Jianzhi Sengcan

Mystical Experience of Jianzhi Sengcan

Jianzhi Sengcan (? – 606), also known is Seng-ts’an, was an influential Chan master (Chan is a school of Mahayana Buddhism developed in China starting in the 6th century).  Shortly after his death, Sengcan was given the honorary title Jianzhi (“Mirrorlike Wisdom”) by the Emperor of the time, Xuan Zong.

Sengcan is generally regarded as the author of the famous Chan poem, “Inscription on Faith in Mind” (also translated as “The Mind of Absolute Trust”), which deals with the principles of non-duality and the notion of emptiness.  This poem also reveals Taoism’s influence on Chan.

In his poem, “The Mind of Absolute Trust”, Jianzhi Sengcan described mystical consciousness (an account that presumably fits his experience) as follows:

“For the mind in harmony with the Tao,
all selfishness disappears.
With not even a trace of self-doubt,
you can trust the universe completely.
All at once you are free,
with nothing left to hold on to.
All is empty, brilliant,
perfect in its own being.
In the world of things as they are,
there is no self, no non-self.
If you want to describe its essence,
the best you can say is ‘Not-two.’
In this ‘Not-two’ nothing is separate,
and nothing in the world is excluded.
The enlightened of all times and places
have entered into this truth.
In it there is no gain or loss;
one instant is ten thousand years.
There is no here, no there;
infinity is right before your eyes.
The tiny is as large as the vast
when objective boundaries have vanished;
the vast is as small as the tiny
when you don’t have external limits.
Being is an aspect of non-being;
non-being is no different from being.
Until you understand this truth,
you won’t see anything clearly.
One is all; all
are one. When you realize this,
what reason for holiness or wisdom?
The mind of absolute trust
is beyond all thought, all striving,
is perfectly at peace, for in it
there is no yesterday, no today, no tomorrow.”

Quoted by Stephen Mitchell in The Enlightened Heart: An Anthology of Sacred Poetry.

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