Spiritual Master: Sengtsan (3rd) Zen Patriarch, China, 606 AD


Not much is known about the life of Sengtsan or Sengcan (Japanese: Kanchi Sosan, Buddhist: Seng-ts'an). His birth date and place of birth are unknown. He is said to have succeeded second Chinese Zen Patriarch, Dazu Huike sometime in the late sixth century. He is credited with famous poen Xsin Xsin Ming. It remains as one of the most profound and rare texts in Zen Buddhism. Emperor Hsuan-tsung (Genso) of the T'ang dynasty gave Sengtsan an honorary title Chien-chih after his death in 606 AD that means "Mirrorlike Wisdom".

Osho Rajneesh, who gave detailed discourses on Sengtsan's verses (Hsin Hsin Ming: The Book of Nothing by Osho) introduces Sengtsan, or Sosan, as one of the rare spiritual mastets. Osho says, "He was a river; he was not a pond, static. He was a constant movement." Sengtsan's words are not merely words. They are expression of Tao, manifestation of Sengtsan's no-mind (Wu-nein).

Xhsin Xhsin Ming is one of the earliest Ch'an writings. It expounds Ch'an basic principles in poetic form and shows strong Taoist influence. The Xsin Xsin Ming begins with a famous sentence, which comes up again and again in Ch'an (Zen) literature (for instance, in example of the Pi-yen-lu): "The venerable way is not difficult at all; it only abhors picking and choosing." In this early Ch'an poem, the fusion, typical for later Ch'an (Zen), of the mutually congenial teachings of Mahayana Buddhism and Taoism appears for the first time (The Encyclopedia of Eastern Philosophy and Religion 311).

According to the Denko-roku ("The Transmission of the Lamp"), written by Keizan Zenji (1268-1325), he was a layman over forty years old suffering from leprosy when when he met the Second Patriarch, Hui-k'o (Jap: Eka), for the first time in 551 c.e. Being deeply impressed with this layman's capacity for the Dharma, Hui-k'o shaved the Third Patriarch's head and named him Seng-ts'an (Jewel of the Community). He was gradually cured of his illness and, after they had been practicing together for two years, Hui-k'o gave him the robe and bowl signifying the transmission of the Dharma. It is said that during the Buddhist persecution of the year 574, Seng-ts'an had to feign mental illness in order to escape execution, and that finally he went into hiding for ten years on Mount Huan-kung.

The conversion of Sengtsan at the hands of Huike (Eka), the Second Patriarch, is recorded in the "Chuantenglu" ("Dentoroku"), Part 3: Sengtsan asked Huike, saying, "I am diseased: I implore you to cleanse me of my sin". Huike said, "Bring me your sin and I will cleanse you of it". Sengtsan thought for a while; then said, "I cannot get at it". Huike replied, "Then I have cleansed you of it".

The verses in English translation by Osho Rajneesh are given below.

You may also see Sengtsan's ORIGINAL verses in ancient Chinese script.

Word-by-word translation from the Chinese Text.

The Verses as translated by Osho Rajneesh (Hsin Hsin Ming, The Book of Nothing, Osho Media International, Pune, India)

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 opinion for or against. The struggle of what one likes and what one dislikes 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 without striving activity 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 the meaning, but to pursue appearances is to miss the source. At the moment of inner enlightenment there is a 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 hold opinions. Do not remain in the dualistic state; avoid such pursuits carefully. If there is a trace of this and that, the 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 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; the mind is such because of things. 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 no 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 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, and the burdensome practice of judging brings annoyance and weariness. What benefit can be derived from distinctions and separations? 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 for no goals but the foolish man fetters himself. There is one Dharma, truth, law, 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 the air; foolish 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, and both the state of movement and the state of 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 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 simply 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 or space; in it a single thought is then thousand years.

Emptiness here, Emptiness there, but the infinite universe stands always before our 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.

The Way is beyond language, for in it there is
no yesterday
no tomorrow
no today.