Author:  Hung Chih (1091 – 1157)

The “Silent Illumination” is one of the major methods of Chan which have survived to the present day. Hung Chih’s style of practice was most influenced by his teacher Ku-Mu (or dry wood).  When his teacher sat, his stillness made his body resemble a block of dry wood.  Hung Chih, calling his method “Silent Illumniation,” described it as follows:  “Your body sits silently; your mind, relaxing and unmoving.  Your mouth is so still that moss grows around it.  Grass sprouts from your tongue.  Do this without stop, cleansing the mind until it gains the clarity of an autumn pool, bright as the moon illuminating the evening sky.”  Hung Chih also said, “In this silent sitting, whatever realms may appear, the mind is very clear as to all the details, yet everything is where it originally is, in its own place.  The mind seems staying on one thought forever , yet does not dwell on any forms, inside or outside.”  His teaching reveals the aim of Silent Illumination:  A mind unburdened with thoughts, yet profoundly aware of its own state.


Silently and serenely, one forgets all words.

Clearly and vividly, it appears before you.

When one realizes it, time has no limits.

When experienced, your surroundings come to life.

Singularly illuminating is this bright awareness.

Full of wonders is the pure illumination.


The moon’s appearance, a river of stars,

Snow-covered pines, clouds hovering on mountain peaks.

In darkness, they glow with brightness.

In shadows, they shine with a splendid light.

Like  dreaming of a crane flying in open space.

Like the clear, still water of an autumn pool.

Endless eons dissolve into nothingness,

Each indistinguishable from the other.

In this illumination all striving is forgotten.

Where does this wonder exist?


Brightness and clarity dispel confusion.

On the path of Silent Illumination,

The origin of the tiniest.

To penetrate the extremely small,

There is the gold shuttle on a loom of jade.

Subject and object influence each other.

Light and darkness are mutually dependent.

There is neither mind nor world to rely on,

Yet do the two interact, mutually.

Drink the medicine of correct views.

Beat the poison-spread drum.

When silence and illumination are complete,

Killing and bringing to life are choices I make.


At last, through the door, one emerges.

The fruit has ripened on the branch.

Only this Silence is the ultimate teaching.

Only this Illumination, the universal responds.

The response is without effort.

The teaching, not heard with ears.

Throughout the universe,

All things emit light  and speak the Dharma.


They testify to each other.

Answering each other’s questions,

Responding in perfect harmony.

When Silent Illumination is complete,

The lotus will blossom, the dreamer will awaken.

The hundred rivers flow to the ocean.

The thousand mountains face the loftiest peak.


Like the goose preferring milk to water,

Like a busy bee gathering pollen.

When Silent Illumination reaches the ultimate,

I carry on the original tradition of my sect.

This practice is called Silent Illumination.

It penetrates from the deepest to the highest.