~ HUINENG ( Zen Master) ~



The influence of the Chinese master Huineng (638-713), the Sixth Patriarch of Ch'an (Zen), resonates through Ch'an and Zen Buddhism to this day. Some consider Huineng, not Bodhidharma, to be the true father of Zen. His tenure, at the beginning of the T'ang Dynasty, marks the beginning of what is still called the "golden age" of Zen.


Huineng stands at the juncture where Zen shed its vestigial Indian trappings and found its unique spirit -- direct and unflinching. Through Huineng flow the several diverse currents of early Zen. From him flow all schools of Zen that exist today.


Nearly all of what we know about Huineng is recorded in the "Sutra From the High Seat of the Dharma Treasure," or more commonly, the Platform Sutra. This is a seminal work of Zen literature. Its passages are still actively discussed and used as a teaching devices in all schools of Zen. The Platform Sutra presents itself as a collection of talks given by the Sixth Patriarch at a temple in Canton.

Historians question the sutra's provenance and think it may have been pieced together from more than one source. Even so, historian Heimrich Dumoulin wrote, "It is this figure of Hui-neng that Zen has elevated to the stature of the Zen master par excellence. His teachings stand at the source of all the widely diverse currents of Zen Buddhism. ... In classical Zen literature, the dominant influence of Hui-neng is assured. The figure of the Sixth Patriarch embodies the essence of Zen." (Zen Buddhism: A History, India and China [Macmillan, 1994], p. 137)