Hymns on the Contemplation Sutra

Nine Hymns


Sakyamuni Buddha, out of vast benevolence,
Instructed Queen Vaidehi, leading her to select,
From among all the lands manifested in the pedestal of light,
Amida’s world of happiness.


King Bimbisara put the ascetic to death
Without waiting for the time of his rebirth as determined by past conditions,
And in recompense for this act of murder,
Was imprisoned in a cell seven walls thick.


King Ajatasatru shouted, in a fit of rage,
“My own mother betrays me!”
And heinously, to strike her down,
He drew his sword against her.

Rage (shinnu): shin means to be angry in one’s expression; nu means to be angry in one’s heart.


Jivaka and Candraprabha earnestly admonished the king,
Saying such acts were those of an outcaste,
And that they could not remain in the castle should he persist;
Thus they tried to quell his lawless impulses.


The minister Jivaka, with hand on his sword,
Stepped backward and began to take his leave;
Ajatasatru was thus made to discard his sword,
But he confined Vaidehi within the palace.


Amida and Sakyamuni, employing compassionate means,
And Ananda, Maudgalyayana, Purna, Vaidehi,
Devadatta, King Ajatasatru, Bimbisara,
Jivaka, Candraprabha, Varsakara, and others –


All of them great sages –
By various means, brought the most foolish and lowest
Of evil people to enter the Vow
That does not neglect people of grave offenses and transgressions.

Most foolish and lowest: we who have sunken to the bottom of the great sea.
Grave offenses and transgressions: the five grave offenses and the ten transgressions.


Since conditions for the Pure Land teaching had matured,
Sakyamuni and Vaidehi, manifesting compassionate means,
Led the minister Varsakara to bear witness
And King Ajatasatru to commit grave offenses.


Let us overturn the three minds of self-power, whether meditative or nonmeditative,
Which vary with each practicer;
Let us aspire to enter into shinjin
That arises from Amida’s benefiting of others.

Shinjin: the true and real shinjin of the Primal Vow.