Hymns in Praise of Prince Shotoku

Take refuge in Prince Shotoku of the country of Japan!
Our indebtedness to his propagation of the Buddhist teaching is profound.
His compassionate activity to save sentient beings is far-reaching;
Do not be lax in reverent praise of him!

In order to construct the four subtemples
Of a temple of the four deva-kings (Shintenno-ji), he went into a timber forest
In the district of Otagi (present Kyoto), in Yamashiro province.
At that time, he made a proclamation.

He stated that in time to come, without fail,
The imperial capital would stand on that site.
In order to benefit the sentient beings of the future,
He made a hexagonal platform of earth.

He constructed a hexagonal hall
And therein enshrined
A statue of Jambunada gold, three inches tall,
Of great Bodhisattva Avalokitesvara, the world savior.

After spending several decades
In the imperial capital at Namba in Settsu province,
He moved to the capital of Tachibana
And built Horyu-ji temple.

From the capital of Tachibana
He moved to Nara;
Constructing a number of great temples,
He widely spread the Buddha's teaching.

After the reigns of four emperors in Nara,
The capital was moved to Nagaoka.
After fifty years there,
It was moved to Otagi.

In Enryaku 6 (787), during the august reign
Of Emperor Kammu, at the time of the construction
Of this capital, Avalokitesvara, the world savior,
Manifested miraculous signs.

This temple was built upon the first site
For the Buddhist teaching in the land of Japan.
Thereafter, through the Prince's benefit,
Temples and pagodas were built in many places.

Reverently following the command of the Prince,
The people took refuge in the hexagonal temple.
They paid homage there
Along with the imperial family and court officials.

In India, Prince Shotoku
Was born as Queen Srimala,
And in China appeared
As Master Hui-ssu.

He appeared in China
To benefit sentient beings;
He was reborn five hundred times
As both man and woman.

So that the Buddhist teaching be established and flourish,
He appeared in Hunan province, at Mount Heng;
Passing tens of incarnations,
He spread Sakyamuni Tathagata's teaching.

In order to bring sentient beings to liberation,
He appeared as Master Hui-ssu;
In the temple at Mount Heng where the Wisdom Sutras were taught,
He was known as Master of Southern Mountain.

A record bearing the handprint seal of the Prince
States that in order to benefit sentient beings
He constructed a temple
In the eastern part of the Koryo district (in present Osaka).

As the dharma-name of the temple of the four deva-kings,
The designation Koryo-ji temple was given.
Because it was built in the Koryo district,
It was named thus.

In the year 593,
Moving to the eastern part of the Koryo district,
He gave the name Shitenno-ji (temple of the four deva-kings),
And widely spread the Buddhist teaching.

To this place in the past,
Sakyamuni Tathagata came
And indicated it as a site for the turning of the dharma-wheel;
He spread the Buddhist teaching.

At that time, the rich and virtuous Prince
Made offerings to the Tathagata.
Because of this relationship,
He built the temple and pagoda.

Making statues of the four great deva-kings
And spreading the Buddhist teaching,
He built Kyoden-in temple
As a site where enlightenment would be realized.

On this site, there is a body of pure water;
It is called Koryo pond.
An auspicious dragon constantly dwells therein;
It protects the Buddhist teaching.

In the year 597,
On the bank at Tamatsukuri,
He performed rites for the dragon
And protected the Buddhist teaching.

The seven precious materials were laid at this site;
Hence, the dragon dwells there constantly.
The pure water flows to the east;
It is called flowing water of white jade.

Hearing that it unfailingly becomes dharma-medicine
For people who drink it with a heart of compassion,
Those who believe the Prince's words
All trustingly draw from its flow.

The pagoda and main hall face the center
Of the eastern gate of the Land of Bliss;
Those who make a pilgrimage there once
Unfailingly attain birth in the Pure Land.

In the pillar in the center of the pagoda
He placed six grains of the Buddha's relics;
In this form he manifested the benefiting
Of the sentient beings of the six courses.

Enshrined in Kyoden-in temple
Is a gilt bronze statue of Avalokitesvara, the world savior.
King Seong Myong of the land of Paekche,
After the Prince's death [in his previous life],
Made this holy image
To manifest his love and reverence
And had Prince Ajwa, as royal envoy,
Bring it to Japan as a memorial.

Prince Shotoku, with his own hand, laid gold
On the main base atop the sacred pagoda,
Stating it would be the symbol of the spread and disappearance
Of Sakyamuni's teaching in Japan.

When, from Paekche, Prince Shotoku
Sent Buddhist statues, scriptural collections
Of sutras, vinaya texts, and treatises,
Buddhist robes, monks, and nuns to Japan,
Emperor Kinmei ruled the country;
It was the year 552.
People in Japan for the first time
Were brought to take refuge in Sakyamuni Tathagata's teaching.

Vinaya masters, meditation masters, monks and nuns,
Dharani masters, Buddhist sculptors, and temple carpenters
Were sent in the year 577,
When Emperor Bidatsu reigned.

Prince Shotoku received birth in the imperial family;
His edict was promulgated throughout the provinces.
He urged the people to construct and replicate
Temples, pagodas, and Buddhist images.

A child of Emperor Yomei
Was Prince Shotoku,
Who composed Mahayana commentaries
On the Lotus, Srimala, and Vimalakirti Sutras.

After the passing of Prince Shotoku,
Those who seek to spread Sakyamuni Tathagata's teaching
And save sentient beings
Should be worshiped as the Prince's manifestation.

Revering the teaching of the six schools,
He ceaselessly benefited sentient beings.
Constantly upholding the five precepts,
He had the name Srimala.

In the past, when this queen lived,
Sakyamuni Tathagata compassionately
Delivered the Srimala Sutra.
Because of these circumstances,
Prince Shotoku lectured on this sutra
And composed a commentary on it.
This was the start of the spread of the Buddhist teaching in Japan
And the beginning of the benefiting of sentient beings here.

Queen Srimala, the Buddha's disciple, states:
In Paekche, Koryo, Ninna, and Silla,
All sentient beings are such that
Minds of greed and rapacity are rampant.

To prevail in these countries
And bring the people to take refuge,
The four deva-kings, world-guardians, were sculpted
And enshrined facing the west.

The gilt bronze Avalokitesvara, the world savior,
Which was brought to Japan by Prince Ajwa
As the royal envoy,
Was enshrined in Kyoden-in temple.

Always take refuge in this statue!
It is the body of Prince Shotoku.
Give special reverence to this statue!
It is the transformed body of Amida Tathagata.

Queen Srimala, child of the Buddha,
Reverently entreated the Buddhas of the ten quarters;
"May Brahma, Indra, the four deva-kings, the dragon-god,
And other guardians of the dharma all protect the teaching!"

Ilra of Silla stated,
"Homage to Avalokitesvara, the world savior,
The king of millet-scattered islands who transmits the dharma-lamp eastward,"
And bowed to the Prince of eight ears.

Prince Ajwa of Paekche bowed and said:
"Homage to greatly compassionate Bodhisattva Avalokitesvara, the world savior,
Who has spread the wondrous teaching eastward to the country of Japan,
Transmitting and expounding the dharma-lamp for forty-nine years!

In China, his teachers
Were Master Hui-ssu and Master Hui-wen.
When incarnated as the nun Srimala,
The teacher was Master Hui-tz'u.

In the thirteenth year of the semblance dharma-age,
In the time of the Han emperor Ming-ti,
The Indian monks Kasyapamatanga and Dharmaraksa
Came to China bearing the Buddhist scriptures on a white horse.

More than four hundred eighty years had passed
Since the Buddhist teachings came to Han China
And a temple known as the "Temple of the White Horse"
Was constructed in the western part of the capital;

At that time, during the reign of Emperor Kinmei,
The thirtieth ruler of the great country of Japan,
Buddhist statues and scriptures
Were reverently presented to the court.

More than five hundred years into the semblance dharma-age,
During the time of Prince Shotoku,
The Buddhist teaching spread,
And now, in the last dharma-age, the nembutsu flourishes.

The record bearing the Prince's handprint states
That in the first year of the reign of Emperor Sushun,
Relics of Sakyamuni Buddha
Were presented by Paekche.

The Prince's words are recorded:
"After my death,
I will be born as the king and queen of this land,
And I will urge the various provinces and districts
To construct a number of great temples and pagodas
And to create great Buddhist statues to be enshrined in them.
Many sutras and treatises shall be copied,
And wealth and land donated.

Incarnated as wealthy and as humble persons,
I will cause Buddhist scriptures and statues to be disseminated;
Born as monks and nuns,
I will save sentient beings of mature conditions.

These are not other existences,
But my very body."
Each word or expression of their reverent praise
Is the golden word of the Prince.

Regarding the bestowal of the rank of imperial prince:
In order to spread the Buddhist teaching,
He firmly declined two or three times;
But the emperor would not accept refusal.

When the Prince was thirty-three years of age,
Beginning in summer, in the fourth month,
He composed the constitution,
Writing the seventeen articles with his own hand.

He composed the seventeen-article constitution
As the standard for the imperial law.
It is the rule for the peace and stability of the state,
The treasure that makes the country prosperous.

In the year 1054, Chuzen,
In order to construct a sacred pagoda,
Was excavating the earth with his own hands,
When he discovered a box of gilt bronze.

The inscription on the lid of the box read:
"This year, 621,
An excellent site has been found at the village of Shinaga
At Ishikawa in Kawachi province.

I have decided to place my tomb there.
More than four hundred thirty years
After my death
This record will be unearthed."

In order to spread the Buddhist teaching
And to benefit sentient beings,
He left Mount Heng
And appeared here in Japan.

Overcoming the wrong views of Moriya,
He made manifest the majestic virtues of the Buddha-dharma.
Now the Buddhist teaching spreads
And birth in the Land of Peace is widely attained.

Those who doubt and slander the teaching bequeathed by the Tathagata
And seek to destroy it in various ways
Should be thought of as [the same as] Moriya of Yuge.
Do not approach or become close to such people!

While the Prince was spreading the Buddha-dharma
In order to teach and guide sentient beings,
Moriya of Yuge, being a malicious antagonist,
Followed him like a shadow.

The traitorous minister Moriya of Yuge, of the Mononobe clan,
Harbored a mind of deep spite;
Burning temples and pagodas,
He sought to annihilate the Buddhist teachings.

At this time, pained with grief
At the destruction of the Buddha-dharma,
The Prince spoke to the emperor
And had soldiers dispatched.

Joining the bow of meditation and the arrow of wisdom,
The Prince at once
Struck down the traitorous minister Moriya
In order to benefit sentient beings.

There are those who seek to destroy temples, pagodas, and the Buddha-dharma
And to bring the nation and sentient beings to ruin;
Such people are reincarnations of Moriya;
They should be repudiated and overcome.

The traitorous minister Moriya of Yuge, of the Monotobe clan,
Passing through countless lives in many states of existence,
Follows the Prince like a shadow
And is bent on destroying the Buddha-dharma.

Those who constantly slander the Buddha-dharma,
Urge sentient beings to adopt wrong views,
And seek to destroy the teaching of sudden attainment
Should be thought of as [the same as] the minister Moriya.

As a name for Prince Shotoku
The term "Prince of Eight Ears" is used;
He is known as Prince Umayado, of the "Stable Gate,"
And as Prince Jogu, of the "Upper Palace."

Prince of Eight Ears: He is called the "Prince of Eight Ears" because he could listen to eight people at one time.
Prince of the Stable Gate: He is known as Prince Umayado because the Empress was at the stable when she gave birth to him.
Prince of the Upper Palace: There was a palace in Tsu province, on the cliff above the east pavilion at Watanobe. Since he dwelled at that palace, he was known by this name. [Shinran's notes]

Article Two of the Constitution states:
Deeply revere the Three Treasures!
They are the ultimate refuge for beings of the four modes of birth (manners of arising),
The beam that supports all nations.

What age, and what people, will not take refuge?
If they do not rely on the Three Treasures,
How can the people of this world
Make straight what is twisted and bent?

The petitions of the wealthy
Are like putting stones into water;
The claims of the poor
Are like putting water into stone.

Homage to great Bodhisattva Avalokitesvara, the world savior!
Compassionately protect me.
Homage to the Imperial Prince, the nun Srimala!
May the Buddha constantly grasp me.
The Imperial Prince Srimala, child of Buddha.

This historical account is kept within the main temple hall and is not to be seen.
The writing is said to be disorderly.
The year wood/hare [1255]
First month, 8th day
Those who see these hymns and praise the Prince should say Namu-amida-butsu repeatedly.

Written in Kencho 7 [1255] wood/hare
Eleventh month, last day
Gutoku Shinran
Age 83

1997 copyright Jodo Shinshu Hongwanji-ha