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Origins

Huineng's status as sixth patriarch was strengthened with the appearance of the Platform Sutra. It was also around this time that the tradition, which had gone by several different names, acquired the name of Chan. Chan is the Chinese transliteration of the Sanskrit word dhyana, which means concentrated meditation. The name was well-suited, given Chan's emphasis on the practice of meditation.

One innovation of the growing Chan tradition was that gradually lay followers were encouraged to learn and practice meditation. At one monastery, for instance, large groups would gather for intensive training over a two-week period, at the end of which they would receive certificates of enlightenment and dharma names. Ordinary people who were not monks were believed capable of grasping Chan teachings if given the opportunity, just like the legendary illiterate sixth patriarch Huineng.


Study Questions:
1.     How is Zen's beginning explained?
2.     What is the role of patriarchy in Zen?
3.     Who was Shanxiu? How was he in conflict with Shenui?
4.     Why was Chan accessible to ordinary people?

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