When I was talking with a friend this morning and discussing being free of thought, he brought my attention to the fact that what I was talking about was impossible. One can never be literally free of thought ... which is quite true and which I had never intended to imply.
And yet such is the power of words that by repeating this simple phrase mantra-like over and over again my thinking-mind had taken the words and distorted or indeed perverted their intended meeting so that I had taken to use the phrase as meaning, literally, free of thought ... that is, no thought. And thus it had set up an unwinnable struggle in my mind.
Here I have commented over the years on others who translate or otherwise use phrases which alter the intended meaning or are misleading and create barriers, and I had done that very thing. I will now go back through all my posts and change the phrasing so that the intended meaning is clear on the face of the language.
One can never be free of thought, just like one can never be free of the ego. They are always there. Even the Buddha was not free of thought. One can, however, increase one’s awareness so that when thoughts or the ego-mind arises, you can acknowledge it, have compassion for it, but say firmly that you are not going there and are now seeking guidance from your true Buddha nature.
You know through your Buddha mind that all feelings, perceptions, mental formations, and consciousness-ego are learned experience, and thus of dependent origination with no intrinsic existence. By experiencing things, observing, directly without the intervention of thought, you are able to see things as they really are and all suffering and doubt cease. This is the teaching of the Heart Sutra. That is why we turn our will and our lives over to the care of our true Buddha nature. (For more on the Heart Sutra, see the Heart Sutra page on this website.)