Shoshinge Tai'i:

The Main Import of Shoshinge

Rennyo Shonin's Shoshinge Tai'i:

A Commentary on Shinran Shonin's Verses on True Shinjin

Translated from Japanese by Kenneth K. Tanaka

Now, this Shoshinge contains one hundred twenty verses and sixty lines. It expresses the essential meaning of the fundamental teachings of our sect based on the interpretations of the [seven] masters of the three countries.

There are forty-four verses and twenty-two lines from the opening words "I take refuge" to "Is hard to accept [in shinjin]." (verses 1 - 44) This [section] expresses the essence of the Larger Sutra. The four verses beginning with "India" (verses 45 - 48) summarize the essence of the Pure Land teachings of the masters of the three countries. Next, [the section from] "Shakyamuni [Tathagata, on Mount Lanka]" to the end of the verses (verses 49 - 120) expresses the essence of the praises of the seven masters.

Question: What is the meaning of "Shoshinge" (The Verses on True Shinjin)?
Answer: "True" (sho) is a word that is in contrast to "peripheral," in contrast to "heretical," and in contrast to "mixed." "Shinjin" (shin) is a word that is in contrast to "doubt" and in contrast to "practice."

(Verse 1)
"I take refuge in the Tathagata of Immeasurable Life."

[This verse] refers to the essence [of Tathagata] which is immeasurable life as expressed in the Chinese language. [the verse] exhorts us to take refuge in Amida Tathagata.

"I entrust myself to the Buddha of Inconceivable Light."

[This verse] refers to the wondrous virtues of the light of wisdom. Hence, "I take refuge in the Tathagata of Immeasurable Life" [mentioned earlier] conveys the essence of Namo-Amida-Butsu. This Namo-Amida-Butsu should neither be measured by conceptual mind nor be explained in words. It is precisely the state when these two modes [of comprehending Namo-Amida-Butsu] are exhausted that [the above verse] "I entrust myself to the Buddha of Inconceivable Light" refers to.

This is called the Tathagata of Fulfilled Body, the "Tathagata of Unhindered Light that Exhausts the Ten Quarters", and the Tathagata that is the Ultimate Body of Skillful Means. This skillful means takes on a form, reveals the sacred Name, and makes itself known to sentient beings; this is none other than Amida Buddha. This Tathagata is light; light is wisdom; wisdom is the form of light. When wisdom lacks form it is referred to as the Buddha of Inconceivable Light.

Precisely because this Tathagata pervades the countless worlds in the ten directions, it is referred to as the Buddha of Boundless Light. It is for this reason that Bodhisattva Vasubandhu (in his Treatise on the Pure Land) named it the "Tathagata of Unhindered Light that Exhausts the Ten Quarters." Thus, if we take refuge and entrust in this Tathagata, we are embraced and not abandoned, and thereby realize birth in the True Fulfilled Land.

"Bodhisattva Dharmakara, in his causal stage,
Under the guidance of Lokeshvararaja Buddha,
Searched into the origins of the Buddhas' pure lands,
And the qualities of those lands and their men and devas"

Lokeshvararaja Buddha refers to Amida Buddha's teacher in the past. Under the tutelage of this Buddha, [Bodhisattva Dharmakara] observed the good and the evil in the pure lands of 21 billion Buddhas, selected the positive qualities, rejected the negative qualities, and determined what he wanted for his own pure land.

"He then established the supreme, incomparable Vow; He made the Vow rare and all-encompassing."

Since he established the incomparable Pure Land of the Western Realm of Utmost Bliss upon selecting [the positive qualities among] the pure lands of [innumerable] Buddhas, [Bodhisattva Dharmakara's vow] is referred to as the "World-Transcending, Rare Great Vow" or the "Great Vow of Horizontal Transcendence".
"In five kalpas of profound thought, he embraced this Vow."

"Kalpa" is the time it takes for a heavenly being to wear down a rock 40 ri (97.6 miles) high and 40 ri wide by brushing against it once every three years with a feathered garment weighing the equivalent of only three of the four [Chinese] characters [written on a paper money].

When Amida Buddha was previously called Monk Dharmakara, he contemplated for a period of time for five of these [rock "mountains"] to be whittled down to nothing. He vowed to reveal the true Dharma and to lead [all beings] to birth in the Pure Land without leaving out even persons of karmic evil who have committed the Ten Evils or the Five Grave Offenses as well as women who are limited by restrictions known as] the Five Obstacles and the Three Subservient Relationships

"Then resolved again that this Name be heard throughout the ten quarters."

[This verse] expresses the heart of Amida Tathagata who, in aspiring [to see all beings realize] Buddhist enlightenment, vowed that he would not attain full enlightenment [for himself] if there is any place in the ten quarters where the sound of the Name is not heard.

[The verses] from "Everywhere he casts light immeasurable, boundless," to
"Light excelling sun and moon" describe each of the sacred names of the twelve
Buddhas of light {i.e. attributes of Amida Buddha}.

"Buddha of immeasurable light" expresses the immensity of the benefits [of the light], for in the past, present and future there is no limit to its measurement, and there is no number equal to it.

"Buddha of boundless light" expresses the enormous virtues of its illumination, for [the light] exhausts the ten quarters and beyond, and there is nothing that is not illuminated, conditioned [by the light].

"Buddha of unhindered light" expresses the unhindered features of the extraordinary light, for it cannot be obstructed by both the animate and the inanimate. There are two obstructions of the inner and the outer with regard to this hindrance. Outer obstructions refer to mountains, rivers, great earth, clouds, fog, smoke, haze, etc. Inner obstructions refer to greed, hatred, ignorance, pride, etc. If there is the virtue of "the cloud of light that is unhindered like boundless space" (Verses in Praise of Amida Buddha) the objects of outer obstructions will not hinder [the light]. [Similarly,] if there is the power of "a person unhindered by the snarls of his unwholesome karmic actions" (Commentary of the Contemplation Sutra), the various inner obstructions will not hinder [the light]. That is why Bodhisattva Vasubandhu (in his Pure Land Treatise) praised it as "Tathagata of Unhindered Light that Exhausts the Ten Quarters."

"Buddha of unequaled light" means that in terms of light nothing compares with it, since it is beyond the realm of realization [even] by the various bodhisattvas.

"Buddha of Flaming-Lord Light" is also expressed as "Buddha of the Lord of Light Flames," since its light is unrestricted and is supreme. It is this light that the Larger Sutra (in the second scroll) extolls when it states, "it is like the lord of fire, because it burns and destroys the firewood of all blind passions." Just as when fire burns the firewood we do not say [the fire] does not exhaust [the firewood], we similarly do not say that when the wisdom-fire of light burns the firewood of blind passions, it fails to destroy [the blind passions]. The benefit of this light is also responsible for those sentient beings [wallowing] in the darkness of the Three Realms who receive the illuminating light and gain liberation.

"Buddha of Pure Light" is produced from the wholesome roots of non-greed. This light, therefore, quells the greed and desires of sentient beings.

"Buddha of Joyful Light" is produced from the wholesome roots of non-hatred.
This light, therefore, destroys the hatred of sentient beings.

"Buddha of the Light of Wisdom" is produced from the wholesome roots of non-foolishness. This light, therefore, eliminates the darkness of ignorance.

"Buddha of Constant Light" means that throughout all time there is no period in which it fails to shine. It constantly illuminates and offers benefits throughout the three periods [of past, present, and the future].

"Buddha of Inconceivable Light" should not be named separate from its qualities of extra-ordinary light, since it far transcends the realm of language. When [the light] cannot be measured by the mind, it is referred to as "the Buddha of Inconceivable Light," and when [the light] cannot be explained in words, it is called "the Buddha of Ineffable Light." The Sutra of the Tathagata of Immeasurable Life refers to the Buddha of Inconceivable Light as "the Inconceivable Light" and the Buddha of Ineffable Light as "the Light of Ineffable Measurement."

"Buddha of Light that Excels the Sun and the Moon" means that the sun and the moon shines upon only below the Four Heavens but not the higher heavens and the lower hells. 18 [In contrast,] the Buddha's light shines unhindered throughout all eight quarters as well as the [quarters of] zenith and nadir. That is why, [this light] excels the sun and the moon. Therefore, these twelve lights are emitted to illuminate the innumerable worlds in order to benefit [all] sentient beings.

"The multitudes of beings all receive the radiance."

All beings with good karmic actions in their past lives are able to avail themselves to the benefits of this radiance.

“The Name embodying the Primal Vow is the act of true settlement.”

[This verse] expresses the import of the Seventeenth Vow. [Bodhisattva Dharmakara] vowed that his own Name be praised by the Buddhas of the ten quarters. The form in which the vow is to be fulfilled is none other than the Name-essence of this Vow. We should know, then, that this is the practice-essence that enables the realization of our birth [in the Pure Land].

“The Vow of entrusting with sincere mind is the cause of birth;
We realize the equal of enlightenment and supreme nirvana;
Through the fulfillment of the Vow of attaining nirvana without fail,”

When we realize the true Shinjin of the Eighteenth Vow, we dwell in the Assembly of the Truly Settled. To go beyond that to [the level of] Supreme Enlightenment and to realize the Great Nirvana is on account of the fulfillment of the Eleventh Vow, the Vow of Necessary Attainment of Nirvana. This is called “Completing the Karma [Necessary for Birth in the Pure Land] in Ordinary Life.” The Assembly of the Truly Settled is the rank of nonretrogression, which constitutes the benefit [to be realized] in this land. Extinction is the rank of nirvana, which is to be understood as the benefit [to be realized] in that land (Pure Land). The Hymns (Hymns of the Pure Land Masters) states,

“On reaching the land of the Vow,
We immediately realize supreme nirvana,
And thereupon we awaken great compassion,
All this is called Amida’s “directing of virtue.”

We ought to be mindful of this.

“Shakyamuni Tathagata appeared in this world
Solely to teach the ocean-like Primal Vow of Amida;
We, an ocean of beings in an evil age of five defilements,
Should entrust ourselves to the Trathagata’s words of truth.”

These [verses] show that the original intent of Shakyamuni Buddha’s appearance in the world was solely for the purpose of revealing the Primal Vow of Amida [Buddha]. [These verses further] express the [Buddha’s] wish for the sentient beings of the evil age of Five Defilements to whole-heartedly entrust in the Primal Vow of Amida [Buddha].

“When the one thought-moment of joy arises,”

[This verse] refers to Shinjin of the one thought-moment of joy.

“Nirvana is attained without severing blind passions.”

Since the power of the Vow is inconceivable, even if our blind passions are not severed, our Buddhahood is already settled as people who are destined to attain Nirvana.

“When ignorant and wise, even grave offenders and slanderers of the dharma, all alike turn and enter Shinjin,
They are like waters that, on entering the ocean, become one in taste with it.”

When ordinary beings, the saints, the offenders of the Five Grave Offenses, and the Slanderers of the Dharma all enter the great wisdom ocean of the Primal Vow, they are like the various [river] waters that enter the ocean to become of one taste.

“The light of compassion that grasps us illumines and protects us always;
The darkness of our ignorance is already broken through;
Still the clouds and mists of greed and desire, anger and hatred,
Cover as always the sky of true and real Shinjin.
But though light of the sun is veiled by clouds and mists,
Beneath the clouds and mists there is brightness, not dark.”

The light that embraces the sentient beings of Nembutsu [followers of] Amida Tathagata is always shining. Even though [the light] is said to destroy the darkness of ignorance, ignorance and hatred -- like the clouds and mists -- cover up the sky of Shinjin of truth. Just as the brilliance of the sun's rays are hidden by the covering of the clouds and mists but is still illuminated beneath [the clouds and mists], so is the case [with the light of compassion].

"When one realizes Shinjin, seeing and revering and attaining great joy,"

[This verse] refers to a person who greatly rejoices in listening to the Dharma and does not forget. Shakyamuni Buddha called [such a person], "my good close friend" (The Larger Sutra, the second scroll).

"One immediately leaps crosswise, closing off the five evil destinies."

When the mind of the one thought -moment of joy arises, due to the inconceivability of the Vow power, our ties to [the destinies of] hell, hungry ghosts, beasts, titans, humans and heaven are sideways and spontaneously severed.

"All foolish beings, whether good or evil,
When they hear and entrust to Amida's universal Vow,
Are praised by the Buddha as people of vast and excellent understanding;
Such a person is called a pure white lotus."

If any person, whether good or evil, hear and entrust in [Amida] Tathagata's Primal Vow, Shakyamuni [Buddha] called him "a person of immense resolve", likened him to "a white lotus", and praised him as "a person of the highest of the highest grade" and as "a person of rarity".

"For evil sentient beings of wrong views and arrogance,
The nembutsu that embodies Amida's Primal Vow

Is hard to accept in Shinjin;
This most difficult of difficulties, nothing surpasses."

It is the most difficult of the difficulties for those with wrong views, those of arrogance, and evil persons is to truly entrust in the Nembutsu of Amida Tathagata's Primal Vow. Nothing surpasses this [difficulty].

"The masters of India in the west, who explained the teaching in treatises,
And the eminent monks of China and Japan,
Clarified the Great Sage's true intent in appearing in the world,
And revealed that Amida's Primal Vow accords with the nature of beings."

"Indo-saiten" refers to India, "Chuka" refers to China, and "Jichi'iki" refers to Japan.
These masters and others from the three countries expounded the single practice of Nembutsu and strove to show that the original intent of Shakyamuni's appearance in the world was solely to widely reveal the Primal Vow of Amida [Buddha], which accords with the capacity of the ordinary beings in the Last Period [of the Dharma].
"Shakyamuni Tathagata, on Mount Lanka,
Prophesied to the multitudes that in south India
The mahasattva Nagarjuna would appear in this world
To crush the views of being and non-being;
Proclaiming the unexcelled Mahayana teaching,
He would attain the stage of joy and be born in the Land of Happiness."

Bodhisattva Nagarjuna was the founding teacher of eight [Buddhist] schools and a commentarial master of one thousand works. He appeared in the world five-hundred years or so after the death of Shakyamuni. Knowing this beforehand Shakyamuni prophesied in the Lankavatara-sutra, "There will be a monk named Nagarjuna from a country in South India, who will crush the incorrect views of being and non-being, propound the highest Mahayana teachings, realize the Stage of Joy and attain birth in the [Land of] Happiness.


"Nagarjuna clarifies the hardship on the overland path of difficult practice,
And leads us to entrust to the pleasure on the waterway of easy practice."

In extolling the [path of] Nembutsu, Nagarjuna in his Comnmentary to the Ten Stage Sutra establishes two kinds of path. One is the path of difficult practice and the second is the path of easy practice. He likens the difficulty of cultivating the path of difficult practice to walking the overland road, and likens the ease of cultivating the path of easy practice to traveling by boat on water.

"He teaches that the moment one thinks on Amida's Primal Vow,
One is naturally brought to enter the stage of the definitely settled;"

One who contemplates deeply on the inconceivability of the power of Primal Vow enters, on its natural accord, [the stage of] the definitely settled.

"Solely saying the Tathagata's Name constantly,
One should respond with gratitude to the universal Vow of great compassion."

One who attains true Shinjin recites the Name whether he is moving, standing, sitting, or lying down, and repays the caring virtues [received from] the Universal Vow of Great Compassion.

"Bodhisattva Vasubandhu, composing a treatise, declares
That he takes refuge in the Tathagata of unhindered light,"

Like Nagarjuna, this Bodhisattva Vasubandhu is also a commentarial master, [in his case) of one thousand works. He appeared in the world nine hundred years after the death of [Shakyamuni] Buddha. In composing the Pure Land Treatise in one scroll, he clearly stated the main import of the three [Pure Land] sutras, and took refuge exclusively in the Tathagata of Unhindered Light.

"And that relying on the sutras, he will reveal the true and real virtues,
And make widely known the great Vow by which we leap crosswise beyond birth -and-death.
He discloses the mind that is single so that all beings be saved
By Amida's directing of virtue through the power of the Primal Vow."

This Bodhisattva revealed truth based on the Mahayana sutras, and that truth is none other than Nembutsu. He revealed the great Vow of the crosswise leap in order to save the multitudes of beings by the directing [of virtues] through [the power of] the Primal Vow; in so doing, the commentarial master (Vasubandhu) himself took singleminded refuge in the [Tathagata of] Unhindered Light and encouraged sentient beings to similarly take single-minded refuge in that Tathagata.

"When a person turns and enters the great treasure-ocean of virtue,
Necessarily he joins the assembly;"

The great treasure-ocean is likened to the non-discriminating [quality of] water in the great ocean, which guides all sentient beings without dislikes, hindrances and distinctions. When a person enters the great treasure-ocean of virtue, one will necessarily join Amida's assembly.
"And when he reaches that lotus-held world,
He immediately realizes the body of suchness or dharma-nature."

The Lotus-Held World is the World of Peace and Sustenance. When a person reaches that land, one quickly attains the body of suchness or dharma-nature.

"Then sporting in the forests of blind passions, he manifests transcendent powers;
Entering the garden of birth-and-death, he assumes various forms to guide others."

[These verses] express the import of [the doctrine of] the Phase of Returning [to this world from the Pure Land] Directed [to us by Amida]. Once reaching Amida's Pure Land, one returns to this Saha [World] to benefit the sentient beings by the free and spontaneous [application of his] transcendental powers in accordance with his [enlightened] mind.

"Turning toward the dwelling of Master T'an-luan, the Emperor of Liang
Always paid homage to him as a bodhisattva."

Great Master T'an-luan (Donran) previously belonged to the Four Treatise School. The four treatises are the three treatises plus the Treatise on the Wisdom [Sutra]. The first of these three treatises is the Treatise of the Middle, the second is the Treatise af the One Hundred, and the third is the Treatise of the Twelve Gates. The master was thoroughly knowledgeable about these four treatises. Consequently, the Emperor Hsiao of Liang who was deeply devout revered him as "Bodhisattva" T'an-luan whenever he referred to him.

"Bodhiruci, master of the Tripitaka, gave T'an-luan the Pure Land teachings, And T'an-luan, burning his Taoist scriptures, took refuge in the land of bliss."

Great Master T'an-luan was first with the Four Treatise School. But as he strove to plumb the depth of the Buddhist teachings [as espoused by the Four Treatise School], he wondered how many people he could actually save since life was so short. He, thus, went to a [famous Taoist] figure by the name of Tao Ying-chu and immediately [devoted himself to] learning the method of long life and non-death.

Upon completing his studies for three years under the guidance of this Taoist ascetic, he began his return home. On the road he met a Tripitaka Master named Bodhiruci to whom he asked, "Is there a method for [realizing] long life and non-death in the Buddhist teachings that is superior to that found in the Taoist books of this land?" The Tripitaka Master spat on the ground and said, "Nowhere in this region will you ever find a method of long life and non-death; even if you were able to gain longevity and put off death for some time, you would still be transmigrating in the Three Realms."

He then gave [T'an-luan] the Sutra on Visualizing the [Buddha of] Immeasurable Life of the Pure Land [teachings] and said, "This is, indeed, the true method of long life and non-death, for if one recites [the Name of] the Buddha relying upon [this sutra] one will quickly avoid birth-and-death and realize life that cannot be measured."

In receiving this [sutra], T'an-luan immediately burned ten scrolls of Taoist books and took single-minded refuge in the Pure Land [teaching].

"In his commentary on the treatise of Bodhisattva Vasubandhu,
He shows that the cause and attainment of birth in the fulfilled land lie in the Vow."

Master T'an-luan composed a text called the Cornmentory to the Pure Land Treatise by Bodhisattva Vasubandhu, in which he clarified the causes and results related to [one's birth in] the [Land of] Extreme Bliss and each of the Vows.

"Our going and returning, directed to us by Amida, come about through Other Power;
The truly decisive cause is Shinjin."

The Phase of Going and the Phase of Return, the two kinds of [virtues that are] directed to us [by Amida], is never realized by the [power of] foolish ordinary beings, for they are realized by the Other Power. The truly decisive cause is due to that by which Shinjin is realized (Other Power).

"When a foolish being of delusion and defilement awakens Shinjin,
He realizes that birth-and-death is itself nirvana."

When the one thought-moment of Shinjin is realized even though one's [spiritual] capacity is deluded and defiled, one is able to say that birth-and-death is none other than nirvana because of [the workings of the inconceivable Dharma.

"Without fail he reaches the land of immeasurable light
And universally guides sentient beings to enlightenment."

In defining Amida's true land, our eminent teacher (Shinran) stated, "The Buddha is none other than the inconceivable light, and the land is none other than the land of immeasurable light. When one reaches that land, he returns to this defiled land to guide all beings.

"Tao-ch'o determined how difficult it is to fulfill the Path of Sages,
And reveals that only passage through the Pure Land gate is possible for us."

Tao-ch'o was formerly a scholar belonging to the Nirvana School. He was not a disciple who received [instructions] in person from Master T'an-luan, for one hundred some years separated them. [Tao-ch'o], however, read the words on T'an-Iuan's memorial at Hsuan-ch'ung Temple (Genchiiji) in Ping Province and took refuge in the Pure Land [path], thereby becoming a disciple [of T'an-luan]. [Tao-ch'o] further set aside his prodigious effort to lecture on] the [enormously long and difficult] Nirvana[-sutra] to, instead, earnestly propagate the practices for [the birth in] the Western Quarter. Since the Path of the Sages is the difficult practice and [the Path of the Pure Land is the easy practice, he taught that the foolish ordinary beings of the present age have only the one gate to pass through.

"He criticizes self-power endeavor in the myriad good practices,
And encourages us solely to say the fulfilled Name embodying true virtue."

Since the myriad good [practices] constitute self-power practice, those of the [foolish, ordinary] capacities of the Last Period [of Dharma] will not be able to cultivating [these myriad good practices]. Since the fulfilled Name embodying true virtue constitutes the practice of Other Power, this is most appropriate for those of the [foolish, ordinary] capacities of the Last Period [of Dharma].

"With kind concern he teaches the three characteristics of entrusting and non-entrusting,
Compassionately guiding all identically, whether they live when the dharma survives as but form, when in its last stage, or when it has become extinct."

Meditation Master Tao-ch'o commented on the doctrine of "the three characteristics of entrusting and non-entrusting." He states (in the first scroll of his Collection [of Passages} on the [Realm of] Peace), "First, the entrusting mind is not firm, for it exists at times but disappears at other times. Second, the entrusting mind is not singular, for it is not firmly settled. Third, the entrusting mind is not continuous, for it is intruded by extraneous thoughts." He, thus, taught accordingly with kindness, feeling compassion equally for those sentient beings living when the dharma survives as but form, or when in its Last Period of Dharma (mappo).

"Though a person has committed evil all his life, when he encounters the Primal Vow,
He will reach the world of peace and realize the perfect fruit of enlightenment."

By being planted within the universal Vow of Amida, even persons who have committed evil throughout their life will reach the World of Peace and Sustenance and immediately realize the supreme perfect fruit of enlightenment.

"Shan-tao alone in his time clarified the Buddha's true intent;
Sorrowing at the plight of meditative and non-meditative practicers and people of grave evil,"

Teachers were numerous within the Pure Land Gate, but Shan-tao alone sought Buddha's realization and correctly clarified the Buddha's true intent. He felt sorrow for everyone, without exception, whether they were of Meditative or Non-meditative [practicers] or people of grave evil.

"He revealed that Amida's light and Name are the causes of birth."

Among Amida Tathagata's forty-eight vows, the twelfth vow pledged "my light has no limits." This [vow] was meant to embrace the sentient beings of Nembutsu. This vow has now been fulfilled, for its ubiquitous, unhindered light illuminates the innumerable worlds of the ten quarters and for a long period of time illuminates the sentient beings' evil karma of blind passions. In meeting up with the light -- the indirect cause, when those sentient beings whose darkness of ignorance at long last becomes faint and the seeds of virtuous actions in their previous lives sprout forth, they hear the Name of the causal vow -- the Eighteenth Vow which [expresses] birth by Nembutsu -- for birth in the Fulfilled Land. Thus, to hold onto the Name [in one's mind] does not constitute self-power, since one is completely given to do so by the light. Accordingly, the Name -- the direct cause [of birth] -- is revealed having been made to sprout by the light, the indirect cause.

"When the practicer enters the great ocean of wisdom, Primal Vow,
He receives the diamond-like mind."

When one returns and enters the great wisdom ocean of the Primal Vow, one receives the true diamond-like mind.

"And accords with the one thought-moment of joy; whereupon,
Equally with Vaidehi, he acquires the threefold wisdom
And is immediately brought to attain the eternal bliss of dharma-nature."

When the Shinjin of the one thought-moment of joy becomes settled in a single-minded Nembutsu practicer, he becomes equal to Queen Vaidehi since he acquires the three wisdoms of joy, awakening and entrusting. The three wisdoms of joy, awakening and entrusting are first, joy wisdom, secondly, awakening wisdom, and thirdly, entrusting wisdom. Joy wisdom reveals the benefit derived from the joy of entrusting. Awakening wisdom is the wakening to the Buddha's wisdom. Entrusting wisdom is none other than the state in which the entrusting mind has been fulfilled. Vaidehi, thus, obtained the benefits of these three wisdoms. Accordingly, one who comes to possess the true entrusting mind acquires the three wisdoms equal to those of Queen Vaidehi, and realizes the eternal bliss of dharma-nature.

"Genshin, having broadly elucidated the teachings of Shakyamuni's lifetime,
 Wholeheartedly took refuge in the land of peace and urges all to do so."

The Master [Genshin] of Ryogon broadly elucidated the teachings [taught during Shakyamuni Buddha's] lifetime, but selected only the Nembutsu [teaching] and urged all sentient beings to [seek] birth in the Western Quarter.

"Ascertaining that minds devoted to single practice are profound, to sundry practice, shallow,
He sets forth truly the difference between the fulfilled land and the transformed land."

A person with the mind of attachment that prevents him from abandoning the penchant  for sundry practices and sundry cultivation would with certainly be born in the transformed land of the Country of Sloth and Torpor. A person with the mind of attachment to carry out the correct practices of single cultivation would with certainty be born in the Fulfilled Land of the Country of Extreme Bliss. This [distinction] determines the shallowness and the depth of the two kinds of cultivation, the single and the sundry. We ought to know that this meaning is expressed in the Hymns [of the Pure Land Masters] (verse no. 93) which states,

"He declares that births into the fulfilled Pure Land are not numerous,
And teaches that sentient beings born into transformed lands are not few."

"The person burdened with extreme evil should simply say the Name:"

As there are no other skillful means [for liberation] for the extremely evil person, this passage admonishes him to simply recite Amida’s Name] and gain birth in the [Pure Land of] Extreme Bliss.

"Although I too am within Amida's grasp
Passions obstruct my eyes and I cannot see him;
Nevertheless, great compassion is untiring and illumines me always."

A person who attains true Shinjin finds that his body is still in this Saha World but is within the grasp of the light. Even though the blind passions obstruct my eyes and prevents me from taking complete refuge, Amida Tathagata does not tire and illumines me always.

"Master Genku, well-versed in the Buddha's teaching,
Turned compassionately to foolish people, both good and evil."

Though the masters of Nembutsu [teaching] were numerous in Japan, no one was more revered by people of the world than Honen Shonin. This was due to his deep understanding of the Buddhist teaching. He was, thus, said to be the transformed body of Amida, a manifestation of Bodhisattva Mahasthamaprapta, or the rebirth of Shan-tao. An erudite teacher, he felt pity for us foolish ordinary people, both good and evil, and urged us to enter the Pure Land.

"Establishing in this remote land the teaching and realization that are the true essence of the Pure Land way,
He transmits the selected Primal Vow to us of the defiled world."

This Shonin established the Pure Land School (Jodoshu) for the first time in Japan, and having composed a writing called the Collection of Passages on the Selected [Nembutsu), he propagated [its message] widely in the defIled world.
"Return to this house of transmigration, of birth-and-death,
Is decidedly caused by doubt.
Swift entrance into the city of tranquility, the uncreated,
Is necessarily brought about by Shinjin."

This house of transmigration of birth-and-death refers to transmigration within the six destinies. One returns to this home on account of having doubt. [On the other hand,] one attains the Pure Land of Tranquility, the Uncreated on account of having Shinjin. This is what is meant when the Collection of Passages on the Selected [Nembutsu] states, "With doubt one dwells in the house of birth-and-death, but with an entrusting [mind] one enters the capital of nirvana."

"The mahasattvas and masters who spread the sutras
Save the countless beings of utter defilement and evil.
With the same mind, all people of the present, whether monk or lay,
Should rely wholly on the teachings of these venerable masters."

The great beings who spread the sutras refer to the bodhisattvas and masters of India, China and our country Japan. These teachers of people appeared in the world having felt compassion for us in the future [world] of utter defilement and evil. Thus, monks and laypersons should entrust themselves to the teachings of the eminent masters from the three countries. We should, therefore, not say that our being taught the teachings of birth in True Fulfilled Land has nothing to do with the [genuine] caring [shown us] by these masters. We should repay with gratitude the [debt we owe them] for their caring virtues.


The above The Main Import of Shoshinge was written in response to numerous previous requests by Dosai of Kanemori for his personal plans. I pondered over the request for some time but refused the request. However, because he was so persistent in his requests, I [gave in] to jot [down my thoughts], without giving much consideration to the structure of the phrases, not checking for consistency of logic, and using simpler words in accordance with the wishes of the person making the request. What I have written is in response to [a specific] request, so this should not be revealed to the general public.

I ended inking my brush in the Sixth Month of the Fourth Year of Choroku (1460).