Xinxin Ming

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Lua error in package.lua at line 80: module 'strict' not found. Lua error in package.lua at line 80: module 'strict' not found. Lua error in package.lua at line 80: module 'strict' not found. Xinxin Ming (alternate spellings Xin Xin Ming or Xinxinming) (Chinese: 信心銘; Hànyǔ Pīnyīn: Xìnxīn Míng; Wade–Giles: Hsin Hsin Ming; Japanese: Shinjinmei or Shinjin no Mei), Faith in mind, is a poem attributed to the Third Chinese Chán (Zen) Patriarch Jianzhi Sengcan 鑑智僧璨 (Hànyǔ Pīnyīn: Jiànzhì Sēngcàn; Wade–Giles: Chien-chih Seng-ts'an; Japanese: Kanchi Sōsan, died 606) and one of the earliest Chinese Chan expressions of the Buddhist mind training practice.

Title translation

"Xinxin" has commonly been interpreted as "faith" or "trust." For example, one translation is "Faith in Mind" (See The Poetry of Enlightenment: Poems by Ancient Ch'an Masters, Ch'an Master Sheng-Yen). While this interpretation may appear to some to be a departure from the traditional view of seeking refuge in the Three Jewels (Buddha, Dharma and Sangha), it is actually a deliberate declaration and poetic polemic of the Chan (Zen) school written as a response to the increasingly popular movement of faith in Amitaba Buddha known as Pure Land Buddhism. From the Chan/Zen point of view, Buddha and Mind are one (即心即佛) (see the Platform Sutra of the Sixth Patriarch (六祖壇經)), as expressed in Mazu's famous dictum "Mind is Buddha". Thus, faith in outward Buddhas is contrary to the goal of Buddhism, which is the direct experience of enlightenment. This can only be attained by having faith in Mind as Shakyamuni Buddha himself did. Variations of the title include: "Inscription on Trust in the Mind", "Verses on the Faith Mind", and "On Believing in Mind", as well as others. John McRae (1986:316 n. 64) argues that the title should be translated as "Inscription on Relying on the Mind" or "Inscription of the Perfected Mind". The word "inscription" does accurately convey the idea of a truth that can survive the test of time and is the more literal meaning of ming (銘).

Another reading of the text allows that Xinxin could be understood as the Truthful Mind, which is always ready and perfect, implying that there is no need to further "perfect" it. Because in the Chinese language today, Xinxin (信心) usually means "trust", "confidence", or "believing mind", it is often forgotten that Xinxin can also be understood as the truthful mind (信實的心).[1]

From the Chan/Zen view, the true mind is perfect as it is and only false views obscure the true mind's inherent perfection. As the text states,

"Any degeneration of your previous practice on emptiness arises because of false perspectives. There is really no need to go after the Truth but there is indeed a need to extinguish biased views." (前空轉變 皆由妄見 不用求真 唯須息見)

Moreover, the passage that follows immediately after explicitly warns against losing the original, true mind (失心):

"Do not dwell in the two biased views. Make sure you do not pursue. The moment you think about right and wrong, that moment you unwittingly lose your true mind." (二見不住 慎勿追尋 才有是非 紛然失心)

Whether translated as Faith in Mind, Believing in Mind, Trust in Mind, or The Truthful Mind, the central message of the Xinxin Ming is the same: to point directly to Mind by giving up one-sided views so we can see the One Suchness of reality as it is.(心若不異 萬法一如)


Although Sengcan has been traditionally been attributed as the author, modern scholars believe that the verse was written well after Sengcan's death, probably during the Tang Dynasty (Chinese: 唐朝; pinyin: Tángcháo) (618 – 907). (Dumoulin, p 97) Some scholars note the similarity with a poem called Mind Inscription[2] by Niu-t'ou Fa-jung (594-657) (Gozu Hõyû 牛頭法融) of the Ox-head School of Chan and have speculated that the Xinxin Ming is an abridged version of the Mind Inscription. The classical source of the Xinxin Ming can be found in the Transmission of the Lamp (Wade–Giles: Ching-te Ch'uan-teng Lu; Japanese: Keitoku Denkōroku 景德傳燈錄 景徳伝灯録).[3]


The Xinxin Ming has been much beloved by Chan (Zen) practitioners for over a thousand years. It is still studied in Western Zen circles.[4]

As an early expression of Chan Buddhism, the Inscription on Faith in Mind reveals the Buddhist missionary use of expedient means (upaya) in China by adapting Taoist terminology to the Buddhist context of awakening. It also draws on the Wisdom sutras as well as the Avatamsaka Sutra and Lankavatara Sutra to express the essential unity of opposites and the basic nature of emptiness (śūnyatā) [5]

The poem professes the need to take pleasant and unpleasant life experiences with a sense of equanimity. Broadly speaking, the Xinxin Ming deals with the principles and practice of non-duality, that is, with the application of nonduality and the results of its practice.[6]


Opening verse

The opening verse, variously translated, sets out the fundamental principle:

The best way [Great Way, the Tao] is not difficult
It only excludes picking and choosing
Once you stop loving and hating
It will enlighten itself.
(trans. D. Pajin)


The Perfect Way knows no difficulties
Except that it refuses to make preferences;
Only when freed from hate and love,
It reveals itself fully and without disguise
(trans. by D.T. Suzuki)[7]


The Way of the supreme is not difficult,
If only people will give up preferences.
Like not, dislike not.
Be illuminated.
(translated by Lok Sang Ho )

Last verse

The poem ends with:

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 realization
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.
Words! The Way is beyond language,
for in it there is
no yesterday
no tomorrow
no today.
(trans. Richard B. Clarke)


One in All,
All in One—
If only this is realized,
No more worry about your not being perfect!
Where Mind and each believing mind are not divided,
And undivided are each believing mind and Mind,
This is where words fail;
For it is not of the past, present, and future.
(trans. D.T. Suzuki)[7]


The truthful mind is beyond the two views.
Beyond the two views is the truthful mind.
Words and language fail,
For reality is neither the past and nor the future.
And it is not even the present.
(translated by Lok Sang Ho)


  1. A translation of the Xinxin Ming based on this interpretation is available at: [1]. This is consistent with the traditional view of Buddha nature being there all the time. It just waits to be rediscovered.
  2. Sacred Texts Henrik H. Sorensen translation of "Mind Inscription", the possible original source of Xinxin Ming
  3. for a fuller discussion on authorship see Sacred Texts
  4. See, e.g., Soeng (2004), p. xiii: "The poem ... is one of the most beloved texts of the Zen tradition and one of the most familiar of the early Zen texts."
  5. The early great proponent of the Buddhist analysis of emptiness was Nagarjuna (c.150-250 AD) (Chinese: 龍樹).
  6. See Pajin (1988).
  7. 7.0 7.1 Suzuki (1960), pp. 76-82; see also, Soeng (2004), pp. 133, 139, 145, 151, 157, 163, 169.


  • Clarke, Richard (1973, 1984). Hsin Hsin Ming: Verses on the Faith-Mind. Buffalo, New York: White Pine Press. Retrieved at [2]. (dead link on Sept 20 2009)
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  • Dumoulin, Heinrich (1994, 1998). Zen Buddhism: A History, Volume I, India and China, Simon & Schuster and Prentice Hall International ISBN 0-02-897109-4
  • McRae, John R (1986). The Northern School and the Formation of Early Ch'an Buddhism, University of Hawaii Press, ISBN 0-8248-1056-2
  • Pajin, Dusan (1988). On Faith in Mind, Journal of Oriental Studies, Vol. XXVI, No. 2, Hong Kong 1988, pp. 270–288. available hereor here
  • Soeng, Mu (2004). Trust in Mind: The Rebellion of Chinese Zen. Boston: Wisdom Publications. ISBN 0-86171-391-5.

External links