The Platform Sutra of Hui-neng
Summary by Lizzy Mann
In The Platform Sutra, Hui-neng, the Sixth Patriarch of Chan Buddhism outlines
his teachings to attain enlightenment. According to Hui-neng enlightenment is
something already inside every sentient being, but "it is just because the
mind is deluded that men cannot attain awakening to themselves." (p. 135)
Hui-neng argues that Enlightenment is a sudden experience rather than a gradual
The very way Hui-neng himself became enlightened shows how it is a sudden experience.
He came from a poor family and he was illiterate. Upon hearing a man recite the
Diamond Sutra in the market, he was instantly awakened. He sought out the fifth
Patriarch Hung-jen, who didn't think Hui-neng could become a Buddha based on where
he was from. Hui-neng replied "Although people from the south and people
from the north differ, there is no north and south in Buddha nature." (p.
Hui-neng understood that once enlightened, all are the same. Hung-jen makes a
similar statement with his last words to Hui-neng, "If you are able to awaken
another's mind, he will be no different from me." (p. 133) After some time,
Hui-neng became the Sixth Patriarch and began his teachings.
Hui-neng emphasized the importance of having pure thoughts, as thought leads to
practice. For example, if you think of evil things, you will do evil deeds, but
if you think of good things, you will practice good deeds. "If you think
of harm you will change and become a beast; if you think of compassion you will
change and become a Bodhisattva." (p. 142) Because enlightenment lies within
everyone, "with correct views you can be saved." (p. 143) It is necessary
for sentient beings to rid the mind of ignorance and delusion so that the enlightenment
within them will be uncovered.