Qingjing Jing: Purity and Tranquillity Scripture

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Qingjing Jing

Purity and Tranquillity Scripture

The qingjing jing is a very short (391 characters) but popular Taoist text of unknown authorship, dating from the fist half of the Tang dynasty (618 - 906 CE). It is included in the Taoist Canon (daozang) under the full title of Tai-shang Lao-chun shou chang ching-ching miao ching, also abbreviated as Ching-ching miao-ching. Several commentaries were written on it, the earliest by Tu Kung-ting; others by Pai Yu-chan of the Sung dynasty (960 - 1279 CE) and Li Tao-tsun of the Yuan period (1271 - 1368 CE).

Because the present text has a postface written by Ko Hsuan, he is sometimes considered to be the author. But because of the inner criticism (analysis of the contents) it is quite certain that the small scripture could not have been written before the Six Dynasties (420 - 589 CE). The main argument is heavy reliance on Buddhist ideas.

The main theme is how to gain "purity" (qing) and "tranquillity" (ching). If a person's mind is able to rid itself of all desires, the mind will become tranquil; if the mind can be settled, the spirit will spontaneously become clean. Then the six desires will not arise, and the three poisons will be destroyed. Through inner vision into one's mind, one realises the no-mind; through outer vision of the body, one realises the no-body; by looking at these things from a distance, one realizes the no-thing condition. If one understands these three, one only sees "emptiness" as the nature of reality; then all delusions and defilements disappear and one reaches the state of everlasting purity and tranquillity.

This short text, as popular among Taoists as the Heart Sutra among Buddhists, is often used in recitation, and is still often reprinted for free distribution, together with a short commentary. It is important in Taoist spirituality.


The Great Tao has no form;
It brings forth and raises heaven and earth.
The Great Tao has no feelings;
It regulates the course of the sun and the moon.

The Great Tao has no name;
It raises and nourishes the myriad beings.
I do not know its name —
So I call it Tao.

The Tao can be pure or turbid, moving or tranquil.
Heaven is pure, earth is turbid;
Heaven is moving, earth is tranquil.
The male is moving, the female is tranquil.

Descending from the origin,
Flowing toward the end,
The myriad beings are being born.

Purity — the source of turbidity.
Movement — the root of tranquillity.

Always be pure and tranquil;
Heaven and earth
Return to the primordial.

The human spirit is fond of purity,
But the mind disturbs it.
The human mind is fond of tranquillity,
But desires meddle with it.

Get rid of desires for good,
And the mind will be calm.
Cleanse your mind,
And the spirit will be pure.

Naturally the six desires won't arise,
The three poisons are destroyed.
Whoever cannot do this
Has not yet cleansed his mind,
His desires are not yet driven out.

Those who have abandoned their desires:
Observe your mind by introspection —
And see there is no mind.

Then observe the body,
Look at yourself from without —
And see there is no body.

Then observe others by glancing out afar —
And see there are no beings.

Once you have realised these three,
You observe emptiness!

Use emptiness to observe emptiness,
And see there is no emptiness.
When even emptiness is no more,
There is no more nonbeing either.

Without even the existence of nonbeing
There is only serenity,
Profound and everlasting.

When serenity dissolves in nothingness —
How could there be desires?
When no desires arise
You have found true tranquillity.

In true tranquillity, go along with beings;
In true permanence, realize inner nature.
Forever going along, forever tranquil —
This is permanent purity, lasting tranquillity.

In purity and tranquillity,
Gradually enter the true Tao.
When the true Tao is entered,
It is realised.

Though we speak of "realized,"
Actually there is nothing to attain.
Rather, we speak of realization
When someone begins to transform the myriad beings.

Only who has properly understood this
Is worthy to transmit the sages' Tao.

The highest gentleman does not fight;
The lesser gentleman loves to fight.
Highest Virtue is free from Virtue;
Lesser Virtue clings to Virtue.

All clinging and attachments
Have nothing to do with the Tao or the Virtue.

People fail to realize the Tao
Because they have deviant minds.
Deviance in the mind
Means the spirit is alarmed.

Spirit alarmed,
There is clinging to things.
Clinging to things,
There is searching and coveting.

Searching and coveting,
There are passions and afflictions.
Passions, afflictions, deviance, and imaginings
Trouble and pester mind and body.

Then one falls into turbidity and shame,
Ups and downs, life and death.
Forever immersed in the sea of misery,
One is in eternity lost to the true Tao.

The Tao of true permanence
Will naturally come to those who understand.
Those who understand the realization of the Tao
Will rest forever in the pure and tranquil.