Nembutsu Shoshin GE

Hymn of the Nembutsu and True Faith

Composed by Gutoku shaku Shinran

Translated by Hisao Inagaki

A portrait of Shinran, popularly called "Kumagawa no goei" (Holy image of Shinran sitting on a bear-skin cushion) now preserved at the Nara National Museum
1. O the Inconceivable Honored One in the West!
When you were Bodhisattva Dharmakara in the causal stage of bodhisattvahood,
You made the unsurpassed, excellent and universal Vow,
The Vow of Great Compassion, unrivaled in the world.

2. Five kalpas passed while you contemplated, selected and adopted the Vow.
The reward for your supreme Vow was the wonderful fruition of Bodhi.
It is ten kalpas since you fulfilled the Primal Vow.
Your life-span extends far beyond our calculations.

3. Your Compassion is deep and far-reaching like the sky;
Your Wisdom is perfect and full like the great ocean;
Your Land is pure, exquisite and boundless,
Furnished with endless arrays of glorious ornaments.

4. Completely adorned with objects of meritorious accomplishment,
Your Land far excels other Buddha-lands of the ten quarters.
Sending forth universally the inconceivable and unhindered Light,
You break the darkness of the long night of ignorance.

5. Your illuminating Light of Wisdom opens our eyes of wisdom;
There is no place in the ten quarters where your Name is not heard.
Only Buddhas know the Tathagata's virtue;
Having amassed the Dharma-treasure, you endow it to us, ordinary, foolish beings.

6. The sun of Amida Buddha illumines universally.
Although it has already broken the darkness of ignorance,
The cloud and mist of greed and anger
Always blanket the sky of the Pure Faith.

7. It is as when the sun, moon and stars
Are covered by mist, cloud or fog;
It is light under the cloud or mist and there is no darkness.
We accept in faith the benefit of the Light which is greater than that of the sun and moon.

8. When we assuredly come upon the dawn of unparalleled Pure Faith,
The cloud of Samsara in the three modes of existence will disperse
The pure and unhindered Light will shine forth brilliantly
And the true Dharma-realm Body of Oneness will manifest itself.

9. When we awaken Faith and call the Name, Amida's Light will protect us,
And also enable us to attain immeasurable merit in the present life.
The boundless and inconceivable Light unceasingly illumines us,
Regardless of time, place and our conditions.

10. Indeed, there is no doubt that Buddhas protect us;
The Buddhas of the ten quarters, of one accord, praise us rejoicingly.
The deluded and the defiled, those who have committed the five gravest offenses and the ten evil acts can equally attain birth.
Those who have abused the Dharma and those who lack the seed of Buddhahood will all be born there if they convert their minds.

11. All the sutras will perish in the future,
Except this one, the Larger Sutra, which will remain in the world a hundred more years.
How can we doubt this Great Vow?
Let us trust and accept Shakyamuni's words of truth.

12. The discourse-writers of India, the land in the west,
And the noble masters of China and Japan
Revealed the true intent of the Great Sage, the World-Hero,
And clarified that Amida Tathagata's Primal Vow responds to our capacities

13. Shakyamuni Tathagata, while staying on Mt. Lanka,
Foretold to the multitudes that in south India
Nagarjuna Bodhisattva would appear in the world
And destroy all the wrong views concerning existence and non-existence,

14. That he would promulgate the supreme teaching of Mahayana,
And that, having attained the Stage of Joy, he would be born in the Land of Peace and Bliss.
Nagarjuna composed the Discourse on the Ten Stages,
In which he especially pitied those who take the perilous ways of Difficult Practice

15. And widely revealed the Great Path for easy attainment of birth.
He urged us to hold fast to the Name with a mind of reverence;
By reciting the Name we shall quickly reach the Stage of Non- retrogression.
If we attain the Pure Faith, we will perceive the Buddha.

16. Vasubandhu Bodhisattva composed a discourse,
In which he revealed the truth in accordance with the sutras;
He clearly presented the Primal, Universal Vow for Crosswise Transcendence,
And promulgated the Inconceivable Vow.

17. Through the Merit-transference by the Primal Vow,
He revealed the One Mind to deliver those bound by evil passions.
Upon entering the great treasure-sea of merit,
We will join the Great Assemblage.

18. When we reach the World of Lotus-store,
We will immediately realize the Body of Tranquility and Equality.
Manifesting the transcendent powers in the forest of evil passions,
We will enter the garden of Samsara in the form of accommodative and transformed bodies.

19. Master T'an-luan was venerated by King Hsiao of Liang,
Who always faced in the direction of T'an-luan and worshiped him as a bodhisattva.
When the Tripitaka master Bodhiruci gave him a Pure Land scripture,
T'an-luan burnt his Taoist texts and took refuge in the Land of Bliss

20. Writing a commentary on Bodhisattva Vasubandhu's discourse,
He revealed the Nembutsu in accord with the Tathagata's Primal Vow,
And clarified that the Merit-transference for Going and Returning originates from the Original Promise.
When ordinary people full of evil passions

21. Receive Faith, they immediately gain the insight,
With which they realize that Samsara is Nirvana.
When we assuredly reach the Land of Immeasurable Light,
We are enabled to guide all sentient beings to emancipation.

22. Tao-ch'o determined that Enlightenment is difficult to attain by the Path of Sages
And clarified that only the Pure Land Path is passable.
He disparaged self-power engagement in thousands of good acts,
And encouraged the sole practice of reciting the Name of perfect virtues.

23. He kindly taught us imperfect and perfect faith, each having three aspects,
And compassionately guided beings in the age of the Semblance Dharma and of the Decadent Dharma as well as those in the period of Extinct Dharma.
Although we commit evil throughout life, if we encounter the Universal Vow,
We shall reach the Land of Peace and Provision and realize the Supreme Fruition.

24. Shan-tao alone clarified the Buddha Shakyamuni's true intent;
Depending deeply on the Primal Vow, he revealed the true teaching.
He compassionately cared for practicers of meditative and non- meditative good as well as those who have committed the five gravest offenses and ten evil acts,
Setting forth to them the cause and condition of emancipation through the Light and the Name.

25. When we enter the gate to Nirvana and meet the True Mind,
We certainly gain the awakening of faith, joy and insight;
Those who attain the Inconceivable Birth in the Pure Land
Instantly realize the eternal bliss of Dharma-nature.
26. Genshin widely expounded the Buddha's life-time teachings
But solely urged us all to take refuge in the Land of Peace and Provision.
Depending on the sutras and discourses, he chose the teaching and practice
Which are indeed our eyes and feet in this defiled world.

27. Distinguishing between loss and gain with regard to mixed and exclusive practices,
He led us to the true gateway of the Nembutsu.
He clarified that, depending on whether our devotion is deep or shallow,
We shall be born in the Recompensed Land or Transformed Land.

28. Genku was well-versed in sacred scriptures.
Out of benevolence for ordinary people, whether good or evil,
He promulgated the teaching and realization of the True Pure Land Way in this country,
And endowed the Best-selected Primal Vow to the defiled world.

29. Repeating the cycles of birth-and-death in the house of Samsara
Is definitely caused by doubt and skepticism;
Quick entry into the capital of Tranquil Nirvana
Is necessarily caused by Faith.

30. The discourse-writers and exponents of the teaching all, of one accord,
Save innumerable beings who are extremely defiled and evil.
All Buddhists, both monks and laypeople, should, in one mind,
Accept in faith the teachings of these noble masters.

[Source] "Nembutsu Shoshin Ge" is contained in the Monruijusho. an abridged version of the Kyogyoshinsho.
[Reference] "Shoshin Nembutsu Ge," a more popular version, comes from the Kyogyoshinsho, chapter on True Practice (Part 2). For an independent file of the Shoshinge with Chinese text, romanized Japanese and an English translation, see Shoshinge. For the Shoshinge file without Chinese text, see Shoshinge-eng.

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