Huineng is counted as the Sixth Zen Patriarch. He is considered the founder of the then-radical "Southern" school of Chan (J: Zen) Buddhism in China.
Where the Northern school of Chan Buddhism emphasized gradual enlightenment through meditation, the Southern school advanced the idea of sudden enlightenment that comes in a flash, but only after a long period of searching and thinking about the various questions of the universe. The Southern school introduced the concept of the kôan (C: gōng'àn), along with a variety of other methods to attempt to shock practitioners out of normal (unenlightened) ways of thinking, including the master physically striking the students, uttering nonsense syllables, and so forth.
- Conrad Schirokauer, et al, A Brief History of Chinese and Japanese Civilizations, Fourth Edition, Cengage Learning (2012), 115.