Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Hsin-Hsin Ming I: Heart Trust

Scott Bradley

I have shared before from the Hsin-Hsin Ming and have mentioned how much it inspires me. I propose to once again share here some of what it says to me. This will be a meditative exercise, not a scholarly one. Not only would I be unqualified to engage in the latter, but to even attempt to do so would be to miss its point entirely. My understanding will be my own. It is a poem of roughly 31 stanzas easily found on and downloaded from the web, should you not have a copy and wish to have one. I will use Richard Clarke’s translation.

Alan Watts called the Hsin-Hsin Ming "a thoroughly Taoist document" and it is largely from this perspective I will approach it. It is thought to have been written by Seng-ts’an (died 606), the Third Zen Patriarch.

The title itself is variously translated. It's a treatise (ming) about hsin (faith, trust, belief) in hsin (heart, mind, spirit). I choose 'heart' and 'trust'. What is heart? Just look and feel within. It is you.

This is a poem about trusting in your own heart. It is an invitation to journey within. What you find there is no different from the ground of all that is. Find your heart. Trust your heart. Release yourself to be your heart. You will vanish there. And vanishing, you are an all-pervading, all-embracing vastness. What could be simpler?

Suzuki chooses 'mind', and this, he tells us, is 'Absolute Mind', a good, solid Zen concept. Okay.

How does Absolute Heart sound? Hmmm. A bit harder to picture, I think. Good. Let's go back to where we find hsin. It is this very heart here within. My heart. Your heart. And if this is Absolute Heart, that's pretty cool. But we need not go there. We need not picture this. Our heart is right here, our very most immediate, real and experienced selves. Find it. Entrust yourself to it. Be it. And lose yourself there. What possible need would you have to call it anything at all?

This is most certainly mysticism. But it is innocent of metaphysics. We are invited to experience who we are. And who we are is what we experience. Nothing more need be said, not as preamble, nor as conclusion. No concept need foul the pot.

You can check out Scott's other miscellaneous writings here.


  1. It probably doesn't need to be said here, but xin--first tone-- (hsin) is understood to mean "heart-mind", the Chinese not quite distinguishing the two concepts as we do in the west. (My Chinese teacher had an endearing way of saying "heart-a-mind" when using this word in translation.

    Xin, fourth, falling, tone, is faith, trust, belief, or even confidence. As a verb, it could be to believe, or to profess faith in.

  2. Hsin hsin ming is one of my favourite things to read and as short as it is I rarely read much of it in one go. I often fall silent.


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