(Kusen translated by Master Deshimaru on the oldest Ch’an text, written by the third patriarch, Sosan who died in 606)
Penetrating the Way is not difficult,
But you must not love, hate, choose, or reject
Shido (the true Way, the essence of the Way) is not difficult. Yuiken: but you must not love, hate, select, choose, or reject. Ken: selection; jaku: choose; nan: difficult.
Do (the Way) and Zen are not so difficult. But we should not seek, desire, select, or hate.
Master Sosan was Eka’s disciple. When he received the shiho (transmission), Sosan received the essence of Bodhidharma’s Zen. This essence cannot be explained or grasped through books.
Zen studies the true mind, the essence of the mind (shin jin means faith in mind), the essence of the mind of Christ, Buddha or God. In the depths of consciousness, in true silence exists Atman (in the Upanishads), or in Buddhism, ku (existence without noumena; nirvana, satori). And this deep consciousness in the end becomes cosmic consciousness.
So shin jin means faith in cosmic consciousness, in the cosmic system, the return to God or Buddha, and (in fact) faith in zazen.
During zazen, our mind is fully, actually, and truly at peace and serene. This mind is the continuation of the cosmos containing all existences, God, Buddha, Christ, the sages and saints.
The Way and satori are not difficult to realize – if we don’t select, reject or detest anything.
The kanji shi (which means the largest, the deepest, the highest) indicates to us that the true Way (shido) is beyond time and space.
Master Ju Hun wrote, “From ancient times until now, the great Way has not changed. On top, the head. Below on both sides, the legs.”
Dogen himself wrote: Eyes horizontal, nose vertical.
Being in the normal condition, this is the real Way. Contemporary civilization is decoration and imitation. We love to choose, select, prefer. But truth is without decoration, without imitation.
To practice zazen, necklaces and earrings are not necessary. You only need a good zafu to have good posture. There is neither imitation nor decoration.
Sutras, sanskrit books, the Bible, philosophy, psychology complicate our brain and separate us from the real Way. We should go beyond history, civilization, the social realm and science.
This is not a negative position. But if we want to understand the true Way, we should go beyond. We should abandon everything.
Shin Jin Mei speaks of faith. In Zen, faith means to look within yourself, to find your real ego, to discover the cosmic force, the cosmic energy which is within us. The nature and spirit of Buddha exists in us.
Master Sosan, the third patriarch after Bodhidharma, suffered from leprosy. He could not heal. And during his meeting with Eka, the second patriarch, he [Eka] asked him the deep reason for his sickness.
“Why am I a leper? Maybe my karma is bad? I wish to confess.”
Master Eka answered, “Please, bring me your crimes! Show them to me, and just then will I be able to purify you.”
What is crime? What is God? Good, bad? After this encounter Sosan received ordination and became Eka’s disciple. He practiced zazen day and night, recovered from leprosy and wrote the Shin Jin Mei.
Having the Way revealed within us means having satori. Attaining this Way is not difficult. Obtaining satori is not difficult. But you must not choose, select, hate, or prefer. Abandoning the mind of selection, we can attain satori quickly. Through the absolute abandonment of all things we can become ku.
This marvellous Way is not difficult or easy, interior or exterior. What do we need to select or reject?
We must not choose with our personal consciousness. In zazen, you must let the thoughts pass unconsciously and not attach to any of them. This attitude is important, and good for daily life. Of course it is necessary to make choices. But ultimately you must be beyond choice.
The poem is about the problem of conscious choice. Satori is found beyond. So you must clean your mind. Otherwise this mind is never happy nor content, and tends towards madness. Our life becomes complicated and hard: “I have no luck. I am unhappy. I must become rich, beautiful. I want very nice clothes. I would like a baby.”
Unending choices make our lives difficult and complicated. Zazen is the model of non-difficulty.
The study of Zen and Buddhism through zazen is an easy, simple thing. This same study through books becomes complicated and difficult.
From: Deshimaru, Taisen. Shin Jin Mei I: Edition Integrale no. 8. AZI-Paris. Paris, 1990.