Hsin Hsin Ming Part 6

Parts One, Two, Three, Four, Five

If the heart-mind doesn’t separate things,
The ten thousand things are as-if-one.

In the mysterious experience of as-if-one,
Cut off and forget cause, reason, karma, and fate.

When the ten thousand things are beheld as equal and altogether,
You return to, and are cared for, by your original nature.

Let the cause disappear,
And there is the true that cannot be compared.

Stop stirring emotions, and there will be no-stirring,
Set stopping in motion, and there will be no-stopping.

When both aren’t seen as already complete,
Which one is you?

Go to the bottom of the matter, and use up extremes,
And no path or principle remains.

Engrave the heart-mind with peaceful equality,
That which puts all pretending to rest.

Commentary

If the heart-mind doesn’t separate things,
The ten thousand things are as-if-one.

My translating work is as manic and inconsistent as I am. For part six, I decided to follow the literal translations, so I went with heart-mind for xin, as-if-one for Suchness, and the ten thousand things for everything.

If we stop seeing things as separate from each other, then everything is as-if-one. Be aware, it’s incredibly easy to mistake duality for nonduality. We might have an experience of as-if-one, but if that as-if-one doesn’t include us, if we seem to be on the outside looking at it, then it isn’t as-if-one. If we truly taste as-if-one, then not even as-if-one has its own appearance.

In the mysterious experience of as-if-one,
Cut off and forget cause, reason, karma, and fate.

Mysterious here means that it can’t be digested, quantified, labeled, or rationalized. We can’t put it in a box, wrap it up and put it under the Christmas tree.

During this moment, we have the strength and clarity to let go of the source of all our afflictions and misunderstandings. Ironically, that source is the as-if-one. If it wasn’t for enlightenment, there’d be no such thing as confusion. In complete enlightenment, even enlightenment has no traces. For a Buddha, there’s no such thing as Buddhahood.

That said, don’t get excited and think that you can just sit around in your underwear dropping acid all day while watching cartoons and call it Buddhahood. Just because we’re already enlightened, and just because there’s no such thing as Buddhas to Buddhas, doesn’t mean we can just call it day and do whatever we like, that’s not what the Xinxin Ming is saying.

It’s saying that everything’s perspective. Until we come upon a no-enlightenment, no-Buddhas, no-cause perspective naturally through practice, then it’s harmful to live as if we’re already Awake.

When the ten thousand things are beheld as equal and altogether,
You return to, and are cared for, by your original nature.

Some translations just have, “Equal,” here, but when a word has several different meanings, I sometimes like to lay them all out side by side. Chinese writers were fantastic wordsmiths, and the language is more subtle than English can usually convey. Chinese poets had the habit of using one word in several different ways all at once.

齐 means equal, even, altogether, identical, and simultaneous. Even though it’s just one syllable, it’s a big word, and all of its definitions fit here. All things are seen as equal, because nothing is truly good or bad. They’re even, in that the mind doesn’t fixate on just one of them, but allows them all to be present. They’re altogether, because there’s no division in the mind. They’re identical, because they are all the mind, all our original nature. They’re simultaneous because illumination is always sudden.

If we can see things this way, then we return to our original self, who we are before we become who we seem to be. “Returning” is just a metaphor. The river is always connected to its source.

Let the cause disappear,
And there is the true that cannot be compared.

When we no longer see the source of the river as, “The source,” then we’re seeing it as it is. If we see the source and the river as one and the same, then “source” and “river” no longer seem to fit. Every inch of the river is the source of the river; every inch of the source is the river.

“Truth” in Zen, isn’t truth as compared to untruth. We’re not going from, “1 + 1 = 3,” to, “1 + 1 = 2.” We’re seeing that 1 + 1 = 1 + 1, and that numbers are just symbols. The truth of them is in the one who’s aware of them.

Stop stirring emotions, and there will be no-stirring,
Set stopping in motion, and there will be no-stopping.

A lot of students approach meditation in a dualistic way. I see it all the time, and it really pisses me off because it’s so difficult to correct. It’s one of the main roadblocks along the Zen way, and it’s the main subject of the Xin Ming (Song of Mind), a related poem by Chan Master Niutou Farong.

If we’re able to stop all of our wandering, thoughts, craving, and stirring emotions, then this absence becomes a presence in itself. It’s easy to see it as something separate from all the wandering and stirring, to value it more or think that it’s complete enlightenment.

But if we cling to that non-clinging, then that’s the same thing as clinging. We end up stirring the mind with the concept of no-stirring. This is a huge hurdle, and a lot of people struggle with it. It’s a kind of nihilistic, emptiness extreme that can cause a lot of problems in our work, family, and social lives.

Imagine that you’re not used to being alone, maybe you even dislike solitude. Then circumstances force you to be alone for awhile, and eventually you start to like it. It’s free of all the drama and complexities that inevitably arise from being with others. Then, the situation changes, and you have to start being around others again. Now, you don’t like that anymore, you’d rather be alone, so you push everyone away and miss all the potential wonders that being with others can bring.

The mindset that the Xinxin Ming points to isn’t like that. It’s we feel at home when we’re alone or with others, and we don’t value ease over difficulty, order over chaos, enlightenment over confusion.

When both aren’t seen as already complete,
Which one is you?

Am I a loner or the social butterfly? Am I myself, not myself, everyone, or no one? Am I a Buddha or a worldling? Am I a son, brother, friend, good person, or bad person?

If I have this idea that stillness and motion, or is and isn’t are opposed to each other, that they constantly switch places in my life, then who am I? I can’t be any of those things in themselves, because if I was, then I would disappear along with them. There’d be no sense of a common thread running through my life.

Only if I can view all of this as complete, and all striving and no-striving as completed, can I know myself as I am. Emptiness isn’t about just negating everything, that’d be nihilistic. It means that, when I look at this cup, I see what it is and what it isn’t at the same time. What it is is the cup, and what it isn’t is the cup too. We see the no of yes, and the yes of no. Yes, this doesn’t make sense. It’s not supposed to.

Go to the bottom of the matter, and use up extremes,
And no path or principle remains.

Ikkyu said something like, “There is no set path.” The Path and the principle of as-if-one can be extremes as well. Whenever we say, “It’s this and not that,” it’s like trying to stab the sky with a spear. No matter how hard we throw that fucking spear, it’s not gonna pierce the sky, and it’s not gonna remain there.

When we’re truly tasting the fruit of the Path, then there’s no fruit and no path to speak of. Just like when we get back to the source or origin, there’s no origin to speak of. That doesn’t mean there’s nothing, it means there’s everything. Please, never think that all these nos imply non-existence. They mean that thought baubles like “Path” and “principle” are no longer helpful when it comes to describing the Path and the principle as they really are.

Engrave the heart-mind with peaceful equality,
That which puts all pretending to rest.

This verse pretty much speaks for itself. If we embody everything that part six has talked about, then we’re no longer lost in make-believe, no longer pretending to be anyone but who we really are.

<<Part Seven>>>

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