The title is interesting to me, especially because I don’t understand how or why it has been translated as “The Song of Enlightenment” and become most widely known in English with that title. It may be D.T. Suzuki’s responsibility as this is the title he used in his book Manual of Zen Buddhism. Suzuki often took such liberties with translating text in order to achieve his proselytizing goal of making the Dharma accessible for English speakers. The character for enlightenment or awakening (覺) is in the text but not in the title. The title begins with the character 證 which means “to confirm, certify, testify, evidence, or prove,” and any of these terms are valid translations. The second character is 道 which means “the Way, the Tao” and appears in the opening lines with the phase “person of the Way” or “man of Tao” etc. The third character 歌 means “sing, song. chant, praise,” etc. Because Yongjia’s verse is not only about his own testimony of the Way confirming the Way for us, but also about how each of us can confirm the Way for ourselves, I have chosen “Confirming the Way” as the best translation for 證道.
Yongjia Xuanjue (Yung-chia Hsuan-chueh, J. Yoka Genkaku)( d. 713) was a dharma successor in both Tiantai and Zen lineages. He was heir to the Dharma of Tiankong, the 7th Ancestor of Tiantai, and heir to the Dharma of Huineng, the 6th Ancestor of Zen. He had mastered the meditation practice of samatha-vipassana (stopping and insight)(C. zhi guan, J. shikan) in the Tiantai lineage. After having a profound awakening when reading the Mahaparinirvana Sutra, he then completely realized the true suchness of mind with his inquiry of the Vimalakirti Nirdesa Sutra. He was advised to get confirmation of his awakening by visiting the 6th Ancestor of Zen, Huineng, and he did so. His encounter with Huineng is memorialized in the Platform Sutra of Huineng where it is related that Huineng confirmed his awakening and invited him to stay overnight at the temple of Caoxi. In Zen circles he was thus known as “the overnight enlightened one.”
There are no stanza breaks in the original Chinese, so each of the translators inserts breaks where is seems appropriate to them for the ease of the reader. Some of these ancient verses have an obvious format such as couplets or quatrains, but I don’t see an obvious structure to the “Song,” so any breaks must be inserted based on the content and not the structure. It seems to me like the stanzas vary into 2, 4 or 6 lines. Since the different translators vary the stanza lengths, for now I have not inserted any stanza breaks in my translation here, leaving it to the reader to decide where breaks should occur if at all.
Here are the opening lines in Chinese [from T48n2014_p0395c06(00)] used for my translation.
#1. Trans by Gregory Wonderwheel
“Yongjia’s Song of Confirming the Way”
Composed by Sramana Xuanjue of Shenshui of the Tang
Don’t you see?
The person of the Way who renounces study and is without activity and idleness,
Does not get rid of erroneous concepts and does not seek truth.
The real nature of ignorance is immediately the Buddha nature.
The empty body of changing illusions is immediately the Dharmakaya
Complete awakening to the Dharmakaya is without a single object.
The root source of one’s own nature is the true Buddha of heaven.
The drifting clouds of the five skandhas emptily come and go,
The water bubbles of the three poisons vainly arise and sink,
Confirming that the character of reality is without person or thing
Is the state that extinguishes the karma of falling into the Avici Hell.
If this is using false words to deceive the multitude of beings
Then by myself, I call for pulling out my tongue for eons of dust and sand.
In the Tathagata Zen of complete sudden awakening,
The essence of the six paramitas and the 10,000 practices are within its fullness.
Inside of a dream, it is clearly clear there are six destinies.
After awakening, in empty emptiness there is no Great Chiliocosm.
#2. Trans. by D.T. Suzuki, in Manual of Zen Buddhism, from http://www.sacred-texts.com/bud/mzb/mzb04.htm
YOKA DAISHI'S "SONG OF ENLIGHTENMENT"
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.
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.
#3. Trans by Lu K’uan Yu (Charles Luk), from Chan and Zen Teachings, Third Series, p. 116-118.
“Yung Chia’s Song of Enlightenment”
Have you not seen a man of Tao at his ease
In his non-active and beyond learning states
Who neither suppresses thoughts nor seeks the real? To him
The real nature of ignorance is Buddhata
And the non-existent boy of illusion is Dharmakaya.
After his awakening, his Dharma body owns not anything,
For each thing in essence comes from his true self-natured Buddha;
The five aggregates are just floating clouds that aimlessly come and go,
While the three poisons are but bubbles that appear and vanish.
When the real is attained, neither ego nor dharma exist,
And in a moment the avici karma is eradicated
If knowingly I lie to deceive living beings, my tongue
Will be pulled out for aeons uncountable as dust and sand.
When at once awakened, the Tathagata’s Ch’an is perfected in self-substance
By any of the six paramitas or myriad methods of salvation.
When dreaming, clearly there are six worlds of existence,
When awake, not even the great chilocosm can be found.
#4. Trans. by Robert Aiken Roshi, from http://www.ciolek.com/WWWVLPages/ZenPages/Daily-Zen-Sutras.html#SHODO
“Song of Enlightenment”
There is the leisurely one,
Walking the Tao, beyond philosophy,
Not avoiding fantasy, not seeking truth.
The real nature of ignorance is Buddha nature itself;
The empty delusory body is the very body of the Dharma.
When the Dharma body awakens completely,
There is nothing at all.
The source of our self nature
Is the Buddha of innocent truth.
Mental and physical reactions come and go
Like clouds in the empty sky;
Greed, hatred, and ignorance appear and disappear
Like bubbles on the surface of the sea.*
When we realize actuality,
There is no distinction between mind and thing
And the path to hell instantly vanishes.
If this is a lie to fool the world,
My tongue may be cut out forever.*
Once we awaken to the Tathagata Zen,
The six noble deeds and the ten thousand good actions
Are already complete within us.
In our dream we see the six levels of illusion clearly;
After we awaken the whole universe is empty.
#5, Trans by International Institute For The Translation of Buddhist Texts, Dharma Realm Buddhist University, From http://online.sfsu.edu/~rone/Buddhism/VenHua/Song%20of%20Enlightenment.htm [The original is in all caps, so I haven’t put it into regular case not knowing where they would use initial capitals.]
“SONG OF ENLIGHTENMENT”
HAVE YOU NOT SEEN PEOPLE WHOSE STUDY HAS ENDED, WHO DO NOTHING, WHO ABIDE IN THE WAY AT EASE?
THEY DO NOT BANISH FALSE THOUGHTS, THEY DO NOT SEEK THE TRUTH,
THE TRUE NATURE OF IGNORANCE IS THE BUDDHA NATURE;
THIS EMPTY BODY, AN ILLUSORY TRANSFORMATION, IS THE DHARMA BODY.
IN THE DHARMA BODY'S ENLIGHTENMENT, THERE IS NOT A SINGLE THING;
AT ITS SOURCE THE INHERENT NATURE IS THE BUDDHA OF DIVINE INNOCENCE,
THE FIVE SKANDHAS, LIKE FLOATING CLOUDS, EMPTILY COME AND GO;
THE THREE POISONS, LIKE BUBBLES OF WATER, RISE AND SINK, UNREAL.
WHEN ONE IS CERTIFIED TO THE CHARACTERISTIC OF REALITY,
THERE ARE NO PEOPLE OR DHARMAS,
THE KARMA OF THE AVICHI IS CANCELLED IN A KSHANA.
IF I WERE DECEIVING LIVING BEINGS WITH UNTRUE WORDS,
I'D INVITE UPON MYSELF THE RIPPING OUT OF TONGUES FOR AEONS AS MANY AS DUST AND SAND.
WITH SUDDEN ENLIGHTENED UNDERSTANDING OF THE DHYANA OF THE THUS COME ONES,
THE SIX CROSSINGS OVER AND TEN THOUSAND PRACTICES ARE COMPLETE IN SUBSTANCE.
IN A DREAM, VERY CLEARLY, THERE ARE SIX DESTINIES;
AFTER ENLIGHTENMENT, COMPLETELY EMPTY, THERE IS NO UNIVERSE.
#6. Trans at Dragon Flower Zen Meditation, from http://www.dragonflower.org/song.html
“The Song of Enlightenment”
Do you not know the ease of the man of the Way who has gone beyond learning, and whose state is "non-action",
Who neither suppresses thoughts, nor seeks the "Truth?"
To him the reality of ignorance is the Buddha Nature;
The empty illusory is the Dharmakaya.
When one who is awakened to the Dharma body, there are no objects;
The essence of all things comes from the self nature Buddha!
The Five Aggregates mere floating clouds aimlessly coming and Going;
The Three Poisons bubbles that appear and disappear.
When Reality is attained, there is neither ego nor object,
And within that instant, the karma of eternal suffering is wiped away.
If this is a lie to deceive living beings,
For ages as numberless as dust, let my own tongue be plucked out.
When the mind is once awakened to the Ch'an of the Tathagata,
The Six Paramitas are also fully perfect, as are the Ten Thousand Expedient Means .
In dreams, the Six Realms are vivid;
When one awakens, not even a Universe of Universes can be found.
#7. Trans by Yasuda Joshu roshi and Anzan Hoshin roshi, from http://www.wwzc.org/translations/shodoka.htm
“Shodoka: Song of Freedom”
Have you ever seen one of the Way?
Beyond action and beyond learning,
one is at ease,
not struggling against delusion
or grasping after the truth.
One sees the nature of ignorance
to be itself Essential Awareness,
and the illusion of one’s own body
is the Realm of Reality.
the Realm of Reality to be objectless,
one finds oneself the source of all things
and one’s own nature to be Awake Awareness.
The five aggregates arise and decay
like aimless clouds,
the three distorted orientations come and go
like bubbles on water.
Realizing Suchness, neither self nor things exist;
in one moment cause and effect are liberated.
If anything I say is untrue
may my tongue be pulled out for countless eons.
In a single moment of direct awakening
to the Zen of Reality as a continuous presencing,
the six perfections and countless skillful means
The six realms of existence are a dream,
in waking they are nowhere to be found.