The Platform Sutra is one of the most important texts of Chan Buddhism. The content and talks are generally attributed to talks given by Huineng (638-713 C.E.), the Sixth Ancestral Master of Chan, although multiple authors wrote the text itself. Huineng was an illiterate woodcutter who happened to overhear someone reciting the Diamond Sutra and became awakened.

This text redefined many of the lofty Mahayana Buddhist concepts of precepts, meditation, thoughts, form, wisdom, mind, self-nature, bodhisattva path, and Buddhahood to make it accessible to the Chinese. It contains three key ideas that define Chan Buddhism:

  1. Transmission occurs from mind to mind and is not dependent on the study of orthodox doctrine.
  2. Both monastics and lay people can receive ordination because all sentient beings are originally buddhas. To realize this, one needs walk the Way and not just mouth the words. Huineng says: “Good friends, take refuge in the self-nature within your own minds. This is to take refuge in the true Buddha”, (page 51, Platform Sutra)
  3. Because of our inherent Buddhahood, awakening occurs suddenly, not gradually. But sentient beings differ according to their ability to realize this truth of their basic nature.”

This course consists of five Sunday afternoons: July 19, 26; August 2, 9, 16; from 2:00-3:30pm EST. All are encouraged to commit to all five classes.

Participants will be furnished a PDF version of the Platform Sutra (translated by John R. McRae, 2000) we will use in this class. Readings and discussion questions will be assigned for each class. The classes will be structured to have short talks on key points, some meditation, and then discussion and sharing of ideas. We will emphasize integration of the ideas into daily life and practice.

The course, held on Zoom, will be taught by Fran Berry, Sandra Fiegehen and Dewaine Rester. Suggested donation for this course is $60.