The Virtue of the Name of
Amida Tathagata

 

^Concerning “immeasurable light,” the [Contemplation] Sutra states:

The Buddha of immeasurable life possesses eighty-four thousand features. Each feature possesses eighty-four thousand marks. Each mark gives forth eighty-four thousand beams of light. Each beam of light shines everywhere throughout the worlds of the ten quarters, grasping and never abandoning sentient beings of the nembutsu.

^Regarding this light, the Master of Eshin-in states:

Each feature gives forth seven hundred five kotis and six million beams of light and appears resplendently ablaze.

Such is the light given forth by each feature; know how much greater the light given forth by all the eighty-four thousand features must be. Because of the greatness of the number of beams of light, the expression “immeasurable light” is used.

 ^Next, concerning “boundless light,” because immeasurable light thus illumines the ten quarters without bound or limit, the expression “boundless light” is used.

 ^Next, concerning “unhindered light,” with the light of the sun or moon, when something has come between, the light does not reach us. Amida’s light, however, being unobstructed by things, shines on all sentient beings; hence the expression, “Buddha of unhindered light.” Amida’s light is unhindered by sentient beings’ minds of blind passions and karmic evil; hence the expression, “Buddha of unhindered light.” Were it not for the virtue of unhindered light, how would it be for us? It is taught that one hundred thousand millions of triple-thousandfold worlds lie between the world of perfect bliss and this Sahā world. In each of the triple-thousandfold worlds there are fourfold Encircling Iron Mountains, [the lowest] equal in height to Mount Sumeru. Next, there are Encircling Iron Mountains about each small thousandfold world reaching the sixth heaven [of the realm of desire] in height. Next, there are Encircling Iron Mountains about each middle thousandfold world reaching [the heaven of] the first stage of meditation of the realm of form in height. Further, there are Encircling Iron Mountains about each great thousandfold world reaching [the heaven of] the second stage of meditation in height. Thus, if Amida were not Buddha of unhindered light, the light would not pass through even a single world, not to speak of one hundred thousand million. Because the light of the Buddha of unhindered light is unhindered in shining through such inconceivable mountains and grasping sentient beings of nembutsu, the expression “unhindered light” is used.

 ^Next, concerning “light of purity,” it is light that Dharmākara Bodhisattva attained through becoming free of thoughts of greed. There are two kinds of greed: lustful greed and greed for things. It is light attained by becoming free of these two kinds of greed. It is light for eliminating the defilements and impurities of sentient beings. It is for sweeping away the evil of lustful greed and greed for things. Hence, the expression “light of purity” is used.

 ^Next, concerning “light of joy,” it is light attained with roots of good free of anger. Being free of anger means that externally there is no expression of anger or irritation and in the heart and mind there is no feeling of jealousy or envy. It is light attained with such a mind, and has been attained in order to sweep away the karmic evil of sentient beings’ anger, wrath, hatred, and envy; hence the expression, “light of joy.”

 ^Next, concerning “light of wisdom,” it is light that has been attained with roots of good free of folly. “Roots of good free of folly” means that it has been attained in order to bring all sentient beings to awaken the mind aspiring to learn wisdom and attain supreme enlightenment. It brings them to realize the mind by which one entrusts oneself to the nembutsu. To entrust oneself to the nembutsu is to already have become a person who realizes wisdom and will attain Buddhahood; know that this is to become free of foolishness. Hence the expression “Buddha of the light of wisdom” is used.

 ^Next, concerning “unequaled light,” because there is no light equal to that of Amida, the expression “unequaled” is used.

 ^Next, concerning “lord of blazing light,” the brilliance of the light is likened to blazing fire at its height. It is stated that it is like flames at their height without any smoke.

 ^Next, concerning “uninterrupted light,” this light shines without discontinuance and without cessation . . .

 ^. . . is light that . . . . “Surpass” means that the light of Amida excels that of the sun and moon. In order to bring us to know that it excels and transcends all other light, the expression “surpasses the sun and moon” is used.

 ^I have set forth the meaning of the twelve kinds of light roughly. It is difficult to write it down exhaustively and in complete detail.

 ^Amida Buddha is the light of wisdom. This light is called “Buddha of unhindered light.” The reason for the expression “unhindered light” is that it is not obstructed or impeded by the minds of karmic evil and blind passions of all sentient beings of the ten quarters. In order to clarify and to bring us to know that the light of Amida surpasses conceptual understanding, the expression “I take refuge in the Tathagata of unhindered light filling the ten quarters” is used. ^When we constantly hold in mind and say the Name of the Buddha of unhindered light, since it embodies the virtues of all the Buddhas of the ten quarters, in saying the Name of Amida, all the virtues and roots of good come to fullness in us. Hence Bodhisattva Nāgārjuna has taught, “I have expounded the virtues of that honored-one; the good [I have received] is boundless, like the waters of the ocean.” Thus, the expression “Buddha of inconceivable light” is taught. Because Amida is Buddha of inconceivable light, we may also say “Buddha of unhindered light filling the ten quarters”; this is stated by Bodhisattva Vasubandhu in the Treatise on the Pure Land. Amida Buddha has names based on the twelve kinds of light . . . .1

1 Although highly conjectual, some scholars have suggested that the following passage was originally part of the text: “. . . is stated in the Treatise on the Pure Land. In the Vow that all the Buddhas praise the Name there is the great practice. The great practice is to say the Name of the Buddha of unhindered light. This practice embodies all practices. It is perfect and most rapid in coming to fulfillment. Hence, it is called great practice. For this reason, it breaks through all the ignorance of sentient beings. Further, because we who are possessed of blind passions entrust ourselves without double-mindedness to the Vow of the Buddha of unhindered light, we reach the land of immeasurable light. When we reach the land of light, through the spontaneous working of the Vow we come to attain immeasurable virtues and to possess vast and great light. Because we attain vast and great light, we realize the various facets of enlightenment.

 ^. . . is stated in the Treatise on the Pure Land. In the Vow that all the Buddhas praise the Name there is the great practice. The great practice is to say the Name of the Buddha of unhindered light. This practice embodies all practices. It is perfect and most rapid in coming to fulfillment. Hence, it is called great practice. For this reason, it breaks through all the ignorance of sentient beings. Further, because we who are possessed of blind passions entrust ourselves without double-mindedness to the Vow we come to attain immeasurable virtues and to possess vast and great light. Because we attain vast and great light, we realize the various facets of enlightenment.

 ^Concerning “Buddha of inconceivable light,” even Śākyamuni Tathagata taught that the virtue of the light of Amida Tathagata cannot be comprehended. Because it cannot be comprehended, the expression “Buddha of inconceivable light” is used.

 ^Next, concerning “inexpressible light,” Śākyamuni states that the virtue of the Buddha of inconceivable light is difficult to expound fully. It means that words cannot describe it. For this reason, the expression “inexpressible light” is used. Thus Master T’an-luan, in Gathas in Praise of Amida Buddha, combining Buddha of inconceivable light and Buddha of inexpressible light, states, “I take refuge in the Buddha of inconceivable light.” That which is expressible concerning the Buddha of inconceivable light, Bodhisattva Vasubandhu previously . . . .

 ^. . . is stated. It cannot be said that the practicer of self-power is equal to Tathagata. With one’s own mind of self-power, it is impossible to reach the land of the Buddha of inconceivable light. It is taught that only by shinjin that is Other Power does one reach the land of the Buddha of inconceivable light. The person of shinjin aspiring to be born in that land possesses inexpressible, inexplicable, and inconceivable virtues that cannot be thought or described. Hence the expression, “Buddha of inconceivable light.”

 Namu-fukashigikō-butsu (Buddha of inconceivable light)

 

The draft records:

Copied on the 2nd day of the twelfth month,
Bun’ō [1260], metal/monkey

Composed by
GUTOKU SHINRAN
Age 83