John M. Thompson

in Buddhism

ISBN: 9780195393521
Published online March 2013 | | DOI:

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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.

Article.  6470 words. 

Subjects: Buddhism ; Tibetan Buddhism ; Zen Buddhism

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