Sunday, November 02, 2008

Seeing into Nothingness

Chang-yen King asked [Shen-hui]:
“You discourse ordinarily on the subject of Wu-nien (‘no-thought’ or ‘no-consciousness’), and make people discipline themselves in it. I wonder if there is a reality corresponding to the notion of Wu-nien, or not?”

Shen-hui answered:
“I would not say that Wu-nien is a reality , nor that it is not.”


“Because if I say it is a reality, it is not in the sense in which people generally speak of reality; if I say it is a non-reality, it is not in the sense in which people generally speak of non-reality. Hence Wu-nien is neither real nor unreal.”

"What would you call it then?”

“I would not call it anything.”

“If so, what could it be?”

“No designation whatever is possible. Therefore I say that Wu-nien is beyond the range of worldly discourse. The reason we talk about it at all is because questions are raised concerning it. If no questions are raised about it, there would be no discourse. It is like a bright mirror. If no objects appear before it, nothing is to be seen in it. When you say that you see something in it, it is because something stands against it.”

“When the mirror has nothing to illuminate, the illumination itself looses it’s meaning, does it not?”

“When I talk about objects presented and their illumination, the fact is that this illumination is something eternal belonging to the nature of the mirror, and has no reference to the presence or absence of objects before it.”

“You say that it has no form, it is beyond the range of worldly discourse, the notion of reality or non-reality is not applicable to it; why then do you talk of illumination? What illumination is it?”

“We talk of illumination because the mirror is bright and its self nature is illumination. The mind which is present in all things being pure, there is in it the light of Prajna [wisdom/intuitive knowlege], which illuminates the entire world-system to it’s furthest end.”

“This being so, when is it attained?”

“Just see into nothingness (tan chien wu).”

“Even if it is nothingness, it is seeing something.”

“Though it is seeing, it is not to be called something.”

“If it is not to be called something, how can there be the seeing?”

“Seeing into nothingness – this is true seeing and eternal seeing.”

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