China (520? - 606?) Timeline
Buddhist : Zen / Chan

Poems by Seng-Ts'an

Seng-ts'an lived in the late sixth century. He was the third patriarch of the early Chan (Zen) lineage in China.

Several legendary teaching stories about the life of Seng-ts'an have come down to us.

One traditional tale says that Seng-ts'an had leprosy when he met his teacher, Hui-k'o. Hui-k'o dismissed Seng-ts'an with the words, "You're suffering from leprosy. What could you want from me?" Seng-ts'an is supposed to have replied, "Even if my body is sick, the heart-mind of a sick person is no different from you heart-mind." Impressed by this response, Hui-k'o accepted Seng-ts'an as his disciple, and later named him his spiritual successor.

Another story relates how Seng-ts'an asked Hui-k'o to purify him of his sins. Hui-k'o told Seng-ts'an, "Bring me your sins, and I will purify you." Seng-ts'an studied himself for a while before answering, "I have searched for my sins, but I can't find them anywhere," to which Hui-k'o replied, "Then I have purified you." Hearing this, Seng-ts'an's awareness opened in enlightenment.

Seng-ts'an's great poem (translated here as "The Mind of Absolute Trust," more commonly called "Verses on the Faith-Mind" or "Hsin-Hsin Ming") is an early example of the cross-inspiration of Chan Buddhism and Taoism.

Poems by Seng-Ts'an

Recommended Books: Seng-Ts'an

The Enlightened Heart: An Anthology of Sacred Poetry Teachings of the Buddha Hsin-Hsin Ming: Verses on the Faith-Mind The Way: According to Lao Tzu, Chuang Tzu, and Seng Tsan