Let Amida's virtues be praised
for a hundred thousand kotis of nayutas of kalpas,
by tongues a hundred thousand countless kotis of nayutas in number,
each tongue producing countless voices,
and still those virtues could not be exhausted.
The Sutra of Praise of the Pure Land
Translated by Tripitaka Master Hsan-tsang
Those who truly attain shinjin
As they utter Amida's Name,
Being mindful of the Buddha always,
Wish to respond to the great benevolence.
Those who say the Name while they doubt
The Vow beyond conceptual understanding
Attain birth and abide for five-hundred years
Vainly within a palace; so it is taught.
It is stated in the Gathas in Praise of Amida Buddha by T'an-luan: Namu-amida-butsu. Interpreting the title, I call this work An Appended Scripture on the Buddha of Immeasurable Life. In praising Amida, it also refers to the land of peace.
Since attainment of Buddhahood, ten kalpas have passed; The Buddha's life indeed has no measure.
Dharma-body's wheel of light pervades the dharma-realm,
Shining on the blind and ignorant of the world; hence, I bow in homage.
Further, Amida is called:
1 Immeasurable Light
2 True and Real Light
3 Boundless Light
4 Enlightenment of Nondiscrimination
5 Unhindered Light
6 Beyond Conception
7 Unequaled Light
8 Ultimate Shelter
9 Lord of Blazing Light
10 Great One Worthy of Offerings
11 Light of Purity
12 Light of Joy
13 Great Consolation
14 Light of Wisdom
15 Uninterrupted Light
16 Inconceivable Light
17 Inexpressible Light
18 Light that Surpasses the Sun and Moon
19 One who is without Equal
20 One of the Vast Assembly
21 Oceanlike Great Mind
22 Supremely Honored One
23 Power of Nondiscrimination
24 Power of the Great Mind
25 Inexpressible Buddha
27 One of the Hall
28 Pure One who Broadly Grasps All Beings
29 Honored-one beyond Conceptual Understanding
30 One of the Bodhi-tree
31 Truly Immeasurable One
32 Music of Purity
33 Store of Virtues Fulfilled through the Primal Vow
34 One Imbued with Purity
35 Treasury of Virtues
36 Ultimately Honored One
37 Inconceivable Light
The Commentary on the Ten Bodhisattva Stages states:
The one freely working
I pay homage
The one of purity
I take refuge
I offer praise
Amida has passed through ten kalpas now
Since realizing Buddhahood;
Dharma-body's wheel of light is without bound,
Shining on the blind and ignorant of the world.
The light of wisdom exceeds all measure,
And every finite living being
Receives this illumination that is like the dawn,
So take refuge in Amida, the true and real light.
wisdom (chie): Chi refers to thinking by reflection and judgment, discriminating this as this and that as that. E refers to no-activity attained through stilling such thought, so that there is no mental activity grasping this and that; it is Samadhi of no-activity.
finite: All things in the world are limited; hence, they are said to be finite (literally, "subject to quantification"). Buddha-dharma is without any limit or bound; hence, it is said to be without measure.
true and real: True means free of falsehood and flattery. Real means that things will unfailingly reach fruition.
The liberating wheel of light is without bound;
Each person it touches, it is taught,
Is freed from attachments to being and nonbeing,
So take refuge in Amida, the enlightenment of nondiscrimination.
wheel: that which eradicates
liberation: to attain enlightenment and become a Buddha.
[liberating wheel of light] expresses the eradicating of our karmic evil and blind passions by Amida's light.
freed from attachments to being and nonbeing: to part from wrong views.
enlightenment of nondiscrimination: Amida, being dharma-body, is called "enlightenment of nondiscrimination".
The cloud of light is unhindered, like open sky;
There is nothing that impedes it.
Every being is nurtured by this light,
So take refuge in Amida, the one beyond conception.
nurtured by this light: Because we are shone upon by this light, wisdom emerges in us.
beyond conception: beyond the reach of conceptual thought.
The light of purity is without compare.
When a person encounters this light,
All bonds of karma fall away;
So take refuge in Amida, the ultimate shelter.
purity: Being that which acts to eradicate the karmic evil of greed, it is called "the light of purity."
ultimate shelter: The enlightenment of dharma-body has reached complete and thorough fulfillment.
The Buddha's light is supreme in radiance;
Thus Amida is called "Buddha, Lord of Blazing Light."
It dispels the darkness of the three courses of affliction,
So take refuge in Amida, the great one worthy of offerings.
three courses: hell, hungry spirits, animals.
The radiance of enlightenment, in its brilliance, transcends all limits;
Thus Amida is called "Buddha of the Light of Purity."
Once illuminated by this light,
We are freed of karmic defilements and attain emancipation.
radiance: Amida's light is supreme in brightness.
karmic defilements: karmic evil and blind passions.
attain emancipation: realize enlightenment. Emancipation means to reach Buddhahood, to become a Buddha.
The light of compassion illumines us from afar;
Those beings it reaches, it is taught,
Attain the joy of dharma,
So take refuge in Amida, the great consolation.
light of compassion: compassion is likened to the compassion of one's father.
attain the joy of dharma: to rejoice in dharma.
joy: Buddha of the Light of Joy is the joy of dharma. It is that which acts to eliminate the darkness of greed, anger, and folly.
great consolation: a name of Amida. All the sorrows, griefs, and evils of sentient beings are eliminated and they are comforted.
The light dispels the darkness of ignorance;
Thus Amida is called "Buddha of the Light of Wisdom."
All the Buddhas and sages of the three vehicles
Together offer their praise.
Buddha of the Light of Wisdom: Encompassing all the wisdom of the Buddhas, Amida is called Light of Wisdom. All the Buddhas attain Buddhahood through the wisdom of Amida.
sages of the three vehicles: sravakas, pratyekabuddhas, and bodhisattvas.
The light shines everywhere ceaselessly;
Thus Amida is called "Buddha of Uninterrupted Light."
Because beings hear [and apprehend] this power of light,
Their mindfulness is enduring and they attain birth.
hear: entrust themselves to Amida's Vow. The constant, enduring mind of entrusting that arises out of hearing this dharma.
enduring: the mind aspiring for enlightenment is enduring.
mindfulness: the mind of entrusting oneself to Amida's Vow.
The Buddha's light cannot be fathomed;
Thus Amida is called "Buddha of Inconceivable Light."
All the Buddhas, in acclaiming a person's attainment of birth,
Extol Amida's virtues.
cannot be fathomed: (shikiryo naki): without limit in measurement. Shiki denotes inexhaustible depth. Ryo implies knowing a numerical measurement.
Buddha of Inconceivable Light: the Buddha is completely beyond conception.
The majestic light, transcending form, is beyond description;
Thus Amida is called "Buddha of Inexpressible Light."
All the Buddhas praise this light -
The cause by which Amida's Buddhahood was fulfilled.
transcending forms: Light is formless. Majestic light refers to Amida. Amida's form is altogether impossible to explain.
Buddha of Inexpressible Light: [Amida Buddha] is completely beyond verbal expression.
this light - the cause by which Amida's Buddhahood was fulfilled: Vowing that that light be infinite, Amida became Buddha of Unhindered Light.
The light is more luminous than the heavenly bodies;
Thus Amida is called "Light that Surpasses the Sun and the Moon."
Even Sakyamuni's praise cannot exhaust its virtues,
So take refuge in the one without equal.
When Amida, on becoming a Buddha, first taught the dharma,
The sages present were numerous beyond reckoning;
All who aspire to be born in the Pure Land,
Take refuge in Amida, of the vast assembly.
vast assembly: The sentient beings of the ten quarters will all attain Buddhahood in the land of bliss; this is the significance of dharma-body.
The countless great bodhisattvas of the land of happiness
Have reached "succession to Buddhahood after one lifetime";
Entering the compassionate activity of Samantabhadra,
They unfailingly work to save beings in defiled worlds.
succession to Buddhahood after one lifetime: If one goes to the land of bliss, one becomes the highest disciple of Amida.
compassionate activity of Samantabhadra: We sentient beings, if we attain the land of bliss, will awaken great love and great compassion, and going throughout the ten quarters, will benefit sentient beings. The supreme, perfect compassion of Buddhas is referred to by [the name of the bodhisattva] Samantabhadra.
Amassing a stock of virtues from the Buddhas
For sentient beings of the ten quarters,
They bring them to entrust themselves to the universal Primal Vow;
So take refuge in Amida, the oceanlike great mind.
oceanlike great mind: Amida Buddha's mind is vast and deep, boundless and without limit.
Avalokitesvara and Mahasthamaprapta
Together illumine the world with the light of compassion,
Never resting even for a moment
From bringing to nirvana those with mature conditions.
Those who reach the Pure Land of happiness
Return to this evil world of the five defilements,
Where, like the Buddha Sakyamuni,
They benefit sentient beings without limit.
The free working of their supernatural powers
Cannot be fathomed,
For they are possessed of virtues that surpass conception;
So take refuge in Amida, the supremely honored one.
In the land of happiness, sravakas, bodhisattvas,
Human beings, and devas all possess luminous wisdom,
And their bodily features and adornments are all the same;
Different terms are used for them only in accord with the forms of existence in other worlds.
Their countenances, dignified and wonderful, are beyond compare;
Their bodies, delicate and subtle, are neither human nor deva.
Theirs is the body of emptiness, the body of boundlessness,
So take refuge in Amida, the power of nondiscrimination.
countenances, dignified and wonderful: the excellence of the form of persons of the Pure Land.
body of emptiness: dharma-body which is without limit; dharma-body Tathagata.
People who aspire for the land of happiness
Dwell in the stage of the truly settled.
None in that land are falsely settled or unsettled;
Therefore the Buddhas offer Amida their praise.
falsely settled: refers to birth attained through various practices and good acts of self-power; this is the teaching of the Contemplation Sutra.
unsettled: refers to the import of the Amida Sutra. Although the practice is beyond conceptual understanding, because it is performed through one's self-power it is taught that one is unsettled.
When sentient beings in the various forms of existence throughout the ten quarters,
On hearing Amida's Name of transcendent virtues,
Come to attain true and real shinjin,
They greatly rejoice at what they have heard.
various forms of existence: sentient beings of the twenty-five forms of existence. We sentient beings will go beyond the twenty-five forms of existence and be born in the Pure Land.
real: bearing fruit.
True means not false, not temporary. "False" implies deceit or flattery.
Real means not empty, not vain.
Heard refers to the mind of trust; they attain shinjin and rejoice.
Because of the Vow, "If they should not be born...,"
When the moment of genuine entrusting has come
And people attain the one thought-moment of joy,
Their birth becomes completely settled.
If they should not be born: If those who entrust themselves to my Vow should not be born [in my land], I shall not become a Buddha.
joy: to rejoice after realizing shinjin.
The two kinds of fulfillment of the Buddha land of happiness - the beings and adornments -
Were formed through the power of Dharmakara's Vow.
They have no equal in the heavens or on earth,
So take refuge in Amida, the power of the great mind.
adornments: the various jewel-trees and jewel-ponds; all the various adornments of the Pure Land.
beings: If we go to the land of bliss, we will be able to exercise supernatural powers freely.
Sakyamuni Buddha states
That even with his unhindered eloquence,
The adornments of the land of happiness cannot be fully expounded;
So take refuge in Amida, the inexpressible Buddha.
inexpressible Buddha: it is impossible to describe the Buddha fully in words.
Beings born in the Pure Land in the past, present, and future
Are not solely from this world;
They come from Buddha lands throughout the ten quarters
And are countless, innumerable, beyond calculation.
Those who, hearing Amida Buddha's Name,
Rejoice in it with reverence and praise,
Receive its treasure of virtues;
The great benefit acquired with one utterance is supreme.
rejoice (kangi): kan means to rejoice in body; gi means to rejoice in mind.
great benefit: to attain nirvana.
Those who hear the Buddha's Name -
Going even through flames that fill
The great thousandfold world to do so -
Attain forever the stage of nonretrogression.
The Buddhas, infinite in number, all praise Amida,
Whose majestic powers are boundless;
From the eastern Buddha lands, countless as the sands of the Ganges,
Innumerable bodhisattvas go to pay homage.
majestic powers: the free working of Amida's majestic powers is boundless.
Bodhisattvas of the Buddha lands in the nine other quarters
Likewise go to pay homage to Amida;
Sakyamuni Tathagata has taught in verse
The praise of the Buddha's immeasurable virtues.
go to pay homage: They go and are born there, where they behold Amida. From the ten quarters bodhisattvas go to the land of bliss and are able to behold Amida.
The countless bodhisattvas throughout the ten quarters,
To cultivate roots of virtue,
Revere and praise Amida in song;
Let us all take refuge in the Bhagavat.
revere: to worship reverently; to venerate with wonder.
praise in song: song implies extolling aloud; praise means to praise in one's heart.
Bhagavat: a title for Buddha. In India, Buddha is called Bhagavat.
The hall and bodhi-tree of seven precious materials
Belong to the Pure Land of the transformed Buddha-body, a provisional means;
Numberless are the beings born there from throughout the ten quarters,
So pay homage to the sacred hall and bodhi-tree.
hall: house of learning.
bodhi-tree: The courtyard of the Buddha's enlightenment refers to the place where "birth beneath the twin sala trees" is attained.
Pure Land of the transformed Buddha-body: the borderland, the realm of indolence and pride, the Pure Land of the city of doubt and the womb-palace.
The wondrous land, vast beyond measurement,
Is made up of adornments fulfilled through the Primal Vow,
So bow down to and take refuge in Amida,
The pure one who broadly grasps all beings.
Amida's self-benefit and benefit of others have been perfectly fulfilled as the Pure Land,
The compassionate means skillfully adorned to lead us to take refuge.
It cannot be grasped by the mind or by words,
So take refuge in the Honored-one beyond conceptual understanding.
self-benefit: Amida's becoming a Buddha.
benefit of others: bringing sentient beings to birth in the Pure Land.
perfectly fulfilled: full of the working of turning good and evil, without discrimination, into good. For both oneself and sentient beings to attain Buddhahood is expressed "perfectly fulfilled."
The Buddha's majestic power and Primal Vow -
Fulfilled, luminous, resolute, and ultimate -
Are means of compassion beyond conceptual understanding,
So take refuge in Amida, the truly immeasurable one.
resolute (kengo): Ken refers to firmness of shinjin, go refers to firmness of mind; the diamondlike mind.
The delicate, wondrous sounds of jewel-trees in the jewel-forests
Are a naturally pure and harmonious music,
Unexcelled in subtlety and elegance,
So take refuge in Amida, the music of purity.
sounds: the branches of the trees, the waters of the ponds, and the things that work and move - these all, without exception, produce the sound of dharma.
pure and harmonious: the softness of the sounds of the notes, kung, shang, chiao, cheng, and yu [of the ancient Chinese scale].
Trees of seven precious materials fill the land,
Mutually reflecting each other's brilliance;
The flowers, fruits, branches, and leaves all shine thus,
So take refuge in Amida, the store of virtues fulfilled through the Primal Vow.
Pure winds blow in the jewel-trees,
Producing the five tones of the scale.
As those sounds are harmonious and spontaneous,
Pay homage to Amida, the one imbued with purity.
Beams of light, thirty-six hundred
Thousand billion in number,
Shine brilliantly from within each flower;
There is no place they do not reach.
Buddha-bodies, equal in number
To the thirty-six hundred thousand billion
Beams of light, emerge from each flower;
Their features and marks are like mountains of gold.
features: the major characteristics of a Buddha.
marks: the minor characteristics of a Buddha.
Each feature and mark releases, throughout the ten quarters,
A hundred thousand beams of light;
Thus the Buddhas constantly teach and spread the excellent dharma
And lead beings into the Buddha's path.
The jewel-ponds, formed of seven precious materials, are limpid
And brimming with waters of eight excellent qualities;
The undefiled adornments of the land surpass conceptual understanding,
So take refuge in Amida, the treasury of virtues.
undefiled: free of blind passions.
The afflictions of the three evil courses are forever eliminated,
And only spontaneous, delightful sounds are heard.
For this reason the Buddha's land is called "Happiness";
So take refuge in Amida, the ultimately honored one.
Those of immeasurable wisdom throughout the ten quarters - past, present, and future -
All, without exception, having grounded themselves in oneness,
Equally attain the enlightenment of perfection in the two aspects of wisdom;
Their salvation of beings according to conditions is beyond conception.
two aspects of wisdom: both the wisdom of this Saha world and the wisdom of the Buddha's enlightenment.
When we take refuge in the Pure Land of Amida,
We take refuge in all the Buddhas.
To praise the one Buddha, Amida, with the mind that is single
Is to praise all the unhindered ones.
unhindered ones: those whose body is Amida's dharma-body.
When, in even a single thought-moment of sincere mind,
You have attained shinjin and joy, gladdened by what you have heard,
Bow down in homage at the feet
Of the Buddha of Inconceivable Light!
joy: to rejoice in shinjin beforehand.
gladdened by what you have heard: to rejoice after having attained shinjin.
I praise Amida's wisdom and virtue
So that beings with mature conditions throughout the ten quarters may hear.
Let those who have already realized shinjin
Constantly respond in gratitude to the Buddha's benevolence.
Venerable Ananda, rising from his seat,
Beheld the majestic radiance of the World-honored one;
Amazed, with a rare feeling of wonder emerging in him,
He realized he had never witnessed such radiance before.
he had never seen: he had never beheld such a countenance before.
Sakyamuni's splendor was rare and auspicious;
Ananda, rejoicing immensely,
Asked its meaning, whereupon the Buddha revealed
The fundamental intent of his appearance in the world.
Sakyamuni's splendor: the Tathagata's light and especially wondrous features are rare and magnificent.
Having entered the Samadhi of great tranquility,
The Buddha's countenance was wondrous in its radiance;
Observing the depth of Ananda's discernment,
He praised him for his insightful question.
Samadhi of great tranquility: the reason for the Buddha's inner stillness and quietude, which is now more excellent than usual, is that he has appeared in the world solely to teach the Name of Amida; thus, his particularly excellent and auspicious features.
The fundamental intent for which the Buddha appeared in the world
Was to reveal the truth and reality of the Primal Vow.
He taught that to encounter or behold a Buddha
Is as rare as the blossoming of the udumbara.
Udumbara: The udumbara is called "the mysterious, auspicious flower." The udumbara tree always bears fruit, but the flower blossoms very rarely. Since a Buddha's appearance in the world occurs only with extreme rarity, it is likened to the udumbara flower.
It is taught that ten kalpas have now passed
Since Amida attained Buddhahood,
But he seems a Buddha more ancient
Than kalpas countless as particles.
Kalpas countless as particles: Suppose a great thousandfold world is [ground into powder and] made into ink, and with this ink one passes [through a thousand lands], then deposits a dot of it in one land with the tip of a brush, passes through another thousand lands, then deposits another dot of it, until all the ink is used up. If all the lands passed through were ground into dust and counted, the number of particles would be that of the kalpas expressed, "kalpas countless as particles."
The Buddha of Inconceivable Light, under Lokesvararaja Buddha,
Selected the best qualities from among
All the pure lands of the ten quarters
To establish the Primal Vow.
Selected (sesshu): setsu means to especially choose and take up; shu means to distinguish and discard.
The light of the Buddha of Unhindered Light
Harbors the lights of purity, joy, and wisdom;
Its virtuous working surpasses conceptual understanding,
As it benefits the beings throughout the ten quarters.
Unhindered: not obstructed by karmic evil and blind passions.
Purity, joy, and wisdom: since it saves one from the blind passion of greed and eliminates the karma of greed, it is called purity and joy. Since it saves one from the blind passion of anger, it is called joy. Since it saves one from the blind passion of folly, it is called wisdom.
Encouraging the beings of the ten quarters with the words,
"With sincere mind entrust yourselves and aspire for birth,"
Amida established the Vow beyond conceptual understanding
And made it the cause of birth in the true and real fulfilled land.
Note: This is the meaning of the Primal Vow - the Eighteenth, selected Primal Vow.
Beings: the sentient beings of the twenty-five forms of delusional existence.
Those who attain true and real shinjin
Immediately join the truly settled;
Thus having entered the stage of nonretrogression,
They necessarily attain nirvana.
True and real shinjin: shinjin of sincere mind and entrusting. "True and real" signifies sincere mind.
So profound is Amida's great compassion
That, manifesting inconceivable Buddha-wisdom,
The Buddha established the Vow of transformation into men,
Thereby vowing to enable women to attain Buddhahood.
Note: This is the meaning of the Thirty-fifth Vow
Provisionally guiding sentient beings of the ten quarters with the words,
"Aspire with sincere mind and desire to be born,"
Amida revealed the temporary gate of various good acts
And vowed to appear before them [at the time of death].
Note: This is the meaning of the Nineteenth Vow - birth through various practices.
Aspire with sincere mind and desire to be born: The Nineteenth Vow. This Vow is called "the Vow of Buddha's appearance and guidance to birth," "the Vow of Buddha's appearance at death," and also "the Vow of Buddha's coming to receive us."
Based on Amida's Vow to appear at the time of death,
Sakyamuni presented all the various good acts
In one scripture, the Contemplation Sutra,
To encourage those who perform meditative and nonmeditative practices.
All the good acts and myriad practices,
Because they are performed with a sincere mind and aspiration,
Become, without exception, provisional good
That will lead to birth in the Pure Land.
Provisionally guiding sentient beings of the ten quarters with the words,
"Direct your merits with sincere mind, desiring to be born,"
Amida revealed the "true" gate of the Name,
Vowing to enable beings ultimately to attain birth.
Note: This is the meaning of the Twentieth Vow. Amida made a Vow concerning self-power nembutsu.
Based on the Vow that beings ultimately attain birth,
Sakyamuni presented, in the Amida Sutra,
The root of good and the root of virtue,
Encouraging those of the One Vehicle.
Root of good and the root of virtue: root of good in the causal stage; that in the resultant stage is called "root of virtue."
Those of the One Vehicle: they will be brought to birth in the fulfilled land [through the nembutsu].
Those who say the Name in self-power, whether meditative or nonmeditative -
Having indeed taken refuge in the Vow that beings ultimately attain birth
Will spontaneously, even without being taught,
Turn about and enter the gate of suchness.
Ultimately attain: Amida vowed that those who say the Name with a mind of self-power will ultimately attain birth.
Turn about and enter the gate of suchness: to turn, changing into one who will attain the enlightenment of dharma-body.
Those who, though aspiring for the Pure Land of happiness,
Do not realize shinjin that is Other Power,
Doubt the Buddha's inconceivable wisdom and therefore dwell
In the borderland or the realm of indolence and pride.
Borderland: womblike birth resulting from doubt is called the "borderland." After passing five hundred years there, one will go to the fulfilled land. People who seek to attain birth through various practices fall into the realm of indolence and pride. Of these, rarely will there be one who, after immeasurable spans of time, advances to the fulfilled land.
It is difficult to encounter a time when a Tathagata appears in the world,
And difficult to hear the teaching of the Buddhas;
It is rare to hear the excellent dharma for bodhisattvas,
Even in a span of countless kalpas.
Excellent dharma: the six paramitas. To encounter them is also, for us, extremely rare.
It is difficult to meet true teachers
And difficult for them to instruct.
It is difficult to hear the teaching well,
And more difficult still to accept it.
More difficult even than trust in the teachings of Sakyamuni's lifetime
Is the true entrusting of the universal Vow,
The sutra teaches that it is "the most difficult of all difficulties,"
That "nothing surpasses this difficulty."
Attaining Buddhahood through the nembutsu is the true essence of the Pure Land way;
The myriad practices and good acts are the temporary gate.
Unless one distinguishes the accommodated and the real, the temporary and the true,
One cannot possibly know the Pure Land that is naturalness (jinen).
Sentient beings, having long followed the Path of Sages -
The accommodated and temporary teachings that are provisional means
Have been transmigrating in various forms of existence;
So take refuge in the One Vehicle of the compassionate Vow.
Sakyamuni Buddha, out of vast benevolence,
Instructed Queen Vaidehi, leading her to select,
From among all the lands manifested in the pedestal of light,
Amida's world of happiness.
King Bimbisara put the ascetic to death
Without waiting for the time of his rebirth as determined by past conditions,
And in recompense for this act of murder,
Was imprisoned in a cell seven walls thick.
King Ajatasatru shouted, in a fit of rage,
"My own mother betrays me!"
And heinously, to strike her down,
He drew his sword against her.
Rage (shinnu): shin means to be angry in one's expression; nu means to be angry in one's heart.
Jivaka and Candraprabha earnestly admonished the king,
Saying such acts were those of an outcaste,
And that they could not remain in the castle should he persist;
Thus they tried to quell his lawless impulses.
The minister Jivaka, with hand on his sword,
Stepped backward and began to take his leave;
Ajatasatru was thus made to discard his sword,
But he confined Vaidehi within the palace.
Amida and Sakyamuni, employing compassionate means,
And Ananda, Maudgalyayana, Purna, Vaidehi,
Devadatta, King Ajatasatru, Bimbisara,
Jivaka, Candraprabha, Varsakara, and others -
All of them great sages -
By various means, brought the most foolish and lowest
Of evil people to enter the Vow
That does not neglect people of grave offenses and transgressions.
Most foolish and lowest: we who have sunken to the bottom of the great sea.
Grave offenses and transgressions: the five grave offenses and the ten transgressions.
Since conditions for the Pure Land teaching had matured,
Sakyamuni and Vaidehi, manifesting compassionate means,
Led the minister Varsakara to bear witness
And King Ajatasatru to commit grave offenses.
Let us overturn the three minds of self-power, whether meditative or nonmeditative,
Which vary with each practicer;
Let us aspire to enter into shinjin
That arises from Amida's benefiting of others.
Shinjin: the true and real shinjin of the Primal Vow.
Seeing the sentient beings of the nembutsu
Throughout the worlds, countless as particles, in the ten quarters,
The Buddha grasps and never abandons them,
And therefore is named "Amida."
Grasps (sesshu): Once grasped, one is never abandoned. Setsu means to pursue and grasp the one who seeks to run away. Setsu means to take in; shu means to receive and embrace.
The Buddhas, countless as the sands of the Ganges or as particles,
Reject the small good of the various practices
And all alike wholeheartedly encourage beings
To realize shinjin that is the inconceivable working of the Name.
The Buddhas of the ten quarters, countless as the sands of the Ganges,
Teach this dharma that is most difficult to accept;
For the sake of the evil world of the five defilements,
They bear witness to the teaching and protect beings who take refuge in it.
The Buddhas' protection and witness
Arise from the fulfillment of the Vow of compassion;
So let those who attain the diamondlike mind
Respond in gratitude to Amida's great benevolence.
Diamondlike: never defeated, never decaying, never rent.
To the evil sentient beings of wrong views
In this evil age of the five defilements, in this evil world,
The Buddhas, countless as the sands of the Ganges,
Give the Name of Amida, urging [them to entrust themselves to it].
Amida, full of compassion for those lost in the great night of ignorance -
The wheel of light of dharma-body being boundless -
Took the form of the Buddha of Unhindered Light
And appeared in the land of peace.
Ignorance: the king of blind passions.
Dharma-body: dharma-body is wholly beyond thought and words. It fills all space.
Amida, who attained Buddhahood in the infinite past,
Full of compassion for foolish beings of the five defilements,
Took the form of Sakyamuni Buddha
And appeared in Gaya
Gaya: Gaya castle was where the great King Suddhodana reigned.
[Note: In Shinran's day, Gaya - the place where Sakyamuni attained enlightenment - was sometimes confused with Kapilavastu, his birthplace.]
Let Amida be praised for a hundred thousand kotis of kalpas
By a hundred thousand kotis of tongues,
Each tongue producing countless voices,
And still that praise would be incomplete.
The Great Sage Sakyamuni teaches
That Amida's land is easy to reach,
And calls the sentient being who doubts the Pure Land path
A person lacking eyes, or lacking ears.
Person lacking eyes: based on a passage of the Sutra of the Questions of Maudgalyayana, which is cited in Sutra of the Questions of Maudgalyayana.
The Supreme that is unexcelled is true emancipation;
True emancipation is none other than Tathagata.
When we attain true emancipation,
We become free of desire and free of doubt.
The Supreme that is unexcelled: dharma-body is called the Supreme that is unexcelled, and also true emancipation.
When a person realizes the mind of nondiscrimination,
That attainment is the "state of regarding each being as one's only child."
This is none other than Buddha-nature;
We will awaken to it on reaching the land of peace.
State of regarding each being as one's only child: attainment of the thought that each of the beings of the three realms is one's only child.
Tathagata is none other than nirvana;
Nirvana is called Buddha-nature.
Beyond our ability to attain it in the state of foolish beings,
We will realize it on reaching the land of peace.
The person who attains shinjin and joy
Is taught to be equal to the Tathagatas.
Great shinjin is itself Buddha-nature;
Buddha-nature is none other than Tathagata.
Great shinjin: having entrusted ourselves to the Other Power of Amida's Primal Vow is great shinjin. That which brings us to attain supreme enlightenment is great shinjin.
Sentient beings who, with hindered understandings,
Doubt the Buddha's unhindered wisdom,
Will sink for many kalpas in various forms of pain
In the hells of Samvara and Pindala.
Hindered: obstructed by various things.
Samvara and Pindala: The beings therein see those in Avici hell and think it pleasant for them compared with their own state. Those who slander the Buddha-dharma fall into these hells and remain there for eighty thousand kalpas, where they undergo immense pain.
Amida Tathagata came forth and guided beings,
Teaching the "Chapter on Life-span"
In the Sutra of Golden Splendor
In order to end calamities and ensure long life.
Note: taught by Bhaisajyaguru in the eastern quarter, Samkusumitaraja in the southern quarter, Amitayus Buddha in the western quarter, and Sakyamuni in the northern quarter.
Came forth: come and regard with compassion.
End calamities: put an end to the seven calamities.
Sutra of Golden Splendor: a sutra of four fascicles. It is called the Most Excellent King Sutra.
The Chapter on Life-span: the tenth fascicle. It was taught by Amida.
Out of compassionate concern for the people of the land,
Master Saicho of Mount Hiei said that
One should utter "Namu-amida-butsu"
As a spell for eliminating the seven calamities.
Spell: to recite from memory.
When we say "Namu-amida-butsu,"
Which surpasses all virtues,
Our heavy obstructions of evil - past, present, and future -
Are all unfailingly transformed, becoming light.
Becoming light: becoming small, slight.
When we say "Namu-amida-butsu,"
The benefits we gain in the present are boundless;
The karmic evil of our transmigration in birth-and-death disappears,
And determinate karma and untimely death are eliminated.
When we say "Namu-amida-butsu,"
Brahma and Indra venerate us;
All the benevolent gods of the heavens
Protect us constantly, day and night.
When we say "Namu-amida-butsu,"
The four great deva-kings together
Protect us constantly, day and night,
And let no evil spirits come near.
When we say "Namu-amida-butsu,"
The earth-goddess called Firmness
Reveres and protects us constantly, day and night,
Accompanying us always just as shadows do things.
When we say "Namu-amida-butsu,"
Nanda, Upananda, and the other great nagas,
Along with the countless naga-gods, revere
And protect us constantly, day and night.
When we say "Namu-amida-butsu,"
Yama, the king of the dead, reveres us,
And the officers who judge the beings of the five courses of existence
All protect us constantly, day and night.
When we say "Namu-amida-butsu,"
We are protected by the great king of maras
Residing in the sixth heaven;
This he vowed to do in the presence of Sakyamuni Buddha.
The gods of the heavens and earth
Are all to be called good,
For together they protect
The person of the nembutsu.
Shinjin that is the inconceivable working of the power of the Vow
Is none other than the mind aspiring for great enlightenment;
The evil spirits that abound in heaven and earth
All hold in awe the person who has attained it.
When we say "Namu-amida-butsu,"
Avalokitesvara and Mahasthamaprapta,
Together with bodhisattvas countless as the Ganges' sands or as particles,
Accompany us just as shadows do things.
Countless Amida Buddhas reside
In the light of the Buddha of Unhindered Light;
Each one of these transformed Buddhas protects
The person of true and real shinjin.
When we say "Namu-amida-butsu,"
The countless Buddhas throughout the ten quarters,
Surrounding us a hundredfold, a thousandfold,
Rejoice in and protect us.
Having realized the perfect, all-pervasive truth of the nembutsu,
Mahasthamaprapta, together with fifty-two bodhisattvas,
Rose from his seat and prostrated himself
At the feet of Sakyamuni Buddha.
He addressed the World-honored one, the master of the teaching,
"Ages ago, kalpas countless as the Ganges' sands in the past,
A Buddha appeared in the world
Whose name was Immeasurable Light."
"Thereafter Tathagatas succeeded each other,
Twelve in all, over a period of twelve kalpas;
The last Tathagata was named
Light that Surpasses the Sun and Moon."
"The Tathagata of Light that Surpasses the Sun and Moon
Taught me the nembutsu-samadhi.
The Tathagatas of the ten quarters compassionately regard
Each sentient being as their only child."
"When sentient beings think on Amida
Just as a child thinks of its mother,
They indeed see the Tathagata - who is never distant -
Both in the present and in the future."
"Such beings are like people who, imbued with incense,
Bear its fragrance on their bodies;
They may be called
Those adorned with the fragrance of light."
Fragrance of light: refers to the nembutsu, which is wisdom.
"When I was in the causal stage,
I realized insight into the nonorigination of all existence
By coming to possess the mind of nembutsu;
Hence now, in this world of Saha,
I embrace persons of the nembutsu
And bring them into the Pure Land."
Let us respond with deep gratitude for the great benevolence
Of Bodhisattva Mahasthamaprapta.
Insight into the nonorigination of all existence: the stage of nonretrogression. To become one who will unfailingly attain Buddhahood.
This concludes the Hymns to Bodhisattva Mahasthamaprapta, the original state of Master Genku.
1997 copyright Jodo Shinshu Hongwanji-ha