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The great master Huineng ascended the high dharma seat at the lecture hall of Dafan monastery and expounded on the Mahaprajnaparamita Dharma while giving the formless precepts. At that time, there were about 10,000 monks, nuns, Daoists [sic, religious], and lay followers beneath the dharma seat. When the prefect Wei Chu of Shaozhou 韶州, thirty officials from various departments, and Confucian scholars together requested the master to expound on the Mahaprajnaparamita Dharma, the prefect had the monk-disciple Fahai 法海 record his teaching so that it would become widely known, thereby making it available for future generations who are seeking the dharma to transmit its tenets to each other. The audience revered his teaching, because they found in it a ground for reliance and faith; and the master expounded the Platform Sutra so that it would be transmitted to future generations.
Dafan monastery, where the Platform Sutra was expounded, is the old name for the current Dajiansi, which is located in the marketplace of Shaozhou, China. When the sutra was expounded in the lecture hall of Dafan monastery, it is said that there were 10,000 monks, nuns, Daoists [sic, ‘religious’], and lay followers in the audience. “The prefect Wei Chu of Shaozhou” refers to the name of a location named Shaozhou and an official bureaucratic title something like that of “prefect”; hence, the phrase means that the prefect Wei Chu of Shaozhou and various other members of the great assembly requested the dharma.
Next the text describes the Sixth Patriarch’s motives for expounding the sutra. It clearly states that, by having his disciple Fahai record his teaching, he had intended to make it available for the future generations to transmit its tenets to each other, that is, so that it may be transmitted forever without interruption. Thanks to their efforts, we are still able to study the sutra today. While we are studying it, we must also recall that the purpose of studying the sutra is in order to transmit its tenets.
There is a phrase in the sutra that says, “a ground for reliance and faith.” On what do we rely and have faith? We must rely on and have faith in the Mahaprajnaparamita Dharma as it is described in this sutra. There are many interpretations of the meaning of the Mahaprajnaparamita Dharma, but Huineng expounded the Platform Sutra so that we may transmit its tenets by having us relying on the Mahaprajnaparamita Dharma and having faith in its dharma. Hence, Huineng’s purpose in expounding the Platform Sutra and our purpose in studying it is to have faith in and to rely on the Mahaprajnaparamita Dharma and to transmit the tenets of the Platform Sutra.