Sandokai – or the Unity of One and Many

Author: Shihtou Xiqian (China) 700 – 790  (T’ang dynasty), the eighth Chinese ancestor in the Tsao Tung lineage. Japanese: Sekito Kisen.

The fundamental being of the great Sage of India

Flowed, heart to mind, West and East.

For people sharp and slow minds may exist,

In the Way there are no Southern or Northern ancestors.

The spiritual source shines clearly in the light;

Unseen the branching streams flow out through darkness.

It is confusion to grasp after the different phenomena,

But merging with oneness is not yet enlightenment.


Every sense gate and all we perceive depends upon each other

And is independent and unique;

In mutual relation they affect each other further,

Otherwise, they remain as they are.

Once there is form, it varies in substance and shape;

Once there is sound, it differs as pleasant or harsh.

‘Darkness’ is a word used when ‘good’ and ‘mediocre’ are indistinguishable united,

‘Brightness’ is an expression for when ‘lucid’ and ‘murky’ are clearly apparent.


The four elements time and again, resume their nature,

Just as a child always turns back to its mother.

Fire heats, wind blows, water moistens, earth solidifies;

For eyes there are forms, for ears sounds,

For the nose there are smells, and for the tongue sour or salty tastes.

Thus, for each and every appearance,

The leaf spreads depending on its root.

Cause and effect necessarily return to the source;

A person’s speech reveals their origin.


Right within light there is darkness,

But do not look at it as just darkness.

In darkness there is light,

But do not consider it only light.

Light and darkness work together as a pair,

Just as the front- and back-foot in walking.


All things have their unique value

Expressed by their function and position.

Everyday phenomena come together with the universal

As a box and its lid;

The universal sustains the appearance of phenomena

As arrow-points meeting in mid-air.


Hearing words of teaching, listen to their source

And don’t use them to set up your own standards.

If you do not understand the way right in front of you,

How can you know where the path goes?

When you practice the Way, there is neither near nor far,

Led astray, high mountains and deep rivers obstruct your path.


Respected seekers of Truth,

Do not spend your time, light or dark, in vain!