THE SANDŌKAI: Harmony of Difference and Sameness

Sekito Kisen (Shítóu Xīqiān), 700–790


The mind of the great sage of India
Is intimately transmitted from west to east

While human faculties are sharp or dull
The way has no northern or southern ancestors

The spiritual source shines clear in the light
The branching streams flow on in the dark

Grasping at things is surely delusion
According with sameness is still not enlightenment

All the objects of the senses interact and yet do not
Interacting brings involvement, otherwise each keeps its place

Sights vary in quality and form
Sounds differ as pleasing or harsh

Refined and common speech come together in the dark
Clear and murky phrases are distinguished in the light

The four elements return to their natures
Just as a child turns to its mother

Fire heats, wind moves,
Water wets, earth is solid

Eye and sights, ear and sounds,
Nose and smells, tongue and tastes

Thus with each and everything,
Depending on these root she leaves spread forth

Trunk and branches share the essence
Revered and common, each has its speech

In the light there is darkness, but don’t take it as darkness
In the dark there is light, but don’t see it as light

Light and dark oppose one another
Like the front and back foot in walking

Each of the myriad things has its purpose
Expressed according to function and place

Phenomenon exist like box and lid fit
Principle responds like arrow points meet

Hearing the words understand the meaning
Don’t set up standards of your own

If you don’t understand the way right before you,
How will you know the path as you walk

Progress is not a matter of far or near
But if you are confused, mountains and rivers block your way

I respectfully urge you who study the mystery
Do not pass your days and nights in vain.


Translation by Soto-Shu Liturgy Conference, Green Gulch Farm, 1997, with minor revisions
Sources: San Francisco Zen Center and Blue Door Zen. IMG: Relaxing Soundzzz (You Tube screenshot)


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