Zen practitioners often talk about “Shin” and what is the proper translation for “shin”. The most common translation is heart-mind, though in the earlier days of translation it was only translated as mind. The problem being that in the east the discriminative mind resides in the heart and in the west, it resides in the mind. So if you noticed hand gestures, eastern people point to the heart in speaking of mind and westerners point to the brain. Interesting!
As Okumura Roshi explains, “Shin is neither heart or mind or both and actually neither.”
Dogen writes a whole fascicle about the meaning of “shin”. In the Shobogenzo chapter titled Sokushinzebutsu, Dogen works with the koan from Baso (or Mazu). In a dialogue between Zen master Baso and the monk Daibai in Case 30 of the koan collection, The Gateless Gate:
Daibai asked Baso, “What is buddha?”
Baso answered, “Mind (shin) here and now is buddha.”
In this Shobogenzo chapter, Dogen rearranges the words to show all the different sides and possibilities of this meaning. This is a beautiful example of Dogen’s subtle changing of syntax to expound the deeper meaning of traditional Zen phrases.
1. Soku shin ze butsu – “mind here and now is Buddha”
2. Shin soku butsu ze – “the mind which is Buddha is this”
3. Butsu soku ze shin –“Buddha actually is just the mind”
4. Ze butsu shin soku – “this Buddha-mind is now here”
5. Soku shin butsu ze – “Mind-and-buddha here and now is true”
6. Ze butsu soku shin - “concrete Buddha is mind here and now”
In this chapter dogen expounds that the mind or heart or shin is the one mind that means all dharmas in the entire network of interdependent origination. And this one mind is authentically transmitted by buddhas and ancestors. All dharmas are one mind. It is neither in our heart or our mind but it is the total reality of all space and time inter-related. Okumura Roshi asks with a smile, “so how do you translate that?”
Keizan’s also has a commentary on the meaning of Mind as represented by the phrase, dropping off body and mind.
“What is body and what is mind?
Finally he said:
“What is this principle, would you like to hear it?
That bright and shiny realm has neither inside nor outside
How can there be any body and mind to drop off.”
This is a radical shift in our thinking about body and mind, heart and mind, and what we think we are “trying to do.”
Each of these variation of syntax, help us to allow our minds to enlarge, to soften, to not hold on to solidity or concreteness and to live in the moment, dropping our conceptualization of what is happening. To drop off our conceptualization of heart-mind and just to be in “suchness” is extremely important to understanding practice-realization. We do not hook or link what is expressing itself in the moment to our conceptual projection or imputation of what we think is happening. What we think is usually dualistic. Instead, we can sink down into the energetic experience of this moment, right in the middle of the paradox of karma and immediacy, history and universality. This is the wholeness of the present moment where form and emptiness are dancing together in one great melody –heart/mind or the One Mind, not divided or separated out through language.