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FAU Lecture on Zen and the Art of Formless Precepts

BOCA RATON, Fla. (January 27, 2014) – The Department of History in Florida Atlantic University’s Dorothy F. Schmidt College of Arts and Letters presents a lecture on “Zen and the Art of Formless Precepts in the Evolving Platform Sutra” on Thursday, Feb. 6 at 4 p.m., at the Wimberly Library, fifth floor, 777 Glades Road, Boca Raton campus. The lecture will be presented by professor Morten Schlütter of the University of Iowa.

One hundred years ago, two expeditions crossed the Silk Road in western China in search of treasure. These expeditions were headed by Sir Aurel Stein of England and Paul Pelliot of France. At an oasis called Dunhuang, they made a fantastic discovery. Hidden in the secret chamber of a Buddhist cave was a lost library from 1,000 years ago. Today, scholars are still just scratching the surface of this discovery.

At the FAU lecture, Schlütter will discuss a chapter from his current book project on the most famous of all Zen texts, the Platform Sutra. The version of the sutra found in Dunhuang describes a ritual for the bestowal of formless precepts. These precepts are the natural moral compass that exists in all of us. In later editions of the sutra, the ritual side of this concept begins to be downplayed. Why this happens, and what this means for our understanding of Zen is the subject of Schlütter’s fascinating lecture.

In addition to the lecture, there will be a special exhibit of rare books from FAU Special Collections. Did you know that the famous Civil War General Ulysses S. Grant, who is remembered on the U.S. $50 bill, went to China and met with members of the imperial family? A rare copy of this 19th century book that describes his journey will be on display before and after the lecture. This book and others from FAU’s rare book collection represent a time capsule of what Stein and Pelliot would have read before embarking on their adventures on the Silk Road in 1901.

For more information, contact Kenneth Holloway at


About Florida Atlantic University:
Florida Atlantic University, established in 1961, officially opened its doors in 1964 as the fifth public university in Florida. Today, the University, with an annual economic impact of $6.3 billion, serves more than 30,000 undergraduate and graduate students at sites throughout its six-county service region in southeast Florida. FAU’s world-class teaching and research faculty serves students through 10 colleges: the Dorothy F. Schmidt College of Arts and Letters, the College of Business, the College for Design and Social Inquiry, the College of Education, the College of Engineering and Computer Science, the Graduate College, the Harriet L. Wilkes Honors College, the Charles E. Schmidt College of Medicine, the Christine E. Lynn College of Nursing and the Charles E. Schmidt College of Science. FAU is ranked as a High Research Activity institution by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. The University is placing special focus on the rapid development of three signature themes – marine and coastal issues, biotechnology and contemporary societal challenges – which provide opportunities for faculty and students to build upon FAU’s existing strengths in research and scholarship. For more information, visit

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