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Hualin International Journal of Buddhist Studies 4.2 (2021): 450–496;
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Wheel that Crossed the Borders: Buddhist and Non-Buddhist Religions)

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Pojo Chinul 普照知訥 (1158–1210), the Fabao ji tanjing 法寶記壇經, and the Evolution of the Platform Sūtra

The University of Iowa

Abstract: The Platform Sūtra 六祖壇經 is famous as a signature scripture of Chinese Chan Buddhism. The Platform Sūtra also has held an important role in Korean Buddhism, and the Buddhist reformer Pojo Chinul 普照知訥 (1158–1210) considered it central to his own practice and cited it a number of times in his writings. However, the Platform Sūtra has had a long history of evolution, appearing in a number of quite different versions from the beginnings of Chan in the eighth century to the Yuan dynasty (1279–1368) and beyond. Modern scholars have paid little attention to the question of what version(s) of the Platform Sūtra Chinul and other Korean Buddhist thinkers at his time had access to. In this essay, partly through a close examination of Chinul’s citations from the Platform Sūtra, I argue that an early version of the Platform Sūtra known as the Fabao ji tanjing 法寶記壇經 was likely the text that Chinul used. The Fabao ji tanjing is no longer extant, but through Chinul’s quotations we can make several deductions about the text and its important place on the evolutionary tree of the Platform Sūtra.

Keywords: Evolution of the Platform Sūtra 六祖壇經, Pojo Chinul 普照知訥 (1158–1210), Fabao ji tanjing 法寶記壇經, Chan Buddhism, Korean Buddhism


About the Author: Morten Schlütter (Ph.D., Yale University) is Associate Professor and Chair of the Department of Religious Studies at the University of Iowa, and the former Director of the University of Iowa Center for Asian and Pacific Studies. 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), that focuses on crucial developments within Chan [Jp. Zen] Buddhism that came to dominate Chinese monastic Buddhism by the tenth century. He is the co-editor of Readings of the Platform Sūtra (Columbia University Press, 2012), and the author of many articles on Chinese Buddhism and Chan. He is currently at work on a book manuscript that traces the evolution of Chinese Chan through different versions of the Platform Sūtra. He is also working on a long-term project concerned with how Buddhist monastic communities in Southern-Song China (1127–1279) interacted with secular elite society.


This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.