I thought I’d share another one of Hui-Hai’s insights. He’s an expert in explaining Buddhist doctrines to Buddhist seekers. Here Hui-Hai shows us the provisional utility of words, and also points out their essential voidness. There is no contradiction in this.
Questioner: What does it mean when the sutra says: “The sound of discussion has ceased, and the role of thought is done”?
Zen Master Hui-Hai: Words are used to manifest the doctrine. After understanding the doctrine, then, words are useless. The doctrine is void, voidness is the Tao, and the Tao is without words. This is the meaning of “The sound of discussion has ceased”.
Since the real meaning of the doctrine does not give rise to a single thought or perception and because no thought or perception arises, it is unborn. Furthermore, because it is unborn, then the fundamental nature of all forms is void.
Next, since the fundamental nature of all forms is void, then everything in the world is non-existent.
Finally, since all things are fundamentally non-existent, “the role of thought is done”.
Words are used to manifest the doctrine. After understanding the doctrine, then, words are useless.
Also see How spiritual teachings work