Seng T’san’s Hsin Hsin Ming

Verses on the Faith-Mind

The Great Way is not difficult for those not attached to preferences. When neither love nor hate arises, all is clear and undisguised. Separate by the smallest amount, however, and you are as far from it as heaven is from earth.

the Hsin hsin ming -Richard Clarke

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..

– Richard Clarke (translator)

the Hsin hsin ming - R.H. Blyth

The title of the work may be explained in the following way. First *hsin* is faith, not in the Christian sense of a bold
flight of the soul towards God, a belief in what is unseen because of what is seen, but a belief in that which has been
experienced, knowledge, conviction. Second *hsin*, the mind, is not our mind in the ordinary sense, but the Buddha-nature which
each of us has unbeknown to us. *Ming* is a recording, for the benefit of others. The title thus means a description of that
part of oneself where no doubt is possible. T

…the “Hsinhsinming” itself, seems to me verse, not poetry. It is true that, to parody Keats, the life of Zen is the poetical life, and the poetical life in the life of Zen; this is all we know, and all we need to know. But art in not life . . . The “Hsinhsinming” then, is rather the basis for a theory of poetry, or the philosophic background, an expression of the implicit *raison d’etre* of the composition of certain kinds of poetry, like that of haiku, of Wordsworth and Clare, of Tao Chinnimg (T’ap CH’ien) and Po Chui. . . The poetry is the flower, the “Hsinhsinming” is the roots.

 

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