Home > Library > Buddhism > Anonymous > Zen Buddhism > Harmony Of Difference And Sameness

Harmony Of Difference And Sameness



Harmony of Difference and Sameness


By Ch'an Master Shih-t'ou Hsi-ch'ien


Title of the Text

Author of the Text

The "Ts'an-t'ung-ch'i"

The Original Chinese Text

Translation of the Text


Title Of The Text

\"Ts'an-t'ung-ch'i" (Wade-Giles)

"Cantongqi" (Pinyin) Can1tong2qi4

"Sandkai" (Japanese)

Literally, Coming
[together and] Sameness Vow

Various Translations of the Title

1. Harmony of Difference and Sameness

2. Harmony of Difference and Equality

3. Merging of Difference and Sameness (Thomas Cleary)

4. Identity of Relative and Absolute (Dennis Genpo Merzel)

5. Ode on Identity (Daisetsu Teitar Suzuki)

Author Of The Text

Shih-t'ou Hsi-ch'ien (Wade-Giles)

Shitou Xiqian (Pinyin) Shi4tou5 Xi1qian1

Sekit Kisen (Japanese)


\"Shih-t'ou was still a boy while the Sixth Patriarch, Hui-nng, was yet alive; he was only thirteen years old when Hui-nng died. Later, he studied Zen under Hsing-szu and became one of the great teachers of the day." (Essays in Zen Buddhism - Third Series 116-7)

\"When I was with Shih-t'ou, he used to say whenever anybody asked him a question, 'Close your mouth, no barking like a dog!' " (Essays in Zen Buddhism - Third Series

\"While scholars of the Avatamsaka School1 were making use of the intuitions of Zen in their own way, the Zen masters were drawn towards the philosophy of Indentity and Interpenetration advocated by the Avatamsaka, and attempted to incorporate it into their own discourses. For instance, Shih-t'ou in his 'Ode on Identity' depicts the mutuality of Light and Dark as restricting each other and at the same time being fused in each other; Tung-shan2 in his metrical composition called 'Sacred Mirror Samadhi'3 discourses on the mutuality of "P'ien"4, 'one-sided', and "Chng"5, 'correct', much to the same effect as Shih-t'ou in his Ode, for both Shih-t'ou and Tung-shan belong to the school of Hsing-szu known as the Ts'ao-tung6 branch of Zen Buddhism.
This idea of Mutuality and Indentity is no doubt derived from Avatamsaka philosophy, so ably formulated by Fa-tsang. As both Shih-t'ou and Tung-shan are Zen masters, their way of presenting it is not at all like that of the metaphysician." ("Essays in Zen Buddhism - Third Series" 19)

"Sekit Kisen carried on the line of transmission of Seigen Gyshi7. He lived in a hut which he had built for himself in the vicinity of a Buddhist monastery. The writings ascribed to him are "Sanka"8 and "Sandkai"."

(The Development of Chinese Zen After the Sixth Patriarch 6)


\"Hua-yen-tsung" ("Kegonsh" )

2 Tung-shan Liang-chieh ("Tsan Rykai", 807-869 )

Pao-ching San-mei-ko ("Hky Zanmaika" )

4 One-sided ("p'ien", "hen" )

5 Correct ("cheng", "sh" )

6 "Ts'ao-tung" ("St" )

7 Ch'ing-yan Hsing-ssu (d. 740)



"Identity of Relative and Absolute" (Jap. "Sandokai")
One of the most important Zen poems, this profound sutra is chanted daily in Soto Zen services." ("The Eye That Never Sleeps" 135)

\"Shitou, whose lifetime spanned nearly the entire eighth century, is particularly well known for his remarkable didactic poem entitled 'Merging of Difference and Sameness.'
This is one of the most compact statements of Buddhism on record, written at a high level of concentration. Many attempts have been made to elucidate its inner meanings, with commentaries dating all the way back to the late classical period of Zen, only a few generations removed from the original composition.

In the typical manner of the texts written in a concentrated Zen style, Shitou's work says a great deal about the fundamental premises of Zen right in the opening statement: 'The mind of the great immortal of India is intimately communicated East and West.' The great immortal of India1 refers to Buddha, and that mind refers to the enlightened mind. The term used for immortal here is a Taoist term, and the characters in the title of the work are identical to an early Taoist classic of spiritual alchemy. Here Shitou is not just using literary embellishment or approximation of concepts; the message is that the enlightened mind cuts through and goes beyond distinctions of religious format, is deeper than and unimpeded by cultural differences such as those between East and West."

("Zen Essence" 96)

"In the latter work2 Sekit speaks of Buddha as the "Great Hermit" ("daisen"3); the meaning and foundation of all things he calls the "spiritual source"
("reigen"4). The dialectical resolution of the dualistic pairs of opposites "ji"5 and "ri"6 and light ("my"7) and darkness ("an"8) into a higher unity, developed by Sekit in the "Sandkai", can be regarded as the foundation of, or first step toward, the later doctrine of the
"Five Ranks" ("goi"9) in the St Sect." (The Development of Chinese Zen After the Sixth Patriarch 6-7)

\"The two principle terms of the Five Ranks are "sh" (the "erect," the "upright") and "hen" (the "bent," the "inclined"). For the meaning of "sh", Rykai's explanatory words will serve: "There is one thing: Heaven is suspended from it and Earth rests upon it. It is black like lacquer, perpetually in movement and activity. Sh" is also the One, the Absolute, the foundation of Heaven and Earth and all being. But this Absolute is dynamic, constantly in motion. The cognizing mind ("Geist")
cannot fix it or get a firm hold on it. This Absolute corresponds to "ri" or "an" ("darkness")
in the speculation of Sekit Kisen. It is symbolically represented by a solid black circle. In the terminology of Buddhist philosophy it is True Emptiness ("shink"10).

"hen" the Absolute enters into appearances. It completely penetrates the phenomenal world, becomes the All and all things. With Sekit Kisen this is "ji" or "my" ("brightness"). The white circle is its corresponding symbol. But the two, the Absolute and relative-phenomenal, are not separate, are not two, but one. The Absolute is the Absolute with regard to the relative. The relative, however, is relative with reference to the Absolute. Therefore the relative-phenomenal in Buddhist philosophical terminology is "marvelous existence" ("myu"11), which is inseparable from True Emptiness. The expression is "shink myu"12."

(The Development of Chinese Zen After the Sixth Patriarch 26)

"There is one thing: above, it supports Heaven; below, it upholds Earth. It is black like lacquer, always actively functioning. Tung-shan Ling-chia" (Tsan Rykai) (The Development of Chinese Zen After the Sixth Patriarch 74)

Sh Represents

the absolute

the fundamental




true nature

little caeser's medina| chapter xiii band
Home > Library > Buddhism > Anonymous > Zen Buddhism > Harmony Of Difference And Sameness