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The Platform Sutra of the Sixth Patriarch

Philip Yampolsky

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Paper, 276 pages,
ISBN: 978-0-231-15957-9
$34.00 / £23.50

with a new foreword and updated glossary
April, 2012
Cloth, 276 pages,
ISBN: 978-0-231-15956-2
$105.00 / £72.50

Dating back to the eighth century C.E., the Platform Sūtra of the Sixth Patriarch is a foundational text of Chan/Zen Buddhism that reveals much about the early evolution of Chinese Chan and the ideological origins of Japanese Zen and Korean Sŏn. Purported to be the recorded words of the famed Huineng, who was understood to be the Sixth Patriarch of Chan and the father of all later Chan/Zen Buddhism, the Platform Sūtra illuminates fundamental Chan Buddhist principles in an expressive sermon that describes how Huineng overcame great personal and ideological challenges to uphold the exalted lineage of the enlightened Chan patriarchs while realizing the ultimate Buddhist truth of the original, pure nature of all sentient beings.

Huineng seems to reject meditation, the value of good karma, and the worship of the buddhas, conferring instead a set of “formless precepts” on his audience, marked by embedded notes in the text. In his central message, an inherent, perfect buddha nature stands as the original true condition of all sentient beings, which people of all backgrounds can experience for themselves. Philip Yampolsky’s masterful translation contains extensive explanatory notes and an edited, amended version of the Chinese text. His introduction critically considers the background and historical setting of the work and locates Huineng’s place within the history and legends of Chan Buddhism. This new edition features a foreword by Morten Schlütter further situating the Platform Sūtra within recent historical research and textual evidence, and an updated glossary that includes the modern pinyin system of transcription.

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About the Author

Philip B. Yampolsky (1920–1996) was professor of East Asian languages and cultures and director of the C. V. Starr East Asian Library at Columbia University. An eminent translator and scholar of Zen Buddhist texts, he edited Letters of Nichiren and Selected Writings of Nichiren and translated The Zen Master Hakuin: Selected Writings. Morten Schlütter is an associate professor at the University of Iowa. He is the author of How Zen Became Zen: The Dispute Over Enlightenment and the Formation of Chan Buddhism in Song-Dynasty China and coeditor, with Stephen F. Teiser, of Readings of the Platform Sūtra.

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