Yoka Daishi, “Song of Enlightenment” 
永嘉玄覺 Yongjia Xuanjue (665–713)
證道歌 Zhengdao ge
Translated by D.T. Suzuki
(Manual of Zen Buddhism, 1935, p. 97)
1. Knowest thou that leisurely philosopher who has gone beyond learning and is not exerting himself in anything?
He neither endeavours to avoid idle thoughts nor seeks after the Truth;
[For he knows that] ignorance in reality is the Buddha-nature,
[And that] this empty visionary body is no less than the Dharma-body.
2. When one knows what the Dharma-body is, there is not an object [to be known as such],
The source of all things, as far as its self-nature goes, is the Buddha in his absolute aspect;
The five aggregates ( skandha ) are like a cloud floating hither and thither with no fixed purpose,
The three poisons ( klesa ) are like foams appearing and disappearing as it so happens to them.
[1. Yoka Daishi (died 713, Yung-chia Ta-shih, in Chinese), otherwise known as Gengaku (Hsuan-chiao), was one of the chief disciples of Hui-neng, the, sixth patriarch of Zen Buddhism. Before he was converted to Zen he was a student of the T’ien-tai. His interview with Hui-neng is recorded in the Tan-ching. He died in 713 leaving a number of short works on Zen philosophy, and of them the present composition in verse is the most popular one. The Original title reads: Cheng-tao Ke, “realization-way-song”.]
3. When Reality is attained, it is seen to be without an ego-substance and devoid of all forms of objectivity,
And thereby all the karma which leads us to the lowest hell is instantly wiped out;
Those, however, who cheat beings with their false knowledge,
Will surely see their tongues pulled out for innumerable ages to come.
4. In one whose mind is at once awakened to [the intent of] the Tathagata-dhyana
The six paramitas and all the other merits are fully matured;
While in a world of dreams the six paths of existence arc vividly traced,
But after the awakening there is vast Emptiness only and not even a great chiliocosm exists.
5. Here one sees neither sin nor bliss, neither loss nor gain;
In the midst of the Eternally Serene no idle questionings are invited;
The dust [of ignorance] has been since of old accumulating on the mirror never polished,
Now is the time once for all to see the clearing positively done.
6. Who is said to have no-thought? and who not-born?
If really not-born, there is no no-birth either;
Ask a machine-man and find out if this is not so;
As long as you seek Buddhahood, specifically exercising yourself for it, there is no attainment for you.
7. Let the four elements go off your hold,
And in the midst of the Eternally Serene allow yourself to quaff or to peck, as you like;
Where all things of relativity are transient and ultimately empty,
There is seen the great perfect enlightenment of the Tathagata realized.
8. True monkhood consists in having a firm conviction;
If, however, you fail to have it, ask me according to your ideas, [and you will be enlightened].
To have a direct understanding in regard to the root of all things, this is what the Buddha affirms;
If you go on gathering leaves and branches, there is no help for you.
9. The whereabouts of the precious mani -jewel is not known to people generally,
Which lies deeply buried in the recesses of the Tathagata-garbha;
The sixfold function miraculously performed by it is an illusion and yet not an illusion,
The rays of light emanating from one perfect sun belong to the realm of form and yet not to it.
10. The fivefold eye-sight is purified and the fivefold power is gained,
When one has a realization, which is beyond [intellectual] measurement;
There is no difficulty in recognizing images in the mirror,
But who can take hold of the moon reflected in water?
11. [The enlightened one] walks always by himself, goes about always by himself;
Every perfect one saunters along one and the same passage of Nirvana;
His tone is classical, his spirit is transparent, his airs are naturally elevated,
His features are rather gaunt, his bones are firm, he pays no attention to others.
[1. The fivefold eye-sight (cakshus) : (1) Physical, (2) Heavenly, (3) Prajna-, (4) Dharma-, and (5) Buddha-eye.
2. The fivefold power (bala): (1) Faith, (2) Energy, (3) Memory, (4) Meditation, and (5) Prajna.]
12. Sons of the Sakya are known to be poor;
But their poverty is of the body, their spiritual life knows no poverty;
The poverty-stricken body is wrapped in rags,
But their spirit holds within itself a rare invaluable gem.
13. The rare invaluable gem is never impaired however much one uses it,
And beings are thereby benefited ungrudgingly as required by occasions;
The triple body and the fourfold jnana are perfected within it,
The eightfold emancipation and the sixfold miraculous power are impressed on it.
14. The superior one has it settled once for all and forever
The middling one learns much and holds much doubt;
The point is to cast aside your soiled clothes you so dearly keep with you;
What is the use of showing off your work before others?
15. Let others speak ill of me, let others spite me;
Those who try to burn the sky with a torch end in tiring themselves out;
I listen to them and taste [their evil-speaking] as nectar;
All melts away and I find myself suddenly within the Unthinkable itself.
[1. (1) The Dharma-body, (2) the Body of Enjoyment, and (3) the Body of Transformation.
2. (1) Mirror-intuition, (2) intuition of identity, (3) knowledge of doing Works, and (4) clear perception of relations.
3. The Abhidharmakosa , VIII, gives an explanation of the eight Vimoksha. See La Vallee Poussin’s French translation, Chap. VIII, pp. 203-221.
4. For the six Riddhi, which are the supernatural products of the meditations, see op. cit., VII, 122 ff.]
16. Seeing others talk ill of me, I acquire the chance of gaining merit,
For they are really my good friends;
When I cherish, being vituperated, neither enmity nor favouritism,
There grows within me the power of love and humility which is born of the Unborn.
17. Let us be thoroughgoing not only in inner experience but in its interpretation,
And our discipline will be perfect in Dhyana as well as in Prajna, not one-sidedly abiding in Sunyata (emptiness);
This is not where we alone have finally come to,
But all the Buddhas, as numerous as the Ganga sands, are of the same essence.
18. The lion-roaring of the doctrine of fearlessness–
Hearing this, the timid animals’ brains are torn in pieces,
Even the scented elephant runs wild forgetting its native dignity;
It is the heavenly dragon alone that feels elated with joy, calmly listening [to the lion-roaring of the Buddha].
19. I crossed seas and rivers, climbed mountains, and forded freshets,
In order to interview the masters, to inquire after Truth, to delve into the secrets of Zen;
And ever since I was enabled to recognize the path of Sokei,
I know that birth-and-death is not the thing I have to be concerned with.
[1. T’sao-ch’i is the name of the locality where Hui-neng had his monastery, means the master himself.]
20. For walking is Zen, sitting is Zen,
Whether talking or remaining silent, whether moving or standing quiet, the Essence itself is ever at ease;
Even when greeted with swords and spears it never loses its quiet way,
So with poisonous drugs, they fail to perturb its serenity.
21. Our Master, [Sakyamuni], anciently served Dipankara the Buddha,
And again for many kalpas disciplined himself as an ascetic called Kshanti.
[I have also] gone through many a birth and many a death;
Births and deaths-how endlessly they recur!
22. But ever since my realization of No-birth, which quite abruptly came on me,
Vicissitudes of fate, good and bad, have lost their power over me.
Far away in the mountains I live in an humble hut;
High are the mountains, thick the arboreous shades, and under an old pine-tree
I sit quietly and contentedly in my monkish home;
Perfect tranquillity and rustic simplicity rules here.
23. When you are awakened [to the Dharma], all is understood, no strivings are required;
Things of the samskrita  are not of this nature;
Charity practised with the idea of form ( rupa ) may result in a heavenly birth,
But it is like shooting an arrow against the sky,
When the force is exhausted the arrow falls on the ground.
Similarly, [when the heavenly reward comes to an end], the life that follows is sure to be one of fortune.
Is it not far better then to be with Reality which is asamskrita and above all strivings,
And whereby one instantly enters the stage of Tathagatahood?
[1. According to Buddhist philosophy, existence is divided into two groups, samskrita and asamskrita. The samskrita applies to anything that does any kind of work in any possible manner, while the asamskrita accomplishes nothing. Of this class are space regarded as a mode of reality, Nirvana, and nonexistence owing to lack of necessary conditions.]
24. Only let us take hold of the root and not worry about the branches;
It is like a crystal basin reflecting the moon,
And I know now what this mani -gem is,
Whereby not only oneself is benefited but others, inexhaustibly;
The moon is serenely reflected on the stream, the breeze passes softly through the pines,
Perfect silence reigning unruffled-what is it for?
25. The morality-jewel inherent in the Buddha-nature stamps itself on the mind-ground [of the enlightened one];
Whose robe is cut out of mists, clouds, and dews,
Whose bowl anciently pacified the fiery dragons, and whose staff once separated the fighting tigers;
Listen now to the golden rings of his staff giving out mellifluous tunes.
These are not, however, mere symbolic expressions, devoid of historical contents;
Wherever the holy staff of Tathagatahood moves, the traces are distinctly marked.
26. He neither seeks the true nor severs himself from the defiled,
He clearly perceives that dualities are empty and have no reality,
That to have no reality means not to be one-sided, neither empty nor not-empty,
For this is the genuine form of Tathagatahood.
27. The Mind like a mirror is brightly illuminating and knows no obstructions,
It penetrates the vast universe to its minutest crevices;
All its contents, multitudinous in form, are reflected in the Mind,
Which, shining like a perfect gem, has no surface, nor the inside.
28. Emptiness negatively defined denies a world of causality,
All is then in utter confusion, with no orderliness in it, which surely invites evils all around;
The same holds true when beings are clung to at the expense of Emptiness,
For it is like throwing oneself into a flame, in order to avoid being drowned in the water.
29. When one attempts to take hold of the true by abandoning the false,
This is discrimination and there are artificialities and falsehoods;
When the Yogin, not understanding [what the Mind is], is given up to mere discipline,
He is apt, indeed, to take an enemy for his own child.
30. That the Dharma-materials are destroyed and merit is lost,
Comes in every case from the relative discriminatory mind;
For this reason Zen teaches to have a thorough insight into the nature of Mind,
When the Yogin abruptly by means of his intuitive power realizes the truth of No-birth.
31. A man of great will carries with him a sword of Prajna,
Whose flaming Vajra-blade cuts all the entanglements of knowledge and ignorance;
It not only smashes in pieces the intellect of the philosophers
But disheartens the spirit of the evil ones.
32. He causes the Dharma-thunder to roar, he beats the Dharma-drum,
He raises mercy-clouds, he pours nectar-showers,
He conducts himself like the lordly elephant or dragon and beings innumerable are thereby blessed,
The three Vehicles and the five Families are all equally brought to enlightenment.
Hini the herb grows on the Himalaya where no other grasses are found,
And the crows feeding on it give the purest of milk, and this I always enjoy.
One Nature, perfect and pervading, circulates in all natures;
One Reality, all comprehensive, contains within itself all realities;
The one moon reflects itself wherever there is a sheet of water,
And all the moons in the waters are embraced within the one moon;
The Dharma-body of all the Buddhas enters into my own being,
And my own being is found in union with theirs.
33. In one stage are stored up all the stages;
[Reality] is neither form, nor mind, nor work;
Even before fingers are snapped, more than eighty thousand holy teachings are fulfilled;
Even in the space of a second the evil karma of three asamkhyeya kalpas is destroyed;
Whatever propositions are made by logic are no [true] propositions,
For they stand in no intrinsic relation to my inner Light.
34. [This inner Light] is beyond both praise and abuse,
Like unto space it knows no boundaries;
Yet it is right here with us ever retaining its serenity and fulness;
It is only when you seek it that you lose it.
You cannot take hold of it, nor can you get rid of it;
While you can do neither, it goes on its own way;
You remain silent and it speaks; you speak and it is silent;
The great gate of charity is wide open with no obstructions whatever before it.
35. Should someone ask me what teaching I understand,
I tell him that mine is the power of Mahaprajna;
Affirm it or negate it as you like-it is beyond your human intelligence;
Walk against it or along with it, and Heaven knows not its whereabouts.
36. 1 have been disciplined in it for ever so many kalpas of my life;
This is no idle talk of mine, nor am I deceiving you;
I erect the Dharma-banner to maintain this teaching,
Which I have gained at Sokei and which is no other than the one proclaimed by the Buddha.
37. Mahakashyapa was the first, leading the line of transmission;
Twenty-eight Fathers followed him in the West;
The Lamp was then brought over the sea to this country;
And Bodhidharma became the First Father here:
His mantle, as we all know, passed over six Fathers,
And by them many minds came to see the Light.
38. Even the true need not be [specifically] established, as to the false none such have ever been in existence;
When both being and non-being are put aside, even non-emptiness loses its sense;
The twenty forms of Emptiness are not from the first to be adhered to;
The eternal oneness of Tathagatahood remains absolutely the same.
39. The mind functions through the sense-organs, and thereby an objective world is comprehended–
This dualism marks darkly on the mirror;
When the dirt is wiped off, the light shines out;
So when both the mind and the objective world are forgotten, the Essence asserts its truth.
40. Alas! this age of degeneration is full of evils;
Beings are most poorly endowed and difficult to control;
Being further removed from the ancient Sage, they deeply cherish false views;
The Evil One is gathering up his forces while the Dharma is weakened, and hatred is growing rampant;
Even when they learn of the “abrupt” school of the Buddhist teaching,
What a pity that they fail to embrace it and thereby to crush evils like a piece of brick!
41. The mind is the author of all works and the body the sufferer of all ills;
Do not blame others plaintively for what properly belongs to you;
If you desire not to incur upon yourself the karma for a hell,
Cease from blaspheming the Tathagata-wheel of the good Dharma.
42. There are no inferior trees in the grove of sandalwoods,
Among its thickly-growing primeval forest lions alone find their abode;
Where no disturbances reach, where peace only reigns, there is the place for lions to roam;
All the other beasts are kept away, and birds do not fly in the vicinity.
43. It is only their own cubs that follow their steps in the woods,
When the young ones are only three years old, they roar.
How can jackals pursue the king of the Dharma?
With all their magical arts the elves gape to no purpose.
44. The perfect “abrupt” teaching has nothing to do with human imagination;
Where a shadow of doubt is still left, there lies the cause for argumentation;
My saying this is not the outcome of my egotism,
My only fear is lest your discipline lead you astray either to nihilism or positivism.
45. “No” is not necessarily “No”, nor is “Yes” “Yes”;
But when you miss even a tenth of an inch, the difference widens up to one thousand miles;
When it is “Yes”, a young Naga girl in an instant attains Buddhahood,
When it is “No”, the most learned Zensho while alive falls into hell.
[1. Shang-hsing, lit. “good star”, was a great scholar of his age.]
46. Since early years I have been eagerly after scholarly attainment,
I have studied the sutras and sastras and commentaries,
I have been given up to the analysis of names and forms, and never known what fatigue meant;
But diving into the ocean to count up its sands is surely an exhausting task and a vain one;
The Buddha has never spared such, his scoldings are just to the point,
For what is the use of reckoning the treasures that are not mine?
All my past achievements have been efforts vainly and wrongly applied-I realize it fully now,
I have been a vagrant monk for many years to no end whatever.
47. When the notion of the original family is not properly understood,
You never attain to the understanding of the Buddha’s perfect “abrupt” system;
The two Vehicles exert themselves enough, but lack the aspirations [of the Bodhisattva];
The philosophers are intelligent enough but wanting in Prajna;
[As to the rest of us] they are either ignorant or puerile;
They take an empty fist as containing something real, and the pointing finger for the object pointed;
When the finger is adhered to as the moon itself, all their efforts are lost;
They are indeed idle dreamers lost in a world of senses and objects.
48. The Tathagata is interviewed when one enters upon a realm of no-forms,
Such is to be really called a Kwanjizai (Avalokitesvara)
When this is understood, the karma-hindrances are by nature empty;
When not understood, we all pay for the past debts contracted.
49. A royal table is set before the hungry, but they refuse to eat;
If the sick turn away from a good physician, how are they cured?
Practise Zen while in a world of desires, and the genuine power of intuition is manifested;
When the lotus blooms in the midst of a fire, it is never destroyed.
Yuse (Yung-shih) the Bhikshu was an offender in one of the gravest crimes, but when he had an enlightened insight into No-birth
He instantly attained to Buddhahood and is still living in another world.
50. The doctrine of fearlessness is taught as loudly as a lion roars:
What a pity that confused minds inflexibly hardened like leather
Understand only that grave offences are obstructions to Enlightenment,
And are unable to see into the secrets of the Tathagata’s teaching.
51. Anciently, there were two Bhikshus, the one committing murder and the other a carnal offence:
Upali’s insight was like that of the glowworm, and ended only in tightening the knots of offence;
But when they were instantly enlightened by the wisdom of Vimalakirti,
Their griefs and doubts melted away like the frost and snow before the blazing sun.
52. The power of incomprehensible emancipation
Works wonders as innumerable as the sands of the Ganga and knows no limits;
[To him] the four kinds of offerings are most willingly made,
By him thousands of pieces of gold are disbursed without involving anybody in debts;
The bones may be crushed to powders, the body cut
up to pieces, and yet we cannot repay him enough for what he does for us;
Even a phrase [issuing from him] holds true for hundreds of thousands of kotis of kalpas.
[1. The story of this Bhikshu is told in the Sutra on Cleansing the Karma-hindrances (Ching Yeh-chang Ching).]
53. He is the Dharma-king deserving the highest respect;
The Tathagatas, as many in number as the Ganga-sands, all testify to the truth of his attainment;
I now understand what this mani jewel is,
And know that all those who accept it in faith are in correspondence [with it].
54. As to seeing it, the seeing is clear enough, but no objects are here to be seen,
Not a person here, nor the Buddha;
Chiliocosms numberless are mere bubbles in the ocean,
All the sages and worthies are flashes of lightning.
55. However rapidly revolves the iron-wheel over my head,
The perfect brightness of Dhyana and Prajna in me is never effaced;
The sun may turn cold. and the moon hot;
With all the power of the evil ones the true doctrine remains forever indestructible.
The elephant-carriage steadily climbs up the steepest hill,
Before whose wheels how can the beetle stand?
56. The great elephant does not walk on the hare’s lane,
Supreme Enlightenment goes beyond the narrow range of intellection;
Cease from measuring heaven with a tiny piece of reed;
If you have no insight yet, I will have the matter settled for you.