The Coincidence of Opposites
By Shih T'ou (700-790 CE)


"The mind of the great sage of India
    was intimately conveyed from west to east.
Though people may be sharp-witted or dull,
    there's no north and south in the Way.
The deep spring sparkles in the pure light
    its branches streaming through the darkness.
Grasping at phenomena is the source of delusion;
    uniting with the absolute falls short of awakening.
All of the senses, all the things sensed―
    they interact without interaction.
Interacting, they permeate one another,
yet each remains in its own place.
By nature, forms differ in shape and appearance.
    By nature, sounds bring pleasure or pain.
In the darkness, the fine and mediocre accord;
    brightness makes clear and murky distinct.
Each element comes back to its own nature
    just as a child finds its own mother.
Fire is hot, the wind blows,
    water is wet and earth solid,
Eyes see forms, ears hear sounds,
    noses smell, tongues tell salty from sour―
so it is with everything everywhere.
    The root puts forth each separate shoot.
Both root and shoot go back to the fundamental fact.
    Exalted and lowly is just a matter of words.
In the very midst of light, there's darkness;
    don't meet another in the darkness.
In the very midst of darkness, there's light;
    don't observe another in the light. 
Light and darkness complement each other,
    like stepping forward and stepping back.
Each of the myriad things has its particular virtue
    inevitably expressed in its use and station.
Phenomena accord with the fundamental as a lid fits its box;
    the fundamental meets phenomenon like arrows in mid air.
Hearing these words, understand the fundamental;
    don't cook up principles from your own ideas.
If you overlook the Way right before your eyes,
    how will you know the path beneath your feet?
Advancing has nothing to do with near and far
    yet delusion creates obstacles high and wide.
Students of the mystery, I humbly urge you,
    don't waste a moment, night or day."

The Coincidence of Opposites, By Shih T'ou (700-790 CE)
From The Roaring Stream: A New Zen Reader, p. 42
Edited by Nelson Foster and Jack Shoemaker



"I have learned that the place wherein Thou are found unveiled is girt round with a coincidence of contradictions ... 'tis beyond the coincidence of contradictories that Thou mayest be seen, and nowhere this side thereof."
-   Nicholas of Cusa (1401-1464), The Vision of God, Chapter 9











Research by Michael P. Garofalo

This webpage was first published on the Internet on January 13, 2013.

This webpage was last updated or modified on January 13, 2013. 

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