^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 Tripiṭaka Master Hsüan-tsang

 

Hymns of the Pure Land

 

1

Those who truly attain shinjin

As they utter Amida’s Name,

Being mindful of the Buddha always,

Wish to respond to the great benevolence.

2

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 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

26 Bhagavat

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

Immeasurable virtue

I offer praise

 

Hymns Based on Gathas in Praise
of Amida Buddha

[COMPOSED BY] GUTOKU SHINRAN

 

Namu-amida-butsu

3

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.

4

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 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 function.

5

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.”

6

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.

7

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.

8

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.

9

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 Buddha.

10

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.

11

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.

12

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.

13

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 (shikiryō naki): without limit in measurement. Shiki denotes inexhaustible depth. Ryō implies knowing a numerical measurement.

Buddha of Inconceivable Light: The Buddha is completely beyond conception.

14

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.

15

The light is more luminous than the heavenly bodies;

Thus Amida is called “Light that Surpasses the Sun and Moon.”

Even Śākyamuni’s praise cannot exhaust its virtues,

So take refuge in the one without equal.

16

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.

17

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 beings. The supreme, perfect compassion of Buddhas is referred to by [the name of the bodhisattva] Samantabhadra.

18

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.

19

Avalokiteśvara and Mahāsthāmaprāpta

Together illumine the world with the light of compassion,

Never resting even for a moment

From bringing to nirvana those with mature conditions.

20

Those who reach the Pure Land of happiness

Return to this evil world of the five defilements,

Where, like the Buddha Śākyamuni,

They benefit sentient beings without limit.

21

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.

22

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.

23

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.

24

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.

25

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.

true: genuine. True means not false, not temporary. “False” implies deceit or flattery.

real: bearing fruit. Real means not empty, not vain.

Heard refers to the mind of trust; they attain shinjin and rejoice.

26

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 Buddha.

joy: to rejoice after realizing shinjin.

27

The two kinds of fulfillment of the Buddha land of happiness―the beings and adornments―

Were formed through the power of Dharmākara’s Vow.

They have no equal in the heavens or on earth,

So take refuge in Amida, the power of the great mind.

beings: If we go to the land of bliss, we will be able to exercise supernatural powers freely.

adornments: the various jewel-trees and jewel-ponds; all the various adornments of the Pure Land.

28

Śākyamuni 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.

29

Being 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.

30

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.

31

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.

32

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.

33

Bodhisattvas of the Buddha lands in the nine other quarters

Likewise go to pay homage to Amida;

Śākyamuni 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.

34

The countless bodhisattvas throughout the ten quarters,

To cultivate roots of virtues,

Revere and praise Amida in song;

Let us 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.

35

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 śāla 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.

36

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.

37

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.”

38

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.

39

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].

40

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.

41

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.

42

Beams of light, thirty-six hundred

Thousand billion in number,

Shine brilliantly from within each flower;

There is no place they do not reach.

43

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.

44

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.

45

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.

46

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.

47

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 Sahā world and the wisdom of the Buddha’s enlightenment.

48

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.

49

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.

50

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.

Amida’s wisdom and virtue: great love and compassion and virtue.

 

Forty-eight Hymns

by Gutoku Shinran

 

 

Amida Tathagata

Avalokiteśvara Bodhisattva

Mahāsthāmaprāpta Bodhisattva

 

Śākyamuni Buddha

Venerable Pūrṇa

Mahāmaudgalyāyana

Venerable Ānanda

 

King Binbisāra

Queen Vaidehī

Jīvaka, A Councilor

Candraprabha, A Councilor

 

Venerable Devadatta

King Ajātaśatru

Varṣakāra, A Councilor

Guard

 

Hymns of the Pure Land

[COMPOSED BY] GUTOKU SHINRAN

 

on the Larger Sutra

Twenty-two Hymns

 

51

Venerable Ānanda, 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.

52

Śākyamuni’s splendor was rare and auspicious;

Ānanda, rejoicing immensely,

Asked its meaning, whereupon the Buddha revealed

The fundamental intent of his appearance in the world.

Śākyamuni’s splendor: the Tathagata’s light and especially wondrous features are rare and magnificent.

53

Having entered the samadhi of great tranquility,

The Buddha’s countenance was wondrous in its radiance;

Observing the depth of Ānanda’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.

54

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.

55

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.”

56

The Buddha of Inconceivable Light, under Lokeśvararāja 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.

57

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.

58

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.

59

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.

60

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.

61

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 Nineteen 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.”

62

Based on Amida’s Vow to appear at the time of death,

Śākyamuni presented all the various good acts

In one scripture, the Contemplation Sutra,

To encourage those who perform meditative and nonmeditative practices.

63

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.

64

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.

65

Based on the Vow that beings ultimately attain birth,

Śākyamuni 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].

66

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.

67

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.

68

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: six paramitas. To encounter them is also, for us, extremely rare.

69

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.

70

More difficult even than trust in the teachings of Śākyamuni’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.”

71

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).

72

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.

 

on the Contemplation Sutra

Nine Hymns

 

73

Śākyamuni Buddha, out of vast benevolence,

Instructed Queen Vaidehī, leading her to select,

From among all the lands manifested in the pedestal of light,

Amida’s world of happiness.

74

King Bimbisāra 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.

75

King Ajātaśatru 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.

76

Jīvaka 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.

77

The minister Jīvaka, with hand on his sword,

Stepped backward and began to take his leave;

Ajātaśatru was thus made to discard his sword,

But he confined Vaidehī within the palace.

78

Amida and Śākyamuni, employing compassionate means,

And Ānanda, Maudgalyāyana, Pūrṇa, Vaidehī,

Devadatta, King Ajātaśatru, Bimbisāra,

Jīvaka, Candraprabha, Varṣakāra, and others―

79

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.

80

Since conditions for the Pure Land teaching had matured,

Śākyamuni and Vaidehī, manifesting compassionate means,

Led the minister Varṣakāra to bear witness

And King Ajātaśatru to commit grave offenses.

81

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.

 

on the Amida Sutra

Five Hymns

 

82

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.

83

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.

84

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.

85

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.

86

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].

 

Hymns on Amida Based on Various Sutras

Nine Hymns

 

87

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.

88

Amida, who attained Buddhahood in the infinite past,

Full of compassion for foolish beings of the five defilements,

Took the form of Śākyamuni Buddha

And appeared in Gayā.

Gayā: Gayā castle was where the great King Suddhodana reigned.

[note: In Shinran’s day, Gayā―the place where Śākyamuni attained enlightenment―was sometimes confused with Kapilavastu, his birthplace.]

89

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.

90

The Great Sage Śākyamuni 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 Maudgalyāyana, which is cited in Sutra of the Questions of Maudgalyāyana.

91

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.

92

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.

nondiscrimination: dharma-body.

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.

93

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.

94

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.

95

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 Saṃvara and Piṇḍala.

hindered: obstructed by various things.

Saṃvara and Piṇḍala: The beings therein see those in Avīci 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.

 

Hymns on Benefits in the Present

Fifteen Hymns

 

96

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 Bhaiṣajyaguru in the eastern quarter, Saṃkusumitarāja in the southern quarter, Amitāyus Buddha in the western quarter, and Śākyamuni in the northern quarter.

come 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.

97

Out of compassionate concern for the people of the land,

Master Saichō of Mount Hiei said that

One should utter “Namu-amida-butsu”

As a spell for eliminating the seven calamities.

spell: to recite from memory.

98

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.

99

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.

100

When we say “Namu-amida-butsu,”

Brahma and Indra venerate us;

All the benevolent gods of the heavens

Protect us constantly, day and night.

101

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.

102

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.

103

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.

104

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.

105

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 Śākyamuni Buddha.

106

The gods of the heavens and earth

Are all to be called good,

For together they protect

The person of the nembutsu.

107

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.

108

When we say “Namu-amida-butsu,”

Avalokiteśvara and Mahāsthāmaprāpta,

Together with bodhisattvas countless as the Ganges’ sands or as particles,

Accompany us just as shadows do things.

109

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.

110

When we say “Namu-amida-butsu,”

The countless Buddhas throughout the ten quarters,

Surrounding us a hundredfold, a thousandfold,

Rejoice in and protect us.

 

Hymns To Mahāsthāmaprāpta
Based on the Sutra of the Samadhi of Heroic Advance

Eight Hymns

 

111

Having realized the perfect, all-pervasive truth of the nembutsu,

Mahāsthāmaprāpta, together with fifty-two bodhisattvas,

Rose from his seat and prostrated himself

At the feet of Śākyamuni Buddha.

112

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.”

113

“Thereafter Tathagatas succeeded each other,

Twelve in all, over a duration of twelve kalpas;

The Last Tathagata was named

Light that Surpasses the Sun and Moon.”

114

“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.”

115

“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.”

116

“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.

117

“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 Sahā,

118

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 Mahāsthāmaprāpta.

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 Mahāsthāmaprāpta,
the original state of Master Genkū.