Parts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7

The extremely small is like the large,
When dividing boundaries are forgotten.
The extremely large is like the small,
Like a surface whose edges cannot be seen.

Being is wu, wu is being.
If something doesn’t seem this way,
Then certainly don’t abide it.

One is all, all is one.
If you’re able to know all things as such,
Your worries are finished, and there’s nothing to carry.

Trust in Mind is nondual,
Nonduality is trust in Mind.

The Way is without language,
Without yesterday, today, or tomorrow.

Commentary

The extremely small is like the large,
When dividing boundaries are forgotten.
The extremely large is like the small,
Like a surface whose edges cannot be seen.

So, here we are, at the last part of the Xinxin Ming. It’s been fun! Well, I think it’s been fun anyway.

Small and large are both comparisons. Look at something around you, it doesn’t matter what it is. Now, without comparing it to something else that it’s not, is it large or small? Is it light or dark? Is it light or heavy? Is it warm or cool?

We also compare things based on our relationship to them. The Earth is larger than a marble, but if you were the size of a microbe, that marble would be gigantic to you, and the Earth would be too vast to even perceive. But if you were the size of Jupiter, the Earth would be like a basketball.

When we rely on our perception to know the world, we end up forming incomplete views. Then we use these views to inform our decisions, but since they’re incomplete, we end up making poor decisions and suffering when reality asserts itself.

During Chan meditation, we stop comparing. We stop relying on our biased and limited senses, including the thinking mind which always tries its best to fill in the blanks. We let those blanks go unfilled, the dots go unconnected. Then all constraining edges and boundaries are forgotten.

Being is wu, wu is being.
If something doesn’t seem this way,
Then certainly don’t abide it.

Most translations have non-being for wu, but I decided to just leave it untranslated because it’s a Taoist and Chan technical term in itself. We could think of it as non-being here, or consider this a nod to the Heart Sutra’s, “Form is emptiness, emptiness is form.”

The Xinxin Ming was written about 200 years before Zhaozhou‘s famous, “Does a dog have Buddha nature?” wu gong-an came about, so it’d be a mistake to look to that for a pointer here. We study in bad faith if we don’t forget the works and views that came after it.

The Xinxin Ming is profoundly Taoist in flavor. In Taoism, wu means empty, but not in a Buddhist sense. More like an empty cup, and that’s how Buddhist emptiness was first understood in China. It took a few centuries for Chinese Buddhists to see that Buddhist emptiness has a slightly different connotation than the Taoist variety.

This verse echoes sentiments in the Daodejing and Zhuangzhi. Without the space in a cup, we couldn’t pour anything into it, we couldn’t use it as a cup. It’d be a cylindrical paperweight. The space in the cup is what makes it useful, that space is an integral part of the cup and all things.

Space is non-being, the cup is being. They’re both together, not-two. Beings appear in space as part of space, and space appears within, around, and as a part of all beings. Interestingly, Buddhist emptiness (total interdependence) naturally follows as the principle behind this. That’s why Taoism and Buddhism were such a snug fit.

If we don’t see the interdependent being and non-being of something, then we’re not seeing it as it is. So, if we abide by any of the other views and motives that that misunderstanding causes, we’ll go farther into the weeds.

One is all, all is one.
If you’re able to know all things as such,
Your worries are finished, and there’s nothing to carry.

More echoes of the Heart Sutra here. It’s important to see that, “One is all, all is one,” isn’t saying the same thing backwards, and neither is, “Form is emptiness, emptiness is form.” Lines like these represent a rat-tat-tat kind of process, or a, “Ta-da!”

“One is all,” is like saying, “A wave is the sea.” All is one is saying, “The sea is all the waves.” Or the cloud is the sky, and the sky is all the clouds. If we don’t take that next step, we fall into dead emptiness if we’re practicing Zen, or total egohood if we’re practicing in an essentialist school like Advaita Vedanta.

If we can directly “experience” what the Xinxin Ming is pointing to here, then there’s nothing to worry about in life, no burdens to carry. Even the Path is rolled up like a newspaper and played like a holeless flute.

Trust in Mind is nondual,
Nonduality is trust in Mind.

What is trust? What is mind? What is, “Is”? Trust in Mind is Bodhicitta, the earnest and persistent wish for all beings to Wake Up and be free of suffering. It’s trusting that the will to Awaken will guide us along the Way, and it’s the realization that the wish for all beings to be Awake is Awakening itself.

Bodhicitta is nondual because it includes everything and everyone, there’s no outside to it. Since there’s no outside, there’s no inside, since inside and outside are empty comparisons. The no-inside, no-outside nature of things is also what makes Bodhicitta possible. We can only wish for all beings to Wake Up if we know that there are beings. We can only know that with our minds, so that means beings aren’t separate from our minds. If they were, we wouldn’t be aware of them at all, they’d be like something in the next room over, or beyond the horizon.

They’re also not inside the mind, because—no matter how much we might like to at times—we can’t control other people. If everything was truly in our minds, we’d be able to manipulate all things at will, the same way we can imagine a circle and change it into a square. If we can grok this fact and practice with it, then we’re glimpsing the True Mind.

The Mind here isn’t the this-or-that, jumpy, I-me-mine mind, but it doesn’t exclude that mind either. Nor is it a blank slate, or bare awareness that’s common to all beings. If it was either of those easily digested terms, there’d be no reason to say it’s beyond words and letters. Bare awareness is easily describable, easily experienced, and even easier to cling to.

The Mind the Xinxin Ming is talking about can’t even fit into a concept (though it’s the basis of all conceptualization) let alone be grasped at. It’s not an essence, and it has no location, but that doesn’t mean it’s nowhere or that it doesn’t exist. To truly be open to it, we have to set aside perceptual projections like is and isn’t, and experience something without relying on categories, preferences, rationalizations, and self-consciousness. This might sound challenging, but it’s totally doable. In fact, you’re doing it right now.

The Way is without language,
Without yesterday, today, or tomorrow.

Imagine that there’s a gate that opens to an amusement park called Perfect Emptiness, Wondrous Existence. Just like with any amusement park, we have to pay a fee to get in. The sign says, “Price of Admission: Whatever You Have.” It’s a week from payday, so we don’t have much. We give the gatekeeper $30.

“Is that all?” the gatekeeper asks. Since we really want in, we take off our hat and shoes. “Is that all?” Then we strip down to our birthday suit and stand there nude in broad daylight. “Is that all?” We give up our hair, eyes and ears, our nose and skin. We give our bones and marrow. “Is that all?” We give up past, present, and future, our name, identity, and views. “Is that all?”

We give up our sense of self and being, life and death. “Is that all?” We give up the gate and the gatekeeper, and everything in and beyond the known universe. We give up giving up. After everything’s said and done, it’s clear that we could’ve just walked right through because we never had anything from the get-go. There’s no admission and no gate, because we’re already there. Entering the Gate is not entering the Gate.

So, you don’t have to give anything up. You don’t have to let go. That’s the Way we would’ve had to take if we lived in a world without things like the Xinxin Ming to give us pointers. That was the way of pre-Chan Mahayana Buddhism and early Buddhism.

That step-by-step letting go was so difficult, that the old books predicted that it takes around 10 billion years or so to do it. The teachings and methods in pre-Chan schools were all in the context of diligently practicing across hundreds of lifetimes. No one expected to Wake Up and be free of suffering in this life.

Chan’s focus on this life is one of the things that makes it accessible and unique. The Xinxin Ming takes us along a direct path to right where we are, to the truth of this timeless, inexpressible moment. We don’t have to let anything go or pick anything up to be where we are or who we are. We just have to stop and see.

Entire Translation
<-END->

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