Barbara O’Brien

‘Zen’s stories also have created Zen’s identity as a tradition. The tradition that is Zen came together in China in part by adopting a shared narrative of a lineage of teachers, of Bodhidharma sitting in a cave, and of Huineng winning a poetry contest to become the Sixth Patriarch. And all Zen teachers today trace their lineage back to Huineng. 

We know about Huineng because of what is written in the Platform Sutra. I regret to inform you that the biographical bits in the Platform Sutra are probably more fan fiction than history. And the lineage charts only go back so far before they dissolve into myth and conjecture. But the tradition of lineage and the narrative of the Platform and other shared stories really did help hold the several Zen “houses” together through the crumbling of the Tang Dynasty and the fragmented period that followed. I’m not sure Zen would have survived without that shared narrative.’ (from Treasure The Road)

My dharma sister Catherine has launched an online magazine and study centre; I talked with her a few weeks ago about it, and hope to be able to help as time allows. Now that the class has finished, I have promised her an essay on Suzuki Roshi and study – stay tuned for that. In the meantime, this is a great read, and Zachary also has a piece published as well.


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