The Prince of Sseu Tao once asked Master Shen Hui whether ‘the absence of thought’ was something to be cultivated by the foolish or by the wise. ‘Because’ the Prince reasoned, ‘if it was a method for the wise, why encourage the foolish to cultivate it?’
Shen Hui answered, ‘”The absence of thought” is a method for the wise, but if the foolish were to cultivate it, they would no longer be foolish.’
Prince: But that absence — what is it the absence of, and that thought — what is it the thought of?
Shen Hui: That absence is the absence of being, and that thought is the unique thought of Suchness.
Prince: What difference is there between the unique thought of Suchness and Suchness itself?
Shen Hui: None.
Prince: If there’s no difference, why talk about the thought of Suchness?
Shen Hui: ‘Thought’, here, means the activity of Suchness, and ‘Suchness’ the essence of thought. It’s in this sense that one establishes ‘absence of thought’ as the doctrine.
If one sees the absence of thought, even in the midst of seeing, hearing, views and knowledge, one remains in emptiness and freedom from conflict.
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From the February 1989 Buddhism Now