Index to the Kyogyoshinsho files
Present file - E: Enlightenment
files - A: Preface,
Teaching, Practice (part 1); B:
Practice (part 2);C:
Faith (part 1): D: Faith
(part 2); F: True Buddha and Land; G: Transformed Buddha and Land (part 1); H: Transformed Buddha and Land (part 2).
<Last revised September 2002>
|Passages in pale blue are
Shinran's own comments
CHAPTER ON THE TRUE ENLIGHTENMENT
The Vow of unfailing attainment of Nirvana
The Birth that is Inconceivable
Chapter 4: A Collection of Passages
the True Enlightenment of the Pure Land Way
Compiled by Gutoku Shinran
Disciple of Shakyamuni
its cause and effect -
the Aspect of Going Forth
1 If I am to reveal, with respect, the True
Enlightenment, it is the supreme state of
perfect accomplishment realized by the Other-Power,
that is, the ultimate fruition of unsurpassed
Nirvana. It originates from the Vow of unfailing
attainment of Nirvana, which is also called
the Vow of realization of great Nirvana.
When we, ordinary people filled with evil
passions, the multitudes defiled by karmic evil and subject to birth-and-death,
attain the Faith and Practice transferred
by Amida for our Going forth, we will immediately
join the Mahayana group of the Rightly Established
Stage. Because we dwell in the Rightly Established
Stage, we unfailingly reach Nirvana. Unfailing
attainment of Nirvana is [attainment of]
eternal bliss. The eternal bliss is the ultimate
state of tranquility and extinction. Tranquility
and extinction [616b] is the supreme Nirvana.
The supreme Nirvana is the Unconditioned
Dharma-body. The Unconditioned Dharma-body
is True Reality. True Reality is Dharma-nature.
Dharma-nature is True Suchness. True Suchness
is Oneness. We note that Amida Tathagata
comes from Thusness and manifests various
forms of Recompensed, Accommodated and Transformed
|Cause of the attainment of Enlightenment
- the 11th Vow
2 The passage of the Vow of unfailing
attainment of Nirvana in the Larger Sutra, fasc. 1, reads:
If, when I attain Buddhahood, humans and
devas in my land should not
dwell in the Rightly Established Stage and
unfailingly reach Nirvana, may
I not attain perfect Enlightenment.
|Testimony from the T'ang version of the Larger Sutra
3 It is stated in the Teaching Assembly of
the Tathagata of Infinite Life, fasc. 1:
If, when I become Buddha, the sentient beings
in my land should not
decidedly attain the Stage Equal to Perfect
Enlightenment and realize Great
Nirvana, may I not attain Bodhi.
|Fulfillment of the 11th Vow
4 The passage of the fulfillment of this
Vow in the [Larger] sutra, fasc. 2, reads:
Sentient beings who are born in that Buddha-land
all reside among those
who are rightly established, because in that
Buddha-land there are neither
those who are wrongly established nor those
who are not definitely established.
|Description of the True Enlightenment
5 It is also stated [in the Larger
Sutra, fasc. 1]:
That Buddha-land is pure and serene, resplendent
and blissful. It borders on the Unconditioned
Nirvana. The shravakas, bodhisattvas, heavenly
beings and humans there have lofty and brilliant
wisdom, and are masters of supernatural powers.
They are all of one form, without any differences,
but are called 'heavenly beings' and 'humans'
simply by analogy with states of existence
in other worlds. They are of noble and majestic
countenance, unequaled in all the worlds,
and their appearance is superb, unmatched
by any being, heavenly or human. They are
all endowed with bodies of naturalness, emptiness
|Testimony from the T'ang version of the Larger Sutra
6 It is also stated [in the Teaching
Assembly of the Tathagata of Infinite Life, fasc. 2]:
Sentient beings of that land and those to
be born there will fully realize the supreme
Bodhi and reach the Nirvanic state. For what
reason? Because those who are in the wrongly
established stage and those who are not definitely
established stage are unable to understand
that the cause [of birth] has been established
[by the Buddha].
|Testimony from T'an-luan's Commentary
7 The [Commentary on Vasubandhu's] Discourse
on the Pure Land, fasc. 2, states:
Accomplishment of the glorious merit of the
wonderful Name is described in the verse
The sacred Name enlightens people far and
Why is this inconceivable? A sutra says
that those who only hear of the purity and
blissfulness of that land and wholeheartedly
desire to be born there and those who have
attained birth all enter the Rightly Established
Stage. This shows that the name of the land
performs the work of the Buddha. How can
we conceive of this?
It is subtle and wonderful and is herd everywhere
in the ten quarters.
Accomplishment of the glorious merit of the
Lord Buddha is described in the verse as:
[The Land] is firmly upheld by Amida,
Why is this inconceivable? Amida, the Enlightened
One, is inconceivable. The Pure Land of Peace
and Bliss is firmly upheld (juji) by the merit-power of Amida, the Enlightened
One, and so how can we conceive of this?
The Enlightened One, the Dharma-King.
'Ju' means not to change or perish; 'ji' means to keep something from dispersing
or being lost. It is like applying antidotal
treatment to seeds. The seeds thus processed
will not be destroyed by water or fire. When
favorable conditions arise, the seeds will
sprout. How is this possible? It is due to
the power of the antidotal treatment. Once
a man is born in the Pure Land of Peace and
Bliss, if he afterwards desires to be reborn
in the three worlds to teach and guide sentient
beings, he is able to terminate his life
in the Pure Land and be reborn therein according
to his wishes. Although he is reborn in the
'water' and 'fire' of various states of the
three worlds, the seed of supreme Bodhi is
never subject to decay. How is this possible?
It is due to the power of Amida, the Enlightened
One, which firmly supports and maintains
[the Pure Land and the beings born there].
Accomplishment of the glorious merit of kinsmen
is described in the verse as:
The hosts of sages in the likeness of pure
flowers surrounding the Tathagata
Why is this inconceivable? In the realms
of various births, whether from womb, from
an egg, from moisture or by metamorphosis,
one's kinsmen are many, and there are tens
of thousands of varieties of pleasure and
pain resulting from the inhabitants' different
acts [in the past]. 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. Within
the four seas, all [Nembutsu practicers],
even those living in the remotest places,
are their brothers. Hence, their kinsmen
are innumerable. How can we conceive of this?
Are born there, transformed from within the
flower of Enlightenment.
|Further testimony from T'an-luan's Commentary
8 It is also stated in the same work, fasc. 2:
Those who wish to be born in the Pure Land
are originally divided into
nine classes but [after they have been born
there] there are no differences,
just as the water of the Tzu and that of
the river Sheng become of one
taste [upon entering the sea]. How can we
conceive of this?
9 It is also stated in the same work,
Accomplishment of the glorious merit of purity
is described in the verse
as: When I contemplate the nature of that
Land I find that it surpasses
all states of existence in the three worlds.
Why is this inconceivable?
When ordinary men full of evil passions attain
birth in the Pure Land,
the karmic bonds of the three worlds will
not affect them any more. Even
without severing evil passions, they will
attain the state of Nirvana.
How can we conceive of this?
|Testimony from Tao-ch'o's work
10 It is stated in the Collection of Passages
Concerning Birth in the Land of Peace and Bliss, fasc. 2:
The transcendent powers of the two Buddhas
[i.e., Amida and Shakyamuni] are equal. Be
that as it may, Shakyamuni Tathagata
does not speak of his own capacities, but
especially reveals Amida's distinguished
capacities out of his desire to make all
sentient beings equally take refuge in Amida.
For this reason, in many sutras Shakyamuni praises
Amida and urges beings to take refuge in
him. We ought to be aware of the Buddha's
intent. Master T'an-luan's true intention
was to turn to [the Land in] the West for
refuge, so he composed hymns of praise in
the spirit of the Larger Sutra:
The shravakas and bodhisattvas in the Land
of Peace and Bliss
As well as humans and devas, too, all thoroughly
Their bodily appearance and adornments are
Different names are applied to them simply
in accordance with customs in
Their countenances are noble and beautiful
and beyond compare;
Their delicate and subtle bodies are unlike
those of humans and devas.
They are of the substance of emptiness and
For this reason, I prostrate myself and worship
the One Possessed of the
Power of Equality.
|Testimony from Shan-tao's works
11 We read in the commentary of the Master
of Kuang-ming temple [i.e., Essential Meaning of the Contemplation Sutra]:
The Universal Vow 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 aid. Furthermore, the Buddha's
hidden intent is vast and profound, and so
his teachings are difficult [617a] to understand.
Even those in the stages of the Three Sagacities
and the Ten Sages cannot fathom it; how can
we, petty fools outside the rank of the Ten
Beliefs, know its significance? As I reverently
contemplate matters, Shakyamuni, on this
shore, urges us to go to the west, while
Amida from that Land comes to welcome us.
In the midst of the calling voice from there
and the voice of exhortation from here, how
could we refuse to go westward? We should
sincerely devote ourselves to this teaching
until the end of our life and, after abandoning
our defiled bodies, realize the eternal bliss
12 He also says [in the Commentary on the
The Capital of Tranquility and Inactivity
in the West
Is ultimately free and blissful, above existence
With the heart imbued with Great Compassion,
one freely sports in the Dharma-realm;
Transforming oneself into various forms,
one benefits beings equally and
Exercising transcendent powers, one expounds
One manifests glorious physical characteristics
and marks, and then enters
Nirvana without residue.
Apparitional adornments are produced according
to one's wishes;
The multitudes who see them have all their
karmic evil removed.
I also praise in hymns:
Let us return home!
We should not stay in our native land of
Since innumerable kalpas ago, we have been
In the six realms, taking up our abodes everywhere.
Nowhere have we seen any pleasure;
We only hear the voices of samsaric pain.
After the end of this life,
Let us enter the Capital of Nirvana.
|Conclusion to the Aspect of Going Forth
13 When I contemplate the Teaching, Practice,
Faith and Enlightenment of the Pure Land
Way, I realize that they are the benefit
endowed through the Tathagata's Great Compassion.
Whether the cause or the effect, there is
nothing that has not been accomplished through
the Merit-transference by the Tathagata's
Pure Vow-Mind. Because the cause is pure,
the effect is also pure. This we should know.
|Presentation of the Aspect of Returning
14 Second is the aspect of Returning of the
Merit-transference. This is the benefit we
receive for the activity in the stage of
benefiting and teaching others. It originates
from the Vow of unfailing attainment of the
rank next to Buddha. It is also called 'the
Vow of attainment of Buddhahood after one
life-time.' It can also be called 'the Vow
of the Merit-transference for our return
to this world.' Since this Vow appears in
the Commentary on Vasubandhu's Discourse on the
Pure Land, I
will not quote it here. Refer to the Commentary.
15 It is stated in the Discourse on the Pure
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.'
16 It is stated in the Commentary on Vasubandhu's
Discourse on the Pure Land, fasc. 2:
The 'returning aspect' is that after having
been born in his land, one acquires the fruit
of the cessation and contemplation 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."
17 It is also stated in the same work, fasc.
[Vasubandhu] says, "When bodhisattvas
who have not yet attained the pure mind see
the Buddha, they will finally be able to
realize the Dharma-body of Equality and will
eventually be equal to bodhisattvas of pure
mind and those of the upper stages [617b]
in the realization of tranquility and equality."
|The Dharma-body of Equality
The Dharma-body of Equality' is said of a
bodhisattva of the eighth stage or above,
who has a body manifested from the Dharma-nature.
'Tranquility and equality' is the principle
of tranquility and equality realized by such
a Dharma-body bodhisattva. Because he realizes
the principle of tranquility and equality,
he is called [a bodhisattva of] 'Dharma-body
of Equality'; because this principle is realized
by a bodhisattva of Dharma-body of Equality,
it is called 'the principle of tranquility
Such a bodhisattva attains a samadhi called
'Produced from the Fruit.' With the transcendent
power of this samadhi, he can, while remaining
in the same place, instantaneously and simultaneously
manifest himself in any or every land throughout
the ten quarters. He can then make offerings
in many ways to all Buddhas and their assemblies
of sages. He can also manifest himself in
various forms anywhere in innumerable worlds
where there are no Buddhas, no Buddhist teachings
or no assemblies of Buddhist practicers,
and teach and save all the sentient beings
there. Although he always performs such Buddhist
activities, he has, from the beginning, no
thought of going and coming, of making offerings
or of saving beings. For this reason, the
body [of such a bodhisattva] is called 'the
Dharma-body of Equality', and the Dharma
he has realized is called 'the principle
of tranquility and equality.'
'Bodhisattvas who have not yet attained
the pure mind' are bodhisattvas from the
first to the seventh stages. They can also
manifest their bodies in a hundred worlds
where no Buddhas live, or a thousand, ten
thousand, a koti or a billion kotis of worlds,
where they perform the Buddha's work. But
in order to do so, they must make conscious
efforts to enter that samadhi. Without making
efforts, they cannot enter it. Because they
still require conscious efforts, they are
called 'those who have not yet attained the
pure mind.' If those bodhisattvas desire
to be born in the Pure Land of Peace and
Bliss, they can see Amida Buddha there. Having
seen the Buddha, they eventually attain the
same bodies and the same realization as bodhisattvas
of the higher stages. It is exactly for this
reason that such bodhisattvas as Nagarjuna
and Vasubandhu aspired for birth in Amida's
Question: In the Sutra on the Ten Stages we read that
bodhisattvas rise through stages as they
accumulate immeasurable merit
by practicing for many kalpas. How could
it be that when one sees Amida
Buddha one will eventually attain the same
body and the same realization
as bodhisattvas of the higher stages?
Answer: [The Discourse] says 'eventually ... equal' and not 'instantly
... equal.' Simply because one eventually
attains the same (body, etc.), [the Discourse] says 'equal.'
Question: If one does not instantly become equal [to
of a higher stage], why is it not said [in
the Discourse] that, when a
bodhisattva reaches the first stage, he will
gradually rise through stages
until he spontaneously becomes equal to a
Buddha? Why is it said that he
will be equal to a bodhisattva of a higher
Answer: When a bodhisattva has attained great tranquillity
in the seventh stage, he no longer envisions
Buddhas to whom he should strive to become
equal, nor does he see sentient beings whom
he should save. Thus he is tempted to abandon
the Buddhist Way and enter the [Hinayanistic]
realization of True Reality. At that time,
if Buddhas of the ten quarters do not admonish
him with their divine power, he will pass
into extinction and be like a Hinayana [sage].
If, however, a bodhisattva goes to the Land
of Peace and Bliss and sees Amida Buddha
there, he will not have this problem. For
this reason, one should say 'eventually [617c]
... equal [to a bodhisattva of a higher stage].'
Further, in the Larger Sutra, one of Amida Tathagata's
Primal Vows reads:
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
Granges, and establish them in the highest,
perfect Enlightenment. Such bodhisattvas
transcend the course of practice of the ordinary
bodhisattva stages, manifest the practices
of all the bodhisattva stages, and actually
cultivate the virtues of Samantabhadra.
Reading this sutra, one may assume that bodhisattvas
in that Land do not rise from one stage to
the next. The ten-stage system appears to
be a method of guidance provided by Shakyamuni
Tathagata for inhabitants of Jambudvipa.
Why should other pure lands necessarily be
the same? Among the five inconceivabilities,
the Buddha Dharma is the most inconceivable.
If you assume that bodhisattvas must necessarily
rise from one stage to the next and that
there is no way of transcending stages you
are not yet completely familiar with the
teaching. I will show you by the analogy
of a tree called 'Very Strong.' This tree
grows underground for a hundred years. It
then grows, above ground, a thousand feet
in height each day, and keeps growing at
the same rate. If one calculates its height
reached after a hundred years, how can it
be compared with tall pine trees? Pine trees
grow not more than an inch a day. How can
one believe in such a tree? He will argue:
"When one hears that Shakyamuni Tathagata
enlightened [Shariputra] to Arhatship at
one session or that he made people realize
the insight into the non-arising of all dharmas
in the brief time before breakfast, he will
think that these are words of expedient means
to guide people to Buddhism and are not the
literal truth." So, hearing the present
discussion, he will not believe it. Extraordinary
words do not reach the ears of ordinary people.
So we must expect such a question as: "How
is this possible?"
[Vasubandhu] says, "I have briefly explained
the eight aspects
[of the Buddha's activity], demonstrating
that the Tathagata's glorious
merits for his own benefit and that of others
have been accomplished in
due order. You should realize the implication
What is this order? The seventeen aspects
mentioned before were about accomplishment
of the glorious merit of the Land. Having
seen the Land's aspects, we should know the
lord of the Land. Therefore, we contemplate
the Buddha's merit. How is he adorned and
where does he sit? This question leads us
first to visualize the seat. Having seen
that, we envision the lord who sits there.
Next, we contemplate the Buddha's glorious
body. Having seen that, we contemplate his
voice and name. Hence, we next concentrate
on the Buddha's glorious speech. Having realized
how widespread his Name is, we should consider
how he acquired that Name. And so we next
contemplate the Buddha's glorious mind. Having
realized that he has attained accomplishment
of the three kinds of karma, we should distinguish
who deserve to be taught by this great master
of men and devas. Therefore, we should next
[618a] contemplate the merits of the congregation.
Having seen that the congregation has immeasurable
merits, we should know who is the head. Hence,
we contemplate the head, who is the Buddha
[Amida]. Since we may perhaps consider him
simply as the most senior member, we should
next contemplate his lordship. Having visualized
his lordship, we should realize his superior
virtue; so we next contemplate the glorious
merit of his unfailing sustenance. In this
way, the eight aspects are presented in due
Concerning 'contemplation of the bodhisattvas,'
[Vasubandhu] says, "What
is the contemplation of accomplishment of
the glorious merits of the bodhisattvas?
It is to contemplate the bodhisattvas, in
whom we find accomplishment of
the merits in performing the four right practices.
You should realize the
implication of this."
True Suchness is the very substance of all
existence. Since [the bodhisattvas
of the Pure Land] perform practices while
realizing that their essence
is Suchness, their practices are, in fact,
non-practice. To perform practices
while aware that they are non-practice is
called 'practice in accord with
the Dharma.' Although their essence is one,
this is divided into four according
to the distinct meanings which are implied.
For this reason, the four practices
are all described 'right.'
|Fourfold acts of the Bodhisattvas
(1) Manifesting their bodies while
[Vasubandhu] says, "What are the four?
First, while dwelling motionless
in a Buddha-land, [bodhisattvas] display
various transformed bodies throughout
the ten quarters, manifest performance of
practices in accord with the
Dharma and engage constantly in the Buddha's
work. The verse says:
The Land of Peace and Bliss is pure and serene;
[The Buddha] always turns the undefiled wheel
Transformed Buddhas and bodhisattvas [illumine
the whole world] like the
[While remaining motionless] like Mt. Sumeru.
For they seek to enable sentient beings to
bloom like lotuses in a muddy
Bodhisattvas in and above the eighth stage
always dwell in Samadhi.
Without leaving their abodes, by the power
of Samadhi, they can reach all
the worlds of the ten quarters, where they
make offerings to the Buddhas
and teach sentient beings. 'The undefiled
wheel [of Dharma]' is part of
the virtue of Buddhahood, which is free of
the defilements of evil passions
and their residues. The Buddha always turns
the wheel of Dharma for the
sake of bodhisattvas, and various great bodhisattvas
also turn the same
wheel of Dharma, without resting even for
a short while, in order to awaken
and guide all living beings; hence, 'always
The Dharma-body is like the sun, whose rays
of light, in the form of accommodated
and transformed bodies, pervade all the worlds
in the ten quarters. 'Like
the sun' is not really an adequate description.
Since it is brilliant and
motionless, it is also described as 'like
Mt. Sumeru.' Regarding 'lotuses
in a muddy pool,' it is said in the [Vimalakirti] Sutra: "Lotuses
do not grow on high land; they grow in low
and muddy pools." This
metaphor shows that ordinary beings, while
submerged in the mud of evil
passions, are still able to produce the flower
of enlightenment through
the guidance of bodhisattvas. Indeed, [the
bodhisattvas in the Pure Land]
endeavor to inherit and exalt the Three Treasures
and always ensure their
continuance in the world.
|(2) Manifesting their bodies everywhere simultaneously
and in a flash of thought
[Vasubandhu] says, "Second, at any time
they choose, their accommodated
and transformed bodies emit great light and
reach all worlds in the ten
quarters simultaneously and in a flash of
thought in order to teach and
guide sentient beings; for they seek to remove
the suffering of all sentient
beings by various expedient means, practices
and acts. The verse says:
The pure, glorious light [of the bodhisattvas],
In a flash of thought and simultaneously,
Illumines each and every Buddha's assembly
And gives benefit to multitudes of beings."
When it is said above, "while dwelling
motionless, they can reach
[all the worlds in the ten quarters],"
this could mean that there
is a lapse of time between their actions.
For this reason, it is said here
that all their actions take place in a flash
of thought and simultaneously,
without any time intervening.
|(3) Visiting all the Buddhas' assemblies
to make offerings to them
[Vasubandhu] says, "Third, having reached
all the worlds without
exception, they illumine each and every Buddha's
assembly. On such a vast
and immense scale, they make offerings to
the Buddhas, Tathagatas, pay
homage to them and praise their virtues.
The verse says:
They shower heavenly musical instruments,
Fine incense, and so forth, with which they
worship the Buddhas;
They praise and extol the merits of the Buddhas
Without discriminative thoughts."
'Without exception' shows that they reach
all the worlds and the great
assemblies of all the Buddhas, without leaving
any world or any Buddha's
assembly unvisited. Seng-chao says:
The Dharma-body has no form of its own and
yet manifests various forms,
corresponding to [the conditions and capacities
of sentient beings]. The
sound of the ultimate truth has no words
and yet extensively unfolds scriptures
of profound teachings. The unfathomable expediency
has no planning and
yet works in agreement with things.
This is, indeed, the implication here.
|(4) Spreading Buddhism in the worlds where
there is no Buddhism
[Vasubandhu] says, "Fourth, they visit
places in all the worlds
in the ten quarters where the Three Treasures
do not exist. Establishing
and glorifying the ocean-like merit of the
treasures of the Buddha, Dharma
and Sangha, they display and explain the
correct practices to all. The
If there is any world in the universe
Without the treasure of merit of the Buddha
I resolve to be born there
And to preach the Dharma as does a Buddha."
The first three passages speak of visits
of [the bodhisattvas] to all
[the worlds] but these are all lands where
Buddhas dwell. Without this
(fourth) passage, one might suppose that
for the Dharma-body there are
places where the Dharma does not reach and
that the supreme good [of the
bodhisattvas] contains parts which are not
good. Here ends the chapter
on the objects of contemplation.
The following is the fourth chapter of the
'Commentary' Section, called
'the pure [manifestation] entering into the
Vow-Mind.' 'The pure [manifestation]
entering into the Vow-Mind' is as follows:
|The Pure Land is adorned with the Vow-Mind
[Vasubandhu] says, "I 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 implications
'One should realize the implications 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
|All the adornments enter into the One Dharma
[Vasubandhu] says, "Presented in brief,
they enter into the One
The seventeen aspects of the adornments of
the Land, the eight aspects
of the adornments of the Tathagata and the
four aspects of the adornments
of bodhisattvas are the extensive manifestation.
'Entering into the One
Dharma Principle' is the all-inclusive principle.
Why is it shown that the extensive manifestation
and the all-inclusive
principle enter into each other? The reason
is that Buddhas and bodhisattvas
have two Dharma-bodies: (1) Dharma-body of
Dharma-nature and (2) Dharma-body
of Expediency. From the Dharma-body of Dharma-nature
originates the Dharma-body
of Expediency; through the Dharma-bodies
of Expediency the Dharma-body
of Dharma-nature is revealed. These two Dharma-bodies
are different but
inseparable; they are one but not the same.
For this reason, the extensive
manifestation and the all-inclusive principle
enter into each other. Those
two are comprised in the Dharma[-body]. If
bodhisattvas did not realize
interpenetration of the two ways of presentation,
they would not be able
to benefit both themselves and others.
|The One Dharma Principle = Purity Principle
= Unconditioned Dharma-body
[Vasubandhu] says, "The One Dharma Principle
is the Purity Principle;
the Purity Principle is Unconditioned Dharma-body
that is to be realized
through True Wisdom."
These three phrases enter into each other,
the previous one leading to the next. [618c]
For what reason is [the ultimate principle]
called 'the [One] Dharma [Principle]'? Because
it is the Purity [Principle]. For What reason
is it called 'the Purity [Principle]'? Because
it is Unconditioned Dharma-body realized
by True Wisdom. 'True Wisdom' is the wisdom
of realizing True Reality. Because True Reality
is without forms, true wisdom is unknowing.
'Unconditioned Dharma-body' is the body of
Dharma-nature. Because Dharma-nature is Nirvanic,
Dharma-body is formless. Because it is formless,
there is no form which it cannot manifest.
Therefore, [the body] adorned with the marks
of excellence is itself the Dharma-body.
Because it is unknowing, there is nothing
that it does not know. For this reason, the
wisdom of knowing all forms of existence
is the true wisdom. The reason why 'Wisdom'
is described as 'True' is in order to show
that it is neither free of mental effort
nor non-effort. The reason why 'Dharma-body'
is described as 'Unconditioned' is in order
to show that the Dharma-body is neither possessed
of form nor without form. When a negation
is negated, how can a double negation be
a [simple] affirmation? Indeed, absence of
negation is called affirmation. If an affirmation
exists by itself without opposition, it is
no longer an affirmation. [The ultimate principle]
is neither an affirmation nor a negation;
it is beyond description even by a hundred
negations. Hence, 'Purity.' Purity refers
to Unconditioned Dharma-body that is to be
realized with True Wisdom.
[Vasubandhu] says, "Purity is distinguished
into two kinds. One
should realize this."
Concerning these [three] principles, each
leading up to the next, by
penetrating the [One] Dharma [Principle],
one enters into the Purity [Principle];
by penetrating the Purity [Principle], one
enters into the Dharma-body.
Now, two kinds of purity are to be distinguished.
And so, it is said, "One
should realize this."
[Vasubandhu] says, "What are the two
kinds? First, purity of the
land as the receptacle, and second, purity
of its inhabitants. The purity
of the land refers to the accomplishment
of the seventeen kinds of adornment
of that Buddha-land; these are called the
purity of the land. The purity
of the inhabitants refers to the eight kinds
of adornment of the Buddha
and the four kinds of adornment of bodhisattvas;
these are called the purity
of the inhabitants. Thus the One Dharma Principle
contains these two kinds
of purity. One should realize the implication
The inhabitants have come into being as the
primary reward for their
individual karma, while the land is the derivative
reward which is enjoyed
and shared by those who have common karma.
The primary reward and the derivative
one are not the same. And so, it is said,
"One should realize the
implication of this."
It is to be noted that all things are [transformations
of] mind; for nothing
exists outside of mind. The inhabitants and
the land are neither different
nor the same. Since they are not the same,
they are distinguishable according
to their different characteristics. Also,
since they are not different,
they are both pure.
'Land as the receptacle' is that which is
to be used. The Pure Land is the realm which
is used by its pure inhabitants. Hence, it
is called a 'receptacle.' If a dirty container
is used for clean food, it becomes contaminated
because of the dirty container. If a clean
container is used for dirty food, it becomes
contaminated because of the dirty food. Both
must necessarily be clean before they can
be so described. For this reason, the word
'Purity' necessarily covers these two kinds.
Question: When you say that the purity of the inhabitants
means that of the Buddha and the bodhisattvas,
are the human and heavenly beings [born in
the Pure Land] excluded? [619a]
Answer: No, they can also be described as 'pure,'
are not yet really pure. For example, sages
who have renounced the world
are called 'bhiksus' because they have 'killed'
the enemy of evil passions.
Ordinary people who have renounced the world,
whether they observed the
precepts or not, are also called 'monks.'
It is like a crown prince; at
his birth, he is possessed of the thirty-two
physical marks of excellence
and is one to whom the seven treasures will
belong. Even though he is not
yet able to rule as a Cakravartin, he is
called 'Cakravartin' because he
will surely become one. So it is with those
human and heavenly beings.
Since they all join those who are rightly
established in the Mahayana Path,
they will surely acquire the pure Dharma-body.
Because they are sure to
attain it, they can be described as 'pure.'
|Converting beings with skillful means
Concerning 'converting beings by skillful
means,' [Vasubandhu] says, "Bodhisattvas
thus practice cessation concerning the
all-inclusive principle and contemplation on
the extensive manifestation, and so attain
the pliant mind.
'The pliant mind' is the non-dual mind attained
by performing the harmonious practice of
cessation concerning the all-inclusive
principle and contemplation on the extensive
manifestation, just as an object is perfectly
reflected in water when the water is both
clear and calm.
[Vasubandhu] says, "They truly realize
both the extensive manifestations
and the all-inclusive principle."
'To realize truly' means 'to know in accord
with True Reality.' Neither
the twenty-nine aspects of the extensive
manifestations nor the all-inclusive
principle is in disagreement with True Reality.
[Vasubandhu] says, "Thus they accomplish
the transference of merit by skillful means."
'Thus' means that both the extensive manifestation
and the all-inclusive principle mentioned
later are in accord with True
Reality. When they realize True Reality,
they see the perverse and false
nature of the sentient beings in the three
worlds. When they see the perverse
and false nature of the sentient beings,
the true compassion arises. When
they realize the true Dharma-body, true devotion
arises. Compassion, devotion
and skillful means are explained below.
|Bodhisattvas' transference of merit
[Vasubandhu] says, "What is the bodhisattvas'
transference of merit
by skillful means? The bodhisattvas' transference
of merit by skillful
means is that they turn over all the merits
and roots of good accumulated
by performing the five kinds of practice,
such as worship, to all sentient
beings to remove their sufferings, for they
do not seek to enjoy the pleasures
for their own sustenance, but wish to embrace
all sentient beings and help
them attain birth in that Buddha-land of
Peace and Bliss together with
themselves. This is called 'bodhisattvas'
accomplishment of the transference
of merit by skillful means'."
In the Sutra on the Buddha 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. This aspiration is
the resolve to become a Buddha. The aspiration
to become a Buddha 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 [619b] 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.
|Bodhisattvas' skillful means
'Skillful means' is that bodhisattvas desire
to burn with fire of their
own wisdom the grasses and trees of the evil
passions of all sentient beings.
They resolve, "Should there be even
one sentient being who has not
yet attained Buddhahood, I would not become
a Buddha." But, although
all sentient beings have not yet become Buddhas,
even then bodhisattvas
do attain Buddhahood. This is like trying
to burn all grasses and trees
with a wooden poker. Before all the grasses
and trees are consumed by fire,
the poker itself is burnt out. In the same
way, the bodhisattva attains
Enlightenment before other sentient beings
do, even though he places their
emancipation above his own. Hence, this is
called 'skillful means.'
'Means' here implies that the bodhisattva
resolves to embrace all sentient
beings and lead them to birth in that Buddha-land
of Peace and Bliss. That
Buddha-land is the path to ultimate realization
of Buddhahood, the unsurpassed
means of guidance.
|Elimination of three hindrances to Bodhi
Concerning 'eliminating hindrances to Bodhi,'
[Vasubandhu] says, "Having mastered
the method of accomplishing the transference
of merit, bodhisattvas can now eliminate
the three hindrances to Bodhi. What are the
three? First, by entering the gate of wisdom
(chi-e), they do not seek their own pleasure, and
thus they eliminate any thought of self-attachment."
'Chi' means to know how to advance [towards Bodhi]
and keep oneself from any relapse into [the
Hinayana stages]; 'e' means to realize emptiness and egolessness.
Because of chi, they do not seek their own pleasure;
and because of e, they eliminate any thought of self-attachment.
[Vasubandhu] says, "Second, by entering
the gate of compassion
(ji-hi), they remove the sufferings of all sentient
beings and eliminate
disinclination to give them peace."
'Ji' means to remove suffering; 'hi' means to give pleasure.
Through ji, they remove the sufferings of all sentient
hi, they eliminate disinclination to bring
peace to them.
[Vasubandhu] says, "Third, by entering
the gate of expedient means (ho-ben), they attain compassion for all sentient
beings and thus eliminate any thought of
seeking veneration and respect by others."
Ho' means righteous; 'ben' means to disregard
righteousness, they attain compassion for
all sentient beings; by disregarding
themselves, they eliminate any thought of
seeking veneration and respect
from others. [Vasubandhu] says, "These
are called elimination of the
three kinds of hindrances to Bodhi."
|Three minds which accord with Bodhi
Concerning 'coming into accord with Bodhi,'
[Vasubandhu] says, "Having
thus eliminated the three kinds of hindrances
to Bodhi, bodhisattvas can
now completely attain the three minds which
are in accord with Bodhi. What
are these? First, the undefiled pure mind:
[they attain this mind] because
they do not seek their own pleasure."
Bodhi is the state of undefiled purity. If
bodhisattvas sought pleasures
for their own sake, they would run counter
to Bodhi. For this reason, the
undefiled pure mind accords with Bodhi.
[Vasubandhu] says, "Second, [619c] the
peaceful pure mind: [bodhisattvas attain
this mind] because they seek to remove the
sufferings of all sentient beings."
Bodhi is the state of purity in which all
sentient beings are led to
dwell in peace. If bodhisattvas did not endeavor
to remove the sufferings
of all sentient beings, they would run counter
to Bodhi. For this reason,
[the mind] to remove the sufferings of all
sentient beings accords with
[Vasubandhu] says, "Third, the blissful
pure mind: [bodhisattvas
attain this mind] because they enable all
sentient beings to reach Great
Bodhi and [for this purpose] they receive
sentient beings and lead them
to attain birth in that Land."
Bodhi is the state of ultimate eternal bliss.
If bodhisattvas did not
seek to lead all sentient beings to the ultimate
eternal bliss, they would
run counter to Bodhi. How can beings attain
the ultimate eternal bliss?
It is through the gate of the Mahayana. The
gate of Mahayana is the Buddha-land
of Peace and Bliss. For this reason, [Vasubandhu]
says, "receive sentient
beings and lead them to attain birth in that
Land," and also "These
are called 'completely attaining the three
minds which are in accord with
Bodhi.' One should realize the implication
Concerning 'correspondence between [some
key] terms,' [Vasubandhu] says,
"The three gates mentioned above - wisdom,
compassion and skillful
means - contain Prajna; Prajna contains skillful
means. One should realize
the implication of this."
|Prajna and skillful means
'Prajna' is the insight of penetrating to
Suchness (e); 'skillful means' is the wisdom of knowing
provisional means (chi). If one reaches Suchness, one's mental
acts become tranquil; if one becomes conversant
with provisional means, one knows all about
sentient beings. The wisdom of knowing all
about sentient beings arises in response
to their needs and yet it is unknowing. Insight
into Nirvanic tranquility is unknowing and
yet it sees through beings. Thus Prajna and
skillful means work co-operatively; while
interacting, they are tranquil. Because of
the working of wisdom, one does not lose
tranquility, while active; because of the
power of skillful means, one does not cease
to be active, while absorbed in tranquility.
And so, [it is said] 'wisdom, compassion
and skillful means contain Prajna; Prajna
contains skillful means.'
'The implication' is that wisdom and skillful
means are the parents of
a bodhisattva. Unless he depends on wisdom
and skillful means, the duties
of the bodhisattva are not fulfilled. The
reason is that, if he seeks to
perform them for the sake of sentient beings
without having wisdom, he
will fall into erroneous views. If he contemplates
the Dharma-nature without
having recourse to skillful means, he will
merely attain [Hinayanistic]
True Reality. Hence, it is said, 'One should
realize the implication of
[Vasubandhu] says, "The three eliminations
mentioned above - elimination
of any thought of self-attachment, elimination
of disinclination to give
peace to sentient beings, and elimination
of any thought of seeking veneration
and respect by others - are the ways of removing
hindrances to Bodhi. One
should realize the implication of this."
All existing things create hindrances to
each other, like wind disturbing calm, earth
obstructing [the movement of] water, water
extinguishing fire, the five transgressions
and the ten evils preventing rebirth as a
man or heavenly being and the four erroneous
views hindering the attainment of the shravaka's goal.
If these three kinds of thought are not eliminated,
they will prevent the realization of Bodhi.
'The implication' is that if one wishes to
be free of hindrances [to Bodhi],
one should eliminate those three kinds of
[Vasubandhu] says, "The three minds
mentioned above - undefiled pure mind, peaceful
pure mind and blissful pure mind - are combined
[620a] to form 'the supreme, blissful, unsurpassed
and true mind.' One should realize the implication
Concerning 'blissful,' three kinds of bliss
or pleasure are distinguished:
(1) external pleasure, or pleasure arising
from the five sense-perceptions;
(2) internal pleasure, or pleasure arising
from consciousness absorbed
in the first, second and third meditations
(in the realm of form); and
(3) the pleasure of the Dharma-music, or
bliss arising from wisdom; it
arises from love of the Buddha's merit.
When the three states of mind - the mind
free of any thought of self-attachment,
the mind free of disinclination to give peace
to sentient beings, and the
mind free of any thought of seeking veneration
and respect by others -
grow pure and strong, they are together called
'the supreme, blissful,
unsurpassed and true mind.' The word 'supreme'
means excellent, for this
bliss arises from contact with the Buddha.
The word 'unsurpassed' means
transcending pleasures in the three worlds.
The word 'true' means not false
and not deluded.
Concerning 'fulfillment of the vow and the
acts, [Vasubandhu] says,
"In this way the bodhisattvas' mind
of wisdom, mind of expediency,
mind of non-hindrance, and unsurpassed and
true mind bring about birth
in the Buddha's Pure Land. One should realize
the implication of this."
'One should realize the implication of this'
means that one should know
that with those four kinds of pure virtue
one can be born in the Buddha's
Pure Land, and not under other conditions.
[Vasubandhu] says, "This is called 'accomplishing
the acts of the
bodhisattvas and mahasattvas as they desire
through the five Dharma-gates.'
The acts of body, speech, mind, wisdom and
skillful means as mentioned
above are the Dharma-gates that conform to
the way of birth in the Pure
'As they desire' means that with those five
kinds of merit-power one
can be born in the Buddha's Pure Land, where
one attains complete freedom
in action. 'The act of body' refers to worship;
'the act of speech,' to
praise; 'the act of mind,' to aspiration;
'the act of wisdom,' to contemplation;
and 'the act of wisdom of skillful means,'
to merit-transference. What
is meant here is that when those five acts
are united they constitute the
Dharma-gates that conform to the way of birth
in the Pure Land and so enable
one to attain complete freedom of action.
|Five gates to Enlightenment - the result
of the Five Mindful Practices
Concerning 'accomplishment of the beneficial
acts,' [Vasubandhu] says,
"Again, there are five gates, which
in order produce five kinds of
merit. One should realize the implication
of this. What are the five gates?
They are: (1) the gate of approach, (2) the
gate of great assemblage, (3)
the gate of residence, (4) the gate of chamber,
and (5) the gate of playing
Those five gates show the way of 'going in'
and 'going out.' Firstly, in the phase of
'going in,' reaching the Pure Land is the
aspect of 'approaching', for when one enters
the Rightly Established Stage of Mahayana,
one approaches the highest, perfect Enlightenment.
When one has reached the Pure Land, one enters
the Tathagata's 'great assemblage.' Having
joined the assemblage, one reaches the 'residence'
through the practice of calming one's mind.
Having entered the residence, one proceeds
to the 'chamber' through contemplation practice.
Having accomplished these practices, one
reaches the stage of teaching others. The
stage of teaching others is the stage of
the bodhisattvas' playing for their enjoyment;
for this reason, the phase of 'going out'
is called 'the gate of playing ground.'
[Vasubandhu] says, "Of those five gates,
the first four produce the merit in the phase
of 'going in' and the fifth produces [620b]
the merit in the phase of 'going out'."
What is the merit in the phases of 'going
in' and 'going out'? It is
stated in the Discourse:
"The first gate in the phase of 'going
in' is to worship Amida
Buddha in order to be born in his Land; by
this one attains birth in the
Land of Peace and Bliss, and so it is called
the first gate in the phase
of 'going in'."
To worship the Buddha with an aspiration
to be born in the Buddha-land
is the feature of the first merit.
[Vasubandhu] says, "The second gate
in the phase of 'going in'
is to praise Amida Buddha, while reciting
his Name in compliance with its
meaning and practicing in compliance with
his light of wisdom; by this,
one joins the great assemblage. This is called
the second gate in the phase
of 'going in'."
To praise in compliance with the meaning
of the Tathagata's Name is
the feature of the second merit.
[Vasubandhu] says, "The third gate in
the phase of 'going in' is to aspire single-mindedly
and whole-heartedly to be born there and
to perform the practice of cessation, the
samadhi of tranquility; by this one can reach
the Land of Lotus-Treasury. This is called
the third gate in the phase of 'going in'."
To aspire single-mindedly to be born in that
Land by practicing tranquility
and cessation of thought is the feature of
the third merit.
[Vasubandhu] says, "The fourth gate
in the phase of 'going in' is to contemplate
whole-heartedly those glorious adornments
and so practice contemplation; by this one
can reach that Land, where one will enjoy
various flavors of the Dharma. This is called
the fourth gate of 'going in'."
'Various flavors of the Dharma' means that
by practicing concentration one enjoys
innumerable flavors of the Buddhist Path
related to the glorious adornments [of the
Pure Land], such as the flavor of contemplating
the purity of the Buddha-land, the flavor
of Mahayana that embraces sentient beings,
the flavor of everlasting sustenance [of
those born in the Pure Land], and the flavor
of [bodhisattvas'] practices and vows to
establish Buddha-lands in response to the
needs of sentient beings. Hence, 'various.'
This is the feature of the fourth merit.
|The meaning of "playing in the garden"
[Vasubandhu] says, "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 [Amida's] Primal Vow-Power. This
is called the fifth gate in
the phase of 'going out'."
'To manifest accommodated and transformed
bodies' describes the manifestation mentioned
in the chapter on the Universal Gate in the
Lotus Sutra. 'To play' has two meanings: (1) 'freedom
of action,' for bodhisattvas save sentient
beings as easily as a lion hunts a deer,
or as if one is playing; and (2) 'saving
without seeing the saved,' for when bodhisattvas
observe sentient beings, they see them as
ultimately non-existing; even though they
save innumerable beings, they realize that
not even one has really entered Nirvana.
The way they save sentient beings is like
playing. '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
[Amida's] 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. [620c]
|A concluding remark praising the Two Aspects
18 Hereupon, from the Great Sage's words of
truth, I truly realize that it is through
the Merit-transference by the Vow-Power that
we attain the Great Nirvana. The beneficial
acts in the phase of Returning express the
true intent of the Other-Power. Accordingly,
the author of the Discourse, Vasubandhu, proclaims the vast and unimpeded
One Mind, thereby universally guiding the
multitudes of this Saha world which is defiled
by evil passions. Master T'an-luan clarifies
the Going and Returning aspects of Merit-transference
that arises from Great Compassion, and also
carefully expounds the profound meaning of
'Other's benefit' and 'benefiting others.'
We should respectfully uphold this teaching,
and above all, accept it in faith.
End of Chapter 4: A Collection of Passages Revealing
the True Enlightenment of the Pure Land Way
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