The Sword of Wisdom 9


Between 1982 and 1985, I gave a series of lectures on Yung-chia Hsuan-chueh's Song of Enlightenment. The lectures were informal talks given during intensive Ch'an retreats, designed to help participants understand Buddhist concepts and practice better. Before the actual commentary begins, I would like to present a brief discussion of Yung-chia's life and accomplishments, as well as the position of Song of Enlightenment in Buddhist history and thought.

Yung-chia Hsuan-chueh lived during the T'ang dynasty (618-907). He was born in 665 and died in 713 at the age of 48. His given name comes from the town he was born in ─ Yung-chia ─ which is located in present-day Che-kiang province. His Dharma name was Ming-tao, Ming meaning "bright" and Tao, "path."

He left home to join the monkhood at an early age, but he spent most of his life near Yung-chia. He studied with several masters, including the Fourth Patriarch of the T'ien-tai school. He was also good friends with Hsuan-lang, a master who later became the Fifth Patriarch of the T'ien-tai school. Eventually, he settled at Lung-hsing temple in Wen-chou, Che-kiang, where he built a small cottage for his practice.