Hymns of the Pure Land Masters
[COMPOSED BY] GUTOKU SHINRAN
Ten Hymns based on his Writings
Our teacher, Bodhisattva Nāgārjuna, abundantly praises the Pure Land in the west
In such works as his commentaries on the Mahaprajnaparamita Sutra
And the Ten Bodhisattva Stages,
And urges us to practice the nembutsu.
Nāgārjuna (Ryūju, literally “naga [dragon]-tree”): Nāgārjuna was born beneath a tree and taken and raised by a naga-king. Later, he became the son of a king in southern India. Hence his name, Nāgārjuna.
The World-honored one foretold
That a monk named Bodhisattva Nāgārjuna
Would appear in south India and would crush
The wrong views of being and nonbeing.
south India: Further south, there was a great spirit king who was master of Mount Laṅkā, which rises from the sea. Because this king loved the Mahayana teaching, Śākyamuni Tathagata crossed the sea to his kingdom and taught the dharma to him. On that occasion, Śākyamuni foretold that some time after his entrance into nirvana, Nāgārjuna would appear in the world and vanquish the nonbuddhist teachings.
Our teacher, Bodhisattva Nāgārjuna,
Clarified the unexcelled dharma of the Great Vehicle;
Having attained the stage of joy,
He wholeheartedly recommended the nembutsu to all.
stage of joy: the stage of the truly settled. In the term “joy” (kangi), kan means to be gladdened in body and gi means to be gladdened in mind. To rejoice, realizing that one is assured of attaining what one shall attain, is called “joy”.
Mahasattva Nāgārjuna appeared in the world
And distinguished the paths of difficult and easy practice;
Thus he leads us, who are wandering in transmigration,
To board the ship of the universal Vow.
difficult: the Path of Sages.
easy: the Pure Land path.
People who hear and accept the words
Of our teacher Bodhisattva Nāgārjuna
Should be mindful of the Primal Vow
And say the Name of Amida always.
Those who desire quickly to attain
The stage of nonretrogression
Should, with a heart of reverence,
Hold steadfast to and say Amida’s Name.
reverence: to worship with humility. Hinayana speaks of making offerings; Mahayana speaks of reverence.
hold steadfast to: to take and hold in one’s mind; not to scatter or lose; never abandoning once one has taken hold.
The ocean of birth-and-death, of painful existence, has no bound;
Only by the ship of Amida’s universal Vow
Can we, who have long been drowning,
Unfailingly be brought across it.
The Commentary on the Mahaprajnaparamita Sutra states:
The Tathagata is the supreme dharma-king;
With bodhisattvas as dharma-vassals,
The person to be deeply revered is the World-honored one.
All the bodhisattvas state:
“When we were in the causal stage,
We passed through countless kalpas
Performing the myriad good acts and practices,
But the attachments of affection were extremely hard to sever,
And birth-and-death was extremely difficult to exhaust.
Only by practicing the nembutsu-samadhi
Could we eliminate the obstructions of karmic evil and gain liberation.”
Here ends the Hymns on
Ten Hymns based on his Writings
Śākyamuni’s teachings are numerous,
But Bodhisattva Vasubandhu compassionately urges us,
Who are possessed of blind passions,
To take refuge in Amida’s universal Vow.
The adornments of the Pure Land of peace
Are perceived only through the wisdom shared by Buddhas.
That mind is infinite, like space,
Vast and without bound.
Of those who encounter the power of the Primal Vow,
Not one passes by in vain;
They are filled with the treasure ocean of virtues,
The defiled waters of their blind passions not separated from it.
The sages of the Tathagata’s pure lotus
Are born transformed from the flower of perfect enlightenment;
Thus, the aspirations of sentient beings
Are swiftly and completely fulfilled there.
pure lotus: the lotus appearing when Amida attained Buddhahood. The sentient beings who come to be born from this lotus are the same in practicing the nembutsu and follow no other way.
The immovable sages, who were formerly humans and devas,
Are born from the ocean of wisdom, the universal Vow;
The virtues of their mental activity are pure
And free of discrimination, like empty space.
Vasubandhu, author of the Treatise, took refuge
In the unhindered light with the mind that is single;
He teaches that by entrusting ourselves to the Vow’s power,
We will reach the fulfilled land.
To take refuge, with the mind that is single,
In the Buddha of unhindered light filling the ten quarters
Is, in the words of Vasubandhu, author or the Treatise,
The mind that aspires to attain Buddhahood.
The mind that aspires to attain Buddhahood
Is the mind to save all sentient beings;
The mind to save all sentient beings
Is true and real shinjin, which is Amida’s benefiting of others.
Shinjin is the mind that is single;
The mind that is single is the diamondlike mind.
The diamondlike mind is the mind aspiring for enlightenment;
This mind is itself Other Power.
On reaching the land of the Vow,
We immediately realize supreme nirvana.
And thereupon we awaken great compassion.
All this is called Amida’s “directing of virtue”.
land of the Vow: the land of Amida’s Primal Vow of compassion.
Here ends the Hymns on
Thirty-four Hymns based on his Writings
Our teacher, Master T’an-luan,
Through the guidance of Bodhiruci,
Burned his scriptures on immortality, discarding them forever,
And deeply took refuge in the Pure Land.
Putting aside his lectures on the four treatises,
He taught Other Power, the working of the Primal Vow;
Guiding foolish beings bound by their blind passions,
He led them to enter the gate to nirvana.
The lord of the mundane world came to inquire
Why he aspired for the Pure Land:
“All Buddha realms throughout the ten quarters are pure;
Why do you turn to the land in the west?”
lord: the ruler of the country.
Master T’an-luan answered: “Since my wisdom is shallow
And I have not yet attained the higher stages of bodhisattvahood,
I am incapable, with my powers of mindfulness,
Of thinking equally on all lands.”
not attained the higher stages: not reached the stage on nonretrogression.
incapable of thinking equally: His power of thought does not extend to the other pure lands.
Neither monks nor laity
Had any place to turn for refuge;
Master T’an-luan alone resolved
To lead them to aspire for the land of happiness.
At the behest of the Emperor of Wei,
He lived at Ta-yen temple in Ping-chou.
Later, near the end of his life,
He moved to Fen-chou.
Ta-yen [Great Cliff] temple: a temple that T’an-luan had built.
Fen-chou: the name of a country where the nembutsu came to flourish.
The Emperor of Wei venerated him.
Giving him the title, “Holy Luan”;
The place where he lived came to be known
As Eminent Luan’s Cliff.
Emperor: The rulers of kingdoms are given the title “emperor” (“son of heaven”).
Exerting all his energy to spread
The act for birth in the Pure Land,
He lived at Hsuan-chung temple,
And in 542, moved to Yao-shan temple.
Hsuan-chung temple: a temple that T’an-luan had constructed. Tao-ch’o was a disciple of T’an-luan [of later times] and succeeded to residence at this temple.
542: The original gives the Chinese dating, “Hsing-ho 4 of the Wei dynasty” [translators’ note].
On reaching the age of sixty-seven, his time come,
He attained birth in the Pure Land;
There were then wondrous, auspicious occurrences,
And monks and laity all venerated and took refuge in him.
wondrous, auspicious occurrences: such as indicate a Buddha’s appearance.
took refuge: followed his words; relied on and revered him.
The emperor, wholeheartedly revering him,
Commanded that a tomb be built immediately
At the splendid site of Chin-ling,
In the Fen-chou district of Fen-hsi province.
Though we had the words of Bodhisattva Vasubandhu,
If Master T’an-luan had not clarified them,
How could we come to know the mind and practice
Of vast, majestic virtues, which are Other Power?
Knowing truly that the Primal Vow―
The perfect One Vehicle that brings about sudden attainment―
Grasps those who commit grave offenses and transgressions,
We are quickly brought to realize that blind passions and enlightenment are not two in substance.
perfect One Vehicle that brings about sudden attainment: Embracing all the eighty thousand sacred teachings, without lacking any in the slightest, is referred to as “perfect” and as “sudden attainment”.
blind passions and enlightenment are not two in substance: Blind passions and enlightenment become one body and are not two.
Of the five inconceivabilities taught in the sutras,
The inconceivability of the power of the Buddha-dharma is supreme;
The inconceivability of the power of the Buddha-dharma
Refers to Amida’s universal Vow.
Amida has fulfilled the directing of virtue,
Which has two aspects: that for our going forth and that for our return.
Through these aspects of the Buddha’s directing of virtue,
We are brought to realize both mind and practice.
our going forth and our return: The aspect for our going forth is the directing of virtue that seeks to bring us to birth in the Pure Land. The aspect for our return refers to Amida’s directing of virtue so that after going to the Pure Land we are enabled to perform the activity of Samantabhadra and benefit sentient beings.
The directing of virtue for our going forth is such that
When Amida’s active means toward us reaches fulfillment,
We realize the shinjin and practice of the compassionate Vow;
Then birth-and-death is itself nirvana.
The directing of virtue for our return to this world is such that
We attain the resultant state of benefiting and guiding others;
Immediately reentering the world of beings,
We engage in the compassionate activity that is the virtue of Samantabhadra.
beings: all the sentient beings throughout the ten quarters.
Samantabhadra: [the bodhisattva manifesting] the Buddha’s compassion in its complete fullness.
Vasubandhu speaks, in his Treatise, of “the mind that is single”;
Master T’an-luan, in his commentary, explains that
This is shinjin―itself Other Power―
That we who are possessed of blind passions attain.
The unhindered light filling the ten quarters
Shines on the beings in the darkness of ignorance
And unfailingly brings to attainment of nirvana
The person who realize the one thought-moment of joy.
Through the benefit of the unhindered light,
We realize shinjin of vast, majestic virtues,
And the ice of our blind passions necessarily melts,
Immediately becoming water of enlightenment.
Obstructions of karmic evil turn into virtues;
It is like the relation of ice and water:
The more the ice, the more the water;
The more the obstructions, the more the virtues.
obstructions: karmic evil and blind passions. If the amount of karmic evil is great, the amount of virtue is great.
The ocean of the inconceivable Name does not hold unchanged
The corpses of the five grave offenses and slander of the dharma;
The myriad rivers of evil acts, on entering it,
Become one in taste with the ocean water of virtues.
Rivers of blind passions, on entering the ocean―
The great, compassionate Vow
Of unhindered light filling the ten quarters―
Become one in taste with that sea of wisdom.
Being born in the Buddha-land of happiness
Is the path to ultimate attainment of Buddhahood;
All the Buddhas acclaim the Pure Land,
For birth there is the unsurpassed means.
path (dōro): Dō means “broad path”, ro means “narrow path”.
T’an-luan teaches that the Buddhas adorn their three modes of action,
So that they are characterized by ultimate nondiscrimination;
This is to heal the bodily, verbal, and mental acts of beings,
Which are false and delusional.
nondiscrimination: There is no differentiation of anything.
false (literally, “empty”) and delusional: vain and insane; karmic evil and blind passions.
heal: to help or save. This is a homonym to the word meaning “to do away with”.
T’an-luan teaches that we reach the Buddha-land of happiness
Solely with the Name―the unsurpassed gem―
And true shinjin,
For those born there follow no other way.
unsurpassed gem: the wish-fulfilling jewel. If this jewel is placed in muddy water, not only will the water become clear, but there will be no discoloration. If crystal is put in muddy water, there will be discoloration. Thus, the myriad practices and good acts are likened to crystal, the Name to the jewel.
Although initially there are nine grades of beings,
Because the birth attained through Amida’s pure Primal Vow
Is birth that is no-birth,
The Pure Land is free of such discrimination.
birth that is no-birth: birth that is apart from birth in the six courses. Persons of true and real shinjin are not born in the six courses or four forms of birth; hence, “no-birth”.
nine grades of beings: Although originally there are nine grades of sentient beings, once they have been born in the fulfilled land, not a single one is differentiated.
The Name of the Tathagata of unhindered light
And the light that is the embodiment of wisdom
Dispel the darkness of the long night of ignorance
And fulfill the aspirations of sentient beings.
Master T’an-luan explains
That failing to practice in accord with reality
Means first, that shinjin is not genuine in that person,
For it appears to exist at times, and not to exist at others.
failing to practice in accord with reality: not in accord with the teachings.
appears to exist . . . and not to exist: at times one is convinced that one will attain birth and at other times one feels that one will not.
Second, shinjin is not single,
For it lacks decisiveness;
And third, shinjin is not enduring,
For it is disrupted by other thoughts.
disrupted by other thoughts: Because of the mixture there is no shinjin.
The practicer should remember that these three aspects of [untrue] shinjin
Are established with one leading to another:
Because one’s shinjin is not genuine,
It is not shinjin that is decisive.
Because it is not shinjin that is decisive,
Mindfulness does not endure;
Because mindfulness does not endure,
One does not realize shinjin that is decisive.
Because one does not realize shinjin that is decisive,
It is not genuine; thus T’an-luan teaches.
Whether practice is fully in accord with reality
Is determined solely by shinjin.
practice in accord with reality: to entrust oneself to Amida in accord with the teaching.
Having turned from the little road
Of a myriad practices and good acts
And entered the great path of the Primal Vow, which is true reality,
We will quickly attain the enlightenment of nirvana.
King Hsiao, the Emperor of Liang,
Always faced in the direction
Of our teacher and paid homage to him,
Calling him Bodhisattva Luan.
Here ends the Hymns on
Seven Hymns based on his Writings
Setting aside the myriad practices of the Path of Sages,
Our teacher, Master Tao-ch’o,
Proclaims the single gate of the Pure Land way
As the only path that affords passage.
note: Tao-ch’o abandoned his study in the Nirvana school and wholly took refuge in the Pure Land path.
Setting aside his extensive work on the Nirvana Sutra,
Our teacher, Master Tao-ch’o,
Entrusted himself to Other Power―the working of the Primal Vow―
And urged the multitudes of the world of the five defilements to do so also.
Sentient beings of the five defilements in the last dharma-age
May perform the practices of the Path of Sages,
But not one will thereby attain realization;
So states the World-honored one, the master of the teaching.
Following the teaching of Master T’an-luan,
Master Tao-ch’o also determined
That to awaken aspiration for enlightenment and perform practices in this world
Is the way of self-power.
Wrongdoing and evil acts in this defiled world
Are like violent winds and torrential rains;
All the Buddhas, sorrowed by this,
Urge us to take refuge in the Pure Land.
wrongdoing and evil acts: The commission of wrong and evil is rife.
Though we commit evil throughout our lives,
If we say the nembutsu always
With our hearts turned wholly to Amida,
Our obstructions fall away by the [Vow’s] spontaneous working.
In order to guide sentient beings
Even though they commit evil all their lives,
Amida urges them to “say the Name”,
Vowing not to attain Buddhahood “if they are not born”.
even though they commit evil all their lives: Even though we may commit evil all our lives, we should entrust ourselves to Amida’s Vow and be born in the Pure Land.
Here ends the Hymns on
Twenty-six Hymns based on his Writings
Manifested from the oceanlike great mind
Was Master Shan-tao;
For the sake of beings of this defiled world in the latter age,
He called on the Buddhas of the ten quarters to bear witness to his teaching.
his teaching: his Commentary on the Contemplation Sutra.
Shan-tao appeared in the world in succeeding ages,
Manifesting himself as Fa-chao and Shao-k’ang,
And by revealing the treasury of virtues,
He fulfilled the Buddhas’ fundamental intent.
treasury of virtues: He refers to the Name as the “treasury of virtues”, for all roots of good have been gathered in it.
If women did not entrust themselves to Amida’s Name and Vow,
They would never become free of the five obstructions,
Even though they passed through myriads of kalpas;
How, then, would their existence as women be transformed?
Śākyamuni, revealing the “essential” gate
To lead people of meditative and nonmeditative practices
And provisionally teaching the right and sundry practices,
Wholly urges us to perform the saying of the Name alone.
right and sundry practices: the five right practices and the five sundry practices. The five right practices [focusing on Amida Buddha] are: 1) worship, 2) recitation of the sutras, 3) contemplation, 4) saying the Name, and 5) praise and making offerings. When it is said that there are six right practices, praise and making offerings are listed separately.
Performing auxiliary and right practices together is “mixed praxis”;
Since those who endeavor in this way
Have not attained the mind that is single,
They lack the heart that responds in gratitude to the Buddha’s benevolence.
l. 1: Practices focused solely on Amida Buddha are called the “right practices”; practices focused on other Buddhas and other good acts are “sundry practices”. The four of the five right practices other than saying the Name are auxiliary practices. Solely and single-heartedly practicing the saying of the Name is “wholehearted single praxis”.
Practicers who pray for worldly benefits,
Although they may perform chiefly the saying of the Buddha’s Name,
Are also termed people of mixed praxis;
In rejecting such practice, it is taught that not one in a thousand attains birth.
not one in a thousand: Master Hui-kuan’s commentary states not one in ten thousand.
Although their meanings are not the same,
Sundry practices and mixed praxis are alike;
Acts which are not the practice that leads to the Pure Land
Are all termed sundry practices.
sundry practices and mixed praxis: Sundry practices are all the various practices; mixed praxis refers to performing the auxiliary acts while praying for benefits of this world.
Master Shan-tao, calling the Buddhas to bear witness,
Led us to overturn the two minds of meditative and nonmeditative practices;
Presenting the parable of the two rivers of greed and anger,
He ensured the safeguarding of the shinjin of the universal Vow.
calling the Buddhas to bear witness: Shan-tao addressed the Buddhas of the ten quarters, praying to them to become witnesses to his composition of a commentary on the Contemplation Sutra.
greed: to desire a woman, to desire a man.
anger: to be wrathful and enraged.
safeguarding (shugo): Shu means, for example, becoming the ruler of a country and protecting it; go means gathering all together and protecting, though not becoming the country’s ruler.
Even when the time of the extinction of the sutras has come,
Foolish beings, by encountering the true teaching of the universal Vow―
The exposition of which was the fundamental intent of the Tathagata’s appearance in the world―
Will think on Amida and attain enlightenment.
extinction of the sutras: the extinction of the Buddha’s teaching. There will be, for the ten thousand-year period of the last dharma-age, only accommodated teachings, not the real teaching. After the ten thousand years, the teaching of Amida will survive for one hundred years.
true teaching: to take the true and real as the essence. “True” is the opposite of temporary and provisional. The eighty-four thousand dharma-gates are provisional teachings. The Pure Land way alone in the true teaching.
The inconceivable working of the power of Buddha-dharma
Is such that external hindrances and karmic fetters do not obstruct us;
Hence, the universal, Primal Vow of Amida
Is termed the “decisive cause” of birth.
decisive cause: it is superior to all the various good acts.
The mind and practice of self-power do not bring one
Into the fulfilled land established through the power of the Vow;
Hence, sages of the Mahayana and Hinayana
All entrust themselves to Amida’s universal Vow.
When we come to know truly that we are possessed of blind passions,
And entrust ourselves to the power of the Primal Vow,
We will, on abandoning completely our defiled existence,
Realize the eternal bliss of dharma-nature.
Śākyamuni and Amida are our father and our mother,
Full of love and compassion for us;
Guiding us through various skillful means,
They bring us to awaken the supreme shinjin.
l 1: Śākyamuni is likened to our father, Amida to our mother.
awaken (hotsu-ki): Hotsu means to awaken what has existed from the past; ki means to give rise to something now, for the first time.
Persons who have thoroughly realized the true mind,
Because it is the diamondlike mind,
Are equal to those who accomplish
The three grades of repentance; this Shan-tao teaches.
diamondlike mind: true shinjin.
three grades of repentance: In the high grade, blood flows from the eyes and emerges from the body. In the middle grade, blood flows from the eyes and sweat issues from the body. In the low grade tears flow, and thoughts of repentance penetrate to the marrow.
Only with the diamondlike shinjin
Can we, living in the evil world of the five defilements,
Completely abandon birth-and-death forever
And reach the Pure Land of naturalness.
When the time comes
For shinjin, indestructible as diamond, to become settled,
Amida grasps and protects us with compassionate light,
So that we part forever from birth-and-death.
indestructible (kengo): Ken refers to firmness of mind; go refers to firmness of thought.
grasps and protects: We are grasped and protected in the mind of the Tathagata of unhindered light.
Concerning those who have not realized true and real shinjin,
Shan-tao teaches that they “lack one mind”;
Know, therefore, that all who lack this mind that is single
Do not yet possess the threefold shinjin.
threefold shinjin: shinjin of the Primal Vow.
Persons who realize the true entrusting that is [Amida’s] benefiting of others,
Because they are in correspondence with the Vow,
Accord with Śākyamuni’s teaching and the words of the Buddhas;
Thus, there is nothing that obstructs them.
obstructs: distracts and confuses.
Those who are free of even a moment of doubt,
Having been able to hear the nembutsu of the Pure Land way,
Are praised as “rare and excellent persons”,
And are ascertained to “have realized right-mindedness”.
free of even a moment of doubt: There is no doubting of the Primal Vow.
realized right-mindedness: to have shinjin that leads to birth in the Pure Land.
When people are not in correspondence with the Primal Vow,
Various conditions arise to trouble and confuse them.
To lose sight of shinjin in confusion
Is to “lose right-mindedness”.
Since shinjin arises from the Vow,
We attain Buddhahood through the nembutsu by the [Vow’s] spontaneous working.
The spontaneous working is itself the fulfilled land;
Our realization of supreme nirvana is beyond doubt.
The time has come when the five defilements increase;
Those who doubt and revile Amida’s Vow are numerous.
Both monks and lay people despise the nembutsu
And harm any they see engaging in it.
Those who revile and attack the Primal Vow
Are termed “persons completely blind to dharma” or “persons lacking the seed of Buddhahood”.
Passing kalpas numerous as the particles of the great earth,
They long sink in the three evil courses.
revile and attack: to say that the teaching one follows is superior and that the teaching others follow is inferior.
persons lacking the seed of Buddhahood: those for whom it is hard to attain Buddhahood; those wholly without trust in the Buddhist teaching.
particles: fine particles of dust; particles that alight on the tips of rabbit’s fur or sheep’s fleece. There is nothing more slender than such fur or fleece.
Although they have been given the teaching of the path to the West,
They have obstructed themselves and obstructed others from accepting it,
And so for vast kalpas since the distant past,
They have spent their lives meaninglessly and in vain.
Had we not received the power of the universal Vow,
When could we part from this Sahā world?
Reflecting deeply on the Buddha’s benevolence,
Let us think on Amida always.
Casting off long kalpas of painful existence in this world of Sahā,
We live in expectation of the Pure Land, the uncreated;
This is the power of our teacher, Śākyamuni;
Let us respond always in gratitude for his compassion and benevolence.
Here ends the Hymns on
Ten Hymns based on his Writings
Master Genshin stated:
“Originally a Buddha, I appeared in this world;
The conditions for teaching others having already run their course,
I am returning to my primal land.”
Our teacher Genshin earnestly set forth,
From among all the teachings of the Buddha’s lifetime,
The single gateway of the nembutsu,
And spread it among the beings of this defiled world in the latter age.
Master Genshin, who was among the assembly
That heard Śākyamuni on Vulture Peak,
Taught the difference between the fulfilled and transformed lands,
Thereby clearly setting forth the benefit of single praxis over mixed.
Our teacher, Master Genshin,
Following the discourse of Master Huai-kan,
Quoted the Sutra of the Bodhisattvas’ Dwelling in the Womb
To clarify the realm of indolence and pride.
l. 2: He clarified the nature of birth through various practices in accord with Response to Various Questions Concerning the Pure Land Teaching by Master Huai-kan.
l. 3: Fascicle 2 of the sutra, which explains the realm of indolence and pride and the borderland, is quoted.
In praise of persons of single practice,
He teaches that not one in a thousand will fail to attain birth;
In admonition of persons who perform mixed praxis,
He states that not one in ten thousand will be born.
l. 4: Not one in ten thousand will be born in the fulfilled land.
He declares that births into the fulfilled Pure Land
Are not numerous,
And teaches that sentient beings born into transformed lands
Are not few.
For all people―men and women, of high station and low―
Saying the Name of Amida is such
That whether one is walking, standing, sitting, or reclining is of no concern
And time, place, and condition are not restricted.
My eyes being hindered by blind passions,
I cannot perceive the light that grasps me;
Yet the great compassion, without tiring,
Illumines me always.
We who aspire for Amida’s fulfilled land,
Though we differ in outward condition and conduct,
Should truly receive the Name of the Primal Vow
And never forget it, whether waking or sleeping.
conduct: waking, standing, sitting, reclining; the four modes of physical activity.
For sentient beings of extreme evil, profound and immense,
There is no other way;
Wholeheartedly saying the Name of Amida,
We will be born into the Pure Land.
no other way: It is hard to gain liberation from birth-and-death through other forms of good or the means taught by other Buddhas and bodhisattvas.
Here ends the Hymns on
*Genshin is the name of the Master of Eshin-in in Ryōgon-in temple.
He is also known by the name “Eshin-in”,
which is his “monk’s residence” name.
[ SHINRAN’S NOTE ]
Master Genkū ( Hōnen )
Twenty Hymns based on his Writings and biography
As our teacher Genkū appeared in the world
And spread the One Vehicle of the universal Vow,
Throughout the entire country of Japan
Favorable conditions for the Pure Land teaching emerged.
Our teacher Genkū appeared
Through the power of the Light of Wisdom,
And revealing the true Pure Land way,
He taught the selected Primal Vow.
Though Shan-tao and Genshin urged all to enter the true Pure Land way,
If our teacher Genkū had not spread it among us
On these isolated islands in this defiled age,
How could we ever have awakened to it?
Through countless kalpas and innumerable lives,
We did not know the strong cause of liberation;
Were it not for our teacher Genkū,
This present life also would pass in vain.
Genkū, at the age of fifteen,
Became aware of the reality of impermanence;
Manifesting a long-cherished aspiration to reject this defiled world,
He entered the path to enlightenment.
The supreme virtues of Genkū’s wisdom and practice were such
That even the teachers in the various schools of the Path of Sages
All turned to him for guidance and revered him
As master of the diamondlike precepts embodied in the one-mind.
teachers in the various schools: Genkū’s teachers in the Path of Sages later all turned to him for guidance.
l. 4: The teachers of the various schools all became Genkū’s disciples.
When Genkū was alive
He emanated a golden light,
Which the Chancellor, an ordained layman,
Saw before him.
Chancellor: The regent Kanezane; the kampaku. The lord Tsukinowa, whose Buddhist name was Enshō.
It was said among the people
That the original state of our teacher Genkū
Was Master Tao-ch’o,
Or again, Master Shan-tao.
Genkū appeared as Mahāsthāmaprāpta,
And also as Amida.
Emperors and ministers venerated him,
And the ordinary people in the capital and the countryside revered him.
The ordained retired emperor of the Jōkyū era
Revered our teacher Genkū;
Monks of Śākyamuni’s tradition and scholars of the Chinese classics
All alike awakened to and entered the true Pure Land way.
Retired emperor: Gotakakura-in.
When the time came for the Buddhas’ guidance through skillful means,
They appeared as Master Genkū
And, teaching supreme shinjin,
Opened the gateway to nirvana.
To encounter a true teacher
Is difficult even among difficult things;
There is no cause for endlessly turning in transmigration
Greater than the hindrance of doubt.
Genkū emanated a radiance
Which he always revealed to his followers,
Without discriminating between the wise and ignorant
Or between those of high station and low.
When the moment of death approached,
Our teacher Genkū said,
“This is my third time to be born in the Pure Land;
It is especially easy to accomplish.”
Genkū himself said,
“Formerly, I was among the assembly on Vulture Peak;
I practiced austerities with other sravakas
And guided beings to the Buddhist path.”
Born on isolated islands scattered like millet in the sea,
He spread the teaching of the nembutsu;
In order to guide sentient beings,
He came into this world many times.
isolated islands: scattered like millet: this country of Japan.
Amida Tathagata, manifesting form in this world,
Appeared as our teacher Genkū;
The conditions for teaching having run their course,
He returned to the Pure Land.
At the death of our teacher Genkū,
Radiant light shone in the sky like purple clouds;
Music sounded, subtle and elegant,
And the air was fragrant with rare perfumes.
Monks and laypeople, men and women, gathered beforehand;
Ministers and nobles assembled in numbers.
Lying on his right side with head to the north, facing the West,
He observed the manner of the Tathagata’s passing into nirvana.
The death of our teacher Genkū
Came in 1212, in early spring;
On the twenty-fifth day of the first month,
He returned to the Pure Land.
Here ends the Hymns on
Here ends the Hymns of
the Pure Land Masters
When sentient beings of the evil world of the five defilements
Entrust themselves to the selected Primal Vow,
Virtues beyond description, explanation, and conceptual understanding
Fill those practicers.
Listed above are Seven Masters
Born on the 1st day of the first month
in the first year of Emperor Bidatsu,
1521 years after the passing of the Buddha.
It is taught, concerning Namo-amida-butsu,
That its virtue is like the vast waters of the ocean;
Having myself received that pure good,
I direct it equally to all sentient beings.