Song of the Mind 心銘


Song of the Mind 心銘

Song of the Mind 心銘
Niutou Farong 牛頭法融 (594-657)

Chan Master Sheng yen
(Italic Translated by Henrik H. Sorensen)

The nature of the mind is non-arising, What need is there of knowledge and views?
The nature of the mind is un-born. Why should it be necessary to know this?
Originally there is not a single dharma; Why discuss inspiration and training?
Fundamentally there is not one single phenomenon; who then can speak about defilement and purification?

Coming and going without beginning; Sought for, it is not seen.
There is no end to coming and going, and no matter how much one seeks, one will never realize it!

No need to do anything; It is bright, still, self-apparent.
When everything is inactive, then the bright stillness will manifest by itself.

The past is like empty space; Know anything and the Basic principle is lost.
Before one it will be like emptiness, and thereby one will know how to dispose with confused doctrines.

Casting a clear light on the world, Illuminating, yet obscured.
Distinguishing clearly the circumstances one will illumine the dark and hidden.

If one-mindedness is impeded, All dharmas are misunderstood.
If the One Mind(1) is obstructed, then all the dharmas(2) will not have a penetrating effect.

Coming and going thus, Is there need for thorough investigation?
Spontaneously coming and going, what use is it exhausting oneself?

Arising without the mark of arising, Arising and illumination are the same.
As life has the mark of the un-born, it will illumine the oneness(3).

Desiring to purify the mind, There is no mind for effort.
If one wishes to obtain purity of mind, then one must diligently cultivate no-mind.

Spontaneous wisdom -Throughout time and space- Nothing is illuminated; This is most profound.
To have no mental reflections high and low, this more than anything else is the marvelous!

Knowing dharmas is non-knowing; Non-knowing is knowing the essential.
One will know the dharma (the Buddha’s teaching) through non-knowing, as this non-knowing will know the essentials.

Using the mind to maintain quietude,
By grasping the mind and maintaining stillness(4), one will still not be able to leave behind the sickness (of clinging)(5).

Birth and death forgotten; This is original nature.
In life and death one must forget that which one is attached to, then there and then the fundamental nature (will manifest, shine forth etc.)

The highest principle cannot be explained; It is neither free nor bound.
The highest principle has no explanation, (one will be able to attain to it without) getting rid of anything and without restraining oneself.

Lively and attuned to everything, It is always right before you.
Spiritual penetration and responding to affairs will constantly take place there and then,

There is nothing in front of you; Nothing, yet everything is as usual.
Before one there will not be a thing, and “not a thing” will be a matter of course(6).

Do not belabor wisdom to examine it; Substance itself is empty and obscure.
If you do not strive for the Mirror of Wisdom, then its essence will be wonderously empty of itself.

Thoughts arise and pass away, The preceding no different from the succeeding.
Thinking arises and thinking goes away, before and after there is no discrimination.
If the succeeding thought does not arise, The preceding thought cuts itself off.
The latter thought is not produced as the former is cut off by itself.

In past, present, and future, There is nothing; No mind, no buddha.
In the Three Worlds(7) there is not a thing: neither mind nor Buddha.

Sentient beings are without mind; Out of no-mind they manifest.
All living beings are (products) of no-mind, and depend upon no-mind to come into existence(8).

Distinguishing between profane and sacred, Their vexations flourish.
Discriminating between worldly and holy will cause vexations in abundance.

Splitting hairs deviates from the eternal. Seeking the real, you give up the true.
Constantly calculating and making plans amounts to searching for the truth while turning one’s back to reality.

Discarding both is the cure, Transparent, bright, pure.
If one puts an end to the two extremes (of being and non-being), then one will be both bright and clear.

No need for hard work or skill; Keep to the actions of an infant.
It is not necessary to observe infantile practices diligently.

Clearly knowing, The net of views increases
Through awareness one will gain knowledge, and when seeing the net (of samsara) one will turn around and stop.

Stillness without seeing, Not moving in a dark room.
In Samadhi there is nothing to be seen, for in a dark room there is no movement.

Wakeful without wandering, The mind is tranquil yet bright.
In awareness there is no falsity, in samaadhi there is clear brightness.

All phenomena are real and eternal, Profuse, yet of a single form.
The myriad shapes are all true, all having the majestetic one characteristica(9).

Going, coming, sitting, standing, Don’t attach to anything.
Going and coming, sitting and standing be grasped.

Affirming no direction, Can there be leaving or entering?
With no fixed place, who (can be said) to come and go?

There is neither unifying nor dispersing, Neither slow nor quick.
No coming together and no breaking up, neither slowly nor hasty.

Brightness and tranquility are Just as they are, They cannot be explained in words.
The bright stillness is selfso and words speak about it!

Mind is without alienation; No need to terminate lust.
If in the mind there is nothing different from the mind, one does not have to stop desire.

Nature being empty, lust will depart by itself; Allow the mind to float and sink.
As its nature is empty, it will disappear if it is allowed to drift on.

Neither clear nor clouded, Neither shallow nor deep.
Neither pure nor defiled, neither shallow nor deep.

Originally it was not ancient; At present it is not modern.
Originally the past is not, and just now, the present is not!

Now it is non-abiding; Now it is original mind.
Just now there is non-abiding and that is the original Mind(10).

Originally it did not exist; “Origin” is the present moment.
When one does not hold on to the origin, then the origin will be present.

Bodhi has always existed; No need to preserve it.
Bodhi originally is, (that is why) it is not necessary to maintain it.

Vexation has never existed, No need to eliminate it.
Vexations are fundamentally non-existing, therefore it is not necessary to do away with them!

Natural wisdom is self-illuminating; All dharmas return to thusness.
The spiritual wisdom shines forth by itself, and the myriad phenomena return (to the source).

There is no returning, no receiving; Stop contemplating, forget keeping.
Nothing to revert to and nothing to receive. Cut off opinions and forget about the precepts!

The four virtues are unborn; The three bodies have always existed.
The Four Virtues(11) are un-born, and the Three Bodies are fundamentally existing(12).

The six sense organs contact their realms; Discrimination is not consciousness.
The Six Roots(13) (just) face the circumstances and (clear or direct) perception has nothing to do with consciousness.

In one-mindedness there are no wandering thoughts, The myriad conditions harmonize.
Then the mind will have nothing wrong and the ten thousand causes will directly harmonize.

Mind and nature are originally alike; Together, yet not mutually dependent.
The mind and the feelings are basically of the same source, they coexist without interfering with each other.

Without arising, complying with phenomena, Abiding hidden everywhere.
The un-born is in accordance with phenomena, together they dwell and rest in the dark.

Enlightenment arises from non-enlightenment, It is enlightening to non-enlightenment.
Enlightenment comes from that which is not enlightened, therefore enlightenment is non-enlightenment!

As to gain and loss, Why call either good or bad?
Gain and loss are like the two sides of a coin. Who can then speak about good and bad?

Everything that is active, Originally was uncreated.
All that is caused, is originally the product of the un-born.

Know that mind is not mind; There is no sickness, no medicine.
The knowing mind is not the Mind, (the true Mind is something which) neither disease nor medicine can effect.

When in confusion, you must discard affairs; Enlightened, it makes no difference.
In times of confusion just let things go their way, because when awakening is accomplished, they will not be different.

Originally there is nothing to obtain; Now what use is there in discarding?
Fundamentally nothing can be grasped; now what will you throw away?

When someone claims to see demons, We may talk of emptiness, yet the phenomena are there.
Speaking of existence is to give in to demons, for with words empty images arise!

Don’t destroy the emotions of common people; Only teach the cessation of thoughts.
Do not wipe out worldly feelings. The only teaching that you should be concerned about, is how to do away with ideas!

When thoughts are gone, mind is abolished; When mind is gone, action is terminated.
Ideas will be annihilated by no-mind, and mental states will be cut off by non-activity.

No need to confirm emptiness; Naturally, there is clear comprehension.
There is no use trying to verify emptiness, spontaneously it will shine forth!

Completely extinguishing birth and death, The profound mind enters into principle.
Extinguishing both life and death, the profound Mind enters the (ultimate) principle.

Opening your eyes and seeing forms, Mind arises in accord with the environment.
Just open your eyes and behold the forms, letting your mind go along with the arising circumstances.

Within mind there is no environment; Within the environment there is no mind.
If the mind abides in no-circumstances, then the circumstances abide in no-mind.

Use mind to extinguish the environment, And both will be disturbed.
Then when the mind is about to annihilate the circumstances, they will go along with the annihilation.

With mind still and environment thus; Not discarding, not grasping,
The mind will be quiet and the circumstances just the same. One will neither have to let go nor to hold on.

Environment is extinguished together with mind. Mind disappears together with environment.
When circumstances go along with the mind they will be extinguished, and the mind which follows circumstances is nothingness.

When neither arise, There is tranquility and limitless brightness.
Both abide in the un-born, still purity and empty brightness!

The reflection of Bodhi appears, In the eternally clear water of mind.
Awakening appears like a shadow in the mind’s water, which is constantly clear.

The nature of merit is like a simpleton: It does not establish closeness and distance.
The nature (or disposition) of the virtuous is like stupidity, for it does not set up any separation between this and that.

Favor and disgrace do not change it; It doesn’t choose its abode.
They are not moved by either grace or dishonour, and do not choose a (fixed) place to dwell(14).

All connections suddenly cease; Everything is forgotten.
If all causes are put to rest, then one will cease to worry about them!

Eternal day is like night, Eternal night, like day.
If one does not discriminate, then an eternal day can be like a night, and an eternal night can be like a day(15).

外似頑 内心虚眞
Outwardly like a complete fool, Inwardly mind is empty and real.
When seen from the outside it seems as if one is wayward and stupid, however within, the mind is vacant and in communion with reality.

Those not moved by environment, Are strong and great.
Adverse conditions will not move one, and one will have the power of an accomplished being.

There is neither people or seeing; Without seeing there is constant appearance.
There will be neither seer nor the seen, then that non-seeing will be perpetually manifested.

Completely penetrating everything, It has always pervaded everywhere.
Penetrating everything, constantly being everywhere.

Thinking brings unclarity, Sinking and confusing the spirit.
Thinking will cause confusion, and confusion will give rise to all kinds of emotions.

Use mind to stop activity, And it becomes even more erratic.
If by grasping the mind one tries to stop agitation, then with this movement the mind will be even more active(16).

The ten thousand dharmas are everywhere, Yet there is only one door.
The myriad phenomena have no base, there is only the One Door(17).

Neither entering nor leaving, Neither quiet nor noisy.
This is the door of neither entering nor leaving, of neither stillness nor disturbance.

The wisdom of sravakas and pratyekabuddhas. Cannot explain it.
The wisdom of ‘Sravakas and Pratyeka-buddhas can not fathom this.

Actually there is not a single thing; Only wonderful wisdom exists.
In reality not one thing exists, the wonderful wisdom alone remains. Circumstances are fundamentally empty.

The original face is limitless; It cannot be probed by mind.
It is not something which the mind can exhaust.

True enlightenment is no enlightenment, Real emptiness is not empty.
True enlightenment is non-enlightenment, and real emptiness is not empty!

All Buddhas of the past, present and future; All ride on this basic principle.
All the Buddhas of the Three Times(18) teach this doctrine.

The tip of a hair of this basic principle, Contains worlds numerous as the Ganges sands.
This teaching is like a particle of dust, worlds as numerous as sandgrains in the Ganges are contained therein!

Do not concern yourself with anything; Fix the mind nowhere.
If one does not occupy oneself with everything, then the peaceful mind will have nowhere to abide.

Fixing the mind nowhere, Limitless brightness shows itself.
The peaceful mind will be non-abiding, and the empty brightness will manifest by itself!

Tranquil and non-arising, Set free in boundless time and space.
The quiet stillness is un-born, and one will be free to roam in all directions.

Whatever it does, there is no obstruction; Going and staying are equal.
Whatever one does there will be nothing to obstruct one. In motion and in rest, all will be equal.

The sun of wisdom is tranquil, The light of samadhi is bright.
The sun of prajna is still, the light of samadhi is bright;

Illuminating the garden of no forms, Shining on the city of Nirvana.
(They are) the bright park of no mark (laksana) and the clear city of nirvana.

After all relationships are forgotten, Spirit is understood and settled in substance.
In all causes one should be un-mindful of the fruit; it can be likened to the quality of the spiritual samadhi.

Not rising from the Dharma seat, Sleeping peacefully in a vacant room.
Do not set up platforms for teaching; but take a peaceful nap in an empty house(19).

Taking pleasure in Tao is calming, Wandering free and easy in reality.
One will find happiness in the Way, with plenty of space to roam about in True Reality.

No action and nothing to attain, Relying on nothing, manifesting naturally.
Nothing to do, nothing to obtain, and depending upon nothing, the self will manifest.

The four unlimited minds and the six paramitas, Are all on the path of one vehicle.
The Four Virtues(20) and the Six Paramitas(21) all belong to the path of the One Vehicle.

If mind is not born, Dharmas will not differ from one another.
When the mind in this way is not produced, then all the phenomena also will not be wrong.

Knowing arising is non-arising, Eternity appears now.
Knowing that life is un-born, before one it will constantly remain thus.

Only the wise understand, No words can explain enlightenment.
Those with wisdom will know this, but no amount of words can explain this kind of awakening!


(In Sorensen’s article (v.s.), these correspond to the notes 54-74.)

  1. The Buddha Mind or Buddha Nature (fo-hsing 佛性).
    2. The various Buddhist methods and teachings.
    3. Meaning that life as such is manifesting the un-born or absolute. This has been presented in the Prajnâpâramitâhrdaya Sûtra 般若波羅蜜多心經 (Nsin ching, T.250) in the following words: “Form is emptiness, emptiness is form.” 色即是空、空即是色
    4. A type of meditation practice common in the Northern Ch’an School of Shen-hsiu 神秀 (605-706 A.D.). This method is called shou-hsin 守心 (observing the mind).
    5. If one practices in this way, according to Fa-jung 法融 one will still be subject of dualistic thinking.
    6. The realization of suchness (tathatâ 如).
    7. 1) The world of desire 欲界, 2) the world of form 色界 and 3) the world of no-form 無色界 (the formless world).
    8. This is the so-called dharmadhâtu-origination 法界性起, a cardinal doctrine in the “Hua-yen ching” 華嚴經.
    9. The one characteristic 一相 or the one mark is suchness.
    10. The essential nature, the Buddha Mind.
    11. 1) Permanence 常, 2) joy 樂, 3) personality 我 and 4) purity 淨. These Four Virtues 四徳 were expounded by the Buddha in the Mahâparinirvâna Sûtra 大般涅槃經. (T. 374). They are attributes of the Buddha Nature.
    12. l) Dharmakâya 法身, 2) Sambhogakâya 報身, 3) Nirmânakâya 應身.
    13. 1) Eye 眼, 2) ear 耳, 3) nose 鼻, 4) tongue 舌, 5) body 身 and 6) mind (consciousness 意).
    14. This is a very orthodox “Indian” description of the correct behavior of a Buddhist ascetic. It is said that some of the Niu-t’ou masters roamed about living in the woods never settling down in a temple. The master Niao-k’e Tao-lin 鳥彙道林 (741-824) is one such example.
    15. The meaning here is not quite clear to the translator.
    16. Again a critique of the Northern Ch’an practice of shou-hsin 守心
    17. The direct perception of the un-born 不生
    18. Past, present and future.
    19. This is tandem with the statement in note 14.
    20. See note 11.
    21. The Six Pâramitâs 六度、六波羅蜜 : 1) Dâna 檀那 (the perfection of giving), 2) ‘sîla 戒、尸羅 (the perfection of the discipline), 3) ksânti 忍辱 (the perfection of patience), 4) vîrya 精進(the perfection of zeal or perseverance), 5) dhyâna 禪、禪定 (the perfection of meditative absorbtion) and 6) prajnâ 慧、智慧、般若 (the perfection of trancendental wisdom).