Ten Hymns based on his Writings
[Composed by] Gutoku Shinran
Our teacher, Bodhisattva Nagarjuna, abundantly praises the Pure Land in the west
In such works as his commentaries on the Mahaprajnaparamita Sutra
And the Ten Bodhisattva Stages,
And urges us to practice the nembutsu.
Nagarjuna (Ryuju, literally “naga [dragon]-tree”): Nagarjuna was born beneath a tree and taken and raised by a naga-king. Later, he became the son of a king in southern India. Hence his name, Nagarjuna.
The World-honored one foretold
That a monk named Bodhisattva Nagarjuna
Would appear in south India and would crush
The wrong views of being and nonbeing.
South India: Further south, there was a great spirit king who was master of Mount Lanka, which rises from the sea. Because this king loved the Mahayana teaching, Sakyamuni Tathagata crossed the sea to his kingdom and taught the dharma to him. On that occasion, Sakyamuni foretold that some time after his entrance into nirvana, Nagarjuna would appear in the world and vanquish the nonbuddhist teachings.
Our teacher, Bodhisattva Nagarjuna,
Clarified the unexcelled dharma of the Great Vehicle;
Having attained the stage of joy,
He wholeheartedly recommended the nembutsu to all.
Stage of joy: the stage of the truly settled. In the term “joy” (kangi), kan means to be gladdened in body and -gi means to be gladdened in mind. To rejoice, realizing that one is assured of attaining what one shall attain, is called “joy.”
Mahasattva Nagarjuna appeared in the world
And distinguished the paths of difficult and easy practice;
Thus he leads us, who are wandering in transmigration,
To board the ship of the universal Vow.
Difficult: the Path of Sages.
Easy: the Pure Land path.
People who hear and accept the words
Of our teacher Bodhisattva Nagarjuna
Should be mindful of the Primal Vow
And say the Name of Amida always.
Those who desire quickly to attain
The stage of nonretrogression
Should, with a heart of reverence,
Hold steadfast to and say Amida’s Name.
Reverence: to worship with humility. Hinayana speaks of making offerings; Mahayana speaks of reverence.
Hold steadfast to: to take and hold in one’s mind; not to scatter or lose; never abandoning once one has taken hold.
The ocean of birth-and-death, of painful existence, has no bound;
Only by the ship of Amida’s universal Vow
Can we, who have long been drowning,
Unfailingly be brought across it.
The Commentary on the Mahaprajnaparamita Sutra states:
The Tathagata is the supreme dharma-king;
With bodhisattvas as dharma-vassals,
The person to be deeply revered is the World-honored one.
All the bodhisattvas state:
“When we were in the causal stage,
We passed through countless kalpas
Performing the myriad good acts and practices,
But the attachments of affection were extremely hard to sever,
And birth-and-death was extremely difficult to exhaust.
Only by practicing the nembutsu-samadhi
Could we eliminate the obstructions of karmic evil and gain liberation.”
Here ends the Hymns on