The Ts'an T'ung Ch'i'
A Buddhist Poem by Shih T'ou [700-790]
by Peter Morrell
1. The genius of mind of the Great Sage of India (Buddha) came East [to China) from the West (India) in secret.
2. Man fundamentally is both clever and stupid but in the Way there is no Northern or Southern teacher.
3. The Mysterious Source (Buddha Nature) is bright, clear and pure but the branching streams flow on in darkness invisible to the mind's eye.
4. Clinging to transient phenomena is the primary illusion, yet even to be bound to Buddhist principles is not Enlightenment.
5. The Outer (Objective) and Inner [Subjective] components of the universe are inter-related and yet independent of one another.
6. They relate and work together despite their differences in function and position.
7. The outer form of things blinds us to their true nature, just as sounds may cause joy or sorrow in different people.
8. But the Dark (true nature) unites all teachings, and the Light (true nature) distinguishes clear and obscure scriptures.
9. The Four Elements return to their Source like a child reaching its mother
10. Fire is hot, wind moves to and fro, water is wet and the earth is firm and strong.
11. The eyes see colours and the ears hear sounds, the nose smells scents and the tongue tastes salty or sour.
12. Yet in all this diversity of form [outer] there is unity of essence [inner] just as many leaves spread from the same root.
13. Root and branch (cause and effect) must derive from the permanent reality. Though we say honourable and humble they are just words with no meanings.
14. At its heart the light [outer] is dark [inner], but do not seek this darkness.
15. At its heart the dark [inner] is light [outer], but do not seek this light.
16. The light [outer] and the dark [inner] form a pair, like one foot ahead and one behind when walking.
17. The myriad things [of the universe) have their own intrinsic values and keep their own functions and positions.
18. Transient phenomena and the permanent fit together like a box and its lid; the Absolute and the Relative operate like two arrows meeting point-to-point in mid-air.
19. Reading these words you must have reached the permanent, so do not set up rules and standards to judge life.
20. Though you do not see the Way, you are already on it. Going by foot or horse [ordinary life) you can know the Way.
21. When you walk on the Way it is neither near nor far, but if you are deluded in heart then you are certainly mountains and rivers away from it.
22. With respect I say to you, reflect (meditate) on purity and seek a true Master; if you want to attain Enlightenment, then do not waste your time in vain.
Note: Traditionally Chinese was always written downwards vertically in rows starting on the right and progressing leftwards.
By Peter Morrell