Huineng next stresses the critical importance of practicing—actively attaining—a straightforward or direct mind. A straightforward mind requires having no attachments and attending to no differentiating characters, thereby realizing that all is one; there is a unity of nature in everything. To achieve such realization in the practice of the straightforward mind is samadhi of oneness, a state of calmness in which one knows all dharmas to be the same. However, the calm realization of oneness is not, as some people think, a matter of simply sitting without moving and not allowing erroneous thoughts to rise in the mind. To act in this way is to make oneself insentient, and that is not in accordance with the Way, the dao, which can work freely only if the mind is free from things. If one attempts, as some people do, to view the mind and keep it inactive, they become radically disturbed and never achieve enlightenment.
Huineng indirectly criticizes the Northern School in his description of the meditation method that, in effect, renders people insensible and inactive; and he continues his criticism in section 16 when he states that the deluded teachers recommend a gradual course to enlightenment, while the enlightened teachers practice the method of sudden enlightenment. In this passage, Huineng clearly states that to know one’s own mind or to know one’s original nature is the same thing, and if people differ in coming to enlightenment it is because some people are stupid and deluded while others know the method of enlightenment.
Huineng then remarks that everyone has regarded “no-thought” as his main doctrine. His remark ties in with what he had just been saying about meditation method, for the doctrine to which he alludes is the meditation method he endorsed, a method that came to be identified with the Southern School. Put informally, the statement of method would be put injunctively, “Practice no-thought,” and sense would be made of the injunction by presuming the point to be that the mind will be open to its nature, will be able to “think” (intuit) the pure nature common to all within oneself, only if it is not distracted by thoughts about things, including the thought about achieving enlightenment by not thinking about anything else. The truth is, one cannot achieve awareness even of the Buddha-nature by thinking about it.