Song of Precious Mirror Samadhi

Abiding Nowhere, the Awakened Mind Arises © The Metropolitan Museum of Art



The Song of Precious Mirror Samadhi (Pao-ching San-mei-ko) by Tung-shan is a famous Zen poem.

The Chinese characters have been left to show it’s wonderful pithiness.

如是之法 佛祖密附  The dharma of thusness is intimately transmitted by buddhas and ancestors.

汝今得之 宜能保護  Now you have it; preserve it well.

銀碗盛雪 明月藏鷺  A silver bowl filled with snow, a heron hidden in the moon.

類而不斉 混則知處  Taken as similar, they are not the same; not distinguished, their places are known.

意不在言 來機亦赴  The meaning does not reside in the words, but a pivotal moment brings it forth.

動成窠臼 差落顧佇  Move and you are trapped, miss and you fall into doubt and vacillation.

背觸共非 如大火聚  Turning away and touching are both wrong, for it is like a massive fire.

但形文彩 即屬染汚  Just to portray it in literary form is to stain it with defilement.

夜半正明 天曉不露  In darkest night it is perfectly clear; in the light of dawn it is hidden.

爲物作則 用抜諸苦  It is a standard for all things; its use removes all suffering.

雖非有爲 不是無語  Although it is not constructed, it is not beyond words.

如臨寶鏡 形影相覩  Like facing a precious mirror; form and reflection behold each other.

汝是非渠 渠正是汝  You are not it, but in truth it is you.

如世嬰児 五相完具  Like a newborn child, it is fully endowed with five aspects:

不去不來 不起不住  No going, no coming, no arising, no abiding;

婆婆和和 有句無句  P’o-p’o han-han – is anything said or not?

終不得物 語未正故  In the end it says nothing, for the words are not yet right.

重離六爻 偏正回互  In the hexagram “double fire,” when main and subsidiary lines are transposed,

疊而成三 變盡爲五  Piled up they become three; the permutations make five.

如茎草味 如金剛杵  Like the taste of the five-flavoured herb, like the five-pronged vajra.

正中妙挾 敲唱雙舉  Wondrously embraced within the complete, drumming and singing begin together.

通宗通途 挾帯挾路  Penetrate the source and travel the pathways, embrace the territory and treasure the roads.

錯然則吉 不可犯忤  You would do well to respect this; do not neglect it.

天眞而妙 不屬迷悟  Natural and wondrous, it is not a matter of delusion or enlightenment.

因縁時節 寂然昭著  Within causes and conditions, time and season, it is serene and illuminating.

細入無間 大絶方所  So minute it enters where there is no gap, so vast it transcends dimension.

毫忽之差 不應律呂  A hairsbreadth’s deviation, and you are out of tune.

今有頓漸 縁立宗趣  Now there are sudden and gradual, in which teachings and approaches arise.

宗趣分矣 即是規矩  With teachings and approaches distinguished, each has its standard.

宗通趣極 眞常流注  Whether teachings and approaches are mastered or not, reality constantly flows.

外寂内搖 繋駒伏鼠  Outside still and inside trembling, like tethered colts or cowering rats.

先聖悲之 爲法檀度  The ancient sages grieved for them, and offered them the dharma.

隨其顛倒 以緇爲素  Led by their inverted views, they take black for white.

顛倒想滅 肯心自許  When inverted thinking stops, the affirming mind naturally accords.

要合古轍 請觀前古  If you want to follow in the ancient tracks, please observe the sages of the past.

佛道垂成 十劫觀樹  One on the verge of realising the Buddha Way contemplated a tree for ten kalpas.

如虎之缺 如馬之馵   Like a battle-scarred tiger, like a horse with shanks gone grey.

以有下劣 寶几珍御  Because some are vulgar, jewelled tables and ornate robes.

以有驚異 狸奴白牯   Because others are wide-eyed, cats and white oxen.

藝以巧力 射中百歩  With his archer’s skill, Yi hit the mark at a hundred paces.

箭鋒相値 巧力何預  But when arrows meet head-on, how could it be a matter of skill?

木人方歌 石女起舞  The wooden man starts to sing, the stone woman gets up dancing.

非情識到 寧容思慮  It is not reached by feelings or consciousness, how could it involve deliberation?

臣奉於君 子順於父  Ministers serve their lords, children obey their parents.

不順不孝 不奉非輔  Not obeying is not filial, failure to serve is no help.

潛行密用 如愚如魯  With practice hidden, function secretly, like a fool, like an idiot.

只能相續 名主中主  Just to continue in this way is called the host within the host.

With thanks to Sacred Text website.

For more on Ch’an Master Tung-shan and the poem visit

Abiding Nowhere, the Awakened Mind Arises © The Metropolitan Museum of ArtImage: Abiding Nowhere, the Awakened Mind Arises.

This striking and elegant example of Zen-inspired calligraphy consists of eight Chinese characters inscribed in the sosho, or cursive, mode and conveying the Zen message that by transcending all aspects of the material, transitory world, the true “Heart-Mind” and unity in the Absolute can be achieved. The writing was inscribed using the “flying white” technique, which allowed streaks of white—actually the blank paper—to appear within the brushstrokes. Although the characters were rendered in cursive script there are no linkages between them, and the strength of the writing permits each character to stand on its own.

The calligrapher, Musō Soseki (Japanese, 1275–1351), was one of the most influential and important Zen Buddhist priests of the 14th century. He founded Tenryūji, head temple of the Rinzai sect of Zen, in Kyoto. Having studied with the Chinese émigré priest Yishan Yining (1247–1317), he was a skilled practitioner of calligraphy in the classical Chinese mode, a poet, designer of Zen gardens, and teacher of Zen practice to a great number of disciples.

With thanks to © The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Categories: Buddhism, Chan / Seon / Zen



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