QUERY> Looking for the origins of the phrase 相由心生 境隨心轉

Esther-Maria Guggenmos's picture

Dear all, 

I am trying to trace a quote of the Chinese phrase "相由心生 境隨心轉" cited by Ven. Jingkong 淨空法師 when asked about his advice concerning divination (https://youtu.be/_GDCroI-3Zc ; 2:20 min.). It is not a direct quote from the Buddhist canon and my  first crossasia search did not come up with results. I googled it, and it appears repeatedly in the context of "命由己造,相由心生,境随心转,有容乃大" with a reference to the 無常經 (Anityatā-sūtra), e.g. https://kknews.cc/culture/p4jr9pe.html. Does anybody know the actual source of this verse? Thank you so much! 

Best wishes, 

Esther-Maria Guggenmos
University Erlangen-Nuremberg


Dear Esther-Maria,

Re: 相由心生 境隨心轉
I don't know when or where the two phrases were placed together, but the second phrase has a discernible history, while the first phrase is either an eventual paraphrase of some of the discussion surrounding the first, or something with obscure origins.

The earliest examples of the second phrase, 境隨心轉, appear in Yogācārabhūmi commentaries, though attributed to 備師, i.e., 文備.
(on Wenbei, who is cited by others of that period, such as Wŏnhyo, DDB cites Chūgoku bukkyōshi jiten (Kamata) 301, Index to the Bussho kaisetsu daijiten (Ono) 647 as references.)

Kuiji’s 窺基 comm. on Yogācārabhūmi
《瑜伽師地論略纂》卷13:「隨與者。景師云。謂於和合乖違等境。思隨此境。與識俱轉。備師云。謂思能發心令境隨心轉。為之言作。作境隨與心也。太師云。謂思令心於所緣境。隨與領納和合乖違。今解由思令心於所緣境。隨與與領納。不須言和合等。此第一是總句。若言和合等。與第二等何異。」(CBETA, T43, no. 1829, p. 188, c7-12)

Dullyun’s 遁倫 (= 道倫 Doryun) commentary
《瑜伽論記》卷14:「備云。謂思能發心令境隨心轉。為之言[11]他他境隨與心也。」(CBETA, T42, no. 1828, p. 622, b18-20)

So Wenbei appears to have coined that phrase.

It occurs in other Tang, Song, Yuan, Ming and Qing texts.

The first phrase, 相由心生, is harder to find.

It occurs in a negative context (非相由心生) in 《尊婆須蜜菩薩所集論》卷3:「此義云何。以一更樂非相由心生。是故彼無也。」(CBETA, T28, no. 1549, p. 743, a15-16), an abhidharmic-style text translated by Saṃghabhūti, et al. 僧伽跋澄等 in 384.

In a Qing anthology, whose compilation is attributed to a "most profound assistant" (侍者深極編), with assistance from a variety of “masters” 《神鼎雲外澤禪師語錄》卷8:「怡則 真龍 智舟 二如 楚賢 寂音 眾師助刻」(CBETA, J33, no. B280, p. 295, a6-7) there is this exchange - an epistemological question answered poetically:

答雪覆千山不露頂。」(CBETA, J33, no. B280, p. 292, a29-30)

The phrase seems to already be a "thing." Perhaps others can find its origin, and when the two phrases were welded together.

As you seem to have already discovered, the remaining two phrases from the four phrase passage you cited do not appear at all in the Chinese canon.

best wishes,

Dear Dan,

Thank you so much for tracing the phrase through the canon! I also recognized that there must be a Yogācāra connection and it is so enriching to have your answer at hand. I continue searching for the verse and hope to find it in the collected writings of some renowned Buddhist from the 19./20. century.

Best wishes,