A rendition of the poem Hsin Hsin Ming
Rupert Spira’s rendition of the ancient Buddhist poem ‘Hsin Hsin Ming’ reveals a deeper resonance with the Direct Path.
It is thought that Buddhism was introduced to China two millennia ago, likely by Silk Road traders. In the 5th or 6th century CE, Bodhidharma, a sage who had emigrated from India, founded the school known as Ch’an (from Sanskrit dhyana, or meditation), which developed into Japanese Zen.
Ch’an had been strongly influenced by the pre-existing Taoist tradition, and although commonly understood as belonging among the Mahayana schools, it also has much in common with Dzogchen, the so-called ‘highest view’ of Tibetan Buddhism. Together they form a Central Asian tradition distinct in many ways from traditional Mahayana Buddhism.
This poem is attributed to Seng-ts’an, known as the Third Patriarch of Ch’an. It is an expression of the innate perfection of the mind, which transcends all dualities. Rupert, finding resonance with the universal and timeless truth of ‘Hsin Hsin Ming’, has reformulated it in his own terms.
For example, the Chinese character for Tao appearing in the original poem had first been translated as ‘The Great Way’, or ‘The Way’; in Rupert’s version it becomes, variously, ‘peace and happiness’, our ‘essential being’, and ‘true nature’.
Rupert’s intention is to simplify the language, using familiar words and concepts in line with his understanding that what we all seek, and have always sought, is peace and happiness. And, furthermore, that which prevents our becoming established in our true nature of peace, happiness and love, is the very effort and activity of the search, which takes us away from the source, and is thus the cause of suffering.
Rupert Spira’s rendition
To be at peace and content is not difficult for those who have no preferences.
When likes and dislikes are not present, everything becomes clear and simple.
Make the smallest distinction, however, and you will be exiled from the realm of eternal happiness which is your home.
If you wish to be happy and at peace, then hold no opinions for or against anyone or anything.
To set up what you like against what you dislike is a conditioned habit of the mind. It is a recipe for unhappiness.
When we allow the appearance of things to veil their reality, our innate peace and happiness is disturbed to no avail.
Our essential being is perfect, like boundless space, which is complete in itself with nothing lacking.
It is our rejection of what is present or our seeking of what is not present that determines whether or not we feel the peace and happiness that are our very nature.
Do not lose yourself in experience but do not turn away from any experience.
Be free from all experience but completely open to all experience, and your innate happiness will shine forth.
Do not think that the activity of the mind is a problem or that the cessation of its activity is necessary. To attempt to stop the mind’s activity is itself the mind’s activity.
Neither lose yourself in the mind’s activity nor engage in the effort to still it, but simply be knowingly the witnessing presence of awareness, and your innate happiness will emerge from the background of experience.
Your true nature of pure awareness transcends all experience and yet is immanent within all experience. To assert or deny either aspect is, therefore, to miss the nature of reality.
It is not possible to think of reality or to express it in words. To know the nature of reality it is necessary to know the nature of one’s own being, which lies behind all thinking and talking.
We invest our happiness in changing things only because we have forgotten or ignored our being.
If we want lasting peace and happiness it is only necessary to return to one’s being.
Do not search for happiness; only cease allowing the thought, ‘I don’t want what is present; I want what is not present’ to run your life.
The slightest like and dislike with respect to experience veils our innate happiness.
Do not reject appearances in favour of awareness, for it is infinite awareness itself that shines in and as all appearances.
When we stand knowingly as the presence of awareness, nothing can disturb us, and when a person or thing no longer disturbs us, we no longer see them as separate from us or as a source of happiness or suffering.
When we no longer divide our experience into good and bad, right and wrong, desirable and undesirable, the personal self vanishes, for it is created and maintained only by resisting, holding or seeking.
In the absence of a separate subject of experience, the separate object or other dissolves and their shared being is revealed as the experience of love or beauty.
An object only seems such from the perspective of a separate subject of experience, and a separate subject of experience can only seem to exist in relation to an object.
As such, both the subject and the object are, in reality, a single, infinite and indivisible whole.
Knowing this, we make no judgements, and neither prejudice nor opinion obscures our vision.
To be established in peace and happiness is neither easy nor difficult: it is simply to know and feel oneself as the presence of awareness, with which all experience is known, in which all experience appears and, ultimately, out of which all experience is made.
For one whose life is determined by resistance, holding and seeking, everything they do simply compounds their unhappiness. The more effort they make, the farther they are from happiness.
Ultimately, even the desire for enlightenment is the desire for something other than what is, and is, as such, the very activity of suffering itself.
If, on the other hand, we simply abide knowingly as the presence of awareness, there will be neither resistance nor seeking and we will live free, undisturbed and fulfilled.
When our thoughts and feelings are governed by resistance, holding and seeking, we no longer see things as they are.
We make distinctions and judgements only because we overlook the unity of being that underlies all people and things, and as a result become upset and exhausted. Nothing of value comes from it.
For one who is established in their true nature and, as a result, allows things to be as they are, the goal of life has already been fulfilled.
Such a person seeks nothing, holds on to nothing and resists nothing and is, therefore, at peace and content.
For one who is lost in their thoughts and feelings, life is a constant battle of resistance, holding and seeking, and thus they are rarely at peace.
Everyone’s essential being is the same. It is only when our essential being is qualified by experience that distinctions between people arise and thus conflict begins.
To seek our being with the mind is a mistake, for our being lies at the source of the mind; it can never be found as an object of the mind.
Activity and inactivity, like and dislike, good and bad, right and wrong, gain and loss all come from ignoring or overlooking the underlying unity of being, from which all people and things derive their temporary name and form.
If we do not allow appearances to veil their reality, our innate peace and happiness will pervade all experience.
If we do not resist what is present and seek what is not present, experience will lose its capacity to veil its reality.
One who remains established in and as the presence of awareness will not lose their self in the content of experience, and as a result, peace and happiness will prevail.
Such a one will not separate their self from any experience, and as such, love and beauty will shine in their experience.
It is our likes and dislikes which confer independent existence on people and things, and as a result our shared being is overlooked.
To understand this is to be free from experience even in the midst of experience itself. In this condition, preferences simply no longer arise.
The peace that is the nature of our being is equally present in both activity and inactivity, and therefore it has no preference for either.
In the absence of any distinction between activity and inactivity, we cannot even call it peace. Thus, it cannot be defined by words or restrained by any law.
One who is in touch with the peace of their essential being no longer negotiates experience from the vantage point of a separate self. Such a one is free.
Our essential being is like empty space: nothing leaves a trace on it, nor does it hold on to anything.
For one who is established in their true nature, thoughts and feelings add nothing to their self nor remove anything from it, and thus they begin to quieten down. Everything simply is as it is.
In reality there is no separate subject or object of experience; there is no self and no other.
This absence of otherness is love itself, from which nothing is separate and nothing excluded.
The recognition of one’s true nature is independent of the content of experience.
In this recognition, the relative value of things in time and space, whilst remaining, is outshone.
At every moment, experience is always a single, infinite and indivisible whole, for all such definitions would refer to parts of the whole.
Wherever we look it is all a manifestation of the same impersonal, infinite, intimate reality, which admits no boundaries, distinctions or differences.
This reality cannot be debated by the finite mind.
It assumes the names and forms of ten thousand things, without ever being, becoming or knowing anything other than itself.
To understand and feel this is to live a life of peace and joy.
It is the origin, the path and the goal of the non-dual understanding.
It cannot be spoken of and yet all words speak of it.
There is no path to it because it is that alone which is always and already present.
Turn towards that and it will take you into itself.
Richard B. Clarke's Original Rendition
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 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 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 meaning, but to pursue appearances is to miss the source.
At the moment of inner enlightenment, there is 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 cherish 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 even 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 (objects).
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; the burdensome practice of judging brings annoyance and weariness.
What benefit can be derived from distinctions and separation?
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, 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 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, relationless state.
Consider movement stationary and the stationary in motion; both movement and 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 say when doubts arise, ‘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 and 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 realisation 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.
The Way is beyond language, for in it there is no yesterday, no tomorrow, no today.
If you would like to read more of Rupert's poetry, we recommend taking a look at his poem Lockdown Nights in Oxford .