The Hsin Hsin Ming (Verses on Faith Mind) is one of the earliest documented Chinese writings in the Zen Buddhist tradition. It is heavily reminiscent of the teachings expressed in the Tao Te Ching, especially in its view of the mind and its place regarding interaction with the world.
The verses may serve to some as psychological or philosophical instruction, detailing ways in which to utilise, interact and orient with the mind - all in aid of seeing things as they are, and rendering peace and clarity into one's life. Like the Tao Te Ching, each of the Ming's small phrases invite deep reflection and contemplation, adherence to which is a worthwhile endeavour.
In my opinion, the strong undertone of the whole piece is set out within the first few verses which read:
The Great Way is not difficult for those who have no preferences. When love and hate are both absent everything becomes clear and undisguised. Make the smallest distinction, however and heaven and earth are set infinitely apart. If you wish to see the truth then hold no opinions for or against anything. To set up what you like against what you dislike is the disease of the mind. When the deep meaning of things is not understood the mind's essential peace is disturbed to no avail.
The Hsin Hsin Ming urges a striving toward a deep acceptance of how we find life as a means to clarity and peace.
The opening line really sets the tone in its assertion that those may reach the deeper levels of peace by holding no preferences. It is worthy to note that here, "The Great Way" is also expressed as the 'Tao' - pure harmony with natural order. There is a deeply profound beauty to this sentiment, despite the seeming harshness it holds when first glanced upon. Life and nature will do as it will, regardless of our deepest wishes and desires. No matter how fervent our preference, life will present and unfold in it's course, despite any of our attempts to impose our will upon it. Harmonious movement with this unfolding is the goal expressed in this line, and is also echoed in many spiritual texts, perhaps most notably in the Bible:
Thy will be done.
The profundity of this statement is to be found not only in the relinquishing of resistance to what is, but also in the implications to one's psychology and outlook, especially regarding the ego's tight grip on what it thinks to be control. When we loosen this grip on control, we can truly relax and experience peace, and are no longer trying to fit square pegs into round holes. We seek truth in the form of what is presented to us. When the charge of emotion is absent from the view of our experience, we then are able to see things "...clear and undisguised". The weight of expectation and anxiety derived from things being different to the way we wish are now dissolved. Suffering is no longer, as resistance to what is has disappeared. On a more practical level, we are better equipped to respond to situations when we hold no wish for things to be different. From this orientation, we can fully utilise the faculties of our mind and body to seek the best possible outcome, whatever that may be. The strive for harmony with life and its movements may be a lofty goal, but is made all the more easier when we adapt a mindset that allows and accepts its very movements.
Harmony with the movements of life is the goal.
I will leave this post with the more excerpts from the verses, that continue to detail ways in which we may come to understand "The Great Way":
“Indeed, it is due to our choosing to accept or reject that we do not see the true nature of things. Live neither in the entanglements of outer things, nor in inner feelings of emptiness. Be serene in the oneness of things, and such erroneous views will disappear by themselves.”
“When you try to stop activity to achieve passivity, your very effort fills you with activity. As long as you remain in one extreme or the other, you will never know Oneness.”