Lesson
5

Sengcan

2 of 3

Sengcan and the Hsin Shin Ming

Huike's exchange with the future Sengcan (in Lesson 4) has also been reported in another version in which Huike became convinced that he had found an enlightened being, one who perceived the unity of all things:

Huike greeting Sengcan: "You are suffering from leprosy; why should you want to see me?"

Sengcan: "Although my body is sick, the mind of a sick man and your own mind are no different."

Sengcan is remembered today for his only surviving work, the Hsin Shin Ming (xinxinming), or "Trust in Mind." This poem—thought to be one of the earliest Chan treatises—begins with a lyrical, almost Taoist, voice worthy of Zhuangzi, as it celebrates man's original nature and the folly of striving.

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 anything.
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 verse then turns to an acknowledgment of the Mahayanist concept of the all-encompassing Mind, the greatest single truth of the universe, and of Nagarjuna's Void, the cosmic emptiness of sunyata.

Things are objects because of the subject (mind):
the mind (subject) is such because of things (object).
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.

The poem closes with an affirmation of the Chan credo of unity and the absence of duality, as a sign of enlightenment.

In this world of suchness
there is neither self nor other-than-self.

To come directly into harmony with this reality
just say when doubt rises "not two".
In this "not two" nothing is separate,
nothing is excluded.

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

Sengcan's poem challenges and inspires the practitioner to drop assumptions and expectations and to live  at ease in this complex and difficult world.

Read the Hsin Shin Ming >>>