Song of Enlightenment (증도가)
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Song of Enlightenment (證道歌; Zhengdao ge)
The Song of Enlightenment (證道歌: Kr. Jeungdo-ga) is a Seon text, in verse, that describes the attainment of enlightenment. “Jeung (證)” refers to the enlightened state, “do (道)” the truth all people must put into practice, and “ga (歌)” a poem in which sound and rhythm are gracefully harmonized. It is said to have been composed by the Tang Dynasty Seon Master Yongjia Xuanjue (永嘉玄覺; 675–713) on the day after his enlightenment was confirmed by the Sixth Patriarch Huineng. It describes one’s state of mind after attaining great enlightenment and is written in the style of old Chinese verse. It contains 266 phrases and 1,814 characters. It is thought to have been written in the early 8th century.
As one of the masterworks of the Seon School, along with the Xinxin ming, the Song of Enlightenment provides guidance to all Seon practitioners. In Korea, the printing woodblocks for this work are still preserved under the title Nammyeongcheon hwasangsong jeungdoga (南明泉和尙頌證道歌; Song of Enlightenment Recited by Ven. Nan Mingquan). These woodblocks were carved in the 26th year of the Goryeo King Gojong’s reign (September 1239). These printing blocks have been designated Korean Treasure No. 758 and belong to the Samseong Museum of Publishing.
Following is an excerpt from the Song of Enlightenment.
Have you not seen the leisurely ones,
Who have gone beyond learning and abide in the Way?
They neither expunge false thoughts nor seek after the truth.
Ignorance is intrinsically the Buddha nature,
And our illusory, empty body is the body of the Dharma.
When we awaken to the Dharma body, there is nothing at all.
The source of our self-nature is the Buddha of innocent truth.
- excerpt from Buddhist English (Intermediate 2) published in 2014 by the Jogye Order of Korean Buddhism