A Collection of Passages Revealing
The True Shinjin of the Pure Land Way
Compiled by Gutoku Shinran,
Disciple of Sakyamuni
As I reflect, I find that our attainment of shinjin arises from the heart and mind with which Amida Tathagata selected the Vow, and that the clarification of true mind has been taught for us through the skillful works of compassion of the Great Sage, Sakyamuni. But the monks and laity of this latter age and the religious teachers of these times are floundering in concepts of “self-nature” and “mind-only,” and they disparage the true realization of enlightenment in the Pure Land Way. Or lost in the self-power attitude of meditative and non-meditative practices, they are ignorant of true shinjin, which is diamondlike.
Here I, Gutoku Shinran, disciple of Sakyamuni, reverently embrace the true teaching of the Buddhas and Tathagatas and look to the essential meaning of the treatises and commentaries of the masters. Fully guided by the beneficent light of the three sutras, I seek in particular to clarify the luminous passage on the “mind that is single.” I will pose questions concerning it and then present clear testimony in which explanation is found.
Mindful solely of the depth and vastness of the Buddha’s benevolence, I am unconcerned about being personally abused. Let companions who aspire for the Pure Land and all who abhor this defiled world accept or discard what they will of this work, but let them not ridicule the teaching.
1 Reverently contemplating Amida’s directing of virtue for our going forth, I find there is great shinjin. Great shinjin is the superlative means for attaining longevity and deathlessness. It is the wondrous way to awaken aspiration for the pure and rejection of the defiled. It is the straightforward mind directed to us through the selected Vow. It is shinjin* that actualizes Amida’s profound and vast benefiting of others. It is true mind that is diamondlike and indestructible. It is pure shinjin by which a person easily reaches the Pure Land where no one goes. It is the mind that is single, realized by the person who is grasped and protected by the compassionate light. It is great shinjin, rare and unsurpassed. It is the quick path difficult for people to accept. It is the true cause of attaining great nirvana. It is the white path by which all virtues are fulfilled instantly. It is the ocean of shinjin that is itself suchness or true reality.
This mind arises from the Vow of birth through the nembutsu. This great Vow is known as “the selected Primal Vow,” “the Vow of the threefold mind of the Primal Vow,” “the Vow of sincere mind and entrusting,” and, further, may be called “the Vow of shinjin, which is Amida’s directing of virtue for our going forth.”
For the foolish and ignorant who are ever sinking in birth-and-death, the multitudes turning in transmigration, it is not attainment of the unexcelled, incomparable fruit of enlightenment that is difficult; the genuine difficulty is realizing true and real shinjin.* Why? Because this realization takes place through the Tathagata’s supportive power; because it comes about wholly through the power of great compassion and all-embracing wisdom. If pure shinjin should be realized, that mind will not be inverted; that mind will not be vain or false. Thereupon that sentient being of extreme evil, profound and immense, will realize the mind of great joy and receive the veneration and love of all the sacred honored ones.
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.
If, when I have realized the supreme enlightenment, living beings in other Buddha-lands should hear my Name, I will with sincere mind direct all my roots of good to them. Aspiring to be born in my land, they shall say my Name perhaps even ten times. If they should not be born there, may I not attain enlightenment. Excluded are those who commit evil acts that condemn them to Avici hell and those who slander the right dharma or the sages.
All sentient beings, as they hear the Name, realize even one thought-moment of shinjin and joy, which is directed to them from Amida’s sincere mind, and aspiring to be born in that land, they then attain birth and dwell in the stage of nonretrogression. Excluded are those who commit the five grave offenses and those who slander the right dharma.
When, upon hearing the Name of the Tathagata of immeasurable life, sentient beings of the Buddha-lands of other quarters awaken one thought-moment of pure shinjin, rejoice, and – cherishing Amida’s directing of his roots of good to them – aspire to be born in the land of immeasurable life, then all shall be born in accord with their aspiration, attaining the stage of nonretrogression and, ultimately, the supreme perfect enlightenment. Excluded are those who commit the five evil acts that condemn them to Avici hell and those who slander the right dharma or the sages.
The one who hears and never forgets this dharma,
But sees and reveres it and greatly rejoices in attaining it-
That person is my true companion;
Therefore, awaken this mind!
Such a person is one of great, majestic virtue. He or she shall enter the preeminent gateway of the boundless Buddha-dharma.
The virtues of the Tathagata are known solely to Buddhas;
Only a world-honored one is able to reveal them.
They lie beyond the grasp of devas, nagas, and yaksas,
And the two vehicles by nature are incapable of expressing them.
Even if all sentient beings were to become Buddhas,
Perform activities surpassing even Samantabhadra’s, and reach the other shore,
Though they try to enumerate and expound the Buddha’s virtues,
It would not be accomplished even in incalculable kalpas.
Even if, in the meanwhile, their bodies were to pass into extinction,
Still they would not have exhausted the Buddha’s incomparable wisdom.
For this reason, those who realize shinjin, hear,
And are embraced by true friends-
Those who come to hear this profound and peerless dharma-
Shall be venerated and loved by all sacred honored ones.
Only Buddhas comprehend the significance and words
Of the teaching of the Tathagata’s supreme wisdom, which pervades all space.
Hence, listening well concerning the land of all-knowing wisdom,
Entrust yourself to the true words of my teaching.
It is immensely difficult to receive human existence,
And, again, difficult to encounter a Tathagata’s appearance in the world.
The consummate wisdom of shinjin is rarely realized;
Hence, the practicer must be diligent.
When you have actually heard this excellent dharma,
You constantly bring joy to all the Buddhas.
[PASSAGES FROM THE MASTERS: T’AN-LUAN]
One says the Name of the Tathagata in accord with the Tathagata’s light, which is the embodiment of wisdom, and with the significance of the Name, wishing to be in correspondence with it by practicing in accord with reality.
One says the Name of the Tathagata means to say the name of the Tathagata of unhindered light. In accord with the Tathagata’s light, which is the embodiment of wisdom: the Buddha’s light is the manifestation of wisdom. This light is completely unhindered in shining throughout the worlds of the ten quarters, and it dispels the darkness of ignorance of the sentient beings of the ten quarters. It is not like the light of the sun, the moon, or a gem, which dispels only the darkness of an enclosure. [In accord] with the significance of the Name, wishing to be in correspondence with it by practicing in accord with reality: the Name of the Tathagata of unhindered light dispels all the ignorance of sentient beings and fulfills their aspirations. But if you ask why ignorance still remains and your aspirations are not fulfilled even though you say the Name and are mindful of Amida, it is because you do not practice in accord with reality, because you are not in correspondence with the significance of the Name. Why is your practice not in accord with reality and not in correspondence with the significance of the Name? Because you do not know that the Tathagata is the body of true reality and, further, the body for the sake of beings.
Further, there are three aspects of non-correspondence. In the first, shinjin is not genuine, for at times it appears to exist and at other times not to exist. In the second, shinjin is not single, for it lacks decisiveness. In the third, shinjin is not enduring, for it is disrupted by other thoughts. These three act reciprocally among themselves and mutually give rise to each other. Because shinjin is not genuine, it lacks decisiveness. Because it lacks decisiveness, mindfulness is not enduring. Further, because mindfulness is not enduring, one does not realize shinjin that is decisive. Because one does not realize shinjin that is decisive, the mind is not genuine. The opposite, positive side of this is termed, to be in correspondence [with the significance of the Name] by practicing in accord with reality. For this reason, the author of the Treatise states at the outset, “I, with the mind that is single.”
All sentient beings hear Amida Buddha’s Name of virtues, Realize shinjin and joy, and delight in what they hear For even a single thought-moment. When those of sincere mind- Which has been directed to them – aspire to be born in the Pure Land, they are all enabled to go there. Excepted are those who commit the five grave offenses and those who slander the right dharma. Therefore, I offer homage and aspire for birth.
[The Buddha’s transcendent powers work] in accord with the intentions has two meanings. First, it means “in accord with the intentions of sentient beings.” All shall be saved in accord with their thoughts and desires. Second, it means “in accord with the will of Amida.” With his five kinds of sight he perceives all being perfectly, and with his six transcendent powers he works freely and without reservation. When he sees a being ready to be saved, in a single thought-moment – neither before nor after – he appears before that being in both body and mind, and with the three wheels of thoughts, words and deeds he brings him to the realization of enlightenment. Thus, the ways in which he benefits beings differ according to their natures.
The five defilements and the five forms of suffering are common throughout the six courses; not a single being has ever been free of them. We are constantly assailed and afflicted by them. If there were a person not afflicted by such suffering, he would not belong to the group of ordinary beings.
The passage from What are these three? to born without fail in that land clearly delineates the three minds and explains that these are the true cause resulting in birth. There are two points elucidated by this passage. First, it shows that the World-honored one’s revealing of benefit in accord with the nature of the practicer is profound in intent and difficult to fathom; thus, if the Buddha had not himself raised the question and presented the point precisely, we should have no way of understanding. Second, it shows that the Tathagata himself answers, setting forth the previously mentioned “three minds.”
The sutra states, The first is sincere (shijo) mind. Shi means true, jo means real. This shows that the understanding and practice of all sentient beings, cultivated through their bodily, verbal, and mental acts, unfailingly take as essential what was performed [by Amida] with a true and real mind. We should not express outwardly signs of wisdom, goodness, or diligence, for inwardly we are possessed of falsity. We are filled with all manner of greed, anger, perversity, deceit, wickedness, and cunning, and it is difficult to put an end to our evil nature. In this we are like poisonous snakes or scorpions. Though we perform practices in the three modes of action, they must be called poisoned good acts or false practices. They cannot be called true, real and sincere action. Firmly setting our minds and undertaking practice in this way- even if we strive to the utmost with body and mind through the twelve periods of the day and night, urgently seeking and urgently acting as though sweeping fire from our heads – must all be called poisoned good acts. To seek birth in the Buddha’s Pure Land by directing the merit of such poisoned practice is completely wrong. Why? Because when, in his causal stage, Amida Buddha was performing practices as a bodhisattva, in every single moment – every single instant – he performed his practices in the three modes of action with a true and real mind. [True practice] depends on this.
What is given [by Amida] constitutes our aspiration; it is all true and real. Further, what is true and real falls into two types: self-benefiting with a true and real mind and [Amida’s] benefiting others with a true and real mind… Regarding acts in the three modes that are not good, you should unfailingly take as essential the Buddha’s abandoning of them with a true and real mind. And if you perform good in the three modes of action, unfailingly take as essential what the Buddha performed with a true and real mind. It is because a person takes the true and real as essential, whether he be within or without, whether of brightness or darkness, that the term “sincere mind” is applied.
The second is deep mind. Deep mind is the deeply entrusting mind. There are two aspects. One is to believe deeply and decidedly that you are a foolish being of karmic evil caught in birth-and-death, ever sinking and ever wandering in transmigration from innumerable kalpas in the past, with never a condition that would lead to emancipation. The second is to believe deeply and decidedly that Amida Buddha’s Forty-eight Vows grasp sentient beings, and that allowing yourself to be carried by the power of the Vow without any doubt or apprehension, you will attain birth.
Further, it is to believe deeply and decidedly that Sakyamuni Buddha leads people to aspire for the Pure Land by teaching, in the Contemplation Sutra, the three types of meritorious conduct, the nine grades of beings, and the two kinds of good – meditative and nonmeditative – and by verifying and praising Amida’s two kinds of fulfillment, the Buddha’s body and land.
Further, it is to believe deeply and decidedly that, as taught in the Amida Sutra, all the Buddhas throughout the ten quarters, countless as the sands of the Ganges, give their witness and encourage all foolish beings to attain birth without fail.
May all practicers – persons of deeply entrusting mind – single-heartedly entrust themselves to the Buddha’s words alone and, thinking not of their lives but relying utterly on the practice [of the nembutsu], abandon what the Buddha brings them to abandon, practice what the Buddha brings them to practice, leave what the Buddha brings them to leave. This is called “being in accord with the Buddha’s teaching, being in accord with the Buddha’s intent.” This is “being in accord with [Amida] Buddha’s Vow.” This is to be a “true disciple of the Buddha.”
Further, all practicers who, in accord with the [Contemplation] Sutra, entrust themselves deeply to this practice alone, will never fall into error in guiding other sentient beings. This is because the Buddha is the person in whom great compassion is consummate and perfect, and because his words in the sutra are true. Those apart from the Buddha – those who have yet to reach Buddhahood – are still imperfect in wisdom and practice. They are still in the stage of training, and because the two kinds of hindrance and their residues have not been eradicated, the fulfillment of their aspiration has yet to come about. Such unenlightened beings and sages, though they may have some reckoning of the fundamental intent of the Buddha’s teachings, are still incapable of finally ascertaining it. Although they may clarify it according to some standard, they must ascertain it for themselves through requesting the Buddha’s testimony.
When one is in accord with the Buddha’s intent, he will give his sanction, saying, “So it is, so it is.” If one is not in accord with the Buddha’s intent, he will say, “Concerning what you say, it is not so.” Not giving sanction carries the same meaning as “not to be discussed,” “profitless,” “without benefit.” The Buddha’s bestowing of sanctions means that one is in accord with the Buddha’s right teaching. Every word and pronouncement of the Buddha is the right teaching, the right meaning, the right practice, the right understanding, the right act, the right wisdom. Be the passages brief or extensive, how could those beings – whether bodhisattvas, human beings, or devas – determine whether they are right or wrong? What is taught by the Buddha is the “fully expressed teaching.” What bodhisattvas and others teach is all to be labeled the “teaching not fully expressed.” Reflect on this.
For this reason, I now respectfully urge all those aspirants for birth who have ties with the teaching to entrust themselves deeply to the Buddha’s words – to attend solely to them and devotedly practice what they teach. Do not take up and believe teachings of bodhisattvas that are at variance with the Buddha’s, thereby creating doubts and hindrances, embracing delusions, confusing yourself, and losing the great benefit of birth into the Pure Land…
Sakyamuni guides and urges all foolish beings to the saying of the Name alone and to single practice throughout their lives, so that when death comes, they will be born without fail in the Pure Land. All the Buddhas throughout the ten quarters, with the same intent, praise this teaching, urge beings to follow it, and give witness to it. Why? Because their great compassion is the same in essence. What one Buddha teaches is what all Buddhas teach. What all Buddhas teach, one Buddha teaches. As taught in the Amida Sutra, Sakyamuni praises all the various adornments of the land of bliss. Further, urging all foolish beings single-heartedly to practice the saying of the Name alone, for one to seven days, he leads them to attain birth without fail.
The passage that follows states that in each of the ten quarters there are Buddhas countless as the sands of the Ganges, who all in accord say in praise:
Well does Sakyamuni, in this evil age of the five defilements, in this evil world, among evil sentient beings, evil views, evil passions, and in a time when evil acts and lack of faith prevail, teach and praise the Name of Amida, encouraging sentient beings, “If one says the Name, one unfailingly attains birth.”
This is the witness.
Further, the Buddhas throughout the ten quarters, fearing that sentient beings might not accept the teaching of the one Buddha, Sakyamuni, all together with the same intent and at the same time extend their tongues, and covering all the great triple-thousandfold worlds, preach these true and sincere words:
Sentient beings, each of you should accept what Sakyamuni has taught, has praised, has given witness to! It is certain beyond any doubt that when foolish beings – regardless of whether their evil or merit is great or small, or the period of time long or short – just single-heartedly practice the saying of the Name of Amida alone, for up to one hundred years or down to even one or seven days, they unfailingly attain birth.
Thus, what one Buddha teaches, all Buddhas give witness to. This is known as “establishing shinjin through the Buddha”…
Further, right practice is divided in two. First, single-heartedly practicing the saying of the Name of Amida alone – whether walking, standing, sitting, or reclining – without regard to the length of time, and without abandoning it from moment to moment: this is called “the act of true settlement,” for it is in accord with the Buddha’s Vow. [Second,] if one engages in worship, sutra-recitation, and so on, these are called “auxiliary acts.” All forms of good other than these two kinds of practice – true and auxiliary – are called “sundry practices”… They are all “irrelevant and sundry practices.”
Hence the term deep mind.
The third is the mind of aspiration for birth and directing of virtue… Again, let the person who seeks to be born with the mind of aspiration and directing of virtue aspire for attainment of birth by unfailingly and decidedly taking as essential the Vow directed to him from the true and real mind. This mind, in its profound entrusting, is like diamond; it is not shaken, confused, defeated, or broken by people of other views, other teachings, different understandings, or different practices. Just be decisively settled, single-heartedly hold to the Vow, and rightly and directly go forward, without paying attention to what others may say. If your heart advances and retreats, and you look back with weak and cowardly thoughts, you will fall from the path and forfeit the great benefit of birth.
Question: People of other understandings and practices, of wrong and sundry practices, may come and confront us, seeking to cast us into confusion. They may raise a variety of doubts and difficulties, saying, “You cannot attain birth,” or “Sentient beings such as yourselves have, since the beginningless past down to this present existence, with bodily, verbal, and mental acts, committed all the ten transgressions, the five grave offenses, the four serious offenses, slander of the dharma, lack of the seed of Buddhahood, violation of precepts, destruction of right views and so on, against all others, whether ordinary beings or sages, and the retribution for these acts has yet to be eliminated or exhausted. This karmic evil will bind you to the three realms and the evil courses. How is it possible that, by performing meritorious deeds and saying the nembutsu for but one lifetime, you will attain the undefiled land of no-birth and realize the stage of nonretrogression forever?”
Answer: The teachings and practices taught by the Buddhas outnumber even particles or grains of sand. The opportunities and conditions of beings [for encountering them] differ according to their hearts and minds. To illustrate, concerning even what ordinary people can see with the eyes and believe, there is light dispersing darkness, space enveloping all things, the earth bearing and nurturing, water bringing forth and nourishing, heat-element ripening and consuming. Such examples are all termed “elements with corresponding functions.” They can be observed with the eye with a thousand differences and a myriad variation. How much more is this so with the inconceivable power of the Buddha-dharma! Does it not benefit us in a variety of ways?
To emerge from one gateway is to emerge from one gateway of blind passion; to enter one gateway according to your opportunities and conditions is to enter one gateway of emancipation- wisdom. In this way, you should undertake practice in accord with your opportunities and conditions and seek emancipation. Why do you obstruct and confuse me with what is not the essential practice corresponding to my conditions? What I desire is the practice corresponding to my conditions; that is not what you seek. What you desire is the practice corresponding to your conditions; that is not what I seek. Each person’s performance of practices in accord with his aspirations unfailingly leads to rapid emancipation.
Practicer, know that if you desire to gain understanding, you will be able to study without obstruction the teaching relevant to the stages of ordinary beings or sages or to the fruit of Buddhahood. If you desire to undertake practice, by all means follow the method of practice corresponding to your conditions. In return for a little effort, you will gain great benefit.
Further, I say to all who aspire for birth in the Pure Land: I will now present a parable for practicers so that their shinjin be protected from attacks by those of wrong or nonbuddhist views and of different opinions. What is the parable?
Suppose there is a traveler journeying one hundred thousand li toward the west, when suddenly, along the way, he comes upon two rivers [in a single channel] – one of fire, extending southward, and one of water, extending north. Each river is one hundred paces across, immeasurably deep, and endless to the north and south. Dividing the fire and water is a single white path four or five inches wide. This path, from the eastern bank to the western bank, is one hundred paces in length. Billows of water surge over the path and flames sweep up to scorch it. Water and fire thus alternate without a break.
Now the traveler has already journeyed deep into the vast and solitary wilderness; there is no one to be seen. But bands of brigands and wild beasts lurk there, and seeing the traveler alone, they vie with each other to kill him. Fearing for his life, the traveler at once flees toward the west, when without warning the great river appears. He reflects, “I can see no end to this river either to north or south. In the middle is a white path, but it is exceedingly narrow. Although the two banks are but slightly separated, how is it possible to cross? Assuredly this day I shall die. If I turn back, brigands and wild beasts will press closer and closer upon me. If I run north or south, beasts and poisonous insects will contend with each other to attack me. If I venture on the path westward, surely I will plunge into the two currents of water and fire.”
There are no words to express the terror and despair that fill him at this point. He thinks further to himself: “If I turn back now, I die. If I remain here, I die. If I go forward, I die. There is no way for me to escape death. Therefore, I choose to go forth, venturing on this path. Since this path exists, it must be possible to cross the rivers.”
When this thought occurs to him, he suddenly hears the encouraging voice of someone on the eastern bank, “O traveler, just resolve to follow this path forward! You will certainly not encounter the grief of death. But if you stay where you are, you will surely die.”
Further, someone on the western bank calls to him, “O traveler, with mind that is single, with right-mindedness, come at once! I will protect you. Have no fear of plunging to grief in the water or fire.” The traveler, having heard the exhortation on his side of the river and the call from the other, immediately acquires firm resolution in body and mind and decisively takes the path, advancing directly without entertaining any doubt or apprehension.
When he has gone but one or two paces, the brigands on the eastern bank call out to him: “O traveler, come back! That path is treacherous and permits no crossing. You are certain to meet your death. None of us address you thus with evil intent.”
The traveler hears the voices calling him, but he gives no backward glance. Thinking only of the path, he advances directly forward with the mind that is single and forthwith reaches the western side, free forever of all afflictions. He meets his good friend, and his joy in boundless. This is the parable.
Now to apply the parable: The eastern bank is the burning house that is this Saha world. The western bank: the precious land of perfect bliss. The brigands and wild beasts calling with treacherous familiarity: a sentient being’s six sense organs, the six forms of consciousness, the six kinds of objects, the five aggregates, and the four elements. The wilderness where no one is to be seen: one constantly joins with evil companions, without ever meeting a true teacher. The two currents of water and fire: sentient being’s greed and desire are likened to water, their anger and hatred to fire. The white path in the middle, four or five inches wide: amidst sentient being’s blind passions of greed and anger, a pure mind that aspires for birth in the Pure Land is awakened. Since the greed and anger are intense, they are like the water and fire. Since the good mind is slight, it is like the white path. Further, billows of water constantly surge over the path: desires arise incessantly to defile the good mind. Flames ceaselessly scorch the path: anger and hatred consume the dharma-treasure of virtue. The traveler follows the path and advances directly westward: turning away from all practices, he advances directly westward. He hears the voice of someone on the eastern bank encouraging and exhorting him, and following the path, advances directly westward: Sakyamuni has already entered nirvana and people of later times cannot meet him. His teachings still remain, however, and we can follow them. They are like that voice. When he has gone one or two paces, the brigands call him back: people of different understandings, different practices or false views, with their own misguided opinions, one after another seek to confuse him, claiming that he is committing evil and will fail. Someone on the western bank calls to him: this is the intent of Amida’s Vow. The traveler forthwith reaches the western side; he meets his good friend, and his joy is boundless: sentient beings long sinking in birth-and-death and for innumerable kalpas lost is transmigration, being bound in delusion by their own karma, have no means of gaining emancipation for themselves. Reverently embracing Sakyamuni’s teaching in his exhortations to advance westward and obeying Amida’s call to us with his compassionate heart, the traveler accepts and accords with the mind of the two honored ones; never giving a thought to the two rivers of water and fire and taking the call of the honored ones to heart at every moment, he entrusts himself to the path of the power of the Vow. After his death, he attains birth in that land and meets the Buddha. How boundless is his joy!
Further, all practicers always have this understanding and always dwell in this aspiration when performing practice in the three modes of action, whether walking, standing, sitting, or reclining, regardless of the time, whether day or night; hence it is called the mind of aspiration for birth and directing virtue.
Moreover, concerning directing of virtue: after being born in that land, one now awakens great compassion and reenters birth-and-death to teach and guide sentient beings; this too is “directing virtue.” Since one already possesses the three minds, there is no practice that is not fulfilled. With aspiration and practice already fulfilled, any assertion that one is not born is clearly baseless. These three minds apply also to meditative good acts. Reflect on this.
Reverently I say to fellow practicers who aspire for birth: You should all deeply repent! Sakyamuni Tathagata is truly our compassionate father and mother. With a variety of compassionate means he leads us to awaken the supreme shinjin.
The Collection of Liturgical Passages from Various Sutras (two fascicles), compiled by Chih- sheng, monk of the West Ch’ung-fu temple during the T’ang dynasty. In accordance with an Imperial order of the twenty-third day, tenth month, Chen-yüan 15 [800 A.D.], it was newly added [to the Tripitaka]. In collecting liturgies from various sutras for the first fascicle of the Collection of Liturgical Passages, Chih-sheng took, for the Contemplation Sutra, the hymns of the midday chanting from Shan-tao’s Hymns of Birth in the Pure Land. The second fascicle is labeled, “Collected and recorded by Bhiksu Shan-tao.”
To make a selection of essential passages from the Collection of Liturgical Passages:
Second [of the three minds] is deep mind, which is true and real shinjin. One truly knows oneself to be a foolish being full of blind passions, with scant roots of good, transmigrating in the three realms and unable to emerge from this burning house. And further, one truly knows now, without so much as a single thought of doubt, that Amida’s universal Primal Vow decisively enables all to attain birth, including those who say the Name even down to ten times, or even but hear it. Hence it is called “deep mind”…
When people have been able to hear The Name of Amida Buddha, Rejoice, and attain the mind that is single, They will all attain birth in the Pure Land.
The “Chapter on Entrance into the Dharma-realm” states,
Suppose there is a person who possesses a potion that renders him indestructible, so that his foes and adversaries are denied any means of harming him. The bodhisattva-mahasattva is like this. When he has gained the dharma-elixir of indestructibility – the mind aspiring for enlightenment – no blind passions, no maras or adversaries, are able to defeat him. A man who wears the ornament of gems that keeps one from drowning can enter into deep waters without sinking and expiring. One who has acquired the gem that prevents drowning – the mind aspiring for enlightenment – enters the ocean of birth-and-death but does not sink or succumb. As a diamond may be immersed in water for one hundred thousand kalpas without destruction or alteration, so is the mind aspiring for enlightenment, which may be submerged in all the karma of blind passions in birth-and-death for endless kalpas, and yet cannot be damaged or destroyed.
Although I too am within Amida’s grasp, blind passions obstruct my eyes and I cannot see [the light]; nevertheless, great compassion untiringly and constantly illumines me.
18 Hence, whether with regard to practice or to shinjin, there is nothing whatever that has not been fulfilled through Amida Tathagata’s directing of virtue to beings out of his pure Vow-mind. It is not that there is no cause or that there is some other cause. Reflect on this.
19 Question: In the Primal Vow, the Vow of “sincere mind, entrusting, and aspiration for birth” has been established. Why does Vasubandhu, the author of the Treatise, speak of “the mind that is single”?
Answer: In order to make the matter easily comprehensible for ignorant and foolish sentient beings. Although Amida Tathagata discloses three minds, the true cause of attaining nirvana is shinjin alone; it appears to be for this reason that Vasubandhu takes the three together as one.
20 Looking into the literal meanings of the three minds, I find that the three should be taken as one. Why? In “sincere mind” (shishin), shi means truth, reality, sincerity; shin means seed, kernel. In “entrusting” (shingyo), shin means truth, reality, sincerity, fullness, ultimacy, accomplishment, reliance, reverence, discernment, distinctness, clarity, faithfulness; gyo means aspiration, wish, desire, exultation, delight, joy, gladness, happiness. In “aspiration for birth” (yokusho), yoku means wish, desire, awakening, awareness; sho means accomplishment, fulfillment, performance, establishment.
We see clearly that sincere mind is the mind that is the seed of truth, reality, and sincerity; hence, it is completely untainted by the hindrance of doubt. Entrusting is the mind full of truth, reality, and sincerity; the mind of ultimacy, accomplishment, reliance, and reverence; the mind of discernment, distinctness, clarity, and faithfulness; the mind of aspiration, wish, desire, and exultation; the mind of delight, joy, gladness, and happiness; hence, it is completely untainted by the hindrance of doubt. Aspiration for birth is the mind of wish, desire, awakening, and awareness; the mind of accomplishment, fulfillment, performance, and establishment. It is the mind of great compassion directing itself to beings; hence, it is completely untainted by the hindrance of doubt.
Here, in considering the literal meanings of the terms for them, we find that the three minds are the mind of truth and reality, free of any taint of falsity; they are the mind right and straightforward, free of any taint of wrong and deceit. Truly we know, then, that this is called shinjin* because it is untainted by the hindrance of doubt. Shinjin* is the mind that is single. The mind that is single is shinjin that is true and real. Therefore, the author of the Treatise states, at the outset, “With the mind that is single.” Reflect on this.
21 Question: We can accept Vasubandhu’s intentions – the significance of taking the three as one – as indicated by the literal meanings of the terms. But Amida Tathagata has in fact established the Vow of the threefold mind for the sake of foolish and evil sentient beings. How are we to understand this?
Answer: The Buddha’s intention is difficult to fathom. Nevertheless, reflecting on this [threefold] mind for myself alone, I find that all beings, an ocean of multitudes, have since the beginningless past down to this day, this very moment, been evil and defiled, completely lacking the mind of purity. They have been false and deceitful, completely lacking the mind of truth and reality. Thus, when the Tathagata, in profound compassion for the ocean of all sentient beings in pain and affliction, performed bodhisattva practices for inconceivable millions of measureless kalpas, there was not a moment, not an instant, when his practice in the three modes of action was not pure, or lacked this true mind. With this pure, true mind, the Tathagata brought to fulfillment the perfect, unhindered, inconceivable, indescribable and inexplicable supreme virtues. The Tathagata gives this sincere mind to all living beings, an ocean of beings possessed of blind passions, karmic evil, and false wisdom. This mind manifests the true mind of benefiting others. For this reason, it is completely untainted by the hindrance of doubt. This sincere mind takes as its essence the reverend Name of supreme virtues.
No thought of greed, anger, or harmfulness arose in his mind; he cherished no impulse of greed, anger, or harmfulness. He did not cling to objects of perception – color, sound, smell, taste. Abounding in perseverance, he gave no thought to the suffering to be endured. He was content with few desires, and without greed, anger, or folly. Always tranquil in a state of samadhi, he possessed wisdom that knew no impediment. He was free of all thoughts of falsity or deception. Gentle in countenance and loving in speech, he perceived people’s thoughts and was attentive to them. He was full of courage and vigor, and being resolute in his acts, knew no fatigue. Seeking solely that which was pure and undefiled, he brought benefit to all beings. He revered the three treasures and served his teachers and elders. He fulfilled all the various kinds of practices, embellishing himself with great adornments, and brought all sentient beings to the attainment of virtues.
The Buddha said to Ananda, “Bhiksu Dharmakara, before Lokesvararaja Tathagata and all devas, men, maras, Brahma, sramanas, brahmanas, and others, widely proclaimed thus his great, universal Vows. He has already brought them all to fulfillment.
“After proclaiming these Vows, which are so rare in all the worlds, he actually resided firmly in them. Acquiring all the varieties of virtue, he adorned the pure Buddha-land of vast majestic virtues. He performed bodhisattva practices in this way, passing innumerable, countless, incalculable, unequaled kotis of nayutas of millions of kalpas. During that time, he never harbored a single thought of greed, anger, or folly, nor any impulse of desire, harmfulness, or wrath; he cherished no thought of form, sound, smell, taste or tangible thing. The constant warmth of affection and respect he felt for all sentient beings was like that for close relatives…. His nature was harmonious and adaptable, without any violence or ill will. He always embraced a heart of compassion and patience for all sentient beings, and was never deceptive or flattering, never slothful. Encouraging them to good acts, he led them to seek pure virtues. For the sake of beings everywhere, he was stalwart and fearless and never retreated. He benefited all the worlds and brought his great Vow to perfect completion.”
To seek birth in the Buddha’s Pure Land by directing the merit of such poisoned practices is completely wrong. Why? Because when, in his causal stage, Amida Buddha was performing practices as a bodhisattva, in every single moment – every single instant – he performed his practices in the three modes of action with a true and real mind. [True practice] depends on this.
What is given constitutes our aspiration; it is all true and real. Further, what is true and real falls into two types: the true and real attained through self-power and the true and real given by Other Power….
Regarding acts in the three modes that are not good, you should unfailingly take as essential the Buddha’s abandoning of them with a true and real mind. And if you perform good in the three modes of action, unfailingly take as essential what the Buddha performed with a true and real mind. It is because persons take the true and real as essential, whether they be within or without, whether of brightness or darkness, that the term “sincere mind” is applied.
25 Thus, through these true words of the Great Sage and the commentary of the master, we know indeed that this mind is the true and real mind of benefiting others through directing virtues, which originates from the inconceivable, indescribable, and inexplicable ocean of the Vow of great wisdom, the One Vehicle. This is “sincere mind.”
True reality is the single way, pure and undefiled; there is no other. The true and real is Tathagata; Tathagata is the true and real. The true and real is boundless space; boundless space is the true and real. The true and real is Buddha-nature; Buddha-nature is the true and real.
Concerning the phrase “within or without,” “within” refers to the supramundane, “without” to the mundane. Concerning “brightness or darkness,” “brightness” refers to the supramundane, “darkness” to the mundane. Further, “brightness” refers to wisdom, “darkness” to ignorance. The Nirvana Sutra states:
Darkness refers to the mundane, brightness to the supramundane. Darkness refers to ignorance, brightness to wisdom.
28 Next, concerning entrusting, it is the ocean of shinjin, perfect and unhindered, that is the Tathagata’s consummately fulfilled great compassion. Hence, there is no mixture of doubt. It is therefore called “entrusting.” The essence of entrusting is the sincere mind of benefiting others and directing virtues.
However, since the beginningless past, the multitudes of beings have been transmigrating in the ocean of ignorance, sinking aimlessly in the cycle of all forms of existence and bound to the cycle of all forms of pain; accordingly, they lack the entrusting that is pure. In the manner of their existence, they have no entrusting that is true and real. Hence, it is difficult for them to encounter the unexcelled virtues, difficult to realize the supreme, pure shinjin. In all small foolish beings, at all times, thoughts of greed and desire incessantly defile any goodness of heart; thoughts of anger and hatred constantly consume the dharma-treasure. Even if one urgently acts and urgently practices as though sweeping fire from one’s head, all these acts must be called “poisoned and sundry good,” and “false and deceitful practice.” They cannot be called “true and real action.” To seek to be born in the land of immeasurable light through such false and poisoned good is completely wrong.
Why? Because when the Tathagata was performing bodhisattva practices, there was not a moment – not an instant – when his practice in the three modes of action was tainted by the hindrance of doubt. Because this mind is the Tathagata’s mind of great compassion, it necessarily becomes the truly decisive cause of attaining the fulfilled land. The Tathagata, turning with compassion toward the ocean of living beings in pain and affliction, has given unhindered and vast pure shinjin to the ocean of sentient beings. This is called the “true and real shinjin that is [Amida’s] benefiting of others.”
All sentient beings, as they hear the Name, realize even one thought-moment of shinjin and joy.
When, upon hearing the Name of the Tathagata of immeasurable life, sentient beings of the Buddha-lands of other quarters awaken one thought-moment of pure shinjin, rejoice.
Good sons! Great love and great compassion are called Buddha-nature. Why? Because great love and great compassion always accompany the bodhisattva, just as shadows accompany things. All sentient beings will without fail ultimately realize great love and great compassion. Therefore it is taught, “All sentient beings are possessed of Buddha-nature.” Great love and great compassion are Buddha-nature. Buddha-nature is Tathagata.
Great joy and great even-mindedness are called Buddha-nature. Why? Because if a bodhisattva-mahasattva were incapable of the twenty-five forms of existence, he could not attain the supreme, perfect enlightenment. All sentient beings will ultimately attain great joy and great even-mindedness. Therefore it is taught, “All sentient beings are possessed of Buddha-nature.” Great joy and great even-mindedness are none other than Buddha-nature. Buddha-nature is Tathagata.
Buddha-nature is great shinjin. Why? Because through shinjin the bodhisattva-mahasattva has acquired all the paramitas from charity to wisdom. All sentient beings will without fail ultimately realize great shinjin. Therefore it is taught, “All sentient beings are possessed of Buddha-nature.” Great shinjin is none other than Buddha-nature. Buddha-nature is Tathagata.
Buddha-nature is called “the state of regarding each being as one’s only child.” Why? Because through the conditions of the state of regarding each being as one’s only child, the bodhisattva has realized the mind of equality concerning all sentient beings. All sentient beings will without fail ultimately attain the state of regarding each being as one’s only child. Therefore it is taught, “All sentient beings are possessed of Buddha-nature.” The state of regarding each being as one’s only child is none other than Buddha-nature. Buddha-nature is Tathagata.
Also it is taught, concerning the supreme, perfect enlightenment, that shinjin is its cause. Although the causes of enlightenment are without number, when shinjin has been presented, they have already been exhaustively included.
There are two kinds of shinjin: one arises from hearing and the other from thought. This person’s shinjin has arisen from hearing but not from thought. Therefore it is called “imperfect realization of shinjin.”
Again, there are two kinds of shinjin: one is to believe that there is enlightenment, and the other, to believe that there are people who have attained it. This person’s shinjin is belief only that enlightenment exists and not that there are people who have attained it. Therefore it is called “imperfect realization of shinjin.”
The person who hears this dharma, rejoices
In shinjin, and is free of doubt
Swiftly attains the supreme enlightenment;
Such a person is equal to the Tathagatas.
The Tathagata dispels forever
The doubts of all sentient beings,
And all the aspirations of their hearts
He brings to complete fulfillment.
Shinjin is the source of enlightenment, the mother of virtues;
It nurtures all forms of goodness.
It cuts away the net of doubt and breaks free from the currents of desire;
It unfolds the supreme enlightenment of nirvana.
Shinjin harbors no defiled thoughts, it is pure,
Eradicating all arrogance; it is the root of reverence
And the foremost treasure of the dharma-store.
It is the hand of purity, holding all practices within itself.
Shinjin gives freely and ungrudgingly;
Shinjin rejoices and enters the Buddha-dharma;
Shinjin makes wisdom and virtues increase;
Shinjin unfailingly reaches the stage of Tathagata.
Shinjin purifies the faculties, makes them clear and sharp;
Its power is firm and steadfast, nothing can destroy it.
Shinjin sunders forever the root of blind passions;
Shinjin leads one to seek the virtues of Buddha alone.
Shinjin knows no attachment to objects;
It separates one from the adversities, so that one attains the realm free of them.
Shinjin transcends the domain of maras
And manifests the path of unexcelled emancipation.
Shinjin keeps the seeds of virtues from destruction;
Shinjin nurtures the tree of enlightenment.
Shinjin makes supreme wisdom grow.
Shinjin makes all the Buddhas manifest.
For this reason, the process of enlightenment is taught in stages of practice;
Shinjin* is foremost, and is extremely difficult to realize…
If one constantly entrusts to and reveres the Buddhas,
That in itself is to perform great offerings.
When one performs great offerings,
One entrusts to the inconceivable working of the Buddhas.
If one constantly entrusts to and reveres the precious dharma,
One never tires of listening to the Buddha’s teaching.
If one never tires of listening to the Buddha’s teaching,
One entrusts to the inconceivable working of the dharma.
If one constantly entrusts to and reveres the undefiled Sangha,
One attains the point where shinjin never retrogresses.
If one attains the point where shinjin never retrogresses,
One’s power of shinjin is immovable.
If one’s power of shinjin is immovable,
One’s faculties are purified and become clear and sharp.
If one’s faculties are purified and become clear and sharp,
One is able to approach true teachers.
If one becomes able to approach true teachers,
One devotes oneself to practicing the vast, supreme good.
If one practices the vast, supreme good,
One acquires the immense causal power [that leads to Buddhahood].
If one acquires the immense causal power,
One attains the peerless, decisive understanding.
If one attains the peerless, decisive understanding,
One is protected by all the Buddhas.
If one is protected by all the Buddhas,
One is able to awaken the mind aspiring for enlightenment.
If one awakens the mind that aspires for enlightenment,
One diligently practices the virtues of the Buddhas.
If one diligently practices the virtues of the Buddhas,
One is born into the home of the Tathagatas.
If one is born into the home of the Tathagatas,
One performs good and practices skillful means.
If one performs good and practices skillful means,
One attains the pure mind of shinjin.*
If one attains the pure mind of shinjin,*
One realizes the unsurpassed supreme mind.
If one realizes the unsurpassed supreme mind,
One constantly practices the paramitas.
If one constantly practices the paramitas,
One fulfills all the practices of the Mahayana.
If one fulfills all the Mahayana practices,
One makes offerings to the Buddhas in accord with the dharma.
If one makes offerings to the Buddhas in accord with the dharma,
The mind of thinking on the Buddhas is immovable.
If the mind of thinking on the Buddhas becomes immovable,
One constantly sees the countless Buddhas.
If one constantly sees the countless Buddhas,
One sees that the body of Tathagata is eternal.
If one sees that the body of Tathagata is eternal,
One realizes that the dharma is everlasting and imperishable.
If one realizes that the dharma is everlasting and imperishable,
One attains unhindered powers of speech.
If one attains unhindered powers of speech,
One can expound the boundless teachings.
If one expounds the boundless teachings,
One saves sentient beings by loving and caring for them.
If one saves sentient beings by loving and caring for them,
One attains the steadfast mind of great compassion.
If one attains the steadfast mind of great compassion,
One rejoices in the most profound dharma.
If one rejoices in the most profound dharma,
One is free from the faults of the created world.
If one is free from the faults of the created world,
One rids oneself of arrogance and self-indulgence.
If one rids oneself of arrogance and self-indulgence,
One benefits all sentient beings as well as oneself.
If one benefits all sentient beings as well as oneself,
One dwells in the realm of birth-and-death without fatigue or revulsion.
It is termed, “to be in correspondence [with the significance of the Name] by practicing in accord with reality.” For this reason, the author of the Treatise states at the outset, “I, with the mind that is single”…
Each sutra opens with the words, “Thus [have I heard]…”
This reveals entrusting to be the basis for entry [into the dharma].
[Aspiration for Birth]
39 Finally, “aspire for birth” is the command of the Tathagata calling to and summoning the multitudes of all beings. That is, true and real entrusting is the essence of aspiration for birth. Truly, [aspiration for birth] is not the directing of merit through the self-power of meditative and nonmeditative practices, whether performed by ordinary people or sages of the Mahayana or the Hinayana. Therefore it is called “not-directing.”
However, sentient beings of the countless worlds, floundering in the sea of blind passions and drifting and sinking in the ocean of birth-and-death, lack the true and real mind of directing virtues; they lack the pure mind of directing virtues. For this reason, when the Tathagata was performing bodhisattva practices out of pity for the ocean of all sentient beings in pain and affliction, in every single moment, every single instant, of his endeavor in the three modes of action, he took the mind of directing virtues as foremost, and thus realized the mind of great compassion. Accordingly, the Buddha directs this other-benefiting, true and real mind of aspiration for birth to the ocean of all beings. Aspiration for birth is this mind of directing virtues. It is none other than the mind of great compassion; therefore, it is untainted by the hindrance of doubt.
…which is directed to them from Amida’s sincere mind, and aspiring to be born in that land, they then attain birth and dwell in the stage of nonretrogression. Excluded are those who commit the five grave offenses and those who slander the right dharma.
When sentient beings, cherishing Amida’s directing of his roots of good to them, aspire to be born in the land of immeasurable life, then all shall be born in accord with their aspiration, attaining the stage of nonretrogression and, ultimately, the supreme perfect enlightenment. Excluded are those who commit the five evil acts that condemn them to Avici hell and those who slander the right dharma or the sages.
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.
The directing of virtue has two aspects: that for going forth to the Pure Land and that for return to this world. “Directing for going forth” means to give one’s virtues to all sentient beings and to aspire to bring them all to birth in Amida Tathagata’s Pure Land of happiness. “Directing for return to this world” means that after being born in that land, fulfilling samatha and vipasyana, and gaining the power of compassionate means, one returns and enters the thick forests of birth-and-death, teaches and guides all sentient beings, and brings all to enter the Buddha-way together. Whether with regard to the aspect for going forth or the aspect for return, all is entirely for the sake of bringing sentient beings across the ocean of birth-and-death. Thus, It is [by aspiring] to fulfill the mind of great compassion, taking the directing of virtue as foremost.
Concerning The purity contained in the Vow-mind, the Treatise states:
Previously I have explained the act of observing the fulfilled virtue of the Buddha-land’s adornments, the fulfilled virtue of the Buddha’s adornments, and the fulfilled virtue of the bodhisattvas’ adornments. These three kinds of fulfillment are the adornments produced by the Vow-mind. Reflect on this.
Concerning the phrase, Reflect on this, we should reflect that these three types of fulfilled adornments were originally accomplished by the adorning activity of the pure Vow-mind expressed as the Forty-eight Vows; hence, because the cause is pure, the fruition is also pure. It is not that there is no cause or that there is some other cause.
Concerning “the fifth gate of emergence”: With great compassion, one observes all sentient beings in pain and affliction, and assuming various transformed bodies to guide them, enters the garden of birth-and-death and the forests of blind passions; freely sporting there with transcendent powers, one attains the stage of teaching and guiding. This is brought about by the directing of virtue through the power of the Primal Vow; it is called “the fifth gate of emergence.”
Again, let the person who seeks to be born with the mind of aspiration and directing of virtue aspire for attainment of birth by unfailingly and decidedly taking as essential the Vow directed to him from the true and real mind. This mind, in its profound entrusting, is like diamond; it is not shaken, confused, defeated, or broken by people of other views, other teachings, different understandings, or different practices. Just be decisively settled, single-heartedly hold to the Vow, and rightly and directly go forward, without paying attention to what others may say. If your heart advances and retreats, and you look back with weak and cowardly thoughts, you will fall from the path and forfeit the great benefit of birth.
46 Truly we know that, in the parable of the two rivers, the white of the white path four or five inches wide contrasts with black. White is the white act selected and adopted [in the Vow], the pure act that is the directing of virtue to us for our going forth. “Black” is the black activity of our ignorance and blind passions, the sundry good acts of those of the two vehicles and of human beings and devas. Path contrasts with trail. It is the one real, direct path of the Primal Vow, the supreme great way to complete nirvana. “Trail” refers to the bypaths of those of the two or the three vehicles, of the myriad good acts and practices. Four or five inches wide refers to the four elements and five aggregates that make up sentient beings. Awakens the pure mind of aspiration means to realize the diamondlike true mind. Since this is the ocean of great shinjin directed to us through the power of the Primal Vow, it cannot be defeated or broken. This is likened to diamond.
People of the present, both monk and lay,
Seek to awaken the supreme mind,
But it is extremely difficult to abhor birth-and-death,
And difficult to aspire to the Buddha-dharma.
Let us all together awaken the diamondlike aspiration
And, transcending crosswise, cut off the four currents.
Upon truly receiving the diamondlike mind –
According [with the Vow] in that one thought-moment –
We become persons who consequently attain nirvana.
Thoroughly attaining the true mind, abhor this Saha world of pain, aspire for the uncreated realm of happiness and take refuge forever in eternal bliss. But the realm of the uncreated is not easily reached. Breaking free of the Saha world of pain and affliction is not readily accomplished. Unless the diamondlike aspiration is awakened, how can the roots of birth-and-death be severed forever? If you do not intimately follow the compassionate honored-one, how will you be able to escape this long sorrow?
“Diamond” characterizes the essence of what is undefiled.
[Summary of the Discussion of the Threefold Mind]
50 Truly we know that although the terms “sincere mind,” “entrusting,” and “aspiration for birth” differ, their significance is the same. Why? Because these three minds are already completely untainted by the hindrance of doubt. They are therefore the true and real mind that is single. This is called the diamondlike true mind. The diamondlike true mind is true and real shinjin. True and real shinjin is unfailingly accompanied by [saying] the Name. [Saying] the Name, however, is not necessarily accompanied by shinjin that is the power of the Vow. Thus, the author of the Treatise opens with the words, “I, with the mind that is single.” Further he states, “One wishes to be in correspondence with [the Name] by practicing in accord with reality.”
[The Nature of Shinjin]
51 In reflecting on the great ocean of shinjin, I realize that there is no discrimination between noble and humble or black-robed monks and white-clothed laity, no differentiation between man and woman, old and young. The amount of evil one has committed is not considered; the duration of any performance of religious practices is of no concern. It is a matter of neither practice nor good acts, neither sudden attainment nor gradual attainment, neither meditative practice nor nonmeditative practice, neither right contemplation nor wrong contemplation, neither thought nor no-thought, neither daily life nor the moment of death, neither many-calling nor once-calling. It is simply shinjin* that is inconceivable, inexplicable, and indescribable. It is like the medicine that eradicates all poisons. The medicine of the Tathagata’s Vow destroys the poisons of our wisdom and foolishness.
[Shinjin as the Mind Aspiring for Enlightenment]
The lengthwise is further of two kinds: transcending lengthwise and departing lengthwise. These are explained in various teachings – accommodated and real, exoteric and esoteric, Mahayana and Hinayana. They are the mind [with which one attains enlightenment after] going around for many kalpas, the diamondlike mind of self-power, or the great mind of the bodhisattva.
The crosswise is also of two kinds: transcending crosswise and departing crosswise. That characterized by departing crosswise is the mind of enlightenment of right and sundry practices or meditative and nonmeditative practices – of self-power within Other Power. That characterized by transcending crosswise is shinjin* that is directed to beings through the power of the Vow. It is the mind that aspires to attain Buddhahood. The mind that aspires to attain Buddhahood is the mind aspiring for great enlightenment of crosswise orientation. It is called “the diamondlike mind of crosswise transcendence.”
Although the same term is used, the crosswise and the lengthwise minds of aspiration for enlightenment differ in significance; nevertheless, both take entrance into the true as right and essential, both take true mind as their foundation, both reject the wrong and sundry, and both take doubt to be erroneous.
All who seek the Pure Land, both monk and lay, must grasp the profound significance of the precious words concerning imperfect realization of shinjin and must become free of the wrong thinking of imperfect realization of hearing.
In reflecting on the Sutra of Immeasurable Life taught at Rajagrha, it is clear that although among the three levels of practicers some are superior in practice and some inferior, not one has failed to awaken the mind aspiring for supreme enlightenment. This mind aspiring for supreme enlightenment is the mind that aspires to attain Buddhahood. The mind that aspires to attain Buddhahood is the mind to save all sentient beings. The mind to save all sentient beings is the mind to grasp sentient beings and bring them to birth in the land where the Buddha is. Thus, the person who aspires to be born in the Pure Land of happiness must unfailingly awaken the mind aspiring for supreme enlightenment. Suppose there is a person who, without awakening the mind aspiring for supreme enlightenment, simply hears that bliss is enjoyed in that land without interruption and desires to be born there for the sake of the bliss; such a person will not be able to attain birth. Thus it is said, They do not seek the sustained bliss for their own sake, but think only of freeing all sentient beings from pain. Sustained bliss means that the Pure Land is sustained by the power of Amida Tathagata’s Primal Vow, and that the enjoyment of bliss is without interruption.
In general, the term “directing virtue” may be interpreted as meaning that [Amida] gives all virtues he has gathered to sentient beings and brings them to enter the Buddha-way together.
Because no others can accomplish it, it is described as “extremely difficult.” Because nowhere in all the world has it yet been seen, it is called “rare.”
The dharma-gate of the nembutsu does not discriminate between foolish and wise, noble and poor; the length of practice, or whether you are good or evil, is of no concern. If you simply realize firm resolution and unshakable entrusting, although adverse conditions may accompany the end of your life, with ten utterances you will be born. It is the dharma by which the foolish beings in bondage, the lowly such as butchers and wine dealers, in an instant transcend birth-and-death and attain Buddhahood. This must be called that which is “for all people of the world, most difficult to accept.”
To perform practices and attain Buddhahood in this evil world is extremely difficult. To teach this dharma-gate for the sake of all sentient beings is a second great difficulty. These two difficulties [that Sakyamuni accomplished] show us that what all the Buddhas praise is not futile. They instruct sentient beings to hear and accept.
When the dharma [of the nembutsu-gate] is said to be difficult [to accept], is it not really because it transforms the foolish being into a sage as easily as you turn your palms? Because this seems so tremendously easy, many unreflective sentient beings are skeptical. Thus the Larger Sutra states, “To go there is easy and yet no one is born there.” Thus we know that it is difficult to accept.
It does not discriminate between foolish and wise: in natures there are keen and dull. It does not choose between noble and poor: in karmic rewards there are strong and weak. Length of practice is of no concern: in effort there is shallow and deep. It does not choose between good and evil: in practice there is good and bad. If you realize firm resolution and unshakable entrusting, although adverse conditions may accompany the end of your life: as taught in the Contemplation Sutra, concerning those of the middle grade of the lowest level, the flames of hell all at once sweep up to them. Foolish beings in bondage: for they are utterly possessed of the two kinds of delusional thinking. The lowly such as butchers and wine dealers in an instant transcend birth-and-death and attain Buddhahood. This must be called that which is “for all people of the world, most difficult to accept”: butchers are those who earn their livings by killing. Wine dealers are those who make and sell liquor. Such evil people, simply through ten utterances, are able to transcend and attain birth. Is this not difficult to accept?
Amida Tathagata is called the true and real light, the enlightenment of equality, the difficult to conceive, the ultimate resort, the great one worthy of offerings, the great consolation, the unequaled, the inconceivable light.
There are always many who endeavor to be born in the Pure Land, but exceedingly few reach the gateway and immediately attain birth. There are always many who discuss the Pure Land, but few indeed grasp what is essential and directly point it out. I have yet to hear a person explain [nembutsu] with reference to self-obstruction and self-obscuration. Having grasped this matter, I explain it here.
There is no greater self-obstruction than attachment, no greater self-obscuration than doubt. As that which finally eliminates these hindrances of doubt and attachment, we have only the teaching-gate of the Pure Land. Never has there been any separation: Amida’s vast Vow always, of itself, grasps and holds beings. This is the necessary way of its working.
[One Thought-Moment of Shinjin]
60 Contemplating true and real shinjin*, I find there is the one thought-moment. One thought-moment expresses the ultimate brevity of the instant of the realization of shinjin* and manifests the vast, inconceivable mind of joyfulness.
All sentient beings, as they hear the Name, realize even one thought-moment of shinjin and joy, which is directed to them from Amida’s sincere mind, and aspiring to be born in that land, they then attain birth and dwell in the stage of nonretrogression.
Upon hearing the Name of the Tathagata of immeasurable life, sentient beings of the Buddha-lands of other quarters awaken one thought-moment of pure shinjin and rejoice.
Further, [the Larger Sutra] states:
The power of the Buddha’s Primal Vow is such
That hearing the Name, they aspire for birth.
Further, [the Sutra of the Tathagata of Immeasurable Life] states:
It is to hear the Buddha’s Name of exalted virtues.
What is the meaning of “imperfect realization of hearing”? What the Tathagata taught comprises twelve divisions of scripture. Such people believe in only six of the divisions, but do not yet believe in the other six. Hence this is termed, “imperfect realization of hearing.”
Again, although they accept and uphold these six divisions, they cannot recite them, so when they expound them for others, no benefit is gained. Hence this is termed “imperfect realization of hearing.”
Further, having accepted these six divisions of scripture, they uphold, recite, and expound them solely for the sake of disputation, for the sake of defeating others, for the sake of gain and profit, or for some ulterior motive. Hence this is termed, “imperfect realization of hearing.”
Single-heartedly practice the saying of the Name alone.
With wholehearted thought, practice the saying of the Name alone.
65 The word hear in the passage from the [Larger] Sutra means that sentient beings, having heard how the Buddha’s Vow arose – its origin and fulfillment – are altogether free of doubt. This is to hear. Shinjin is shinjin that is directed to beings through the power of the Primal Vow. Joy expresses gladness in body and mind. Even includes both many and few. One thought-moment: because shinjin is free of double-mindedness, one thought-moment is used. It is the mind that is single. The mind that is single is the true cause of [birth in] the pure fulfilled land. When we realize the diamondlike true mind, we transcend crosswise the paths of the five courses and eight hindered existences and unfailingly gain ten benefits in the present life. What are these ten?
- The benefit of being protected and sustained by unseen powers.
- The benefit of being possessed of supreme virtues.
- The benefit of our karmic evil being transformed into good.
- The benefit of being protected and cared for by all the Buddhas.
- The benefit of being praised by all the Buddhas.
- The benefit of being constantly protected by the light of the Buddha’s heart.
- The benefit of having great joy in our hearts.
- The benefit of being aware of Amida’s benevolence and of responding in gratitude to his virtue.
- The benefit of constantly practicing great compassion.
- The benefit of entering the stage of the truly settled.
66 The term practicing the saying of the Name alone that occurs in Master [Shan-tao] is single practice; wholehearted thought is single-heartedness. Thus, the term one thought-moment in the passage teaching the fulfillment of the Vow is wholehearted thought. Wholehearted thought is deep mind. Deep mind is deep entrusting. Deep entrusting is deep entrusting that is steadfast and firm. Deep entrusting that is steadfast and firm is decisive mind. Decisive mind is supreme mind. Supreme mind is true mind. True mind is enduring mind. Enduring mind is genuine mind. Genuine mind is mindfulness. Mindfulness is the true and real mind that is single. The true and real mind that is single is the mind of great joy. The mind of great joy is true and real shinjin. True and real shinjin is the diamondlike mind. The diamondlike mind is the mind that aspirer for Buddhahood. The mind that aspires for Buddhahood is the mind to save sentient beings. The mind to save sentient beings is the mind to grasp sentient beings and bring them to birth in the Pure Land of peace. This mind is the mind aspiring for great enlightenment. This mind is the mind of great compassion. For this mind arises from the wisdom of immeasurable light. The ocean of the Vow is characterized by sameness; therefore, the aspiration awakened is the same. Since the aspiration awakened is the same, the path is the same. Since the path is the same, the great compassion is the same. For great compassion is the right cause of realizing the enlightenment of Buddha.
To aspire to be born in the Pure Land of happiness is necessarily to awaken the mind aspiring for supreme enlightenment.
This mind attains Buddhahood means that the mind becomes Buddha; this mind is itself Buddha means that there is no Buddha apart from the mind. This is like the relationship of fire and wood: fire arises from wood; it cannot exist apart from the wood. Because it cannot exist apart from the wood, it consumes the wood. The wood, on the other hand, is consumed by the fire; it becomes the fire.
This mind attains Buddhahood. This mind is itself Buddha. There is no Buddha apart from this mind.
70 Hence we know that the mind that is single is termed, “to be in correspondence [with the significance of the Name] by practicing in accord with reality.” This is the right teaching. This is the right meaning. This is the right practice. This is the right understanding. This is the right act. This is the right wisdom.
[Further Topics Concerning Shinjin: Transcending Crosswise]
P’u-ti (bodhi) is in Indian word; in Chinese it is rendered tao (Way).
Chih-to (citta) represents an Indian sound; here in this country it is called hsin. Hsin indicates reflecting and discerning.
In transcending crosswise, crosswise stands in contrast to transcending lengthwise and departing lengthwise. Transcending contrasts with going roundabout and following a winding path. “Transcending lengthwise” characterizes the true and real teaching of the Mahayana. “Departing lengthwise” is the accommodated, expedient teaching of the Mahayana and the roundabout teachings of the two-vehicle and three-vehicle schools.
Transcending crosswise is the true teaching based on the fulfillment of the Vow, which embodies the perfectly consummate true reality. This indeed is the true essence of the Pure Land way.
Further, there is “departing crosswise.” This is the teaching of meditative and nonmeditative practices of the three levels of practicers and the nine grades of beings; it comprises the good acts of going roundabout that lead to the transformed land, the realm of indolence and pride.
In the pure fulfilled land of the Great Vow, grade and level are irrelevant; in the space of an instant, one swiftly transcends and realizes the supreme, perfect, true enlightenment. Hence, transcending crosswise.
Surpassing all, he made the supreme, incomparable Vow.
I have established the all-surpassing Vow
And will unfailingly attain supreme enlightenment.
My Name shall pervade the ten quarters;
If there be any place it is not heard,
I vow not to attain perfect enlightenment.
Necessarily one achieves the abandoning of this world, transcending and parting from it, and attains birth in the land of peace. One cuts off crosswise the five evil courses and the evil courses close naturally (jinen). Ascending the way is without limit; to go is easy and yet no one is born there. Never at variance with that land, one is drawn there by its spontaneous working (jinen).
One will be able to abandon this world, transcending and parting from it. When one is born in that land of Amida Buddha, one cuts off crosswise the five evil courses, and they close naturally. Ascending the way is without limit; to go is easy and yet no one is born there. Never at variance with that land, one is drawn there by its spontaneous working.
78 Concerning the term cut off: because we have awakened the mind that is single, which is directed to us for our going forth, there is no further state of existence into which we must be born, no further realm into which we must pass. Already the causes leading to the six courses and the four modes of birth have died away and their results become null. Therefore we immediately and swiftly cut off birth-and-death in the three realms of existence. Hence, cut off. The four currents are the four turbulent currents. They also refer to birth, aging, sickness, and death.
You will unfailingly attain the enlightenment of Buddha
And bring beings everywhere across the stream of birth-and-death.
You will unfailingly become a world-honored one
And free all beings from birth, aging, and death.
Nirvana is called an islet in the stream. Why? Because the four great turbulent currents cannot toss it about. What are these four? First, the turbulence of desire; second, the turbulence of existence; third, the turbulence of views; fourth, the turbulence of ignorance. Therefore nirvana is called an islet.
I say to all practicers: Do not crave the birth-and-death of foolish beings and fail to abhor it. Do not consider Amida’s Pure Land lightly and fail to aspire for it. When you abhor this Saha world, you part from it forever; when you aspire for the Pure Land, you constantly dwell there. When you part from this world, the causes leading to the six courses die away, and naturally their results of transmigration are nullified. With the causes and results already null, the forms and names [of samsaric existence] suddenly come to an end.
My reverent wish is that all who aspire for birth carefully take measure of their own capabilities. Persons who aspire in the present existence to attain birth in that land should unfailingly strive with all their heart, whether walking, standing, sitting, or reclining, and overcoming the self, they should never abandon [the nembutsu] day or night. It may seem rather arduous to do this throughout your life to the very moment of death, but in one thought-moment life ends, in the next you are immediately born in that land, and there you will constantly enjoy the pleasure of the uncreated dharma for endless kalpas. Until your attainment of Buddhahood, you will be free of turning in birth-and-death. Is this not joy? Reflect on this.
[True Disciple of Buddha]
84 In the term true disciple of Buddha, true contrasts with false and provisional. Disciple indicates a disciple of Sakyamuni and the other Buddhas. This expression refers to the practicer who has realized the diamondlike heart and mind. Through this shinjin and practice, one will without fail transcend and realize great nirvana; hence, one is called true disciple of Buddha.
When I attain Buddhahood, the sentient beings throughout the countless, incalculable Buddha-realms of the ten quarters, upon receiving my light and having their bodies touched by it, shall become soft and gentle in body and mind, thereby surpassing other men and devas. If it be not so, may I not attain the supreme enlightenment.
If, when I attain Buddhahood, the sentient beings throughout the countless and incalculable Buddha-realms of the ten quarters, upon hearing my Name, do not acquire the bodhisattva’s insight into the nonorigination of all existence and all the profound dharanis, may I not attain the supreme enlightenment.
When I attain Buddhahood, the sentient beings of the countless, immeasurable, inconceivable, numberless worlds throughout the ten quarters who receive the Buddha’s majestic light and are touched and illuminated by it shall attain peace and comfort in body and mind, thereby surpassing other human beings and devas. If it be not so, may I not attain enlightenment.
The one who hears and never forgets this dharma,
But sees and reveres it and greatly rejoices in attaining it –
That person is my true companion.
The person who aspires with a sincere mind to be born in the land of happiness shall reach the full illumination of wisdom and acquire virtues unexcelled.
A person of vast and excellent understanding.
Such a person is one of great, majestic virtue. He or she shall enter the preeminent gateway of the boundless Buddha-dharma.
Know that the person who says the nembutsu is a white lotus among people.
Through quoting from the various Mahayana scriptures, the method and model for teaching and for listening will be clarified. The Great Assembly states:
The person who teaches the dharma should think of himself as king among physicians and of his work as the elimination of pain. He should think of the dharma that he teaches as sweet nectar (amrta) or milk of the finest taste (manda).
The person who listens to the dharma should think that excellent understanding thereby increases and grows and that his sickness is being cured.
Such a teacher and listener together can make the Buddha-dharma flourish. They dwell always in the presence of the Buddhas…
According to the Nirvana Sutra:
The Buddha said, “If a person just constantly practices the nembutsu-samadhi with a sincere mind, the Buddhas of the ten quarters will always see him, just as if they were actually in front of him.”
Therefore the Nirvana Sutra states:
The Buddha said to Bodhisattva Kasyapa, “If there are good sons or good daughters who always solely practice the nembutsu with a sincere mind, whether they be in mountain forests or in villages, whether it be day or night, whether they be sitting or reclining, the world-honored Buddhas will always see them, as if they were before their eyes. The Buddhas always, for the sake of such people, accept the offerings they make.”…
According to the Commentary on the Mahaprajnaparamita Sutra, there are three explanations of this. First, the Buddha is the supreme dharma-king and bodhisattvas are the dharma-vassals. Only the Buddha, the World-honored one, is to be venerated and revered. For this reason we should constantly practice the nembutsu.
Second, the bodhisattvas themselves declare, “For innumerable kalpas we have received the World-honored one’s attention in nurturing our dharma-body, wisdom-body, and body of great compassion. Thanks to the Buddha we have been able to fulfill meditation, wisdom, and innumerable practices and vows. In order to return in gratitude the Buddha’s benevolence, we desire to serve him always. We are like great vassals who, receiving the king’s kindness, are always mindful of him.”
Third, the bodhisattvas speak these words, “In our causal stage, we encountered true teachers, but we maligned wisdom and tumbled into evil paths. Though we passed countless kalpas in performance of other practices, still we could not emerge. Later, by once happening to be near a true teacher, we were taught to practice the nembutsu-samadhi. At that time we were immediately enabled to cast off all our hindrances and to attain emancipation. Because of this immense benefit, we desire never to part from the Buddha.”…
The Larger Sutra states:
If you aspire for birth in the Pure Land, you should unfailingly take as essential the awakening of the mind aspiring for enlightenment; this is the basis [for attaining birth]. Why? Because “enlightenment” is a name for the supreme Buddha-way. If you desire to attain Buddhahood by awakening this mind of aspiration, it will be vast and pervade the dharma-realm; it will be everlasting and continue throughout all the future. This mind is in every respect free of the hindrances of the two vehicles. If you awaken this mind, you will break out of the round of existence that you have been undergoing ever since the beginningless past…
The Sutra of Great Compassion states:
What is “great compassion”? Those who continue solely in the nembutsu without any interruption will thereby be born without fail in the land of happiness at the end of life. If these people encourage each other and bring others to say the Name, they are all called “people who practice great compassion.”
It is regrettable indeed that sentient beings doubt what should not be doubted;
The Pure Land is right before us and never out of harmony with us.
Do not ponder whether Amida will take you in or not;
The question is whether or not you wholeheartedly turn about at heart…
It is said from this moment until the attainment of Buddhahood,
For vast kalpas, we will praise the Buddha out of gratitude for his compassion and benevolence.
Had we not received the power of Amida’s universal Vow,
When – in what kalpa – could we part from this Saha world?…
And how could we now expect to reach that precious land?
It is indeed the power of our Guide, who appeared in the Saha world.
But for the encouragement of our Guide, our true teacher,
How would we be able to enter Amida’s Pure Land?
Extremely difficult is it to encounter an age in which the Buddha appears,
And difficult indeed for a person to realize the wisdom of shinjin.
To come to hear the dharma rarely met with
Is again among all things most difficult.
To realize shinjin oneself and to guide others to shinjin
Is among difficult things yet even more difficult.
To awaken beings everywhere to great compassion
Is truly to respond in gratitude to the Buddha’s benevolence.
The body of Amida is in color like a mountain of gold;
The radiance of his features and marks illumines the ten quarters;
Only people of the nembutsu are grasped by the light;
Know that the Primal Vow is the decisive cause.
The Tathagatas of the ten quarters extend their tongues and give witness:
Persons who solely say the Name attain the West.
Reaching the lotus dais, they hear the excellent dharma;
The vows and practice of the ten stages naturally manifest themselves in them.
There are sentient beings who solely think on Amida Buddha; only these people are constantly illumined by the light of that Buddha’s heart, grasped and protected, never to be abandoned. It is not at all stated that any practicers of various other acts are illumined and embraced. This is being protected in the present life, a manifestation of the decisive cause of birth in the Pure Land.
The words, The heart rejoices and one attains insight, teach that the pure radiance of Amida Buddha’s land suddenly appears before one. How can one keep from leaping with joy? Out of this joy, one immediately attains insight into the nonorigination of all existence. This is also called “insight of joy,” “insight of awakening,” and “insight of confidence.” In suggesting this attainment beforehand, [the Buddha] does not yet reveal at what point it will occur. [These words are spoken here] out of the wish to bring the Queen to aspire wholeheartedly for that benefit. When one courageously and single-mindedly desires in one’s heart to see [Amida Buddha], then one will realize insight. This is mainly insight achieved within the ten stages of faith; it is not the insight realized in or above the stages of understanding and practice.
The passage from The person of the nembutsu to is born in the home of the Buddhas clearly reveals that the virtue of the nembutsu-samadhi is completely transcendent; truly it allows no comparison with sundry good practices. In this, five points are clarified: First, the practice of saying the Name of Amida Buddha alone.
Second, the person who says the Name is singled out and praised.
Third, the person who continues in the nembutsu is a truly rare person; there is nothing that compares with such a one. For this reason, the white lotus is used as an analogy. The white lotus is called “the excellent flower among people,” or “the rare flower,” or “the best among the best,” or “the wondrous excellent flower.” What has traditionally been called the “blossom bearing the white tortoise” is none other than this flower. The person of the nembutsu is the excellent person among people, the wondrous, excellent person, the best among the best, the rare person, the very finest person.
Fourth, the person who practices the saying of the Name of Amida alone is protected by Avalokitesvara and Mahasthamaprapta, who accompany him or her constantly, as shadows do things. They are like close friends and true teachers.
Fifth, already in this life, the person has received this benefit. Thus, when life ends, that person immediately enters the home of all the Buddhas; this is the Pure Land. Attaining that land, that person listens long to the dharma and travels to the lands of the Buddhas to pay homage. Since the cause has been completed, the result will be fulfilled. How could the seat of enlightenment be far distant?
[On Being the Same as Maitreya]
As I reflect on the Sutra of Immeasurable Life, I find that sentient beings, as they hear the Name, realize even one thought-moment of shinjin and joy, and aspiring to be born in that land, they then attain birth and dwell in the stage of nonretrogression. “The stage of nonretrogression” is avaivartika in Sanskrit. The Lotus Sutra states that this is the stage of fulfillment attained by Bodhisattva Maitreya. The birth attained in one thought-moment is, as such, the same as [the stage of] Maitreya. The Buddha’s words are not empty. The Sutra of Immeasurable Life is truly the shortest path to attainment of birth, the superlative means to liberation from suffering. All people should embrace [its teaching].
The Buddha said to Maitreya, “In this world there are sixty-seven hundred million bodhisattvas of the stage of nonretrogression, and they will all be born in that land. Every one of those bodhisattvas has already in the past made offerings to innumerable Buddhas, and is next [to enlightenment], like Maitreya.”
The Buddha said to Maitreya, “In this Buddha-land there are seventy-two hundred million bodhisattvas. They have planted roots of good under the guidance of Buddhas numbering countless hundreds of thousands of billions of nayutas, and they have attained nonretrogression. They will be born in that land.”
Nothing surpasses the ultimate teaching of the Garland Sutra or the excellent message of the Lotus Sutra. But the universal prediction of attainment is yet to be seen in those sutras. For all sentient beings to receive the prediction that they will realize the supreme, perfect enlightenment after the present life is indeed the benefit of the inconceivable virtue that is taught here [in the Amida Sutra].
103 Truly we know that because Mahasattva Maitreya has perfectly realized the diamondlike mind of the stage equal to enlightenment, he will without fail attain the stage of supreme enlightenment beneath a dragon-flower tree at the dawn of the three assemblies. Because sentient beings of the nembutsu have perfectly realized the diamondlike mind of crosswise transcendence, they transcend and realize great, complete nirvana on the eve of the moment of death. Hence the words, As such, the same.
Moreover, the people who have realized the diamondlike mind are the equals of Vaidehi and have been able to realize the insights of joy, awakening, and confidence. This is because they have thoroughly attained the true mind directed to them for their going forth, and because this accords with [the working of] the Primal Vow, which surpasses conceptual understanding.
How wondrous! The power of the Buddha surpasses conceivability; never has there been such power.
Ah, for clear understanding of the teaching and the contemplations, who can equal Chih-che (Chih-i)? But when facing the end of life, he took up the Contemplation Sutra, and praising the Pure Land, he went there forever.
For realization of the dharma-realm, who can equal Tu-shun? But he urged all four groups – monks, nuns, laymen, and laywomen – to think on the Buddha, and perceiving the excellent features, he went to the West.
In practicing dhyana and seeing reality, who can equal Kao-yü and Chih-chüeh? But they formed societies for contemplating the Buddha and both realized the highest birth in the Pure Land.
For ability in classical study, who can equal Liu, Lei, Liu Tzu-hou, and Po Lo-t’ien. But they all took up the brush to write the truth and aspired to be born in that Land.
113 I know truly how grievous it is that I, Gotoku Shinran, am sinking in an immense ocean of desires and attachments and am lost in vast mountains of fame and advantage, so that I rejoice not at all at entering the stage of the truly settled, and feel no happiness at coming nearer the realization of true enlightenment. How ugly it is! How wretched!
[The Person Difficult to Save]
114 Concerning beings who are difficult to cure, the Buddha has taught the following. The Nirvana Sutra states:
Kasyapa, there are three kinds of people in the world who are hard to cure: those who slander the great vehicle, those who commit the five grave offenses, and those who lack the seed of Buddhahood (icchantika). These three sicknesses are the most severe in the world; they cannot be treated by sravakas, pratyekabuddhas, or bodhisattvas. Good sons, suppose a person is stricken with a disease that is certain to be fatal and is without cure, but treatment is given and there is appropriate medicine. Were it not for the treatment or appropriate medicine, in no way would it be possible to cure the illness. Know that the person would be certain beyond any doubt to die. Good sons, these three kinds of people are like this. Following the Buddha and bodhisattvas, they have heard and received the cure – they are able to awaken the mind of aspiration for supreme, perfect enlightenment. But sravakas, pratyekabuddhas, and bodhisattvas, whether they preach the dharma or not, cannot bring such people to awaken the mind aspiring for supreme, perfect enlightenment.
At that time, the king at Rajagrha was Ajatasatru. Of a vile nature, he often engaged in killing. In speech, he was given to the four evils, and he was possessed of greed, anger, and folly, with which his heart raged furiously… Taking evil people for his companions, he craved the worldly pleasures of the five desires, and this led him even to viciously murder his blameless father the King. Because he killed his father, a fever of remorse arose in his heart… Because of this fever of remorse in his heart, sores began to cover his entire body. These sores emitted a foul stench and filth oozed, such that none could go near him. Then he reflected, “Already I am receiving in this present body the fruition of recompense. The fruition-recompense of hell is surely not far off and is approaching.”
Then the queen-mother Vaidehi applied a variety of medicines, but the sores only spread and showed no sign of alleviation. The King said to his mother, “These sores have been produced by the heart; they do not arise from the four elements. It is said that there are people who can cure them, but that is completely unreasonable.”
At that time there was a minister named Candrayasas. Approaching the King, he stood to one side and said, “Great King! Why are you so sorrowful and emaciated, and why does your countenance show no sign of joy? Is it your body that aches, or is it your mind?”
The King replied to his minister, “How could I not ache now in both body and mind? I have viciously committed a grave crime in murdering my blameless father. I was once told by a wise man that there are in this world five kinds of people who cannot escape falling into hell. These are people who have committed the five grave offenses. I already bear the karmic evil of countless, innumerable, incalculable offenses. How could I not ache in both body and mind? There is no good physician who can heal them.”
The minister said to the Great King, “Do not be so terribly afflicted with sorrow and pain.” Then he spoke in verse:
If one is constantly given to sorrow,
The sorrow increases and grows.
If one indulges in sleep,
Sleep will burgeon and lengthen.
Thus it is also
With lustful desires and love of drink.
“The King has said that there are in this world five kinds of people who cannot escape falling into hell. But who has gone to see for himself, and returned to inform the King? ‘Hell’ is simply something about which many of the so-called wise men of the world speak. The King states that there is surely no good physician in the world to treat his body and mind. But there is now a great doctor named Purana Kasyapa. He knows and sees everything and has attained unimpeded powers; and, thoroughly practicing the pure life of discipline, he always expounds for innumerable, countless sentient beings the way of supreme nirvana. For his disciples, he teaches the dharma thus:
There is no black karma, no result of black karma;
There is no white karma, no result of white karma.
There is no black or white karma, nor result of black or white karma.
There is no superior karma, no inferior karma.
This master is now in Rajagriha. I pray, Great King, that you deign to visit him and have him heal your body and mind.”
Then the king replied, “If he can clearly do away with my karmic evil as you say, I will rely upon him.”
Again, there was a minister named Praptagarbha, who also approached the King and said: “Great King, why is it that your features are so thin and emaciated, your lips so dry, your voice so feeble?… Where is the affliction? Does your body ache, or your mind?”
The King replied, “Why should my body and mind not ache now? I am foolish and blind; I have no eyes of wisdom. I associated with wicked friends, taking them as good friends, and following the advice of the evil Devadatta, I viciously committed a grave crime upon the person of the king, who was devoted to the right dharma. Long ago, I heard a wise person teach in verse:
If, against father or mother,
Buddha or his disciples,
You harbor ill thoughts
And commit evil acts,
The recompense will be
Abode in Avici hell.
Because of this, I tremble in my heart and am greatly afflicted. And there is no treatment, even by a good physician.”
The minister said, “Pray, Great King, be not so anxious and fearful. There are two kinds of law, one for those who renounce homelife and one for those who govern the state. The law of state recognizes the case of a person killing his father and taking over the kingdom; although this is said to be a grave offense, in actuality it is not a crime. It is like the karala worm, which necessarily tears through its mother’s womb to be born. Thus is its law of birth. Although it rends its mother’s body, in actuality this is no crime. It is the same with a mule in foal. The law of statecraft in itself is also thus. One may kill father or brother, but this is actually not a crime. According to the law of those renouncing homelife, however, to kill even a mosquito or ant constitutes a crime…
“The King has said that there is in this world no good physician to heal his body and mind. But there is now a great master named Maskarin Gosaliputra. He knows and sees everything, and pities sentient beings as though they were his own children. He has freed himself of blind passions and can extract the sharp arrows of the three poisons from sentient beings… This master is now in Rajagrha. I beg, Great King, that you go to see him. If you do, all your evils will be eradicated.”
Again, there was a minister named Tattvalabdha. He came before the King and stated in verse:
“Great King! Why is it
That your bodily adornments are put inside,
Your hair tangled and dishevelled?
How come it is thus?…
Is it your mind that aches, or your body?
The King answered, “How should I not ache now in both body and mind? My father, the late king, was loving and kind, and he looked after me with special tenderness. He was truly without fault. When I was about to be born, he consulted a soothsayer who said, ‘This infant, once he has been born, will unfailingly grow up to slay his father.’ In spite of these words, he cared for me and raised me. Long ago, I heard a wise man say that the person who commits incest with his mother, violates a nun, steals from the sangha, kills one who has awakened the aspiration for supreme enlightenment, or murders his own father will unfailingly plunge into Avici hell. How should I not ache now in both body and mind?”
The minister said, “Pray, Great King, be not afflicted with sorrow and pain… All sentient beings possess a residue of karma, and through the working of karma, they are repeatedly involved in samsaric life. Suppose the late king possessed a residue of karma, and the King has now slain him. Why, then, are you to blame? Pray, Great King, be easy in mind and throw off your sorrow! For it is said:
If one is constantly given to sorrow,
The sorrow increases and grows.
If one indulges in sleep,
Sleep will burgeon and lengthen.
Thus it is also
With lustful desires and love of drink…
[There is a great master named] Samjayin Vairattiputra.”
Again, there was a minister name Sarvarthajña. He approached the King and spoke such words… The King replied, “How should I not ache now in both body and mind?… The late king was blameless, and I viciously committed a great offense in murdering him. Long ago, I heard a wise person say, ‘The person who slays his father will unquestionably suffer terrible pain and affliction for countless, incalculable kalpas.’ I am certain to plunge into hell before long, and there is no good physician who can treat my karmic evil.”
The minister said, “Pray, Great King, cast off your sorrow and affliction! Has the King not heard? Long ago there was a king named Rama. He killed his father and ascended to the throne. King Bhadrika, King Viruchin, King Nahusa, King Kathika, King Visakha, King Candraprabha, King Suryaprabha, King Kama, King Bahujanadhara – such kings as these were all able to ascend to the throne upon slaying their fathers. But not one has gone to hell. At this moment there reign such kings as King Virudhaka, King Udayana, King Canda, King Musaka and King Padma, who have all killed their fathers. Not one of them has been overcome by sorrow and grief. Though people speak of hell, hungry ghosts, and heaven, who has ever seen them? Great King, there are only two states of life – that of men and that of beasts. Although there are these two, one is not born through causation, one does not perish through causation. If there is no causation, what is good or evil? Pray, Great King, do not give yourself to sorrow and fear. For it is said:
If one is constantly given to sorrow,
The sorrow increases and grows.
If one indulges in sleep,
Sleep will burgeon and lengthen.
Thus it is also
With lustful desires and love of drink…
[There is a great master named] Ajita Kesakambalin…”
Again, there was a minister named Mangala…[He said,] “What does hell (naraka) mean? I will offer an explanation. Nara means earth, ka means to break. If hell is broken apart, there is no retribution for evil. This is ‘hell.’
“Again, nara means human, ka means god. For having killed one’s father, one is born as man or god. For this reason, the ascetic Vasu declared that by killing sheep, one gains the pleasure of men and gods; this is ‘hell.’
“Again, nara means life, ka means long. By killing, one gains long life; this is ‘hell.’
“Great King, know for these reasons that there is no hell. Great King, if one plants wheat, one reaps wheat; if one plants rice, one reaps rice. The person who destroys hell in return goes to hell. The person who kills a man in return again becomes a man.
“Great King, listen now to what I say. In reality there is no such thing as murder. If there is a real self, it cannot be killed, and if there is no self, there can be no killing in it. Why? Because if there is a real self, it is ever unchanging. Since it is eternal, it cannot be murdered. In being indestructible, incorruptible, unbound, unfettered, without anger, and without joy, it is like empty space. How, then, can there be any crime of killing? If there is no self, then all things are impermanent. Because they are impermanent, they perish with each instant. Because they perish with each instant, slayer and slain both perish instant by instant. If they perish in each instant, who is to blame?
“Great King, it is like fire being innocent in consuming wood. It is like the axe being innocent in cutting the tree. It is like the scythe being innocent in severing the grass. The sword, in killing a man, is not a person. Even the sword has committed no crime; how can the person be blamed? Poison, in killing a man, is not a person. Even the poison is not a criminal; how can there be a crime? It is the same with all things. In reality, there is no such thing as killing. How can there be any crime? Pray, Great King, be not so afflicted with sorrow. For it is said:
If one is constantly given to sorrow,
The sorrow increases and grows.
If one indulges in sleep,
Sleep will burgeon and lengthen.
Thus it is also
With lustful desires and love of drink.
There is at present a great master. His name is Kakuda Katyayana.”
“Again, there was a minister named Abhaya.
“Now there is a great master. His name is Nigrantha Jñatiputra…”
At that time there was an eminent physician named Jivaka. He approached the King and said, “Great King, are you able to sleep well?”
The King answered in a verse… [Then he said,] “Jivaka, my sickness now lies heavy upon me. Against the King, who followed the right dharma, I have committed a grave and evil offense. No excellent physician, no miraculous medicine, no charms, no good and skilful nursing can heal me. Why? Because my father, King who adhered to the dharma, ruled the land according to the dharma, and was indeed blameless. Viciously I murdered him. I am like a fish upon the dry ground…
Long ago I hear a wise man say, ‘If a person’s acts in body, speech, and mind are not pure, know that he is certain to fall into hell.’ I am like this. How should I be able to sleep peacefully? And now there is no supreme great physician. If such a person were to impart to me the medicine of the dharma, surely it would relieve the pain of my sickness.”
Jivaka replied, “Oh, excellent, excellent! Though the King has committed a crime, profound remorse has been stirred in his heart and he is filled with shame and self-reproach. Great King, all Buddhas, the world-honored ones, always preach these words:
There are two good means by which sentient beings can be saved: one is shame and the other is self-reproach. Shame means not committing further evil oneself; self-reproach means not leading others to commit evil. Shame is to be abased within oneself, self-reproach is to express this outwardly, toward others. Shame means to feel humility before others, self-reproach means to feel humility before heaven. This is shame and self-reproach. To be without shame and self-reproach is not to be human; it is to be a beast. Because one feels shame and self-reproach, one reveres father, mother, teachers, and elders. Because one feels shame and self-reproach, it is taught that there is accord among father, mother, elder and younger brothers, and elder and younger sisters.
Excellent, Great King! You are now filled with shame and self-reproach….
“The King stated that there is no one to cure him. Know, Great King, of the son of King Suddhodana from the city of Kapilavastu. His family name is Gautama, and he is called Siddhartha. Without a teacher, he has naturally attained awakening and realized supreme, perfect enlightenment… He is Buddha, the World-honored one. He possesses diamondlike wisdom and can break through all the karmic evil of sentient beings. Some may say that he is incapable of doing so, but such statements are utterly without basis… Great King, the Tathagata has a cousin named Devadatta who disrupted the harmony of the sangha, inflicted a bleeding wound on the Buddha’s body, and killed the nun Lotus. He committed these three grave offenses. By teaching him the different essentials of the dharma, the Tathagata reduced that heavy burden of karmic evil to minuteness. Thus the Tathagata is the pre-eminent physician, beyond compare with the six masters…”
[There was a voice:] “Great King, the person who commits one grave offense suffers fully the corresponding retribution for it. If he commits two grave offenses, the retribution is double. If he commits five, the retribution is fivefold. Great King, we know with certainty now that you cannot escape your evil acts. Pray, Great King, go quickly to the Buddha! Apart from seeing the Buddha, the World-honored one, there is no help. It is out of deep pity that I urge you to do so.”
As the Great King heard these words, terror gripped his heart and a shudder ran through his body. He trembled in his five parts like a plantain tree. Gazing upward, he replied, “Who is it? There is no form, only the voice.”
“Great King! It is your father, Bimbisara. Let Jivaka’s advice be heeded. Do not follow the words of the six ministers; their views are wrong.”
Upon hearing this, the King fainted and collapsed to the ground. The sores on his body spread with vehemence, and the stench and filth grew worse. Cooling salves were applied to treat the sores, but they still burned and the poisonous fever only worsened, with no sign of alleviation.
|1. Great Minister Candrayasas
3. A minister named Tattvalabdha
4. A minister named Sarvathajña
5. Great Minister Mangala
6. Kakuda Katyayana
|1. Purana Kasyapa
2. Maskarin Gosaliputra
3. Samjayin Vairattiputra
4. Ajita Kesakambalin
5. The ascetic Vasu
6. Nigrantha Jñaniputra
116 Further, it states:
[The Buddha said:] “Good sons! I say, For the sake of Ajatasatru, I will not enter nirvana. You are yet unable to grasp the profound meaning of this. Why? Because for the sake of means for all foolish beings, and Ajatasatru includes universally all those who commit the five grave offenses. Further, for the sake of means for all sentient beings of the created state. I do not remain in this world for the sake of sentient beings who have realized the uncreated. Why? Because one who has realized the uncreated is no longer a sentient being. Ajatasatru refers to those possessed of blind passions. Again, for the sake of means for sentient beings who do not see Buddha-nature. I do not remain long in this world for the person who sees Buddha-nature. Why? Because one who sees Buddha-nature is no longer a sentient being. Ajatasatru refers to all those who have yet to awaken the mind aspiring for supreme, perfect enlightenment…
“Again, for the sake of is said with regard to Buddha-nature. Ajata literally means not born. Satru means enemy. Because a person does not give birth to Buddha-nature, he gives birth to the enemy, blind passions; because he gives birth to the enemy, blind passions, he does not see Buddha-nature. Because a person does not give birth to blind passions, he sees Buddha-nature; because he sees Buddha-nature, he dwells firmly in great and complete nirvana. This is called ‘not born.’ Hence, For the sake of ‘Ajatasatru.’
Good sons, Ajata means not arising, and not arising denotes nirvana. Satru indicates mundane matters. For the sake of implies the undefiled. Because he is not defiled by the eight kinds of mundane matters, [the Buddha] does not enter nirvana for countless, innumerable, incalculable kalpas. For this reason I say, For the sake of Ajatasatru, I will not enter nirvana for countless millions of kalpas.
“Good sons, the profound words of the Tathagata surpass conceptual understanding. Buddha, dharma, and sangha also surpass conceptual understanding. Bodhisattva-mahasattvas too surpass conceptual understanding. The Great Nirvana Sutra surpasses conceptual understanding.”
Then the World-honored one, the Guide of great compassion, entered the samadhi of moon-radiant love for the sake of Ajatasatru. Having entered this samadhi, he cast a brilliant light. That light, cool and refreshing, shone upon the body of the King, and the sores healed instantly…
The King said to Jivaka, “He is a deva among devas. What causes him to send forth this radiance?”
“Great King, this auspicious sign seems to be for your sake. Because you have said that there is no good physician in the world to heal our body and mind, he radiates this light, first to heal your body. Next, he will treat your mind.”
The King said to Jivaka, “Does the Tathagata, the World-honored one, think to cast his eye on me?”
Jivaka replied, “Suppose there are parents with seven children. When there is sickness among the seven children, although the father and mother are concerned equally with all of them, nevertheless their hearts lean wholly toward the sick child. Great King, it is like this with the Tathagata. It is not that there is no equality among all sentient beings, but his heart leans wholly toward the person who has committed evil. To the person sunken in self-indulgence, the Buddha turns compassionate thoughts. Those who are free of self-indulgence, his heart lets free. Who are those free of self-indulgence? The bodhisattvas of the first six stages. Great King, the world-honored Buddhas do not see sentient beings’ family lineage; they do not see young, old, or middle age; poverty or wealth; auspicious times, or astrological sun, moon, or stars; skilled workers, menial laborers, or man or woman servants. They see only sentient beings who possess the good mind. If they have the good mind, the Buddhas compassionately think of them. Great King, know that this auspicious sign is none other than the radiance the Tathagata releases, having entered the samadhi of moon-radiant love.”
The King then asked, “What is the samadhi of moon-radiant love?”
Jivaka answered, “The light of the moon causes all the blue lotuses to unfold in brilliant luminosity. Such is the samadhi of moon-radiant love, which causes sentient beings to open forth the good mind. This is why it is called ‘the samadhi of moon-radiant love.’
“Great King, the light of the moon brings joy to the hearts of all travelers on the road. Such is the samadhi of moon-radiant love, which brings joy to the hearts of those in practice on the path to nirvana. This is why it is called ‘the samadhi of moon-radiant love’… It is the king of all good, it is sweet nectar. It is what all sentient beings love and aspire for. Therefore, it is called ‘the samadhi of moon-radiant love’….”
Then the Buddha said to all those in the great assembly, “Among the immediate causes of all sentient beings’ attainment of supreme, perfect enlightenment, the foremost is a true teacher. Why? If King Ajatasatru did not follow the advice of Jivaka, he would decidedly die on the seventh day of next month and plunge into Avici hell. Hence, with the day [of death] approaching, there is nothing more important than a true teacher.”
Further, on his way [to see the Buddha], King Ajatasatru heard that King Virudhaka of Sravasti was burned to death on board a boat out at sea, and that Bhiksu Kokalika was buried alive and went to Avici hell. But Sunaksatra, although he had committed various evil acts, went to the Buddha, and all his karmic evil was eradicated. Having heard these stories, Ajatasatru said to Jivaka, “Though I have just heard these two kinds of stories, I still feel anxious. Come with me, O Jivaka! I want to ride on the same elephant with you. Even though I should with certainty plunge into Avici hell, my wish is that you grasp me and keep me from falling. For I have heard in the past that the person who has attained the way does not fall into hell…”
[The Buddha said,] “Why do you say that you will certainly fall into hell? Great King, all the evil committed by sentient beings is of two kinds, light and heavy. That performed mentally and verbally is designated light; that performed bodily, verbally, and mentally is designated heavy. Great King, when one thinks in one’s mind and speaks with one’s lips, but does not act physically, the recompense is light. Great King, in the past you did not command verbally that murder be performed; you only said that the legs should be cut. Great King, if you had ordered your vassals to behead the king, it would surely have been while he was standing. But even if he were beheaded, if they did it while he was sitting, you would not have committed evil. Much less, then, since no royal command was given, can you have committed evil.
“King, if you have committed evil, all Buddhas, world-honored ones, must have done so also. Why? Because your father, the former king Bimbisara, always planted roots of good by paying homage to the Buddhas. For this reason, he was able to occupy the throne in this life. If the Buddhas had not accepted that homage, he would not have been able to become king. If he had not become king, you would not have been able to kill him in order to seize the kingdom. If you have committed evil in killing your father, we Buddhas too must have also. If the Buddhas, the world-honored ones, have not committed evil, how can you alone have done so?
“Great King, Bimbisara was once possessed of evil thoughts. He had gone out to Mount Vipula to hunt deer, searching the broad meadows, but he had taken nothing at all. He met only with an ascetic who had acquired the five transcendent powers. Upon seeing him, Bimbisara became enraged and conceived an evil thought: “I am out hunting now, but I cannot take anything because this man has driven the game away.’ And he ordered his attendants to kill the ascetic.
“At the point of death, the ascetic grew angry and conceived an evil thought, thereby losing his transcendent powers. He vowed, ‘I am completely blameless. Through your thoughts and words you viciously had me murdered. In the next life, I will, in the same way, kill you with thought and word.’ The King, upon hearing this, was filled with remorse and made offerings before the dead body.
“The former king thus received light recompense and did not fall into hell. Much less should you, King, receive the recompense of hell when you have not done such an act. The former king committed evil and himself received the recompense. Why should you, King, have to bear the recompense for killing him? Since you are innocent, even if people say you are guilty, how, Great King, can there be any recompense? If no evil act has been committed, there is no recompense. If your father the former king was innocent, why should there be this recompense? In this world, Bimbisara received both good and evil recompense. Hence, the former king is indeterminate in his recompense. Because he is indeterminate, the recompense of his being killing is also indeterminate. If it is indeterminate, why should you be destined to fall into hell?
“Great King, the insanity of sentient beings is of four types: 1) insanity induced by greed, 2) insanity induced by drugs, 3) insanity induced by spells, and 4) insanity induced by one’s past karmic conditions. Great King, these four types of insanity are found among my disciples. But though such disciples may commit numerous evil acts, I have never pronounced them violators of the precepts. Their acts do not lead them to the three evil courses. When they regain their senses again, I do not say they have violated [their precepts]. King, originally out of greed to rule over the land, you murdered your father the king. You did this because you were possessed of greed-insanity. Why should you receive the recompense for this act? Great King, it is like a person who, in a drunken fit, slays his own mother, but when he has become sober again, is overcome by remorse. Know that this act will not bring recompense. King, you were drunk with greed; your act was not committed out of your normal mind. If it was not done out of your normal mind, how could you receive recompense for it?
“Great King, it is like a magician at the crossroads conjuring all varieties of men and women, elephants and horses, adornments and robes. The ignorant think them real, but the wise know that they are not. Killing is like this. Foolish beings think it real, but the Buddhas, the world-honored ones, know it is not.
“Great King, it is like the echo of a voice in the mountain valleys. The ignorant think it a real voice, but the wise know it is not. Killing is like this. Foolish beings think it real, but the Buddhas, the world-honored ones, know it is not.
“Great King, it is like a person who intends you ill coming to you with false pretensions of goodwill. The ignorant think such a person truly kindhearted, but the wise, understanding thoroughly, know it is but empty pretense. Killing is like this. Foolish beings think it real, but the Buddhas, the world-honored ones, know it is not.
“Great King, it is like a person taking up a mirror and looking at his reflection. The ignorant think that is their real face, but the wise, understanding thoroughly, know it is not. Killing is like this. Foolish beings think it real, but the Buddhas, the world-honored ones, know it is not.
“Great King, it is like a mirage in the hot season. The ignorant think it is water, but the wise, understanding thoroughly, know it is not. Killing is like this. Foolish beings think it real, but the Buddhas, the world-honored ones, know it is not.
“Great King, it is like the mirage of the city of Gandharva. The ignorant think it real, but the wise, understanding thoroughly, know it is not. Killing is like this. Foolish beings think it real, but the Buddhas, the world-honored ones, know fully that it is not.
“Great King, it is like a person enjoying the pleasures of the five sensual desires in dream. The ignorant think this real, but the wise, understanding thoroughly, know it is not. Killing is like this. Foolish beings think it real, but the Buddhas, the world-honored ones, know it is not.
“Great King, I thoroughly understand the matter of killing, the act of killing, the one who kills, and the consequences of killing, and also the emancipation from the consequences, but this does not mean that I am guilty. King, although you know killing, how can this make you guilty? Great King, it is like a man who, being in charge of the wine, knows much about it; but if he does not actually drink, he does not become drunk.
“Again, one may know fire, but this in itself does not burn. In the same way, King, you may know about killing, but how can that constitute a crime? Great King, when the sun rises, sentient beings commit all manner of evil. And when the moon appears, again they perform acts of theft. But when the sun and moon do not come out, they commit no evil. Although it is by the light of the sun and moon that they commit evil, the sun and moon are not guilty. It is like this with killing…
“Great King, it is like nirvana being neither existent nor nonexistent, and yet being existent. So it is with killing. Although it is neither existent nor nonexistent, and yet is existent, for the person who feels shame, it is not existent; for the person who feels no shame, it is not nonexistent; for the person who receives the recompense, it is existent. For the person who sees emptiness, it is nonexistent; for the person who sees existence, it is not nonexistent; for the person who sees existence as existent, it is existent. Why? Because the person who sees existence as existent receives the karmic recompense. For the person who sees existence as nonexistent, there is no karmic recompense. For the person who sees permanence, it is not existent; for the person who sees impermanence, it is not nonexistent; for the person who sees permanence as permanent it is not nonexistent. Why? Because the person who sees permanence as permanent receives the recompense of evil acts. Therefore, for the person who sees permanence as permanent, it cannot be nonexistent. In this sense, then, it is neither existent nor nonexistent, and yet it is existent. Great King, sentient beings are termed so for their exhaling and inhaling of breath. The cutting off of exhaling and inhaling breath is ‘killing.’ The Buddhas, in accord with worldly usage, also teach this to be ‘killing’…”
[Ajatasatru said,] “O World-honored one, observing the world, I see that from the seed of the eranda grows the eranda tree. I do not see a candana tree growing from an eranda seed. But now for the first time I see a candana tree growing from the seed of an eranda. The eranda seed is myself; the candana tree is shinjin that has no root in my heart. ‘No root’ means that at the beginning I did not know to revere the Tathagata, and did not entrust myself to the dharma and sangha. World-honored one, if I had not encountered the Tathagata, the World-honored one, I would have undergone immeasurable suffering for countless, incalculable kalpas in the great hell. Now I meet the Buddha. With the virtue I have acquired from this meeting, I will destroy the blind passions and evil mind of sentient beings!”
The Buddha said, “Excellent, excellent, Great King! Now I know that you will without fail be able to destroy the evil mind of sentient beings.”
“World-honored one, if I can clearly destroy sentient beings’ mind of evil, even if I were to dwell in Avici hell constantly for innumerable kalpas, undergoing pain and suffering for the sake of sentient beings, it would not be painful.”
At that time, all the countless people of Magadha awakened the mind aspiring for supreme, perfect enlightenment. Because these innumerable people awakened the great mind, King Ajatasatru’s heavy burden of karmic evil was reduced to minuteness. The King, the Queen, the consorts, and the court maids all in the same way awakened the mind aspiring for supreme, perfect enlightenment.
At that time, King Ajatasatru said to Jivaka, “O Jivaka, I have now, even before dying, already attained the heavenly body. Casting of short life, I have gained unending life; abandoning the impermanent body, I have gained the eternal body. I bring sentient beings to the awakening of the mind aspiring for supreme, perfect enlightenment…”
Upon uttering these words, that disciple of the Buddhas, with many kinds of jeweled banners…and with a verse expressed his veneration:
The true words are extraordinarily subtle and excellent.
They are skilful in expression and content;
They are a store of profound secrets.
For the sake of the multitudes,
He explains extensively with many words;
For the sake of the multitudes, he teaches in summary.
Possessing such words,
He perfectly heals sentient beings.
If there are sentient beings
Who are able to hear these words,
Whether they entrust themselves or not,
They know with certainty that these are the Buddha’s teaching.
The Buddhas always possess gentle words,
But for the multitudes they teach in rough words.
Rough words or gentle,
All have their basis in the highest truth.
For this reason, I now
Take refuge in the World-honored one.
The words of the Tathagata are of one taste;
They are like the waters of the broad ocean.
It is called the highest truth.
For this reason, there are no meaningless words;
What the Tathagata now teaches –
The various innumerable teachings –
Men and women, old and young, hear
And all alike are made to attain the highest truth.
Without cause, without effect;
With no arising, no perishing –
This is termed great nirvana.
Those who hear break all their bonds.
The Tathagata, for the sake of every being,
Always acts as one’s loving father and mother.
Know that all sentient beings
Are the Tathagata’s children.
The World-honored one of great compassion
Performed austere practices for the sake of sentient beings,
Like a person possessed by demons,
Rushing wildly, full of activity.
I have now been able to encounter the Buddha.
May the merit accruing from this –
The good I have acquired through the three modes of action –
Be directed toward attainment of supreme enlightenment.
I now pay homage
To the Buddha, dharma, and sangha;
With the merit from this,
May the three treasures ever be present in the world.
I now acquire
The various merits;
With them, may I defeat
The four maras that torment sentient beings.
Having met with evil friends,
I committed evils whose recompense spanned past, present and future.
Now, before the Buddha, I repent;
May I henceforth never perform evil again.
May all sentient beings alike
Awaken the mind aspiring for enlightenment,
And with a whole heart think constantly
On the Buddhas throughout the ten quarters.
And may all sentient beings
Break free forever from blind passions,
And in seeing Buddha-nature clearly,
Be the equal of Mañjusri.
Then the World-honored one praised King Ajatasatru, “Excellent, excellent! Know that if a person awakens the mind aspiring for enlightenment, he adorns the Buddhas and their great assemblies. Great King, you have already in the past awakened the mind aspiring for supreme, perfect enlightenment, for the first time in the presence of Vipasyin Buddha. During the interval from that time until my own appearance in the world, you have never fallen into hell and undergone suffering there. Great King, know that the mind aspiring for enlightenment brings such incalculable recompense. Great King, from this moment on, be ever earnest in practicing the mind of aspiration for enlightenment. Why? Because through this cause, you will be able to eradicate immeasurable karmic evil.”
Then King Ajatasatru and all the citizens of Magadha rose from their seats, circumambulated the Buddha three times, and taking their leave, returned to the palace.
[The Buddha speaks:] Good sons! King Bimbisara of Rajagrha had a prince named Sudarsana (Handsome One), who, because of karmic causes, awakened thoughts of grave evil and desired to kill his father. He had no opportunity, however. At that time, the evil person Devadatta, also because of karmic causes from the past, awakened thoughts of no good regarding me and wanted to kill me. Having acquired the five transcendent powers, he soon gained the confidence of Prince Sudarsana. He demonstrated various acts of transcendent power for the prince, departing from where there was no exit and entering again through the gate, or going out through the gate and appearing again from where there was none. On different occasions he would assume the form of an elephant, a horse, an ox, a sheep, or another person. On seeing these things, Prince Sudarsana conceived feelings of affection, joy, and respectful trust. Out of these feelings, he had offerings made to Devadatta, strictly specifying the various utensils to be used.
Further, he once said, “Venerable master, I would like to see the mandarava blossom.”
Upon hearing these words, Devadatta immediately ascended to the Heaven of Thirty-three Devas and sought a blossom from the devas. But because his good merit had been exhausted, there was none who could give him one.
Still unable to obtain the flower, he considered, “The mandarava has no sense of ‘I’ or ‘mine’; there will surely be no crime in picking one myself.” As he went to pick a blossom, he immediately lost his transcendent powers, and when he came to himself, he was back in Rajagrha. Full of shame, he found it impossible to see Prince Sudarsana again.
Further, he thought, “I will go to the Tathagata now and ask for the sangha. If the Buddha commits it to me, I will give instruction as I please and make Sariputra and the others obey me.”
Then Devadatta came to me and said, “I ask, O Tathagata, that you entrust the sangha to me. I will instruct them in the many teachings, convert them, and make them discipline themselves.” I replied to the foolish man, “Sariputra and the others have heard the great wisdom, and they are trusted and venerated by the world. Still, I would not give them charge of the sangha. Much less, then, would I entrust it to an abject fool and lickspittle like you.”
Then Devadatta all the more conceived evil intentions against me, and said, “Gautama, now you lead the sangha, but your strength will not last long. It will fade and disintegrate before my eyes.”
But as soon as he had uttered this, the earth shook six times. Devadatta fell to the ground, and about his body a violent wind arose, blowing dust and earth which completely covered and soiled him. Devadatta, seeing this bad omen, said further, “If I, with this body, must fall into Avici hell in this present life, I will assuredly avenge it with similar immense evil.”
Then Devadatta stood and went to Prince Sudarsana, who, on seeing him, asked, “Sage, why do you look so haggard and emaciated, with such a sorrowful expression?”
Devadatta replied, “I am always so. Have you not noticed?”
Sudarsana said, “Explain what you mean. What causes you to be so?”
Devadatta said, “I feel now the strongest bonds of friendship with you. The common people abuse you, saying you lack reason. When I hear it, how can I not be thus sorrowed!”
Prince Sudarsana said, “How do the people of the kingdom abuse and insult me?”
Devadatta said, “The people of the land abuse you, calling you ‘Unborn Enemy’.”
Sudarsana asked, “Why do they call me ‘Unborn Enemy’? Who made that name?”
Devadatta said, “Before you were born, all the soothsayers declared, ‘This infant, once it has been born, will assuredly slay its father.’ For this reason, the common people all call you ‘Unborn Enemy.’ Everyone close to you, in order to protect you feelings, calls you Sudarsana.
“Queen Vaidehi, having heard the words of the prediction, cast you from the top of a high tower when you were born. In that fall, you finger was broken. Because of this incident, the people call you ‘Broken Fingered.’ When I heard this, such sorrow and resentment sprang up in my heart that I could not face you and tell you of it.”
Devadatta related a variety of such evil matters, seeking to induce the prince to kill his father, and said, “If you kill your father, I too will kill the sramana Gautama.”
Prince Sudarsana asked a minister named Varsakara, “Why did the Great King give me the name ‘Unborn Enemy’?”
The minister’s explanation of how the name was given did not vary from Devadatta’s. Upon hearing it, Sudarsana together with the minister seized his father the king, confined him in a place apart from the palace, and put him under guard of the four kinds of soldiers. Queen Vaidehi, on hearing of this, went immediately to where the king was, but those guarding him intercepted here and would not allow her to enter. Then the queen’s heart filled with anger and she castigated them.
The guards told the prince, “The wife of the great king wishes to see you father the king. Should we allow her in or not?”
Hearing this, Sudarsana also became enraged and went to his mother. Grasping her by the hair, he drew his sword and was about to stab her.
Then Jivaka said, “Great King, from the time this country was first founded, there have been acts of evil that were extremely grave, but no woman has ever been punished, not to speak of the mother who gave one birth.”
Prince Sudarsana heard these words, and because of what Jivaka said, let go of his mother. But he deprived the king of any clothing, bedding, food, drink, or medicine. After seven days, the king’s life ended. Prince Sudarsana, seeing his father dead, became filled with remorse.
Minister Varsakara, with various evil rationalizations, said, “Great King! Your acts are completely blameless. Why are you now filled with remorse?”
Jivaka said, “Great King, know that this act involves a twofold evil: killing your father, and killing a srota-apanna. There is no one, apart from the Buddha, who can free you of such evil.”
King Sudarsana said, “The Tathagata is pure, without any defilement. I am a being of karmic evil. How is it possible to see him?”
Good sons! Knowing that state of affairs, I intentionally said to Ananda, “So, when three months have passed, I will enter nirvana.” Sudarsana, hearing of this, quickly came to me. I taught the dharma for him, so that his heavy burden of karmic evil was lightened, and enabled him to realize the shinjin that has no root in him.
Good sons! My disciples, on hearing these words, did not grasp my intent; hence they said, “The Tathagata has declared that he will enter complete nirvana.”
Good sons, there are two kinds of bodhisattvas: bodhisattva in the true sense, and bodhisattva in provisional name. Bodhisattvas in provisional name, on hearing that in three months I will enter nirvana, all fall into despair, saying, “If the Tathagata is subject to impermanence and will not abide in this world, what can we do?” Because of this matter [of impermanence], we have undergone great pain and suffering for incalculable lifetimes. The Tathagata, the World-honored one, has perfected and acquired immeasurable virtues; in spite of this, he cannot destroy the mara of death. Much less, then, can we defeat it.”
Good sons! I therefore say for the sake of such bodhisattvas, “The Tathagata is eternal, and undergoes no change.” My disciples who, on hearing these words, do not grasp my intent, will surely say, “The Tathagata after all will ultimately never enter nirvana.”
118 Here we see, from the true teaching of the Great Sage, that when the three types of beings difficult to save – those afflicted with the three kinds of sickness difficult to cure – entrust themselves to the universal Vow of great compassion and take refuge in the ocean of shinjin that is [Amida’s] benefiting others, the Buddha is filled with pity for them and heals them, commiserates with and cures them. It is like the wondrous medicine called manda curing all illness. Beings of the defiled world – the multitudes possessed of corruptions and evil – should seek and think on the diamondlike, indestructible true mind. They should hold steadfast to the Primal Vow, which is the wondrous medicine called manda. Reflect on this.
Excluded are those who commit the five grave offenses and those who slander the right dharma.
And [the Sutra of the Tathagata of Immeasurable Life states]:
Excluded are those who commit evil acts that condemn them to Avici hell and those who slander the right dharma or the sages.
The Contemplation Sutra teaches the attainment of birth of those who commit the five grave offenses, but not of those who slander the dharma, and in the Nirvana Sutra, the beings and the sicknesses difficult to cure are taught. How are these true teachings to be understood?
Question: The Sutra of Immeasurable Life states,
Those who aspire for birth are all brought to attainment. Excluded are those who commit the five grave offenses and those who slander the right dharma.
The Sutra of Contemplation on the Buddha of Immeasurable Life states,
Those who have committed the five grave offenses and the ten transgressions, and who are possessed of various evils also attain birth.
How are these two sutra passages to be reconciled?
Answer: The first sutra speaks of committing two kinds of serious evil act: the five grave offenses and the slander of the right dharma. Because of committing both these two kinds of evil act, a person is unable to attain birth. The other sutra speaks only of committing the evil of the ten transgressions and five grave offenses; nothing is said of slandering the right dharma. Because a person has not slandered the right dharma, he attains birth.
Question: Suppose a person has committed the five grave offenses but has not slandered the right dharma. In the sutra, it is granted that such a person can attain birth. Further, suppose there is a person who has only slandered the right dharma but is free of the five grave offenses and other evil acts; if he aspires for birth, will he attain it or not?
Answer: Although he has only slandered the right dharma and has not committed other evil acts, he will definitely be unable to attain birth. How is this known? A sutra states that the person who has committed the five grave offenses falls into great Avici hell and fully undergoes their recompense for one kalpa. The person who slanders the right dharma falls into great Avici hell, and when that kalpa has run out, he passes on into the great Avici hell of another quarter. In this way he passes through a hundred thousand great Avici hells one after another. The Buddha does not indicate any time when it is possible for him to emerge. This is because slandering the right dharma is an evil act of extreme gravity.
Further, the right dharma is the Buddha-dharma. Such a foolish person has already slandered it; how can it be reasonable to think that he would aspire to be born in the Buddha-land? Suppose the person aspires for birth merely because he craves to be born into happiness; this is like seeking ice that is not water or fire without smoke. How can it be deemed reasonable that he attain it?
Question: What are the characteristics of slandering the right dharma?
Answer: Saying there is no Buddha, no Buddha-dharma, no bodhisattva, no bodhisattva-dharma. Deciding on such views, whether through understanding thus in one’s own mind or receiving the ideas from others, is called slandering the right dharma.
Question: Taking such views only concerns the person himself. What pain and suffering does his act inflict on other sentient beings, that it should exceed the evil of the five grave offenses in seriousness?
Answer: If there were no Buddhas and bodhisattvas to expound the mundane and supramundane good paths and to teach and guide sentient beings, how could we know of the existence of benevolence, righteousness, propriety, wisdom, and sincerity? Such mundane good would all be cut off, and the sages of the supramundane would all perish. You know only the gravity of the five grave offenses, and not that they arise from the absence of the right dharma. Thus, the person who slanders the right dharma is involved in the gravest karmic evil.
Question: The Sutra on the Working of Karma states, “The working of karma is like a scale; the heavier side is drawn down first and foremost.” The Sutra of Contemplation on the Buddha of Immeasurable Life speaks of a person who has committed the five grave offenses and the ten transgressions, and is possessed of all evils. He is to fall into the evil courses and undergo incalculable pain for many kalpas. At the point of death, he happens to be guided by a true teacher and comes to say Namu-muryoju-butsu (Namu-amida-butsu). When, in this way, he gives voice to it with a sincere mind without interruption, completing ten utterances, he attains birth in the Pure Land of happiness, immediately enters the truly settled of the Mahayana, and ultimately attains nonretrogression. He becomes free forever from all the pain of the three courses. How is this to be understood in terms of the principle of “the heavier side is drawn down first and foremost”?
Further, from distant kalpas in the past we have been committing all manner of acts. These acts, being defiled dharmas, are bound to the three realms. If, as you say, one immediately emerges from the three realms by merely thinking on Amida Buddha with ten utterances, how are we to understand the meaning of “binding karmic acts”?
Answer: If, giving weight to the five grave offenses, the ten transgressions, and other binding karmic acts, and considering the ten utterances of the person of the lowest grade of the lowest rank to be trivial, you say that drawn by karmic evil one should first and foremost fall into hell or be bound to the three realms, then we must consider lightness and heaviness here in terms of principles. This is a matter of mind, of active condition, and of settledness; it is not a matter of length of time or of quantity.
What is meant by “matter of mind”? The person who commits such karmic evil does so based on his own false and inverted views. The ten utterances, however, arise when a true teacher, consoling him by various means, makes him hear the dharma that is true reality. The latter is real, the former is unreal. How can there be any comparison?
Suppose there is a room that has been dark for a thousand years. If light reaches it, however briefly, the room immediately becomes bright. How can the darkness say that, having occupied the room for a thousand years, it refuses to leave? This is termed “matter of mind.”
What is meant by “matter of active condition”? The person who commits such evil does so based on his own mind of falsity, depending on sentient beings who have come into existence from blind passions and falsity. The ten utterances arise based on supreme shinjin, depending on the Name embodying Amida Tathagata’s immeasurable, true, real, and pure virtues, which is the adornment of compassionate means. Suppose there is a man who has been struck by a poison arrow. At the point of entry, the flesh is torn and the bone is broken. But if he hears a drum to which the dispelling elixir has been applied, the arrow will immediately be extracted and the poison expelled. It is like this [Note]. How can it be said that, because the arrow is deep and the poison virulent, even though the drumbeat is heard, it is impossible for the arrow to be withdrawn or the venom removed? This is termed “matter or active condition.”
What is meant by “matter of settledness”? The person who commits such evil does so based on thoughts of something coming after and of other things interrupting. The ten utterances arise based on thoughts of nothing coming after and nothing interrupting. This is termed settledness.
When we consider these three matters, we see that the ten utterances carry weight. What is heavy draws down first and foremost and enables beings to depart from the three realms of existence. The two sutra passages have a single meaning.
Question: How long is “one thought[-moment]”?
Answer: One hundred and one arisings and perishings of a thing make up one instant, and sixty instants are one moment. Here, however, “thought[-moment]” should not be understood as temporal. “Ten thoughts” refers simply to continuing in mindfulness of Amida Buddha for ten thoughts, in accord with what is contemplated – whether it be the entire body or a specific feature – without any other thoughts in one’s mind. Saying the Name is also like this.
Question: We can know the number of thoughts if the mind turns to other objects and then is collected again and returned [to Amida]. Such awareness of the number, however, means that uninterruptedness is lacking. If the mind is concentrated and the thought focused, by what means is it possible to keep track of the number of thoughts?
Answer: The term “ten utterances” in the [Contemplation] Sutra is intended only to elucidate the completion of the act [resulting in birth]. We need not necessarily know the number. It is said, for example, that the cicada knows no spring or autumn, so how can it know the season of the red sun? Only one who knows [the seasons] can speak of summer. Likewise, completion of the karmic act in ten utterances can be spoken of only by one possessed of transcendent powers. When one simply repeats utterances, continuing without turning thoughts to other matters, that is enough; what need is there to know the number of utterances? If it is absolutely necessary to know, however, there is a method. It is to be transmitted orally, and should not be recorded.
Question: According to the Forty-eight Vows, only those who commit the five grave offenses and those who slander the right dharma are excluded and cannot attain birth. Here, according to the passage on the lowest grade of the lowest rank in the Contemplation Sutra, those who slander the dharma are set apart and those who commit the five grave offenses are grasped. What does this mean?
Answer: The intent may be understood as a teaching to make us desist from evil. As stated in the Forty-eight Vows, those who slander the dharma and those who commit the five grave offenses are excluded; this means that these two kinds of action are the gravest of hindrances. When sentient beings commit them, they plunge directly into Avici hell, where they undergo long kalpas of terror and panic without any means of emerging. The Tathagata, fearing that we would commit these two kinds of faults, seeks to stop us through compassionate means by declaring that we will then not be able to attain birth. This does not mean that we will not be grasped.
It is taught, concerning the lowest grade of the lowest rank, that those who commit the five grave offenses are taken up but those who slander the dharma are excluded; this is because beings [of the lowest grade] have already committed the five grave offenses, but must not be abandoned to endless transmigration. Thus Amida, awakening great compassion, grasps them and brings them to birth. Since, however, they have yet to commit the karmic evil of slandering the dharma, in order to prevent them from doing so it is stated that if one slanders the dharma one will not attain birth. This is to be understood as relevant to those who have not committed this evil. Even if one has committed it, one will nevertheless be grasped and brought to attainment of birth. Although one attains birth in the Pure Land, however, one must pass many kalpas enclosed in a lotus bud. Such people of karmic evil, while they are within the lotus, are possessed of the three kinds of obstructions: first, they cannot see the Buddha and the noble assemblies; second, they cannot hear the right dharma; third, they cannot travel to the lands of the Buddhas to make offerings. But apart from these obstructions, they do not undergo any form of pain. In the sutras, it is taught that their state is like that of a bhiksu who has entered the bliss of the Third Dhyana Heaven. Reflect on this. Although they are confined within the flower that is closed for many kalpas, is this not better than to suffer all the torments for endless kalpas in Avici hell? Thus, this passage should be understood as a teaching to make us desist from evil.
The Pure Land is free forever from slander and dislike; all are equal, with no anxieties or afflictions. Whether human or deva, good or evil, all can reach the Pure Land. On attaining it, their distinctions vanish; all equally enter the stage of nonretrogression. Why is it thus? It comes about because Amida, in his causal stage, under the guidance of Lokesvararaja Buddha, abandoned his throne and left his home, and awakening the mind of compassion and wisdom, widely proclaimed his Forty-eight Vows. Through the power of the Buddha’s Vows, the karmic evil of the five grave offenses and the ten transgressions is eradicated and all are brought to attainment of birth. When those who slander the dharma or abandon the seed of Buddhahood turn about at heart, they all reach the Pure Land.
According to Tzu-chou, there are two traditions concerning the five grave offenses. One is the five grave offenses of the three vehicles: 1) intentionally killing one’s father; 2) intentionally killing one’s mother; 3) intentionally killing an arhat; 4) disrupting the harmony of the sangha through one’s inverted views; and 5) maliciously causing blood to flow from the body of the Buddha. These acts are termed grave offenses (literally, “contraries”) because they go against the field of benevolence and run athwart the field of merits. Those who give themselves to these grave offenses, when they deteriorate in body and die, unfailingly plunge into Avici (“uninterrupted”) hell, where for one great kalpa they undergo pain without interruption; hence, these offenses are termed “acts resulting in uninterrupted pain.”
The Abhidharma-kosa lists five acts of uninterrupted pain similar to those above. A verse states:
Violating one’s mother or a nun of the stage of nonlearning
[equivalent to the karmic evil of killing one’s mother],
Killing a bodhisattva who abides in meditation
[equivalent to the karmic evil of killing one’s father]
Or a sage of the stage of learning or nonlearning
[equivalent to killing an arhat],
Destroying the cause of happiness in the sangha
[equivalent to the karmic evil of disrupting the sangha],
And smashing stupas
[equivalent to causing blood to flow from the body of the Buddha].
The second tradition is the five grave offenses of the Mahayana. The Sutra Taught to Nigranthas states:
1) Destroying stupas, burning sutra repositories, or plundering the belongings of the three treasures. 2) Speaking evil of the teaching of the three vehicles, saying they are not the sacred teachings, obstructing and censuring it, or attempting to hide and obscure it. 3) Beating those who have abandoned homelife, whether they observe precepts, have not received precepts, or break precepts; persecuting them, enumerating their faults, confining them, forcing them to return to lay life, putting them to menial labor, exacting taxes from them, or depriving them of life. 4) Killing one’s father, harming one’s mother, causing blood to flow from the body of the Buddha, disrupting the harmony of the sangha, or killing an arhat. 5) Speaking evil by saying there is no cause and effect and constantly performing the ten transgressions throughout the long night of ignorance.
The [Ten Wheel] Sutra states:
Killing a pratyekabuddhas out of evil intentions; this is destroying life. 2) Violating a nun who has attained arhatship; this is an act of lust. 3) Stealing or destroying what has been offered to the three treasures; this is taking what has not been given one. 4) Disrupting the harmony of the sangha with inverted views; this is speaking falsely.
Here ends Chapter III:
A Collection of Passages Revealing
The True Shinjin of the Pure Land Way