon material on prajñā, along with sundry accounts of the superiority of the Sudden School over the Northern, Gradual School. Some of these sections are bracketed by certain interlocutors who pose questions to Hui-neng revolving around his teachings. By and large, these disparate accounts can be grouped into categories; our first consideration: the transmission of the Platform Sutra itself as proof of one’s familiarity with the Sudden School and one’s authority to pass on its teachings. 

The transmission of the Platform Sutra 


“Good friends, those in later generations who obtain my teaching will always see that my Dharma body is not apart from where they are. Good friends, take this doctrine of the Sudden Teaching, look at it and practice it together, fix your resolve on it, and receive and guard it. Because it is tantamount to serving the Buddha, if for all your lives you receive and guard it and do not retrogress, you will enter into the ranks of the sacred. Now I should like to hand it on. But from the past the Dharma has been handed down in silence; only when the great resolve has been made and there has been no retrogression from enlightenment (bodhi), then should it be passed on. When you meet people whose understanding is not the same as yours and whose resolve is not determined, never recklessly demonstrate the teaching to them. If you do so you will do them harm, and in any event it will be of no value whatsoever. If you happen to meet people who do not understand and who despise this teaching, for a hundred kalpas, ten thousand kalpas, a thousand lives, Buddhism will be extirpated.”

“The Master went to Mount Ts’ao-ch’i and for over forty years converted the people in Shao-chou and Kuang-chou. If one were to talk about the number of his disciples, to say several thousand people, both monks and laymen, would not do it justice. If one were to talk about the pivot of his teaching, it lies in the transmission of the Platform Sutra, and this serves as the authority. Unless a person has received the Platform Sutra, he has not received the sanction. The place, date, and the name of the recipient must be made known, and these are attached to it when it is transmitted. Someone who does not have the Platform Sutra and the sanction is not a disciple of the Southern School. Someone who has not yet obtained sanction, even though he preaches the doctrine of sudden enlightenment, does not know the basic teachings, and in the end will not be able to avoid disputes. Those who have the Dharma should practice it wholeheartedly, for  disputations show a contentious mind and are a betrayal of the Way.”

“The Master said: “You ten disciples, when later you transmit the Dharma, hand down the teaching of the one roll of the Platform Sutra; then you will not lose the basic teaching. Those who do not receive the Platform Sutra do not have the essentials of my teaching. As of now you have received them; hand them down and spread them among later generations. If others are able to encounter the Platform Sutra, it will be as if they received the teaching personally from me.” These ten monks received the teaching, made copies of the Platform Sutra, handed them down, and spread them among later generations. Those who received them have without fail seen into their own true natures.”

These passages emphatically assert that those who adhere to the Sudden School of Ch’an Buddhism are to be sealed with the teachings of Hui-neng, which are contained in a copy of the Platform Sutra. Earlier on, in the autobiographical accounts, Hui-neng downplayed the importance of passing down the Tradition of the Ch’an Patriarchs via Bodhidharma’s Robe and Bowl; he practically consigned them into the ground as mere “objects” as such, and nothing more. Hence, for the Sudden School, the Sutra of Hui-neng has supplanted Bodhidharma’s revered artifacts with reverent devotion to the Platform Sutra itself. Indeed, anyone who does not adhere to these core-teachings are considered anathema to Hui-neng’s unique adaptation of the Buddhadharma.

By way of juxtaposition, Lankavatarians who adhere to the Way of Unborn Mind Zen hold as their primary text, The Lankavatara Sutra; this is in keeping with Bodhidharma’s own original Dharmatic-action of handing down his copy of the Sutra to Hui-ko, who in turn passed it down in consecutive fashion for those who constituted the earliest Records of the Teachers and Students of the Lanka. The Platform Sutra can be considered a companion piece to the Lankavatara Sutra for Lankavatarians. Yea, as can be discerned through this present series, many of Hui-neng’s teachings—in general concerning the Prajñā-Parāmitā, and in particular with Wu-hsin—are fostered and aligned with the Tathagata-garbha teachings in keeping with Unborn Mind Zen. Like Tsung-mi, Lankavatarians emphasize sudden-awakening that is aligned with perpetual cultivation of the Bodhi-seed via sutra reading/study and disciplined Dhyāna (e.g.,Deep Samādhis).

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