Author:  Tung Shan (807 – 869)

In the “Song of The Precious Mirror,” the word “precious” can be interpreted as eternal, unchanging and limitless.  The  characteristic of the mirror is its brightness.  It can shine inwardly to enlighten you to your own nature, or it can shine outwardly to enable you to help others.  The central image of this poem is an infant who is born complete with all five sense organs.  This signifies that an unenlightened person is originally gifted with the same characteristics as a Buddha.  The author tried to understand the various levels of his students and used a five-stage plan to test their accomplishments.  Although these five levels are distinct, they all have the same basis in enlightenment.  Thus, it cannot be said that a student on a deeper level is enlightened, while one on a shallower level is not.  The five levels, arising from a single center, interact with each other.


It is this very Dharma that

The Buddha gladly transmited.

Now that you have it,

Protect it well.


Like a silver bowl full of snow,

Or an egret hidden against the bright moon,

They are similar, but not identical.

When mingled, their difference can be recognized.


The meaning does not lie in words,

Yet those who are ripe must be taught.

As soon as you act, it is a past issue.

So consider their varying attainments.


Rejecting words or clinging to them are both mistakes.

Like a blazing fire, useful but dangerous.

If it is only expressed in language,

The precious mirror will be stained.


At midnight it is truly bright;

By daybreak it no longer shows.

It serves as the law which governs all things,

Use it to remove all suffering.


Though it is not a way of action, still it is not without words.

As before a precious mirror,

The form and reflection gaze on each other.

You are not it, but it is just you.


Just as an infant

Who is gifted with five sense organs.

It neither goes nor comes,

Neither does it arise nor abide.

“Po-Po Ho-Ho..,” a baby talk, but without meaning.

You can never get the substance of it,

Because it is not correct language.


Like the (five) aromas of the hyssop plant,

Or (the five branches of) the vajra scepter,

The exact center subtly harmonizing,

Drumming and singing simultaneously.


Penetrate the goal and you will comprehend the way.

In order to lead there must be a road.

To be wrong is auspicious, do not oppose it.


Natural and subtle,

It is neither ignorance nor enlightenment.

Causes and conditions have their time and season.

Tranquil and illuminating.

It is so small that it enters the spaceless,

So large that it is beyond dimension.

If you are off by a hair’s breadth,

Then you would be out of harmony.


If you want to merge with the ancient track,

Then, contemplate the ancients.

If only you are able to persist,

You will complete the Buddha Path.

You will be called a master among masters.