Who wrote Sandokai

I'm still here at the San Francisco Zen Center where I just attended the Saturday morning ritual. Another round of zazen will begin in a quarter of an hour, and I'll be there. But while I wait, I wanted to share with you a text that is recited here very often: “The union of essence and appearance” by Sekito Kisen (700-790). It's a very nice text. Shunryu Suzuki wrote about this in the book Suffering Buddha, Happy Buddha. Zen teachings written on Sandokai.

Unfortunately I don't have time for a comment or something. So here it is in the raw version. Have fun!


The spirit of the great sage from India was transmitted directly from west to east.

People distinguish between stupid and wise, but on the true path there are no patriarchs of the south or the north.

The source of the teaching is pure and without blemish. Streams that branch out flow in the dark.

To cling to an idea is deception. Knowing the truth is not always enlightenment either.

The senses and their objects are closely connected and at the same time independent of one another. But despite their infinite connectedness, they all have their own place.

Things differ in nature and form. Good and bad manifest themselves in taste, sound and feeling. In the dark, high quality and inferior are indistinguishable. In the light the contrast between pure and impure becomes clear.

The four elements return to their nature like a child to its mother. Fire heats up, wind moves, water wets, earth is solid.

There is color and shape for the eyes. There is sound for the ears. There is a smell to the nose. There is taste for the tongue.

Every phenomenon arises from the root, just as branches and leaves sprout from the trunk. Roots and tree tops return to their original nature.

High and low words are different. In the light there is deepest darkness, don't cling to the darkness. In the dark there is light, but don't look for light. Darkness and brightness alternate like the front and back feet when walking.

Every phenomenon has its value. You should watch how the truth is expressed. The relative fits the absolute like a lid fits its container. The absolute and the relative correspond to each other like two arrows that meet in flight.

When you hear the words, you should understand the source of the teaching. Do not develop your own standards. If you can't see the way with your eyes, how should your feet know about it? To progress in practice is neither far nor near. In the state of delusion you are mountains and rivers away from it.

I respectfully urge all seekers of truth: do not waste your days and nights.