The True Teaching, Practice, and Realization of the Pure Land Way

PREFACE

^I reflect within myself: The universal Vow difficult to fathom is indeed a great vessel bearing us across the ocean difficult to cross. The unhindered light is the sun of wisdom dispersing the darkness of our *ignorance. ^Thus it is that, when conditions for the teaching of birth in the *Pure Land had matured, *Devadatta provoked *Ajātaśatru to commit grave crimes. And when the opportunity arose for explaining the pure act by which birth is settled, Śākyamuni led *Vaidehī to select the land of peace. In their selfless love, these incarnated ones ― Devadatta, Ajātaśatru, Vaidehī ― all aspired to save the multitudes of beings from pain and affliction, and in his compassion, Śākyamuni, the great hero, sought indeed to bless those committing the *five grave offenses, *those slandering the dharma, and those lacking the seed of Buddhahood. ^We know, therefore, that the auspicious *Name embodying the perfectly fulfilled supreme virtues is true wisdom that transforms our evil into virtue, and that the diamondlike *shinjin so difficult to accept is true reality that sweeps away doubt and brings us to attainment of *enlightenment.

 ^This, then, is the true teaching easy to practice for small, foolish beings; it is the straight way easy to traverse for the dull and ignorant. Among all the teachings the Great Sage preached in his lifetime, none surpasses this ocean of virtues. ^Let the one who seeks to abandon the defiled and aspire for the pure; who is confused in practice and vacillating in faith; whose mind is dark and whose understanding deficient; whose evils are heavy and whose karmic obstructions manifold ― let such persons embrace above all the Tathagata’s exhortations, take refuge without fail in the most excellent direct path, devote themselves solely to this practice, and revere only this shinjin.

 ^Ah, hard to encounter, even in many lifetimes, is the decisive cause of birth, Amida’s universal Vow! Hard to realize, even in myriads of *kalpas, is pure shinjin that is true and real! If you should come to realize this practice and shinjin, rejoice at the conditions from the distant past that have brought it about. ^But if in this lifetime still you are entangled in a net of doubt, then unavoidably you must pass once more in the stream of birth-and-death through myriads of kalpas. Wholly sincere, indeed, are the words of truth that one is grasped, never to be abandoned, the right dharma all-surpassing and wondrous! Hear and reflect, and let there be no wavering or apprehension.

 ^How joyous I am, Gutoku Shinran, disciple of Śākyamuni! Rare is it to come upon the sacred scriptures from the westward land of India and the commentaries of the masters of China and Japan, but now I have been able to encounter them. Rare is it to hear them, but already I have been able to hear. Reverently entrusting myself to the teaching, practice, and realization that are the true essence of the Pure Land way, I am especially aware of the profundity of the Tathagata’s benevolence. Here I rejoice in what I have heard and extol what I have attained.

 

Chapter IVII On the True Teaching

Chapter IIVI On the True Practice

Chapter IIIV On the True Shinjin

Chapter IVII On the True Realization

Chapter VIII On the True Buddha and Land

Chapter VIII On the Transformed Buddha-Bodies and Lands

 

The Larger Sutra of Immeasurable Life

The True and Real Teaching
The True Essence of the Pure Land Way

 

I

A Collection of Passages Revealing
The True Teaching of the Pure Land Way

COMPILED BY GUTOKU SHINRAN,
DISCIPLE OF ŚĀKYAMUNI

1 ^Reverently contemplating the true essence of the Pure Land way, I see that Amida’s *directing of virtue to sentient beings has two aspects: the aspect for our going forth to the Pure Land and the aspect for our return to this world. In the aspect for going forth, there is the true teaching, practice, shinjin, and realization.

2 ^To reveal the true teaching: It is the Larger Sutra of the Buddha of Immeasurable Life. ^The central purport of this sutra is that Amida, by establishing the incomparable Vows, has opened wide the dharma-storehouse, and full of compassion for small, foolish beings, selects and bestows the treasure of virtues. [The sutra further reveals that] Śākyamuni appeared in this world and expounded the teachings of the way to enlightenment, seeking to save the multitudes of living beings by blessing them with this benefit that is true and real. ^Thus, to teach the Tathagata’s *Primal Vow is the true intent of this sutra; the Name of the Buddha is its essence.

[ The Sutra Passages ]

3 ^How is it known that [this sutra] was the great matter for which Śākyamuni appeared in the world? ^The Larger Sutra states:

^[Ānanda asked,] “Today, World-honored one, your sense organs are filled with gladness and serenity. Your complexion is pure. Your radiant countenance is majestic, like a luminous mirror in which clear reflections pass unobstructed. Your lofty features are resplendent, surpassing all words or measure. Never before have I beheld your lineaments as sublime as they are now. ^Indeed, Great Sage, I have thought to myself: ^Today, the World-honored one abides in the dharma most rare and wondrous. ^Today, the Great Hero abides where all Buddhas abide. ^Today, the World’s Eye abides in the activity of guide and teacher. ^Today, the Preeminent one of the world abides in the supreme enlightenment. ^Today, the Heaven-honored one puts into practice the virtue of all Tathagatas. ^The Buddhas of the past, future, and present all think on one another. Do not you, the present Buddha, also think on all the other Buddhas now? Why does your commanding radiance shine forth with such brilliance?

 ^Then the World-honored one said to Ānanda, “Did devas so instruct you that you ask this, or do you inquire of my noble mien out of your own wisdom?”

 ^Ānanda replied to the Buddha, “No deva came to teach me; I ask this myself, simply from what I observe.”

 ^The Buddha said, “Well spoken, Ānanda! Your question is excellent. You ask this insightful question having summoned up deep wisdom and true and subtle powers of expression, and having turned tender thoughts to all sentient beings. ^In his boundless great compassion, the Tathagata is filled with commiseration for the beings of the *three realms. I have appeared in the world and expounded the teachings of the way to enlightenment, seeking to save the multitudes of living beings by blessing them with the benefit that is true and real. ^Rare is it to encounter and rare to behold a Tathagata, even in countless millions of kalpas. It is like the blossoming of the udumbara, which seldom occurs. ^This question you now ask will bring immense benefit; it will enlighten the minds of all devas and human beings. ^Know, Ānanda, that the perfect enlightenment of the Tathagata is immeasurable in its wisdom and vast in its guidance of beings to enlightenment. His insight knows no impediment; nothing can obstruct it.”

4 ^The Sutra of the Tathagata of Immeasurable Life states:

^Ānanda replied to the Buddha, “World-honored one, this thought occurs to me because I behold the rare and auspicious splendor that now fills your features; it was not taught me by the devas.”

 ^The Buddha said to Ānanda, “Excellent, well spoken! This question is well asked indeed! You have been able to see the Tathagata’s subtle discernment, and well have you inquired of the Tathagata concerning the reason [for my splendor]. ^O Ānanda, all Tathagatas, who are to be revered and who have realized perfect enlightenment, dwell firmly in great compassion, and to bring benefit to sentient beings, they appear in the world as great masters ― events as rare as the blossoming of the udumbara. This is why you have asked this question. ^It is out of commiseration for all sentient beings, and out of desire to bring them benefit and happiness: Well have you asked this question!”

5 ^The Sutra of the Enlightenment of Ultimate Equality states:

^The Buddha said to Ānanda, “We find in this world a tree called udumbara that bears fruit but no flowers. In its rarity, a Buddha’s appearance in this world is no different from the blossoming of the udumbara. And even though a Buddha may be in the world, exceedingly rare is it that one should encounter that Buddha. I am now Buddha and have come into this world. ^You are a person of great virtue, lucid intelligence, and goodwill, and you know beforehand the Buddha’s intent. You have not in vain been at the Buddha’s side serving him. Listen carefully and attentively now as I answer you.”

[ Commentary ]

6 ^Master Kyeong-heung comments on the Larger Sutra:

^Today, the World-honored one abides in the dharma most rare and wondrous: These words indicate the form manifested through the Buddha’s *supernatural powers. Not only do his features surpass the ordinary, there is none his equal. ^Today, the Great Hero abides where all Buddhas abide: Abiding in the *samadhi of universal sameness, he subdues all maras, even the powerful demon-king of the sixth heaven. ^Today, the World’s Eye abides in the activity of guide and teacher: The Buddha’s five kinds of vision are termed “the activity of guide and teacher”; he is unsurpassed in drawing and guiding sentient beings to enlightenment. ^Today, the Preeminent one of the world abides in the supreme enlightenment: The Buddha, alone and matchless as he abides in the four forms of wisdom, is completely unrivaled. ^Today, the Heaven-honored one puts into practice the virtue of all Tathagatas: In his attainment of highest truth, the Buddha is the one most revered in all the heavens. He has awakened to the truth that Buddha-nature is not void. ^Know, Ānanda, the perfect enlightenment of the Tathagata: that is, the dharma rare and wondrous. ^His insight knows no impediment: This describes the most excellent way. ^Nothing can obstruct it: This refers to the virtue of the Tathagata.

[ Conclusion ]

7 ^Thus, these passages give clear testimony that the Larger Sutra reveals the true teaching. ^It is indeed the right exposition for which the Tathagata appeared in the world, the wondrous scripture rare and most excellent, the conclusive and ultimate exposition of the *One Vehicle, the precious words disclosing perfect, instantaneous fulfillment, the sincere words praised by all the Buddhas throughout the ten quarters, the true teaching in consummate readiness for the beings of this day. Let this be known.

 

Here ends Chapter I:
A Collection of Passages Revealing
The True Teaching of the Pure Land Way