Notes on the Inscriptions on
Sacred Scrolls

 

^It is stated in the Larger Sutra of Immeasurable Life:

If, when I attain Buddhahood, the sentient beings of the ten quarters, with sincere mind entrusting themselves, aspiring to be born in my land, and saying my Name perhaps even ten times, should not be born there, may I not attain the supreme enlightenment. Excluded are those who commit the five grave offenses and those who slander the right dharma.

^It is stated in the Larger Sutra of Immeasurable Life: the sutra that teaches the Tathagata’s Forty-eight Vows.

 ^If, when I attain Buddhahood: “If, when I have attained Buddhahood.”

 ^The sentient beings of the ten quarters: all the beings throughout the ten quarters.

 ^With sincere mind entrusting themselves: Sincere means true and real. “True and real” refers to the Vow of the Tathagata being true and real; this is what sincere mind means. From the very beginning sentient beings, who are filled with blind passions, lack a mind true and real, a heart of purity, for they are possessed of defilements, evil, and wrong views. Entrusting is to be free of doubt, believing deeply and without any double-mindedness that the Tathagata’s Primal Vow is true and real. This entrusting with sincere mind, then, is that arising from the Vow in which Amida urges every being throughout the ten quarters, “Entrust yourself to my Vow, which is true and real”; it does not arise from the hearts and minds of foolish beings of self-power.

 ^Aspiring to be born in my land: “Out of the entrusting with sincere mind that is Other Power, aspire to be born in the Pure Land of happiness!”

 ^Saying my Name perhaps even ten times: In encouraging us to say the Name that embodies the Vow, the Tathagata added perhaps even to the words ten times to show that there is no set number of times the Name must be said and to teach sentient beings that there is no determined hour or occasion for saying it. Since we have been given this Vow by the Tathagata, we can take any occasion in daily life for saying the Name and need not wait to recite it at the very end of life; we should simply give ourselves up totally to the entrusting with sincere mind of the Tathagata. When persons realize this true and real shinjin, they enter completely into the compassionate light that grasps, never to abandon, and hence become established in the stage of the truly settled. Thus it is written.

 ^Should not to be born there, may I not attain the supreme enlightenment: “If the person who has realized entrusting with sincere mind is not born in my Pure Land, may I not become a Buddha.” This, the essential purport of the Primal Vow, can be found fully explained in the Essentials of Faith Alone. “Faith alone” is the heart that aspires solely to this true and real entrusting.

 ^Excluded are those who commit the five grave offenses and those who slander the right dharma: Excluded means that those who commit the five grave offenses are rejected and reveals how grave the evil of slandering the dharma is. By showing the gravity of these two kinds of wrongdoing, these words make us realize that all the sentient beings throughout the ten quarters, without a single exception, will be born in the Pure Land.

^It further states:

The power of the Buddha’s Primal Vow is such

That those who, hearing the Name, aspire for birth,

All reach that land―

Their attainment of nonretrogression coming about of itself.

^The power of the Buddha’s Primal Vow: the power of the Primal Vow of Amida.

 ^Hearing the Name, aspire for birth: Hearing is to entrust oneself to the Name that embodies the Tathagata’s Vow.

 Aspire for birth: “Aspire to be born in the land of purity and happiness!”

 ^All reach that land: Those who entrust themselves to the Name embodying the Vow and desire to be born will all, without exception, reach the Pure Land.

 ^Their attainment of nonretrogression coming about of itself: Of itself (ji) means that the calculation of sentient beings is not involved at all; it being made to become so, one is brought to attainment of the stage of nonretrogression. Of itself expresses jinen.

 Attainment is to reach, to take as the essence. Thus: “The persons who entrust themselves to the Name embodying the Tathagata’s Primal Vow are brought to the stage of nonretrogression naturally, by jinen. Realize that you should take this as the essence.”

 Nonretrogression is the stage at which a person becomes settled as one who will necessarily attain Buddhahood. With these words, Śākyamuni teaches us to take teaching the stage of the truly settled as the essence.

^It further states:

Necessarily one achieves the abandoning of this world, transcending and parting from it, and attains birth in the land of peace. One cuts off crosswise the five evil courses and the evil courses close naturally (jinen). Ascending the way is without limit; to go is easy and yet no one is born there. Never at variance with that land, one is drawn there by its spontaneous working (jinen).

^Necessarily one achieves the abandoning of this world, transcending and parting from it, and attains birth in the land of peace. Necessarily means it has become settled. It further expresses the working of jinen. Parting from: to sever, cast away, and become free of. Abandoning: to cast away, go forth, depart. This passage means that one transcends, becomes free of, and departs from transmigration in birth-and-death, cutting off and abandoning this Sahā world; it means that one shall definitely attain birth in the Pure Land of peace. Peace expresses praise of Amida and indicates the Pure Land of happiness.

 ^One cuts off crosswise the five evil courses and the evil courses close naturally (jinen). Crosswise: laterally or transcendently. This means that because persons entrust themselves to the power of Tathagata’s Vow―this is the absence of calculation on the part of the practicer―they cut off and abandon the five evil courses and become free of the four modes of birth naturally, by jinen; it signifies Other Power. This is the meaning of “crosswise leap.” “Crosswise” is used in contrast with lengthwise, “leap” in contrast with going around. “Lengthwise” and “going around” characterize the self-power Path of Sages; the crosswise leap is the fundamental intent of the true teaching of Other Power.

 Cuts off means to sever crosswise the bonds of the five evil courses. The evil courses close naturally: When a person takes refuge in the power of the Vow, the five courses of birth-and-death are closed off; hence, close naturally. That is, drawn by the Primal Vow as the karmic cause, one attains birth in the Pure Land naturally, by jinen.

 ^Ascending the way is without limit. Ascending: attaining the supreme nirvana. Way: the enlightenment of great nirvana.

 ^To go is easy and yet no one is born there. To go is easy: When persons allow themselves to be carried by the power of the Primal Vow, they are certain to be born in the land that has been fulfilled through it; hence, it is easy to go there. No one is born there: Because people of true and real shinjin are extremely rare, those born in the true fulfilled land are few. Hence, Master Genshin states that those born in the fulfilled Pure Land are extremely few; those born in the transformed Pure Land are many.

 ^Never at variance with that land, one is drawn there by its spontaneous working (jinen). That land is the Pure Land of peace. Never at variance means not upside down, not at variance. Through the karmic power of the great Vow, the person who has realized true and real shinjin naturally is in accord with the cause of birth in the Pure Land and is drawn by the Buddha’s karmic power; hence the going is easy, and ascending to and attaining the supreme great nirvana is without limit. Thus the words, one is drawn there by its spontaneous working (jinen). One is drawn there naturally by the cause of birth, the entrusting with sincere mind that is Other Power; this is the meaning of drawn. Jinen means that there is no calculating on the part of the practicer.

^The inscription in praise of Bodhisattva Mahāsthāmaprāpta:

^The Sutra on the Samadhi of Heroic Advance states,

Mahāsthāmaprāpta realized the perfect, all-pervasive truth of the nembutsu: The dharma-prince Mahāsthāmaprāpta, along with his company of fifty-two bodhisattvas, directly rose from his seat and, prostrating himself at the feet of the Buddha, addressed him, “I recall that ages ago, past kalpas countless as the sands of the Ganges, a Buddha named Immeasurable Light appeared in the world. He was the first of twelve Tathagatas who succeeded each other, each abiding for one kalpa. The last Buddha was named Light that Surpasses the Sun and Moon; this Buddha taught me the nembutsu-samadhi. . . . If sentient beings are mindful of Amida Buddha and say the Name, without fail they will see the Buddha in the present and in the future. The Buddha will never be far from them. Without depending on any expedient means they will naturally attain awakening in their hearts. They are like persons who, imbued with incense, possess its fragrance; hence, they are called ‘those adorned with the fragrance of light.’ When at first I was in the bodhisattva stage I attained insight into the nonorigination of all existence with the heart of the nembutsu. Now in this world I embrace persons of the nembutsu and bring them to the Pure Land.”

^Mahāsthāmaprāpta realized the perfect, all-pervasive truth of the nembutsu: Bodhisattva Mahāsthāmaprāpta realized the nembutsu. Realized refers to the realization of enlightenment while in the bodhisattva stage. Thus, it was the nembutsu to which Bodhisattva Mahāsthāmaprāpta was enlightened.

 ^The dharma-prince Mahāsthāmaprāpta, along with his company: fifty-two bodhisattvas and Mahāsthāmaprāpta are companions in a single group.

 ^Directly rose from his seat and, prostrating himself at the feet of the Buddha, addressed him:

 ^I recall that ages ago: “I look back, kalpas countless as the sands of the Ganges in the past.”

 ^A Buddha named Immeasurable Light appeared in the world: A Buddha, Amida Tathagata, appeared in the world. This Buddha of twelve kinds of radiance appeared in the world twelve times; this is expressed, twelve Tathagatas who succeeded each other, each abiding for one kalpa. Twelve Tathagatas refers to the names for Amida Tathagata’s twelve kinds of radiance. Succeeded each other, each abiding for one kalpa refers to the twelve appearances in this world by the Buddha of the twelve kinds of radiance.

 ^The last Buddha was named Light that Surpasses the Sun and Moon: The last Buddha―the final appearance in the world of the Buddha of twelve kinds of radiance―was called Buddha of Light that Surpasses the Sun and Moon.

 ^This Buddha taught me the nembutsu-samadhi: The final Buddha, Buddha whose Light Transcends the Sun and Moon, taught Mahāsthāmaprāpta the nembutsu-samadhi.

 ^If sentient beings are mindful of Amida Buddha and say the Name: If a sentient being keeps the Buddha in mind and says the Name. Without fail they will see the Buddha in the present and in the future. The Buddha will never be far from them. Without depending on any expedient means they will naturally attain awakening in their hearts: Both in this life and in the future they will see the Buddha without fail. The Buddha will never be apart from them. Without depending on expedient means, they will attain enlightenment naturally, by jinen.

 ^They are like persons who, imbued with incense, possess its fragrance: A person with the heart of the nembutsu is like one whose body is possessed of fragrance; the heart of Mahāsthāmaprāpta is thus likened to a person possessing fragrance. ^Hence it is stated, he is called “one adorned with the fragrance of light.” Bodhisattva Mahāsthāmaprāpta, possessing the heart of the nembutsu within his heart, is likened to a person imbued with incense. He therefore states, When at first I was in the bodhisattva stage I attained insight into the nonorigination of all existence with the heart of the nembutsu. Now in this world: now in this Sahā world. I embrace persons of the nembutsu and bring them to the Pure Land: “Taking in persons of the nembutsu, I bring them into the Pure Land.”

^The inscription in praise of Bodhisattva Nāgārjuna:

^The Commentary on the Ten Bodhisattva Stages states,

Those who think on Amida Buddha’s

Immeasurable power and virtues

Immediately enter the stage of the definitely settled;

For this reason I constantly think on Amida.

If persons aspire to attain Buddhahood

And think on Amida in their hearts,

At that moment the Buddha will appear before them;

For this reason I take refuge.

^Those who think on Amida Buddha’s immeasurable power and virtues: one should ponder the immeasurable virtues of the Buddha.

 ^Immediately enter the stage of the definitely settled: The moment persons entrust themselves to the Buddha, they enter the stage of the definitely settled. Enter the stage of the definitely settled: When a person thinks on Amida truly, without fail he or she becomes established in the stage of the truly settled.

 ^For this reason I constantly think on Amida:

 ^If persons aspire to attain Buddhahood and think on Amida in their hearts: If persons aspire to attain Buddhahood, they should think in their hearts on Amida. When they think on Amida, at that moment the Buddha will appear before them. Appear before them: The Tathagata will appear for the sake of persons who entrust themselves.

 ^For this reason I take refuge: Bodhisattva Nāgārjuna constantly takes refuge in Amida Tathagata.

^The treatise of Bodhisattva Vasubandhu states:

O World-honored one, with the mind that is single

I take refuge in the Tathagata of unhindered light

Filling the ten quarters

And aspire to be born in the land of happiness.

Relying on the sutras

In which the manifestation of the true and real virtues is taught,

I compose a gatha of aspiration, a condensation,1

1 This line is usually read: “I compose a gatha of aspiration [for birth in the Pure Land] in a condensed form. . . .”

That accords with the Buddha’s teaching.

Contemplating the features of that world,

I see that it transcends the three realms.

It is infinite, like space,

Vast and boundless.

^It further states,

Contemplating the power of the Buddha’s Primal Vow,

I see that no one who encounters it passes by in vain;

It quickly brings to fullness and perfection

The great treasure ocean of virtues.

^The treatise of Bodhisattva Vasubandhu states: Vasubandhu is an Indian name. In China he is called Bodhisattva T’ien-ch’in and, more recently, Bodhisattva Shih-ch’in. Old translations have T’ien-ch’in, new ones Shih-ch’in. The treatise states: Treatise refers to the work written by Bodhisattva Vasubandhu to expound Amida’s Primal Vow. States means to reveal the essential meaning. This treatise is the Treatise on the Pure Land, also known as the Treatise on Birth in the Pure Land.

 ^O World-honored one, with the mind that is single, I: The World-honored one is Śākyamuni Tathagata. I: Bodhisattva Vasubandhu declares himself. With the mind that is single: to be without doubt or double-mindedness concerning the words of the World-honored one, the master of the teaching. This is none other than true shinjin.

 ^Take refuge in the Tathagata of unhindered light filling the ten quarters: Take refuge translates Namu. It means to follow the command of the Tathagata. The Tathagata of unhindered light filling the ten quarters is Amida Tathagata. This Tathagata is light. Filling the ten quarters: Filling means going to the ends; completely. The light goes completely to the ends of the worlds throughout the ten quarters. Unhindered: unimpeded by the blind passions and karmic evil of sentient beings. Tathagata of light: Amida Buddha. This Tathagata is called the Buddha of light surpassing conceptual understanding and is the form of wisdom. Know that Amida pervades the lands countless as particles throughout the ten quarters.

 ^And aspire to be born in the land of happiness: Saying the Name and entrusting himself to this Buddha of unhindered light, Bodhisattva Vasubandhu aspires to be born in the land of happiness.

 ^Relying on the sutras in which the manifestation of the true and real virtues is taught, I: With I, Vasubandhu, the author of the treatise, declares himself. Relying on the sutras: Sutra is an Indian term for the recorded words of the Buddha, including both the Mahayana and Hinayana teachings. Here, however, “sutra” indicates the Mahayana sutras, not those of the Hinayana. The “three scriptures” which we use are Mahayana sutras, and Vasubandhu’s phrase means “depending on these three Mahayana sutras.” True and real virtues: the sacred Name that embodies the Vow. Manifestation: form.

 ^Compose a gatha of aspiration, a condensation: Gatha here refers to words that express the essence of the Primal Vow. A condensation is wisdom, the wisdom of unhindered light.

 ^That accords with the Buddha’s teaching means that the content of the Treatise on the Pure Land conforms with Śākyamuni’s teaching and Amida’s Vow.

 ^Contemplating the features of that world, I see that it transcends the three realms: He sees that world of happiness to be boundless, like empty space; its breadth and vastness are likened to empty space.

 ^Contemplating the power of the Buddha’s Primal Vow, I see that no one who encounters it passes by in vain: Beholding the power of the Tathagata’s Primal Vow, I see that people who entrust themselves to it do not meaninglessly remain in samsaric life here.

 ^It quickly brings to fullness and perfection the great treasure ocean of virtues: Able to bring quickly means that the great treasure ocean of virtues is effectively brought to perfect fulfillment in the persons who entrust themselves to the power of the Primal Vow. The boundlessness, expansiveness, and all-inclusiveness of the Tathagata’s virtues is likened to the unobstructed fullness of the waters of the great ocean.

^The inscription on the portrait of Ch’i dynasty master T’an-luan:

^The monk T’an-luan, disciple of Śākyamuni, was a native of Wen-shui district in Ping-chou. He lived from the latter part of the Wei dynasty to the beginning of the northern Ch’i dynasty. Of towering and wondrous intellect, he was renowned in the three counties, and his penetrating insight into the sutras set him apart from all others. The ruler of Liang, King Hsiao, always turned to the north and paid homage to T’an-luan as to a bodhisattva. T’an-luan wrote a commentary on the Treatise on Birth in the Pure Land in two fascicles.

 This passage is taken from the three-fascicle Treatise on the Pure Land Teaching by Chia-ts’ai, disciple of Śākyamuni.

^The monk T’an-luan, disciple of Śākyamuni, was a native of Wen-shui district in Ping-chou: Ping-chou is the name of a province. Wen-shui district is a place name.

 ^He lived from the latter part of the Wei dynasty to the beginning of the northern Ch’i dynasty: The latter part of the Wei dynasty is an era in Chinese history.

 ^Of towering and wondrous intellect extols the master’s wisdom as incomparable.

 ^He was renowned in the three counties: Three countries refers to the Wei, Ch’i, and Liang dynasties. Renowned: He was famous throughout these three countries.

 ^Penetrating insight into the sutras: He attained a profound and extensive knowledge of a wide range of scriptures. Set him apart from all others: He was preeminent among men.

 ^The ruler of Liang: a king during the Liang dynasty named Hsiao. Always turned to the north and paid homage: This king of Liang always paid homage to T’an-luan, who was in the north, as to a bodhisattva.

 ^Commentary on the Treatise on Birth in the Pure Land: He composed a detailed exegesis of the Treatise on the Pure Land known as the ‘commentary [that is a bodhisattva’s] treatise’. In two fascicles: This commentary comprises two fascicles.

 ^Three-fascicle Treatise on the Pure Land Teaching by Chia-ts’ai, disciple of Śākyamuni: Chia-ts’ai was a patriarch of the Pure Land teaching and a man of wisdom. These words praising T’an-luan appear in this venerable man’s three-fascicle work, the Treatise on the Pure Land Teaching.

^The inscription on the portrait f the T’ang dynasty master Shan-tao of Kuang-ming temple:

^Chih-yung praises the extraordinary virtue of Shan-tao: “Shan-tao is an incarnation of Amida Buddha. To say the Buddha’s six-character Name is to praise the Buddha; it is to repent; it is to awaken the aspiration for birth and turn over the virtue. All the roots of good adorn the Pure Land.

^Chih-yung was a venerable monk of China. He praises the extraordinary virtue of Shan-tao, “Shan-tao is an incarnation of Amida Buddha.”

 ^To say the Buddha’s six-character Name: to say Namu-amida-butsu. ^Is to praise the Buddha: To say Namu-amida-butsu is to praise the Buddha.

 ^Further, it is to repent: To say Namu-amida-butsu is to repent all the karmic evil one has committed since the beginningless past.

 ^It is to awaken the aspiration for birth and turn over the virtue: To say Namu-amida-butsu is to desire to be born in the Pure Land of peace. Further, it is to give this virtue to all sentient beings.

 ^All the roots of good adorn the Pure Land: Know that the Buddha has gathered all roots of good into the three syllables, A-mi-da, so that to say the Name, Namu-amida-butsu, is to adorn the Pure Land. Such is Master Chih-yung’s praise of Shan-tao.

^Master Shan-tao states:

Namu means “to take refuge.” It further signifies aspiring for birth and directing virtue. Amida-butsu is the practice. Because of this import, one necessarily attains birth.2

2 Shan-tao’s literal meaning is: “Amida-butsu is the fulfilled practice. Because Namu-amida-butsu has this import, one necessarily attains birth.”

^Namu means “to take refuge.” “To take refuge” is to respond to the command and follow the call of the two honored ones, Śākyamuni and Amida. Thus Shan-tao explains, Namu means to take refuge.

 ^It further signifies aspiring for birth and directing virtue: the aspiration to be born in the Pure Land of happiness in response to the call of the two honored ones.

 ^Amida-butsu is explained as the practice, which means we should know that the fulfilled practice is none other than the Primal Vow in which Bodhisattva Dharmākara selected the Name. It is the act-as-cause by which birth in the Pure Land of peace is truly settled.

 ^Because of this import: since it has the import of being the cause by which birth is truly settled.

 ^One necessarily attains birth: Attain means to be brought to attainment. Birth means to be born in the Pure Land. Necessarily: One is brought to the attainment of birth naturally, by jinen. Jinen means that one does not calculate in any way whatever.

^Further he states:

Concerning the expression, Each living thing being grasped by Amida, a manifestation of the decisive cause of birth: it is declared among the Forth-eight Vows taught in the Larger Sutra of Immeasurable Life, “If, when I attain Buddhahood, the sentient beings of the ten quarters, aspiring to be born in my land, saying my Name even down to ten times, and being carried by the power of my Vow, were not to be born there, then may I not attain perfect enlightenment.” This means that practicers who aspire to be born are grasped by the power of the Vow and brought to attainment of birth when their lives end. Hence the expression, Each living thing being grasped by Amida, a manifestation of the decisive cause of birth.

^Each living thing being grasped by Amida, a manifestation of the decisive cause of birth: Each living thing being grasped means that in the Vow Amida grasps every sentient being throughout the ten quarters.

 ^Among the Forth-eight Vows taught in the Larger Sutra of Immeasurable Life: Know that what follows are the words of Śākyamuni teaching Amida Tathagata’s Primal Vow.

 ^If, when I attain Buddhahood: Bodhisattva Dharmākara vows, “If, when I have attained Buddhahood.”

 ^The sentient beings of the ten quarters: All the beings throughout the ten quarters―ourselves.

 ^Aspiring to be born in my land exhorts us, “Aspire to be born in the Pure Land of bliss!”

 ^Saying my Name: “When I have attained Buddhahood, my Name shall be uttered.”

 ^Even down to ten times refers to people who say the Name as few as ten times. Even down to means that neither those who say the Name more than ten times nor those who only hear the Name are omitted or excluded from birth in the Pure Land.

 ^Being carried by the power of my Vow: Entrust is a command to allow oneself to be carried by the power of the Primal Vow. It further connotes wisdom. Wisdom is to know that Amida brings one to ride on the power of the Vow. It is to know that, being carried by the power of the Vow, one will be born in the Pure Land of bliss.

 ^Were not to be born there, then may I not attain perfect enlightenment: “If people who entrust themselves to the Vow are not born in the true land fulfilled by the Primal Vow, I shall not become a Buddha.”

 ^This means that practicers who aspire to be born are grasped by the power of the Vow and brought to attainment of birth ^when their lives end: ^Grasped by the karmic power fulfilled through the great Vow, one is brought to the attainment of birth. This refers to the person who has already realized shinjin in ordinary times, not to one who becomes definitely settled in shinjin and who is blessed with Amida’s compassionate grasp for the first time at the point of death. Since persons who have realized the diamondlike mind have been grasped and protected by the light of Amida’s heart from ordinary times, they dwell in the stage of the truly settled. Thus the moment of death is not the crucial matter; from ordinary times they have been constantly grasped and protected, never to be abandoned, and so is said to be grasped by the power of the Vow and brought to attainment of birth. Hence the expression, each living thing being grasped by Amida, a manifestation of the decisive cause of birth.

 ^There may be people lacking true shinjin in ordinary times who, by the merit of having long engaged in saying the Name, first encounter the guidance of a true teacher and realize shinjin at the very end of their lives; at that moment, being grasped by the power of the Vow, they attain birth. But those who await Amida’s coming at the end of life have yet to realize shinjin and so are filled with anxiety, anticipating the moment of death.

^Further he states:

Concerning the expression “Being protected by Amida, a manifestation of the decisive cause of birth in the Pure Land”: . . . There are sentient beings who solely think on Amida Buddha; only these people are constantly illumined by the light of that Buddha’s heart, grasped and protected, never to be abandoned. It is not at all stated that any practicers of various other acts are illumined and embraced. This is being protected in the present life, a manifestation of the decisive cause of birth in the Pure Land.

^Being protected by Amida, a manifestation of the decisive cause of birth in the Pure Land means that the person who has realized true shinjin is constantly protected in this life.

 ^There are sentient beings who solely think on Amida Buddha refers to thinking on Amida Buddha wholeheartedly and without any doubt.

 ^Only these people are constantly illumined by the light of that Buddha’s heart: The light of that Buddha’s heart is the heart of the Buddha of unhindered light.

 ^Constantly illumined: Constantly means that Amida’s light illumines the person of true shinjin always, without interruption, at all times and places. Illumined means that one is taken into the Buddha’s heart.

 ^The light of that Buddha’s heart: Know that one is grasped by the heart of Amida Buddha.

 ^These people: people who have realized shinjin. “Constantly protected” means that such people are not defeated by the demon Pāpīyas or confused by evil demons and gods, for they are grasped and protected, never to be abandoned.

 ^It is not stated at all that any practicers of various other acts are illumined and embraced: Not one of those who perform sundry practices and disciplines is illumined, taken in, and protected. That such practicers are not illumined and protected means that they are not blessed with the benefit of being grasped, never to be abandoned. Know that this is because they are not practicers who have entrusted themselves to the Primal Vow. Hence it is not stated that such people are grasped and protected, never to be abandoned.

 ^This is being protected in the present life, a manifestation of the decisive cause of birth: The person of true shinjin is protected in this present life. Decisive cause: the unexcelled, strong cause.

^The inscription in praise of Prince Shōtoku:

^The biography states,

Prince Ajwa, son of King Seong Myong of the country of Paikche, bowed and said, “Homage to greatly compassionate Bodhisattva Avalokiteśvara, world savior. For forty-nine years you spread the wondrous teaching to the east in Japan, transmitting the lamp and preaching the dharma.”

^Further,

Saint Ilra of the country of Silla bowed and said, “Homage to the great Bodhisattva Avalokiteśvara, world savior, the king of millet-scattered islands who transmits the lamp to the east.”

^The biography: a biography of Prince Shōtoku.

 ^Paikche is the country in which Prince Shōtoku was born in his previous life.

 ^King Seong Myong was the king of Paikche when Prince Shōtoku dwelled there.

 ^Prince Ajwa bowed and said: Ajwa was King Seong Myong’s son. The king, longing to see Prince Shōtoku and grieved by his death, had a statue of him cast in gilt bronze. Hearing that Prince Shōtoku had been born in Japan and was dwelling here, he sent his son Ajwa as an imperial envoy to bring that golden image of Avalokiteśvara, world savior, to this country. At that time Prince Ajwa prostrated himself and said: Homage to greatly compassionate Bodhisattva Avalokiteśvara, world savior. ^You spread the wondrous teaching to the east in Japan: Prince Shōtoku is transmitting the Buddha’s teaching and propagating it in this country of Japan.

 ^For forty-nine years: Ajwa states that Prince Shōtoku will reside in Japan for forty-nine years. The golden statue of Bodhisattva Avalokiteśvara is enshrined in the main hall of Tennō-ji temple.

 ^Transmitting the lamp: The Buddha’s teaching is likened to a lamp. Preaching: Ajwa says that Prince Shōtoku will preach and spread the Buddha’s teaching.

 ^Moreover, a venerable monk named Ilra came to Japan from Silla out of reverence for Prince Shōtoku. Bowing to the Prince, he said, “Homage to the great Bodhisattva Avalokiteśvara, world savior.” Thus he paid homage, stating that Prince Shōtoku was Avalokiteśvara, world savior.

 ^Transmits the lamp to the east: Ilra states that Prince Shōtoku is transmitting the lamp of the Buddha’s teaching to Japan.

 ^King of millet-scattered islands alludes to the extreme smallness of this country. Ilra states that Prince Shōtoku has become ruler of a country so small it is like grains of millet scattered in the sea.

 

^The inscription in praise of Master Genshin of Shuryōgon-in:

^Although I too am within Amida’s grasp, blind passions obstruct my eyes and I cannot see [the light]; nevertheless, great compassion untiringly and constantly illumines me.

^I too am within Amida’s grasp:

 ^Blind passions obstruct my eyes:

 ^Although I cannot see: Although with eyes of blind passions it is impossible to see [the light].

 ^Great compassion untiringly: The blessing of great love and compassion never wearies.

 ^Constantly illumines me: Unhindered light constantly illumines the person of shinjin. “Constantly illumines” means constantly protects. Me: Realize that great love and compassion tirelessly and constantly protect this self. This is the blessing of being grasped, never to be abandoned. Know that this passage sets forth the meaning of the words, “Sentient beings of the nembutsu are grasped, never to be abandoned.”

^The inscription on the portrait of Master Genkū of Japan:

^The eulogy by Gon-rissi Ryūkan of Shimeizan states,

Everywhere he urged people of both priesthood and laity to think on Amida Buddha.

Those who well utter the Name all behold the manifested Buddhas and bodhisattvas.

It is clearly known that saying the Name is the essential way for attaining birth.

How splendid, Genkū! Seeking the way and guiding all living things.

The jewel of faith resides in his heart; the heart illuminates beings of illusion.

The clouds of doubt clear forever, and the Buddha’s light encircles the head.

Third month, 1st day of the Kenryaku era,
The year “water/monkey” [ 1212 ]

^Everywhere he urged people of both priesthood and laity to think on Amida Buddha: There are two kinds of priesthood―monks and nuns; and two kinds of laity―men who believe in and practice the Buddhist teaching and women who believe in and practice it. To think on Amida Buddha means to say the sacred Name.

 ^Those who well utter the Name all behold the manifested Buddhas and bodhisattvas: Well utter the Name means to say the Name. Well utter means to entrust oneself deeply. All behold: Those who aspire to see the manifested Buddhas and bodhisattvas will all do so. The manifested Buddhas and bodhisattvas: the manifestation-bodies of Amida and the saintly host, of Avalokiteśvara, Mahāsthāmaprāpta, and others.

 ^It is clearly known that saying the Name: When persons say the Name of the Buddha, they attain birth in the Pure Land; it is clearly known that this is the essential way. Nothing surpasses saying the Name of the Tathagata as the essential in attaining birth.

 ^How splendid, Genkū: Genkū is another name of Master Hōnen. Seeking the way and guiding all living things: Seeking the way means, “Aspire and yearn for supreme enlightenment!” Living things: sentient beings. Guiding is to bring benefits to all things.

 ^The jewel of faith resides in his heart: The diamondlike shinjin is likened to a precious jewel. Those who have realized the jewel of shinjin in their hearts do not wander in the darkness of birth-and-death; hence, the heart illuminates beings of illusion. Possessing the jewel of shinjin, they sweep away the darkness of foolishness, and cast a bright light.

 ^The clouds of doubt clear forever: The heart that doubts the power of the Vow is likened to clouds. Clear forever: When the clouds of the doubting heart have been swept away forever, one is born without fail in the Pure Land of peace. The person who has realized shinjin is constantly illumined and protected by the compassionate light that grasps, never to abandon, of the Buddha of unhindered light; hence, the Buddha’s light encircles the head. These words praise Genkū, stating that the Buddha’s compassion constantly and brightly shines upon the head of the person of shinjin. Know that this is because one has been grasped by Amida.

^The inscription on the portrait of Master Genkū of Hōdō-in, a subtemple of Enryakuji at Kurodani on Mount Hiei:

^The Passages on the Nembutsu Selected in the Primal Vow states,

Namu-amida-butsu: as the act that leads to birth in the Pure Land, the nembutsu is taken to be fundamental.

^It further states,

If you desire to free yourself quickly from birth-and-death, of the two excellent teachings leave aside the Path of Sages and choosing, enter the Pure Land way. If you desire to enter the Pure Land way, of the two methods of practice, right and sundry, cast aside all sundry practices and choosing, take the right practice. If you desire to perform the right practice, of the two kinds of acts, true and auxiliary, further put aside the auxiliary and choosing, solely perform the act of true settlement. The act of true settlement is to say the Name of the Buddha. Saying the Name unfailingly brings about birth, for this is based on the Buddha’s Primal Vow.

^It further states,

Know that because of doubt one remains in the house of birth-and-death; through entrusting oneself, one is enabled to enter the city of nirvana.

^The Passages on the Nembutsu Selected in the Primal Vow is a work by Master Hōnen.

 ^Namu-amida-butsu: as the act that leads to birth in the Pure Land, the nembutsu is taken to be fundamental: Know that these words proclaim the right cause of birth in the Pure Land of peace to be none other than the nembutsu. “Right cause” is the seed for being born in the Pure Land and unfailingly attaining Buddhahood.

 ^It further states, If you desire to free yourself quickly from birth-and-death: Aspire to part immediately and without delay from birth-and-death!

 ^Of the two excellent teachings leave aside the Path of Sages: The two excellent teachings are the gate of the Path of Sages and the gate of birth in the Pure Land.

 ^Choosing, enter the Pure Land way: One should choose from all the good teachings and enter the Pure Land gate.

 ^If you desire to enter the Pure Land way:

 ^Of the two methods of practice, right and sundry, cast aside all sundry practices: Cast away and abandon all sundry practices.

 ^Choosing, take the right practice:

 ^If you desire to perform the right practice, of the two kinds of acts, true and auxiliary, further put aside the auxiliary:

 ^Choosing, solely perform the truly decisive act: Choose to perform the act of true settlement without any double-mindedness.

 ^The truly decisive act is to say the Name of the Buddha: The truly decisive act-as-cause is none other than to say the Name of the Buddha. This truly decisive cause is the seed of attaining without fail the enlightenment of supreme nirvana.

 ^Saying the Name unfailingly brings about birth, for this is based on the Buddha’s Primal Vow: Saying the Name, one will attain birth in the Pure Land of bliss without fail; this is because birth through the nembutsu is brought about by the Buddha’s Primal Vow.

 ^It further states, Know that because of doubt one remains in the house of birth-and-death: When one doubts the inconceivable karmic power of the great Vow, one remains in the six courses, the four manners of arising, the twenty-five forms of existence, and the twelve kinds of arising. We are to realize that up to now we have been wandering for aeons in such a realm of illusion.

 ^The city of nirvana is the Pure Land of peace. Through entrusting oneself, one is enabled to enter: These words exhort us to know that the person who has realized true and real shinjin is able to enter the true land fulfilled through the Tathagata’s Primal Vow. Know that shinjin is the seed of enlightenment, the seed for realizing the supreme nirvana.

^The inscription in praise of Hōin Seikaku:

^In capacities, there are keen and dull; among teachings, those of gradual attainment and sudden attainment. Among people, there are slow and quick; among practices, difficult and easy. Know that the gates of the Path of Sages are teachings of gradual attainment; they are difficult practices. The Pure Land teaching is that of sudden attainment; it is the easy practice. The esoteric practices of Shingon or Tendai meditation are hard to master with a mind like a monkey’s; the Sanron or Hossō teachings easily bewilder the eyes of cows and sheep. In my school, the act that is the cause of birth has been settled in Amida’s Primal Vow as the ten utterances; Shan-tao deliberated and determined that the only qualification is the three minds. Even for a person lacking wisdom or diligence, solely saying the Name is truly easy to perform. Even though a person lacks knowledge and broad learning, why should he or she not possess the capacity for trust? . . . Thus our great teacher, as the messenger of Śākyamuni Tathagata, spread the nembutsu teaching; as the incarnation of Master Shan-tao, he urged people to perform the single practice of saying the Name. The act of single practice and singlemindfulness of Amida will spread gradually from now; the religious act uninterrupted and universal now has come to be known. Thus it is that those fundamentally evil who break precepts ardently enter the path of birth in the Pure Land. Those of weak intellect and shallow capacity fervently direct themselves to the gate of the Pure Land teaching. Truly we know: It is a great torch in the long night of ignorance; why should we sorrow that our eyes of wisdom are dark? It is a great ship on the vast ocean of birth-and-death; why should we grieve that our karmic hindrance is heavy?3 . . . In reflecting fully, I realize that the benevolence of his teaching and guidance is truly one with the compassionate Vow of Amida. Even to your bones becoming dust, then, should you repay it; even to the breaking of your body should it be returned.

3 The following two sentences are not found in Shinran’s text, although they are from the same passage by Seikaku and are explained by Shinran later.

^In capacities, there are keen and dull: The innate capacities of sentient beings range from the keen to the dull. Keen refers to people of discernment and dull to the obtuse.

 ^Among teachings, those of gradual attainment and sudden attainment: In accordance with the capacities of sentient beings, there are gradual and sudden among the Buddha’s teachings. In the gradual, one endeavors step by step along the Buddha-way and attains Buddhahood after three asamkhya kalpas or hundred great kalpas. In the sudden, one attains Buddhahood immediately, while maintaining one’s existence in this Sahā world; this is to attain enlightenment according to such schools as Zen, Shingon, Tendai, or Kegon.

 ^Among people, there are slow and quick: Slow indicates those slow to apprehend; quick those with acuteness of mind. For this reason, among practices, difficult and easy. Difficult: the practices performed through self-power taught in the Path of Sages. Easy: the practice performed through Other Power taught in the Pure Land teaching.

 ^Know that the gates of the Path of Sages are teachings of gradual attainment: Know that they are difficult practices; they are gradual teachings.

 ^The Pure Land teaching: Know that this is the sudden teaching; it is the easy practice.

 ^The esoteric practices of Shingon or Tendai meditation: Shingon esoteric Buddhism. Tendai meditation refers to the Tendai school. Are hard to master with a mind like a monkey’s: The minds of people of this Sahā world are likened to those of monkeys. Since our minds are easily distracted, like a monkey’s, Shingon and Tendai practices are hard to perform, hard to fulfill. ^The Sanron or Hossō teachings easily bewilder the eyes of cows and sheep: The eyes of the Buddhists of this Sahā world are like those of cows and sheep and will surely be confused by the self-power teachings of the Path of Sages, such as those of the Sanron and Hossō schools.

 ^In my school: Seikaku states, “The Pure Land school, which I follow, teaches that if persons say the Name as the true cause of attaining birth in the land fulfilled through Amida’s Primal Vow just ten times or even once, they will attain the supreme enlightenment.” He states that according to the teaching of Master Shan-tao, if a person possessed the three minds, he or she will be born in the land of bliss without fail.

 ^Even for persons lacking wisdom or diligence: Know that those who have realized the shinjin of the single practice and singlemindfulness attains birth, although they may be unintelligent and indolent by nature, lacking wisdom and even diligence. ^Thus our great teacher: words by which Seikaku reveres and expresses his reliance on Genkū as his great teacher and master.

 ^As the messenger of Śākyamuni Tathagata, spread the nembutsu teaching:

 ^As the incarnation of Master Shan-tao, he urged people to perform the single practice of saying the Name:

 ^The act of single practice and singlemindfulness of Amida will spread gradually from now; the religious act uninterrupted and universal: Know that the wholehearted single practice shall spread widely from this point.

 ^Thus it is that those fundamentally evil who break precepts ardently enter the path of birth in the Pure Land. Know that thus it is means “being made to become so”; that is, according to the way the Pure Land is, those who break precepts or have no precepts as well as those of deep evil karma will all attain birth.

 ^Those of weak intellect and shallow capacity fervently direct themselves to the gate of the Pure Land teaching urges the person lacking wisdom and great intelligence to enter the Pure Land way.

 ^Truly we know: It is a great torch in the long night of ignorance; why should we sorrow that our eyes of wisdom are dark: Amida’s Vow is a great torch in the long night of ignorance. We should reflect that, although our wisdom-eyes are dark, we need not despair.

 ^It is a great ship on the vast ocean of birth-and-death; why should we grieve that our karmic hindrance is heavy: The power of Amida’s Vow is a great ship upon the vast ocean of birth-and-death. Seikaku states that we should not grieve that our existence is one of greatest evil, deep and heavy.

 ^In reflecting fully, I realize that the benevolence of his teaching and guidance is truly one with the compassionate Vow of Amida: “Reflecting on the master’s teaching, it is one with Amida’s compassionate Vow.” We should realize, then, the vast and profound benevolence of the great master’s teaching.

 ^Even to your bones becoming dust, then, should you repay it; even to the breaking of your body should it be returned: Realizing the vastness of the benevolence of the great master’s teaching, you should endeavor to repay it, even to your bones becoming dust; strive to return it, even to the breaking of your body. Carefully study this teaching of Master Seikaku.

^A passage from “The Hymn of True Shinjin” by Gutoku Shinran, disciple of Śākyamuni, in Japan.

^The Name embodying the Primal Vow is the act of true settlement,

The Vow of entrusting with sincere mind is the cause of enlightenment;

One realizes the equal of enlightenment and supreme nirvana

Through the fulfillment of the Vow of nirvana without fail.

The Tathagatas appear in this world

Solely to teach the oceanlike Primal Vow of Amida;

We, the ocean of beings in this evil age of the five defilements,

Should entrust ourselves to the Tathagata’s words of truth.

When the one thought-moment of joy arises,

Nirvana is attained without severing blind passions;

When the ignorant and wise, even grave offenders and slanders of the dharma, all alike turn about and enter shinjin,

They are like waters that, on entering the ocean, become one in taste with it.

The light of compassion that grasps us illumines and protects us always,

And the darkness of our ignorance is already broken through;

Still the clouds and mists of greed, desire, anger and hatred

Cover as always the sky of true and real shinjin.

But though the light of the sun is veiled by clouds and mists,

Beneath the clouds and mists there is brightness, not dark.

When one realizes shinjin, seeing and revering and attaining great joy,

One immediately leaps crosswise, severing the five evil courses.

^The Name embodying the Primal Vow is the act of true settlement: the practice that embodies the selected Primal Vow.

 ^The Vow of entrusting with sincere mind is the cause of enlightenment refers to true and real shinjin, which is given by Amida Tathagata. This shinjin is the very cause for the attainment of the supreme enlightenment.

 ^One realizes the equal of enlightenment and supreme nirvana: The equal of enlightenment is the stage of the truly settled. Bodhisattva Nāgārjuna speaks of this stage as “immediately entering the stage of the definitely settled” and Master T’an-luan as “entering the group of the truly settled.” It is equal to the stage of Maitreya.

 ^And realizes supreme nirvana: Know that through the fulfillment of the Vow of attaining nirvana without fail, one is certain to realize great nirvana.

 ^The Tathagatas appear in this world ^solely to teach the oceanlike Primal Vow of Amida: The fundamental intent of Buddhas in appearing in this world is solely to preach the teaching of the ocean of Amida’s Vow, which is the one vehicle. Thus the Larger Sutra teaches:

The reason the Tathagatas appear in the world is their desire to save the multitudes of beings by blessing them with the true and real benefit.

Tathagatas: all the Buddhas. Appearing in the world: Buddhas come into the world. Know that Buddhas appear in this world because they desire to teach Amida’s Vow and to save all sentient beings.

 ^We, the ocean of beings in this evil age of the five defilements, should entrust ourselves to the Tathagata’s words of truth: All sentient beings of this evil world of the five defilements should accept and entrust themselves completely to the teaching of Śākyamuni Tathagata.

 ^When the one thought-moment of joy arises: Arises means to awaken, to unfold. The one thought-moment of joy: Know that when the true and real shinjin that is one thought-moment of joy unfolds, you will be born without fail in the land fulfilled by the Primal Vow. Joy is joy upon realizing shinjin.

 ^Nirvana is attained without severing blind passions: Without severing blind passions means without having sundered and cast off blind passions. Nirvana is attained: Know that one attains realization of the supreme nirvana.

 ^When the ignorant and wise, even grave offenders and slanders of the dharma, all alike turn about and enter shinjin: This is a metaphor stating that when lesser sages, foolish beings, those committing the five grave offenses, those reviling the dharma, those keeping no precepts, those devoid of seeds for Buddhahood―when any such people have experienced a turnabout and entered the ocean of true and real shinjin, they are like river waters becoming one in taste with the ocean upon entering it. This is the meaning of they are like waters that, on entering the ocean, become one in taste with it.

 ^The light of compassion that grasps us illumines and protects us always: The compassionate light of the Buddha of unhindered light always illumines and protects the person who has realized shinjin; hence the darkness of ignorance has already cleared, and the long night of birth-and-death is already dispelled and become dawn. Let this be known. This is the meaning of and the darkness of our ignorance is already broken through. Know that when one realizes shinjin, it is as though dawn has broken.

 ^Still the clouds and mists of greed, desire, anger and hatred cover as always the sky of true and real shinjin: Our greed, desire, anger, and hatred are likened to clouds and mists that always fill the sky of shinjin.

 ^But though the light of the sun is veiled by clouds and mists, beneath the clouds and mists there is brightness, not dark: Although the sun and moon may be covered by clouds and mists, the darkness is dispelled and beneath the clouds and mists it is light; know that in the same way, although shinjin is overcast by the clouds and mists of greed, desire, anger, and hatred, they form no obstruction to birth in the Pure Land.

 ^When one realizes shinjin, seeing and revering and attaining great joy describes the person who has realized this shinjin and is filled with great joy and reverence. Great joy is experiencing immense joy upon attaining what one shall attain.

 ^One immediately leaps crosswise, severing the five evil courses: Know that when one has realized shinjin, one immediately sunders crosswise the five evil courses.

 ^One immediately leaps crosswise: Immediately means that the person who realizes shinjin becomes settled in the stage of the truly settled without any lapse of time or passage of days. Crosswise means laterally or transcendently; it indicates the power of the Tathagata’s Vow. It refers to the working of Other Power. Leaps means to go beyond. It means easily going crosswise beyond the vast ocean of birth-and-death and realizing the enlightenment of supreme nirvana. Know that shinjin is the true intent of the Pure Land teaching. When one has understood this, then as our teacher Master Hōnen declared, “Other Power means that no working is true working.” “Working” [that is negated] is the calculating heart and mind of each practicer. As long as one possesses a calculating mind, one endeavors in self-power. You must understand fully the working of self-power.

^Written on the sixth month, 28th day
Shōka 2, the year “horse/earth” [1258]

GUTOKU SHINRAN
Age 86