Shodoka: Song of Enlightenment

Shodoka: Song of Enlightenment

Yoka Daishi

Do you not see him, the really wise man,
always at ease, unmoved?

He does not get rid of illusion,
nor does he seek for the (so-called) truth.

Ignorance is intrinsically the Buddha nature,
our illusory unreal body
is the cosmic body.

Getting rid of things
and clinging to emptiness
is an illness of the same kind;

It is just like throwing oneself into a fire
to avoid being drowned.

When asked, “What is your religion?”
I answer “The power of the makahannya.”

Sometimes affirming things, sometimes denying them,
it is beyond the wisdom of man.

Sometimes with common sense, sometimes against it,
Heaven cannot make head or tail of it.

Cutting off the root (of life and death) directly
This is the mark of Buddhahood;

If you go on plucking the leaves (of creeds)
And seeking branches (of abstract principles),
I can do nothing for you.
Do not seek for the truth,
Do not cut off delusions.

Trying to get rid of illusion,
And seeking to grasp reality,-
This giving up and keeping
Is mere sophistry and lies.

The moon reflected in the stream,
The wind blowing through the pines
In the cool of the evening,
In the deep midnight,-
What is it for?

When we attain reality,
It is seen to be neither
Personal nor impersonal.

There is no sin, no paradise,
No loss or gain;
About this transcendentality,
No questions!

Who is thought-less?
Who is birth-less?


He always walks by himself,
Saunters by himself.

From the time I recognized the road,
I realized I had nothing to do with
birth and death.

Walking is Zen, sitting is Zen;
Talking or silent, moving unmoving,-
The essence is at ease.

Entering the deep mountains
I live in quiet solitude,
The hills are high, the valleys deep
When one lives beneath an old pine tree.

We get rid of illusions and acquire truth,
But this is discrimination;
Our mind is cleverly false.

All principles are no principles;
They have no relation
to spiritual perception.

It never leaves this place,
And it is always perfect.

When you look for it
You find you can’t see it.

You can’t get at it,
You can’t be rid of it.

When you do neither, there it is!


When you are silent, it speaks;
When you speak, it is silent.