The Platform Sutra

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The Platform Sutra

Postby Ngawang Drolma » Fri Jan 29, 2010 2:41 am

I think it would be nice to do a group study of the Platform Sutra.

Any takers? :)

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Re: The Platform Sutra

Postby bodom » Fri Jan 29, 2010 3:18 am

My favorite Mahayana sutra. I enjoy Red Pines translation. Im in.

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Re: The Platform Sutra

Postby kirtu » Fri Jan 29, 2010 5:37 pm

Ngawang Drolma wrote:I think it would be nice to do a group study of the Platform Sutra.


The Platform Sutra is not a sutra strictly speaking. I agree that it makes a very valuable contribution in terms of the teachings of an enlightened teacher, even if it is likely mythologized as Dr. McRae says.

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Re: The Platform Sutra

Postby meindzai » Fri Jan 29, 2010 7:21 pm

I read Suzki's Doctrine of No-Mind which largely drew on this (non) Sutra, and felt like I was probably missing a lot of what he was getting at since I hadn't read the Sutra itself. Was planning on getting back to it one of these days.
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Re: The Platform Sutra

Postby kirtu » Fri Jan 29, 2010 9:21 pm

meindzai wrote:I read Suzki's Doctrine of No-Mind which largely drew on this (non) Sutra, and felt like I was probably missing a lot of what he was getting at since I hadn't read the Sutra itself. Was planning on getting back to it one of these days.


It's great! A young man in the market place overhears a monk reciting the Diamond Sutra and has an awakening. The young man goes to a monastery where the abbot recognizes his potential and assigns him to grind rice in the kitchen. After many years the abbot announces his intention to pass the lineage on to someone. They have to demonstrate their insight in a poem. The head monk writes a poem about the body being a Bodhi tree, the mind a mirror and the need to keep it clean and clear. The rice grinding young kitchen hand responded very profoundly:

Originally Bodhi has no tree,
The bright mirror has no stand.
Originally there is not a single thing:
Where can dust alight?


The master erased the young man's poem, praised the head monk but transmitted the lineage to the young man secretly with instructions to head for the hills and not teach for a period of time. The abbot also retired that night. A big chase ensues with the head monk and his followers chasing the young man for the instruments of religious power, the robe and bowl. The young man throws them at the head monk who then realizes his error. Later the young man, now old, Huineng, gives a couple of sermons. :rolling:

Now we have this text and not even a t-shirt!

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Re: The Platform Sutra

Postby Huifeng » Sat Jan 30, 2010 2:27 am

kirtu wrote:
Ngawang Drolma wrote:I think it would be nice to do a group study of the Platform Sutra.


The Platform Sutra is not a sutra strictly speaking. I agree that it makes a very valuable contribution in terms of the teachings of an enlightened teacher, even if it is likely mythologized as Dr. McRae says.

Kirt


Yes, often the claim is made "the only Chinese work to be called a 'sutra'."

However, in Chinese of course, it is called a 經 jing, and the word "jing" basically means "classic text", and has been used for a number of works many centuries before Buddhism was even heard of in that part of the world. eg. the Daode Jing "Classic on the Path of Virtue" of Laozi, or Shi Jing "Classics of Poetry".

They borrowed the term to translate "sutra", but that doesn't mean that all "jing" are "sutra", as it still obviously retains it's original, broader meaning.

This is even before we discuss where the Liuzu Tan Jing "Platform Sutra (sic) of the Sixth Patriarch" actually comes from, and who composed it.
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Re: The Platform Sutra

Postby bodom » Sun Jan 31, 2010 7:50 pm

So when do we start?

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Re: The Platform Sutra

Postby meindzai » Mon Feb 01, 2010 8:54 pm

kirtu wrote:
meindzai wrote:I read Suzki's Doctrine of No-Mind which largely drew on this (non) Sutra, and felt like I was probably missing a lot of what he was getting at since I hadn't read the Sutra itself. Was planning on getting back to it one of these days.


It's great! A young man in the market place overhears a monk reciting the Diamond Sutra and has an awakening. The young man goes to a monastery where the abbot recognizes his potential and assigns him to grind rice in the kitchen. After many years the abbot announces his intention to pass the lineage on to someone. They have to demonstrate their insight in a poem. The head monk writes a poem about the body being a Bodhi tree, the mind a mirror and the need to keep it clean and clear. The rice grinding young kitchen hand responded very profoundly:

Originally Bodhi has no tree,
The bright mirror has no stand.
Originally there is not a single thing:
Where can dust alight?


The master erased the young man's poem, praised the head monk but transmitted the lineage to the young man secretly with instructions to head for the hills and not teach for a period of time. The abbot also retired that night. A big chase ensues with the head monk and his followers chasing the young man for the instruments of religious power, the robe and bowl. The young man throws them at the head monk who then realizes his error. Later the young man, now old, Huineng, gives a couple of sermons. :rolling:

Now we have this text and not even a t-shirt!

Kirt


Yes, I am familiar with the actual story of Hui Neng but not the platform sutra itself, which is probably the "couple of sermons" part. :)

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Re: The Platform Sutra

Postby kirtu » Mon Feb 01, 2010 9:57 pm

meindzai wrote:Yes, I am familiar with the actual story of Hui Neng but not the platform sutra itself, which is probably the "couple of sermons" part. :)


Well, you know how Zen masters are - you understand everything they say until the end and your head falls off and rolls on the floor.
:rolling:

We could begin by working through the text or a commentary or compare commentaries. Here is Master Hsuan Hua's commentary. It would be instructive to compare and contrast it with a master from another lineage.

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Re: The Platform Sutra

Postby kirtu » Mon Feb 01, 2010 10:10 pm

kirtu wrote:
meindzai wrote:Yes, I am familiar with the actual story of Hui Neng but not the platform sutra itself, which is probably the "couple of sermons" part. :)


The main point of the Platform Sutra is that sudden enlightenment is possible, It has been read by academics like Dr. McRae as a treatise (and possibly as a polemic treatise) advocating sudden enlightenment. So academics read it as a product of the "struggle" between sudden and gradual enlightenment in Chan, between the Northern and Southern schools of Chan.

Here is a link to Professor Van Norden's pre-paper?/notes on the Platform Sutra, apparently translated from Dunhuang manuscripts (manuscript?)*

Kirt

*What!? You're pulling random academic extracts for anywhere on the Web? Well, not quite anywhere - he looks like he might have a contribution to make here.
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Re: The Platform Sutra

Postby Huifeng » Tue Feb 02, 2010 5:42 am

If we are to discuss it, a couple of points should be settled on:

1. To use the longer text which has been traditionally used in China, Korea and Japan for 1000+ yrs? Or, to use the shorter (and older) text which has been recently (100 yrs ago) found in Dunhuang?

2. Which English translation of the afore-chosen text to use? (Not all translations are created equal, and some of them are pretty poor.)

These don't have to exclude everything else, but jumping around between versions, and use of inferior translations, does not help understanding in most cases.
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Re: The Platform Sutra

Postby Anders » Tue Feb 02, 2010 11:51 am

I would like to recommend John McRae's translation. His and Yampolsky's are probably the best in terms of quality of translation, but I think Yampolsky's version suffers from the very same reasons the platform sutra has been edited and polished over the centuries.1 It's not quite as coherent. I see the dunhuang version as a useful and illuminating contrast to study after having familiarised oneself with one of the more classical versions.

Both are btw available online:
* John McRae's Translation
* Yampolsky's Dunhuang Translation (note: this is without the introductory material of the published version, which is itself very informative and perhaps necessary to know the circumstances of this edition)


1 McRae writes in his introduction "The text that is translated here, of course, is the mature version of the text." I must admit, I would have been very curious to see a footnote explained why he takes it as a matter of course.
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Re: The Platform Sutra

Postby kirtu » Tue Feb 02, 2010 3:13 pm

Huifeng wrote:1. To use the longer text which has been traditionally used in China, Korea and Japan for 1000+ yrs? Or, to use the shorter (and older) text which has been recently (100 yrs ago) found in Dunhuang?


I think we can compare both text's.

2. Which English translation of the afore-chosen text to use? (Not all translations are created equal, and some of them are pretty poor.)


Which is the best translation of the transitional text?

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Re: The Platform Sutra

Postby Huifeng » Wed Feb 03, 2010 3:09 am

kirtu wrote:
Huifeng wrote:1. To use the longer text which has been traditionally used in China, Korea and Japan for 1000+ yrs? Or, to use the shorter (and older) text which has been recently (100 yrs ago) found in Dunhuang?


I think we can compare both text's.


Though I think that this is a nice idea, experience with trying to do these sorts of things on 'net forums is already difficult enough, let alone trying to do comparative studies.

2. Which English translation of the afore-chosen text to use? (Not all translations are created equal, and some of them are pretty poor.)


Which is the best translation of the transitional text?

Kirt


What do you mean by "transitional text"? The Dunhuang or later Standard issue?
Either way, Anders has already stated my same choice for English, though personally of course I would always refer to the Chinese.
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Re: The Platform Sutra

Postby kirtu » Wed Feb 03, 2010 4:42 pm

Huifeng wrote:
kirtu wrote:
2. Which English translation of the afore-chosen text to use? (Not all translations are created equal, and some of them are pretty poor.)

Which is the best translation of the transitional text?


What do you mean by "transitional text"?


This should have read "traditional text". Looks like a spell check artifact and I didn't catch it.

Shall we read McRae's text and discuss it or how would people like to proceed?

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Re: The Platform Sutra

Postby Ngawang Drolma » Thu Feb 04, 2010 1:07 am

My two cents is to go with whichever text Venerable or Anders likes.

I'm so glad we're doing this! Thank you :)

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Re: The Platform Sutra

Postby Huifeng » Thu Feb 04, 2010 4:14 am

kirtu wrote:
Shall we read McRae's text and discuss it or how would people like to proceed?

Kirt


Okay, seems we have most votes for McRae's translation of the traditional (later, longer) version of the Chinese text.

As for how to proceed ...

I suggest we use a couple of threads, maybe:

1. some background, looking at the history, the story, a bit (not too much, though) of scholarly thought on the topic
2. a separate thread for each Chapter. Start by posting in the whole of the chp. in the first post, but then break it down into chunks, to look through it step by step.
3. maybe another misc. thread for other related things. (but is this needed, maybe not?)

I think that by doing it like this, we will be more focused, and less likely to get distracted (even by having other parts of the Platform all mixed together - not techn. off topic, but rather messy).
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Re: The Platform Sutra

Postby Ngawang Drolma » Thu Feb 04, 2010 4:31 am

Dear Venerable,

Sounds wonderful! My writing is limited due to broken arm and broken wrist but I look forward to this arrangement :)

I can't start the threads but look forward to reading!

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Re: The Platform Sutra

Postby Huifeng » Mon Feb 08, 2010 3:23 am

I am used to checking interest levels before starting a "class". At the centers I work with, when we open a class for enrollment, we only actually start the class semester if we have a minimum of 12 students enrolled. Otherwise we cancel it. People have other things to do, and it takes a fair amount of time and energy to get a class going and maintain it.

Probably 12 is too many to expect here, but I'm thinking that at least 6-8 would make it worthwhile. I'll count Ngawang Drolma as one above, and maybe Anders and Kirtu, too? If others are interested in participating, even if it is just to read and not post or whatever, please just let us know in this thread.

:thanks:
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Re: The Platform Sutra

Postby Virgo » Mon Feb 08, 2010 3:48 am

I would love to learn about this traditional text. Can we have the translations posted online though? I'm a little hard-pressed for getting resources at the moment, and I am sure some of our other members may be too.

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