On Faith in the Heart

On Faith in the Heart

In the summer of 1987, I spent several weeks working line by line through a classic Buddhist text with my friend, Jisu Sunim, a Korean Zen monk who was staying in England at that time. We collaborated on the following translation of On Faith in the Heart (Hsin-hsin-ming) attributed to Seng Ts’an, the Third Ch’an Patriarch.

The Perfect Way is not difficult
if you decline to pick and choose.

Be free of love and hate and
it will be vivid and clear.

With a hair’s breadth of difference
heaven and earth stand far apart.

If you would see it before you
do not dwell on pros and cons.

The struggle between like and dislike —
this is the disease of the mind.

If you do not know the Way
you strive in vain to still your mind.

Perfect like vast space,
with nothing missing, nothing extra;

truly, only because you take and reject
are you not one with This.

Neither look for outer relations
nor cling to emptiness.

With a simple even mind,
illusions naturally vanish.

Stop moving and try to be still
and stillness itself is filled with motion.

If difference is your only concern
how can unity possibly be found?

Every divided approach to This
is just a waste of effort.

Abandon form and you are lost in it;
go after emptiness and you turn from it.

The more talking, the more thinking,
the more distant This becomes.

Stop talking, stop thinking
and you penetrate infinity.

Return to the root and you find the meaning.
Chase after images and you lose the essence.

Illumination from a moment’s inward looking
goes beyond any idea of ’emptiness’.

Events in the void
all spring from baseless views.

Do not search for Truth;
just let go of ideas.

Neither hold views
nor pursue them.

The merest hint of good and bad
and the mind is lost in confusion.

Two springs from One,
but do not cling to even that.

When the Heart is truly silent
everything is without fault.

With no fault, there are no things.
With nothing arising, there is no mind.

With no object, there is no subject.
With no subject, there is no object.

An object is an object because of a subject.
A subject is a subject because of an object.

If you would know these two,
they are really one.

In emptiness the two are one —
they contain the ten thousand forms.

If you see neither fine nor coarse,
how can there be partiality?

The Great Way is vast.
It is neither difficult nor easy.

Small views hesitate and falter;
the more their haste, the less their speed.

Cling to This and you fall off balance;
you are certain to turn the wrong way.

Just let it go, it is itself,
it neither stays nor goes.

Be as you are, one with the Way,
unburdened, wandering freely.

Bind your thoughts and they swerve from truth,
sinking into dullness and error.

Do not exhaust your mind
by shunning this and chasing after that.

If you are intent on the one Way
ordinary life is nothing to despise.

The everyday world is untainted;
it is identical with true awakening.

The wise have nothing to do,
while fools tie their own bonds.

Though the truth is only one,
your clinging creates division.

Seeking the mind with the mind —
this is the greatest of all errors.

Out of error come rest and unrest.
In awakening there is neither good nor bad.

Every duality is contrived by thought.

Dream visions and flowers in the sky —
why struggle to grasp them?

Gain and loss, right and wrong —
away with them once and for all!

If the eye does not sleep,
dreams all fade away.

If the mind makes no distinctions,
all is of one nature.

In fathomless suchness,
every tie is cut off.

See everything equally and
you have returned to the source.

See no cause and there can be no description.

Stop action, there is no action;
move stillness, there is no stillness.

When difference has no foundation
how can one be established?

The Ultimate subjects to no law.

In the unified even mind,
all your strivings end.

Doubts are washed away,
true faith is balanced and constant.

Nothing remains;
there is nothing to remember.

Empty, bright and luminous,
it does not tax the mind’s force.

Here, thought has nothing to grasp;
mind cannot comprehend.

In true nature’s realm of being
there is no self, no other.

If you would come to this swiftly
all that can be said is, ‘Not two.’

In this ‘not two’, nothing is different,
everything contained.

The wise of every age
have all entered this way.

It is neither ahead nor behind;
an instant spans ten thousand years.

It is neither present nor absent
but everywhere before your eyes.

Infinitely small equals infinitely large
when boundaries are forgotten.

The great is the same as the minute
when there are no visible limits.

Being depends on non-being,
non-being on being.

If this is not so
you have nowhere to stand.

One is everything,
everything is one.

Just realize this —
why worry about the end?

Faith-Heart is ‘not two’;
‘not two’ is Faith-Heart.

Here, words will never reach.
There is no past, no future, no present.

Translated by Jisu Sunim and Paul Woodward, Conishead Priory, June 1987
© Paul Woodward, 1987