Song of Enlightenment

by Great Master Yung Chia of The T'ang Dynasty

Commentary by Tripitaka Master Hsuan Hua


Since the wonderful meanings of the Ch'an School are apart from words and speech, and apart from the mind and its conditions, Bodhidharma did not establish a literature when he came from the West. He pointed directly to the mind of people, so that they might perceive their nature and become Buddhas. How then can there be a Song, and how can there be an explanation of the Song?

Because in Ch'an Master Hsuan Chueh's stillness, ultimately a thought moved, and, finally speechless, he opened his mouth. He was apart from the characteristics of words and speech, and yet he spoke words. His kindly heart compelled him to spontaneously express the inexpressible while in a playful samadhi. He explained this secret formula, this Song of Enlightenment, not failing to wish to guide living beings to reach, as he had, the region of the Sages.

And I Hsuan Hua, chatter on, heedless of my untutored rusticity and dearth of learning, speaking like one who groans when he isn't even sick. And so, with the intention to cast out bricks to attract jade, exhausting my stupid sincerity I've briefly commented, describing my view as seen through a hollow reed. Whether it is a case of merit or offense is not my concern.



Hsuan Hua purifies his body, mouth and mind,
Dedicates his life and bows to the Buddha, Dharma and Sanga,
And to all the Buddhas of the ten directions and the three periods of time--

The past, the present, and the future;
To all the honored Bodhisattvas, Mahasattvas;
To the succession of Patriarchs of East and West,
And to the lamp of holy sagehood still passed on from of old.
I only hope the Triple Jewel will confer aid and protection,
Explain for me the Proper Enlightenment and turn the Dharmma Wheel,

So that seeing, hearing, and persevering, I become irreversible,
Turning the boat of kindness around to rescue my fellow beings
Until every single living being is taken across to stillness
And I return to my original Dharma-nature body
And behold the ancient, kind visage of awesome sound Buddha.

-- The Seventh Day of the Twelfth (Lunar) Month, 1965



Yung Chia is the name of a place founded at Wen Chou (in Zhung Kuo's (China) southern Che Chiang province) during the Ta'ang Dynasty (618-907 A.D.) It was known as Wen Chou Prefecture during the Sung, Yuan, Ming, and Ch'ing Dynasties. The name has since been changed to Yung Chia County.

The Master is called by the place where he lived, rather than by his own name, in order to show respect for him. "Great Master" is also a title of respect. His name was Hsun Chueh,1 and he was a son of the Tai family of Wen Chou. He left the home-life as a pure youth, and read widely in the Tripitaka, specializing in the T'ien T'ai. Of all the vaipulya Sutra, it was upon studying the Vimalakirti Nirdisha Sutra that he was awakened to the principles of the Buddha-mind. He was told by Dharma Master Hsuan Ch'e,2 whom he happened to meet, that he had tallied with the mind of the Patriarchs. He thereupon went to see the Sixth Patriarch.3 After he had been certified, he wrote this Song of Enlightenment.4


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Translation Notes
1. Hsuan Chueh means "Profound Awakening."
2. Hsuan Ch'e received the Dharma from the Sixth Patriarch, Great Master Hui Neng, and travelled widely propagating his teachings.
3. See Venerable Master Hua's commentary to the Sixth Patriarch Sutra, Chapter Seven, "Opportunities and Conditions," for a lively narration of thier meeting. (BTTS Publication)
4. Literally, "Song of the Certified Way"(Cheng dau ge). The zhung Wen (Chinese) word cheng, means to verify, prove, certify, or confirm. Great Master Hsuan Cheh had the way, and Great Master Sixth Patriarch, confirmed and certified it.

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