Sacred-texts  Buddhism  Zen



Mind Inscription

Hsin Ming

By Founder of the Ox-Head School Niu-t'ou Fa-jung




Title of the Text

Author of the Text

The Original Text

Translation of the Text

An Analysis of the Hsin Ming




Title of the Text



Hsin Ming (Wade-Giles)

Xin Ming (Pinyin) Xin1 Ming2

Shinmei (or Shin no Mei) (Japanese)

Sim Myong (Korean)

Literally, Heart (Mind) Inscription


Author of the Text



Niu-t'ou Fa-jung (Wade-Giles)

Niutou Farong (Pinyin) Niu2tou5 Fa3rong2

Gozu Hõyû (Japanese)


Niu-t'ou Fa-jung (Gozu Hõyû, 594-657) was of the Wei1 (I) family and a native of Yen-ling2 (Enryõ) in Jun-Chou3 (Junshû), present day Chen-chiang in the southern part of Kiangsu Province. Fa-jung is the founder of the The Ox-Head School4 of Ch'an Buddhism. The name "Ox-Head" (Niu-t'ou, Gozu) come from the Mount Niu-t'ou (Niu-t'ou shan, Gozusan) where Fa-jung lived. He is also known as Niu-t'ou Mountain [Temple/School] First Patriarch Ch'an master Fa-jung5. The Ox-Head School is considered not belonging to the orthodox line of Ch'an. This line of Ch'an sect is also known as Niu-t'ou Zen6.




2 延陵

3 潤州

4 Niu-t'ou-tsung (Gozushû 牛頭宗)

5 Niu-t'ou shan Ch'u-tsu Fa-jung Ch'an-shih (Gozusan Shoso Hõyû Zenji 牛頭山初祖法融禪師)

6 Niu-t'ou Ch'an (Gozu Zen 牛頭禪)


Niu-t'ou Fa-jung and the Fourth Patriarch Tao-hsin

Under Tao-hsin (580-651), the fourth patriarch, Zen was divided into two branches. The one known as Gozusan (Niu-t'ou Shan), did not live long after the passing of its founder, Fa-jung, who lived at Mount Niu-t'ou, and is considered not belonging to the orthodox line of Zen. [. . .] Tao-hsin's interview with Fa-jung, the founder of the Niu-t'ou school of Zen, was significant, showing where their views differed and how the one came to be converted into the orthodox understanding of Zen. It was during the Chên-kuan era of the T'ang dynasty that Tao-hsin, learning of the presence of an extraordinary saintly man in Niu-t'ou mountains, decided to see who he could be. When Tao-hsin came to a Buddhist temple in the mountains he inquired after the man and was informed of a lonely anchorite who would never rise from his seat nor salute people even when they were approaching him. When Tao-hsin proceeded further into the mountains he saw him as he was told, sitting quietly and paying no attention to the presence of a stranger. He then asked the hermit what he was doing here. 'I am contemplating on Mind,' was the reply. Tao-hsin then demanded: 'What is he that is contemplating? What is Mind that is contemplated?' Fa-jung was not prepared to answer such questions. Thinking that the visitor was a man of deep understanding, he rose from the seat and saluting him asked who he was. When he found that the visitor was no other personage than Tao-hsin himself, whose reputation he was not ignorant of, he thanked him for the visit. They were now about to enter a little hut nearby where they might talk about religion, when Tao-hsin saw some wild animals such as tigers and wolves wandering about the place, and he threw up his hands as if he were greatly frightened. Fa-jung remarked, 'I see this is still with you.' The fourth patriarch responded at once, 'What do you see yet?' No answer came from the hermit. After a while the patriarch traced the character 'Buddha' (fo) on the stone which Fa-jung was in the habit of sitting in meditation. Seeing it, the latter looked as if shocked. Said the patriarch, 'I see this is still with you.' But Fa-jung failed to see the meaning of this remark and earnestly implored to be instructed in the ultimate teaching of Buddhism. This was done, and Fa-jung became the founder of the Niu-t'ou school of Zen Buddhism.

(Essays in Zen Buddhism – First Series 201-3)


The Original Text


The original text of the Hsin Ming (from Taishõ Daizõkyõ1, vol. 51. 457-458. 大正大藏經   大正大蔵経)



智心無不照所無此正實不將通對永寵菩境將開不莫本知得無一四靈菩見非心無去惺惺雙分三念目至將縱生一前住心 牛

者若爲起無作處宗覺無入心達境日辱提隨心目用滅無心失生心徳知提在清無合來惺惺泯別世起前理心横無心際返性 頭

方不無法相無安毫無一不止一不如不影心滅見證凡可不兩順無不自本無非異無坐無了對凡無念無無守無生有如無不 山

知生得座苑滯心未覺物出動切動夜變現滅境相空情取心邊物妄生照有住濁心散立妄知治聖物滅物詮靜照相滯空端生 初

非法依安朗去虚沙眞妙非轉未有永不心心彼心自唯今無誰隨萬三萬不見非不不一寂見湛煩無前無非猶最生諸知追何 祖

言無無眠涅住明界空智靜止嘗力夜擇水隨此隨然教何病論處縁身法須在淺斷遲切寂網然惱心後物解未爲照法處尋須 法

詮差自虚槃皆自含不獨非轉不大如所常境由境明息用無好幽調本歸用本非貪不莫明轉明轉無無宛非離微一不迷不知 融

悟互出室城平露容空存喧奔 人永居清無侵起徹意棄藥惡棲直有如守心深淫疾執亮彌淨盛佛別然纏病妙同通宗見見 禪

 知四樂諸慧寂一三本聲萬思無外諸徳兩心心滅意謂迷一覺心六無煩本本性明決萬寂不計衆後不靈生知欲去分一本 師



 生度然畢寂生顧佛沖覺所昏見 息愚生如境死滅興事爲覺齊境受無存古離然方眞見巧常心生鑒物懷知淨爾境作法







Translation of the Text




Mind Inscription

Translated by Henrik H. Sorensen


心性不生何須知見  The nature of the mind is un-born. Why should it be necessary to know this?

本無一法誰論薫錬  Fundamentally there is not one single phenomenon; who then can speak about defilement and purification?

住返無端追尋不見  There is no end to coming and going, and no matter how much one seeks, one will never realize it!

一切莫作明寂自現  When everything is inactive, then the bright stillness will manifest by itself.

前際如空知處迷宗  Before one it will be like emptiness, and thereby one will know how to dispose with confused doctrines.

分明照境隨照冥蒙  Distinguishing clearly the circumstances one will illumine the dark and hidden.

一心有滯諸法不通  If the One Mind1 is obstructed, then all the dharmas2 will not have a penetrating effect.

去來自爾胡假推窮  Spontaneously coming and going, what use is it exhausting oneself?

生無生相生照一同  As life has the mark of the un-born, it will illumine the oneness.3

欲得心淨無心用功  If one wishes to obtain purity of mind, then one must diligently cultivate no-mind.

縱横無照最爲微妙  To have no mental reflections high and low, this more than anything else is the marvelous!

知法無知無知知要  One will know the dharma (the Buddha's teaching) through non-knowing, as this non-knowing will know the essentials.

將心守靜猶未離病  By grasping the mind and maintaining stillness4, one will still not be able to leave behind the sickness (of clinging)5.

生死忘懷即是本性  In life and death one must forget that which one is attached to, then there and then the fundamental nature (will manifest, shine forth etc.).

至理無詮非解非纏  The highest principle has no explanation, (one will be able to attain to it without) getting rid of anything and without restraining oneself.

靈通應物常在自前  Spiritual penetration and responding to affairs will constantly take place there and then,

目前無物無物宛然  Before one there will not be a thing, and "not a thing" will be a matter of course.6

不勞智鑒體自虚玄  If you do not strive for the Mirror of Wisdom, then its essence will be wonderously empty of itself.

念起念滅前後無別  Thinking arises and thinking goes away, before and after there is no discrimination.

後念不生前念自絶  The latter thought is not produced as the former is cut off by itself.

三世無物無心無佛  In the Three Worlds7 there is not a thing: neither mind nor Buddha.

衆生無心依無心出  All living beings are (products) of no-mind, and depend upon no-mind to come into existence.8

分別凡聖煩惱轉盛  Discriminating between worldly and holy will cause vexations in abundance.

計校乖常求眞背正  Constantly calculating and making plans amounts to searching for the truth while turning one's back to reality.

雙泯對治湛然明淨  If one puts an end to the two extremes (of being and non-being), then one will be both bright and clear.

不須功巧守嬰兒行  It is not necessary to observe infantile practices diligently.

惺惺了知見網轉彌  Through awareness one will gain knowledge, and when seeing the net (of samsara) one will turn around and stop.

寂寂無見暗室不移  In Samâdhi there is nothing to be seen, for in a dark room there is no movement.

惺惺無妄寂寂明亮  In awareness there is no falsity, in samaadhi there is clear brightness.

萬象常眞森羅一相  The myriad shapes are all true, all having the majestetic one characteristica9

去來坐立一切莫執  Going and coming, sitting and standing be grasped.

決定無方誰爲出入  With no fixed place, who (can be said) to come and go?

無合無散不遲不疾  No coming together and no breaking up, neither slowly nor hasty.

明寂自然不可言及  The bright stillness is selfso and words speak about it!

心無異心不斷貪淫  If in the mind there is nothing different from the mind, one does not have to stop desire.

性空自離任運浮沈  As its nature is empty, it will disappear if it is allowed to drift on.

非清非濁非淺非深  Neither pure nor defiled, neither shallow nor deep.

本來非古見在非今  Originally the past is not, and just now, the present is not!

見在無住見在本心  Just now there is non-abiding and that is the original Mind.10

本來不存本來即今  When one does not hold on to the origin, then the origin will be present.

菩提本有不須用守  Bodhi originally is, (that is why) it is not necessary to maintain it.

煩惱本無不須用除  Vexations are fundamentally non-existing, therefore it is not necessary to do away with them!

靈知自照萬法歸如  The spiritual wisdom shines forth by itself, and the myriad phenomena return (to the source).

無歸無受絶觀忘守  Nothing to revert to and nothing to receive. Cut off opinions and forget about the precepts!

四徳不生三身本有  The Four Virtues11 are un-born, and the Three Bodies are fundamentally existing.12

六根對境分別非識  The Six Roots13 (just) face the circumstances and (clear or direct) perception has nothing to do with consciousness.

一心無妄萬縁調直  Then the mind will have nothing wrong and the ten thousand causes will directly harmonize.

心性本齊同居不攜  The mind and the feelings are basically of the same source, they coexist without interfering with each other.

無生順物隨處幽棲  The un-born is in accordance with phenomena, together they dwell and rest in the dark.

覺由不覺即覺無覺  Enlightenment comes from that which is not enlightened, therefore enlightenment is non-enlightenment!

得失兩邊誰論好惡  Gain and loss are like the two sides of a coin. Who can then speak about good and bad?

一切有爲本無造作  All that is caused, is originally the product of the un-born.

知心不心無病無藥  The knowing mind is not the Mind, (the true Mind is something which) neither disease nor medicine can effect.

迷時捨事悟罷非異  In times of confusion just let things go their way, because when awakening is accomplished, they will not be different (from your self).

本無可取今何用棄  Fundamentally nothing can be grasped; now what will you throw away?

謂有魔興言空象備  Speaking of existence is to give in to demons, for with words empty images arise!

莫滅凡情唯教息意  Do not wipe out worldly feelings. The only teaching that you should be concerned about, is how to do away with ideas!

意無心滅心無行絶  Ideas will be annihilated by no-mind, and mental states will be cut off by non-activity.

不用證空自然明徹  There is no use trying to verify emptiness, spontaneously it will shine forth!

滅盡生死冥心入理  Extinguishing both life and death, the profound Mind enters the (ultimate) principle.

開目見相心隨境起  Just open your eyes and behold the forms, letting your mind go along with the arising circumstances.

心處無境境處無心  If the mind abides in no-circumstances, then the circumstances abide in no-mind.

將心滅境彼此由侵  Then when the mind is about to annihilate the circumstances, they will go along with the annihilation.

心寂境如不遣不拘  The mind will be quiet and the circumstances just the same. One will neither have to let go nor to hold on.

境隨心滅心隨境無  When circumstances go along with the mind they will be extinguished, and the mind which follows circumstances is nothingness.

兩處不生寂靜虚明  Both abide in the un-born, still purity and empty brightness!

菩提影現心水常清  Awakening appears like a shadow in the mind's water, which is constantly clear.

徳性如愚不立親疎  The nature (or disposition) of the virtuous is like stupidity, for it does not set up any separation between this and that.

寵辱不變不擇所居  They are not moved by either grace or dishonour, and do not choose a (fixed) place to dwell.14

諸縁頓息一切不憶  If all causes are put to rest, then one will cease to worry about them!

永日如夜永夜如永  If one does not discriminate, then an eternal day can be like a night, and an eternal night can be like a day.15

外似頑 内心虚眞  When seen from the outside it seems as if one is wayward and stupid, however within, the mind is vacant and in communion with reality.

對境不動有力大人  Adverse conditions will not move one, and one will have the power of an accomplished being.

無人無見無見常現  There will be neither seer nor the seen, then that non-seeing will be perpetually manifested.

通達一切未嘗不   Penetrating everything, constantly being everywhere.

思惟轉昏汨亂精魂  Thinking will cause confusion, and confusion will give rise to all kinds of emotions.

將心止動轉止轉奔  If by grasping the mind one tries to stop agitation, then with this movement the mind will be even more active.16

萬法無所唯有一門  The myriad phenomena have no base, there is only the One Door.17

不入不出非靜非喧  This is the door of neither entering nor leaving, of neither stillness nor disturbance.

聲聞縁覺智不能論  The wisdom of 'Srâvakas and Pratyeka-buddhas can not fathom this.

實無一物妙智獨存  In reality not one thing exists, the wonderful wisdom alone remains. Circumstances are fundamentally empty.

本際虚沖非心所窮  It is not something which the mind can exhaust.

正覺無覺眞空不空  True enlightenment is non-enlightenment, and real emptiness is not empty!

三世諸佛皆乘此宗  All the Buddhas of the Three Times18 teach this doctrine.

此宗毫未沙界含容  This teaching is like a particle of dust, worlds as numerous as sandgrains in the Ganges are contained therein!

一切莫顧安心無處  If one does not occupy oneself with everything, then the peaceful mind will have nowhere to abide.

無處安心虚明自露  The peaceful mind will be non-abiding, and the empty brightness will manifest by itself!

寂靜不生放曠縱横  The quiet stillness is un-born, and one will be free to roam in all directions.

所作無滯去住皆平  Whatever one does there will be nothing to obstruct one. In motion and in rest, all will be equal.

慧日寂寂定光明明  The sun of prajnâ is still, the light of samâdhi is bright;

照無相苑朗涅槃城  (They are) the bright park of no mark (laksana) and the clear city of nirvâna.

諸縁忘畢詮神定質  In all causes one should be un-mindful of the fruit; it can be likened to the quality of the spiritual samâdhi.

不起法座安眠虚室  Do not set up platforms for teaching; but take a peaceful nap in an empty house.19

樂道恬然優遊眞實  One will find happiness in the Way, with plenty of space to roam about in True Reality.

無爲無得依無自出  Nothing to do, nothing to obtain, and depending upon nothing, the self will manifest.

四等六度同一乘路  The Four Virtues20 and the Six Parâmitâs21 all belong to the path of the One Vehicle.

心若不生法無差互  When the mind in this way is not produced, then all the phenomena also will not be wrong.

知生無生現前常住  Knowing that life is un-born, before one it will constantly remain thus.

智者方知非言詮悟  Those with wisdom will know this, but no amount of words can explain this kind of awakening!



(In Sorensen's article (v.s.), these correspond to the notes 54-74.)


1 The Buddha Mind or Buddha Nature (fo-hsing 佛性).

2 The various Buddhist methods and teachings.

3 Meaning that life as such is manifesting the un-born or absolute. This has been presented in the Prajnâpâramitâhrdaya Sûtraa (Nsin ching, T.250) in the following words: "Form is emptiness, emptiness is form."b [a 般若波羅蜜多心經   b 色即是空、空即是色]

4 A type of meditation practice common in the Northern Ch'an School of Shen-hsiuc (605-706 A.D.). This method is called shou-hsind (observing the mind). [c 神秀   d 守心]

5 If one practices in this way, according to Fa-junge one will still be subject of dualistic thinking. [e 法融]

6 The realization of suchness (tathatâf). [f ]

7 1) The world of desireg, 2) the world of formh and 3) the world of no-formi (the formless world). [g 欲界   h 色界   i 無色界]

8 This is the so-called dharmadhâtu-originationj, a cardinal doctrine in the "Hua-yen ching"k. [j 法界性起   k 華嚴經]

9 The one characteristicl or the one mark is suchness. [l 一相]

10 The essential nature, the Buddha Mind.

11 1) Permanencem, 2) joyn, 3) personalityo and 4) purityp. These Four Virtuesq were expounded by the Buddha in the Mahâparinirvâna Sûtrar. (T. 374). They are attributes of the Buddha Nature. [m    n    o    p    q 四徳   r 大般涅槃經]

12 l) Dharmakâyas, 2) Sambhogakâyat, 3) Nirmânakâyau. [s 法身   t 報身   u ]

13 1) Eyev, 2) earw, 3) nosex, 4) tonguey, 5) bodyz and 6) mind (consciousnessaa). [v    w    x    y    z    aa ]

14 This is a very orthodox "Indian" description of the correct behavior of a Buddhist ascetic. It is said that some of the Niu-t'ou masters roamed about living in the woods never settling down in a temple. The master Niao-k'e Tao-linab (741-824) is one such example. [ab 道林]

15 The meaning here is not quite clear to the translator.

16 Again a critique of the Northern Ch'an practice of shou-hsinac. [ac 守心]

17 The direct perception of the un-bornad. [ad 不生]

18 Past, present and future.

19 This is tandem with the statement in note 14.

20 See note 11.

21 The Six Pâramitâsae: 1) Dânaaf (the perfection of giving), 2) 'sîlaag (the perfection of the discipline), 3) ksântiah (the perfection of patience), 4) vîryaai (the perfection of zeal or perseverance), 5) dhyânaaj (the perfection of meditative absorbtion) and 6) prajnâak (the perfection of trancendental wisdom). [ae 六度、六波羅蜜   af 檀那   ag 戒、尸羅   ah 忍辱   ai 精進   aj 禪、禪定   ak 慧、智慧、般若]


An Analysis of the Hsin Ming


The following is an analysis of the Hsin Ming by Henrik H. Sorensen.


This article can be also found in the following site:



The "Hsin-ming" Attributed to Niu-t'ou Fa-jung


By Henrik H. Sorensen


Journal of Chinese Philosophy Vol.13 1986, pp.101-120

Dialogue Publishing Company, Honolulu, Hawaii, U.S.A.



In the thirtieth chapter of the celebrated Ch'an Buddhist collection "Ching-te ch'uan-teng lu"a (1) one finds a number of short texts of the gâtha (chia-t'ab) type (2) composed by various Ch'an masters. Among these often highly abstruse "songs" (kec) is included one called "Hsin-ming"d (Mind Inscription), (3) which is attributed to Fa-junge (594-657), (4) the First Patriarch of the early Ch'an Buddhist denomination commonly known as the Niu-t'ou Schoolf after the name of the mountain where the master dwelt. (5) Before going on to a discussion of the text and its contents let us first take a brief look at the author and iris brand of Ch'an Buddhism. [a 、景徳伝灯録   b 伽他   c    d 心銘   e    f 牛頭宗]

         Traditionally Fa-jung is regarded as a direct disciple of Tao-hsing (580-651), (6) the fourth Patriarch of Chinese Ch'an tracing its line of transmission back to Bodhidharmah (d. ca. 538 a.d.), (7) but recent research has shown several problems concerning the verification of this claim. (8) In Fa-jung's oldest biography to be found in Tao-hsüan's (596-667) (9) Hsü kao-seng ch'uani (10) nothing whatsoever is mentioned about Tao-hsin, and in Tao-hsin's biography contained in the same collection, we find no mentioning of Fa-jung either. (11) The earliest claim connecting Fa-jung with the Fourth Patriarch first comes across in the memorial inscription Jun-chou He-lin Ssu ku Ching-shan Ta-shih pei-mingj (12) dedicated to the Niu-t'ou master Hsüan-suk (668-752), (13) composed by the famous literature Li Hual (?-ca. 766). (14) In the memorial inscription on the stele of Hsüan-su's disciple, Tao-ch'inm (714-792) (15) the claim is repeated. (16) As late as 829 the scholar Liu Yu-hsin (772-842) (17) wrote the inscription "Niu-t'ou Shan ti i-tsu Jung Ta-shih hsin-t'a chi"o (18) for the new memorial stûpa for Fa-jung that had been set up on Niu-t'ou Shan following the school's rise to prominence during the second half of the 8th century. (19) All these inscriptions and the later biographies contained in the standard Ch'an collections of the late T'ang-early Sung (9-10th century) such as the "Tsu-t'ang chi"p (20) and the "Ching-te ch'uan-teng lu" (21) all perpetuate the claim making Fa-jung a dharma heir of Tao-hsin. (22) [g 道信   h 達磨   i 續高僧傳   j 潤州鶴林寺故徑山大師碑銘   k 玄素   l 季華   m 道欽   n 劉禹錫   o 牛頭山第一祖大師新塔記   p 祖堂集]

         According to Fa-jung's biography in the Hsü kao-seng ch'uan he was of the Wei family and a native of Yen-lingq in Jun-Chour, present day Chen-chiang in the southern part of Kiangsu Province. As a young man he studied Confucianism and Taoism but later he became dis-illusioned with these belief systems and turned towards Buddhism. He first studied under a monk called Kuei Fa-shihs (n.d.) (23) on Mao Shant to the southeast of Nankingu also in Kiangsu. He penetrated the prajnâpâramitâ doctrines of the San-lun Schoolv (24) and later practised the Chih-kuanw ('samatha-vipa'syana) system of the T'ien-t'ai Schoolx. (25) After Fa-jung had become a master in his own right, he went to Jun-chou (Nanking) in 643 and settled in the Yu-hsi Templey on the southern slope of Niu-t'ou Shan. (26) Here he lived in seclusion in a cave behind the temple proper; and it was during this time that he is said to have been visited by Tao-hsin and became his disciple. (27) Following his seclusion in the cave he attracted a large number of followers teaching at several locations in the region. In 657 he passed away at the age of 63. (28) After the master's death the school supposedly was continued by a monk called Chih-yenz (600-677), (29) however it is rather questionable that Chih-yen was a disciple of Fa-jung. In the "Hsü kao-seng ch'uan" there is nothing to substantiate this claim. (30) [q 延陵   r 潤州   s 法師   t 茅山   u 南京   v 三論宗   w 止觀   x 天台宗   y 幽栖寺   z 智巖]

         The learned Ch'an and Hua-yenaa master Kuei-feng Tsung-miab (780-841) (31) critically treated the doctrines of the Niu-t'ou School in several of his works. Through this characterization one is given an insight into the cardinal teachings of a highly radical madhyâmika (chung-taoac) oriented denomination of Ch'an Buddhism. (32) The hall-mark of this school was an emphasis on "universal emptiness" (hsü-k'ungad) or 'sûnyatâ in a direct and practical way of application. The basic doctrines of the Niu-t'ou School was summed up by Tsung-mi as follows: [aa 華嚴   ab 圭峰宗密   ac 中道   ad 虚空]


Secondly there is the school of utter annihilation and nondwelling, that is to say all phenomena (worldly and holy inclusive) are all like illusions, completely non-existent. Fundamentally empty stillness does not take its beginning in nothingness; even the wisdom with which one reaches emptiness cannot be obtained. In the sameness of Dharmadhâtu there are neither Buddhas nor sentient beings. Dharmadhâtu is merely a designated name. As the mind does not have any existence of its own, who can speak about Dharmadhâtu? In non-cultivation there is no cultivator and as the Buddha is non-existent there is no Buddha(hood). Let us suppose that there is a Dharma which is higher than Nirvâna, then I say that this would be like an illusion. There is no Dharma that can be grasped, and no Buddha(hood) that can be attained. If there is anything that can be accomplished (at all), then it is all delusion and falsehood. If one is able to penetrate into this, then fundamentally there is not a thing to which the mind can attach. (33)


All phenomena including the Buddhist Dharma are essentially without own being, i.e. they do not possess any inherent mark (faae) of existence and are therefore empty and non-existent. This very lack of inherent existence is at the same time the "nirvanic" imprint on all phenomena, meaning that everything fundamentally is in the absolute state of suchness (chen-juaf). So far there is nothing strange or deviant about the Niu-t'ou teachings, they are quite straight-forward San-lun doctrine. However the practical conclusions reached by Fa-jung and his followers are extreme when seen from the viewpoint of Tsung-mi and other "orthodox" monks. The extreme conclusions concerning the sûnyâta doctrine as propagated by the Niu-t'ou School can be clearly discerned in the Hsin-ming. Because all phenomena are baseless and illusory it is neither necessary to cultivate any virtues nor to purify oneself. All one needs to do is to maintain a non-clinging mind free of mentation. When this is achieved the illusory phenomena will cease to exert any influence on the adept and he will enjoy direct communion with absolute reality, entering into the highest principle (chih-liag). One of the key-concepts in this enlightenment process is to be unmindful of the feelings (wang-hsingah), which then will result in their natural cessation. As any notion of the employment of upâya (fang-pienai) is absent from the Niu-t'ou doctrines, it is clear that they tended to overlook perhaps the most vital aspect of the madhyâmika doctrine. This aspect is the two truths (erh-tiaj), i.e. the absolute truth (chen-tiak) and the relative truth (shih-su tial); the Niu-t'ou doctrine paid attention to the absolute level at the expense of the relative level. This one-sided emphasis on emptiness and cessation naturally exposed the school to attacks from other Buddhist monks, causing Tsung-mi to characterize the Niu-t'ou School as one following a doctrine of "utter annihilation and non-dwelling" (min-chueh wu-chiam). (34) Following Tsung-mi the Ch'an master Huang-po Hsi-yunan (d. ca. 850) (35) later criticized Fa-jung for having been unable to grasp the ultimate truth, obviously referring to his supposed onesided understanding of emptiness. (36) [ae    af 眞如   ag 至理   ah 忘性   ai 方便   aj 二諦   ak 眞諦   al 世俗諦   am 泯絶無奇   an 黄蘗希運]

         So far the Hsin-ming is the only existing text which is directly attributed to Fa-jung. (37) Another text, the Chüeh-kuan lunao, (38) which the Japanese scholar Yanagida Seizanap holds to be by Fa-jung or at least by one of his close disciples, does admittedly bear close resemblance to the "Hsin-ming" and might very well be a work from Fa-jung's hand. (39) However even though the two texts do not always use identical stockphrases there seems to be little doubt that they are both the product, if not by the same author, then at least by followers of the same type of Ch'an doctrine. Besides the distinct "absolutistic" madhyâmika or San-lun view one of the most pronounced identical features of the texts is the clear "Taoistic" flavour which permeates them throughout. When comparing the doctrinal stances of the two texts one's associations are invariably led in the direction of the "Tao-te ching"aq and the "Chuang-tzu"ar. The concepts of non-action (wu-weias) and no-mind (wu-hsinat) appear several times in both works and the unBuddhist stress on spontaneity (tzu-janau) at the expense of the vinaya (ssu-fenav) is conspicuous. Indeed, whole passages of the "Chüeh-kuan lun" appear to have been taken right out of the "Tao-te ching". (40) From Fa-jung's biography in the "Ching-te ch'uan-teng lu", most of which is taken up by a dialogue between the master and a certain Prince Po-lingaw (n.d.); we find the same clear San-lun/madhyâmika teaching as the "Hsin-ming" and the "Chüeh-kuan lun". (41) However it is not possible to assert whether the "Ching-te ch'uan-teng lu" presentation of Fa-jung's teaching really is by him or whether it is a later composition. (42) [ao 絶觀論   ap 柳田聖山   aq 道徳經   ar 莊子   as 無爲   at 無心   au 自然   av 四分   aw 博陵王]

         When seen in the light of the "Hsin-ming," the "Chüeh-kuan lun" and the dialogue with the Prince in "Ching-te ch'uan-teng lu" we might say that Tsung-mi's description and criticism of the Niu-t'ou School's rather extreme 'sûnyata view is partly justified. However it is quite clear too that Tsung-mi in his criticism tended to over-look the fact that Fa-jung and his followers included a wide range of standard Mahâyâna doctrines in their Teachings too. In the "Hsin-ming," for example, one finds an obvious use of the doctrine of dharmadhâtu-origination (fa-chieh hsing-ch'iax), (43) and in the Chüeh-kuan lun one likewise finds influence from the Hua-yen ching (ay) (44) and the Wei-mo chingay. (45) [ax 法界性起   ay 維摩經]

         As to the problem whether the "Hsin-ming" is actually by Fa-jung we do not have any definitive proof. All in all we must conclude that there are a number of important points such as style and contents which clearly allow us to associate the text with Fa-jung and the Niu-t'ou School. The close doctrinal resemblance with the "Chüeh-kuan lun" and Fa-jung's biographical entry in the "Ching-te ch'uan-teng lu" be over-looked. Furthermore the teachings as contained in the "Hsin-ming" correspond closely with Tsung-mi's characterization of the Niu-t'ou School. The main points of doubt concerning the genuiness of the text lies with the facts that it is included in a relatively late Ch'an collection, i.e: the "Ching-te ch'uan-teng lu" from 1004; therefore it might be another example of pious contribution. Secondly, we do not find any reference to the text in earlier Ch'an materials. (46) In this connection it must be noted that the line of thought as presented by the author of the "Hsin-ming" is not very close to that of Fa-jung's supposed master Tao-hsin. Actually it is doctrinally a far cry from the teachings of Tao-hsin as presented in his "Ju-tao an-hsin yao fang-pien fa-men"az, (47) which is a point adding to the argument that Fa-jung probably never had any direct contact with Tao-hsin and his line of transmission. Interestingly the "Hsin-hsin ming"ba (48) attributed to the Third Patriarch Seng-ts'anbb (d. 606) (49) in the Bodhidharma line, has many points in common with the "Hsin-ming", both as regards contents and style. (50) Likewise when reading the "Hsin-ming" one overlook the close affinity which the doctrines of the text has with those of Wu-chubc (714-774) (51) of the Pao-t'ang Schoolbd and with some parts of the teachings of Shen-huibe (670-672) (52) of the Ho-tse Schoolbf. [az 入道安心要方便法門   ba 信心銘   bb    bc 無住   bd 保唐寺宗   be 神會   bf 荷澤宗]

         The "Hsin-ming" as we have it today exist in two versions. The one used here is that of the "Ching-te ch'uan-teng lu" and the other can be found in the t'ung-shubg collection "Ch'uan T'ang-wen"bh. (53) The two versions do not deviate greatly and some of the different characters in the latter version appear to be misprints. It seems as if the "Ch'uan T'ang-wen" version has been taken from the "Ching-te ch'uan-teng lu" version, however a seperate transmission of the text cannot be ruled out, and in that case the former version might very well be the oldest of the two. [bg 通書   bh 全唐文]


University of Copenhagen



I wish to express my thanks to the following people, who in various ways helped me with this article: First my thanks go to Mr. Morten Schlutter of East Asiatic Institute, University of Copenhagen for reading through the manuscript and contributing many helpful suggestions. Next my thanks go to Mr. Poul Andersen, our local specialist in Taoist studies, also of East Asiatic Institute, for his critique and suggestions concerning the translation. Last but not least thanks to Miss Charlotte Rohde of the Royal Danish Library for her painstaking efforts in locating useful material for my study.






"Chodang chip". Yanagida version.

"Chueh-kuan lun". Tokiwa version.

"Chin-shih ts'ui-pien". Shanghai, 1893.

"Taisho version, 2076".

"Chiu T'ang-shu". Peking, 1978.

"Ch'uan T'ang-wen". Taipei, 1960.

"Hsu kao-seng ch'uan", T. version, 2060".

"Hsin-ming". CTL version.

"Hsu tsang-ching". Lung-men reprint.

"Hsin T'ang-shu". Peking, 1978.

"Indogaku Bukkyogaku".

"Journal of Chinese Philosophy".

"Journal of International Association of Buddhist Studies".

"Pelliot Collection".

"Philosophy East West".

"Taisho Daizokyo".

"T'oung Pao".

"T'ang-wen ts'ui". Taipei, 1973.




















1. T. 2076. Compiled by the monk Tao-yuan (n.d.) from the Fa-yen School in 1004 a.d.. The work was published in 1011 a.d.

2. 30, pp. 456c-467a.

3. Ibid. pp.457b-458a.

4. Biography in HKSC (T. 2060) ch. 26, pp. 603c-605b, in CDC ch. 3, pp. 51a53a, and in CTL ch. 4, pp. 227c-228b. For a translation of Fa-jung's biography from CTL see Chang Chung-yuan: Original Teachings of Ch'an Buddhism. N.Y., 1969, pp. 3-11, 17-26. For a modern treatment in Japanese of Fa-jung and his teaching see Hiromine Kinami: Gozu-shu ni Okeru Ichikosatsu. In: IB XXVIII, 1, 1979, pp. 186-87 (1) and IB XXIX, 1, 1980, pp. 146-47 (II). The most comprehensive study so far in a Western language is John R. McRae's The Ox-Head School of Chinese Ch'an Buddhism: From Early Ch'an to the Golden Age. In Studies in Ch'an and Hua-yen, ed. by Robert M. Gimello & Peter N. Gregory, Honolulu, 1983, pp. 169-252. McRae's article contains a very useful review of Japanese studies of the Niu-t'ou School and its doctrines up to ca. 1979.

5. A description of the mountain and its temples including photoes can be found in Buddhist Monuments in China (Shina Bukkyo Shiseki Kinenshu) by Daijo Tokiwa and Tadashi Sekino, Vol. 4, Tokyo, 1937, pp. 17-19. The mountain was visited around the same time as the Japanese, i.e. in the 1920's, by the Danish architect Johannes Pripp-Moller, who described it in his monumental work Chinese Buddhist Monasteries. Copenhagen & London, 1937, pp. 183, 186, 194. A present day note on the mountain is included in Barry Till's In Search of Old Nanking. Hong Kong, 1982, pp. 75-76.

6. Biography in HKSC (T. 2060), ch. 26, pp. 606bc, in CDC ch. 2, pp. 41b-42a, and in CTL (T. 2076), ch. 3, pp. 222b-223a. For a very thorough treatment of this key-figure in early Chinese Ch'an see David W. Chappell's The Teachings of the Fourth Ch'an Patriarch Tao-hsin (580-651). In Early Ch'an in China and Tibet ed. by Lewis Lancaster and Whalen Lai. Berkeley, 1983, pp. 89-129.

7. Biography in HKSC ch. 16, pp. 551bc, CDC ch. 2, pp. 32a-39a, and CTL ch. 3, pp. 217a-220b. For a modern study on Bodhidharma in Japanese see Bunyû Matsuda's Bodaidaruma Ron. In IB Vol. XXVII, 2, 1978, pp. 595-600, a critically annotated edition in Japanese of the discourses attributed to Bodhidharma can be found in Seizan Yanagida (ed. & transl.): Daruma no Goroku. Zen no Goroku Series Vol. 1. Tokyo, 1969.

8. See Chappell pp. 103-104, note 11.

9. Biography in SKSC (T. 2061), ch. 14, pp. 790b-791b. He finished compiling the HKSC in 664 a.d.

10. HKSC (T. 2060), ch. 26, pp. 603c-605b. In this work Fa-jung's biography is included in the hsi-ch'an section. A much shorter biography obviously based on the HKSC version can be found in the work Hung-tsan fa-hua ch'uan (T. 2067), ch. 3, pp. 16c-17a, by Hui-hsiang (n.d.). This collection is dated to 667 a.d., and here Fa-jung is represented as a master of the Lotus Sutra, an indication of his close affinity with the T'ien-t'ai School.

11. See note 6 above.

12. TWT ch. 64.

13. Biography in CDC ch. 3, p. 53b and CTL ch. 4, pp. 229bc.

14. Biography in CTS ch. 190 and in HTS ch. 203. For a treatment of Li Hue's Buddhist involvement see the author's MA. Thesis: The Relationship Between Confucian Men of Letters and Buddhist Monks During the Latter Half of the T'ang Dynasty: A Study in Assimilation and Harmonization Between Two Major Spiritual Traditions in China. University of Copenhagen, 1983, pp. 22-26.

15. The title of this inscription is Hang-chou Chin-shan Ssu To-chueh shih pei-ming composed by Li Chi-fu (758-814), CTW Tao-ch'in's biography is in CDC ch. 3, p. 53b and in CTL oh. 4, pp. 230ab.

16. CTW ch. 512.

17. Biography in CTS ch. 160. See also biographical note in CTW ch. 610.

18. In TWT ch.64.

19. This stûpa was built in 774 a.d. during the reign of T'ai-tsung (762-779).

20. A Korean Ch'an (Son) collection of biographies compiled in 952 a.d. by the two Korean monks Chong and Un. For a discussion of this important text see Paul Demieville: Le Recueil de la Salle des Patriarches: Tsou-T'ang Tsi TP LVI, 1-3, 1970, pp. 262-286.

21. See note l.

22. See CDC ch. 3, p. 51a, and CTL ch. 4, p. 227a.

23. For a discussion of the monks under whom Fa-jung studied see Hakuju Ui: Zenshû shi Kenkyû. Vol. 2, Tokyo, 1939-43 (reprint 1966), pp. 511-519.

24. One of the earliest structured Buddhist traditions in China based on the madhyâmika philosophy of Nagârjuna (ca. 3rd cent.). Its status as a school of Chinese Buddhism did not arise until far into the T'ang dynasty. For a discussion of the lineage in the San-lun School see Ryûko Furusaka: Sanron Gakuha ni Okeru Sosho Mondai. IB XVIII, 2, 1970, pp. 609-10. For treatments of the San-lun thought and history in English see Hsueh-li Cheng: Chi-tsang's Treatment of Metaphysical Issues. JCP 8 (1981), pp. 371-989, and Aaron K. Koseki: The Concept of Practice in San-fun Thought: Chi-tsang and the "Concurrent Insight" of the Two Truths. PEW 31, 4, 1981, pp. 449-466, and: Later Maadhyamika in China: Some Current Perspectives on the History of Chinese Prajnaapaaramitaa Thought. JIABS. Vol. 5,2, 1982. The latter article is a review article of Hirai Shun'ei's monumental work: Chuugoku Hannya Kenkyû. Tokyo, 1976.

25. One of the important Buddhist denominations in Southern China during Sui-first half of the T'ang period. The impotance of T'ien-t'ai meditation practices in relation to the formulation of early Ch'an Buddhism has still not been thoroughly investigated, however some aspects have been touched upon in recent Japanese scholarship. See Kenju Komatsu: Makashikan no Hoben. IB XXVI, 2, 1978, pp. 826-828. Toshio Kazama: Makashikan to Nanshûzen no Kankei ni Tsuite. IB XXVIII,1, 1979, pp. 51-55, Keisho Sengoku: Nangaku Eshi no Zenkan. IB XXXI, 1, 1982, pp. 256-58. 256-58, two articles by Hideto Ono: Tendai Kanjin Jikiho no Kenkyû. IB XXIX, 1, 1980,pp. 326-332, and Shiki Tendai no Ten Shiso. IR XXIV 1, 1975, pp. 114-118, Rosan Ikeda; Tendai Chigi no Reiho Taikei. IB XXIX, 1, 1980, pp. 37-41, and Kobaku Sakamoto: Tendai ni Okeru Shizen. IB XXXI 1. 1982, pp. 259-262. Important studies in Western languages are Leon Hurvitz: Chih-i, an Introduction to the the and ideas of a Chinese Buddhist Monk. MCB Vol. 12, Bruxelles, 1962; Helwig Schmidt-Glintzer: Die Identitat Der Buddhistischen Schulent und Die Kompilation Buddhistischer Universalgeschichren in China. Wiesbaden, 1982; and Paul Magnin: La Vie et l'Euvre de Huisi (515-577). Publications de l'Ecole Franraise D'extreme-Orient Vol. CXVI. Paris, 1979.

26. See Tokiwa and Sekino pp. 17-19 (also note 5).

27. The first mention of the supposed meeting between Fa-jung and Tao-hsin can be found in Kuei-feng Tsung-mi's Yuan-chueh ching ta-hsu ch'ao (HTC Vol. 14, p. 279b) from 823 a.d. The earlier inscriptions only mention the lineage. See also CDC ch. 3, pp. 51ab. The biographical entry on Fa-jung in CTL mentions that Tao-hsin went to Niu-t'ou Shan in "the middle of the Chen-kuan period" (627-649 a.d.); CTL ch. p. 227a.

28. CDC ch. 3, p. 53a.

29. Biography in HKSC ch. 25, pp. 602ac. See also the above mentioned later stele-inscriptions and the line of transmission as given in CDC ch. 3, p. 53a.

30. This has also been noted by John R. McRae in his The Ox-head School of Chinese Ch'an Buddhism, p. 178.

31. Biography in the stele-inscription "T'ang Ku Kuei-feng hui sh'an-shih ch'uan-fa pei," by P'ei Hsiu (797-870), CSTP ch. 114. For a reprint of the original inscription see "P'ei Hsiu tzu-t'ieh," publ. by Hsi-ch'uan Jen-min Ch'u-pan she, Ch'eng-tu, 1981. See also the biographical entries in CDC ch. 5, pp. 114a-116a and CTL ch. 13, pp. 305c-308b. For a study of the life and Ch'an thought of this important master see Jan Yun-hua: Tsung-mi: His Analysis of Ch'an Buddhism. TP LVIII, 1972; pp. 1-54 for a discussion and complete translation of Tsung-mi's Ch'an-yuan chu-ch'uan chi tou-hsu (T. 2015) see Jeffery Broughton: Kuei-feng Tsung-mi. The Convergence of Ch'an and the Teachings. Ph.D. Dissertation, Columbia University, 1975.

32. T. 2015. p. 402c, HTC Vol. 14, p. 279b, HTC Vol. 110, pp. 436d-437a.

33. Ch'an-yuan chu-ch'uan chi tu-hsu (T. 2015), p. 402c.

34. Ibid. This characterization will appear quite fair when compared with the contents of the Hsin-ming.

35. Biography in CDC ch. 16, pp. 309a-312a and CTL ch. 9, pp. 266abc. For a translation of his yu-lu compiled by P'ei Hsiu, i.e. the Ch'uan-hsin fa-yao (T. 2012) see John Blofeld: The Zen Teaching of Huang Po. London, 1958.

36. Hsi-yun's critique of Fa-jung is found in CTL ch. 9. p. 266c.

37. In the scripture catalogues compiled by Eun (n.d.) (T. 2168AB) and Enchin (814-889) (T. 2169, 2170, 2171, 2172, 2173) we find the titles of the following texts bearing the name of Fa-jung: Chu chin-kang pan-jo ching in one chapter pp. 1088, Chu chin-kang pan-jo in two chapters pp. 1091, Wei-mo ching chi in one chapter pp. 1091, Hua-yen ching szu-chi in one chapter pp. 1151. In addition to these texts several more bear the name Niu-t'ou probably also meaning Fa-jung. If these commentaries actually were written by Fa-jung, it is readily understandable why we find citations from the Vimalakîrti Sûtra and the Avatamsaka Sûtra in the CKL.

         In Lionel Giles's Descriptive Catalogue of the Chinese Manuscripts from Tun-huang in the British Museum. London, 1957, p. 129 (S. 2944) we find a text called Jung Ch'an-shih ting-hou yin (The Ch'an master Jung's Song Following Samâdhi), which through further investigation might turn out to be a work by Fa-jung too.

38. Pelliot (hereafter P.) 2732, P. 2885 and P. 2045. A modern version, annotated and translated into modern Japanese and English can be found in Chüeh-kuan lun. Ed. by Gishin Tokiwa. Kyoto, 1973. This book is based on the research of a study-group under the supervision of Seizan Yanagida at the Institute for Zen Studies in Kyoto. In the English translation Tokiwa translates the "kuan"bi in the title as "contemplation", however this author disagrees with the rendering of "kuan" in this particular case, finding that "views" or "opinions" as a translation of kuan are much more in accordance with the real meaning of the title. See also McRae pp. 208-9 for a discussion of the meaning of kuan. [bi ]

39. Yanagida's argument for the attribution of the Chüeh-kuan lun (hereafter CKL) to Fa-jung appears to be well documented and there can be little doubt that the text is from his hand. See Tokiwa pp. 2-3 and p. 23 note 7.

40. See Hsin-ming (hereafter HM) pp. 457b line 2, p. 457c line 2, p. 457c line 3, p. 457 line 12 and p. 458a line 6, and CKL (Tokiwa version) section III, p. 89, section VI, p. 91, section IX, p. 93 and section X, pp. 93-94. Compare fx. the opening passage of CKL with that of Tao-te ching. The "Taoistic" touch apparent in the Niu-t'ou doctrines should not be interpreted to mean that this school of Ch'an was a mixture of Lao-Chuang Taoism (wrongly called Neo-Taoism) and dhyâna Buddhism, but should rather be seen as a genuine Chinese Buddhist interpretation of mâdhyamika philosophy emphasising the practical realization of universal emptiness partly expressed through Lao-Chuang terminology. When seen from this angle, then the Niu-t'ou doctrines constitute a logical and direct continuation of the type of Chinese mâdhyamika evident in such a work as Chao-lun (T. 1858) et al.

41. CTL ch. 4, pp.227b-228a.

42. The CTL as such is admittedly quite late, however the contents of the Fa-jung biography included therein agrees perfectly as far as doctrine goes with that of the HM and CKL, and might very well be at least partly genuine.

43. CTL ch. 30, p. 457c, line 6.

44. CKL section VI, p. 91.

45. Ibid, section IV, pp. 89-90.

46. See note 36.

47. T. 2837, pp. 1286c-1289b. See also the modern Japanese version by Seizan Yanagida in Shoki no Zenshi, 1. Zen no Goroku 2. Tokyo, 1971, pp. 49-326. It has been translated into English by David W. Chappell in Early Ch'an in China and Tibet, pp. 107-129.

48. CTL ch.30, pp. 457ab.

49. Biography in Pao-lin ch'uan (Zengaku Gyosho Vol. 5), comp. by Seizan Yanagida, reprint 1983) ch. 8, pp. 148-154, CDC ch. 2, pp. 41ab and CTL ch. 3, pp. 211c- 212b.

50. The teaching on the unobtainability of phenomena is identical in the two works and so is that of non-duality. It must be noted however, that the Hsin Hsin-ming has a stronger leaning towards the doctrine of tathâgatagarbha (fo-hsing) than the HM.

51. Biography in the Li-tai fa-pao chi (T. 2075), pp. 185c-196b and CTL ch. 4, pp, 234b-235a.

52. Biography in CDC ch. 3, pp. 56b-57a and CTL ch. 5, pp. 245ab. A biographical treatment in French can be found in Jacques Gernet: "Biographie du Maitre Chen-houei de Ho-tso." Journal Asiatique, CCXLIX, 1951, pp. 29-60.

53. CTW ch.908.





The Development of Chinese Zen After the Sixth Patriarch. Heinrich Dumoulin. SMC Publishing, Inc. Taipei, n.d..


Early Ch'an in China and Tibet. Ed. by W. Lai and L.R Lancaster. Berkeley Buddhist Studies Series. Asian Humanities Press. Berkeley, 1983. David W. Chappell "The Teachings of the Fourth Ch'an Patriarch Tao-hsin (580‑651)", pp. 89-129.


Essays in Zen Buddhism, 3 vols. Daisetsu Teitaro Suzuki. Rider and Company. London, 1949-53.


Japanese-English Buddhist Dictionary. Daitõ Shuppansha. Tõkyõ, 1991.


Zen Buddhism: A History, Vol. 2. Heinrich Dumoulin. Macmillan. New York, 1990.