Focusing on the Platform Sūtra 六祖壇經, Dr. Morten Schlütter discusses how bodhisattva precepts and the notion of formlessness (wuxiang 無相) became associated in the early Chan movement, yet ultimately failed to maintain lasting appeal. Mass bodhisattva precepts ceremonies for both lay people and monastics became very popular in eight-century Chinese Buddhism. The emerging Chan movement tapped into the burgeoning interest in precepts ceremonies, incorporating a strong emphasis on the untainted Buddha-nature of all sentient beings. The Platform Sūtra as found at Dunhuang famously outlines a ceremony for “formless precepts”; however, in later versions this aspect is considerably downplayed. Dr. Schlütter explores how this shift reflects developments within Chan and within the Buddhist ritual landscape in China.
Morten Schlütter is Associate Professor of Chinese Religion and Buddhist Studies at the University of Iowa, where he is also the director of the Center for Asian and Pacific Studies. His research interests center broadly on Chinese Chan (Zen) Buddhism, Buddhist institutional history, and religion under the Song dynasty (960-1279), united by an overall interest in trying to understand different aspects of Chinese religion in the broader context of their political, social, and economic settings. He is the author of How Zen Became Zen: The Dispute over Enlightenment and the Formation of Chan Buddhism in Song-Dynasty China (University of Hawai’i Press, 2008), and is currently working on a book manuscript that traces key aspects of the evolution of Chan through the different versions of the Platform Sūtra, an iconic text of the Chan/Zen school attributed to the legendary Sixth Patriarch, Huineng (638–713).
Friday Feb. 9th
3-4:30 pm, SS541 (Dept. of Classics and Religion), followed by reception
Numata Chair in Buddhist Studies
Department of Classics and Religion
University of Calgary
2500 University Dr. NW
Calgary, AB Canada T2N1N4