An unabridged translation
with thematic captions of

Hisao Inagaki

A wooden statue of Shinran, preserved at the Senjuji temple, Mie Prefecture.
Text and the passage numbers follow the Jodoshinshu seiten edition, Hongwanji, 1988,
pp. 131-474

Taisho Tripitaka references are given in the brackets; the volume number 12 is omitted.

Index to the Kyogyoshinsho files
Present file - B: Practice (part 2)

Other files - A: Preface, Teaching, Practice (part 1); C: Faith (part 1); D: Faith (part 2); E: Enlightenment; F:True Buddha and Land; G:Transformed Buddha and Land (part 1); H: Transformed Buddha and Land (part 2).

Return to Index

<Last revised August 2002>

Passages in pale blue are Shinran's own comments

= Part 2 =

Shan-tao's praise and explanation of the Nembutsu
6. Essential Meaning of the Contemplation Sutra

It is also stated [in the Essential Meaning of the Contemplation Sutra]:

The Universal Vow [594c] is presented in the Larger Sutra. All good and evil ordinary beings will not attain birth without recourse to the karmic power of Amida Buddha's Great Vow as the supreme working.
7. Essential Meaning of the Contemplation Sutra

It is also stated [in the Essential Meaning of the Contemplation Sutra]:

'Namo' means 'to take refuge'; it also has the significance of 'making aspiration and transferring (merits).' 'Amidabutsu' is the practice. For this reason, one can definitely attain birth.
8. Method of Contemplation of Amida Buddha

It is stated [in the Method of Contemplation of Amida Buddha]:

Concerning 'the supreme working to embrace beings,' one of the Forty-eight Vows in the Larger Sutra says, "If, when I become a Buddha, the sentient beings of the ten quarters who, aspiring to be born in my land, call my Name even ten times, fail to be born there through my Vow-Power, may I not attain perfect Enlightenment." This means that the practicers who aspire to birth are embraced by the Vow-Power - when their lives are about to end - and are enabled to attain birth. Hence, this is called 'the supreme working to embrace beings.'"

9. Method of Contemplation of Amida Buddha

It is also stated [in the Method of Contemplation of Amida Buddha]:

The Buddhas wish all good and evil ordinary beings to convert their minds, perform Pure Land practices and thereby attain birth. This is 'the supreme working of all Buddhas testifying to our attainment of birth.'
10. Hymns on the Pratyutpanna Samadhi

It is also stated [in the Hymns on the Pratyutpanna Samadhi]:

There are different Dharma-gates numbering eighty-four thousand.
The sharp sword for cutting asunder our ignorance, its effects,
And the karmic cause of suffering in Samsara, is Amida's Name.
With a single utterance of the Name, all our evils are removed
Our numerous karmic evils of the past and self-power calculations are destroyed;
Even without being taught, we are led into the gate of True Suchness.
For attaining freedom from many kalpas' suffering in this Saha world
We are especially indebted to the benevolence of Shakyamuni, the true teacher;
Using various skillful means based on careful consideration,
He selected the teaching-gate of Amida's Universal Vow and led us into it.
Meaning of Namo Amida Butsu

34 We see from the above that the word 'namu' means 'to take refuge' (kimyo). 'Ki' means 'to come to'; it also means 'to rely joyfully' (kietsu) and 'to trust' (kisai). 'Myo' means 'act,' 'summoning,' 'causing,' 'teaching,' 'expounding,' 'exhorting with sincerity,' 'providing the compassionate means,' and 'calling.' 'Kimyo,' therefore, is the command of the Primal Vow, summoning us to trust it.

'Making aspiration and transferring (merits)' (hotsugan eko) refers to the mind of the Tathagata who already made the Vow resolving to endow the practice to sentient beings.

'The practice' (sokuze gokyo) is the working of the selected Primal Vow.

'One can definitely attain birth' (hittoku ojo) shows that one attains the Stage of Non-retrogression. Concerning this, the [Larger] Sutra states, "immediately attains (birth)" (sokutoku) and [Nagarjuna's] commentary says, "definitely assured" (hitsujo). 'Soku' (immediately) reveals the very instant in which the true cause of our birth in the Recompensed Land is settled through hearing and understanding the Vow-Power. 'Hitsu' (certainly) describes the state in which the Diamond-hard Mind has been established.

Praise of Amida's virtue by other Chinese masters
1. Fa-chao's Pure Land Liturgy

It is also stated in the Shorter Pure Land Liturgy of Nembutsu Chant in Five Stages (by Fa-chao, 8th c.):

The Tathagata Shakyamuni provided the teaching in two ways, in full and in summary, according to the capacities of the people. By so doing, he intended to lead all to Ultimate Reality in the end. To those who seek to realize true non-origination, who else can give the appropriate teaching? Indeed, the Nembutsu samadhi is truly the supreme and most wonderful Dharma-gate. With the Name realized by the Forty-eight Vows of Amida, the Dharma-king, the Buddha saves sentient beings, [595a] exercising the Vow-Power....

The Tathagata, while always dwelling in the ocean-like samadhi, raised his hand with webbed fingers and said to his father the King: "O King, you should now sit cross-legged and exclusively practice the Nembutsu. How can you seek no-thought by annihilating thought? How can you seek non-origination by annihilating origination? How can you seek Dharma-body by negating forms? How can you seek emancipation by not relying on words?" ...

How wonderful it is that the true Dharma of the ultimate principle is Oneness and yet it transforms beings and benefits people! Since each Buddha's great vows differ from others', Shakyamuni manifested his accommodative body in the world of defilement and Amida appeared in the Pure Land. Although their lands are different - one is defiled and the other pure,- the benefit they give to beings is the same. It is indeed the teaching-gate of the Pure Land alone that is easy to practice and easy to realize. The Western Quarter is exquisite, and the land is incomparable. It is adorned with lotuses of a hundred jewels, which open in nine different ways to take aspirants of different grades into them. This is due to the Buddha's Name...

It is stated in the hymns by Fa-chao, disciple of Shakyamuni, based on the Sutra in Praise of the Pure Land:

The sacred Name of the Tathagata Amida is clearly manifest beyond measure;
It prevails everywhere in the worlds of the ten quarters.
Simply by calling the Name, all can attain birth.
Avalokiteshvara and Mahasthamaprapta come in person to welcome them.

Amida's Primal Vow is particularly superb;
With compassionate skillful means he leads ordinary beings to the Pure Land.
Thus all sentient beings attain emancipation;
Those who recite the Name are immediately rid of karmic evil.

When ordinary beings reach the Western Quarter,
Their karmic evils, countless as particles, from long past kalpas will perish.
Endowed with the six supernatural powers, they attain unrestricted freedom in action;
Forever freed of old age and sickness, they are liberated from impermanence.

It is stated in the hymns by Fa-chao based on the Sutra on the Life of the Buddha:

What is called the Right Dharma?
The teaching that accords with truth is the true teaching.
Now right and wrong teachings should be distinguished;
Carefully examine each teaching and do not leave any in obscurity.
The Right Dharma surpasses the worldly teachings.
Observance of the precepts and sitting meditation are called the Right Dharma;
Attainment of Buddhahood through the Nembutsu is the true teaching.
Those who do not accept the Buddha's words are non-Buddhists;
The view that rejects the law of cause and effect is a nihilistic view.
The Right Dharma surpasses the worldly teachings.
How can meditation and observance of the precepts be the Right Dharma?
The Nembutsu-Samadhi is the true teaching.
To see one's true nature and realize one's mind (in the Pure Land) is to become a Buddha.
Why is this not in accord with truth?

It is stated in the hymns based on the Amida Sutra:

In the Western Quarter one advances in the Way more quickly than in this Saha world,
Because that land is free of the five desires and adversaries.
To become a Buddha, one does not require good acts;
One just sits on a lotus seat and concentrates on Amida.
Practice in this world of the five defilements is liable to regression;
Nothing is more advantageous than going to the Western Quarter through the Nembutsu.
Having reached there, one effortlessly realizes perfect Enlightenment;
Then one returns to the world of suffering and becomes a bridge for others to cross to emancipation.

Among the myriad practices, Nembutsu is the most essential;
No other teaching surpasses the Pure Land gate in bringing about emancipation quickly.
Not only is this the exposition from the golden mouth of the Buddha, our Master,
But all Buddhas of the ten quarters transmit this message and testify to its truth.
When one recites the Name of the Buddha in this world,
A lotus grows in the Western Quarter.
If one continues to recite it all one's life,
The flower comes here to welcome this person.

It is stated in the hymns by Master Tz'u-min based on the Pratyutpanna Samadhi Sutra:

Those who have assembled today in the hall,
You have transmigrated everywhere in samsara for countless kalpas, as numerous as the sands of the Ganges.
As I reflect, this human existence is difficult to obtain;
It is like blooming of an udumbara flower.
Through a rare chance, we have come to hear the Pure Land teaching;
We have encountered the opening of the Dharma-gate of the Nembutsu.
Indeed, we have encountered the call of Amida's universal Vow;
We have seen the assemblage converting their minds with Faith.
Today we have joined in praising Amida in accord with the sutras;
We have pledged with each other to meet on the higher lotus seats.
We have met in the hall free of devils' hindrances;
We have met again here without being hampered by illness.
We have accomplished the meritorious act for seven days;
The Forty-eight Vows will unfailingly take us to the Pure Land.
I urge all the fellow-practicers of this hall:
Strive diligently to convert your minds and go to the Pure Land.
Let me ask you, "Where is your home?"
It is the seven-jeweled lotus seat in the pond of the Land of Utmost Bliss.
Amida Buddha, in his causal stage, made the universal Vow:
Whoever hears my Name and concentrates on me, I will welcome to my land.
No discrimination is made between the poor and destitute and the rich and noble,
Or between the inferior and the highly gifted,
Or between those who have heard much and those who observe the precepts,
Or between those who break the precepts and those who have deep evil karma.
If only people convert their minds and recite the Nembutsu many times,
They are transformed, as if rubble were turned into gold.
I make an announcement to the assemblage here:
Those who share the same connection with Amida and seek to go to the Pure Land should ask each other --

Question: Where should we aspire to go to?
Answer: To Amida's Pure Land
Question: By what cause can we attain birth there?
Answer: Nembutsu recitation naturally brings you there.
Question: We have much karmic hindrance in this life;
How can we possibly enter the Pure Land?
Answer: By calling the Name, you can rid yourself of your karmic evil,
As when a shining lamp enters a dark room.

Question: Can ordinary people attain birth there?
How is it possible that one recitation brightens the darkness?
Answer: If you remove doubt and recite the Nembutsu many times,
Amida naturally comes close to you in person

It is stated in the hymns by Fa-chao based on the Sutra on Contemplation of the Buddha of Infinite Life:

Foolish beings who have committed the ten evil acts and the five gravest offenses
Have been sinking in samsara for eternally long kalpas, covered with dust of evil passions.
When they reach Amida's land by calling his Name even once, they will become one with the Dharma-nature Body
2. Kyeong-heung's Commentary on the Larger Sutra

Master Kyeong-heung says [in the Commentary on the Larger Sutra]:

The Tathagata Shakyamuni's detailed exposition of the Larger Sutra is divided into two parts. First, he fully expounds the (cause and) result of the Tathagata Amida's Pure Land, [595c] namely, his practices and his accomplishments. Next, he fully expounds the cause and result of sentient beings birth in the Pure Land, namely, Amida's embrace and the benefit to be gained.

37 He also says [in the Commentary on the Larger Sutra]:

It is stated in in the Sutra of the Lotus of Compassion, "Chapter on Giving Predictions to Bodhisattvas":
At that time, the Tathagata Treasure-store praised the wheel-turning monarch, saying, "Very well, very well.... Great King, in the western quarter, after passing a thousand million kotis of Buddha-lands, there is a world called August, Good and Undefiled. In that land there is a Buddha named August Sound-King.... He is at present preaching the Right Dharma to bodhisattvas.... It is the land of genuine Mahayana, pure and unadulterated. Sentient beings are born there transformed in the same form. There are no women, not even the word for woman. The merit of that Buddha-land is manifested as pure adornments. All are exactly the same as the Great King vowed, showing no difference at all.... Now your name shall be changed to Infinite Purity."
It is stated in the Teaching Assembly of the Tathagata of Infinite Life, fasc. 1:
Amida established such extensive, great universal Vows and has already fulfilled them all. They are rare in the world. Having made these Vows, Amida dwelt peacefully in truth and accomplished various merits, with which he brought to perfection his vast and pure Buddha-land of majestic glory.

38 Kyeong-heung further says [in the Commentary on the Larger Sutra]:

Since Amida has accomplished the two adornments of merit and wisdom, he equally endows sentient beings with the merit of practice. Since he benefits sentient beings with the merit of his own practice, he realizes accomplishment of his merit in them.

39 He also says [in the Commentary on the Larger Sutra]:

Through good causes provided for us over aeons of time, we can encounter the Buddha and rejoice to hear the Dharma.

40 He also says [in the Commentary on the Larger Sutra]:

The people in the Pure Land are sages, and the land is exquisite. Who would not exert themselves to go there? Aspire for birth by doing good. The cause of birth having already been accomplished, how can the result not be obtained spontaneously? Hence, 'naturally.' Irrespective of whether you are noble or base, you are enabled to attain birth. Hence, 'no discrimination between the high or the low.'

41 Again he says [in the Commentary on the Larger Sutra]:

"The land is easy to reach, but very few actually go there. It rejects nobody, but naturally and unfailingly attracts beings." [Larger Sutra, fasc. 2] By performing the causal practice, all can attain birth. Without performing it, very few attain birth. Anyone who seeks birth by performing the causal practice is not rejected; hence, 'easy to go to.'

42 He also says [in the Commentary on the Larger Sutra]:

'Because of the Primal Vow-Power' means that through the Vow-Power one attains birth. 'Because of the perfectly fulfilled Vow' means that his Vows are complete and there is nothing lacking. 'Because of the clear and manifest Vow' means that what Amida sought to attain was unfailingly realized. 'Because of the firm Vow' means that his Vows cannot be destroyed by any influence from outside. 'Because of the accomplished Vow' means that his Vows were bound to be fulfilled.

43 He also says:

In general, in order to make ordinary and inferior beings increase their desire for birth, one should reveal the excellent qualities of that land.

44 He also says:

There is a statement, "In this world they performed bodhisattva practices." From this we know that King Arenemi once lived in this world. So did Samudrarenu.

45 He also says:

By hearing of the vastness of the Buddha's majestic virtue, one reaches the Stage of Non-retrogression.
2. Tsung-hsiao's Collection of Passages on the Land of Bliss

It is stated in the Collection of Passages on the Land of Bliss (by Tsung-hsiao):

The general officer in charge of military affairs, Chang-lun, says:
"The Name of the Buddha is very easy to hold, and the Pure Land is very easy to reach. Among the eighty-four thousand teaching-gates, there is none that is superior to this quick way to emancipation .[596a] By setting aside a little time in the early morning, you should by all means store merit for the indestructible provision which will last for eternal kalpas. That is to say, with slight effort one gains inexhaustible merit. What affliction do sentient beings suffer that keeps them from taking up the Name? Ah, all is a dream or illusion, and is unreal. Life is ephemeral and hard to maintain for long. The moment one breath is not followed by another, the next life begins. Once the human life is lost, it will not be regained even in ten thousand kalpas. Unless we attain realization this time, what can the Buddha do to save us? May all of you deeply reflect on impermanence and be careful not to regret in vain! Thus I, Chang-lun, the Layman of Pure Bliss, urge those with whom I am karmically related."
3. Ch'ing-wen of the T'ien-t'ai school

Dharma-master Ch'ing-wen of Shan-yin, master of the T'ien-t'ai school, says:

Because the Buddha's Name manifests from his true body of recompense, because it arises from the ocean-like compassion, because it arises from the ocean-like Vow, from the ocean-like wisdom, and from the ocean-like Dharma-gates, to call exclusively the Name of this Buddha is to call the names of all Buddhas. Because it contains immeasurable merit, it destroys the hindrances of our karmic evil, thereby enabling us to be born in the Pure Land. Why should there be any doubt about this?
4. Yuan-chao of the Vinaya school

Yuan-chao, master of the Vinaya school, says:

With great compassion the Buddha revealed the Pure Land teaching and benevolently recommended this in many Mahayana scriptures. There are people who doubt and slander this after seeing and hearing it; being sunk in self-complacency, they do not seek spiritual transcendent attainment. The Tathagata considered such people to be pitiable beings. They do not accept this because they do not realize that this teaching is indeed extraordinary. It does not choose between wise and foolish, monks and laypeople; it does not question whether one has practiced for a long time or not, nor whether one's karmic offense is heavy or light. It only requires firm Faith as the cause of birth in the Pure Land.

49 He further says:

In various Pure Land sutras there is totally no mention of hindrances of devils; hence, we know that in this teaching there is no hindrance of devils. This matter is discussed in great detail in the Dharma-gate of True Faith by Master Ch'ing-wen of Shan-yin. Let us quote the discussion in full:
Question: Some say, "It may happen that at the time of death one beholds the Buddha and bodhisattvas coming in radiant light and bringing a lotus-seat and, accompanied by heavenly music and wonderful fragrance, one is welcomed to attain birth. This is all devils' work." I wonder if this assertion is true.

Answer: When one practices samadhi in accordance with the Sutra of the Samadhi of Heroic Advance, devils of the five aggregates may appear. When one practices samadhi in accordance with the Treatise on Mahayana (Treatise on Awakening of Faith in Mahayana), the external devils i.e., heavenly devils) may appear. When one practices samadhi in accordance with the Discourse on Cessation and Contemplation, "time spirits" may appear. All of these appear when different kinds of devils' hindrance which are determined by different natures of self-power of the practicers of meditation are stimulated by meditative practices. If you clearly realize this and apply proper remedy, these hindrances are immediately removed. If, however, you assume that you are already sages, you will suffer from the devils' hindrances. (The above shows that practice to realize enlightenment in this world may give rise to devils' hindrances.)

Concerning the Nembutsu-Samadhi that we now practice, we rely on the Buddha's power. It is just as those who are close to [596b] the king are free of any danger of assault. It is because Amida Buddha has the power of great compassion, the power of great Vows, the power of great wisdom, the power of great samadhi, the great majestic power, the great power to destroy evils, the great power to subdue devils, the power of the divine eye to see far, the power of the divine ear to hear at distance, the power to know others' thoughts, and the power of universally shining light with which Amida embraces
sentient beings. Amida has all these inconceivable powers. How could he not protect persons of the Nembutsu and keep them from hindrances until death? If he could not protect them, what would be the use of his power of compassion? If he could not remove devils' hindrances, what would be the use of his power of wisdom, power of samadhi, majestic power, power to destroy evils, and power to subdue devils? If he could not perceive beforehand and allowed devils to inflict hindrances upon the practicer, what would be the use of his power of divine eye to see far, power of divine ear to hear at distance, and power to know others' thoughts? The [Contemplation] Sutra states:
The rays of light that issue from Amida Buddha's physical characteristics and minor marks illumine all the worlds of the ten quarters, embracing and not forsaking sentient beings of the Nembutsu.
If one who recites the Nembutsu suffered devils' hindrance at the time of death, what would be the use of his power of universally shining light with which he embraces sentient beings? Moreover, many sutras describe how people of the Nembutsu perceive miraculous signs at the time of death. These are all the Buddha's words. How could you belittle them and say that those signs belong to the devils' sphere of actions? I have thus corrected and cleared the wrong thoughts and doubts. You should awaken the true faith.

50 [Yuan-chao] also says (in the Commentary on the Amida Sutra):

The ultimate teachings of the One Vehicle all point to the Land of Bliss as the last refuge. The Name of Amida's Buddhahood is most distinguished as the embodiment of the perfect virtues of a myriad practices. Amida in his causal state a bodhisattva established the Vows. Holding fast to his aspiration, he accomplished practices. He entertained compassion to save beings for "dust-motes" kalpas. There is no place, even as small as a mustard seed, where he did not abandon his life for their sake. He embraced and guided all, without exception, with the Six Paramitas of compassion and wisdom. He never failed to respond to the need of the people by giving away his possessions and his own self. When conditions matured, his practices were fulfilled and his virtues were perfected; and thus he all at once perfectly realized the three Buddha-bodies, and the myriad merits manifest themselves in the four characters, [A-mi-da-butsu].

51 He also says:

What is more, our Buddha Amida encompasses beings with his Name. And so, as we hear with the ears and recite it with the lips, boundless exalted merits enter into our hearts and become the seeds of Buddhahood for ever; they instantaneously remove heavy karmic evil which would entail transmigration for a hundred million kalpas, thereby making us realize the highest enlightenment. We truly know that the Name possesses much merit, not little goodness.

52 He also says:

Concerning right mindfulness, when ordinary people are about to die, they have no control over their consciousness. So all kinds of karmic seeds, both good and evil, manifest themselves. Some give rise to wicked thoughts, some wrong views, some loving attachment, and others manifest devilish features of insanity. Do we not say that all of these are caused by inverted thoughts? But those who had previously recited the Buddha's Name had their karmic evil destroyed and karmic hindrances removed. Emitting the fragrance of pure karma within and embraced by the Light of Compassion, they are instantly delivered from sufferings and attain pleasures [of the Pure Land]. A passage of the sutra below urges us to seek birth, because there is such a benefit. [596c]

53 [He also says: in the Commentary on the Contemplation Sutra]

Master Tz'u-yun [or Tsun-shih of T'ien-chu temple] explains:
Only the pure act for birth in the Land of Peace and Provision is the quick way to truth. Therefore, you should practice it. Any one of the four kinds of Buddhists who seeks to destroy ignorance quickly and remove forever the karmic evils, such as the five gravest offenses and the ten evil acts, both heavy and light, should perform this practice. Those who wish to maintain pure observance of the Mahayana or Hinayana precepts for a long time, attain the Nembutsu-Samadhi, and accomplish the bodhisattva's Paramitas, should learn this method. Those who wish to be free of fear at the time of death, attain peace and comfort of mind and body, see hosts of sages appear and extend their hands to welcome them, so that they may be rid of defiling afflictions for the first time and immediately reach the Stage of Non-retrogression, thereby realizing the non-arising of all dharmas without passing long kalpas -- they should learn this method.
Why do you not follow the Dharma-words of this ancient sage? In the above five sections, I have briefly presented the essentials [of the Contemplation Sutra]. I will not discuss more here. A detailed exposition will be given in the explanatory section.

According to the Catalog of Scriptures compiled in the K'ai-yuan era, there were two translations of this [Contemplation Sutra]. The earlier version has been lost. The one that exists was translated by Kalayashas. The Biography of Monks [compiled in the Liang dynasty] has this note: "Kalayashas is translated as "Time-praise"; he came to the capital in the beginning of the Yuan-chia era of the Sung dynasty, during the reign of Emperor Wen.

54 [He also says: in the Commentary on the Contemplation Sutra]

Tz'u-yun [or Tsun-shih] praises in a hymn:
This is the supreme teaching of all the teachings that fully explain the truth;
This is the highest teaching of all the teachings that lead to the perfect Enlightenment quickly.

55 [He also says: in the Commentary on the Contemplation Sutra]

Tai-chih [or Master Yuan-chao] praises in a hymn:
This is the One Vehicle teaching that leads to perfect Enlightenment quickly;
It is pure and unadulterated.

56 Chieh-tu [a disciple of Yuan-chao] of the Vinaya school says:

The Buddha's Name contains practices performed for many kalpas; a myriad virtues accumulated by them are manifested in the four-character Name [A-mi-da-butsu]. Therefore, anyone who recites it gains no small benefit.

57 Yung-ch'in [a disciple of Yuan-chao] of the Vinaya school says:

If you recite and contemplate the auspicious Name of the Buddha with your mouth and mind, you will unfailingly be endowed with the immeasurable merits which he accumulated from his causal state to his Buddhahood.

58 He also says:

All the Buddhas have realized True Reality after practicing for "dust-mote" kalpas and yet they grasp nothing. Hence, they made formless great vows; they performed excellent practices of no-abode; they realized ungraspable Enlightenment; they dwell in the lands of no-adornment; they manifest transcendent powers of no-transcendent powers; they display eloquent tongues covering the whole universe to preach speechless speech. For this reason, they urge us to accept this [Amida] sutra in faith. How could we conceive of this or discuss it? In my humble opinion, the inconceivable virtues of the Buddhas are at once comprised in Amida's two kinds of recompensed glorious adornments [i.e., recompensed body and land]. Concerning the practice of holding the Name, the Buddhas (who urge it) should include Amida.

5. Chia-hsiang of the Three-Discourse school

Master Chia-hsiang of the Three-Discourse school says [in his commentary on the Contemplation Sutra]:

Question: How can the Nembutsu-Samadhi eliminate so much karmic evil?
Answer: My interpretation is this: the Buddha possesses immeasurable merits. By being mindful of his immeasurable merits, one can have one's immeasurable karmic evil destroyed.

6. Beob-wi of the Consciousness-Only school

Master Beob-wi of the Consciousness-Only school says [in his commentary on the Larger Sutra]:

All Buddhas invest their virtues in their names. To call their names is to glorify [597a] heir virtues. Virtues destroy karmic evil and produce merits. So do the names. If one believes in a Buddha's name, it is certain and without doubt that it produces good and destroys evil. Why should there be any doubt about birth in the Pure Land through recitation of the Name?
7. Fei-hsi of the Zen School

Fei-hsi of the Zen school says [in his Discourse on the Nembutsu-Samadhi, the King of Jewels]


The Nembutsu-Samadhi is the best of all good. Because it is the foremost of a myriad practices, it is called 'the king of samadhis.'
Praise of the Name by Japanese Pure Land masters
1. Genshin

It is stated in the Collection of Essential Passages Concerning Birth [fasc. 3]:

(Secondly,) although the acts to be performed by the three groups of aspirants presented in the Two-fascicle Sutra [i.e., the Larger Sutra] are distinguished into different levels in depth, they have this common element: "single-minded and exclusive mindfulness of the Buddha of Infinite Life." Thirdly, among the Forty-eight Vows Amida made a special vow concerning the Nembutsu teaching, declaring, "If the beings who repeat the Nembutsu even ten times would not be born, may I not attain perfect Enlightenment." Fourthly, the Contemplation Sutra states, "For those with extremely heavy karmic evil there is no other way of salvation. They can attain birth in the Land of Utmost Bliss only through recitation of Amida's Name."

63 It is also stated in the same work, fasc. 3:

Buddha's six kinds of virtue
We should rely on the six kinds of virtue (of the Buddha) presented in the Sutra on Contemplation of the Mind-base: 1) the supreme, great field of virtues, 2) the supreme, great benevolence, 3) the most honored of all beings, whether they have no legs, have two legs or many legs, 4) the one who is extremely rare to encounter like an udumbara blossom, 5) the only one who appears in the universe of a thousand million worlds, and 6) the one who fully possesses all the worldly and supraworldly merits. With these six kinds of virtues, the Buddha continuously benefits all sentient beings.

64 With reference to these six kinds of virtues, Master Genshin says:

1. Practice the Nembutsu! All who say "Namo butsu" even once have already attained the Buddhist Path. Hence, I take refuge in and worship the supreme field of virtues.

2. Practice the Nembutsu! The Buddha looks upon sentient beings with compassionate eyes without discrimination, as though each of them were his only child. Hence, I take refuge in and worship the Mother of Greatest Compassion.

3. Practice the Nembutsu! All Great Beings of the ten quarters revere and worship Amida, the Holy One. Hence, I take refuge in and worship the Most Honored One among the beings who have two legs.

4. Practice the Nembutsu! Hearing the Buddha's Name even once is rarer than encountering an udumbara blossom. Hence, I take refuge and worship the one most difficult to encounter.

5. Practice the Nembutsu! No two Honored Ones simultaneously appear in the one hundred koti worlds. Hence, I take refuge and worship the Great Dharma-king who rarely appears in the world.

6. Practice the Nembutsu! The sea of virtues of the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha is of one entity throughout the three periods of time. Hence, I take refuge and worship the Honored One who fully possesses the myriad perfect virtues.

65 He also says [in the same work, fasc. 1]:

If a robe is perfumed with flowers of a palijata tree even for a single day, its fragrance far surpasses the scent perfumed with flowers of campaka and varsika trees for a thousand years

66 He also says [in the same work, fasc. 3]:

It is like a pound of "stone-liquid" transforming a thousand pounds of copper into gold. In the Himalayas grows a herb called "enduring." If a cow eats it, manda is produced. If the shirisa tree faces the constellation Krittika, it bears fruit. [597b]
2. Honen

The Collection of Passages Concerning the Nembutsu of the Selected Primal Vow compiled by Genku states:

Namo amida butsu: The fundamental act for the attainment of birth is the Nembutsu.

68 It also states:

Threefold elimination of the teachings
If you wish to free yourself from birth-and-death quickly, you should, of the two superior teachings, lay aside the Path of Sages and choose to enter the Pure Land Path. If you wish to enter the Pure Land Path, you should, of the two practices, right and sundry, abandon all sundry practices and choose to rely on the right practices. If you wish to perform the right practices, you should, of the two kinds of acts, right act and auxiliary acts, set aside the auxiliary acts and take up and exclusively practice the Act of Right Assurance. The Act of Right Assurance is to call the Buddha's Name. Recitation of the Name certainly enables one to attain birth, because it is based on the Buddha's Primal Vow.
Benefit of the Nembutsu Practice

69 We now clearly know (from the above quotations) that the Nembutsu is not a self-power practice performed by ordinary people or sages; hence, it is called 'practice not to be transferred (toward the Buddha).' Mahayana and Hinayana sages as well as people with karmic evil, whether heavy or light, should all equally take refuge in the great treasure-sea of the Selected Primary Vow and attain Buddhahood through the Nembutsu.

70 Hereupon, the Commentary on Vasubandhu's Discourse on the Pure Land [fasc. 2] states:

In the Land of Peace and Bliss there is no one who is not born transformed from within the pure flower of Amida Tathagata's Enlightenment. (They are so born) by one and the same path of the Nembutsu, and not by other paths.
Benefit one receives from the Practice and Faith

71 Thus, those who have received True Practice and Faith have much joy in their minds; hence this state is called 'Stage of Joy.' It is compared to the First Fruit (of Hinayana sagehood), because sages of the First Fruit will not be subject to the twenty-ninth state of existence, even though they become slumberous and indolent. Even more certain of emancipation are multitudes of beings of the ten quarters who rely on this Practice and Faith, for they are embraced and never forsaken. For this reason, this Buddha is called 'Amida.' This (saving activity) is called the Other-Power. Hereupon, the Mahasattva Nagarjuna says [in the Chapter on the Easy Practice], "they immediately enter the Stage of Definite Assurance." Master T'an-luan says [in the Commentary on Vasubandhu's Discourse on the Pure Land], "they join those who are Rightly Established in the Mahayana Path." We should respectfully trust in and exclusively follow this Practice.

Birth attained through (1) Name and Light and (2) Faith, Name and Light

72 We truly know that if it were not for the compassionate father of the virtuous Name, there would be no active cause of birth; if it were not for the compassionate mother of Light, there would be no passive cause of birth. Even if the active and passive causes are united, without the karma-consciousness of Entrusting Heart, one would not reach the Land of Light. The karma-consciousness of True Entrusting Heart is the internal cause, and the father of Name and the mother of Light are the external conditions. When the internal cause and the external condition are united, one realizes the body of truth in the Recompensed Land.

Therefore, Master (Shan-tao) says [in the Hymns of Birth in the Pure Land], "With the Light and the Name, Amida embraces and benefits all beings throughout the ten quarters, guiding them to realize Faith." (Fa-chao) says [in the Shorter Pure Land Liturgy of Nembutsu Chant in Five Stages], "Attaining Buddhahood through the Nembutsu is the true teaching of the Way." (Shan-tao) also says [in the Commentary on Non-meditative Practice], "The true teaching of the Way is difficult to encounter." We should discern this well.

Significance of "one utterance" of Nembutsu

73 Concerning the Practice and Faith transferred to us in the phase of Going Forth, there is, in Practice, "one utterance" in Practice and there is, in Faith, "one thought" in Faith. The one utterance of Practice reveals, with regard to the number of Nembutsu recitations, the ultimate point of the Easy Practice of the selected Primal Vow.

Testimony from the Larger Sutra

Therefore, the Larger Sutra [fasc. 2] states:

The Buddha said to Maitreya, "If there are people who hear the Name of that Buddha, rejoice so greatly as to dance, and call it even once, then you should know that they have gained great benefit [597c] by receiving the unsurpassed virtue."
Shan-tao's explanation

Master of Kuang-ming temple (i.e., Shan-tao) says "down to one utterance" [in the Commentary on Non-meditative Good], also "one pronouncing, one utterance" [in the Hymns of Birth in the Pure Land] and also "exclusive thought, exclusive utterance" [in the Commentary on Non-meditative Good].

76 Master Chih-sheng quotes in the Collection of Liturgies from Scriptures, fasc. 2, [a passage from Shan-tao's Hymns of Birth in the Pure Land]:

Deep mind is True Entrusting Heart. It is to accept in faith that one's own self is an ordinary person full of evil passions, with few roots of good, and unable to escape from this "burning house," transmigrating in the three worlds. It is also to believe, without a single thought of doubt, that Amida's original, universal Vow enables anyone who calls the Name even down to ten times or hears it, to attain birth without fail. Hence, it is called "deep mind."
Shinran's explanation

In the [Larger] Sutra the term "even (down to)" is used; in the Commentary [on Non-meditative Good] "down to" is used. These terms are different but their meaning is the same. Further, "even (down to)" can include both once and many times. "Great benefit" is contrasted to small benefit. "Unsurpassed" is contrasted to surpassable. We truly know that the unsurpassed great benefit is the true benefit of the One Vehicle. Small benefit which is surpassable refers to the eighty-four thousand provisional teaching-gates.

"Exclusive thought" in the Commentary [on Non-meditative Good] means single-mindedness; it describes the absence of "double-mindedness." "Exclusive utterance" is the single practice; it describes the absence of a second practice.

"Calling the Name once" transmitted to Maitreya is the single pronouncing. The single pronouncing is the single utterance. The single utterance is the single practice. The single practice is the right practice. The right practice is the right act. The right act is the right mindfulness. The right mindfulness is the Nembutsu; this is Namu amida butsu.

Shinran's praise of Amida's saving activity

When we board the ship of the Vow of Great Compassion and sail out on the vast sea of Light, the breezes of the utmost virtue blow softly and the waves of our karmic evil turn into merit. Thus, the darkness of ignorance being broken, we shall quickly reach the Land of Infinite Light and realize Great Nirvana. Then we shall act in accord with the virtue of Samantabhadra. This we should know.

Tao-ch'o's explanation of "ten utterances" of Nembutsu

The Collection of Passages Concerning Birth in the Land of Peace and Bliss, fasc. 1, states:

"Repeating the Nembutsu ten times" is simply an indication of the number by the Sage [Shakyamuni]. When one repeatedly utters the Nembutsu and focuses one's thought on it, without being distracted by other matters, one's act for attainment of birth is accomplished, and nothing more is needed. Why do we take the trouble of keeping count of the number of our Nembutsu recitation? There is another piece of advice: those who practice the Nembutsu for a long time should, in many cases, follow this way. The beginners, however, could very well count the number, for there is a scriptural reference to support this
Shinran's praise of the Great Practice

These passages quoted above are clear testimony that reveals the True Practice. We truly know that this is (the practice of) the selected Primal Vow, the supreme practice which is unequaled and rare, the right Dharma which is all-complete and truly excellent, and the ultimate and unhindered Great Practice. This we should know.

The Other-Power

81 The Other-Power is the Tathagata's Primal Vow-Power. [598a]

1. T'an-luan's explanation

The Commentary on Vasubandhu's Discourse on the Pure Land, fasc. 2, states:

The Vow-Power
"The Primal Vow-Power" shows that great Bodhisattvas with their bodies of Dharma always dwell in Samadhi and yet manifest various bodies, employ various transcendent powers and proclaim various teachings through their Primal Vow-Power; it is like an asura's harp which spontaneously produces music even though there is nobody to play it. This is called the feature of the fifth merit in the Stage of Teaching Others.
Self-benefit and benefiting others
"Bodhisattvas accomplish the practice for their own benefit with the four gates in the phase of 'going in.' One should realize the implication of this." 'To accomplish' means to fulfill for one's own benefit. 'One should realize the implication of this' means that one should realize that by accomplishing self-benefit one is able to benefit others; one cannot benefit others without first benefiting oneself. "

"Through the fifth gate of 'going out' Bodhisattvas accomplish the practice of benefiting others by transference of merit. One should realize the implication of this." 'To accomplish' means to attain the fruitive Stage of Teaching Others as the result of transference of merit to them. One can benefit others, whether in the stage of cause or in the stage of effect. 'One should realize the implication of this' means that one should realize that by accomplishing self-benefit one is able to benefit others; one cannot benefit oneself without being able to benefit others.

"Thus, by performing the five mindful practices, Bodhisattvas accomplish both self-benefit and benefiting others, and so quickly attain anuttara-samyak-sambodhi." The Dharma which the Buddha has attained is called 'anuttara-samyak-sambodhi,' and because he has realized this 'bodhi,' he is called Buddha. 'Quickly attain anuttara-samyak-sambodhi' means 'quickly become a Buddha.' 'A' means 'not'; '(n)uttara,' 'above'; 'samyak,' 'right'; 'sam,' 'universal'; and 'bodhi,' 'way.' Together, the term is translated 'the highest, right and universal Way.' 'Highest' means that this Way (Bodhi) has probed the principle of reality to the depths and thoroughly investigated the ultimate nature of existence and so there is nothing that surpasses it. The reason for its being so (i.e., the highest) is that it is 'right.' 'Right' implies sacred wisdom. Because it knows all that exists just as they are, this is called 'right wisdom.' Because the ultimate nature of existence is non-characteristic, the sacred wisdom is unknowing. 'Universal' has two meanings: 1) the sacred mind universally knows all things; 2) the Dharma-body universally pervades the Dharma-realm; neither body nor mind is limited in pervasiveness. 'Way' means the path of non-hindrance. The [Garland] Sutra says, "The Unhindered Ones throughout the ten quarters transcend birth-and-death by the single path." 'The single path' means the single path of non-hindrance. 'Non-hindrance' implies the realization that birth-and-death is identical with Nirvana; such a teaching of insight into non-duality has the characteristic of non-hindrance.

Question: For what reason is it said, 'quickly attain anuttara-samyak-sambodhi'?

Answer: Because, as it is said in the Discourse [on the Pure Land], "by performing the Five Mindful Practices, (Bodhisattvas) accomplish both self-benefit and benefit for others." When we deeply probe into the roots, we find that Amida Tathagata provides the predominant condition. [598b] There is a difference between 'benefit by the Other' and 'benefit for others.' Speaking from the Buddha's viewpoint, one should say 'benefit for others.' Speaking from the viewpoint of sentient beings, one should say 'benefit by the Other.' Since the Buddha's Power is under discussion, one should say, 'benefit for others.' One should realize this implication.
Generally speaking, attainment of birth in the Pure Land and the various practices performed by the bodhisattvas and human and heavenly beings living there are brought about by the Primal Vow-Power of Amida Tathagata. The reason for saying so is that if it were not for the Buddha's Power, the Forty-eight Vows would have been made in vain. Now I [i.e., T'an-luan] will select three vows to demonstrate the import of this.
Quick realization of Bodhi through the three Vows
The [Eighteenth] Vow says:
If, when I attain Buddhahood, the sentient beings of the lands of the ten quarters who sincerely and joyfully entrust themselves to me, desire to be born in my land, and call my Name even ten times, should not be born there, may I not attain perfect Enlightenment. Excluded, however, are those who commit the five gravest offenses and abuse the right Dharma.
Due to the Buddha's Vow-Power, one attains birth by invoking the Name ten times. Since one attains birth, one is freed from transmigration in the three worlds. Since one thus attains deliverance from transmigration, this is the first proof for the rapid attainment [of anuttara-samyak-sambodhi].
The [Eleventh] Vow says
If, when I attain Buddhahood, humans and gods in my land should not dwell in the Definitely Assured Stage and unfailingly reach Nirvana, may I not attain perfect Enlightenment.
Due to the Buddha's Vow-Power, one dwells in the Rightly Established Stage. Because one dwells in the Rightly Established Stage, one unfailingly reaches Nirvana. Once one has reached Nirvana, there will be no more suffering of transmigration. Hence, this is the second proof for the rapid attainment [of anuttara-samyak-sambodhi].
The [Twenty-second] Vow says:
If, when I attain Buddhahood, Bodhisattvas in the Buddha-lands of the other quarters who visit my land should not ultimately and unfailingly reach the Stage of Becoming a Buddha after One More Life, may I not attain perfect Bodhi. Excepted are those who wish to teach and guide sentient beings in accordance with their original vows. For they wear the armor of great vows, accumulate merits, deliver all beings from birth-and-death, visit Buddha-lands to perform the Bodhisattva practices, make offerings to Buddhas, Tathagatas, throughout the ten quarters, enlighten countless sentient beings as numerous as the sands of the River Ganges, and establish them in the highest, perfect Enlightenment. Such bodhisattvas transcend the course of practice of the ordinary bodhisattva, manifest the practices of all the bodhisattva stages, and cultivate the virtues of Samantabhadra.
Due to the Buddha's Vow-Power, one transcends the practices of the ordinary bodhisattva, manifests the practices of all the bodhisattva stages, and cultivates the virtues of Samantabhadra. Since one thus transcends the ordinary bodhisattva stages, this is the third proof for the rapid attainment [of anuttara-samyak-sambodhi].

When we ponder on the Other-Power, it is the predominant condition [for our rapid attainment of anuttara-samyak-sambodhi]. How can it be otherwise?

I will present another illustration to show the distinctive features of 'self-power' and 'other-power.' One observes the precepts from fear of the three painful states of existence. Because one observes the precepts, one is able to practice meditation. By practicing meditation, one cultivates transcendent powers. With the transcendent powers one is able to travel freely in the four continents. This is called 'self-power.' Though a man of little virtue who rides a donkey cannot fly, if he were to follow the procession of a wheel-turning monarch, he could fly in the air and travel in the four continents without any hindrance. [598c] This is called 'other-power.' How foolish are scholars of these latter days! Having heard that the Other-Power is to be trusted in, they should accept it in faith, and should not entertain restricted views.

2. Yuan-chao's explanation

Master Yuan-chao says [in the Commentary on the Contemplation Sutra]:

The way of destroying delusion and realizing True Suchness in this world, which is based on one's self-power, is expounded in various Mahayana and Hinayana sutras. The way of realizing Enlightenment after going to another land and hearing the Dharma there is necessarily dependent on the Other-Power and so birth in the Pure Land is taught. Although these two ways are different, they are both means for making us realize our minds (as they are).

The Ocean of the One Vehicle
Shinran's explanation of the One Vehicle

Concerning 'the ocean of the One Vehicle' [which appears in Shan-tao's Essential Meaning of the Contemplation Sutra], the One Vehicle is the Great Vehicle. The Great Vehicle is the Buddha Vehicle. To attain the One Vehicle is to attain the highest, perfect Enlightenment. The highest Enlightenment is the realm of Nirvana. The realm of Nirvana is the ultimate Dharma-body. To attain the ultimate Dharma-body is to reach the ultimate end of the One Vehicle. There is no other Tathagata; there is no other Dharma-body. Tathagata is Dharma-body. To reach the ultimate end of the One Vehicle is to realize the boundless and endless (Enlightenment). In the One Vehicle there are no Two Vehicles or Three Vehicles. The Two Vehicles and Three Vehicles are established to lead us into the One Vehicle. The One Vehicle is the vehicle of the highest truth. It refers solely to the One Buddha Vehicle of the Vow.

Explanation in the Nirvana Sutra

The Nirvana Sutra ["Chapter on the Sacred Practice"] states:

Men of good families, True Reality is called the Great Vehicle; the principles outside the Great Vehicle are not called True Reality. Men of good families, True Reality is the Buddha's exposition, not the devil's. If this is the devil's exposition, not the Buddha's, it cannot be called True Reality. Men of good families, True Reality is the Single Way, pure and non-dual.

86 This sutra also states [in the "Chapter on Virtuous King"]:

How do bodhisattvas follow One Reality? They provide means of leading all sentient beings to the Single Way. The Single Way is the Great Vehicle. Buddhas and bodhisattvas divide it into three for the sake of sentient beings. Thus bodhisattvas follow it without running counter to it.

87 This sutra also states [in the "Chapter on Expounding the Dharma like a Lion"]:

Men of good families, there are two kinds of 'ultimate': the ultimate which glorifies Buddhahood and the ultimate which has been consummated; the former is the ultimate in the worldly realm, and the latter is the ultimate in the supraworldly realm. The ultimate which glorifies Buddhahood refers to the Six Paramitas; the ultimate which has been consummated refers to the One Vehicle which all sentient beings will realize. The One Vehicle is called Buddha-nature. For this reason, I proclaim that each and every sentient beings possesses Buddha-nature. Every one of the sentient beings possesses the One Vehicle. Because it is covered over by their ignorance, they cannot see it.

88 This sutra also states [in the same chapter]:

Why do you expound 'one'? Because all sentient beings, without exception, possess the One Vehicle. Why do you expound 'not one'? Because the Three Vehicles are established. Why do you expound 'neither one nor not one'? Because (the absolute truth) is beyond the scope of reckoning. [599a]
Explanation in the Garland Sutra

The Garland Sutra ["Chapter on Clarification of Difficulties"] states:

The Dharma realized by Manjushri (i.e., Nembutsu-Samadhi) is eternally unchangeable;
To the Dharma-king (Amida) belongs only this one Dharma.
All the (Buddhas) who have realized the principle of unhinderedness
Have liberated themselves from birth-and-death by the Single Path.
The bodies of all the Buddhas
Are only one Dharma-body;
They possess one and the same mind and wisdom;
Their (ten) powers and (four) fearlessnesses are equally the same.
Truth of the One Vehicle to be realized in the Pure Land

Now, we see that the spiritual attainment described above is all the great benefit to be gained in the Pure Land of Peace and Provision and the inconceivable, ultimate virtues actualized by the Buddha's Vow.

Meaning of "ocean"

'Ocean' (in the 'ocean of the One Vehicle') has the following meaning: all the river waters of sundry practices and sundry good acts which ordinary people and sages have performed since the beginningless past and the ocean waters of evil passions, and numerous as the sands of the River Ganges, of those who have committed the five gravest offenses, those who have abused the Dharma, and those devoid of good roots, are transformed into the waters of the great treasure-ocean of a myriad of true virtues, as numerous as the sands of the River Ganges, actualized by the Great Compassion and Wisdom of the Primal Vow. Hence, the metaphor of 'ocean.' Here we truly know the import of a sutra, which states, "The ice of evil passions melts and becomes the water of virtue."

The ocean of the Vow does not keep the corpses of sundry good acts performed by the middle and the lower sages of the Two Vehicles (without changing them into Amida's virtues). How then does it keep the corpses of false and perverted good acts and poisoned and mixed thoughts of humans and gods?

Amida's wisdom is deep

Thus, the Larger Sutra [fasc. 2] states:

Neither shravakas nor bodhisattvas are able to know
The Sage's Mind exhaustively;
They are like those who are born blind
And yet wish to guide others.
The ocean of the Tathagata's wisdom
Is deep, vast and boundless.
Even sages of the Hinayana cannot fathom it;
Only the Buddha clearly knows it.

T'an-luan's explanation of Amida's Vow and Power

It is stated [in T'an-luan's Commentary on Vasubandhu's] Discourse on the Pure Land, fasc. 2:

What is the accomplishment of the glorious merit of the unfailing sustenance? It is said in the verse:
When I observe the Buddha's Primal Vow-Power,
I find that those who meet with it do not pass by in vain.
They are enabled to gain quickly
The great sea of the treasure of merit.
Accomplishment of the merit of the unfailing sustenance is said of Amida Tathagata's Primal Vow-Power. I shall briefly present some (examples of) vain provisions which do not support (one's life) and, thereby, reveal the meaning of the 'unfailing sustenance.'...

'Unfailing sustenance' results from the original Forty-eight Vows of Dharmakara Bodhisattva and is maintained by the transcendent Power that Amida Tathagata can freely use now. His Vows gave rise to the Power ; the Power fulfills the Vows. The Vows have not been established in vain; the Power is not empty. The Power and Vows work in complete harmony, and not in the least discordant with each other; hence, 'accomplishment.'
T'an-luan's explanation of "ocean"

It is also stated [fasc. 1]:

The word 'ocean' describes the Buddha's omniscience; it is limitless in depth and breadth, and does not hold impure merits of the Two Vehicles; it does not retain the 'corpses' of the middling and inferior (Vehicle); hence, this is compared to an ocean. For this reason, it is stated:
Heavenly and human beings, unshakable (in their spiritual attainments),
Are born out of the ocean of pure wisdom.

'Unshakable' means that the heavenly and human beings in his land have acquired the root of Mahayana, and so their minds cannot be shaken by anything.
Shan-tao's praise of the One-Vehicle teaching

The Master of Kuang-ming temple [i.e., Shan-tao] says [in the Essential Meaning of the Contemplation Sutra]:

I rely on the Bodhisattvas-pitaka,
The teaching for sudden emancipation, the ocean of the One Vehicle.

96 He also says [in the Hymns on the Pratyutpanna Samadhi]:

In the Ornament Sutra the teaching for gradual emancipation is expounded.
One reaches the Stage of Non-retrogression after performing practices for ten thousand kalpas.
The teachings expounded in the Contemplation Sutra [599b] and the Amida Sutra
Are those for sudden emancipation, the Bodhi[sattva]-pitaka.

Tsung-hsiao's praise of the One-Vehicle teaching

In the Collection of Passages on the Land of Bliss, Tsung-hsiao says:

One grain of elixir transforms iron into gold; one word of truth transforms evil karma into good.
Comparison between Nembutsu and other practices

98 Now, when I compare the Nembutsu with various good practices in regard to the teaching, there are the following comparisons:

1. easy over against difficult;
2. sudden over against gradual;
3. crosswise over against vertical;
4. transcending over against traversing;
5. harmonizing with (the Vow) over against discordant;
6. great over against small;

7. much over against little;
8. superior over against inferior;
9. intimate over against alien;
10. near over against far;
11. deep over against shallow;
12. strong over against weak;
13. weighty over against light;
14. wide over against narrow;
15. unadulterated over against mixed;
16. short way over against long way;
17. quick over against slow;
18. special over against ordinary;
19. unretrogressive over against retrogressive;
20. straightforwardly expounded over against casually expounded;
21. recitation of the Name over against meditative and non-meditative practices;
22. exhaustive exposition of truth over against partial exposition of truth;
23. encouraged (by Buddhas) over against not encouraged;
24. uninterrupted over against interrupted;
25. unceasing over against ceasing;
26. continuing over against not continuing;
27. unsurpassed over against surpassable;
28. highest of the high over against lowest of the low;
29. inconceivable over against conceivable;
30. virtue of the fruitive stage over against causal practices;
31. exposition on the Buddha's own initiative over against exposition on others' request;
32. not to be transferred (to the Buddha) over against to be transferred;
33. protected (by Buddhas) over against not protected;
34. verified (by Buddhas) over against not verified;
35. praised (by Buddhas) over against not praised;
36. transmitted (to Maitreya) over against not transmitted;
37. perfect teaching over against imperfect teaching;
38. practicable over against not practicable;
39. selected (by Amida) over against not selected;
40. true over against temporary;
41. not seeing the Buddha's passing into Nirvana over against seeing the Buddha's passing into Nirvana;
42. beneficial even in the age of Extinct Dharma over against not beneficial;
43. (practice of) the Other-Power over against (practices of) self-power;
44. conforming to the Vow over against not conforming to the Vow;
45. (practicers are) embraced over against not embraced;
46. leading to the Definitely Assured State over against not leading to it;
47. leading to birth in the Recompensed Land over against leading to birth in the Transformed Land.

Such are the comparisons. However, when I ponder on the ocean of the One Vehicle of the Primal Vow, I see that it is the all-merging, perfect, unhindered, absolute and unparalleled teaching which brings about the quickest effect.

Comparison between Nembutsu practicers and others

99 Next, making a comparison with regard to practicers, there are the following comparisons:

1. entrusting over against doubting;
2. good over against evil;
3. right over against perverse;
4. right over against wrong;
5. truthful over against vain;
6. true over against false;
7. pure over against defiled;
8. wise over against dull;
9. quick over against slow;
10. noble over against mean;
11. bright over against dark.

Such are the comparisons. However, when I ponder on the receptacle of the ocean of the One Vehicle, I see that the Diamond-hard Faith is the absolute and unparalleled receptacle.

Praise of the One-Vehicle Path based on the Vow

100 Respectfully I proclaim to all aspirants of birth: The ocean of the One Vehicle of the Universal Vow is consummated with the utmost virtues which are unhindered, boundless, supreme, wonderful, ineffable, unspeakable and inconceivable. Why is it so? Because the Vow is inconceivable.

The Compassionate Vow is: 1. like the great space because its excellent virtues are vast and boundless; 2. like a great vehicle because it carries all ordinary people and sages; 3. like a wonderful lotus flower because it cannot be defiled by anything in the world; 4. like Sudarshana, the king of medicine, because it cures all illnesses of evil passions; 5. like a sharp sword because it cuts the armor of all arrogance; 6. like the banner of the Heroic General [Indra] because it subdues all the devils' armies; 7. like a sharp saw because it cuts all the trees of ignorance; 8. like [599c] a sharp ax because it chops down all the branches of suffering; 9. like a good teacher because it frees us from all the bondages of birth-and-death; 10. like a leader because it shows the essential way of emancipation for ordinary people; 11. like a spring because it inexhaustibly supplies the water of wisdom; 12. like a lotus flower because it is not defiled by any karmic evil; 13. like a swift wind because it disperses the fog of all hindrances; 14. like sweet nectar because it completely possesses the taste of all virtues; 15. like the right path because it leads multitudes of beings into the castle of wisdom; 16. like a magnet because it draws beings to the cause (of birth) of the Primal Vow; 17. like the Jambunada gold because it outshines all the good acts of the conditioned world; 18. like a hidden storehouse because it stores all the teachings of the Buddhas; 19. like the great earth because all the Tathagatas of the past, present and future throughout the ten quarters arise from it; 20. like the light of the sun because it dispels the darkness of ignorance of all ordinary people awakens Joyful Faith in them; 21. like a king because it surpasses (the teachings of) all sages of the Upper Vehicles [i.e., Buddhas]; 22. like a strict father because it guides all ordinary people and sages; 23. like a compassionate mother because it nurtures the true cause of birth in the Recompenses Land; 24. like a nursing mother because it fosters and protects all the aspirants of birth, whether good or evil;25. like the great earth because it sustains all those who are to be born; 26. like the great floods because it washes off all the grime of evil passions; 27. like the great fire because it burns the firewood of all the wrong views; and 28. like the great wind because it goes everywhere in the world without hindrance.

[The compassionate Vow] leads beings out of the three worlds, the castle of fetters, and closes the gates of the twenty-five states of existence. It enables us to reach the True Recompensed Land, and distinguishes the right path from wrong ways. It dries up the ocean of ignorance and carries us into the ocean of the Vow. It enables us to board the ship of Omniscience and to float in the ocean of multitudes of beings. It fills the store of merit and wisdom, and opens the store of Expediency. Indeed, we should reverently receive and uphold it.

Outline of the system of salvation through the Vow

101Now, with regard to the Vows, there are (Vows of) True Practice and Faith, and also there are (Vows of) expedient practice and faith. The Vow of True Practice is the Vow that the Name shall be praised by all the Buddhas. The Vow of True Faith is the Vow of Sincere Mind and Joyful Faith. These are the Practice and Faith of the Selected Primal Vow. Those who receive and practice them are all good and evil beings, the sages of the Mahayana and Hinayana, and ordinary, foolish people. The kind of birth they attain is the Inconceivable Birth. The Buddha and the Land are the Recompensed Buddha and the Recompensed Land. All of this is the accomplishment of the Inconceivable Vow, the ocean of One Reality, or True Suchness. This is the ultimate teaching of the Larger Sutra on the Buddha of Infinite Life and the right purport of the true teaching of the Other-Power.

Acknowledgement of Amida's benevolence

Hereupon, acknowledging the Buddha's benevolence and wishing to repay it, I have perused the Master (T'an-luan's) Commentary and found the following passage:

A Bodhisattva submits to the Buddha just as a dutiful son obeys his parents or a loyal subject serves his sovereign, [600a] whether king or queen, with actions not motivated by his desires but always in compliance with the wishes of the sovereign. Since he is appreciative of the Buddha's benevolence and eager to repay it, he naturally addresses the Buddha first. Furthermore, he has taken weighty vows. Without the support of the Tathagata's supernatural power, how could he fulfill them? Here (Vasubandhu) entreats the Buddha to support him with his supernatural power, and so respectfully addresses the Buddha.
Hymn of True Faith and Nembutsu

Thus, having taken refuge in the true words of the Great Sage and perused the commentaries of the great masters, I have realized the profundity of the Buddha's benevolence. And so I have composed the Hymn of True Faith and Nembutsu.


I take refuge in the Tathagata of Infinite Life;
I take refuge in the Buddha of Inconceivable Light.
Bodhisattva Dharmakara, in his causal stage,
Was in the presence of Lokeshvararaja, the Enlightened One.
He saw the pure lands of many Buddhas, observed how they had been established,
And examined everything, good and bad, about the humans and gods inhabiting them.
He then brought forth the unsurpassed and most excellent Vows,
The Great Vows, immeasurable in scope and depth, which the world had never known.

Dharmakara chose and cherished his Vows after contemplation for five kalpas.
He further vowed that his Name would be heard throughout the ten quarters.
Amida sends forth universally the immeasurable and boundless Light,
The unimpeded, incomparable and majestically flaming Light,

The pure Light, the Light of joy, the Light of wisdom,
The unceasing, inconceivable and ineffable Light,
And the Light outshining the sun and the moon; with these Lights he illumines the innumerable worlds.
All sentient beings are shone upon by his Light.

The Name promised in the Primal Vow is the Act of Right Assurance;
The Vow of Sincere Mind and Joyful Faith provides the cause of our Birth;
To attain the state next to the Buddha and realize Great Nirvana
Is due to the fulfillment of the Vow which assures our unfailing attainment of Nirvana.

The reason for the Buddha's appearance in the world
Is, above all, to expound the Primal Vow of Amida, wide and deep as the ocean.
All beings in the evil age of the five defilements
Should believe in the truth of the Buddha's words.

If the single thought of Joy and Gratitude is awakened in us,
We shall realize Nirvana without severing our blind passions.
When ordinary people and sages as well as those who commit the gravest offenses and abusers of the Dharma are taken into the Vow,
They become one in spiritual attainment, just as many rivers become of one taste upon entering the sea.

The Light of All-embracing Compassion always illumines and protects us;
The darkness of ignorance has already been destroyed by it,
But still the clouds and mists of greed, desire, anger and enmity
Continually cover the sky of True Faith;

Yet, just as the sunlight is obstructed by clouds or mists,
Below them it is light and there is no darkness.
When we receive Faith, regard and revere the Dharma, and attain Great Joy,
We immediately transcend the five evil realms.

If ordinary people, whether good or evil,
Hear the Dharma and trust Amida's Universal Vow,
Shakyamuni praises them as 'men of great and superior understanding';
Such people are called 'white lotus-flowers'.

The Nembutsu promised in the Primal Vow of Amida Buddha
Is difficult for evil people who have wrong views and are arrogant
To receive and retain with Joyful Faith;
Of all difficulties nothing is more difficult than that.

The discourse-writers of India, the land in the west,
And noble masters of China and Japan
Revealed the true purpose of the Great Sage's appearance
And clarified that Amida's Primal Vow responds to our need.
Shakyamuni, the Tathagata, while dwelling on Mount Lanka,
Prophesied to the assembly of monks that in Southern India
A Great Being named Nagarjuna would appear in the world
And destroy all the wrong views on 'existence' and 'non-existence'.

Proclaiming the unsurpassed teaching of Mahayana;
He would reach the Stage of Joy and attain birth in the Land of Peace and Bliss.
He taught that the difficult practices are toilsome like traveling by land,
And urged us to believe that the Easy Practice is pleasant like sailing on water.

When a thought of mindfulness of Amida's Primal Vow arises,
At that instant we spontaneously enter the Stage of Assurance.
Always reciting only the Name of the Tathagata,
We should seek to repay our indebtedness to his Great Compassion.

The Bodhisattva Vasubandhu composed a discourse, in which he professed
That he took refuge in the Tathagata of Unhindered Light;
In accordance with the sutras he expounded the true merits,
And clarified that the Great Vow enables us to leap over[ samsara] crosswise.

He revealed One Mind in order to emancipate multitudes of beings
Through Amida's transference of merits by the Power of his Primal Vow.
Upon entering the Great Treasure-Ocean of Merits,
We will unfailingly join the Great Assemblage
Upon reaching the World of Lotus-store,
We will realize True Suchness and attain Dharma-body.
Then, playing in the forests of evil passions, we will display supernatural powers;
Entering samsaric states, we will manifest accommodative and transformed bodies to save beings.

Master T'an-luan was venerated by the King of Liang;
Facing toward his place, the king worshiped him as a Bodhisattva.
When Bodhiruci, the Tripitaka master, gave him a Pure Land scripture,
T'an-luan burned his Taoist texts and took refuge in the Land of Bliss.
He wrote a commentary on the Bodhisattva Vasubandhu's discourse, explaining in it:
Both the cause and the effect of our birth in the Land of Recompense come from Amida's Vows;
The karmic energy for our birth and returning to this world originates from the Other-Power.
The cause of attaining the Stage of Right Assurance is Faith alone.

When Faith is awakened in the minds of deluded and defiled ordinary people,
They are made aware that birth-and-death is Nirvana.
After they unfailingly reach the Land of Infinite Light,
They will save sentient beings everywhere, so says T'an-luan.

Master Tao-ch'o determined that by the Path of Sages Enlightenment is difficult to attain
And clearly presented the Pure Land Path as the only way of salvation.
He disparaged practicing thousands of acts of merits with self-power
And urged us to recite exclusively the Name of perfect virtues.

He kindly taught the three aspects of imperfect faith and those of right faith
He compassionately guided those of the ages of Semblance Dharma, Decadent Dharma and Extinct Dharma alike.
Whatever evils we may commit throughout our lives, if we encounter the Universal Vow,
We shall reach the Land of Peace and Provision and realize the Supreme Fruition.

Shan-tao alone clarified the true intent of the Buddha Shakyamuni.
Out of compassion for those who practice meditative or non-meditative good as well as those who commit the five gravest offenses and the ten evil acts,
He clarified that the Light and the Name are the cause and condition for birth in the Pure Land.
When aspirants are led into the Sea of Great Wisdom of the Primal Vow,

They are endowed with Faith, indestructible as diamond;
After attaining a single thought of Joy of oneness with Amida,
They obtain the three insights, as did Vaidehi,
And will realize the Eternal Bliss of Dharma-nature.

Genshin widely expounded the Buddha's lifetime teachings;
While he devoutly sought refuge in the Land of Peace and Provision, he urged all to follow him.
He distinguished between deep faith in practicing the Nembutsu exclusively and shallow faith in doing miscellaneous acts of merits,
And so clarified the different states of attainment: birth in the Land of Recompense and birth in the Transformed Land.

Those with extremely heavy evil karma should only recite the Buddha's Name.
Although I, too, am in Amida's embracing Light, [600c]
My evil passions hinder me from perceiving it,
But his Light of Great Compassion never ceases to shine on me untiringly.

Genku, the master of our school, was well-versed in Buddhism;
He was compassionately mindful of both good and wicked ordinary people.
Disseminating the teaching of the True Way throughout Japan,
He spread the selected Primal Vow in this evil world.
Transmigration in the house of samsara
Is definitely caused by the fault of doubt;
Quick entry into the Capital of Tranquility and No-action
Is necessarily realized by Faith.

The bodhisattvas and masters of this school who spread the teaching of the Pure Land sutras
Have saved innumerable beings, totally defiled and evil.
People of the present age, both priests and laymen, should with one accord
Only accept in faith the teachings of those virtuous masters.
Here ends the Hymn, 120 lines in 60 verses

End of Chapter 2: A Collection of Passages Revealing
the True Practice of the Pure Land Way

Continued to the first part of Faith

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