On the Meditation Sutra of Dharmatrāta, Buddhabhadra’s Profile, and the Primordial State

In: Journal of Chan Buddhism
Michel Mohr Professor and Department Chair, Department of Religions & Ancient Civilizations, University of Hawaii at Manoa USA

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This article focuses on the Damoduoluo chanjing 達摩多羅禪經 [Meditation Sutra of Dharmatrāta], a text completed around 411 CE. This article focuses first on the central figure associated with it, Buddhabhadra [Fotuobatuoluo 佛馱跋陀羅] (359–429), geographical issues linked with him, and the historical context, before discussing and unpacking a few portions of the text about mindfulness with breathing.

The MSD not only discusses some of the obstacles encountered on the path toward mastery, according to the preliminary way and the advanced way, but it also emphasizes how this practice leads to a stage called “primordial state”. Such a state cannot be accurately described by speaking of confirmatory vision or confirmatory experience because it coincides with rediscovering the intrinsic luminosity of consciousness, which precisely coincides with the cessation of all discursive experience. This article challenges the idea that a single overarching theory can account for the increasing popularity of meditation techniques in the Sinosphere during the early fifth century. Scrutinizing the accounts about cultivation that mushroomed in the early fifth century and highlighting one of their facets as expressed in the MSD serves to emphasize their diversity.

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