Ten Verses of Unfathomable Depth

"A person will get well when he is tired of being sick." Lao Tzu

The Ten Verses of Unfathomable Depth were a highly regarded text in premodern China, Korea, and Japan, but they are not part of the small canon of poems still regularly employed in Zen teaching and practice in Japan and abroad. They are therefore unfamiliar to all but specialists.

The Ten Verses are themselves undated. But if the attribution of their authorship to Tong’an Changcha is correct, they must have been written in the first half of the tenth century, no later than about 960. They were first published posthumously in the twenty-ninth volume of the Jingde Era Record of the Transmission of the Lamp, which is a collection of texts foundational for the self-understanding and history of Chan/Zen Buddhism.


Ten Verses of Unfathomable Depth

1. The Mind Seal

I ask you, “What does the Mind Seal look like?”
And “What sort of person dares to transmit it?”
Throughout the ages, it has remained firm and unshaken.
As soon as you call something the Mind Seal, it is already
You must know that in essence all things originate from
infinite emptiness.
You can compare it to a lotus flower in a red-hot kiln.
Don’t say that a free and empty mind is the Way,
A free and empty mind is still separated from it by a great


2. The Mind of the Enlightened Ones

This mind is like emptiness, but it isn’t empty.
How could the unfathomable function ever degenerate to
being the result of achievement?
The bodhisattvas at the three stages of wisdom have still not
clarified this.
And how can the higher ranks of bodhisattvas ever reach it?
The golden carp that has passed through the net remains
trapped in the water.
But the stone horse still on the way leaves its sand cage
Why have the meaning of Bodhidharma coming from the
West explained in every detail?
Don’t ask about the coming from the West, nor about
the East.


 3. The Unfathomable Function

You cannot rely on looking far ahead to the end of the universe.
And why would you tie yourself down to tainted worldliness?
Essentially, the miraculous body is not bound anywhere.
It is already throughout the whole body, so what other traces
could there be?
A single efficacious word transcends the multitudes.
It is far beyond the Three Vehicles and does not require
Shake off your hands and get away from the sages of all ages.
Then your path of return will resemble an ox in the midst
of fire.


4. The Transcendent Within Dust and Dirt

That which is impure is impure by itself; that which is pure is
pure by itself.
Highest wisdom and delusion are likewise empty and even.
Who could say that nobody can appreciate Bianhe’s jade?
I say that the jewel of the black dragon shines everywhere.
Only when the myriad dharmas disappear does the whole thing
The Three Vehicles split up, and assumed only provisional
Truly outstanding people have determination that knows no
Do not try to go where the buddhas have already gone.


5. The Buddhist Teaching

The Three Vehicles spoke golden words one after another.
But the buddhas of the past, present, and future only declared
the same thing.
At the beginning, when they expounded the reality of skandhas
and then complete emptiness all people got attached to it.
Later, when they negated both reality and emptiness, the people
discarded it again.
The complete treasury of sutras in the Dragon Palace has the
meaning of prescriptions.
Even the Buddha’s last teaching does not reach the
If even one deluded thought arises in the world of true purity,
This already means spending eight thousand years in the world
of human beings.

The master observes the world but trusts his inner vision. He allows things to come & go. He prefers what is within to what is without.(12th verse Tao Te Ching)

6. The Song of Returning Home

Don’t be distracted by the King of Emptiness when you are
still on the Way.
You must drive your staff forward, moving on until you
reach home.
If you travel for a long time like clouds and water, don’t get
attached to it.
Even in the deep recesses of snowy mountains, don’t forget
your mission.
Ah! I regretted that in past days my face was like jade.
And I lamented that at the time of my return my hair had
turned white.
Returning to my old home with dangling arms, there was
no one who recognized me.
Also, I had nothing to offer my parents.

Be Content with what you have; rejoice in the way things are. When you realize there is nothing lacking, the whole world belongs to you.~ Lao Tzu

7. The Song of Not Returning Home

Having the intention of going to the source, of returning
to the origin, is already a mistake.
Essentially, there is nowhere to settle down, no place to call
one’s home.
The ancient path through the pines is covered with deep snow.
The long range of mountain peaks is furthermore blocked
by clouds.
When host and guest are tranquil and serene, everything is
When lord and vassal are united, there is wrong in the midst of
How will you sing the song of returning home?
In bright moonlight, the dead tree is blooming in front of
the hall.

Lao-tzu (c. 500 BCE)

8. The Revolving Function

It is still dangerous even inside the castle of nirvana.
Strangers come across each other without appointment.
People call someone who provisionally puts on a dirty robe
a buddha.
But if someone wears precious clothes, what should you
call him?
In the middle of the night, the wooden man puts on shoes and
At dawn, the stone woman puts on a hat and goes home.
An ancient emerald pool, the moon in the empty sky.
Screening and filtering over and over to catch the moon, for
the first time you will really know.


9. Changing Ranks

Growing hair and horns, you enter town,
Resembling a blue lotus flower blooming in the midst of fire.
All afflictions become like rain and dew in the vast sea.
All ignorance becomes like clouds and thunder on a mountain.
You completely blow out the furnace below the cauldron
of hell,
Smashing to pieces a forest of swords and a mountain of
daggers with a single shout.
Even golden chains cannot hold you back at the entrance.
Going into the realm of other beings, you transmigrate
for a while.

10. Before the Rank of the Absolute

In front of many dead trees and steep boulders, there are
many wrong tracks heading off course.
Those travelers who have reached this place all trip and
A crane stands in the snow, but does not have the same color.
The bright moon and the flower of reeds do not really resemble
each other.
“I’m finished, I’m finished, I’m finished!” When you think so,
you cannot really be finished.
If you say, “This is it! This is the ultimate source!” you also
need a good shout.
From the bottom of your heart, you play a melody on the
harp with no strings.
How would it be possible to grasp the moonlight shining in
the empty sky?

Source ~ http://www.wisdompubs.org/blog/201411/ten-verses-unfathomable-depth

"A person will get well when he is tired of being sick." Lao Tzu

A person will get well when he is tired of being sick ~ Lao Tzu


Generally just Being. Nothing in particular, no claims to fame. I like gardening and the sea, nature, art in all forms from poetry to films and everything in between, and being in the company of my family.

Posted in Buddhism, Uncategorized

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