Self-Discovery Portal


The Teachings of Sudden Illumination by the CH'AN MASTERS in ancient China

  Seng-Ts'an: The Mind of Absolute Trust

  Hui-neng: The Platform Sutra

  Hui Hai: On Sudden Illumination

  Huang Po: The Transmission of Mind

  Bodhidharma, "Barbarian from the West"

  Other Ch'an Masters (Tang Dynasty)

  Song Dynasty Revival

  The Diamond Sutra, simplified

  Chinese Pronunciation Guide and Glossary of Special Terms

  Sanskrit Glossary and Pronunciation Guide


Bodhidharma Bodhidharma is credited with bringing Gautama Buddha's teaching on sudden illumination from India to China circa 530 AD. Hui-neng identified him as the twenty-eighth patriarch or successor to the transmission of the dharma (teaching, law, way) descending from Gautama Buddha, and the first patriarch in China. After Bodhidharma came Hui K'o, who was succeeded by Seng-Ts'an, Tao-hsin, Hung-jen, and then Hui-neng. These six men are considered the Grand Masters or Patriarchs of Ch'an.

By the time Hui-neng became enlightened, the dhyana (meditation) sect had already split into two branches, with the school in northern China, and its teaching that the process of enlightenment is gradual, flourishing for a while under royal patronage.

After Hui-neng's death in 713 AD the southern school, with its emphasis on sudden illumination, continued to be very active. Among those Ch'an-na (Chinese pronunciation of dhyana) or Ch'an masters, Ma Tsu was one of the most important. Hui Hai became a student of Ma Tsu, eventually being referred to by the master as a "great pearl."

Huang Po was fourth in direct line of descent from Hui-neng, dying as late as 850 AD after transmitting the wordless dharma to Lin Chi, who founded the Zen (Japanese pronunciation of Ch'an) school that still flourishes in Japan under the Japanese pronunciation of his name, Rinzai.

The directory to the left will take you to the inspiring teachings of many of these Ch'an masters. See the "Maximum Systems" page on the Self-Discovery Portal for common denominators between Ch'an and other systems aimed at maximum awakening.

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