Shenhui's “Stop Thief” Bid to be the Seventh Son

Alan Cole

in Fathering Your Father

Published by University of California Press

Published in print February 2009 | ISBN: 9780520254848
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780520943643 | DOI:
Shenhui's “Stop Thief” Bid to be the Seventh Son

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This chapter explores the next major attempt to rewrite Bodhidharma's supposed legacy which came when Shenhui argued that the current “descendants of Bodhidharma” were all fraudulent and that he was the sole inheritor of Bodhidharma's dharma. The four texts associated with Shenhui that reveal much about developments in mid-eighth-century genealogical writing and the effort to make Chinese buddhas. Several of his texts develop strategies for depicting Shenhui performing as a living buddha, both in his pronouncements and in nascent rituals that feature him as an officiating buddha. Also with Shenhui came the nomenclature of the Northern and Southern Schools of Chan, a polemical invention that has bedeviled Chan Studies for decades. Shenhui did to all prior Bodhidharma genealogies exactly what the Bodhidharma genealogies did to Chinese Buddhism: he established a new conduit of tradition and voided the claims of everyone outside of that conduit.

Keywords: Bodhidharma; Shenhui; descendants; genealogical writing; Bodhidharma's dharma

Chapter.  41921 words. 

Subjects: Buddhism

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