Essentials of Faith Alone
1 ^When persons aspire to free themselves from birth-and-death and attain enlightenment, there are two routes open to them: the gate of the Path of Sages and the gate of the Pure Land. ^The Path of Sages consists of performing practices and accumulating merit while living in this Sahā world, striving to attain enlightenment in this present life. People who practice the Shingon teaching aspire to rise to the stage of great enlightenment with their present bodies, and followers who endeavor in the Tendai school seek to attain the enlightenment known as “the stage of purifying the six sense organs” in this life. Although such indeed is the final objective of the teaching of the Path of Sages, since the world has reached the age of the corrupt dharma and entered the period of defilement, not even a single person among millions can attain enlightenment in this present life. ^Hence, those who endeavor in the stage of the Path of Sages in the present age become weary and withdraw in their attempt to attain the enlightenment of becoming Buddha with this present body. In remote anticipation of the birth in this world of Maitreya, the Compassionate One, they look to the dawning sky 5,670,000,000 years in the future, or awaiting the appearance of even later Buddhas, they become lost in clouds of the night of countless transmigrations through innumerable kalpas. ^Or they merely yearn for the sacred sites of Vulture Peak or Potalaka Mountain where Avalokiteśvara dwells, or for the small reward of another birth as heavenly or human beings. Although any spiritual relationship with the Buddhist teaching is admirable, immediate enlightenment seems completely beyond hope. What is longed for remains within the three worlds, and what is hoped for is still life within transmigration. Why should they undertake much practice and cultivate understanding, seeking such a small reward? Truly, is it not the result of the dharma being too profound and our understanding too shallow, having become so far removed from the Great Sage, Śākyamuni.
2 ^Second is the gate of the Pure Land, in which, directing the merit of practice in the present life, one aspires to be born in the next life in the Pure Land to fulfill the bodhisattva practices and become a Buddha. This gate meets the needs of people of these latter days; it is truly a marvelous path. But this gate is itself divided into two: birth through various practices and birth through the nembutsu.
3 ^“Birth through various practices” means to aspire to be born in the Pure Land through observing filial piety toward one’s parents, serving one’s teacher and elders, maintaining the five precepts or eight precepts, and practicing charity and patience, and also through such practices as the Three Mystic Acts (Shingon) or the meditation exercise of the One Vehicle (Tendai). One may attain birth through these practices, for all are, without exception, none other than practices for birth into the Pure Land. ^But in all of them one aspires for birth by applying oneself relentlessly to practices, so they are called “birth through self-power”. If the practices are done inadequately, it is impossible to achieve birth. They do not accord with Amida’s Primal Vow; they are not illuminated by the radiance of Amida’s grasp.
4 ^“Birth through the nembutsu” is to aspire for birth through saying the Name of Amida. Because this is in accordance with the Buddha’s Primal Vow, it is called the act of true settlement; since one is pulled solely by the power of Amida’s Vow, it is called birth through Other Power. ^If one asks why utterance of the Name is in accord with the Buddha’s Primal Vow, we must recall the Vow’s origin. In the distant past, before Amida Tathagata became a Buddha, he was called Bhikṣu Dharmākara. At that time there was a Buddha named Lokeśvararāja Buddha. ^When Bhikṣu Dharmākara had already awakened the thought of enlightenment, he desired to dwell in a land of purity and benefit sentient beings, and going before the Buddha he said: “Already I have awakened the thought of enlightenment and desire to establish a Buddha-land of purity. May the Buddha, for my sake, teach fully the innumerable, wondrous practices for adorning the Pure Land.” Then Lokeśvararāja Buddha taught completely the good and bad of the human and heavenly beings in the pure lands of twenty-one billion Buddhas, as well as the coarse and the wondrous aspects of each of the lands, fully revealing each one of them. ^Bhikṣu Dharmākara listened and looked upon them, and discerning the bad he took up the good, casting out the coarse he aspired for the wonderful. He, for example, discerned and rejected lands which contained the three evil paths, but he requested and selected in the first Vow a world in which these three paths did not exist. We should understand that all the other Vows were established in this manner. Thus he chose the surpassing qualities from among the pure lands of twenty-one billion Buddha’s and established the world of perfect bliss. ^It is as though cherry blossoms were made to bloom on the branches of willow trees, or those renowned sights, Kiyomi Beach and Futami Bay, were placed together. This selection was not made out of a brief consideration; it was the result of contemplation over the span of five kalpas. ^Thus, Dharmākara vowed to create a land most wondrous and adorned with purity, and he further contemplated: “The creating of this land is to guide all sentient beings. Though the land be exquisite, if it is difficult for beings to be born there, it would go against the intent of the great compassion and the great vow. ^In seeking to determine the special cause for birth into the land of bliss, none among all the various practices is easily performed. If I were to select filial piety toward one’s parents, those who lack piety could not be born; if I were to adopt the recitation of Mahayana sutras, the illiterate would have no hope; if I determined charity and observance of precepts to be the causal act, followers who are stingy and greedy or who break precepts would be dropped; if I made patience or effort the act resulting in birth, those given to anger or sloth would be completely abandoned. The other practices are all likewise. ^Hence, in order that all foolish beings, both good and evil, may equally be born and that they may all aspire for the land of bliss, I shall make simply the utterance of the three characters of the Name, A-mi-da, the special cause for birth therein.”
^Thus he completed five kalpas of profound contemplation and first of all established the Seventeenth Vow that all Buddhas shall say and praise the Name. It is important to have a through understanding of this in regards to the Vow. Because he sought to guide sentient beings everywhere with his Name, he vowed that his Name be praised as the first step. If it were not so, since the Buddha has no desire for acclaim, what need would there be to be praised by all the Buddhas? Thus it is stated:
^The sacred Name of the Tathagata is exceedingly distinct and clear;
Throughout the worlds in the ten quarters it prevails.
Solely those who say the Name all attain birth;
Avalokiteśvara and Mahāsthāmaprāpta come themselves to welcome them.*
^Next he established the Eighteenth Vow, the Vow of birth through the nembutsu, in which he declared that he would guide even people of ten utterances. When we carefully reflect upon it, this Vow is truly vast and profound. Because the Name is composed of but three characters, it is easy to keep even for one as foolish as Śākyamuni’s disciple Panthaka, and in its utterance, it makes no difference whether one is whaling, standing, sitting or lying down, nor is discrimination made regarding time, place, or circumstance, nor is distinction made between householder and monk, man and woman, old and young, good and bad. Who, then, is left out? Thus it is stated:
^[Amida] Buddha, in the causal stage, made the universal Vow:
When beings hear my Name and think on me, I will come to welcome each of them,
Not discriminating at all between the poor and the rich and wllborn,
Not discriminating between the inferior and the highly gifted;
Not choosing the learned and those upholding pure precepts,
Nor rejecting those who break precepts and whose evil karma is profound.
When beings just turn about at heart and often say the nembutsu,
It is as if bits of rubble were turned into gold.*
^This is birth through the nembutsu.
5 ^Bodhisattva Nāgārjuna states in his Commentary on the Ten Bodhisattva Stages:
^In practicing the Buddha-way there is a path of difficult practice and a path of easy practice. The path of difficult practice is like going overland on foot; the easy path is like receiving a favorable wind upon the sea-lanes. The difficult path consists in seeking to attain the stage of nonretrogression within the world of the five defilements; the easy path consists of being born in the Pure Land by virtue of simply entrusting oneself to the Buddha.
^The difficult path is the gate of the Path of Sages; the easy path is the gate of the Pure Land. ^Thinking to myself, it seems that those who enter the Pure Land gate and yet endeavor in various practices for birth are like those who ride on a boat on the sea-lanes, but not receiving favorable wind, push oars and expend their strength, going against the tides and forcing through the waves.
6 ^In this gate of birth through the nembutsu, moreover, two practices are distinguished: single practice and sundry practice. ^Single practice is to perform simply the one practice of the nembutsu, awakening the aspiration for the land of bliss and the faith of entrusting to the Primal Vow, never mixing any other practices whatsoever with it. To say the Name of Amida only and think wholeheartedly on this one Buddha, never upholding other formulas or thinking on other Buddhas and bodhisattvas, is called single practice. ^Sundry practice, while taking the nembutsu as primary, places other practices alongside it and includes other forms of good acts. ^Of these two, single practice is to be considered superior. The reason is as follows. If one already aspires wholeheartedly for the land of bliss, why include other things besides contemplating on the master of that land? Life is like a flash of lightning, or a dewdrop at daybreak, and the body like the plantain tree or a bubble―yet one seeks in a mere lifetime of religious practice to depart immediately from one’s long abode in the five courses. How can one leisurely combine diverse practices? For securing spiritual bonds with the Buddhas and bodhisattvas, one must await the morn when one can make offerings to the Buddhas as one wishes; for the essential principles of the Mahayana and Hinayana scriptures, one must await the eve when all the teachings will be illuminated. Aside from aspiring for the one land and thinking on the one Buddha, there is no other necessity. ^People who enter the gate of the nembutsu but combine it with other practices are attached to their former practices and have difficulty abandoning them. Those who hold to the One Vehicle or practice the Three Mystic Acts do not change their aspiration to attain birth in the Pure Land by directing the merits of such practices, wondering what can be wrong with pursuing them together with the nembutsu. Without endeavoring in the nembutsu of easy practice that accords with the Primal Vow, meaningless is it to follow various practices rejected by the Primal Vow. ^Thus Master Shan-tao declared: “Among those who abandon the single practice and incline toward the sundry, not one in a thousand can be born; among those of single practice, a hundred in a hundred, a thousand in a thousand, can be born.”* It is said:
^The land of bliss is the realm of nirvana, the uncreated;
I fear it is hard to be born there by doing sundry good acts according to our diverse conditions.
Hence, the Tathagata selected the essential dharma,
Instructing beings to say Amida’s Name with singleness, again singleness.*
^That which is rejected as “various good acts done according to one’s conditions” is the attachment to one’s own former practice. ^In serving as a retainer, for example, one should serve one’s lord, depend on him, and wholeheartedly be loyal to him. However, suppose a person, while evidently serving his lord, in addition harbors designs concerning an unfamiliar, distant person and, arranging to have him meet his lord, seeks to be well spoken of by him. Compared with serving directly, which is superior and which inferior is clearly known. Being of two minds and being of one mind are as vastly different as heaven and earth.
7 ^Concerning this, someone asks: “Suppose there is a person who practices the nembutsu, reciting it ten thousand times each day, and aside from that does nothing but play all day and sleep all night; and another person who says it ten thousand times and afterward reads sutras and recites the names of other Buddhas: which is superior? In the Lotus Sutra is the phrase, ‘By virtue of this sutra one is born in the land of peace.’ Can reading this sutra be the same as playing and frolicking? In the Yakushi Sutra is found the guidance of eight bodhisattvas. Thinking on Yakushi Buddha is surely not like useless sleep. I still cannot understand praising one as single practice and rejecting the other as sundry practice.”
^In considering this matter over again now, single practice is still superior. The person is that we are essentially foolish beings of this defiled world who experience obstacles in everything. Amida, observing this, taught the path of easy practice. One who plays and frolics all day is a person of great distraction and confusion. One who sleeps the whole night is a person of great lethargy. All are consequences of blind passions, difficult to sunder and difficult to control. When playing has ended, say the nembutsu; when awakening from sleep, recall the Primal Vow. This does not violate the performance of single practice. ^To recite the nembutsu ten thousand times and afterward hold in mind other sutras and other Buddhas seems splendid upon first hearing, but who determined that the nembutsu should be limited to ten thousand times? If you are a person of diligence, then recite all day. If you take up the nenju-beads, then utter the Name of Amida. If you face an object of worship, then choose the image of Amida. Directly await Amida’s coming; why depend on the eight bodhisattvas to direct your way? You should rely solely on the guidance of the Primal Vow. Do not struggle to undertake the exercises of the One Vehicle (Tendai). ^In the capacities of nembutsu practicers there are the superior, the ordinary, and the inferior. Those of superior nature constantly say the nembutsu both night and day; in what interval, then, can they turn their attention to other Buddhas? You should reflect on this deeply and not become entangled in distracting doubts.
8 ^Next, in saying the nembutsu, you should possess the three minds. With the simple saying of the Name, who cannot obtain the virtue of one or ten utterances? Nevertheless, those who attain birth are exceedingly rare, the reason being that people do not have the three minds. ^The Contemplation Sutra states: “The person with the three minds will be born without fail in that land.”* Shan-tao says in his commentary: “If one possesses these three minds, one will unfailingly attain birth. If one of these minds is lacking, then birth is not attained.”* This means that if a person lacks one of the three minds, he cannot be born. Although there are many who say the Name of Amida in this world, rare are those who actually attain birth. Know that this is because they do not possess the three minds.
9 ^Concerning these three minds: first is the mind of sincerity; this is the true and real heart and mind. In entering the Buddha path, one must first of all have a sincere mind; if the mind is not sincere, it is impossible to advance. Amida Buddha in the past accomplished the bodhisattva practices and established the Pure Land; in doing this he awakened the sincere mind. Hence, if you desire to be born in that land, you must also awaken a sincere mind. ^As to this true and real heart and mind, one must abandon that which is untrue and unreal and manifest that which is true and real. Indeed, although we are without profound aspiration for the Pure Land, on meeting others we talk as though we have deep aspirations. While being deeply attached within to fame and gain in this life, our outward show is a rejection of this world. While on the surface we act as though we have a good heart and are noble, we have within an evil heart and a self-indulgent heart. This is called a heart and mind which is empty and transitory, opposite of the true and real heart and mind. You should turn away from this and firmly grasp the true and real heart and mind.
^A person who erroneously grasps this, saying that if all things are not as they seem to be they might as well be empty and transitory, exposes to others even what should be matters of reserve and shame, and, contrarily, invites the faults of self-indulgence and shamelessness. ^Concerning the true and real heart and mind, in seeking the Pure Land, rejecting this defiled world, and entrusting to the Buddha’s Vow, one must have such a heart and mind. It does not necessarily mean to openly manifest shame or to make a show of one’s faults. You should deeply reflect* on this in all circumstances and on all occasions. Shan-tao’s commentary states: “Do not express outwardly signs of wisdom, goodness, or diligence, while inwardly possessing falsity.”*
10 ^Second is deep mind, the mind of trust. You should first know the features of the mind of trust. The mind of trust is to have deep faith in people’s words without doubting them. ^For example, suppose that a man whom one deeply trusts and of whom one has no cause for suspicion whatever tells you about a place which he knows well at firsthand, saying that there is a mountain here, a river there. You believe deeply what he says, and after you have accepted these words, you meet other people who say it is all false. There is no mountain and no river. Nevertheless, since what you heard was said by a person whom you cannot think would speak mere fabrication, a hundred thousand people might tell you differently but you would not accept it. Rather, you deeply trust what you heard first. This is called trust. Now, believing in what Śākyamuni taught, entrusting yourself to Amida’s Vow, and being without any doubt should be like this.
^There are two aspects concerning this mind of trust: the first is to believe oneself to be a foolish being of defiled karma, subject to birth-and-death, from incalculable kalpas past constantly sinking and constantly turning, without any condition that could led to liberation. The second is to believe deeply and decisively that, since one does not doubt that Amida’s Forth-eight Vows grasp sentient beings, one rides on the power of that Vow and will without fail attain birth. ^People often say: “Not that I don’t believe in the Buddha’s Vow, but when I reflect on myself, I see that my karmic hindrances have accumulated greatly and that the appearance of a good heart is rare. My mind is ever distracted and singlemindedness is impossible to achieve. I am forever negligent and lack diligence. Although the Buddha’s Vow is said to be profound, how can the Buddha possibly receive me?” ^Such thoughts appear truly sensible; arrogance is not aroused and self-conceit nonexistent. Yet there is the crime of doubting the inconceivable power of the Buddha. Does one know what power the Buddha possesses, when one says that because of one’s karmic evil it is impossible to be saved? Even those wrongdoers who commit the five grave offenses, because of ten utterances, attain birth in an instant; even more so those who never go so far as to commit the five grave offenses, and in merit far surpass that of ten utterances.
^If karmic evil is deep, all the more aspire for the land of bliss. It is said: “Nor rejecting those who break precepts and whose evil karma is profound.”* If your good is slight, think even more on Amida. It is said: “[With but] three or five utterances, the Buddha comes to welcome us.” Do not meaninglessly despise yourself, weaken your heart, and doubt the Buddha’s wisdom, which surpasses conceptual understanding. ^Suppose that there is a man at be bottom of a tall cliff unable to climb it, but there is a strong man on the cliff above who lowers a rope and, thinking to have the man at the bottom take hold of it, tells him he will draw him up to the top. However, the man at the bottom holds his arms back and refuses to take the rope, doubting the strength of the man pulling and fearing that the rope is weak. Thus it is altogether impossible for him to climb to the top. If he unhesitatingly followed the man’s words, stretched out his hands and grasped the rope, he would be able to climb at once. ^It is difficult for people who doubt the Buddha’s power and who do not entrust themselves to the power of the Vow to climb the cliff of enlightenment. One should simply put out the hand of trust and take hold of the rope of the Vow.
^The Buddha’s power is without limits; even the person deeply burdened with karmic evil is never too heavy. The Buddha’s wisdom is without bounds; even those whose minds are distracted and self-indulgent are never rejected. The mind of trust alone is essential. There is no need to consider anything else. ^When trust has become settled, the three minds are naturally possessed. When the entrusting to the Primal Vow is true and sincere, there is no heart empty and transitory. When there is no doubt in the anticipation of one’s birth in the Pure Land, there arises the thought of directing merit toward it. Hence, although the three minds seem to differ from each other, they are all included in the mind of trust.
11 ^Third is the mind aspiring to be born in the Pure Land through directing merit. The term is self-explanatory; therefore, I need not explain it in detail. It is to turn over the merit of the three modes of action of the past and present and to aspire to be born in the land of bliss.
12 ^Next, the text of the Primal Vow reads: “If sentient beings say my Name even ten times but do not attain birth, may I not attain the supreme enlightenment.”^* Concerning these ten nen, some people have doubts and state: “The person who has one thought (nen) of rejoicing in the Lotus Sutra reaches deeply to the ultimate truth which is neither accommodated nor real.* Why are the ‘ten nen’ of the Vow understood to be ten utterances of the Name?” ^To answer this question: in describing the nature of the people of the lowest grade in the lowest rank, the Contemplation Sutra states, “Upon reaching the moment of death, a person guilty of the five grave offenses and the ten transgressions and burdened with all kinds of evil follows, for the first time, the encouragement of a true teacher, barely says the Name ten times and is born at once in the Pure Land.” This does not at all mean quiet contemplation or deep reflection; it is simply saying the Name with the lips. ^The sutra states, “If you cannot think . . . .”* This has the meaning of not thinking deeply. ^It also states: “Say the Name of the Buddha of immeasurable life.”* This encourages us simply to say the Buddha’s Name. ^The sutra states: “When you say Namo-muryōju-butsu (literally, “Namo Buddha of immeasurable life”) ten times, because you say the Buddha’s Name, with each utterance the evil karma of eight billion kalpas of birth-and-death is eliminated.”* ^The words “ten times” mean simply saying the Name ten times. You should understand the text of the Primal Vow in this way. ^Master Shan-tao profoundly realized this import and restated the Primal Vow: “If, when I attain Buddhahood, the sentient beings of the ten quarters say my Name as few as ten times and yet are not born, may I not attain supreme enlightenment.”* This words “ten times” signify reciting with the lips.
13 ^1. Next, some people also say, “The nembutsu at the moment of death contains a profound virtue. Extinguishing the five grave offenses in ten utterances is the power of the nembutsu at the moment of death. The nembutsu of ordinary times lacks such power.”
^Reflecting upon this: True, the nembutsu at the time of death is particularly excellent in virtue. However, it is necessary to understand this fully. ^When people are about to die, a hundred sufferings assail them and right-mindedness is easily disturbed. At such a time, how is it that thinking on the Buddha has great virtue? In thinking about this, when one is gravely ill, nearing the end, and one’s life is in peril, it is easy for trust to arise naturally. ^In actually observing the habits of people, we see that when they are without troubles they do not put trust in doctors and diviners, but when severely ill they have full trust in them. If they are told that the disease will be cured with a certain treatment, people believe that it will truly be cured; they will even swallow bitter medicine and undergo painful treatment. When they are told that they will live longer if they perform a certain ceremony, they spare no expense and expend their energies in ceremonies and prayers. ^Thus, because their attachment to life is deep, if they are told they can prolong it, they have profound trust. The nembutsu at the moment of death should be understood in this manner. ^When you feel that the final moment of life has come and that you will not live, the suffering of your next life suddenly appears―the fiery car of hell approaches or tormenting demons fill your eyes. Thinking of how to evade such suffering and escape from such terror, you hear about the attainment of birth through ten utterances from a true teacher; suddenly a profound, momentous mind of trust arises in you and you have no doubt whatever. ^Because the revulsion against suffering is strong and the desire for happiness keen, one immediately awakens the mind of trust upon hearing that birth into the land of bliss is imminent. It is like trusting a doctor or an exorcist upon hearing them say that life will be lengthened. ^If one is of this mind, even though it is not one’s last moment―if the mind of trust is established―the virtue of each utterance in ordinary times is equal to the nembutsu at the moment of death.
14 ^2. Next, people often say: “Even if I entrust myself to the power of Amida’s Vow and aspire to be born in the land of bliss, it is difficult to know my defiled karma from past lives. How can I attain birth so easily? There are a variety of karmic obstacles. ‘Succeeding’ karma does not necessarily take effect during the life in which it was created, but in lives to come it may bear fruit. Thus, although we have received birth into human life now, we may possess the karma for the evil paths without our knowing. If the power of such karma is strong and brings about birth into the evil courses, will it not be difficult to attain birth in the Pure Land?”
^Although the sense of this is quite sound, such people are unable to sever the net of doubt and create deluded views by themselves. Karma, more or less, may be compared to a scale. It tips first toward the heavier weight. If the power of my karma for birth in the evil courses were strong, then I would not have been born into human life but would have fallen first into the evil paths. This much is clear from having already received birth into human life: though we may possess karma for evil courses, that karma is weaker than the observance of the five precepts which brought about our birth into human life. ^If this is so, such karma cannot obstruct even the five precepts; how could it obstruct the virtue of ten utterances? The five precepts are acts of defiled beings; the nembutsu is a virtue of undefilement. In the five precepts no help from the Buddha’s Vow is found, but we are guided to saying the nembutsu by Amida’s Primal Vow. The virtue of the nembutsu, moreover, is superior to even the ten precepts and surpasses all the good of the three worlds. How much more does it surpass the scant good of the five precepts? Evil karma does not obstruct even the five precepts, it can never be an obstacle to birth.
15 ^3. Next, people again say: “The attainment of birth by ten utterances by people guilty of the five grave offenses comes about through their past good. It is difficult to possess such past good. How can we attain birth?”
^Here, too, it is because they are lost in the darkness of folly that they vainly entertain such useless doubts. The reason is that those full of past good will cultivate good in this life also and fear doing evil acts. Those scant of past good will prefer evil acts in this life and not perform good. We clearly know the good and bad of past karma from the way this life is led. We lack a pure heart, however, so we know that our past good is minimal. ^But though our karmic evil is heavy, we do not commit the five grave offenses, and though our good acts are few, we deeply entrust ourselves to the Primal Vow. Even the ten utterances of someone guilty of the five grave offenses comes about through that person’s past good. How could it be, then, that the saying of the Name throughout one’s life is not also due to one’s past good? How can we think that the ten utterances of someone guilty of the five grave offenses is due to past good, while our own saying of the Name throughout a lifetime is through our past good which is shallow? A little wisdom is an obstruction to enlightenment, so it is said; truly, here is a example.
16 ^4. Next, some who follow the way of the nembutsu say: “The essence of the path to birth in the Pure Land is a trusting mind. Once this mind of trust has become settled, it is not always necessary to recite the nembutsu. The sutra teaches: ‘say it even once’; hence, one utterance is understood to be sufficient. When one seeks to accumulate many utterances, it is, on the contrary, a failure to trust in the Buddha’s Vow.” Thus they greatly mock and gravely slander those who recite the nembutsu, saying that they are people who do not truly believe in the nembutsu.
^These people first of all abandon all Mahayana practices in the name of “single practice of the nembutsu”, and then, adhering to the doctrine of “once-calling”, they stop saying the nembutsu. This is the means the demons have used to deceive the sentient beings of this latter age. ^In such explanations there are both good and bad points. In principle the statement that one utterance suffices as the act for birth in the Pure Land is perfectly true; nevertheless, it is going too far to say that the accumulation of a large number of utterances shows the lack of a trusting mind. ^It does show, however, a lack of a trusting mind if one believes that one utterance is insufficient and birth requires accumulating a great number of utterances. Though one utterance suffices as the act for birth, some may think that it is important to accumulate more and more merit while passing their days and nights, and so, if they say the Name, they recite it day and night, and the merit increases more and more and the cause for birth becomes even more determined. ^Master Shan-tao stated that as long as one is alive, one should constantly say the nembutsu. Are we to say such people lack trust? To dismiss them with ridicule would be wrong. ^“One utterance” actually appears in a passage of the sutra. Not to believe it is not to believe the Buddha’s word. ^Thus, one should believe in the settling of birth with one utterance, and further continue saying the Name without negligence throughout one’s life. This is the true meaning of the teaching.
^Although there are many important doctrines concerning the nembutsu, they can be summarized in the preceding way. ^Some people who read this will surely ridicule it. Nevertheless, both belief and slander will become a cause for each one’s birth in the Pure Land. With the pledges of friendship in this life―brief as a dream―to guide us, we tie the bonds for meeting before enlightenment in the coming life. If I am behind, I will be guided by others; if I go first, I will guide others. Becoming true friends through may lives, we bring each other to the practice of the Buddha-way, and as true teachers in each life, we will together sunder all delusion and attachment.
^Honored Śākyamuni, the teacher,
Amida Buddha, compassionate mother,
Avalokiteśvara, on the left,
Mahāsthāmaprāpta, on the right,
The great ocean of immaculate beings,
The ocean of the three treasures, throughout the dharma-realm:
Singleheartedly I think on your witness;
Pity and comfort me, and hear my prayer.