Gutoku’s Hymns of Lament and Reflection


Although I take refuge in the true Pure Land way,
It is hard to have a true and sincere mind.
This self is false and insincere;
I completely lack a pure mind.


Each of us, in outward bearing,
Makes a show of being wise, good, and dedicated;
But so great are our greed, anger, perversity, and deceit,
That we are filled with all forms of malice and cunning.


Extremely difficult is it to put an end to our evil nature;
The mind is like a venomous snake or scorpion.
Our performance of good acts is also poisoned;
Hence, it is called false and empty practice.


Although I am without shame and self-reproach
And lack a mind of truth and sincerity,
Because the Name is directed by Amida,
Its virtues fill the ten quarters.


Lacking even small love and small compassion,
I cannot hope to benefit sentient beings.
Were it not for the ship of Amida’s Vow,
How could I cross the ocean of painful existence?


With minds full of malice and cunning, like snakes and scorpions,
We cannot accomplish good acts through self-power;
And unless we entrust ourselves to Amida’s directing of virtue,
We will end without knowing shame or self-reproach.


As a mark of increase in the five defilements,
All monks and laypeople of this age
Behave outwardly like followers of the Buddhist teaching,
But in their inner thoughts, believe in nonbuddhist paths.


How lamentable it is that monks and laypeople
Select “fortunate times” and “auspicious days,”
And paying homage to gods of the heavens and earth,
Engage in divination and rituals of worship.


Although “monk” and “teacher of dharma”
Were taught to be titles of respect,
Like “dharma” used by Devadatta for his fivefold wrong teaching,
They are now applied to the lowly.


Monks are no different, in their hearts, from nonbuddhists,
Brahmans, or followers of Nirgrantha;
Always wearing the dharma-robes of the Tathagata,
They pay homage to all gods and spirits.


How lamentable it is that at present
All the monks and laypeople of Japan,
While following the Buddhist rules of conduct,
Venerate gods and spirits of the heavens and earth.


A mark of the evil of the five defilements
Is that the titles “monk” and “teacher of dharma”
Are used for serfs and servants
And have become derogatory terms.


Although monks are so in name only and keep no precepts,
Now in this defiled world of the last dharma-age
They are the equals of Sariputra and Maudgalyayana,
And we are urged to pay homage to and revere them.


Karmic evil is from the beginning without real form;
It is the result of delusional thought and invertedness.
Mind-nature is from the beginning pure,
But as for this world, there is no person of truth.


The sorrow of this evil world of the last dharma-age
Is that Buddhists of the southern capital and the northern peak
Call servants “palanquin-carrier monks” and “serving dharma-teachers”
To show deference to the high-ranking priests.


A mark of contempt for the Buddhist teaching
Is that “bhiksu” and “bhiksuni” are terms for serfs;
The titles “teacher of dharma” and “monk”
Are now used for servants.

The above sixteen hymns are my reflections, expressing my grief and lamentation.
It is saddening to see the behavior of the monks of the major temples and monastic complexes at present, whether high-ranking monks or “teachers of dharma.”

Composed by
Shaku Shinran