Adapted by John Paraskevopoulos
Adoration to Amida Buddha, the most Enlightened!
Who is the Lord of all beings who are drowning
In the troubled ocean of ‘Birth and Death’,
According to the law of karma, spiritual yet natural, by which
All beings must reap the fruit of their actions.
Adoration to the Dharma taught by Shakyamuni Buddha!
The physical manifestation of Amida
Coming into the world from the Land of Bliss
To save all people, especially those burdened by delusion and blind passion.
The Dharma comes from a Buddha, indeed from all Buddhas,
Who are countless, innumerable and immeasurable throughout the universe
Like the sands of the River Ganges.
The teachings of the Buddhas are many but the Dharma
Which issued from the mouth of Amida Buddha
Is the only one that saves both the good and the evil, the wise and the ignorant,
While the precepts of the other Buddhas are only for the wise, not the deluded,
For the righteous, and not for the unrighteous;
v For those whose hearts are pure, and not for those hearts are dark and debased.
Amida, you are a liberating refuge for the world,
For your light is infinite, your wisdom fathomless and your compassion boundless,
Beyond the reach of our efforts to comprehend you!
Alas, the benighted beings that walk upon the earth
So haughty, so selfish, and so depraved are those that are not mindful
Of your infinite love and illuminating wisdom.
They are too much absorbed in earthly cares, and spend
All their days in the quest for material goods, or in the pursuit of the shadow
Which darkens their vision and vanishes.
But some are wise and believe in the moral law of karma,
That good men prosper and the wicked perish.
Herein lies the stumbling block, that prevents them from believing in
The salvation of Amida, the infinite and unconditioned,
Who nullifies both merits and demerits, both the intelligence of the wise
And the ignorance of the deluded.
Amida, you are a shelter from the world and the master of all Buddhas,
Who, from all regions in the universe, glorify your Name and Light!
I take refuge in you, for your wisdom is infinite and immeasurable,
And your compassion is inconceivably great.
You are All-Worthy, to whom are given alms, perfect in knowledge and conduct,
The Wisdom of the World, the Teacher of gods and men:
You are a Buddha, a Tathagata, a Bhagavat, whose honour is universally acclaimed!
In a by-gone age, long ago in the dim past, in an age immeasurably remote,
In the incomprehensible infinite past –
Amida appeared in the world in the form of a man.
He was born, fostered, nurtured, educated and
Lived among men so that he might save them from their ignorance and delusion.
He was born the son of a king.
In youth, he was richly endowed with understanding, prudence and wisdom –
He was also possessed of vigour and a noble character.
His teacher was a Buddha called Lokeshvararaja.
Having heard the teachings of this Buddha,
He rejoiced beyond measure.
And in his heart, he formed the resolution to attain
The holy and perfect enlightenment of his master.
He soon abandoned his kingdom and his title of king
And became a monk, taking the name Dharmakara.
Arising from his seat, with his cloak on one shoulder,
And kneeling to the earth on his right knee,
He stretched forth his folded hands to Lokeshvararaja.
After worshipping this Buddha, at that very time and in his presence,
Dharmakara praised him with these verses.
“O Buddha of immeasurable light,
Whose knowledge is endless and incomparable;
No other light can outshine yours!
The rays of the sun and the moon,
And of all of the jewels in the world cannot compare to your brightness.
In the face of your light, such rays are as dark as a storm cloud.
Your form is the most perfect among the best of beings.
The voice of the Buddha, the fully enlightened one, is the voice of the Infinite.
It is heard in the farthest reaches of the universe – by gods and men.
His virtues likewise are infinite.
In meditation, knowledge and strength, there is none that can compare.
The Dharma of the Buddha is deep, wide and subtle;
It is vast like the ocean.
You have obtained it and are one with it.
Having abandoned all evils, ignorance, covetousness and anger –
He has gone to the other shore.
The Buddha is the Hero of the world, a lion in the mountains:
His virtues and power are incomparable;
His wisdom is profound and unfathomable;
His light is all-embracing and it enlightens all regions.
May I, having become a Buddha and a master of the Dharma,
Deliver mankind from bondage and death.
By the power of generosity, equanimity, virtue, forbearance, power and meditation –
Among which wisdom is at its highest,
I undertake, here and now, the first and highest of duties;
To become a Buddha, the saviour of all beings, and
A refuge to those who are weary and beset with fears.
And so shall I always worship the myriad of Buddhas who are numberless
Like the sands of the River Ganges.
But first of all, I shall seek, with an iron will,
For the knowledge of the Blessed Ones,
And never shall I turn my back until I have attained full enlightenment.
Whatever worlds there are, innumerable as the stars,
I shall send out my light to them.
Such virtue and power shall I obtain,
That my land will be supreme in virtues and there shall be perfect happiness.
I shall save all beings with my compassion;
When they arrive in my land from all regions of the universe,
They will quickly share in my own happiness,
Freed from every care and illusion.
May Buddha teach me the Truth and be the witness of my resolution!
I have formed a desire full of truth, strength and vigour.
May all the Buddhas, in the ten directions, possessed of perfect knowledge,
Acknowledge and acclaim my aspiration!
Even though I may go to the deepest hell and abide there forever,
I shall never cease to practice to bring my vow to fruition.”
The scripture proclaims the Buddha Lokeshvararaja as the master
And the monk Dhamakara as his disciple,
But my faith, transcending history, considers both as one and the same person –
My flesh is weak and my eyes are blind;
I cannot gain access to the infinite and incorporeal Buddha,
Nor can I imagine who or what Amida is,
Unless he assumes an earthly form among men and, through spiritual discipline,
Becomes himself a Buddha.
His wisdom, compassion and power are so great that they completely embrace me;
But how can I realize this except by the words proceeding
From the mouth of Dharmakara?
I give thanks to the Buddha Shakyamuni, the earthly manifestation of Amida
Through whose compassionate teaching, I have come to know Amida himself,
By whose Vow I shall be saved and be born in his Land of Happiness,
Where I shall be fully enlightened and full of the same compassion,
Infinite and immeasurable, as Amida’s.
When armed with his wisdom, generosity and power,
I am then able to return to this world of suffering and save my fellow beings.
When my unquenchable desire and purpose shall be fulfilled,
When I have attained unto the Infinite, then shall I know:
Salvation is by the power and grace of Amida alone;
Enlightenment is nothing but His light bestowed on us;
His Vow is his call to sentient beings and the expression of his deepest wish for them.
Faithfully, with heart and soul, I heed this call and entrust myself to it.
Amida, you are hidden from my illusory sight;
You are Spirit and Dharma.
You are invisible, yet I embrace you by faith
Through your powerful embodiment as Shakyamuni!
When I contemplate you and your grace,
You assume a spiritual form and present yourself before my eyes – a beautiful image,
Noble and holy, august and supreme.
I see your face, not with my earthly eyes but in a higher vision.
The image that I worship is golden and of human form;
Such an image is not a mere symbol of you, much less an idol
Though it is made of wood or metal by the hand of man.
I stand in the presence of your image day and night:
I fold my hands before your face in veneration but not as an idol-worshipper.
You are here and there, in the air and in the earth:
You are everywhere;
There is no place you do not dwell from the heights above to the depths below.
Indeed, you abide in my very heart.
When I hear your call, you appear before my mind’s eye and I rejoice.
A wooden image, a golden image, a painted image, or a mental image;
There is no difference for me; I am always in your presence.
Let the world say that I am foolish for worshipping an idol
That is made of clay or wood, a work of man’s hand.
Let them mock and deride me but never did I grasp Amida
Through scientific understanding or through any materialistic means:
Your image is my Master; you come before me in an image within my soul.
Clay is clay but the clay that has assumed your form is the Buddha himself,
And not the clay of the earth.
The same monk Dharmakara, a noble-minded Bodhisattva,
Made his vows before the Buddha Lokeshvararaja.
These vows were his will, his love and his thought,
Sprung out of the wide sea of Amida’s wisdom;
For the two persons are, in reality, one and the same.
His vows were declared in the presence of his Master.
He knew that they would surely be realized,
And that his aim, without doubt, would be accomplished.
He could look into the seed of time as a Buddha was able to do,
For he was as great as his Master Lokeshvararaja.
His vows would never be ignored or dismissed as idle talk,
Indeed, they would be heard and effective forever.
Heaven and earth may perish but these words – the vows of Amida –
Shall not cease to be proclaimed.
His vows are made for the past, present and future.
Even now I am able to hear the Bodhisattva Dharmakara, and through his vows
In the great love of Amida, am able to find my ultimate refuge.
Amida Buddha reveals himself in the vows of Dharmakara, his supreme manifestation.
Therefore, whenever I approach Amida, I cannot but recall
The divine vows of Dharmakara.
His vows are my life, my repose and my joy.
I am possessed of little knowledge and am defiled by delusion and blind passion,
Yet, when I hear his vows, my heart is filled with joy.
I find my emancipation in his Promise and rejoice in his salvation.
I have no ability to save myself and my virtues are too meagre
To set me free from the shackles of suffering and ignorance.
The Bodhisattva Dharmakara spoke as follows:
‘O, Honoured One, should the beings born in my Buddha realm not
Be firmly established in a state of absolute truth and not attain Nirvana,
Then may I not attain the highest and most perfect knowledge’.
He promises liberation to all who believe in his great compassion and leads them
To his land of bliss at the end of their lives.
Our faith, if it be pure and true, even though momentary,
Will ensure our birth in this land where we immediately attain the Great Nirvana.
For this comes to pass thanks to his Vow, and not by virtue of our own efforts.
I do not know, nor can I conceive, how we are saved without merit:
My reason whispers ‘Be good, be righteous and do not follow the ways of the wicked’.
These exhortations are the truth taught from the beginning.
This demand of our heart is absolute and cannot be denied;
This supreme moral law, men call ‘conscience’.
Men should obey when their conscience gives them its mandate.
Obedience brings forth good fortune, ease and happiness,
While disobedience bruises our hearts and ultimately brings misfortune.
No one has created this causal law of karma; it is simply so by the nature of things.
From the beginning, men have been despising each other and cursing their neighbours,
But have not been able to deceive or mock their own conscience.
Is conscience the voice of the Buddha in one’s mind or is it the light of eternal Truth?
In the kingdom of morality, conscience reigns supreme,
But it gives no power to man to save himself and others from perdition,
For the world is full of temptations and men are flawed.
Those who depend much upon their own conscience
Rarely lend an ear to Amida’s grace and compassion;
But those who believe in Buddha, through His light and love,
Also find the power to act in accordance with morality,
For the very heart of true faith is His wisdom and power.
Pure faith can never be destroyed;
The real blessings of grace can never fail or be diminished.
Faith, though it may seem to be of little value, is great;
So great, in fact, that it reaches into the furthest expanses of the universe,
Preceding both heaven and earth.
For faith transcends the human heart,
Surpassing human feelings, knowledge and conscience.
It is, in fact, the divine essence of the Buddha.
Amida Buddha calls me to him and I heed this call,
For to hear is to believe and obey.
Faith consists in hearing His calling and responding to his great compassion!
His call is absolute; it dispels my unbelief, my doubt and my fears.
In daily life, faith and morality are inseparable,
But pure faith transcends conventional morality.
The faith that stands above all works, merits, deeds and conduct,
Is the true faith that leads us to the mansion of Nirvana,
The source of all love, light and wisdom.
On earth, a Buddha and a sinful man are different,
But in the Buddha’s land, all beings who are born there are equal even to Amida:
In that Land of Bliss, men can become Buddhas.
Buddha is neither a creator nor a creation;
That truth can be obtained by all people who believe in Amida and His teachings.
The Divine Vow of Amida is incomprehensible as is one’s faith in it.
It is also beyond all human reason – a free gift from the Buddha.
How I have longed for the Great Nirvana!
Since the day I began to yearn for this complete emancipation;
But my profound spiritual ignorance has hindered my approach to Amida.
Now the light of your wisdom has dispelled the dark clouds of ignorance
And my soul is alight and rejoices with exceeding joy.
When I was young and remained in ignorance, Nirvana was a treasure beyond the ocean,
Or the Utopia that was described in fiction;
But now, it has come into my possession,
As surely as the pearls I can count in the palm of my hand.
This treasure is most certainly attainable, for his Vow has been fulfilled,
For Amida is the Lord of the castle of perfect enlightenment,
Who gives us what is most beneficial, and gives it most freely and abundantly.
The path to this castle is paved with thorns and difficult of access,
For my mind’s eye is blind and my legs are crippled;
The way is hard to follow even for the wise and learned.
Only through the Buddha’s power are we able to reach our true destination.
For Amida gives us the faith, light and power –
The vehicle that carries us to his Mansion in the Land of Purity
Where we shall enjoy eternal life, together with everlasting bliss and love,
By which we can save other people as the Buddha himself does.
Amida’s wisdom and compassion, manifested through his compassion,
Shall spread over the world; as in the past, so in the present and future.
Thus the dark chamber of our minds shall be illuminated to make us
Worthy of being heirs in the Buddha’s kingdom.
When we become fully enlightened, we can understand all things
Which, in the present life, are veiled by illusion.
Bodhisattva Dharmakara, continuing to offer his prayers, spoke again:
‘O, Honoured One, if, after I have attained the highest perfect knowledge,
The light in my Buddha land should be measurable,
Even by the measure of a hundred thousand myriad of Buddha lands,
Then may I not obtain enlightenment.
O, Honoured One, if the measure of the life of beings in my Buddha land,
And if the measure of my life, after I have attained the highest perfect knowledge,
Should be limited, even by numbering a hundred thousand myriad of ages,
Then may I not attain enlightenment’.
These vows have been realized as confirmed by the Buddha Shakyamuni,
The manifestation of Amida.
Let all beings rejoice! Amida is a Buddha of infinite light and eternal life.
It is only through the fulfilment of his vows that we can hope
To be endowed with the same unlimited light and life that knows no end.
This world is full of pain: calamity and anguish pierce our bones to the marrow.
We, nevertheless, hope that, through the grime and dust, we shall enter into eternity.
Amida’s wisdom and compassion gives us strength and compels us to
Cast the reflected radiance of his loving-kindness, justice and forbearance
Throughout the world.
The Buddha never forsakes his sons who believe and
Never abandons in the cold his daughters who are obedient.
No sooner have we looked up to His face, than we are held in His arms.
It is He who shuts the doors of the dungeon of everlasting torments;
It is He who cuts down the trees that bear the fruits of death.
Wonderful and inconceivable is His power
Which destroys all fears after death and no less in the present life!
Fear and worry will kill a man, but hope grasped by faith
Makes him go forth courageously, like our Master among the wolves
To protect many sheep in danger of being devoured.
Amida’s Buddha land is, moreover, full of light,
And the adornments there are free from change and decay.
The trees, flowers, water, birds and edifices, towering to the sky, of that land,
Are but manifestations of His wisdom and infinite love.
Those who enjoy these adornments, never fail to be thankful for such love.
The Buddha’s land manifests many sights and sounds which afford pleasure
To those who wish to perceive them.
In that Buddha land, phenomena and reality are subject to their will,
For, in truth, the things that we perceive in our ordinary world are not what they seem;
Things in themselves have neither form, colour nor dimension:
They are empty and void – only an illusory appearance.
Our minds, enmeshed in space and time, create the realities we perceive.
Things themselves, including the Buddha, can never be seen, heard, tasted or grasped,
Even by man’s deepest thought:
They are quite beyond our knowledge – empty, and yet, not empty at the same time.
Only Buddhas can know what they truly are.
Bodhisattva Dharmakara then addressed the Buddha Lokeshvararaja as follows:
‘O, Honoured One, if innumerable blessed Buddhas
In immeasurable Buddha lands do not glorify my Name
After I have attained enlightenment;
If they do not preach my fame and, together, proclaim my praises,
Then may I not obtain the highest and most perfect knowledge’.
His vow having been fulfilled, the Divine Name of Amida
Is now, in innumerable realms, glorified, and His fame
Has spread in a myriad worlds, wherever beings may dwell.
All beings in the ten directions of the universe, who hear this most holy Name,
Attain true faith and are exceedingly joyful.
Amida has vowed to save through his Name those afflicted
By anger, greed and ignorance:
> All His wisdom, mercy and power are contained in this Divine Name.
In this world, a thing and its name are different:
However loudly we may repeat the names of food, we shall never be satisfied,
Or however often we may repeat the names of drink, our thirst will never be quenched.
So are the names of people, or of warriors; however fear-inspiring they may be
They have no power to quell their enemies, and the names of their arms
Can never vanquish the foe.
But the names of Buddhas and Bodhisattvas
Have the same divine power to fill all beings that hear them, with joy
And to arouse faith in their hearts and effect their emancipation.
The Holy Name is Amida Buddha himself and, at the same time,
His wisdom, power and virtue.
His Name is His Vow, and all those who wish to be born in his land
And glorify the Holy Name shall be called true disciples.
His virtues can dispel the darkness;
To proclaim His Name is our work and is nothing less than the true faith,
And faith alone leads us to the Buddha land of Amida.
Bodhisattva Dharmakara’s deepest aspiration lies in the Eighteenth Vow
Which is also called the ‘King of Vows’, which number forty-eight.
At that time, he addressed the Buddha Lokeshvararaja as follows:
‘O, Honoured One, if, when I have obtained the highest and most perfect Enlightenment,
Those beings in the ten quarters who are mindful of me with serene thoughts
And wish to be born in my land, should not have their wish fulfilled,
May I not attain Buddhahood.
Excepted are those who have committed the five evil acts and slandered the Dharma.
The wisdom of the Tathagata is wide and deep
And His teachings innumerable and unlimited like the sands of the River Ganges.
For fifty years, the Buddha Shakyamuni preached the liberating Dharma but
He faltered in ascribing praise to the divine vow of Amida.
If we try to propound the meaning of this vow in detail,
A hundred thousand myriad pages would not suffice.
All the teachings of all the Buddhas in the past, present and future
Are encompassed in this vow.
For their end and aim is nothing but the liberation of all beings
Who have neither resort nor refuge but the promise proclaimed in this vow.
Amida urges us to entrust ourselves to Him and to invoke His Name
Which embraces both the good and the wicked, the wise and the foolish.
He calls on all beings who dwell in the ten quarters,
For he is the sun that shines in the darkness and
Covers all people with His wings of compassion,
Like a hen that broods on her eggs or who protects her chicks.
Amida requires nothing of us, except true faith, a serene mind and the
Desire to be born in his Buddha land.
He also exhorts us to take refuge in Him through calling His Holy Name.
He has promised us that He would not receive
The highest and most perfect enlightenment
Unless all those blighted by ignorance and delusion who take refuge in His Name,
Are able to be born in His Land of Eternal Bliss.
‘Serene Mind’ is the Buddha’s sincerity which is imparted as a gift to men.
Sincerity, in the strict sense, does not belong to us; neither can we claim true faith.
Nor can the genuine aspiration for the Buddha’s land be found in ourselves.
For these states of mind are really given to us by Amida.
All we have to do is just hear and heed His call.
To hear is to believe and belief brings forth the glorification of the Divine Name.
Is it not wonderful ? Is it not beyond our comprehension?
That we can be saved only through hearing His merciful call?
He implores ‘Come to me at once! Come in spite of your anger and covetousness.
You shall never be forsaken; fear not that you will be rejected
And allowed to fall into perdition: Come immediately!
I am a star for navigators and a raft for those who are drifting.
In my calling there is no morality or social obligation
By which people can walk in safety or enjoy the common welfare.
My call is absolute; neither limited nor conditioned.
I am He whom you have been seeking throughout countless ages
And I will give you what your hearts truly desire to obtain.
Sons, daughters, the young and the old – come to me at once!
Those who have committed the five evil acts, repent!
Repentance is the sole good that ordinary beings can accomplish;
Those who have yet to commit these evils, beware of them!
The great faith is mine but is given freely by Amida Buddha;
Our great faith is the Buddha’s for it is, in essence, his wisdom and love.
The fruit of our karmic transgressions is indefinite rebirths in samsara: that is the law of causality,
Which even a Buddha cannot change or sever.
According to this law, all men bound by ignorance must needs transmigrate
From darkness to darkness, from misery to misery, throughout countless ages,
With no chance to be freed from the fetters of pain and sorrow;
For the philosophy of men and nature is too profound and too abstruse
For the ignorance of depraved men, and moreover
Buddhahood is too high for the vile and the wicked to attain.
Amida’s teachings have nothing to do with the wise and the good:
For he sheds tears of compassion for the ignorant and deluded.
There is no need to rescue those who stand safe on the shore
But immediate rescue is required for those who are struggling
In the tumultuous waves of samsara.
As the miraculous substance extracted from a plant that confers longevity:
So is pure faith which, with its wonderful power, turns death into eternity.
This life of ours is full of suffering and yet no man wishes to quit it in a hurry.
He is far too addicted to its transitory pleasures that are ever so fleeting,
And never thinks of the Buddha or of the world where horrible torments await him.
By virtue of our faith in the Buddha, we are awakened to think of the next life,
The fires of hell and of Amida’s salvation.
Amida Buddha, when in meditation as a Bodhisattva,
Found that the spiritual fellowship between sentient beings and the Buddha
Is the only means of their emancipation – that is, by faith.
The spirit of man is sensitive to the spirit of Buddha,
For every human being has in mind the idea of Buddhahood
Though dormant, as it is, in the present life,
And whose life is still concealed by the clouds of ignorance and blind passion.
The spirit of Amida is always active and He awaits the chance to make
The radiance of His spirit felt.
Shakyamuni Buddha, who became incarnate, revealed the teachings of Amida;
The teachings are His light and they touch and awaken the souls of men
From their long sleep.
Amida attained the highest and most perfect knowledge;
Therefore he is able to observe the sorrowful condition of all beings
In the transient worlds.
To see them thus is to embrace them out of compassion:
And through compassion, He gives us His spirit and the true faith.
Faith, if it be genuine, is imperishable like an adamant,
For it is the spirit of Amida Buddha.
It is not difficult to be born in the land of the Buddha,
For the gate is ever wide open for those who entrust themselves:
But few are there who can enter therein because true faith is difficult to attain.
Men are dark in their minds, obstinate and haughty.
The person who completely entrusts in Amida will be embraced by Him;
He will not be forsaken until he is born in the Buddha’s land.
To dive deep into the ocean and discover its treasures is hard:
To enter the den of a tiger and return unharmed is difficult;
But even more difficult is to acquire the holy faith.
Many are the ways to enter Nirvana but the shortest route
Is to entrust in Amida and His gracious Name.
Indeed, the true faith is given by the Buddha
In whom are to be found all the treasures of Truth.
He is the All, the Absolute; in a word, the Essence of all things.
This absolute truth can only be understood by a Buddha;
Indeed, the Buddha Himself arises out of this Truth.
Mountains, rivers, flowers, trees, beasts and men – in fact, all things
Have emerged from this Truth, and they are, one and all,
Manifestations of the Absolute, the Unlimited.
In the Larger Sutra on the Land of Bliss, Shakyamuni Buddha tells of Amida’s
Seventeenth and Eighteenth Vows which are as follows:
‘And again, O Ananda, in the ten quarters, the blessed Buddhas
Equal in number to the sands of the Ganges,
Glorify the Name of the blessed Amida, the Tathagata;
They preach his fame, proclaim his glory and extol His most excellent virtues.
And why? Because, to all beings who hear the Name of the blessed Amida,
And, having heard it, lift up their hearts with joyful longing in faith,
All His virtues shall be given freely.
And if they, having thus be blessed, direct their thoughts towards His Buddha land,
They shall, at once, be established forever and will never turn aside
From the highest and most perfect knowledge –
Barring only those who have committed the five evil acts or slandered the Dharma.’
To ‘hear’ is to believe: to ‘hear the Name’ is to believe in the Holy Name;
And the power to believe is none other than the power and virtue of that Name.
Light, power and faith come from the Name – Amida.
The ‘one thought’ moment of faith is, for men, inconceivable;
The time of such a moment is only known to a Buddha.
How could a man conceive such an instantaneous point in time?
It only indicates that birth by faith is accomplished.
Though we may not know exactly when we have attained such faith,
The ‘one thought’ moment comprises great and unspeakable joy.
Such exceedingly great joy is not ordinary joy – it is inexpressible;
People, in daily life, speak of dancing or singing of joy,
But the joy of the ‘one thought in faith’ can even be experienced
In the heart of a dying man.
However great the death-throes may be, if he has entrusted himself
To Amida and His Name, his fear of death will immediately be taken away:
That, indeed, is the ‘exceeding joy';
And a smile of joy will light his face as he is born in the Buddha land of Amida.
If a man, having heard the Name, trusts in His grace and power,
And is thankful for the compassion of the Bodhisattva Dharmakara –
For the source and effect of Amida’s miraculous light, and for his Vows,
That joyful trust shall lead him to that Buddha land of purity.
The ‘one thought’ is one mind and one purpose – without doubt or wavering.
The one mind without hesitation is the true means of entering
Wherein the highest and most perfect knowledge lies, and from where
The Buddha’s light, power and virtues are manifested.
The doctrines of self-enlightenment through meditation and moral observances
Are, when compared with salvation through Grace, slower and less effective;
Merely temporal ways to the attainment of the highest and most perfect knowledge.
Besides, there is none who can strictly observe and fulfill such requirements;
They are only expedient means to lead us to Amida.
Shakyamuni Buddha did indeed maintain the ideal that enlightenment
Is attainable through meditation;
However, he also taught the doctrine of salvation through faith.
The former is relatively easy to believe but difficult to practice –
Indeed quite impossible for ordinary people burdened with difficult karma;
Whereas the latter is quite difficult to believe but easy to attain.
Some people think that they will be saved by faith as well as by works,
But they do not realize their incapacity for good works and strict religious practices.
They forget that only a few ancient sages at the time of Shakyamuni were competent,
They, who assisted Shakyamuni in spreading his teaching and who also
Came from the Buddha land of Amida.
The people of the present world are blind to their own darkness of mind,
To their enslaved wills and to their souls so deeply imbued with the blackest karma!
The fundamental principle of Shinran’s teaching is to hear the Holy Name
And to rejoice in faith.
This is the all in all; the spirit and essence of the Mahayana school of Buddhism.
The power of the Vow is inconceivably great; as great as that of the Holy Name,
Even as great as that of Amida, the Tathagata, the Most Enlightened.
The omnipotence of Amida lies in the virtues of the Truth and of the Dharma,
> That is anywhere and everywhere, permeating and diffused in all things –
In matter and in force; in the conscious world as well as in the unconscious,
In beings spiritual and personal, and in things physical and material.
The power of Amida is everywhere and ubiquitous as Truth itself.
The holy Vow is indeed as unlimited and boundless as space.
All the virtues, compassion and wisdom of Amida
Are included in the divine Vow, to save all people who believe in His Name.
His Vow cannot be hindered by any power, good or evil,
For His light and power can penetrate the most wicked deeds and evil thoughts of man.
And in the heart of a sinful man there may spring up the longing thought to be born into
The exceeding joy of Amida’s Buddha land, through pure faith,
As the pure light of the moon is reflected in the murky waters of a pool in a moor.
And this joy in faith is as pure as the purity of Truth – the very mind of Buddha himself.
The mind, even that of a ignorant man, if it be filled with the joy of faith,
Is superior to all minds of all beings on earth;
No other moral good is comparable with the ‘one thought’
Purified by faith through the divine Vow.
In the great ocean of this Vow there are treasures,
Whose value is inconceivable, incomprehensible, ineffable,
Immeasurable, incomparable and unparalleled among the treasures of the world.
Shinran said as follows:
‘The Vow of Compassion is likened to a great vehicle, which can carry safely
All the sages and all the ignorant men as well, to the distant shore of Nirvana.
It is like a flower of the lotus, unsullied by the evils of the material world.
It is like the king of medicines, which cures all the diseases of perverse minds.
It is like the banner of an able commander, which fills the hearts of enemies with terror.
It is like a sharp saw which can fell all the giant trees of illusions.
It is like an axe with the finest edge, which cuts the roots of all pain and sorrow.
It is like a mighty liberator who can break the fetters of the enslaved.
It is like a wise leader who shows the way and, by whose guidance,
People are kept from losing their way.
It is like a fountain from which issues, without ceasing, the water of wisdom.
It is like a gale that disperses the fogs of doubt.
It is like nectar that contains all the flavours of virtue.
It is like the high road that leads all ignorant beings to the goal which they seek.
It is like a lodestone that attracts all the elements of truth.
It is like the most brilliant diamond, which outshines all other gems.
It is like an underground treasure house, which can hold safely the oracles of truth.
It is like the vast earth that produces all the rich harvest for mankind.
It is like the sunrise, which dispels the darkness and brings light to man.
It is like a king, who is superior to all his subjects, but rules them for their benefit.
It is like a father, good and true, who instructs all his children –
Both the wise and the unwise.
It is like a mother, who brings forth her child and nourishes it with loving kindness.
It is like a good nurse, who fosters a new born child and tenderly nurses the suffering.
It is like pure water, which cleanses all the filth of the body.
It is like a flame that burns up all the fagots of impure thoughts.
It is like a raft that conveys all people to their ultimate destination.’
Indeed, it through the Compassionate Vow that all beings are to be saved.
“Marvellous is the work of Amida! Whether they be young or old, righteous or wicked, all will besaved through faith, and faith alone. Such is His divine Vow ! Because His power to save is effective especially for us who, although so weak, are heavily burdened with earthly fetters and iniquity. When we trust in this power, we have no need to thirst after any other good, because His precious Name (which embodies Life and Light) is the highest good and the highest virtue. Moreover, even though we commit evil deeds against our will, our faith should never be shaken or disturbed, for there is no transgression that hinders or hampers the miraculous power of Amida, the Tathagata.”
So spoke Shinran, our Master (First Chapter of the Tannisho).
A king ever sits on his throne in the human heart:
Him we call ‘conscience’, and he holds the supreme power of command.
He ever whispers – gently, yet with irresistible authority –
“Do good and abstain from all wickedness”.
If we act wrongly against the right, we must needs be sorry for it.
If we behave in a virtuous manner, that king, our conscience, will smile and be satisfied.
I know not why, but we often commit wrong deeds;
Notwithstanding that we well know that such deeds bring forth pain and sorrow
According to the law of karma.
We witness how many people around us hurry towards destruction
As the consequences of their own anger and covetousness.
At first, some unwholesome thought flashes up in our minds,
And that flash, when it develops, becomes an impulse.
This impulse, growing stronger, becomes a motive and then a resolution:
Alas! It is in this way that such actions such as theft and murder are committed.
Man has both an angel and a demon in his heart:
He is good by nature as well as bad, from the moment of his birth.
Even a sage, while he remains a man,
cannot be entirely pure in heart like a Buddha;
While even a wicked man, malignant as a devil,
Has somewhere in his heart loving-kindness,
For his conscience cannot be completely killed.
The most wicked part of an angel and the best part of a devil
May not differ greatly in their quality.
Therefore, tell a man to abandon anger and covetousness and he cannot:
Then tell him not to do any good deed or to think any good thought
And he cannot do that either.
This is a mystery of human nature but a stubborn fact nevertheless.
A man is such a hybrid being – both good and bad.
In the human heart, gods and devils are ever fighting,
Even since human beings began to walk upon the earth.
Fortune has never smiled upon them, not even once.
Victory has never come to any of them;
Victory will never come no matter how long life continues.
Some philosophers say: “Good will, in the end, conquer over wickedness
And righteousness will prevail
For to be good is the fundamental quality of the human spirit,
While to be bad is but only the shadow or a temporal phenomenon, not reality”.
The theory of these philosophers may be true but the time shall never be
When wicked men are entirely swept away from the earth,
And when only good and holy people remain, making this world of ours a Paradise.
For even such holy people, because they are human,
Will soon be sullied by wrong-doing;
They are free and they will, inevitably, abuse their freedom.
Human nature, as aforesaid, cannot be changed or altered,
But if we once hear the Divine Name of Amida and rejoice in it,
This nature will be wonderfully transformed.
Our haughtiness in doing good shall be eradicated:
The consciousness that we are righteous will be swept away and
We shall be truly conscious of our imperfections before the Buddha.
In reality, when viewed from the tower of faith, we are so ignorant
That we are oblivious of our ignorance:
So deluded that we do not conceive that we are really flawed.
We may be proud of being righteous before men but, before Amida,
No one, not even the best of men, can be said to be good.
The good and the bad are equal in the Light of the Tathagata Amida,
And both shall be saved through the same grace – equally beloved by the Buddha.
Even a wicked man; despised, abhorred or cursed by the world,
Can be received by the warm hand of Amida
And be embraced by Him, but only through faith.
Shinran, our Master, was reborn through faith, and he declared:
“I do not need any other merit but the Holy Name given to me:
I do not fear the hell-fire that hitherto awaited me,
For His Compassion and power are effectual in shutting the gates of the Evil Places,
Where unquenchable fire is forever burning.”
Shinran’s spiritual vision transcends our ordinary moral conceptions.
Let us survey the broad field of Buddhism a while:
The scriptures are many and the teachings are without number.
Sects are numerous and doctrines vary greatly despite some being held in common.
There are paths to self-enlightenment and paths of salvation of Compassion.
The Hinayana school prevails in the southern parts of Asia;
The Mahayana School is prevalent in the northern parts, including Japan.
Some schools of Buddhism seem to be theistic, others atheistic;
But nearly all the branches of Buddhism prefer Samadhi (meditation),
Learning and strict observance of the precepts.
They try to reach Nirvana through the Eight-fold Noble Path, namely:
Right Belief, Right Resolution, Right Speech, Right Conduct, Right Livelihood,
Right Effort, Right Recollection and Right Meditation.
Or they endeavour to become enlightened by observing the Six Perfections:
Charity, Observance of the precepts, Patience, Effort, Recollectedness and Wisdom.
The aim of these disciplines is to attain to Buddha’s wisdom
Through right conduct and meditation –
Such wisdom being the highest and most perfect enlightenment.
Why do they, if they wish to be enlightened through their own effort,
Practice the discipline of Meditation?
How can they obtain the highest and most perfect knowledge through that practice?
Shakyamuni Buddha attained true enlightenment by means of Meditation
At the foot of a Bodhi tree.
After six long years of difficult, painstaking and self-afflicting discipline,
Together with those stoic and secluded hermits who lived in the Himalayan mountains.
Why did he, at last, abandon those practices except for Meditation?
Of course, those mountain sages also practiced meditation but in the wrong way.
Shakyamuni resorted to Meditation for the reason that, through right meditation,
The waves of consciousness – the disturbed movements of the mind – might be calmed;
That is, a serene state of mind might be attained.
He was completely aware of all the misguided deeds caused by a disturbed mind.
If a man could attain absolute calmness of mind through meditation,
Such a mind would be absolutely purified – never to be defiled again.
Purification of the mind, through meditation, is to be free of illusions
After which, the true light of the mind itself – absolute wisdom – is able to appear.
This state of mind is Buddhahood or enlightenment.
Shakyamuni found Buddhahood in no other place than in his mind.
Having definitely secured Buddhahood, he became a Buddha.
When he opened his eyes as a Buddha, he saw that all other people, indeed all beings,
Had, though hidden, likewise the same Buddhahood;
They could be equally wise, good and holy like a Buddha.
The common people might undervalue their own minds
But Shakyamuni found that absolute value is the mind itself.
They say some things are limited and that others are unlimited or absolute;
But in his eyes, nothing was limited – things that appeared so were, in reality, absolute.
A Buddha knows that limited realities are the Absolute
And that the Absolute differentiates itself into these limited realities.
He sees the limited in the Absolute and the Absolute in the limited.
But we, deluded men, being hindered by ignorance and illusion,
Cannot see things as they really are.
When Shakyamuni attained absolute calmness in the mirror or sea of the mind,
There appeared, in reflection, the Saviour Amida,
Who had wisdom, compassion and power in His Divine Vow.
In the true Meditation (without illusion or hallucination),
Shakyamuni became one with Amida.
For this reason, Shakyamuni Buddha was able to preach the teaching of Amida
Without any error – as truly as fire is hot and night dark.
Dogen, a high priest in Japan and the founder of the Soto Sect of Zen Buddhism,
Wrote a book called Fukan-Zazen-gi and persuaded a great many people
To resort to Meditation to attain the ultimate Truth, and proclaimed as follows:
‘Behold! The Buddha Shakyamuni was a born sage, and yet he walked
Along the most thorny road of discipline as long as six years.
Bodhidharma, who brought Zen to China,
Was a genius: and still he sat with his face towards a rocky cliff for nine years
In order to be enlightened through Meditation.
These sages of olden times were as diligent as this.
Why then are the people of the present idly sitting back and folding their arms?
Why do they go astray, simply lending their ears to the teachings?
Men are purified, more or less, by searching for the Truth, but the supreme wisdom
Is to be attained only through meditation, in the same way as Shakyamuni did.
The light of the mind is indeed the light of the Truth:
And this light is called the highest and most perfect knowledge.
Go not forward nor look around in search of Buddha,
But, by your own effort, find the priceless treasure in the mind.
The ultimate freedom thus obtained through Meditation, conscious or unconscious,
Emancipates men from their fetters of illusion-space – Buddha manifesting himself in the mind.
If you wish to see Buddha in your mind, you should practice meditation.
When you meditate, the room should be quiet.
Be temperate in the food you eat and cast away all your thoughts.
No end or aim shall you hold in your hearts.
Let all worldly affairs and cares take their own course.
Have no relation with the things of this world.
Have no intention to be either good or wicked.
Be not troubled or molested about what is right or what is wrong.
Stop all activities of your mind.
Avoid thinking or feeling about anything that may disturb you.
When you meditate, use a thick, comfortable cushion, upon which you shall sit.
Your legs should be crossed, one over the other or upon the other thigh.
In crossing your legs, you should first put your right leg upon the left thigh,
And then the left upon the right thigh.
When you wish to keep your legs half-crossed, put your left leg upon the right thigh.
Your garments should not be too tight but comfortably arranged in order.
Next you should put your right hand, with the palm facing upwards, upon the left leg.
Then put your left hand, again with the palm upwards, on the right leg,
And keep the tips of your thumbs touching each other.
That is the proper way of sitting in meditation.
Incline neither to the right nor to the left.
Bend neither forwards nor backwards.
Allow the ears and shoulders to be in a line perpendicular to each other.
The nose and the navel should also be in a perpendicular line.
Keep your tongue against the palate; the lips and teeth should be closed.
Your eyes should always be open but not too wide.
In sitting, if you have the right posture of the body,
Then the respiration will be soft and quiet.
Should your mind be active, you must, of necessity, think about something or other,
Or perceive this or that.
Thinking and perception, however reduced they may be,
Are not the right way or not the ideal state of meditation.
Meditation (or Samadhi) is not thinking about anything,
But the suppression of thinking or the cessation of all the activities of the mind.
Should any idle thoughts arise in your mind, that would be a failure.
You should sit, calm and quiet, for a considerable time:
For a long period of time; many times a day, many days a year, over very many years.
You should sit: say, for five years, ten years, or thirty years.
If you have attained a state where your mind is no longer disturbed by anything external,
Then it can be said that you have succeeded in Meditation.
Meditation is the gate, or the right road, to peace of mind.
In such a perfect peace, unlimited virtues of the mind will begin to appear.
Your health will be improved accordingly.
The four bodily elements – earth, water, fire and wind – will be kept in balance.
Your heart (or spirit) will become clear and active.
The mind will become quiet, absolutely calm and enlightened,
And you will experience joy in unity with the Dharma.
Tranquillity and ecstasy, unutterable and mysterious, will be yours.
Your thoughts, actions and deeds will be one with the light of Truth.
Creative powers of the mind will also be yours.
Such virtues you shall acquire through meditation.
Mighty and majestic you shall be, as a dragon is powerful in the water
And a tiger free in the mountains.
Therefore, if perfect calmness prevails in your mind,
Darkness, anger and covetousness, as well as all other illusions, shall never arise again.
Furthermore, you will know the true essence of the mind
Which is the highest personality – a Buddha,
Who is the Truth, Light and Life, absolute and eternal, pure and all-knowing,
Full of compassion – the highest Enlightenment.
When you rise from Meditation, you should move your body gently:
Stand up slowly and do not be too quick or too rough.
Be ever mindful of the virtues that you have gained in Meditation.
If you have, for the first time, come out of the bondage of worldly relations,
That sully, disturb, molest and torment your mind,
And that darken your soul, or even induce you to give way to wild covetousness,
Then you are truly free – you have attained absolute Freedom.’
Such are the teachings of Dogen, a learned Japanese priest.
This is the common way of becoming a Buddha through Meditation.
Buddhism can be divided into two types: the ‘Easy’ way and the ‘Difficult’ way.
To the difficult way belongs the doctrine of becoming a Buddha through meditation
And by fulfilling all moral requirements; in other words, striving for the ‘good’.
Therefore, in Buddhism, the good that we can do is two-fold:
The first type is Meditation through which one can attain
The highest and most perfect knowledge.
The second type is to practice all the moral virtues as typically taught by sages.
In the Sutra of Meditation on Amitabha, such deeds as those detailed below,
Are called ‘good’, through which one can reach the ultimate Truth or Nirvana,
Or be born in that Buddha country of Amitabha.
These virtuous actions are as follows:
Firstly, the worldly virtues:
(a) To be obedient to one’s parents
(b) To show reverence and faithfulness to one’s teachers and masters
(c) Not to kill any animate beings, showing compassion
(d) To observe the Ten Good Actions, namely –
Not to kill any creatures
Not to steal
Not to commit adultery
Not to speak idly
Not to speak ill of others
Not to speak harmful words
Not to speak false words
Not to be covetous
Not to be angry
Not to hold erroneous conceptions
Secondly, the religious disciplines:
(a) To believe in and venerate the three treasures, namely –
(b) To observe all the laws taught by the Buddha
(c) Not to lose one’s sense of dignity
Thirdly, the higher spiritual virtues:
(a) To turn one’s thoughts towards Enlightenment
(b) To believe firmly in the law of causation
(c) To read or recite the Buddhist scriptures
(d) To share the teachings of the Buddha with others
These ‘virtues’ are the true way of becoming a Buddha
Which were taught in the past, is being taught in the present,
And will be taught by all the Buddhas in the future.
The scriptures classify Meditation into two kinds:
Meditation, through which one attains absolute calmness of the mind, and finds Buddha within oneself.
Meditation, through which one can visualize the Buddha land of Amida, Amida Buddha himself and the Bodhisattvas in that land. In so visualizing them, one comes to believe in the compassion of Amida and, through faith in Him, be able to born in his Land of Eternal Happiness.
To practice strictly in this way, is beyond the power of ordinary people Who are hampered by ignorance and defilements.
To practice Meditation, through which one can see Amida Buddha in the present life,
As Shakyamuni did; this is the most difficult way to reach
The highest and most perfect knowledge – almost impossible, indeed, for the deluded.
Therefore, only one way is left by which one can be liberated –
That is, through faith and faith alone.
This is the teaching of the Pure Land – the easiest way to Nirvana,
Which was taught by Shinran, according to the Pure Land scriptures.
These scriptures consist of three sutras:
The Larger Sutra of the Land of Bliss. In this sutra, Shakyamuni Buddha addresses Ananda and Maitreya on Mount Grdhrakuta, concerning the spiritual history of Amida and the truth of salvation through faith. It was translated into Chinese in A.D. 252 by Samghavarman.
The Sutra on the Meditation on the Buddha of Inifinite Life. This sutra records what Shakyamuni preached for Ananda and Vaidehi at the Royal Palace at Rajagrha concerning moral and religious good, the ways of meditating on Amida and His Land and, especially, the virtue of the Holy Name, Namu Amida Butsu. It was translated into Chinese in A.D. 424 by Kalayashas.
The Smaller Sutra of the Land of Bliss. In this sutra, Shakyamuni taught Shariputra about the magnificence of the Land of Happiness and the virtues (Light and Life) of Amida. It was translated into Chinese by Kumarajiva in A.D. 402. Of these sutras, Shinran regarded the Larger Sutra as the fundamental teaching of Shakyamuni Buddha, according to which he founded the Jodo Shinshu or ‘True School of the Pure Land’.
To be born in Amida’s land, no ‘good’ is required;
No religious discipline is necessary and no meditation is required;
No merits or virtues need be resorted to or relied upon.
A wonderful way of salvation through Compassion is the spiritual path of the Pure Land!
Indeed, it signals a revolution in religious thought.
At the time of Shakyamuni Buddha, five hundred bhiksus were attained Nirvana and became Arhats, and
Every one of them had, more or less, miraculous powers.
All such individuals were freed from the fetters of illusion
Through the way of self-help; the ‘Difficult’ way.
They all practiced the teachings of the time,
Observed those hard disciplines, moral requirements, doctrines and meditation.
Morally, philosophically and religiously, they were all sages –
Strict observers of the ‘Ten Good Actions’.
They were all Arhats, though they were not yet Buddhas.
Besides these five hundred disciples, a hundred thousand men and women
Were, partly or fully, enlightened; perfecting their knowledge and moral deeds.
They knew their lives were short, and all things transitory.
They knew the world was full of pain and sorrow.
They could clearly perceive the dark side of life and were, therefore, pessimistic.
Of course, they sought perfect knowledge and perfect morality,
But more strongly, they sought the suppression of their passions
For the purpose of attaining perfect calmness of mind and
Renouncing a human life fettered by misery.
They aimed at Nirvana wherein there was no pain or calamity.
Their disciplines were only for their own sake
And not for the happiness and welfare of others.
Some disciples, however, wished to save other people first
Rather than saving themselves, being already enlightened.
Such disciples were called ‘Bodhisattvas’ and their school was called the ‘Mahayana’.
They sought to become Buddhas in the present life
(O how hard it was for ordinary people!).
Shinran also began to study Buddhism after the fashion of the Bodhisattvas,
And he tried to uncover a compassionate mind with which to save others,
Even if it meant entering hell, but he found, at long last, that he was unable to do so.
He discovered that it was impossible for him to practice these hard disciplines.
For many years, he practiced Meditation, but could not secure calmness of mind.
Nevertheless, his ideal was high and noble:
He sought after the Truth; not abstract Truth but concrete Truth!
Following his conversion, he saw what he could not see before.
He perceived the ‘Great Spirit’ which pervades the universe –
It was Amida Buddha from whom he received Light and Life through faith.
And, through faith, he found the Truth – a living Truth, not just philosophical –
Wherein His mercy, power, wisdom and Compassion are abundant.
He felt this ‘Great Spirit’ as we feel electricity.
He accepted this Spirit as Truth and Mercy,
And, in His Light and Life, he could see that he was wicked, covetous and unrighteous,
Yet he found peace of mind for the rest of his life.
Shinran lamented as follows:
‘Over two thousand years have passed since Shakyamuni’s entrance into Nirvana.
Nowadays, in this Decadent Age of the Dharma, the teachings through which many of
His disciples attained Enlightenment, have disappeared from the world,
For there is no one now who strictly follows the teachings of the self-help way.
Some of the teachings can be read in the scriptures that remain,
But they are too advanced and demanding for ordinary men,
Except for the teachings of the Pure Land.
The people of the present time are all impotent to follow after
The practice and teachings of the self-help way and thereby attain Nirvana.
In this defiled age, men are in bondage to warfare and righteous deeds
Have disappeared from the world with the five signs of degeneration
Being manifest among men.
The illusions that are bred of ignorance increase,
And are scattered over the world like dust.
Instead of love, hatred, great and unconquerable,
Rises as high as mountains, and the perversity of man
Is as tenacious and obstinate as the thorns in a jungle.
With eyes of suspicion and venomous anger do they accuse and persecute those
Who believe in the Holy Name, as was shown by the history of medieval Japan.
How lamentable that people turn their back on justice and turn to wickedness in order
To destroy one another in the pursuit of their evil aims!
No hope is there that men may escape the fetters of birth and death,
If they refuse the merciful promise of the Blessed One.
But by the Enlightened One alone are we able to attain the great wisdom.
In Him alone, can true joy be attained by man and peace of mind be secured.
In these last times of decay, people persecute the man who trusts in the Holy Name.
Even we, professed Buddhists, have not maintained the heart that is pure and true.
How, then, can we, of our own selves, attain the life that confers wisdom?
The strong heart that can attain such wisdom through self-help
Is now unknown and unheard of.
How then is it possible for men, like ourselves, full of ignorance,
Fettered to birth and death, to possess again such nobility of mind?
In former lives, throughout the countless ages of transmigration,
We might have possessed the strong will necessary for self-help practices,
And might have seen, face to face, many Buddhas, numberless
As the sands of the Ganges,
Yet we are now carried on by the flood of birth and death.
Nothing is more convincingly evident than that the religion of self-help
Is unavailable for us today.
In these darkened times, all the teachings on meditation and moralities
Of Shakyamuni Buddha have vanished away,
Except for the Compassionate Vow of the Buddha of Infinite Light, Amida,
Who shines brightly over the world, leading men to the Land of Eternal Bliss.’
Wise is he who utterly renounces all the doctrines of self-dependence
Which is the essence of philosophical Buddhism, and takes refuge in the Holy Name!
We are blind and deluded but, through the virtue of faith,
We try to do good for the welfare and peace of the world –
Yet not through our own power, but through that of Another.