|An unabridged translation
with thematic captions of
A duplicate portrait of Shinran, known as "Anjo no goei" (Holy image of Anjo), painted by Hogen Choen when Shinran was 73 years of age. The inscription below is from the Shoshinge, lines 17-36.
Taisho Tripitaka references are given in the brackets; the volume number 12 is omitted.
Index to the Kyogyoshinsho files
Present file - C: Faith (part 1)
Other files - A: Preface, Teaching, Practice (part 1); B: Practice (part 2); 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).
<Last revised August, 2002>
|Passages in pale blue are Shinran's own comments|
Chapter 3: A Collection of Passages
the True Faith of the Pure Land Way
Compiled by Gutoku Shinran
Disciple of Shakyamuni
|Recommendation of True Faith|
When I deeply contemplate matters, I find that attainment of Joyful Faith arises from the Tathagata [Amida's] Mind in which the Primal Vow was selected and embraced and that the awakening of True Faith occurs through the compassionate skillful means of the Great Sage [Shakyamuni]. However, the monks and laypeople of this latter age and the masters of these days, drowned in the concepts of "one's self-nature [being identical with Buddha]" and "[all that exists is in] one's mind," despise true Enlightenment in the Pure Land; or, deluded by self-power efforts to perform meditative and non-meditative good practices, they are ignorant of the Diamond-hard True Faith
|Guidelines of Faith|
Now I, Gutoku shaku Shinran, have sincerely accepted the true teaching of the Buddhas and Tathagatas and studied the doctrines of the discourse-writers and commentators. Guided by the beneficial revelation of the Three Sutras, I will elucidate, in particular, the "flower-passage" concerning the One Mind [by Vasubandhu]. In so doing, I will present some questions and later give answers to them by citing clear evidence.
|Appeal to other Buddhists|
Being appreciative of the Buddha's deep benevolence, I am not afraid of people's abuse. Those who aspire for the Pure Land and those who abhor this defiled world are requested not to slander this teaching, even though they may choose to accept or discard it.
The Vow of Sincere Mind and Joyful Faith
The people who dwell in the Rightly Established Stage
Chapter 3: A Collection of Passages
Revealing the True Faith of the Pure Land Way
Compiled by Gutoku Shinran
Disciple of Shakyamuni
|Praise of Great Faith|
1 When I reverently contemplate the Merit-transference in the Phase of Going, I find that there is Great Faith. Great Faith is the divine prescription for the long life without death, the wonderful way of aspiring for the Pure Land and abhorring the defiled world, the Direct Mind endowed through the selected Primal Vow, the deep and vast Joyful Faith endowed by the Other-Power, the True Faith that is indestructible like diamond, the Pure Faith for easy attainment of birth in the Pure Land which, nevertheless, very few gain, the One Mind embraced and protected by the Light that issues forth from Amida's Mind, the great entrusting heart that is rare and supreme, the quick way that is difficult for the people of the world to trust, the true cause of realizing Great Nirvana, the White Path that leads to quick attainment of all-complete virtues, and the ocean of Faith that contains True Suchness and One Reality.
|Faith originates from the 18th Vow|
This Mind arises from the Vow of attaining birth through the Nembutsu. This great Vow is called the selected Primal Vow, also called the Vow of the Three Minds of the Primal Vow, the Vow of Sincere Mind and Joyful Faith, and the Vow of Faith for our Going Forth [to the Pure Land].
|Difficulty in attaining the Other-Power Faith|
For the ordinary, foolish people who are eternally sunk in Samsara, the multitudes of beings who are floundering in transmigration, the supreme wonderful fruition of Enlightenment is not difficult to realize; it is the true Joyful Faith that is, indeed, difficult to realize. Why is it so? Because it is attained through the endowment of the Tathagata's Power; because it arises through the Power of Great Compassion and Universal Wisdom. If one, by rare chance, obtains Pure Faith, this Mind is not perverted, nor vain. On attaining Faith, sentient beings of extremely heavy and grave karmic evil will have Great Joy in their hearts and receive protection and loving care of all the Holy Ones.
|The 18th Vow|
|From the Larger Sutra|
2 The passage of the Vow of Sincere Mind and Joyful Faith in the Larger Sutra, fasc. 1, states:
If, when I attain Buddhahood, sentient beings in 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.
|Testimony from the T'ang version of the Larger Sutra|
3 The Teaching Assembly of the Tathagata of Infinite Life [fasc. 1] states:
If, when I realize the highest Enlightenment, living beings in other Buddha-lands who, having heard my Name, transfer all their roots of good to my land in every thought, desire to be born in my land and call my Name even ten times, should not be born there, may I not attain Enlightenment. Excepted, however, are those who commit evil acts that would consign them to Avici hell and those who abuse the right Dharma and the sages.
|Fulfillment of the 18th Vow|
|From the Larger Sutra|
4 The passage on the fulfillment of the Primal Vow [i.e., the Eighteenth Vow] in the [Larger] Sutra [fasc. 2] states:
All sentient beings, having heard his Name, rejoice in faith and are mindful of him even once through his sincere transference of merit to them. Aspiring to be born in his land, they attain birth and dwell in the Stage of Non-retrogression. But excluded are those who commit the five gravest offenses and abuse the right Dharma. [601b]
|Testimony from the T'ang version of the Larger Sutra|
5 The Teaching Assembly of the Tathagata of Infinite Life, translated by Bodhiruci, [fasc. 2] states:
All living beings in the Buddha-lands of other quarters, having heard the Name of the Tathagata of Immeasurable Life, awaken a single thought of Pure Faith, rejoice, and enjoy Amida's transference of all the roots of good to them, thereby wishing to be born in the Land of Immeasurable Life. All will then be born there in accordance with their wishes, attain the Stage of Non-retrogression and, finally, realize the highest, perfect Enlightenment. Excluded, however, are those who commit the five evil acts that would consign them to Avici hell, abuse the right Dharma and slander the sages.
|Praise of the virtue of Great Faith|
|1. The Larger Sutra|
6 [The Larger Sutra], fasc. 2, also states:
If you have heard the Dharma and do not forget it
Buddha regard and revere it with great joy,
You are my good friend. For this reason,
You should awaken aspiration for birth.
|2. T'ang version of the Larger Sutra|
7 [The Teaching Assembly of the Tathagata of Infinite Life, fasc. 2] also states:
Such people are those endowed with great, majestic virtue. They will be born in the land consummated with the distinguished virtues of the boundless Buddha-Dharma.
8 It is stated in the same sutra [fasc. 2]:
The Tathagata's virtues are only known to Buddhas;
The World-Honored One alone can reveal them.
They are beyond the knowledge of devas, nagas and yaksas,
And the Two Vehicles themselves have no words to describe them.
Even if all living beings became Buddhas,
With their practices surpassing Samantabhadra, and having reached the Other Shore,
Sought to expound one Buddha's virtues
During the period of many inconceivable kalpas,
And even passing the period in which they enter Nirvana,
They would not be able to fathom the Buddha's supreme wisdom.
For this reason - if those who have faith, hear much teaching
And receive favors of good friends,
Are able to hear this profound and excellent Dharma -
They will receive protection and the loving care of all the Holy Ones.
Only Buddhas thoroughly know the Tathagata's supreme wisdom
And the meanings of the teaching that reach throughout space.
Hence, having heard much about [Amida's] Land of Various Wisdoms,
Accept in faith the true words of my teaching.
It is extremely difficult to receive human existence;
It is also difficult to encounter a Tathagata's appearance in the world.
It is rare indeed to obtain the wisdom of Faith.
Hence, the practicer should pursue the Way with diligence.
If you hear this wonderful Dharma,
All the Buddhas will always rejoice.
|3. T'an-luan's Commentary|
9 The Commentary on Vasubandhu's Discourse on the Pure Land [fasc. 2] states:
[Vasubandhu says,] "One calls the Name of that Tathagata which describes his Light, the embodiment of Wisdom, wishing to practice in accord with the Dharma, that is, in agreement with the significance of the Name."
"To call the Name of that Tathagata" means to call the Name of the Tathagata of Unhindered Light; "...describes his Light, the embodiment of Wisdom of that Tathagata" shows that the Buddha's light is the embodiment of wisdom. This light is unhindered in illumining all the worlds of the ten quarters. Its activity of removing the darkness of ignorance of all the sentient beings throughout the universe cannot be compared with the light of the sun and moon or with the brilliance of the [mani-]gem, which can only remove the darkness of a hollow or cave. Next, "wishing to practice in accord with the Dharma, that is, in agreement with the significance of the Name" shows that the Name of the Tathagata of Unhindered Light is capable of removing the darkness of ignorance of sentient beings and of fulfilling all their aspirations.
If, however, he who calls the Name and remembers [Amida] finds ignorance still persisting in his mind and, consequently, his aspiration has not yet been fulfilled, [601c] it is because he has not been practicing in accord with the Dharma, that is, in agreement with the significance of the Name.
What is the cause of not practicing in accord with the Dharma, or in agreement with the significance of the Name?
Amida has two bodies
It is due to failure to understand that the Tathagata [Amida] is a Body of Reality and also a Body for the Sake of Living Beings.
Three incorrect faiths
It is also due to the three incorrect faiths:
1. one's faith is not sincere; at one time it exists and at another it does not;
2. one's faith is not single-hearted, because it is not firm;
3. one's faith is not constant, because it is mingled with other thoughts.
These three are mutually related, each becoming the cause of the next. Thus, because one's faith is not sincere, it is not firm. Because it is not firm, one's thought [of Amida] is not continuous. Because one's thought is not continuous, one cannot attain firm faith. Because one's faith is not firm, it is not sincere. If these incorrect faiths are eliminated, one can practice in accord with the Dharma. Therefore, the author of the Discourse says at the beginning, "with singleness of mind, I ..."
|4. T'an-luan's Hymns|
10 It is stated in the Hymns in Praise of Amida Buddha [composed by Master T'an-luan]:
All beings, having heard Amida's virtuous Name,
Attain Joyful Faith, rejoice in what they hear
And call his Name even once. The Person of sincerity, Amida,
Endows merits to them. All who aspire for birth attain birth.
Excluded are those who commit the five gravest offenses and abuse the right Dharma.
Hence, I prostrate myself to worship him and aspire to be born there.
|5. Shan-tao's Commentary|
11 It is stated in the Commentary on the Contemplation Sutra [Commentary on the Meditative Practice] by the Master of Kuang-ming temple:
"According to one's wishes" [in the passage which says "Amida's transcendent powers are unhindered; they work everywhere according to one's wishes"] has two meanings: first, Amida saves all sentient beings according to their wishes; second, according to Amida's wishes, he observes beings to be saved with the five kinds of perfectly illuminating eyes and, freely exercising the six transcendent powers, approaches them, in body and mind, simultaneously in a single moment; he then enlightens them with deeds, words, and mental acts. The ways in which he benefits them are different for each individual.
12 He also says [in the Commentary on the Introductory Part]:
The beings in the six realms equally experience the five defilements and the five kinds of suffering, and none can ever be free of them. They are constantly tormented by them. Anyone who does not receive such afflictions cannot be counted among ordinary beings.
13 He also says [in the Commentary on the
The passage from "What are the three?" to "will unfailingly be born in his land" distinguishes the Three Minds and clarifies that they are the true cause of birth. This passage is divided into two: 1. it is shown that the World-Honored One has profound and unfathomable intent in endowing benefits to the beings in accordance with their capacities, and so unless the Buddha himself raised the question and revealed the point, there would be no way of understanding his intent; 2. it is shown that the Tathagata himself gave the answer, explaining the Three Minds mentioned before.
1) Sincere Mind
The [Contemplation] Sutra states: "First, Sincere Mind (shijoshin)": 'shi' means true, and 'jo' means sincere. [Amida] here wishes to show clearly that both the understanding and the practice to be cultivated by all sentient beings with their bodily, verbal and mental acts ought to come from what [Amida] accomplished with a true and sincere mind. We should not show outwardly how wise, virtuous and diligent we are, because, inwardly, we entertain deceitfulness. Being possessed of all kinds of greed, anger, falsity, and crookedness, we can hardly remove our evil nature; we are indeed like snakes or scorpions. Even if we perform practices with bodily, verbal and mental acts, they are called [602a] 'poisoned good acts' and also 'false practices'; they are not called 'true practices.' Practices performed in such a state of mind are all called 'poisoned good acts,' even if we painstakingly strive, mind and body, throughout the twelve periods of the day and night, running up and down, as if to sweep fire off our heads. It is completely wrong to seek birth in that Buddha's Pure Land by transferring [the merits of] such poisoned practices there. Why? The reason is that, when Amida Buddha in his causal state performed Bodhisattva practices, all his acts with body, mouth and mind were done with a true and sincere mind at all times, even every thought-moment or instant.
What is given [by Amida] constitutes what we aspire for. All that is given is true. There are two kinds of true and sincere mind: one is of self-benefit and the other is of Other's benefit.... Regarding the three kinds of acts which are not good, we should discard what Amida discarded with a true and sincere mind. When we practice three kinds of good acts, we should practice what Amida practiced with a true and sincere mind. Thus we uphold [Amida's] true mind, whether dealing with matters inside or outside, bright or dark. Hence, 'Sincere Mind.'
2) Deep Mind
- Two beliefs
"Second, Deep Mind": Deep Mind is the deep entrusting faith. It has two aspects: one is to believe deeply and unwaveringly that we are actually ordinary beings of karmic evil subject to birth-and-death, ever sinking and ever transmigrating in Samsara since innumerable kalpas ago without a chance to escape from it. Second is to believe deeply and unwaveringly that the Forty-eight Vows of Amida Buddha enfold sentient beings, enabling them to board his Vow-Power and attain birth. It is also to believe deeply and unwaveringly that Shakyamuni Buddha expounds in the Contemplation Sutra the three meritorious acts, the nine grades of aspirants, and the two kinds of good, that is, meditative and non-meditative, and also bears witness to and praises the primary and dependent rewards, that is, the Buddha's body and land, with a view to making people aspire for the Pure Land. It is also to believe deeply and unwaveringly that in the Amida Sutra Buddhas of the ten quarters, as numerous as the sands of the Ganges, present themselves as witnesses and urge all ordinary beings to attain birth unfailingly.
May all practicers of Deep Mind single-heartedly accept the Buddha's words and hold fast to the [Nembutsu] practice, even at the risk of their lives. Let them give up what the Buddha urges them to give up and practice what he urges them to practice. Let them leave what he urges them to leave. To practice this way is called 'to follow the Buddha's teaching and to accord with the Buddha's intent.' This is also called 'to accord with the Buddha's Vows.' Such practicers are called 'true disciples of the Buddha.'
Further, all practicers who perform practices with deep faith in accordance with this [Contemplation] Sutra are able to guide other beings without mistakes. Why? Because the Buddha is a person of perfect Compassion, and also his words are words of truth. Those who haven't yet attained Buddhahood are imperfect in wisdom and practice; being still in the stage of training, they have not yet completely removed their evil passions and their residues, and so their aspiration for Buddhahood has not yet been fulfilled. Such sages and ordinary people cannot decisively know the Buddhas' intent however hard they may try to fathom it. Even if they are able to understand it correctly, they ought to request the Buddha's testimony as the final authority. If one's interpretation agrees with the Buddha's intent, [602b] he approves of it, saying, "So it is, so it is." If not, he will say, "Your exposition is incorrect." The words not approved by the Buddha are unauthentic, without benefit and useless, but those approved by the Buddha are in accord with his right teaching. Every word and exposition of the Buddha is the right teaching, the right principle, the right practice, the right understanding, the right act and the right wisdom. How could any bodhisattva, human or deva determine whether the Buddha's words are correct or not, no matter how long or short they may be? The Buddha's exposition is the teaching that fully clarifies truth, while expositions by bodhisattvas or others are all teachings that do not fully clarify the truth. We should reflect on this.
For this reason, I now respectfully urge all the aspirants for the Pure Land who have close ties with us to accept the Buddha's words with deep faith and hold them with utmost care. Do not believe in the unauthentic teachings of bodhisattvas and others, and do not entertain doubts and delusions, or confuse yourself, thereby losing the great benefit of attaining birth....
Shakyamuni urges all ordinary beings to practice the Nembutsu with singleness of heart throughout their lives; when they die, they will definitely be born in that land. All the Buddhas of the ten quarters, without exception, praise and recommend this teaching and give testimony to its truth. Why do they do so? Because their great compassion arises from the same essence. One Buddha's teaching is the teachings of all the Buddhas; all the Buddhas' teachings are one Buddha's teaching. Hence, it is stated in the Amida Sutra:
Shakyamuni praises various adornments of the Land of Utmost Bliss, and also urges ordinary people to focus their thoughts on Amida's Name for one to seven days, thus leading them to attain birth there.
It is further stated in the passage that follows:
In each of the ten quarters there are Buddhas as numerous as the sands of the Ganges, who praise Shakyamuni for appearing in the evil age of the five defilements, in the evil world when evil beings, wrong views, evil passions, evil acts and disbeliefs prevail, glorifying Amida's Name and urging sentient beings to call it, so that they unfailingly attain birth.
This is the testimony. Further, the Buddhas of the ten quarters, fearing that sentient beings might not accept the teaching of one Buddha, Shakyamuni, extended their tongues with one accord and covered with them the whole universe containing a billion worlds; they then spoke the following true and sincere words:
Sentient beings, you should accept in faith Shakyamuni's teaching, his words of praise, and his testimony. All ordinary people, regardless of the amount of their karmic evil and merit or of the length of time of their practice, should single-mindedly concentrate on Amida's Name, even up to the end of their lives of a hundred years and down to one to seven days. There is no doubt that they will unfailingly attain birth.
Thus, one Buddha's teaching is testified to by all the Buddhas. This is called 'establishing faith in the persons [i.e., Buddhas].'...
Next, the right practice is again divided into two: first, one concentrates on Amida's Name with singleness of heart, being mindful of it every moment, whether one is walking, standing, sitting or lying down, and regardless of the length of time of one's practice; this is called [602c] "the Act of Right Assurance" because it is in accord with the Buddha's [Eighteenth] Vow. [Second,] if one performs acts, such as worshiping and reciting sutras, this is called "Auxiliary Acts." All good acts other than these two kinds of acts are called "Sundry Practices."... They are called "loose and mixed practices." Deep Mind is so called for the above reasons.
3) Mind of Aspiring for Birth by Merit-transference
"Third, Mind of Aspiring for Birth by Merit-transference": Those who wish to attain birth by making aspiration and transferring merit should, without fail, be definitely sure to make use of [Amida's] aspiration to transfer his merit [to the sentient beings] with true and sincere mind and so dwell in the thought of attaining birth. Since this mind of deep entrusting is [indestructible] like diamond, it is not shaken or destroyed by people of other views, other teachings, different understandings or different practices. You should firmly and resolutely hold [to the Vow] with singleness of heart and take the Path straightforwardly, without heeding remarks of others. For, if you are indecisive as to whether to go forward or if you retreat and look back apprehensively, you will stray from the Path and fail to gain the great benefit of birth in the Pure Land.
Question: People of wrong and miscellaneous practices with different understandings and pursuits may come up to you and confuse you by putting forward troublesome questions and declaring, "You will not attain birth." Or they may say, "To all beings, whether ordinary people or sages, you, sentient beings, have, from distant kalpas ago up to this present life, committed the ten evil acts, the five gravest offenses, and the four serious transgressions, also abused the Dharma, destroyed the seed of Buddhahood, violated the precepts, destroyed the right view, and so forth, ; yet, you have not been able to eliminate this evil karma. Such evil karma will bind you to the evil realms in the three worlds. How is it possible that by performing meritorious deeds and practicing the Nembutsu only for one life-time, you reach the undefiled land of no-birth and attain the Stage of Non-retrogression forever?"
Answer: The teachings and practices taught by the Buddhas are more numerous than the number of particles or sand-grains. Favorable conditions for realizing enlightenment that fit the propensities of people are diverse. To give an illustration, in the experience of people of the world, they do not doubt what they see with their eyes: light disperses darkness, space enfolds, the earth bears and nurtures, water moistens and grows, and fire ripens and destroys. These are relative things, that can be observed with the eye. They are distinct in a myriad ways. In how much more multifarious ways does the inconceivable power of the Buddha Dharma not benefit us?
To go out from one [Dharma-]gate is to go out from a gate of evil passions; to enter one [Dharma-]gate is to enter a gate of emancipation-wisdom. Thus, we should undertake any practice in accordance with given conditions and seek emancipation. Why do you disturb me with a practice which is not the essential practice suitable to my condition? What I like to hold on to is the practice suitable to my conditions; it is not what you seek. What you like to hold is the practice suitable to your conditions, which is not what I seek. By performing practices in accordance with each person's desire, one can without fail quickly attain emancipation.
Practicers, you should know that if you wish to gain knowledge of the Way, you can learn, as you please, all about ordinary beings and sages, even about the Buddha's fruition. But if you wish to undertake practice, never fail to follow the method of practice [603a] suitable to your conditions. For you will gain much benefit by making a small effort.
Parable of Two Rivers and the White Path
I wish to say to all aspirants for birth: I will now present a parable for the practicers in order to protect their Faith and to guard it against attacks by those who have wrong, perverted and unauthentic views. What is the parable?
Suppose a man is traveling a hundred thousand li toward the west. On the way, he suddenly comes upon two rivers: one is a river of fire that extends southward, and the other is a river of water that extends northward. The two rivers are each a hundred paces wide and unfathomably deep, extending endlessly to the north and south. Where they meet, there is a white path, four or five inches wide. This path is a hundred paces long from the east bank to the west. The waves of the water splash and the flames of the fire burn the path. The waves and flames alternate without ceasing.
This traveler has already journeyed far into the open plain where there is no one to be found. Suddenly, there appear many bandits and vicious beasts. Seeing him alone, they approach competing with each other to kill him. Afraid of death, he at once runs to the west. When he suddenly sees this great river, he says to himself, "This river extends endlessly to the south and to the north. I see a white path in the middle, but it is extremely narrow. Although the two banks are close to each other, how can I get across? Undoubtedly, I shall die this day. When I turn round to return, I see bandits and vicious beasts coming closer and closer. If I try to run toward the south or north, I see vicious beasts and poisonous insects vie with each other to attack me. If I seek the path to the west, I will certainly fall into one of the two rivers of water and fire.
His horror at this moment is beyond expression. So he thinks to himself, "If I turn back now, I shall die; if I stay, I shall die; if I go forward, I shall die, too. Since I cannot escape death in any way, I would rather follow this path. Because there is a path, it must be possible to cross the rivers."
When this thought occurs to him, he suddenly hears a voice from the eastern bank urging him, "Take this path with firm resolution. There is no danger of death. If you stay there, you will die." Again, he hears another voice from the western bank calling to him, "Come at once single-heartedly with right mindfulness. I will protect you. Do not fear that you may fall into the calamities of water or fire." Since the traveler hears this voice urging him from the bank and the calling from the other, he resolutely, body and soul, takes the path and proceeds at once without doubt or apprehension.
As he takes a step or two, he hears the voices of the bandits on the eastern bank, "Come back! That path is treacherous. You cannot cross it. Undoubtedly, you are sure to die. We have no evil intentions in pursuing you." Though hearing the calling voices, this person does not even look back. As he proceeds straight on this path with singleness of heart, he, in no time, reaches the western bank and is now free from all danger. There he meets his good friend, and his joy knows no end. This is the parable. [603b]
Meaning of the parable
The meaning of the parable is as follows. 'The eastern bank' is the burning house of this Saha world. 'The western bank' is the Treasure Country of Utmost Bliss. 'Bandits and vicious beasts calling with feigned friendship' refer to sentient beings' six sense-organs, six consciousnesses, six sense-bases, five aggregates, and four elements. 'The open plain where there is no one to be found' refers to always mixing with evil friends without having a chance to meet a true good teacher. 'The two rivers of water and fire' describes sentient beings' greed and lust which are like water and their anger and hatred which are like fire. 'The white path in the middle, four or five inches wide' shows that a pure aspiration for birth arises from within sentient beings' evil passions of greed and anger. Since greed and anger are intense, they are compared to the water and fire. Since good mind is faint, it is compared to a white path. Further, 'waves always splash the path' describes that greed always arises and defiles one's good mind. 'Flames always burn the path' shows that anger and hatred burn the Dharma-treasure of virtue. 'This man at once takes the path westward' shows that he, at once, proceeds westward by turning aside various practices. 'Hearing a voice from the eastern bank urging him to proceed, he immediately takes the path to the west' shows that even though Shakyamuni is already dead and people cannot see him, his teaching still exists which can be followed; the teaching is compared to the voice. 'As he takes a step or two, bandits call him to return' shows that people of different understandings, different practices and wrong views confuse him with their false views, saying, "You will commit evil karma and fall back from the Path." 'There is a man on the western bank calling to him' refers to the purport of Amida's Vow. "In no time he reaches the western bank and rejoices at seeing his good friend" shows that the sentient beings who have long been sinking in the state of birth-and-death, transmigrating from the eternal past and being deluded and bound by their own karma, from which they cannot set themselves free, are now urged by Shakyamuni to proceed to the west and also summoned by Amida's Compassion; faithfully following the wishes of the two sages, they take the path of Vow-Power with constant mindfulness while unafraid of the two rivers of water and fire; after their death, they will be born in his land, where they will see the Buddha with boundless joy.
Since all the practicers always have this understanding and thought in performing practices in three modes of action, whether walking, standing, sitting, and lying down, regardless of time, whether day or night, we call such a state of mind 'Mind of Aspiring for Birth by Merit-transference.' Also Merit-transference [lit. turn and face toward] means that after we have been born in that land, we awaken Great Compassion, with which we turn toward and enter birth-and-death to teach and guide sentient beings. This is also called 'Merit-transference.'
If one possesses the three minds, there is no practice that will not be accomplished. It does not stand to reason that even though one already has aspiration and practice, one cannot attain birth. It is to be noted that these three minds also apply to meditative goods. [603c]
|6. Shan-tao's Hymns|
14 [Shan-tao] also says [in the Hymns on the Pratyutpanna Samadhi]:
Reverently I say to all my fellow practicers for Pure Land birth: You should be deeply grateful. Shakyamuni Tathagata is truly our compassionate father and mother. He awakens the unsurpassed Faith in us by various means.
|7. Quotations of Shan-tao's words|
15 The Newly Compiled Catalog of Scriptures in Chen-yuan Era, fasc. 11, states:
The Collection of Liturgical Passages from Various Sutras, two fasc., compiled by Chih-sheng, monk of the West Ch'ung-fu temple during the T'ang dynasty. By the Imperial order, dated 23rd day of the 10th month, 15th year of Chen-yuan [800 A.D.], it was newly included in the Tripitaka. When Chih-sheng compiled the first fascicle of the liturgies from various sutras, he quoted the hymns for the midday chant from Shan-tao's Hymns of Birth in the Pure Land in presenting the liturgy for the Contemplation Sutra. The second fascicle bears the title, "Collected by Bhiksu Shan-tao."
In the important passages from the Collection of Liturgical Passages it is stated:
Second is Deep Mind. It is true entrusting heart. We realize that we are ordinary beings full of evil passions, with little stock of good, subject to transmigration in the three worlds and unable to escape from this burning house. We also realize, without so much as a thought of doubt, that the original universal Vow of Amida definitely enables those who recite the Name even ten times or hear it to attain birth. For this reason, this mind is called "Deep Mind."...
Those who have heard
The Name of Amida Buddha,
Rejoicing as they attain a single thought of Faith,
Will all be born in that land.
16 It is stated in the Collection of Essential Passages Concerning Birth [fasc. 1]:
We read in the "Chapter on Entrance into the Dharma-realm" [of the Garland Sutra]:
If a man obtains a medicine that renders him indestructible, his enemies and adversaries will not be able to find the opportunity to harm him. So it is with bodhisattvas and mahasattvas. If they obtain the Dharma-medicine for securing the indestructible Bodhi-mind, no evil passions, maras or adversaries will be able to destroy them. Again, if a man obtains a mani-gem from the ocean and makes it his ornament, he will not be drowned in deep waters. Likewise, if [bodhisattvas] obtain the mani-gem of Bodhi-mind, they will not be drowned in the sea of birth-and-death. It is also like the adamant which does not decay even if immersed in water for a hundred thousand kalpas. Bodhi-mind will not perish or become damaged even if it is submerged in the karma of evil passions in birth-and-death for immeasurable kalpas.
17 It is also stated in the same work
[Collection of Essential Passages Concerning Birth, fasc. 2]:
Even though I am in Amida's embrace, my evil passions obstruct my sight and so I cannot see [the Light]; however, Great Compassion always shines on me untiringly.
|9. Shinran's comments|
18 Thus, there is nothing, whether Practice or Faith, that has not been transferred to us by Amida Tathagata out of his pure Vow-Mind. It is not that there is no cause [for birth] or that there is a cause other than this [endowed Practice and Faith]. This we should remember.
|Three Minds and One Mind|
In the Primal Vow, the Tathagata already made the Vow of Sincere Mind,
Joyful Faith and Desire for Birth. Why does the author of the Discourse [Vasubandhu] profess 'One Mind'?
Answer: In order to make ignorant sentient beings understand more easily, Amida Tathagata made [the Vow of] Three Minds, but the true cause of Nirvana is only Faith. For this reason, it seems that the author of the Discourse puts the three together into one.
|"The three should be one" - from the meanings of the Chinese characters -|
20 When I consider the literal meaning of the Three Minds, the three should be one. The reason is as follows: with regard to Sincere Mind (shishin), shi means true, real and sincere; shin means seed and fruit. With regard to Joyful Faith (shingyo), shin means true, real, sincere, full, utmost, accomplished, function, heavy, discerning, test, expounding, and loyal; gyo means desire, aspiration, appreciation, rejoicing, delight, joy, gladness and happiness. With regard to Desire for Birth (yokusho), yoku means vow, aspiration, awakening and realization; sho means accomplishing, making, doing and raising.
We clearly realize as follows. Sincere Mind is the mind of true, real and genuine [wisdom] and of the seed [of Buddhahood]; hence, it is not mixed with doubt. Joyful Faith is the mind full of truth and sincerity, the mind of utmost trust and reverence, the mind of clear perception [of Amida's saving power] and steadfastness, the mind of aspiration and appreciation, and the mind of joy and delight; hence, it is not mixed with doubt. Desire for Birth is the mind of certainty and assurance [of Birth], the desire to become [Buddha] and perform [altruistic activities], and the mind endowed by the Great Compassion; hence, it is not mixed with doubt.
When I consider the meanings of the characters that make up the words for the Three Minds, they are the true mind not mixed with delusion and the sincere mind not mixed with falsehood. I truly realize that it is the mind not mixed with doubt; hence, it is called Joyful Faith. Joyful Faith is One Mind; One Mind is True Entrusting Heart. For this reason, the author of the Discourse professed 'One Mind' at the outset [of the Discourse]. This we should realize.
|Why are the Three Minds promised in the 18th Vow?|
21 Question: From the above explanation of the meanings of the characters, I see that it is reasonable for the author of the Discourse to put together the three into one. But how can we conceive of the Vow of Three Minds which Amida Tathagata made for the benefit of ignorant and evil sentient beings?
Answer: The Buddha's intention is difficult to fathom. I will, however, venture to guess his intent. From the beginningless past to this day and up to this moment, the ocean-like multitudes of beings have been defiled and evil and lack the pure mind; they have been deluded and deceitful and lack the true mind. Consequently, when the Tathagata awakened compassion for all suffering ocean-like sentient beings and performed the Bodhisattva practices for inconceivable, millions and billions of kalpas, his practices in three modes of action have never been impure or untrue, even for a thought-moment or an instant. With the pure and true mind, the Tathagata perfected the complete, all-merging, unhindered, inconceivable, [604b] indescribable and ineffable supreme virtue. The Tathagata endows his Sincere Mind to the ocean-like multitudes of beings who are full of evil passions, evil karma and perverted wisdom. This is the true mind endowed by him to benefit such beings; hence, it is not mixed with doubt. The basis for the Sincere Mind is the Sacred Name of the supreme virtue.
|Testimony from the Larger Sutra|
22 Thus, we read in the Larger Sutra [fasc. 1]:
He [Dharmakara Bodhisattva] did not harbor any thought of greed, hatred or cruelty; nor did he allow any ideas of greed, hatred or cruelty to arise. He was unattached to any form, sound, smell, taste, touch or idea. Possessed of the power to persevere, he did not avoid undergoing various afflictions. Having little desire for his own sake, he knew contentment. Without any impure thought, enmity or stupidity, he dwelt continually in tranquil samadhi. His wisdom was unobstructible, and his mind free of falsehood and deceitfulness. With an expression of tenderness in his face and with kindness in his speech, he spoke to others in consonance with their inner thoughts. Courageous and diligent, strong-willed and untiring, he devoted himself solely to the pursuit of the pure Dharma, thereby benefiting multitude of beings. He revered the Three Treasures, respected his teachers and elders, and thus adorned his practices with a great store of merits. By so doing, he enabled sentient beings to partake of them.
|Testimony from the T'ang version of the Larger Sutra|
23 The Teaching Assembly of the Tathagata of Infinite Life [fasc. 1] states:
The Buddha said to Ananda, "Monk Dharmakara widely proclaimed those great, universal Vows before Lokeshvararaja Tathagata, devas, humans, devils, Brahma, mendicants and brahmanas. He has already fulfilled the Vows. Having proclaimed those Vows, which were rare in the world, he dwelt firmly in the realization of them. He obtained various merits, with which he adorned the pure Buddha-land of extensive majestic virtues. The time that elapsed while he performed such Bodhisattva practices was immeasurable, innumerable, inconceivable, unequaled kotis of nayutas of a hundred thousand kalpas. During that time, he did not harbor in his mind even a thought of greed, anger or stupidity, nor conceive any idea of greed, cruelty or anger. He never had an attached thought of form, sound, smell, taste or touch. For all sentient beings he embraced a feeling of love and respect as he would do for his relatives.... He had a docile and friendly nature and never resorted to violence. He always maintained a heart of compassion and patience for all living beings, and was never deceitful or flattering. Neither was he indolent or slothful. He encouraged them all to do good acts and led them to seek the pure Dharma. For the sake of all beings, he courageously remained steadfast in his resolve and never retreated. Thus he benefited the whole world and fulfilled his great Vows.
24 The Master of Kuang-ming temple [Shan-tao] says [in the Commentary on the Non-meditative Good]:
It is completely wrong to seek birth in that Buddha's Pure Land by transferring [the merits of] such poisoned practices there. Why? The reason is that, when Amida Buddha in his causal state performed Bodhisattva practices, all his acts with body, mouth and mind were done with a true and sincere mind at all times, even every thought-moment or instant. What is given [by Amida] constitutes what we aspire for. All that is given is true. There are two kinds of true and sincere mind: one is of self-benefit and the other is of Other's benefit.... Regarding the three kinds of acts which are not good, we should discard what Amida [604c] discarded with the true and sincere mind. When we practice three kinds of good acts, we should practice what Amida practiced with the true and sincere mind. Thus we uphold [Amida's] true mind, whether dealing with matters inside or outside, bright or dark. Hence, 'Sincere Mind.'
|Explanation of the Three Minds|
|1. Sincere Mind|
25 From the true words of the Great Sage and the explanation of the master of this school [Shan-tao], we truly realize that this mind is the true and sincere mind endowed by the Buddha for our benefit through the inconceivable, indescribable and ineffable ocean-like Vow of great wisdom of the One Vehicle. This is called 'Sincere Mind.'
From the Nirvana Sutra
In the above passage we find the word "true."
Concerning "true," the Nirvana Sutra ["Chapter on Sacred Practice"] states:
True Reality is the single path of purity that does not presuppose a second path. True Reality is none other than Tathagata; Tathagata is none other than True Reality. True Reality is none other than space; space is none other than True reality. True Reality is none other than Buddha-nature; Buddha-nature is none other than True Reality.
From Shan-tao's Commentary
Commentary [on the Non-meditative Good] says 'whether dealing with matters inside
or outside, bright or dark.'
In the phrase 'inside or outside,' 'inside' refers to the supraworldly, and 'outside' refers to the worldly. In the phrase 'bright or dark,' 'bright' refers to the supraworldly, and 'dark' refers to the worldly. Further, 'bright' refers to wisdom, and 'dark' refers to ignorance. The Nirvana Sutra ["Chapter on Sacred Practice"] states:
Darkness refers to the worldly, and brightness refers to the supraworldly. Darkness refers to ignorance, and brightness refers to wisdom.
|2. Joyful Faith|
28Next, Joyful Faith is the ocean-like Faith, complete, all-merging and unhindered, consummated with the Tathagata's Great Compassion. For this reason, it is not mixed with doubt. Hence, it is called Joyful Faith. The basis for Joyful Faith is Sincere Mind endowed by the Other-Power. However, all the ocean-like multitudinous beings, since the beginningless past, have been transmigrating in the sea of ignorance, drowning in the cycle of existences, bound to the cycle of sufferings and lacking pure Joyful Faith. As a natural consequence, they have no true Joyful Faith. Therefore, it is difficult for them to meet the highest virtue and attain the supreme Pure Faith. All the ordinary beings with limited capacities, at all times, constantly defile their good minds with greed and lust, and their anger and hatred continuously burn the treasure of Dharma. Even if they act and practice as busily as though they were sweeping fire off their heads, their practices are called 'poisoned and mixed good' and also 'deluded and deceitful practices,' and are not called 'true acts.' To seek to attain birth in the Land of Infinite Light with these deluded and poisoned good would be in vain. Why? Because when the Tathagata [Amida] performed the Bodhisattva practices, his three modes of action [605a] were not mingled with doubt, even for a thought-moment or an instant. Because this mind [Joyful Faith] is the Tathagata's Great Compassion, it necessarily becomes the decisive cause of birth in the Land of Recompense. The Tathagata, out of compassion toward the suffering multitudes, endowed the unhindered, great Pure Faith to the ocean of beings. This is called True Entrusting Heart of the Other-Power.
From the Larger Sutra
29 The passage of fulfillment of the Vow of
Faith, the Primal Vow, reads as follows:
All sentient beings, having heard his Name, rejoice in faith and remember him even once.
From the T'ang version of the Larger Sutra
30 It is also stated [in the Teaching Assembly of the Tathagata of Infinite Life, fasc. 2]:
All sentient beings in the Buddha-lands of other quarters, having heard the Name of the Tathagata of Immeasurable Life, awaken a single thought of Pure Faith and rejoice.
From the Nirvana Sutra
31 We read in the Nirvana Sutra ["Chapter on Lion's Roar"]:
Men of good families, Great Compassion and Great Benevolence are called Buddha-nature. Why? Because Great Compassion and Great Benevolence accompany Bodhisattvas just as shadows accompany things. All sentient beings will ultimately and surely realize Great Compassion and Great Benevolence. For this reason, I make this remark, "All sentient beings have Buddha-nature." Great Compassion and Great Benevolence are called Buddha-nature. Buddha-nature is called Tathagata. Great joy and great abandonment are called Buddha-nature. Why? Because if Bodhisattvas and Mahasattvas were unable to abandon the twenty-five states of existence, they would not be able to realize the highest, perfect Enlightenment. Because all sentient beings ultimately and surely attain it, I say that "All sentient beings have Buddha-nature." Great joy and great abandonment are Buddha-nature. Buddha-nature is Tathagata. Buddha-nature is Great Faith. Why? Because it is through Faith that Bodhisattvas and Mahasattvas have accomplished all the Paramitas, from charity to wisdom. Because all sentient beings ultimately and surely attain Great Faith, I say, "All sentient beings have Buddha-nature." Great Faith is Buddha-nature. Buddha-nature is Tathagata. Buddha-nature is called "the One Child Stage" [or the stage in which one regards each being as one's only child]. Why? Because through attainment of "the One Child Stage" Bodhisattvas have realized the mind of equality with regard to all sentient beings. Because all sentient beings ultimately and surely attain "the One Child Stage," I make this remark, "All sentient beings have Buddha-nature." "The One Child Stage" is Buddha-nature. Buddha-nature is Tathagata.
32 It is also stated [in the Nirvana Sutra, "Chapter on Kashyapa"]:
Concerning the highest, perfect Enlightenment, Faith is its cause. Although there are innumerable causes of Enlightenment, if Faith is presented, they are exhaustively included in it.
33 It is also stated [in the Nirvana Sutra, "Chapter on Kashyapa"]:
There are two kinds of faith: one arises from hearing, and the other arises from thinking. This person's faith arises from hearing, and not from thinking. Hence, it is called incomplete faith. There are another two kinds of faith: [605b] one is to believe that there is the path to Enlightenment, and the other is to believe that there are people who have attained it. This person only believes that there is the path to Enlightenment, but does not believe that there are people who have attained it. This type of faith is called incomplete faith.
From the Garland Sutra
34 It is stated in the Garland Sutra
[Chin version, "Chapter on Entry into the Dharma-realm"]:
Those who hear this teaching, rejoice
In faith and entertain no doubt
Quickly realize the supreme Enlightenment;
They are equal to the Tathagatas.
35 It is also stated in the same sutra [T'ang
The Tathagata removes forever
The doubts of all sentient beings,
And fulfills their aspirations
According to their wishes.
36 The same sutra also states [T'ang version,
"Chapter on Bhadrashri Bodhisattva"]:
Faith is the source of Enlightenment and the mother of virtues;
It nurtures all kinds of goodness.
It cuts asunder the net of doubt and leads us away from the currents of desires;
It opens up the Highest Path of Nirvana.
Faith is free of defiled mind and is pure;
It destroys arrogance, and is the root of reverence;
It is the foremost treasure of the Dharma-store;
It is the hand of purity that receives various practices.
Faith performs charity ungrudgingly;
Faith rejoicingly enters the Buddha Dharma;
Faith augments wisdom and virtues;
Faith unfailingly reaches the stage of the Tathagata.
Faith purifies the sense-organs and makes them clear and sharp;
Since Faith-power is firm and strong, nothing can destroy it.
Faith destroys forever the root of evil passions;
Faith solely leads one to the Buddha's virtues.
Faith knows no attachment to the external world;
It keeps away all adverse conditions and secures safety from them;
Faith transcends Maras' paths
And manifests the Highest Path of Emancipation.
Faith keeps the seeds of virtues from decay;
Faith grows the tree of Enlightenment.
Faith augments the supreme wisdom.
Faith causes all Buddhas to appear.
For this reason, if we explain in the order of performing practices,
Joyful Faith is foremost, which is extremely difficult to attain....
If one constantly reveres Buddhas with faith,
That means making great offerings.
If one makes great offerings,
One comes to accept in faith the Buddha's inconceivable working.
If one constantly upholds the sacred Dharma,
One never tires of hearing the Buddha's teaching;
If one never tires of hearing the Buddha's teaching,
One comes to accept in faith the Dharma's inconceivable power.
If one reverently serves pure monks,
One's faith will not retrogress;
If one attains unretrogressive faith,
One's power of faith becomes immovable.
If one gains power of faith which is immovable,
One's sense-organs become pure, clear and sharp;
If one attains pure, clear and sharp sense-organs,
One can approach good teachers.
If one approaches good teachers,
One can practice and accumulate extensive good;
If one practices and accumulates extensive good,
One acquires the great causal power [for attaining Buddhahood].
If one acquires the great causal power,
One gains the excellent, decisive understanding;
If one gains the excellent, decisive understanding,
One is protected by all the Buddhas.
If one is protected by all the Buddhas,
One awakens Bodhi-mind;
If one awakens Bodhi-mind,
One learns the virtues of the Buddhas.
If [605c] one cultivates the virtues of the Buddhas,
One is born in the Tathagata's family;
If one is born in the Tathagata's family,
One learns skillful means.
If one learns skillful means,
One can attain pure Joyful Faith;
If one attains pure Joyful Faith,
One realizes the distinguished supreme mind.
If one realizes the distinguished supreme mind,
One constantly practices the Paramitas;
If one constantly practices the Paramitas,
One accomplishes the Mahayana.
If one accomplishes the Mahayana,
One makes offerings to Buddhas as prescribed;
If one makes offerings to Buddhas as prescribed,
One's mindfulness of the Buddha does not waver.
If one's mindfulness of the Buddha does not waver,
One always sees innumerable Buddhas;
If one always sees innumerable Buddhas,
One sees that the quintessence of the Tathagata is eternal.
If one sees that the quintessence of the Tathagata is eternal,
One realizes that the Dharma is imperishable;
If one realizes that the Dharma is imperishable,
One attains unhinderedness in acquiring intellectual powers.
If one attains unhindered intellectual powers,
One can expound boundless teachings;
If one expounds boundless teachings,
One saves sentient beings with compassionate heart.
If one saves sentient beings with compassionate heart,
One attains the firm mind of great compassion;
If one attains the firm mind of great compassion,
One rejoices in the profound Dharma.
If one rejoices in the profound Dharma,
One gets rid of the faults of the conditioned world;
If one gets rid of the faults of the conditioned world,
One frees oneself from arrogance and unruliness.
If one frees oneself from arrogance and unruliness,
One can benefit all beings without exception;
If one benefits all beings without exception,
One can dwell in birth-and-death without feeling fatigued.
From T'an-luan's Commentary
37 It is stated in the Commentary on Vasubandhu's
Discourse on the Pure Land [fasc. 2]:
...one can practice in accord with the Dharma. Therefore, the author of the Discourse says at the beginning, 'with singleness of mind, I...'
38 It is also stated in the same work [fasc.
At the beginning of a sutra it is stated, 'Thus [I have heard]'; this indicates the faith with which one is led [into the teaching].
|3. Desire for Birth|
39 Next, Desire for Birth is the Tathagata's command calling the multitudes of beings to come to his land. The basis for Desire for Birth is true Joyful Faith. Indeed, this is not a desire of transferring one's merit with self-power as harbored by Mahayanists or Hinayanists, ordinary people or sages, or those who practice meditative or non-meditative good. Hence, it is called 'not transferring one's merit.'
The sentient beings of the worlds, which are as numerous as dust particles, floundering in the sea of evil passions and drifting in the sea of birth-and-death, lack the true desire or pure desire to transfer one's merit. For this reason, the Tathagata [Amida] awakened compassion for all suffering beings and performed the Bodhisattva practices; at that time, all his practices in the three modes of action were carried out, every thought-moment or instant, with transference of his merit as his principal concern, thereby fulfilling the Great Compassion, and so, to the ocean of all beings he endows true Desire for Birth that benefits others. [606a] Desire for Birth is [the Buddha's] desire to transfer his merit [to sentient beings]. This is the mind of Great Compassion; hence, it is not mingled with doubt.
From the Larger Sutra
40 Here, we find that the passage of fulfillment of the Vow with regard to Desire for Birth is stated in the [Larger] Sutra, fasc. 2, as follows:
... through [Amida's] sincere transference of merit. Aspiring to be born in his land, they attain birth and dwell in the Stage of Non-retrogression. But excluded are those who have committed the five gravest offenses and abused the right Dharma.
Testimony from the T'ang version of the Larger Sutra
41 It is also stated [in the Teaching Assembly of the Tathagata of Infinite Life, fasc. 2]:
If they appreciate [Amida's] transference of the roots of goodness and aspire to be born in the Land of Immeasurable Life, they shall all be born there according to their wishes and attain the Stage of Non-retrogression and, finally, realize the highest, perfect Enlightenment. Excluded, however, are those who commit the five evil acts that would consign them to Avici hell, abuse the right Dharma and slander the sages.
Testimony from T'an-luan's Commentary
42 [Commentary on] Vasubandhu's Discourse on the Pure Land [fasc. 2] states:
"How does one transfer [the merit of the practice]? One does not forsake suffering beings, but constantly resolves in one's mind to perfect the Great Compassion by putting Merit-transference above anything else." The Merit-transference has two aspects: 1) the 'going' aspect and 2) the 'returning' aspect. The 'going' aspect is that one turns one's merit over to all sentient beings with the aspiration that all will be born together into Amida Tathagata's Pure Land of Peace and Bliss. The 'returning' aspect is that after having been born in his land, one acquires the fruit of the Shamatha and Vipashyana practices and attains the power of employing expedient means, whereby one re-enters the dense forest of birth-and-death and leads all sentient beings into the Buddhist Path. Whether 'going' or 'returning,' one seeks to deliver sentient beings from the sea of birth-and-death. For this reason, Vasubandhu says, "...perfect the Great Compassion by putting Merit-transference above anything else."
43 It is also stated in the [Commentary, fasc. 2]:
'The pure [manifestation] entering into the Vow-Mind' is as follows: "I [i.e., Vasubandhu] have explained above the contemplation of accomplishment of the glorious merits of the Buddha-land, the Buddha and the Bodhisattvas. These three kinds of accomplishment are adorned with the Vow-Mind. One should realize the implication of this." "One should realize the implication of this" means that one should realize that the three kinds of glorious accomplishment are, in their origin, [Dharmakara's] adornment with the Pure Vow-Mind through the Forty-eight Vows, and so on. Since the cause is pure, the result is equally pure. They are not what has come into existence without any cause or by some other cause.
44 It is also stated in the Commentary [fasc. 2]:
"The fifth gate in the phase of 'going out' is to observe with Great Compassion all suffering beings, manifest accommodated and transformed bodies, and enter the garden of birth-and-death and the forest of evil passions, where [Bodhisattvas] play about, exercising transcendent powers; they thus dwell in the stage of teaching others through the transference of merit by their Primal Vow-Power. This is called the fifth gate in the phase of 'going out'."
Testimony from Shan-tao's Commentary
45 The Master of Kuang-ming temple [Shan-tao] says [in the Commentary on the Non-meditative Good]:
Again, those who transfer merit aspiring to be born in the Pure Land should unfailingly avail themselves of the Vow which Amida transfers with decisive and true and sincere mind and dwell in the thought of attaining birth. Since this mind is a deep faith like diamond, it is not liable to be disturbed or destroyed by people of different views, different teachings, other understandings or other practices. You should decisively and single-mindedly hold fast to the Vow and proceed straightforwardly [606b] without giving heed to what others say. If you waver between going forward and retreating and look back with cowardly apprehensions, you will stray from the Path and lose the great benefit of attaining birth.
|Shinran's comments on the parable of two rivers and a white path|
46Truly we realize that, in the parable of
the two rivers, 'the White Path four or five
inches wide' has the following meaning: 'white'
in 'the white path' is contrasted to 'black';
'white' refers to the white act selected
and adopted [in the Vow], that is, the Pure
Karmic Act endowed to us for our Going forth.
'Black' refers to the black [evil] actions
of our ignorance and evil passions and also
to the miscellaneous good deeds done by the
followers of the Two Vehicles, humans and
devas. 'Path' is contrasted to 'lane'; the
Path refers to the straight path of truth
of the Primal Vow - the supreme Great Path
leading to the Great and Complete Nirvana.
'Lanes' refer to small passages of the teachings
of the Two Vehicles and Three Vehicles and
of myriad good deeds and various practices.
'Four or five inches wide' refers to the
four elements and the five aggregates that
constitute sentient beings. 'A pure aspiration
for birth arises' means attainment of the
Diamond-hard True Faith; since it is the
ocean of Great Faith endowed by the Primal
Vow-Power, it is indestructible; hence, it
is compared to diamond.
47 It is stated in the Commentary on the Contemplation Sutra [i.e., Essential Meaning of the Contemplation Sutra by Shan-tao]:
People of the present, both monks and laypeople, have each awakened the highest aspiration,
But birth-and-death is extremely difficult to abhor, and the Buddha Dharma hard to seek.
Together you should make the diamond-hard resolution and leap over the four violent streams; ...
Those who have received the Diamond-hard Mind, coming into accord with [the Vow] in a flash of thought,
Shall realize the fruition of Nirvana.
48 It is also stated in the same [Commentary
on the Introductory Part]:
Having thoroughly attained the True Faith, you should abhor this Saha world of pain, aspire for the Unconditioned Realm of Happiness, and enter forever the state of eternal bliss. But it is not easy to enter straightaway the Realm of No-action; nor is it easy to escape readily from the Saha world of afflictions. Unless you awaken the diamond-hard aspiration, how can you eradicate forever the roots of birth-and-death? If you do not closely follow the Compassionate One, how can you free yourselves from the long sorrow?
49 It is also stated in the same [Commentary
on the Meditative Practice]:
'Diamond' indicates the undefiled [wisdom].
|The three Minds are the One Mind|
Hence, we truly realize that although Sincere
Mind, Joyful Faith and Desire for Birth are
different terms, their significance is the
same. Why is it so? Because the Three Minds
are not mingled with doubt, and so they are
the True One Mind. This is called the Diamond-hard
True Faith. The Diamond-hard True Faith is
called True Entrusting Heart. True Entrusting Heart is necessarily accompanied by [recitation
of] the Name. [Recitation of] the Name, however,
is not always accompanied by Entrusting Heart of the Vow-Power. For this reason,
the author of the Discourse [Vasubandhu] declares at its beginning, 'I,
with One Mind,' and also says [fasc. 2] '...
wishing to practice in accord with the Dharma,
that is, in agreement with the significance
of the Name.'
|Praise of the virtue of Great Faith|
51 When I contemplate the ocean of Great Faith,
I see that it does not discriminate between
the noble and mean, monks and laypeople,
men and women, old and young. The amount
of the karmic evil committed is not questioned,
nor is the length of practice considered.
It is neither practice nor good acts; neither
sudden attainment nor gradual attainment;
neither [606c] meditative practice nor non-meditative
practice; neither right contemplation nor
wrong contemplation; neither contemplation
of forms nor contemplation of non-form; neither
in everyday life nor at the end of life;
neither many recitations nor a single recitation.
It is solely Joyful Faith which is inconceivable,
indescribable and ineffable. It is like the
agada medicine which destroys all poisons. The medicine
of the Tathagata's Vow removes the poisons of our wisdom and stupidity.
|Bodhi-mind of the Other-Power|
|Two kinds of Bodhi-mind, each divided into two groups|
52 With regard to the Bodhi-mind, there are two kinds [of teachings]: vertical and crosswise. The vertical [teaching] is again divided into two groups: vertical transcendence and vertical going-out. The vertical transcendence and the vertical going-out refer to various teachings - accommodative and real, exoteric and esoteric, Mahayana and Hinayana. The Bodhi-mind in these teachings is the mind set on attaining Bodhi by the round-about way of practice for many kalpas; it is the diamond-hard mind of self-power, that is, the great mind of the Bodhisattva.
Bodhi-mind for crosswise transcendence
The crosswise [teaching] is again divided
into two groups: crosswise transcendence
and crosswise going-out. The crosswise going-out
is the Bodhi-mind of self-power within the
Other-Power teaching, set on performing practices
- right and miscellaneous, meditative and
non-meditative. The crosswise transcendence
refers to Joyful Faith endowed to us by the
Vow-Power; it is called the aspiration to
attain Buddhahood. The aspiration to attain
Buddhahood is the Great Bodhi-mind for crosswise
[transcendence]. This is called the Diamond-hard
Mind of Crosswise Transcendence.
Concerning the Bodhi-mind, whether crosswise or vertical, the same word is used with different meanings. The essential point, however, is entry into truth, and the true mind is fundamental. It is wrong to follow perverted and mixed practices, and it is a loss to entertain doubt.
Those who aspire for the Pure Land, both monks and laypeople, should deeply understand the golden words concerning "imperfect faith" and so become free of the wrong concept with "imperfect hearing."
|Testimony from T'an-luan's Commentary|
53 The Commentary on Vasubandhu's Discourse on the Pure Land [fasc. 2] states:
Bodhi-mind in the Pure Land Way
In the Sutra of Infinite Life preached at Rajagriha, I find in the section on the three grades of aspirants that although their practices differ according to their superior or inferior qualities, they all, without fail, awaken the aspiration for the highest Bodhi. The aspiration for the highest Bodhi is the resolve to attain Buddhahood. The aspiration to attain Buddhahood is the resolve to save all sentient beings. The aspiration to save sentient beings is the resolve to embrace sentient beings and lead them to attain birth in a Buddha-land. It follows that those who wish to be born in the Pure Land of Peace and Bliss should awaken the aspiration for the highest Bodhi. If there is anyone who does not awaken the aspiration for the highest Bodhi but, having heard of the endless pleasures to be enjoyed in that land, desires to be born there simply because of such pleasures, he will not attain birth. And so, it is said, "they do not seek to enjoy the pleasures for their own sustenance" but "to remove the sufferings of all sentient beings." "The pleasures for their own sustenance" means that the Pure Land of Peace and Bliss has been produced and maintained by Amida Tathagata's Primal Vow-Power, and so there is no end to the pleasures to be enjoyed. The meaning of 'the transference of merit' is that one transfers the merits that one has accumulated to all sentient beings so that they, too, will take the Buddhist Way. [607a]
|From Yuan-chao's Commentary|
54 Master Yuan-chao says [in the Commentary on the Amida Sutra]:
Difficulty in expounding Amida's teaching in the world
It is extremely difficult because no other [Buddha] could do [just as Shakyamuni did]; it is rare because the world has never seen this.
55 He also says:
Difficulty in accepting the Nembutsu teaching
The Nembutsu teaching does not discriminate between fools and the wise, the rich and the poor; it does not question the length of your practice or whether your practice is good or bad. So long as you are resolute and unwavering in your faith, you will attain birth with ten utterances of the Nembutsu, even if sinister signs may appear at the end your life. It is the Dharma by which ordinary and foolish beings bound by evil passions, those in the lower state of society, such as hunters and traders, can instantly transcend birth-and-death and attain Buddhahood. This is called '[the Dharma] which is the most difficult thing in the world to accept in faith.'
56 He further says:
It is difficult to perform practices and attain Buddhahood in this evil world. A second difficulty is to expound this teaching for the sake of all sentient beings. These two difficulties serve to clarify that the Buddhas' praise [of Shakyamuni] is not vain. Sentient beings are led to hear and accept the teaching in faith.
|Testimony from Yung-ch'in's Notes|
57 Yung-ch'in of the Vinaya school says [in the Notes to the Commentary on the Amida Sutra]:
Difficulty in accepting this teaching in faith
Concerning the difficulty of accepting this Dharma in faith, to transform ordinary people into sages through this Dharma is actually as easy as turning one's palms - so easy that many people with shallow wisdom are skeptical about this. Thus the Larger Sutra, fasc. 2, states, "[The Pure Land] is easy to reach, but very few actually go there." Hence, we know that this Dharma is difficult to accept in faith.
Further comments on Yuan-chao's words
58 It is stated in the Notes to Yuan-chao's Commentary on the Amida Sutra [by Chieh-tu]:
'Not to discriminate between fools and the wise' is said because there are different human capacities, such as sharp and dull. 'Not to discriminate between the rich and the poor' is said because there are different karmic rewards, such as strong and weak. 'Not to question the length of your practice' is said because there are different effects of practice, such as deep and shallow. 'Not to question whether your practice is good or bad' is said because there are different natures of practice, such as agreeable and disagreeable. 'So long as you are resolute and unwavering in your faith, ... even if sinister signs may appear at the end of your life' is said because the Contemplation Sutra, in the section of the middle level of the lowest grade, states, "the flames of hell suddenly close in on him, and so forth." 'Ordinary and foolish beings bound by evil passions' is said because they are possessed of two kinds of delusion. "Those in the lower state of society, such as hunters and traders, can instantly transcend birth-and-death and attain Buddhahood. This is called [the Dharma] which is the most difficult in the world to accept in faith" means that such evil persons as hunters and wine dealers can transcend Samsara and attain birth through ten utterances of the Nembutsu, and so, is not this teaching difficult to accept in faith?
Amida Tathagata is called the True Illumination, the Equally Enlightened One, the Inconceivable One, the Ultimate Resort, and Great Arhat, the Great Consolation, the One Equal to the Unequaled, and the Inconceivable Light.
|Shan-yue's postscript that praises Amida's Vow|
59 In the postscript of the Collection of Passages on the Land of Bliss [by Tsung-hsiao] it is stated:
There are always many who practice the Pure Land teaching, but very few reach its gate and enter it straightaway. There are always many who discuss the Pure Land teaching, but very few grasp its essentials and directly expound them to others. But I have never heard of anyone who presents his view while having hindrances and obscurities within himself. I present my view since I have understood the teaching. Of all hindrances, nothing is stronger than greed; of all obscurities, nothing surpasses doubt. In the Pure Land teaching, these two elements, greed and doubt, eventually cease to cause any hindrance. They are never left alone; Amida's universal Vow always and spontaneously enfolds them. This is its natural working.
End of Part l of the Chapter on the True Faith
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