Hills are hills
Concepts, it turns out, are only one of the mind's many constructs. The mind also provides our perception of concrete objects, thereby "creating" them to suit its needs.
Hills are hills. Water is water. Monks are monks. Laymen are laymen. But these mountains, these rivers, the whole world itself, together with the sun, moon, and stars--not one of them exists outside your minds! ... Phenomena do not arise independently, but rely upon (the mental) environment (we create).
Since reality is created by the mind, we will never know what is "real" and what is illusion. The illusory world we think we see around us, deceptively brought to us by our untrustworthy senses, leads us to conceptual thought and to logical categories as a means to attempt its "understanding." The resulting intellectual turmoil is just the opposite of the tranquility that is Chan. But avoidance of conceptual thought leads to a serene, direct; and meaningful understanding of the world around us, without Unsettling mental involvement.
Ordinary people all indulge in conceptual thought based on environmental phenomena, hence they feel desire and hatred. To eliminate environmental phenomena, just put an end to your conceptual thinking. When this ceases, environmental phenomena are void; and when these are void, thought ceases. But if you try to eliminate environment without first putting a stop to conceptual thought, you will not succeed, but merely increase its power to disturb you.
What is worse, reliance on misleading perception blocks out our experience of our own pure mind.
People in the world cannot identify their own mind. They believe that what they see, or hear, or feel, or know, is mind. They are blocked by the visual, the auditory, the tactile, and the mental, so they cannot see the brilliant spirit of their original mind.
When he was asked why Zen students should not form concepts as other people do, he replied, "Concepts are related to the senses, and when feeling takes place, wisdom is shut out."
Truth is elusive. It is impossible to find it by looking for it, And the world of the senses and the conceptual thought it engenders are actually impediments to discovering real truth. He provides an analogy in the story of a man who searches abroad for something that he had all along.
Suppose a warrior, forgetting that he was already wearing his pearl on his forehead, were to seek for it elsewhere, he could travel the whole world without finding it. But if someone who knew what was wrong were to point it out to him, the warrior would immediately realize that the pearl had been there all the time.
He concludes that the warrior's finding his pearl had nothing to do with his searching for it, just as the final realization of intuitive wisdom has nothing to do with the graduated practice of the traditional Buddhists.
So, if you students of the Way are mistaken about your own real Mind... you will indulge in various achievements and practices and expect to attain realization by such graduated practices. But, even after aeons of diligent searching, you will not be able to attain to the Way. These methods cannot be compared to the sudden elimination of conceptual thought, the certain knowledge that there is nothing at all which has absolute existence, nothing on which to lay hold, nothing on which to rely, nothing in which to abide, nothing subjective or objective. It is by preventing the rise of conceptual thought that you will realize Bodhi; and, when you do, you will just be realizing the Buddha who has always existed in your own Mind!
The traditional practices neither help nor hinder finding the way, since they are unrelated to the final flash of sudden enlightenment — which is in your mind from the beginning, ready to be released.