You’ve indicated you want me to instruct you by letter in the direct essentials. This very thought of seeking instruction in the direct essentials has already stuck your head into a bowl of glue. Though I shouldn’t add another layer of frost to the snow, nevertheless where there’s a question it shouldn’t go unanswered. I ask you to abandon at once all the joy you’ve ever felt in reading the words of the scriptures yourself or when being aroused and instructed by others.
Be totally without knowledge and understanding, as before, like a three-year-old child. Though the innate consciousness is there, it doesn’t operate. Then contemplate what’s there before the thought of seeking the direct essentials arises: observe and observe. As you feel you’re losing your grip more and more and your heart is more and more uneasy, don’t give up and slack off: this is the place to cut off the heads of the thousand sages. Students of the path often retreat at this point. If your faith is thoroughgoing, just keep contemplating what’s before the thought of seeking instruction in the direct essentials arises. Suddenly you will awaken from your dream, and there won’t be any mistake about it.
Ta Hui is saying a few significant things. The first is that the consciousness of a three-year-old child, a baby, is there, but it does not create thinking. It remains just like a mirror, reflecting everything around the child, but the child does not start thinking whether something is good or bad, beautiful or ugly.
Why three years are mentioned is significant to understand: if you try to go backwards in your memory, you will stop at the age of three. You cannot go beyond that. The reason is that only after three years of age do thoughts start stirring the consciousness and impressions start collecting in the memory.
Up to the age of three the child is exactly like a sage, only with one difference: this innocence is natural and is bound to be lost, because the child is not aware of its beauty, its richness, its splendor.
He does not know how much valuable treasure he is going to lose as soon as he starts thinking. In fact he wants to think as quickly as possible, because he is seeing people all around him who can think better, who are more articulate, achieve to higher positions, greater prestige, more honor. This whole world supports the process of thinking. For any ambition to be achieved, thinking is absolutely essential.
The moment the child becomes aware of the fact that thinking is the most essential thing to being someone in the world, somebody special with name and fame, then he starts learning as quickly as possible and transforming his consciousness and its energy into thoughts, into memory, into imagination – not knowing that he is losing his most precious nature, his most precious meditative consciousness.