The Gatha of Aspiration for Birth: An Upadesa on the Sutra of the Buddha of Immeasurable Life states:
How is directing of virtue accomplished? It is by never abandoning any sentient being in suffering, but constantly aspiring in the heart to fulfill the mind of great compassion, taking the directing of virtue as foremost.
Concerning the directing of virtue through the power of the Primal Vow, the Tathagata’s directing of virtue has two aspects: the directing of virtue in the aspect for our going forth to the Pure Land and the directing of virtue in the aspect for our return to this world.
With regard to the directing of virtue in the aspect for our going forth to the Pure Land, there is the true and real practice, true and real shinjin, and true and real realization.
The true and real practice is expressed in the compassionate Vow that all Buddhas say the Name. This compassionate Vow of saying the Name is stated in the Larger Sutra of the Buddha of Immeasurable Life:
If, when I attain Buddhahood, the countless Buddhas throughout the worlds in the ten quarters do not all praise and say my Name, may I not attain the supreme enlightenment.
True and real shinjin is expressed in the compassionate Vow of birth through the nembutsu. This compassionate Vow of shinjin* is stated in the Larger Sutra:
If, when I attain Buddhahood, the sentient beings of the ten quarters, with sincere mind entrusting themselves, aspiring to be born in my land, and saying my Name perhaps even ten times, should not be born there, may I not attain the supreme enlightenment. Excluded are those who commit the five grave offenses and those who slander the right dharma.
True and real realization is expressed in the compassionate Vow of necessary attainment of nirvana. This compassionate Vow of realization is stated in the Larger Sutra:
If, when I attain Buddhahood, the human beings and devas in my land do not dwell among the settled and necessarily attain nirvana, may I not attain the supreme enlightenment.
These Primal Vows of compassion are called the “selected Primal Vows.”
Establishing the great Vow of necessary attainment of nirvana, [Amida Buddha] has vowed that the person who has realized this true and real shinjin* immediately comes to dwell in the stage of the truly settled.
In the Sutra of the Tathagata of Immeasurable Life, another translation of the same sutra, this Vow is stated:
If, when I become Buddha, the sentient beings in my land do not decidedly attain the equal of perfect enlightenment, so that they realize great nirvana, may I not attain enlightenment.
In this compassionate Vow it has been vowed that the person who has realized true and real shinjin* is decidedly brought to attain the equal of perfect enlightenment. The equal of perfect enlightenment is the stage of the truly settled. With regard to the equal of perfect enlightenment, it is vowed that one is brought to be the same as Bodhisattva Maitreya, who is in the rank of succession to Buddhahood. These selected Primal Vows are Bodhisattva Dharmakara’s universal Vows that surpass conceptual understanding. Thus, in the Larger Sutra, the nembutsu practicer of true and real shinjin is said to be “next [to enlightenment], like Maitreya.” It is taught that these are the great Vows of directing of virtue in the aspect for our going forth to the Pure Land. The Lung-shu Writings on the Pure Land states that one is taught to be the same as Bodhisattva Maitreya.
[Our return] is brought about by the directing of virtue through the power of the Primal Vow; it is called “the fifth gate of emergence.”
This is the directing of virtue for our return to this world.
The meaning is expressed in the great Vow of attainment of the rank of “succession to Buddhahood after one lifetime.” This Vow of great love and great compassion is stated in the Larger Sutra:
When I attain Buddhahood, the bodhisattvas of other Buddha-lands who come and are born in my land will ultimately and unfailingly attain [the rank of] “succession to Buddhahood after one lifetime” – except for those who, in accordance with their own original vows to freely guide others to enlightenment, don the armor of universal vows for the sake of sentient beings, accumulate roots of virtue, emancipate all beings, travel to Buddha-lands to perform bodhisattva practices, make offerings to all the Buddhas and Tathagatas throughout the ten quarters, awaken sentient beings countless as the sands of the Ganges, and bring them to abide firmly in the unexcelled, right, true way. Such bodhisattvas surpass ordinary ones, manifest the practices of all the bodhisattva stages, and discipline themselves in the virtue of Samantabhadra. Should it not be so, may I not attain the supreme enlightenment.
This is the Vow of the Tathagata’s directing of virtue for our return to this world. Since this is directing of virtue for return to this world that is Other Power, neither self-benefit nor benefiting others arises from the practicer’s own aspiration; they are the working of Bodhisattva Dharmakara’s Vows. The great master [Honen] said: “In Other Power, no working is true working.”
You should fully understand these selected Vows of compassion.
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