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Hsin-hsin Ming:
Verses on the Faith-Mind

By Seng-ts'an, Third Chinese Patriarch

Translated By Richard B. Clarke

Last Modified On: February 27, 2014

The Great Way is not difficult
for those not attached to preferences.
When not attached to love or hate,
all is clear and undisguised.
Separate by the smallest amount, however,
and you are as far from it as heaven is from earth.

If you wish to know the truth,
then hold to no opinions for or against anything.
To set up what you like against what you dislike
is the disease of the mind.

When the fundamental nature of things is not recognized
the mind's essential peace is disturbed to no avail.
The Way is perfect as vast space is perfect,
where nothing is lacking and nothing is in excess.

Indeed, it is due to our grasping and rejecting
that we do not know the true nature of things.
Live neither in the entanglements of outer things,
nor in ideas or feelings of emptiness.
Be serene and at one with things
and erroneous views will disappear by themselves.

When you try to stop activity to achieve quietude,
your very effort fills you with activity.
As long as you remain attached to one extreme or another
you will never know Oneness.
Those who do not live in the Single Way
cannot be free in either activity or quietude, in assertion or denial.

Deny the reality of things
and you miss their reality;
assert the emptiness of things
and you miss their reality.
The more you talk and think about it
the further you wander from the truth.
So cease attachment to talking and thinking,
and there is nothing you will not be able to know.

To return to the root is to find the essence,
but to pursue appearances or "enlightenment" is to miss the source.
To awaken even for a moment
is to go beyond appearance and emptiness.

Changes that seem to occur in the empty world
we make real only because of our ignorance.

Do not seek for the truth;
Only cease to cherish opinions.

Do not remain in a dualistic state;
avoid such easy habits carefully.
If you attach even to a trace
of this and that, of right and wrong,
the Mind-essence will be lost in confusion.
Although all dualities arise from the One,
do not be attached even to ideas of this One.

When the mind exists undisturbed in the Way,
there is no objection to anything in the world;
and when there is no objection to anything,
things cease to be— in the old way.
When no discriminating attachment arises,
the old mind ceases to exist.
Let go of things as separate existences
and mind too vanishes.
Likewise when the thinking subject vanishes
so too do the objects created by mind.

The arising of other gives rise to self;
giving rise to self generates others.
Know these seeming two as facets
of the One Fundamental Reality.
In this Emptiness, these two are really one—
and each contains all phenomena.
If not comparing, nor attached to "refined" and "vulgar"—
you will not fall into judgment and opinion.

The Great Way is embracing and spacious—
to live in it is neither easy nor difficult.
Those who rely on limited views are fearful and irresolute:
The faster they hurry, the slower they go.
To have a narrow mind,
and to be attached to getting enlightenment
is to lose one's center and go astray.
When one is free from attachment,
all things are as they are,
and there is neither coming nor going.

When in harmony with the nature of things, your own fundamental nature,
and you will walk freely and undisturbed.
However, when mind is in bondage, the truth is hidden,
and everything is murky and unclear,
and the burdensome practice of judging
brings annoyance and weariness.
What benefit can be derived
from attachment to distinctions and separations?

If you wish to move in the One Way,
do not dislike the worlds of senses and ideas.
Indeed, to embrace them fully
is identical with true Enlightenment.
The wise person attaches to no goals
but the foolish person fetters himself or herself.
There is one Dharma, without differentiation.
Distinctions arise from the clinging needs of the ignorant.
To seek Mind with the discriminating mind
is the greatest of mistakes.

Rest and unrest derive from illusion;
with enlightenment, attachment to liking and disliking ceases.
All dualities come from ignorant inference.
They are like dreams, phantoms, hallucinations—
it is foolish to try to grasp them.
Gain and loss, right and wrong; finally abandon all such thoughts at once.

If the eye never sleeps,
all dreams will naturally cease.
If the mind makes no discriminations,
the ten thousand things
are as they are, of single essence.
To realize the mystery of this One-essence
is to be released from all entanglements.
When all things are seen without differentiation,
the One Self-essence is everywhere revealed.
No comparisons or analogies are possible
in this causeless, relationless state of just this One.

When movement stops, there is no movement—
and when no movement, there is no stopping.
When such dualities cease to exist
Oneness itself cannot exist.
To this ultimate state
no law or description applies.

For the Realized mind at one with the Way
all self-centered striving ceases.
Doubts and irresolutions vanish
and the Truth is confirmed in you.
With a single stroke you are freed from bondage;
nothing clings to you and you hold to nothing.
All is empty, clear, self-illuminating,
with no need to exert the mind.
Here, thinking, feeling, understanding, and imagination
are of no value.
In this world "as it really is"
there is neither self nor other-than-self.

To know this Reality directly
is possible only through practicing non-duality.
When you live this non-separation,
all things manifest the One, and nothing is excluded.
Whoever comes to enlightenment, no matter when or where,
Realizes personally this fundamental Source.

This Dharma-truth has nothing to do with big or small, with time and space.
Here a single thought is as ten thousand years.
Not here, not there—
but everywhere always right before your eyes.
Infinitely large and infinitely small: no difference,
for definitions are irrelevant
and no boundaries can be discerned.
So likewise with "existence" and "non-existence."

Don't waste your time in arguments and discussion
attempting to grasp the ungraspable.

Each thing reveals the One,
the One manifests as all things.
To live in this Realization
is not to worry about perfection or non-perfection.
To put your trust in the Heart-Mind is to live without separation,
and in this non-duality you are one with your Life-Source.

Words! Words!
The Way is beyond language,
for in it there is no yesterday,

no tomorrow
no today.

Imagine Being Here

How this Web Page Came to Be


When I was living in the Arica house on Wyoming Road in Potomac, Maryland, in 1975 and 1976, Dr. Richard B. Clarke, the translator of this masterpiece, was one of our overnight guests. At that time he was affiliated with the Rochester Zen Center. He gave me a copy of his translation as published in 1973 by the Coach House Press in Toronto.

Ever since then, I have treasured that little booklet. About 1995 a friend of mine who was then living in Brazil wrote me that she was interested in Zen. At that time I had misplaced the booklet, but remembered that Ram Dass gave a wonderful reading of it on his album "Love Serve Remember," which I had taped onto a cassette. I transcribed it from the tape for her and subsequently compared it with the booklet when I found it again.

Later, I found the same translation in a small book edited by Jack Kornfield, Teachings of the Buddha (Shambhala Publications, 1993), citing Verses on the Faith Mind (White Pine Press, P.O. Box 236, Buffalo, NY 14201, 1984).

Eventually, the Rochester Zen Center kindly sent me at no cost an original copy of the magazine where Dr. Clarke's wonderful translation was originally published, "Zen Bow," Vol. 1, No. 2, February 1968. That typewriter-generated issue started this way:

Original Introduction to Dr. Clarke's Original Translation

"The editors of ZEN BOW are pleased to present a new and, they believe, outstanding translation of one of the earliest and most popular Zen writings, the Hsinhsinming (Shinjinmei in Japanese), Verses on the Faith-Mind, by the third Chinese Zen Patriarch, Senttsan (Sosan).

The translation was made directly from the Chinese by Richard B. Clark[e], Associate Professor of Biology at Bard College and Research Fellow at the Center for Brain Research at the University of Rochester. Dr. Clark[e], a long-time student of Zen, is a member of the Rochester Center. He is also a poet in his own right, having several volumes of published verse to his credit.

"Translator's Introduction...

"What are we to say of a man's life—of this man's life and its relevance to us—Sentsan, called Sosan by the Japanese? That he lived and that he died, and that such and such tales are told of him, and certain words attributed to him. His death is said to have occurred in the year 606 of our counting of time. His birth date is not recorded—who after all was to know—to know what? Tao-hsun does not give him a biography, only mentions him. He apparently wandered as a mendicant and during the persecution of Buddhists in 574 fled to the mountains. He is said to have been notably kind and gentle and to have come to the dropping away of all bondage and all illusion—with the help of Huike (Eka) his teacher, thus realizing in himself the fullness of man's possible light. He became the third Chinese patriarch of Zen and continued a poor wandering monk. Nothing special.

"And he is said to have written this piece—the Hsinhsinming, perhaps the first Chinese Zen document—translated below. The title's first character Hsin shows a man standing by (his?) words, and is often translated as faith or trust. The second Hsin depicts a heart and has come to mean heart, mind, soul, etc., and sometimes Buddha-nature."

More people know and love Dr. Clarke's original translation as published in "Zen Bow" than his revised translation shown above. Therefore, I show this initial translation here:

The Great Way is not difficult for those who have no preferences. When love and hate are both absent everything becomes clear and undisguised. Make the smallest distinction, however, and heaven and earth are set infinitely apart. If you wish to see the truth then hold no opinions for or against. To set up what you like against what you dislike is the disease of the mind. When the deep meaning of things is not understood, the mind's essential peace is disturbed to no avail. The Way is perfect like vast space where nothing is lacking and nothing is in excess. Indeed, it is due to our choosing to accept or reject that we do not see the true nature of things. Live neither in the entanglements of outer things, nor in inner feelings of emptiness. Be serene (without striving activity) in the oneness of things and such erroneous views will disappear by themselves. When you try to stop activity to achieve passivity your very effort fills you with activity. As long as you remain in one extreme or the other you will never know Oneness.

Those who do not live in the single Way fail in both activity and passivity, assertion and denial. To deny the reality of things is to miss their reality; to assert the emptiness of things is to miss their reality. The more you talk and think about it, the further astray you wander from the truth.

Stop talking and thinking, and there is nothing you will not be able to know.

To return to the root is to find the meaning, but to pursue appearances is to miss the source. At the moment of inner enlightenment there is a going beyond appearance and emptiness. The changes that appear to occur in the empty world we call real only because of our ignorance. Do not search for the Truth; only cease to hold opinions.

Do not remain in the dualistic state -- avoid such pursuits carefully. If there is even a trace of this and that, of right and wrong, the Mind-essence will be lost in confusion. Although all dualities come from the One, do not be attached to this One. When the mind exists undisturbed (in the Way) nothing in the world can offend, and when a thing can no longer offend, it ceases to exist (in the old way).

When no discriminating thoughts arise, the (old) mind ceases to exist. When thought-objects vanish, the thinking-subject vanishes, as when the mind vanishes, objects vanish. Things are objects because of the subject (mind); the mind (subject) is such because of things (object).1 Understand the relativity of these two and the basic reality -- the Unity of Emptiness. In this Emptiness the two are indistinguishable and each contains in itself the whole world. If you do not discriminate between coarse and fine you will not be tempted to prejudice and opinion.

To live in the Great Way is neither easy nor difficult, but those with limited views are fearful and irresolute -- the faster they hurry, the slower they go -- and clinging (attachment) cannot be limited; even to be attached to the idea of enlightenment is to go astray. Just let things be in their own way, and there will be neither coming nor going.

Obey the nature of things (your own nature), and you will walk freely and undisturbed. When thought is in bondage the truth is hidden, for everything is murky and unclear, and the burdensome practice of judging brings annoyance and weariness. What benefits can be derived from distinctions and separations?

If you wish to move in the One Way do not dislike even the world of senses and ideas. Indeed, to accept them fully is identical with true Enlightenment. The wise man strives to no goals but the foolish man fetters himself. There is one Dharma (Truth, Law), not many; distinctions arise from the clinging needs of the ignorant. To seek Mind with the (discriminating) mind is the greatest of all mistakes.

Rest and unrest derive from illusion; with enlightenment there is no liking and disliking. All dualities come from the ignorant inference. They are like dreams or flowers in air -- foolish to try to grasp them. Gain and loss, right and wrong -- such thoughts must finally be abolished at once.

If the eye never sleeps, all dreams will naturally cease. If the mind makes no discriminations, the ten thousand things are as they are, of single essence. To understand the mystery of this One-essence is to be released from all entanglements. When all things are seen equally, the timeless Self-essence is reached. No comparisons or analogies are possible in this causeless, relational state.

Consider movement stationary and the stationary in motion, and both the state of movement and the state of rest disappear. When such dualities cease to exist, Oneness itself cannot exist. To this ultimate finality no law or description applies.

For the unified mind in accord with the Way all self-centered striving ceases. Doubts and irresolutions vanish and life in true faith is possible. With a single stroke we are freed from bondage; nothing clings to us and we hold to nothing. All is empty, clear, self-illuminating, with no exertion of the mind's power. Here thought, feeling, knowledge, and imagination are of no value.

In this world of Suchness there is neither self nor other-than-self. To come directly into harmony with this reality just simply say when doubt arises, "Not two." In this "not two" nothing is separate, nothing is excluded. No matter when or where, enlightenment means entering this truth. And this truth is beyond extension or diminution in time or space; in it a single thought is ten thousand years.

Emptiness here, Emptiness there, but the infinite universe stands always before your eyes. Infinitely large and infinitely small -- no difference, for definitions have vanished and no boundaries are seen. So too with Being and non-Being. Don't waste time in doubts and arguments that have nothing to do with this.

One thing, all things -- move among and intermingle, without distinction. To live in this realization is to be without anxiety about non-perfection. To live in this faith is the road to non-duality, because the non-dual is one with the trusting mind.

Words!
The Way is beyond language,
for in it there is
no yesterday
no tomorrow
no today.

1 i.e., they are mutually dependent for their existence.


The Rochester Zen Center wrote me that "It's fine by us for you to include 'Affirming Faith in Mind' on your Web site...." However, the center added that they preferred that I use "the current version." What they call the current version is what they "chant regularly at the Rochester Zen Center." They sent me a copy of pages 16-22 from "Rochester Zen Center's Chant Book Copyright Rochester Zen Center 1990."

I have studied that version carefully, and while it may be preferred for chanting, it lacks the poetry of Dr. Clarke's version. Nevertheless, I have scanned it in to my computer and the Rochester version is available here.

Therefore, I still needed to obtain Dr. Clarke's permission to use his translation. The Rochester Zen Center, however, wrote he that they have "had no contact with him for many years." With the help of my PhoneDisc CD-ROM I found all the people in New England named Richard B. Clarke and started calling around.

Finally, I reached him in Amherst, Massachusetts, where he was the director and resident teacher at the Living Dharma Center (P.O. Box 304, Amherst, MA 01004), phone (413) 259-1611, e-mail rbczenlp@ix.netcom.com. He remembered visiting the Arica house on Wyoming Road and gave me permission to include his translation here. Dr. Clarke passed away at age 80 on August 8, 2013.

He made one final update to his wonderful creation that S.E. (Suzan), Richard's partner of several years and one of his Zen students, wrote me. The essence of the thought behind the third line, which had read "when love and hate are both absent," would be better captured as "when not attached to love or hate".

Other Translations and Commentaries:

  • In June 1994 White Pine Press published an earlier translation of the Hsin-hsin Ming by Dr. Clarke in A Drifting Boat: An Anthology of Chinese Zen Poetry, edited by Jerome P. Seaton and Dennis Maloney.

  • Subsequently, Jim Gatt brought to my attention a wonderful book by Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh that illuminates the wisdom of "The Great Way." Rajneesh spoke on the sutras of Sosan (as he calls the Third Chinese patriarch, using his name in Japanese) at his ashram in Poona, India, on 10 days in October 1974. Throughout he follows Dr. Clarke's translation, albeit without crediting him. Published in 1975 in Poona by the Rajneesh Foundation, the book is Neither This Nor That: Discourses on Sosan.

  • Another commentary on the Hsin-hsin Ming, this one also following Dr. Clarke's translation but giving him due credit, is by the American Zen teacher, Dennis Genpo Merzel, titled The Eye Never Sleeps: Striking to the Heart of Zen. Published in Boston by Shambhala Publications in 1991, this marvelous little paperback book (141 pages) is based on 14 of his talks in Holland and England illuminating the sections of the Hsin-hsin Ming.

  • Master Sheng-Yen offers "a new translation which is largely similar to previous ones; however, portion of it are quite different, reflecting my own understanding of the poem." He uses this "as a taking-off point to inspire the practitioner and deal with certain issues that arise during the course of practice." His 139-page paperback book, Faith in Mind: A Guide to Ch'an Practice, published in 1987 by Dharma Drum Publications in Elmhurst, New York, consists of 20 chapters based on translated lectures at four retreats in 1984 and 1985.

  • Still later, Tamra brought to my attention an earlier translation by R.H. Blyth. While most of the words are different from Dr. Clarke's translation, the same thoughts come shining through. You can find it in Zen and Zen Classics, volume 1, by R.H. Blyth, Heian, 1992, pp. 46-103. I include the R.H. Blyth translation here.

  • Recently, George Burnett brought to my attention D.T. Suzuki's translation of the Hsin-hsin Ming. This 1949 translation is the first into English. I include the Suzuki translation here. Or you can read the translation and commentary Manual of Zen Buddhism by Daizetz Teitaro Zuzuki, Grove Press, 1994, pp. 46-103. 

  • After Suzuki, the second English translation was Arthur Waley's, published in 1954. It is included in Buddhist Texts Through the Ages, Edward Conze (ed.). New York: Philosophical Library, 1954, pp. 296-298. I include the Waley translation here.

  • Then, the third English translation was that of Lu K'uan Yü (Charles Luk). Rider & Company, London, published it in 1971 in his book Practical Buddhism. I refer here to the first U.S. edition, published in 1973 by The Theosophical Publishing House, Wheaton, Illinois.

  • Another translation, this one by Burton Watson, entitled "On Trust in the Mind," appears in Entering the Stream: An Introduction to the Buddha and His Teachings compiled and edited by Samuel Bercholz and Sherab Chödzin Kohn (Boston: Shambhala, 1993), pp. 147-152.

  • Nelson Foster and Jack Shoemaker, editors of The Roaring Stream: A New Zen Reader, include yet another translation, this one by Nelson Foster and entitled "Relying on Mind," in their book (Hopewell, N.J.: The Ecco Press, 1996), pp. 10-15.

  • Perhaps the best resource on the Internet about the Hsin-hsin Ming is a scholarly article and new translation by Professor Dusan Pajin of Belgrade Art University, Yugoslavia. His article, "On Faith in Mind" published in Journal of Oriental Studies, Vol. XXVI, No. 2, Hong Kong 1988, pp. 270-288 is online at http://afrodita.rcub.bg.ac.rs/~pajin/text/hsin1.htm and at http://www.thezensite.com/ZenTeachings/Translations/HsinHsinMingTranslation.html

  • Zen Master Hae Kwang (Stanley Lombardo), who teaches Zen at the Kansas Zen Center and Classics at the University of Kansas, wrote a modern English translation—for some perhaps too modern. This new translation is online at http://www.kwanumzen.org/primarypoint/v16n1-1998-winter-GMZM-TrustingInMind.html.

  • You can find another translation in The Poetry of Enlightenment: Poems by Ancient Ch'an Masters by Ch'an Master Sheng-Yen, Elmhurst, New York, Dharma Drum Publications, 1987, pp. 23-29.

  • A recent "translation" is by Gerald Schoenewolf in The Way: According to Lao Tzu, Chuang Tzu and Seng Tsan, Fremont, California, Jain Publishing Company, 2000, pp. 133-140. Professor Schoenewolf teaches psychology and is a practicing psychoanalyst. He has also studied Taoism for more than 30 years. But he admits that he isn't fluent in Chinese, and he does not know Zen. He calls his work "a rendition rather than a translation because it is not an attempt at a literal translation, but rather a poetic rendering aimed at recapturing the tone and substance of the original." But for me it is one of the least satisfactory of any of the efforts to which it can be compared here. It suffers particularly in comparison with Dr. Clarke's translation, which combines great poetic beauty with technical accuracy.

  • The strangest commentary is that of Dick Higgins accompanying the translation by George Brecht in a version originally published by Editions Lebeer Hossman, Brussels & Hamburg, 1980. That translation is reproduced in The Autobiography of the Moon: A Commentary on the Hsin-hsin-ming by Dick [Richard C.] Higgins, Generator Press, Mentor, Ohio, 1991. This edition couples the Brecht translation and the Higgins commentary on facing pages. The Brecht translation is almost haiku-like. The Higgins commentary on opposite pages is, if anything, hypermodern. 

  • Zen's Chinese Heritage: The Masters and Their Teachings (expanded edition) by Andy Ferguson (Wisdom Publications, 2011) includes a translation of "Faith and Mind" in an appendix (pp. 599-503) attributed only to Chanzong Baodian (Treasured Classics of Zen), published by Hebei Chanxue Yanjiusuo (the Hebei Research Institute for the Study of Chan Buddhism), 1993. I haven't been able to learn who the translator is.

  • A recent translation by Philip Dunn and Peter Jourdan is their little A Book of Nothing: A Song of Enlightenment, Andrews McMeel, 2002.

  • Mu Soeng's recent book Trust in Mind: The Rebellion of Chinese Zen, Wisdom Publications, 2004, is a comprehensive text, commentary, and exposition of this masterpiece by a Buddhist monk, scholar, and teacher.
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