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Huineng

Huineng (638-713), the founder of southern school of Zen, was a famous Buddhist reformist and the Sixth Patriarch of Zen.

Huineng lived a miserable life as a boy since his father died when he was young. He had to sell firewood to make a living. On his way home Huineng heard something about Buddhism, which attracted him much. He left home and apprenticed to Hongren, Fifth Patriarch of Zen, to study Buddhism in 670. He developed his own opinions on Buddhism through his hard study. Later, Huineng traveled all over the country to spread Buddhism and the number of the audience sometimes exceeded 1,000. His disciple Fahai compiled The Platform Sutra of the Sixth Patriarch according to the records of his words, which can be seen now.

After his death, Huineng's body remained fresh. His disciples painted the body to preserve its figure. The Rou Shen Xiang (remained body) is kept in Nanhua Temple of Guangdong Province now.

Huineng and Shenxiu, the founders of the north tradition of Zen, were disciples of Hongren. They were different with the opinion on Zen so that two schools of Zen, namely the southern school and the northern school, came into being. The northern school existed among north nobles while the southern school was popular in the south. Afterwards, the northern school declined while the southern school prospered.

Huineng was not a literary patriarch like the former ones so that his theories were plain and direct. He employed the Diamond Sutra to explain his thought. He thought samadhi and prajna are analogous to a lamp and its light. With the lamp, there is the light. Without it, there would be darkness. The lamp is the quintessence of the light, and the light is the expression of the lamp. In name they are two things, but in substance they are one and the same. It is the same case with samadhi and prajna. Readers can easily comprehend the vivid analogy. Huineng also assured that the true path to Buddha hood isn't the direction of hard work and the acquisition of even more knowledge and scriptures. The truer path is along the road of intuitive insight, where we progress beyond mere logic and reasoning and become one with wisdom and understanding.