Rennyo’s Poems


Translated by Hisao Inagaki

My old Dharma letters —
Reminiscent of bygone days,
Fresh in the mind
As though they were today or yesterday.
[middle of 4th month, 1468]

Strokes of the brush in my letters
Leave me in a pensive mood;
They may remain as my memento
After I have gone.
[22nd, 4th month, 1468]

How pathetic
My old handwriting!
I return to bygone days
As the dusk gathers around me.

Having reached the age of fifty-five,
I rejoice at my old connections
Which brought me to the Dharma
In this country.

My age being fifty-six,
The average span of human life,
Realization of true Enlightenment
Must be very near.
[20th, 2nd month, 1470]

Faith does not arise
From within one’s self;
The entrusting heart is itself
Given by the Other-Power.

Heed the Dharma well!
If only you have mature karmic causes,
Faith will arise
[28th, 2nd month, 1470]

Desiring to be born
In the Land of Bliss
Is not to trust
In Amida’s Power.

After a day of various thoughts
I heard an evening bell;
Yearn after Amida.
[16th, 7th month, 1471]

The sweat trickling down my face
On this hot day is really tears;
My heart is sad to see the Dharma message
Which I leave to future ages.
[18th, 7th month, 1471]

How quickly thirteen years
Have gone by!
Today my heart sorrows
At my mother’s memorial.
[4th, 10th month, 1472]

How helpless I am,
Lacking in a sincere heart!
What state of existence
Do I deserve?
[same day]

Her five hindrances
Must have been removed;
The Pure Land of Bliss
Should be as close as the other shore.
[same day]

How grateful I feel
For the gift of a life, long enough
To greet for the third time
The Dharma gathering in this month of frost.
[21st, 11th month, 1473]

The Dharma message
That I leave as a guide
To future ages
May remain as my memento.
[8th, 12th month, 1473]

Simply trust Amida!
His Vows, deep and penetrating,
Will turn your five hindrances
Into Buddhahood.

If possible, I want to convey
The message of Amida’s Vow
To the hearts of those
Who are devoted to the Nembutsu.

Though full of evil karma,
Having wholly trusted Amida,
I am sure of birth in the Western Land
Through the Power of the Dharma.
[2nd, 12th month, 1477]

Morning and evening
I find peace of mind in Faith,
Remembering deeply
The Buddha’s Benevolence.

Years have past, days and months
Gone by – and here I am today;
At no time have I lived
Without the Master’s benevolence.
[1st month, 1479]

Let those who see
The traces of my brush
Be convinced
Of the Dharma in my heart.
[24th, 11th month, 1482]

I have piled up years
Even to seventy;
When am I to leave
This temporary abode?
[1st month, 1484]

If, after I am dead,
Someone still remembers me,
May he awaken the mind
Of trusting Amida.

If, after I am dead,
Someone asks about me,
Tell him that I have gone
To Amida’s Pure Land.

A magnolia has borne fruit;
May Amida’s Primal Vow,
As rare as that fruit,
Spread far and wide in the world!
[5th month, 1492]

(82) When someone in the future
Remembers me,
Let him deeply trust
In Amida’s Vows.

Wearing a black robe
Wet with tears for impermanence,
This old man of nearly eighty
Looks up at the Weaver in the autumn sky.

After I am gone,
All should, with one mind,
Place their trust
In Namo Amida Butsu.

Until eighty have I lived,
Oh, this old man;
The Other Shore is beckoning me —
A late start for the voyage.

I am an old man
Having lived for eighty years;
The Other Shore is waiting for the voyage
To start on a moonlight night.

Those who hear
That ‘I’ does not exist
Should all lose no time
In trusting Namo Amida Butsu.

If someone hears
That I have gone to the Land of Bliss,
Let him quickly trust
Amida Buddha.

In the two characters “na-mo”
Is the mind
To trust Amida;
This one should know.
[18th, 5th month, 11497]

If anyone trusts Amida
With singleness of heart,
Amida knows
And saves him.
[same day]

Apart from true shinjin
What is there
That you can consider as a treasure
For all future ages?
[same day]

How valuable is the mind
To trust Amida!
My black robe is wet
With tears.
[same day]

In the two characters “na-mo”
Is spontaneously contained
The mind of faith
That trusts Amida.

The Name “Amidabutsu”
Is to be accepted gratefully;
It contains the Vow
That saves sentient beings.

Once you deeply trust
Be sure that you will easily
Be born in the Pure Land.

“To awaken aspiration” and
“To transfer the merit”
Shows how Amida embraces
Sentient beings.

Having lived for more than eighty years,
My insipid life still lingers on;
Wind blowing through the pine trees
Carries the sound of Impermanence.

To awaken a single thought of Faith
Of the supreme Buddha-Wisdom,
I assure you, is due to the working
Of Amida’s Light.
[1st, 1st month, 1498]

Those who trust Amida
Without apprehension
Should leave to the Buddha
All their karmic evils.

Since Amida’s Dharma is to save
Those with deep-rooted karmic evil,
Is there a Buddha
Superior to Amida?

I suffer from old age
Whether awake or asleep;
How eagerly I long
For the Western Shore!

As my mementoes
For future generations
I take up my brush
And keep on writing.
[25th, 11th month, 1498]

This ageing body surely takes
The form of the six-character Name –
Namo Amida Butsu
That contains the vow and practice.
[15th, 12th month, 1498]

Whenever I see cherry blossoms
Bloom in profusion,
My yearning increases
For the Western Other Shore.
[3rd, 3rd month, 1498]

How much longer will the illness
Of this old man last?
I wish Amida would come and take me
Quickly to his Pure Land.
[same day]

At the age of eighty-five
It is determined by my fixed karma
That I shall go to the Pure Land
In the eighth year of Meio (1499).
[10th, 3rd month, 1498]

After I am gone,
All the fellow-believers,
Give up mixed practices
And trust Amida.
[same day]

If the merit of reciting the Name
Which I have painted grows mature,
Anyone who does so can go to birth
In the Western Pure Land.

Instead of being anxious
To go up to Osaka,
Let there be a mind
To trust Amida.

You may celebrate
On the New Year’s Day,
But do not forget mindfulness of
Namo Amida Butsu.

“How joyful,” “How grateful,”
Come to the lips
Between sayings of
Namo Amida Butsu.

Moved by the devotion of one
Who trusts Amida,
I wet with tears
The sleeves of my black robe.

Overwhelmed by deep emotion
In my heart that trusts Amida,
I am unable to keep back my tears
That wet the sleeves of my robe.

Trusting Amida,
I shall become a Buddha;
I wonder what others are thinking
About this matter.

He who trusts Amida
Is like a cuckoo just after waking;
He calls Amida’s Name
As the sky brightens at dawn.

He who trusts Amida
Is like the angler’s boat;
He has piled up evil karma,
But his boat does not sink.

If you trust Amida
With singleness of heart,
Your birth in the Pure Land
Is beyond a shadow of doubt.

We are all lacking
In true, sincere faith;
We simply pretend
To be wise and learned.

If you have wholly trusted
Birth is like crossing to the other shore
By a boat in the moonlight.

Let us all trust Amida
For the matter of the after-life;
Our destination should be
Nowhere else than the Pure Land.

If you have trusted Amida
For the matter of the after-life,
The Other Shore is so near
That you could go there by boat in the moon.

If you have trusted Amida
For the matter of the after-life,
Be very sure that you are boarding
The ship of the Universal Vow.

If you do not know that you can be born
In the Land of Utmost Bliss
With a single thought of Faith,
How can joy arise in your heart?

Assured of birth in the Pure Land
With a single thought of Faith,
I am so full of joy and happiness
That I have no time for other things.

The highest mountain and the deepest sea
Have limited dimensions;
With what, then, can I compare
The supreme virtue of Amida?

Since the Path of Dharma
Is to be revered endlessly,
Come and take me quickly, O Amida,
To your Land of Recompense.

When you realize that Amida saves
Such a wicked man as you,
Be very sure that at that moment
Your birth in the Pure Land is settled.

Since Amida’s Dharma is to save
Those with heavy evil karma,
Trust Amida
With singleness of heart.

The Dharma-masters tried sincerely
To explain in many words,
But very few understand
The true Way of deliverance.

What a joy it is that I was born
As a man of grave karmic transgressions!
Because of my evil karma,
I have come to trust in Amida’s Vow.

Whatever karmic transgressions
You have committed till today,
You are freed from their retribution,
If you put your trust in Amida.

Since Amida saves me
Who am full of karmic evil,
I have no word to express my feeling:
Just “Ah!”

“Inconceivable” is the only word
To describe the Vow;
Inconceivable, beyond thought,
And ineffable!

Since Amida makes you trust him
And responds to your trust,
There is no room
For self-effort to intervene.

Since Amida makes you trust him
And responds to your trust,
Your trusting heart does not arise
From within yourself.

Leaving intact karmic transgressions
You have committed with the innate evil mind,
You should seek to attain
The single thought of trusting Amida.

Anyone who comes to understand
The heart of the Six-character Name
Surely attains salvation,
Despite his karmic evils.

I thought that Namo Amida Butsu
Was Amida’s Name,
But have found it to be the evidence
Of how I shall attain Birth.

All thoughts and words
Are delusions
Except the mind to trust
Amida Buddha.

Since in this world of impermanence
Breathing may stop at any moment,
Let us quickly place our trust
In Amida’s Vow.

Living a prolonged life
In the world of transience,
How I aspire to be born
In the Pure Land of Eternity!

In the world of impermanence
Death is unpredictable;
How sad it is
To realize this yet once more!

After one’s life ends
Like a dewdrop,
What is left behind
Is only one’s name.

As a keepsake I leave behind
The Six-character Name;
When there is no Dharma in the world,
Everyone should use it.

Anyone who is saddened
By my death
Should trust Amida
And be saved.

After I have passed,
Whoever misses me
Should put his trust
In Amida’s Vow.

If in the future
Someone asks about me,
Tell him that
I am in Amida’s Pure Land.

Since people are ignorant
Of the true Dharma,
My brush and mind are busy
Defining the Dharma.

If even once your mind is settled
On trusting Amida,
You are already treading
The path of true Dharma.

If your mind is settled
On hearing the Dharma,
You should say,
“Namo Amida Butsu”.

Years past having been piled up,
I am over sixty;
How happy I am
To have met Amida’s Dharma!

At last I have made it
To seventy-one;
How slow is the boat coming
To take me to the Other Shore.

The result of accumulating
My eighty years
Is only seen in the saying
Of Namo Amida Butsu.

Those who have chanced upon
The Name of Amida
Should find their trust
In Namo Amida Butsu.

Following the teaching
That we should put our trust in Amida,
I have become one who trusts him;
How happy I am!

If only you have the mind
To trust Amida,
There is no doubt that
You will be born in the Pure Land.

Being an old man, I suffer from pain
Whatever I do;
Why should I not aspire
To the Land of Recompense?

Whoever may place his trust
In Amida’s Vow
Will be born in the Western Pure Land;
This one should know.

The form of the Buddha
That Amida has become
Is the sure sign
Of our birth in his Land.

From the beginning,
Our trust that is placed in Amida
Is the mind
That does not arise from within.

Birth is settled
With a single thought of Faith;
How indiscreet it is to think,
“Only after saying the Nembutsu!”

Those who recite
Namo Amida Butsu
Are all born into
Namo Amida Butsu.

The Land of Utmost Bliss
Gets nearer every day;
How joyful it is for the man
Whose life is nearing its end.

Plants and trees are blown down
By a storm in Hamasaka;
Its roaring sound is
Namo Amida Butsu.

The splashing sound of waves
On the sides of the boat
Induces me to renew my trust in Amida
While cruising along Yoshizaki.

Summer is gone and autumn has come
With a falling leaf from a paulownia;
Perceiving this with deep emotion,
I repeat Namo Amida Butsu.
[1st, 7th month, 1477]

Burdened with heavy karmic evils,
I feel how trustworthy
Amida’s Vow of
Namo Amida Butsu.
[10th month, 1477]

As the year comes to a close,
How I wish to travel to the west!
The silvery moon in the clear sky,
Take with me my aging life.

Having passed the age of eighty,
From the joy in trusting Amida,
I am bathed in tears
Which drench the sleeves of my robe.

With an overwhelming joy
Of trust in Amida,
Tears that swell up in my eyes
Always wet the sleeves of my robe.

The mind that trusts Amida
Is full of gratitude;
I am always drowned
With tears of joy.

Encountering the Vow of Amida
That is beyond thought
Is due to the working of the Dharma
That I encountered in the past.

How many times I have been deceived
By my own resolutions!
The most unreliable thing:
My mind.

If you look for the mind
Of someone who trusts Amida,
You will find it
In Namo Amida Butsu.

Unable to put out
The burning fire of anger,
You choose to get into
The fiery cart from hell.

Those who place their trust
In Namo Amida Butsu
Will not fail to become Buddhas
Before very long.

If my brush and mind are not employed
To convey the Dharma messages,
Who will teach people
The true Way of salvation.

The two characters “na-mo”
Will soon have flowers
And develop into the fruit
Of Buddhahood.

If the Dharma-teachers
Did not employ brushes with zeal,
How could we know about
The Six-character Name?

Those who cast aside
All miscellaneous acts
And put their trust in Amida
Will surely become Buddhas.

[Translator’s notes]

The translator has chosen a hundred and twenty-four poems out of the three hundred contained in the Shinshu Shogyo Zensho, Vol. 5, pp. 488-523. The numbering in this selection is the same as that collection.

[Bibliography] “A Selection from the Poems of Rennyo Shonin,”Rennyo Shonin kenkyu – kyogihen, II, ed. by Jodoshinshu kyogaku kenkyusho. Nagata Bunshodo, 1998; pp. 1-18.