When Ta Hui received transmission from his teacher, he did not leave to start his own temple. He stayed with Zen Master Yuan Wu and the two of them split up their teaching duties. Yuan Wu worked with the monks and Ta Hui worked with the lay students. This book contains a selection of those letters along with one of his talks. We do not see the letters that were sent, instead we see Ta Hui's responses. In these responses, we see the true mastery of Ta Hui in action. It is a real treat to see him adapt his teachings for each student. The real art of teaching. We can learn a lot from these missives. We do have to pay attention as some of the teachings are quite subtle.
The road to enlightenment was not easy for Ta Hui. This is detailed in the introduction. There were steps along the way where he had attained levels of "enlightenment", but there were still things in the way. There is a story about Ta Hui's state just before his final breakthrough. In the story, Ta Hui though he had finally understood. His teacher, however, gave him one more guidepost along the way:
It is indeed not easy to arrive at your present state of mind. But unfortunately, you have only died but are not yet reborn. Your greatest problem is that you do not doubt words enough. Don't you remember this saying? 'When you let go your hold on the precipice, you become the master of your own fate; to die and afterward come to life again, no one can then deceive you."You simply do not doubt words enough." What a saying! It is something for all of us on the Buddhist path to remember, to realize, to attain.
One of the teachings that has been passed along to us throughout the years is Don't Know Mind. Why do we need a teaching like don't know? Why did Ta Hui need a teaching like "You simply do not doubt words enough?" We need great doubt, we need to realize enlightenment is beyond words. These are all ways to teach the same point. Hopefully, one of them will resonate.