I was in the front-row at Bif Naked's performance at the Ottawa WestFest on June 11, 2011 and couldn't help but noticed the phrase 竺土大仙心 tattooed on the inside of her right, upper arm. Based on my knowledge of Chinese, the literal translation of each word is as follow:
竺 = bamboo
土 = soil
大 = big
仙 = fairy, magician, supernatural being, sage
心 = heart, mind
I recall my secondary school teacher telling me that ancient India was once called "Sky/heaven bamboo country", or 天竺國. Thus the term 竺土 "Bamboo soil" refers to the land of India, or the land of Buddhism.
Upon returning home, with Bif Naked's music still pounding in my head, I looked up her tattoo竺土大仙心 on the net and this is what I found:
According to Wikipedia / Sandokai, 竺土大仙心 is the first line of an ancient Zen poem "Ts'an-t'ung-ch'i"【參同契】 written by the eighth Chinese Zen ancestor Shitou Xiqian石頭希遷 (700–790 A.D.) . It is a fundamental text of the Sōtō school of Zen that is being chanted daily in temples throughout the world. Here is a translated version of the poem in English.
"Harmony of Difference and Sameness" 【參同契】
竺土大仙心 The mind of the great sage of India
東西密相付 is intimately transmitted from west to east.
人根有利鈍 While human faculties are sharp or dull,
道無南北祖 the Way has no northern or southern ancestors.
靈源明皎潔 The spiritual source shines clear in the light;
枝派暗流注 the branching streams flow on in the dark.
執事元是迷 Grasping at things is surely delusion;
契理亦非悟 according with sameness is still not enlightenment.
門門一切境 All the objects of the senses
迴互不迴互 interact and yet do not.
迴而更相涉 Interacting brings involvement.
不爾依位住 Otherwise, each keeps its place.
色本殊質像 Sights vary in quality and form,
聲元異樂苦 sounds differ as pleasing or harsh.
闇合上中言 Refined and common speech come together in the dark,
明明清濁句 clear and murky phrases are distinguished in the light.
四大性自復 The four elements return to their natures
如子得其母 just as a child turns to its mother;
火熱風動搖 Fire heats, wind moves,
水濕地堅固 water wets, earth is solid.
眼色耳音聲 Eye and sights, ear and sounds,
鼻香舌鹹醋 nose and smells, tongue and tastes;
然於一一法 Thus with each and every thing,
依根葉分布 depending on these roots, the leaves spread forth.
本未須歸宗 Trunk and branches share the essence;
尊卑用其語 revered and common, each has its speech.
當明中有暗 In the light there is darkness,
勿以暗相遇 but don't take it as darkness;
當暗中有明 In the dark there is light,
勿以明相睹 but don't see it as light.
明暗各相對 Light and dark oppose one another
比如前後歩 like the front and back foot in walking.
萬物自有功 Each of the myriad things has its merit,
當言用及處 expressed according to function and place.
事存函蓋合 Phenomena exist; box and lid fit;
理應箭鋒拄 principle responds; arrow points meet.
承言須會宗 Hearing the words, understand the meaning;
勿自立規矩 don't set up standards of your own.
觸目不會道 If you don't understand the Way right before you,
運足焉知路 how will you know the path as you walk?
進歩非近遠 Progress is not a matter of far or near,
迷隔山河故 but if you are confused, mountains and rivers block your way.
謹白參玄人 I respectfully urge you who study the mystery,
光陰莫虚度 do not pass your days and nights in vain.
(Source: Internet Sacred Text Archived)
* Please visit Flickr
to see photographer Arne Berg's great pics of Bif Naked and other performers at the June 10-12, 2011 WestFest.
* BIF NAKED's HOME PAGE: http://www.bifnaked.com/