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Thread: Xin Xin Ming, and a sutra question.

  1. #1

    Xin Xin Ming, and a sutra question.

    Hey y'all, I remember we studied Seng Ts'an's Xin Xin Ming (Faith in Mind) a couple of years ago for Ango. I looked through a few of the posts to find one of the books Jundo referenced, and found this. I'm hoping this is the correct book. I then became confused when I saw another book by Sheng Yen dealing with Nin-t'ou Fa-jung's Xin Ming (Song of Mind). Can someone give me an insight as to relation of the two pieces?

    Also, I'm going to get a Red Pine translation of one of the sutras. Having not read any sutras in their entirety, except the Heart Sutra, I'm open to recommendations on where to begin. I'd chosen the Lankavatara Sutra, but that was more by chance than any particular reason.

    Thanks for your help.


  2. #2
    Hi Shujin,

    With regard to the Hsin-hsin Ming (claimed to be by Third Zen Patriarch in China, Chien-chih Seng-ts'an) I have often turned to this page which gathers several noted translations and quotes some detailed historical information from a variety of scholarly sources (D.T. Suzuki and many others) ...

    The other work you mention (Nin-t'ou Fa-jung's Xin Ming) is a product of the "Ox-head School" of early Zen Buddhism.

    To make a long story too short, there may be some overlap, but the overlap is probably primarily due to them both being Zen texts of about the same period talking about basic Zen views covering similar territory using similar lingo. Otherwise, they are not the same piece.

    If you really want quite an education in early Zen history and doctrine, you might want to go through the two above pages. They are not too long. It is a bit dry history, but our history. Ask me any question that comes up.

    A Sutra (or Sutta in Pali, the former a Sanskrit word for typically a Mahayana text and the latter a South Asian text) is a book quoting the Buddha. Some works by Zen Masters (like the Sixth Patriarch's "Platform Sutra") were called "Sutras" even if not really words of the Buddha ... because the Zen Master's words were considered to be "one with the words of the Buddhas". Most of the Mahayana "Sutras" were written by human, although inspired, authors centuries after the historical Buddha died. They are often as fantastic in allegorical content as "Lord of the Rings". The Suttas too were first set down in writing centuries after the Buddha died, and though perhaps closer to the early formulations of Buddhism, also quite idealized in content.

    Among the Mahayana Sutras, the Lankavatara is a very philosophical work, emphasizing topics including the workings of the mind from a Buddhist viewpoint. It is said to be associated with Zen in the early days, but actually fell out of favor with Zen folks later compared to the "Prajnaparamita" literature such as the short Heart Sutra (which we chant at each Zazenkai), the Diamond Sutra and the like. Red Pine's book on his translations of the Heart Sutra is a good read and not too dense. Burton Watson's Vimalakirti Sutra is next. One might then read the Platform Sutra of the Sixth Patriarch by Yampolsly (be sure to get the version with Yampolsky's Introduction included). Red Pine's Diamond Sutra expands on themes in the Heart Sutra. One could read Gene Reeve's Lotus Sutra together with Taigen Dan Leighton's book on it (Visions of Awakening Space and Time: Dogen and the Lotus Sutra; and don't forget our Mongen's video series!). Red Pine's Lankavatara is also interesting once one gets through all that.

    And, no, (apart from the Heart Sutra I would say) one does not really "need" to read these Sutras to Practice Zen. However, it is good to do so at some point much like a true Lord of the Rings fan should read the books at some point, not merely watch the "Hobbit" movie.

    Gassho, Jundo

    PS - Sheng Yen's books are good, but he offers some personal interpretations from his particular Chan tradition.
    Last edited by Jundo; 06-18-2013 at 04:25 AM.

  3. #3
    Someone wrote to ask what the Xin Xin Ming and Xin Ming are about, in a nutshell.

    Line by line, both are descriptions, in Traditional Zen Lingo, of the relationship, dance, wholeness and intimacy of Emptiness, the Relative and Absolute (which are not two things) ... about all the implications of the dance.

    So, where do they disagree?

    Well, like most Zen stuff by different schools and teachers, just on how to view and express the implications of the dance and how best to encounter and experience the dance, dance the dance of Emptiness, Absolute and Relative.

    One scholar cited puts it this way about the "Ox-Head " folks ...

    the Niu-t'ou (Oxhead) doctrine paid attention to the absolute level at the expense of the relative level. This one-sided emphasis on emptiness and cessation naturally exposed the school to attacks from other Buddhist monks, causing Tsung-mi to characterize the Niu-t'ou School as one following a doctrine of "utter annihilation and non-dwelling" (min-chueh wu-chiam).
    And what does that mean?

    Well, it is basically the same stuff we chat about around Treeleaf every single day, although perhaps in more modern and easier to digest terms.

    And it is why we sit and Practice, so to dance the dance.

    Gassho, J
    Last edited by Jundo; 06-18-2013 at 08:09 AM.

  4. #4
    may I add this:

    Until one sees the sutra, the text not as a relic, a fragment, a window into unknowing, but a mere mirror of the original sutra: one's body~mind



  5. #5
    Very interesting thread. Thank you Shujin.

    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo View Post
    And, no, (apart from the Heart Sutra I would say) one does not really "need" to read these Sutras to Practice Zen.
    Jundo and Taigu,

    If I could ask a very quick question rather than start a new thread. I've been reading the Heart Sutra commentary in Shohaku Okumura Roshi's "Living by vow". Just wondering if there is there a particular book with commentary of the Heart Sutra you would recommend for study? Thanks.


  6. #6
    Hi Matt,

    I think Red Pine is good. His are not "Dharma Talks", but an explanation of the meaning and history. Not hard reading, especially given the topic.

    Gassho, J

  7. #7
    Thank you for the link, Jundo.

    I converted it to PDF so I can study it offline


    Hondō Kyōnin
    奔道 協忍

  8. #8
    I found Red Pine's translation of the Platform Sutra to be very good. The Lankavatara Sutra (still working on it) is very thick going.

    Deep bows

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