A Hundred witty lines
by Ippen (1239 – 1289)
translated by Hisao Inagaki
While transmigrating in the six realms,
We have no one who accompany us;
We are born alone and die alone;
How sorrowful the path of Samsara!
From the clouds above the Uppermost Heaven
To the lowest dungeon in Avici hell,
There is no place where we have not been reborn
As the result of our good and evil karma.
But hard it is to be reborn
In the good realms of humans and devas;
Our abodes are always in the three evil realms,
From which we cannot easily escape.
Even our bones melt in the hells of Black Ropes and Uniting Tortures;
In the Mountain of Swords and Forest of Knife-edge Leaves we are cut to the liver.
Reborn as hungry spirits, we suffer from hunger;
Also reborn as animals, we receive retributions for stupidity.
After escaping for a short break from the three evil realms
Where we have suffered such affliction and torment,
We have had a rare chance to be reborn as humans;
Why do we not abhor birth-and-death?
Although we have obtained human forms,
If we hanker after worldly desires,
Toiling at work, mind and body,
What is the use of escaping from hell?
If we are greedy with insatiable desires,
We will not be different from hungry spirits;
If we are intent on harming others,
We will be just the same as beasts.
If we constantly harbor such delusory thoughts,
Busying ourselves day in and day out,
And are bound by the ropes of five sensory desires,
Thus unable to escape from the Burning House, it is a pity indeed.
Even if one’s life spanned a thousand autumns
Or ten thousand years, it would be like a flash of lightning;
After months and days pass against our will,
The time of our departing comes very quickly.
The pain of birth, aging, sickness and death
Does not choose people to attack;
No one can escape, whether noble or base,
In high or low position, rich or poor.
As long as the ephemeral life lasts,
One can embellish one’s abode of glory;
Once the wind of Impermanence blows,
All the flowery perfections will be gone.
Parents, wife and children, to begin with,
A hundred, thousand million possessions,
Treasures and mansion included,
All seem to be meant for one’s own sake;
So thinking, one has loved and fostered one’s body,
But when the soul departs alone,
Leaving behind even this body,
Who will accompany one to the World of the Dead?
Relatives and family will all gather
And, clinging to the body, wail over the deceased;
But drawn by his karma, he will wander off in delusion,
Without waking from the dream of birth-and-death.
Ever since I learnt of such reality of life,
I have ceased to cling to my body, life and possessions;
Thus, having renounced this world of delusion,
I have chosen to live all by myself.
During the innumerable kalpas over many lives,
Everyone has been my father or mother;
Together with a myriad sentient beings,
I shall quickly reach the Pure Land.
Renouncing everything and entering into the Realm
Of No-action is the true way of acknowledging their benevolence;
I will transfer the Nembutsu that I recite
To all sentient beings universally.
I have no dwelling-place anywhere in the world,
Which I consider my permanent home;
But since there are many houses where I can stay,
I am not drenched with rain.
In so far as a house offers a shelter,
Its master and I are the same;
Since he, too, must leave the house sooner or later,
What is the good of holding himself high as the master?
As I know that this world is the Burning House,
I will not make much fuss even if it is consumed by fire;
Even if I see wear and tear in my belongings,
I have no intention to repair them.
If I have a mat spread in the room,
I will not feel it too small for living;
My daily life with the Nembutsu
Is my dwelling free of delusory thoughts.
Halls for Buddhist practices are not necessary;
The Name, Namu Amida Butsu,
Which I hold whether walking, standing, sitting or lying,
Is the sacred object of worship, which is more than I deserve.
Since I have no desire for fame and profit,
I am not inclined to wander about collecting donations;
Since I am not free of the five faults in preaching,
I have vowed not to give sermons.
Being averse to rules and regulations,
I do not want any disciple of my own;
Having no intention to depend on others to support me,
I seek no favor from anyone.
But as long as my body remains in this world,
Food and clothing are indeed necessary;
I accept them as they are brought by my karma,
And make no effort to obtain them.
I do not beg alms saying many words,
Nor do I flatter or curry favor from anyone;
Just enough to keep me alive
I receive from others as donations.
If not provided with the bare subsistence,
I am ready to die of starvation;
After death I shall be born in the Pure Land,
Which is full of wonderful manifestations.
As I am disinclined for success in the world,
I have never worn proper robes;
Leaving my clothing to the choice of others,
I make it a rule not to worry about it.
Cotton-quilted clothes, summer wear, paper garment,
Old straw mat, and threadbare straw coat —
I put on whatever is available like these,
Just to keep off the cold.
As for the food, which sustains my life,
I take anything that is brought before me;
Since I have no fear of death,
I reject nothing because of the suspected cause of illness.
Since I do not sorrow over declining health,
I covet no food that gives me extra strength;
Because I do not care about the color of my countenance,
I have no interest in the taste of food.
Because whatever we do, whether good or evil,
Is the karma that binds us to the cycle of birth-and-death,
We are all tied to the three worlds, the six states of existence;
There is no realm where I seek my birth.
If we take refuge in Amida Buddha
And say Namu Amida Butsu,
Then, illumined by his Embracing Light,
We shall become his true followers.
As Kannon and Seishi become our good friends,
Why should we seek companions in this world?
Since all Buddhas protect us,
We have no fear of unforeseen calamities.
It is solely through the Buddha’s Benevolence
That I have come to realize these facts;
So thinking, I am filled with joy
And devote myself more to the Nembutsu.
If not for the benefit of all sentient beings,
I would have vainly wandered about in the country;
Once I paid a visit to Kumano Shrine
And worshipped at the Hall of Testimony.
There, in a dream, I received a divine message,
Which has guided me for the rest of my life.
I do not seek my own refuge in the afterlife,
But my concern is to benefit others universally.
Since my body is full of impurities
And will, in the end, return to earth,
Those who believe in my words get no benefit;
Those who slander me commit no karmic evil.
Because the Name that is recited aloud
Contains inconceivable merits,
Anyone who perceives it with the mind and the body
Will wake from the dream of birth-and-death.
Both believers and slanderers are benefited equally
By the inconceivable Name of the Other Power,
Which embodies the primordial merits existing from the beginningless past;
So we should not think that we now practice it for the first time.
Originally the Buddha-nature is the undivided whole
Wherein exists no distinction of delusion and enlightenment;
It is contrary to reason that delusory thoughts arose
And we come to consider ourselves in delusion.
The Original Vow of Amida is endowed
To sentient beings in delusion;
Since it is for the sake of the dull-witted and the ignorant,
Wisdom and intelligence are not required;
Neither acts of giving nor observance of the precepts are needed;
Monks who have broken the precepts are not rejected.
As Amida embraces both meditative and non-meditative practicers,
Our Nembutsu is not hindered whether we walk, stand, sit or lie down.
As Amida does not discriminate good and evil persons,
He does not abandon men of karmic evils;
Since other good deeds are not the cause of birth in the Pure Land,
We are not urged to strive to do good.
There is no need to behave pretentiously
Or act to attract the attention of others;
Since I no longer depend on my mind’s direction,
Even the aspiration to Bodhi has disappeared.
The Name of the Buddha of Infinite Life,
Whose brilliance outshines the lights of other Buddhas,
Is above relative planes of delusion and enlightenment;
So he is praised as the Buddha of Inconceivable Light.
When we receive this teaching with joyful faith,
The Buddha and we sentient beings are no longer separated;
Because his three modes of acts and ours correspond to each other,
He is also called the Buddha of Unhindered Light.
Suspend all thoughts and reasoning,
Humbly leave yourself to this Buddha,
And until you breathe your last,
Say Namu Amida Butsu.