Part 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6

Doubts are completely used up,
Helpful trust continuously harmonizes.

There is nothing to keep,
Nothing to reflect upon.

Bright emptiness naturally shines,
And the mind is effortless.

There is nothing to consider,
For it’s beyond judgments and senses.

As for the true Suchness of things,
There is no self and no other.
To swiftly accord with that,
Only speak of nonduality.

Nondual, everything’s together,
Nothing is lacking, so all is forgiven.

The truly wise, in all times and places,
Have entered this teaching.

This teaching isn’t sudden or gradual,
Just one thought for 10,000 years.

It neither is nor isn’t,
Everywhere, right before your eyes.

Commentary

Doubts are completely used up,
Helpful trust continuously harmonizes.

This verse follows from the ones we covered in part six, so it might be helpful to recap: “Go to the bottom of the matter, use up extremes, and no path or principle remains. Engrave the heart-mind with peaceful equality, that which puts all pretending to rest.”

Part seven picks up with a description of what’ll happen if we follow Sengcan’s advice. Our doubts are used up. Not doubting the teachings, not doubt ourselves and our True Nature. The sense that, “I’m missing something,” is gone. Without doubt, we trust in ourselves and the Way, and this trust makes its way into all of our decisions, so we end up always making the best choice in any situation.

There is nothing to keep,
Nothing to reflect upon.

When we actualize Awakening, when we finally trust the teachings, we forget about them. Because the actual teaching has always been beyond words. The actual teaching is the Suchness of all things—including words. Including us.

Bright emptiness naturally shines,
And the mind is effortless
.

This describes silent illumination, the meditative mind, and the nature of everything that that mind observes. At this point, we see that there’s nothing but mind, and that the mind has always functioned without effort. It takes no effort to think, to feel, to see and hear. It takes even less effort than that to Wake Up.

There is nothing to consider,
For it’s beyond judgments and senses.

Nothing but mind doesn’t mean, “Everything’s subjective.” It means no subjective, no objective. No origin, no destination. The mind isn’t the things we see and hear, and it isn’t the seer or hearer, it’s an empty hall, free of dust and full of light. What it knows can’t be known, so it can’t be judged or considered. We can all know this unknowing.

As for the true Suchness of things,
There is no self and no other.
To swiftly accord with that,
Only speak of nonduality.

Suchness is this no origin or destination, no coming or going way of things. Self and other are ideas that we latch onto things after the fact by trying to make sense of them. There is hearing, so there must be someone who hears and something that’s heard.

But if we get back to basics, and bring knowing to consciousness rather than what we’re conscious of, it’s clear that there’s only hearing. To quickly grok this fact, we have to set aside all dualistic notions like self and not-self, other and not-other, and just openly observe without grasping at things.

Nonduality is literally translated as not-two. We sometimes call it Oneness, but that’s easy to misunderstand. Imagine that only the number one exists. There are no twos, threes, fours, or fives; just one. Since there’s only one, then when we order a coffee, there’d be no need to say, “I’ll have one coffee,” just, “I’ll have a coffee.”

So, not-two doesn’t mean that everything’s one essential self; it means that there’s no self and no other. There’s Just This.

Nondual, everything’s together,
Nothing is lacking, so all is forgiven.

Everything’s one taste, one moment, one body, one appearance. Everything’s included, there’s no outside, no limit. Hatred and spite depend on an inside/outside mentality. If someone steals my coffee, and I hate them for it, then that means I’m misunderstanding the nature of the situation.

That coffee was never mine. How could it be mine when I’m not even mine? Everything belongs to Suchness, to the complete common mind-ground of change and interdependence. So, you can’t steal from someone who’s Awake. That doesn’t mean they won’t press charges, it just means that, if they retaliate, it won’t be out of greed, hatred, or ignorance.

If anything, it’ll be to deter you from stealing again, because if you steal coffee from someone who isn’t Awake, the situation will be a lot worse for everyone involved.

There’s an old gong-an, where a Zen teacher said, “There’s no such thing as moral causality.” Because of that view, he was transformed into a fox for several lifetimes. Suffering, he manifested in front of another Zen teacher and asked for help.

The teacher said, “Ask me the same question you were asked, and I’ll answer it.” “Is there such a thing as moral causality?” “The Awakened abide by moral cause and effect.” With that, the fox dude was freed.

Yes, it’s unlikely that that actually happened. It just shows that even though an Awakened mind isn’t stuck in the realm of cause and effect, it doesn’t go to the opposite extreme and deny it altogether either.

It’s like if you had some neat license that let you drive as fast as you wanted to, regardless of the speed limit, or park anywhere, even in the middle of the interstate. Would you do it? Probably not, because it’d cause chaos everywhere.

Really, we all have that enlightened license right now, parking zones and speed limits are optional. But, we still agree to abide by them. For Buddhas, and especially Bodhisattvas, it’s no different.

The truly wise, in all times and places,
Have entered this teaching.

This teaching isn’t sudden or gradual,
One thought for 10,000 years.

Instead of sudden and gradual, a few translations have, “Beyond time and space.” The literal translation is not hurried, and not extended or delayed. There’s nothing about space or time in there, so that seems like a liberty taken by the translators. Which is fine, taking liberties is half the fun of translating ancient texts.

But, in this context, sudden and gradual seem like a closer fit. This is interesting because the sudden/gradual debate in Zen didn’t pop up until three generations after the Xinxin Ming was supposedly written. This just supports the theory that it wasn’t composed by any one writer, but gathered together and edited over time before taking on its definitive shape.

“Not sudden, not gradual,” is an Oxhead Zen teaching, which makes sense since the Xinxin Ming is attributed to Farong (the founder of the Oxhead school)’s Dharma grandfather. It’s possible that the entire Xinxin Ming could be an Oxhead text (Some scholars believe that the Platform Sutra is as well).

Anyway, not sudden or gradual means that the Xinxin Ming points to what is already, and has always been, present—our True Nature. Since it’s always been so, sudden and gradual Awakening don’t really apply. They’re both empty interpretations.

One thought for 10,000 years is a common Zen saying. It means that thought is beginningless and endless, with each thought and each moment of silence linked together as one. That’s why the Xinxin Ming strongly suggests that we don’t even try to stop thinking, but to leave thinking to emptiness.

It neither is nor isn’t,
Everywhere, right before your eyes.

How can something neither be nor not be, and yet also be right before our eyes the whole time? This means, the truth of things—that they neither exist nor don’t exist—is taught by everything each moment of our lives.

Whenever we suffer or feel dissatisfied, that means we’re grasping at something, and it’s saying, “Don’t cling to me!” “Why?” “Because I’m the sky.”

Does a cloud exist? No, because it’s the whole sky. Does that mean the cloud doesn’t exist? No, because the whole sky is the cloud too. If we try to separate the clouds from the sky, we bring them down to earth as fog that obscures our view of everything. If we form preferences about the clouds and clarity, then we suffer one way or the other.

So, when you look up and see a cloud, try to see the cloud in the sky, and the sky in the cloud.

<-Part Eight->

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