The Vow of Sincere Mind and Aspiration
The Import of the Sutra of Contemplation on
The Buddha of Immeasurable Life
The Falsely Settled
Birth Attained Beneath Twin Sala Trees
The Vow of Sincere Mind and Directing Merit
The Import of the Amida Sutra
Birth that is Noncomprehensible
A Collection of Passages Revealing
The Transformed Buddha-Bodies and Lands
That are Provisional Means of the Pure Land Way
Compiled by Gutoku Shinran,
Disciple of Sakyamuni
1 To reveal, with reverence, the transformed Buddha-bodies and lands: The Buddha is as taught in the Sutra of Contemplation on the Buddha of Immeasurable Life; the Buddha in the “contemplation of the true body” is such a Buddha-body. The land refers to the Pure Land as described in the Contemplation Sutra and is also as taught in such sutras as the Sutra of the Bodhisattvas’ Dwelling in the Womb; the “realm of indolence and pride” is such a land. Or again, it is as taught in the Larger Sutra of Immeasurable Life; the “city of doubt” and “womb-palace” are such.
2 Concerning this, we find that even if the multitudes of this defiled world, the sentient beings of corruption and evil, have abandoned the ninety-five wrong paths and entered the various dharma-gates – imperfect or consummate, accommodated or real – those who are authentic [in their practice] are extremely difficult to find, and those who are genuine are exceedingly rare. The false are extremely numerous; the hollow are many. For this reason, Sakyamuni Buddha guides the ocean of beings by disclosing the store of merit [for birth in the Pure Land], and Amida Tathagata, having established the Vows, saves the oceanlike multitude of beings everywhere.
Already we have the compassionate Vow, which is known as “the Vow of performing meritorious acts,” “the Vow of Buddha’s appearance at death,” “the Vow of Buddha’s appearance and guidance to birth,” and “the Vow of Buddha’s coming to receive,” and which further may be called “the Vow of sincere mind and aspiration.”
[The Sutra Passages: The Nineteenth Vow]
3 Here, let us turn to this Vow stated in the Larger Sutra:
If, when I attain Buddhahood, the sentient beings of the ten quarters – awakening the mind of enlightenment and performing meritorious acts – should aspire with sincere mind and desire to be born in my land, and yet I should not appear before them at the moment of death surrounded by a host of sages, may I not attain the supreme enlightenment.
4 The “Chapter on Great Beneficence” in the Sutra of the Lotus of Compassion states:
I vow that when I have attained supreme enlightenment, if sentient beings of the countless, innumerable, incalculable other Buddha-realms should awaken the mind aspiring for highest, perfect enlightenment, practice roots of good, and desire to be born in my realm, I will appear before them surrounded by a host of sages. Upon seeing me, those people will, in my presence, attain joy in their hearts. Because they see me, they will be freed of all their obstructions and will immediately be born in my realm when their lives end.
5 The passages declaring the fulfillment of this Vow are the [Larger Sutra] passage on the three levels of practicers and the Contemplation Sutra passages on meditative and nonmeditative practices and the nine grades of beings.
6 Further, the Larger Sutra states:
Further, the bodhi-tree of the Buddha of immeasurable life is four million miles in height, with a girth, at its base, of fifty yojanas. Its branches and leaves spread two hundred thousand miles in the four directions. It is formed naturally of a composite of all kinds of gems. The kings of gems – the moon-radiant mani-jewel and the ocean-supporting-wheel gem – adorn it.
Ananda, human beings and devas of that land who see this tree will realize the three dharma-insights: insight through the sound [of the tree proclaiming the Buddha’s teaching], insight that accords [with the truth], and insight into the nonorigination of all existence. These all come about through the majestic, transcendent powers of the Buddha of immeasurable life, through the power of the Primal Vow, through the complete and perfect Vow, through the firm and steadfast Vow, through the ultimate Vow…
Further, the halls, living quarters, palaces and storied pavilions, all adorned with the seven precious substances, appear miraculously of themselves. Covering them is a jewel-canopy composed of pearls, moon-radiant mani-jewels, and various other gems. Everywhere about the buildings, both inside and out, there are ponds for bathing ten yojanas, or twenty or thirty, up to one hundred thousand yojanas across. Each is of dimensions – in length, breadth, and depth – of perfect symmetry. They are brimming with pure and fragrant waters possessed of the eight excellent qualities and have the taste of nectar.
7 Further, it states:
“Those who attain womblike birth dwell in palaces a hundred yojanas or five hundred yojanas in extent. Within, they each enjoy pleasures like those of Trayastrimsa heaven, all of which arise naturally.”
Then Bodhisattva Maitreya said to the Buddha, “World-honored one, what cause or conditions leads to the distinction between womblike birth and transformative birth among the human beings of that land?”
The Buddha said to Maitreya, “Suppose there are sentient beings who, with minds full of doubts, aspire to be born in that land through the practice of various meritorious acts; unable to realize Buddha-wisdom, the inconceivable wisdom, the ineffable wisdom, the all-encompassing wisdom of the great vehicle, the unequaled, peerless, and supremely excellent wisdom, they doubt these wisdoms and do not entrust themselves. And yet, believing in [the recompense of] evil and good, they aspire to be born in that land through cultivating the root of good. Such sentient beings will be born in the palace of that land, where for five hundred years they will never see the Buddha, hear the dharma of the sutras, or see the sacred host of bodhisattvas and sravakas. Hence, in that land this is known as womblike birth… Know, Maitreya, that those of transformative birth are superior in wisdom; those of womblike birth lack wisdom…”
The Buddha said to Maitreya, “Consider the case of the noble cakravartin-king who possesses a prison embellished with the seven precious substances. It is adorned in manifold ways, furnished with a canopied bed, and hung with many silken banners. If young princes commit offenses against the king, they are imprisoned there and bound with gold chains…”
The Buddha said to Maitreya, “These sentient beings are precisely like that. Because they doubt the Buddha’s wisdom, they are born in a womb-palace… If these sentient beings become aware of their past offenses and deeply repent, they desire to leave that place… Know, Maitreya, that if even bodhisattvas embrace doubt, they lose the great benefit.”
8 The Sutra of the Tathagata of Immeasurable Life states:
The Buddha said to Maitreya, “Suppose there are sentient beings who, being possessed of doubts, accumulate roots of good and seek to realize the Buddha-wisdom, the universal wisdom, the inconceivable wisdom, the peerless wisdom, the majestically virtuous wisdom, the vast, all-encompassing wisdom. Concerned with their roots of good, they cannot entrust themselves [to Buddha-wisdom]. For this reason, they dwell within the palace for five hundred years… As you see, Ajita, those of excellent wisdom have received transformative birth in lotus flowers of enlightenment through the power of vast wisdom and sit with legs crossed and soles upturned. When you see the inferior,… they have failed in their practice of meritorious acts. For this reason, without having fulfilled the true cause [of birth], they serve the Buddha of immeasurable life. All such people have come to be so through the past condition of embracing the faults of doubts…”
The Buddha said to Maitreya, “It is so, it is so. They may, being possessed of doubts, accumulate roots of good and seek to realize [various kinds of] wisdom, from Buddha-wisdom to the vast, all encompassing wisdom; to the roots of good that are theirs, they cannot entrust themselves. Although they give rise to trust through hearing the Buddha’s Name and thus are born in that land, they cannot emerge from within the lotus bud. These sentient beings, enclosed within the flower-womb, feel as though they were within a garden or palace.”
9 The Larger Sutra states:
Bodhisattvas of slight practice and practicers of small virtues are numerous beyond calculation, but they will all be born [in that land].
10 Further, [the Sutra of the Tathagata of Immeasurable Life] states:
How much more incalculably numerous are other bodhisattvas, who will be born in that land through small roots of good.
11 The Commentary of the Master of Kuang-ming temple states:
They are enclosed within the flower and cannot emerge, or are born in the borderland, or fall into the womb-palace.
12 Master Kyeong-heung states:
It is because of doubting the Buddha-wisdom that, although born in that land, you remain in the borderland and are unable to receive the Buddha’s guidance. If you are to receive womblike birth, you must definitely part from it.
13 In Essentials for Attaining Birth by [Genshin,] the Master of Shuryogon-in, the Commentary of Master Huai-kan is cited:
Question: The Sutra of the Bodhisattvas’ Dwelling in the Womb, fascicle two, states:
In the western quarter, twenty kotis of nayutas from this Jambudvipa continent, is the realm of indolence and pride… Sentient beings who have awakened aspiration and desire to be born in Amida Buddha’s land are all deeply attached to the land of indolence and pride and cannot advance to birth in Amida’s land. At times only one of millions upon millions of beings is able to attain birth in Amida’s land.
Regarding this sutra, the question arises of whether it is possible to attain birth at all?
Answer: In Response to Various Questions Concerning the Pure Land Teaching, the previously cited passage of Master Shan-tao is quoted to explain this difficulty, and further the author himself adds:
The next passage in the sutra states, “For since they are indolent and complacent, their resolve lacks firmness.” Thus we know that those who engage in sundry practices are people of infirm resolve. For this reason they are born in the realm of indolence and pride. If you do not engage in sundry practices, but solely perform this act, then you are firm of resolve and will definitely attain birth in the land of bliss… Further, those born in the fulfilled Pure Land are extremely few; those born in the transformed Pure Land are many. Therefore, the different teachings in the sutras are in fact not at variance with each other.
14 Thus, contemplating the understanding of the Master of Shuryogon-in, I find that he reveals in “Chapter on Witness to the Nembutsu” that the Eighteenth Vow is the special Vow among all [Amida’s] special Vows. He states, exhorting the beings of the meditative and nonmeditative practices taught in the Contemplation Sutra, “People of extreme evil should simply say [the Name of] Amida.” This means that monks and laypeople of this defiled world should well consider their own capabilities. Reflect on this.
[Question and Answer: The Threefold Mind
in the Larger and Contemplation Sutras]
Answer: When I consider the Sutra of Contemplation on the Buddha of Immeasurable Life, taking into account the interpretation of the commentator [Shan-tao], I find there is an explicit meaning and an implicit, hidden, inner meaning.
“Explicit” refers to presenting the meditative and nonmeditative good acts and setting forth the three levels of practicers and the three minds. The two forms of good and the three types of meritorious acts, however, are not the true cause of birth in the fulfilled land. Further, the three minds that beings awaken are all minds of self-benefit that are individually different and not the mind that is single, which arises from [Amida’s] benefiting of others. They are roots of good with which to aspire for the Pure Land that [Sakyamuni] Tathagata taught as a distinct provisional means. This is the import of the sutra; it is its “explicit” meaning.
“Implicit” refers to disclosing the Tathagata’s universal Vow and revealing the mind that is single, to which [practicers of the three minds] are led through [Amida’s] benefiting of others. Through the opportunity brought about by the grave evil acts of Devadatta and Ajatasatru, Sakyamuni, with a smile, disclosed his inner intent. Through the condition brought about by the right intention in Vaidehi’s selection, Amida’s Primal Vow of great compassion was clarified. This is the hidden, implicit meaning of the sutra.
Thus, [regarding the implicit meaning,] the sutra states, Enable me to perceive the place [established through] pure acts. “Place [established through] pure acts” refers to the fulfilled land established through the Primal Vow.
Teach me how to concentrate my thoughts: to concentrate thoughts is a matter of provisional means. Teach me genuine acceptance refers to the true mind that is diamondlike.
Clearly perceive the one in that land who has accomplished pure acts: perceive and know the Tathagata fulfilled through the Primal Vow – the Tathagata of unhindered light filling the ten quarters.
Expound fully with many illustrations refers to the thirteen meditative practices.
You are a foolish being; your mind is inferior: here it is disclosed that [Vaidehi] is the person suited for the teaching of birth for evil beings.
The Buddha-tathagatas possess distinct provisional means: it is revealed that meditative and nonmeditative good acts are provisional teachings.
Through the Buddha’s power I have seen that land expresses Other Power.
Sentient beings after the Buddha’s demise: sentient beings of the future are the very beings who attain birth.
Even if [what you have seen] corresponds with [the sutra], it is to be called “rough perception”: this reveals that meditative practice is difficult to accomplish.
While in this present existence, you attain nembutsu-samadhi: this explains, concerning the benefit obtained through accomplishing meditative practice, that attainment of nembutsu-samadhi is the benefit of contemplation. In other words, the gate of contemplative practice is a provisional teaching.
It is stated: Awakening the three minds, they attain immediate [or] provisional birth. Further: Again, there are three kinds of sentient beings who will definitely attain birth. According to these passages there are, in relation to the three levels of practicers, three different kinds of “three minds” and also two kinds of birth.
Truly we see from the above that this sutra has an explicit meaning and an implicit, hidden, inner meaning.
I will discuss the sameness and differences of the three minds in the two sutras; this matter must be carefully understood. In their explicit meanings, the Larger Sutra and the Contemplation Sutra differ; in their implicit meaning, they are one. Reflect on this.
Thus the Guiding Master of this Saha world, in response to [Vaidehi’s] request, opened widely the “essential” gate to the Pure Land path, and the Compassionate One of the land of happiness revealed the universal Vow that holds his special intent. The “essential” gate consists of the meditative and nonmeditative practices taught in the Contemplation Sutra. “Meditative” refers to stopping thought and concentrating the mind; “nonmeditative” refers to abandoning evil and performing good. Beings are instructed to direct the merit of these two kinds of practices and aspire for birth. Concerning the “universal Vow,” it is as set forth in the Larger Sutra.
The Contemplation Sutra has Buddha-contemplation samadhi as its essence, and also nembutsu-samadhi as its essence. Its core is aspiring single-heartedly through directing merits and thus attaining birth in the Pure Land.
Concerning whether its teaching is Mahayana or Hinayana, the question arises: to which of the two pitakas does it belong and in which of the two teachings is it included?
Answer: It is included in the bodhisattva-pitaka. It belongs to the teachings of sudden attainment.
“Thus [have I heard]” (nyoze) indicates dharma; it refers to the two teachings of meditative and nonmeditative practices. Ze (this) is a word indicating something definite. Beings who perform these practices unfailingly gain benefit. This shows that the words taught by the Tathagata are without error. Hence the term, “Thus” (nyoze).
Further, nyo (“in this way”) means “in accord with the desires of sentient beings.” In accord with our wishes, the Buddha saves us. The correspondence between being and teaching is also referred to as ze (this). Hence, “Thus.”
Further, “Thus” is meant to clarify what the Tathagata taught. The Tathagata teaches gradual attainment just as gradual attainment is; teaches sudden attainment just as sudden attainment is; teaches phenomena just as phenomena are; teaches emptiness just as emptiness is; teaches the way of human beings just as the way of human beings is; teaches the way of devas just as the way of devas is; teaches Hinayana just as Hinayana is; teaches Mahayana just as Mahayana is; teaches the nature of foolish beings just as foolish beings are; teaches the nature of sages just as sages are; teaches cause just as cause is; teaches result just as result is; teaches pain just as pain is; teaches pleasure just as pleasure is; teaches things distant just as things distant are; teaches things near just as things near are; teaches sameness just as sameness is; teaches difference just as difference is; teaches purity just as purity is; teaches defilement just as defilement is; teaches all things in a thousand different ways and with a myriad variations. The Tathagata discerns clearly and thoroughly and performs practices in accord with beings’ minds, so as to benefit each of them in different ways. His acts and their results accord with the nature of things and are always unerring; they are referred to as “this” (ze). Hence, “Thus” (nyoze).
The passage from Those who aspire to be born in that land to are called pure acts clarifies the exhortation to perform the three types of meritorious conduct. It reveals that the capacities of all sentient beings are of two kinds: meditative and nonmeditative. If birth depended only on meditative good acts, not all beings would attain it. Thus the Tathagata, devising provisional means, revealed the three types of meritorious conduct to provide for those of nonmeditative and distracted faculties.
Further, what is true and real falls into two types: self-benefiting with a true and real mind and benefiting others with a true and real mind.
Self-benefiting with a true and real mind is of two kinds. The first is, with a true and real mind, to stop all one’s own and others’ evil acts and abandon this defiled world, and, just as bodhisattvas stop and cast off all evil acts, to aspire oneself to do likewise whether walking, standing, sitting or reclining.
The second is to cultivate diligently with a true and real mind what is good for oneself and for others, both ordinary people and sages. As verbal action with a true and real mind, one praises Amida Buddha and the Buddha’s two kinds of fulfillment, beings and land. Moreover, as verbal action with a true and real mind, one deplores and loathes the pain and evil of the two kinds of recompense – beings and environment – of oneself and others within the three realms and six courses. In addition, one praises the good performed by all sentient beings in the three modes of action. If their acts are not good, one should respectfully keep one’s distance and not rejoice in concord.
Further, as bodily action with a true and real mind, one pays homage, with joined hands, to Amida Buddha and the Buddha’s two kinds of fulfillment of body and land, venerates them, and makes offerings to them with the four kinds of gifts. And, as bodily action with a true and real mind, one loathes and abandons the two kinds of recompense – beings and environment – of oneself and others within the three realms of birth-and-death, holding them of no account.
Further, as mental action with a true and real mind, one thinks on, observes, and remains mindful of Amida Buddha and the Buddha’s two kinds of fulfillment of body and land, as though they stood before one’s eyes. And, as mental action with a true and real mind, one despises, loathes, and abandons the two kinds of recompense – beings and environment – of oneself and others within the three realms of birth-and-death…
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, body and land…
Further, the deep trust that is deep mind is to decidedly settle one’s own mind, perform practices in accord with the teaching, cast out doubt and error forever, and not succumb to or be thwarted by those of different understandings, different practices, other teachings, other views, or other opinions…
Next, concerning ” establishing trust in relation to practice,” there are two kinds of practices: right practice and sundry practices. Right practice refers to performing solely as prescribed in the sutras that teach birth in the Pure Land. What is this practice? It is to recite solely and single-heartedly the Contemplation Sutra, the Amida Sutra, and the Sutra of the Buddha of Immeasurable Life. It is to concentrate single-heartedly on, think on, observe, and hold in mindfulness the adornment of the Pure Land’s two kinds of fulfillment alone. If one worships, one single-heartedly worships Amida Buddha alone. If one utters a name, one single-heartedly utters the Name of Amida Buddha alone. If one praises and makes offerings, one single-heartedly praises and makes offerings [to Amida] alone. This is called “right practice.”
Further, right practice is divided into 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.”
If one performs these true and auxiliary practices, one’s heart always attends upon Amida and one’s mindfulness never ceases; hence, such practice is said to be “uninterrupted.” If one performs the sundry practices, one’s mind is constantly interrupted. Even though one may direct the merit of such practices and attain birth, they are all “irrelevant and sundry practices.”
Hence, the term deep mind. [Here ends the explanation of deep mind.]
The third is the mind of aspiration for birth through directing merit. The mind of aspiration for birth through directing merit is to aspire, with a mind of genuine deep trust, to attain birth in that land through directing all roots of good performed by oneself and others – the mundane and supramundane roots of good that one has performed through bodily, verbal, and mental acts from the past down to the present life, and further all the mundane and supramundane roots of good performed through bodily, verbal, and mental acts by others, both foolish beings and sages, in which one rejoices.
Meditative good is a means to lead on to discernment [of the Primal Vow].
Nonmeditative good is a means to lead one to the practice [of the nembutsu].
It is difficult to encounter the essentials of the Pure Land way.
As the Contemplation Sutra teaches, above all if one possesses the three minds, one will unfailingly attain birth. What are these three? The first is sincere mind. This is, in bodily action, to worship the Buddha; in verbal action, to praise the Buddha; and in mental action, to think solely on and contemplate the Buddha. In giving rise to the three modes of action, one unfailingly possesses truth and sincerity; hence, “sincere mind.”… The third is the mind of aspiration for birth through directing merit. Directing all the roots of good one has performed, one aspires for birth; hence, “mind of aspiration for birth through directing merit.” If one possesses these three minds, one will unfailingly attain birth. If one of these three minds is lacking, one does not attain birth. This is taught fully in the Contemplation Sutra. Reflect on this…
Further, bodhisattvas who have already become liberated from birth-and-death direct the good that they perform seeking the fruit of Buddhahood; this is self-benefit. [At the same time,] they are active into the endless future, teaching and guiding sentient beings; this is benefiting others. Sentient beings of these present times, however, are all fettered by blind passions and have not yet become liberated from the pain of the evil courses in birth-and-death. But under favorable conditions, they perform practices and, fully and swiftly directing all their roots of good, aspire to be born in Amida Buddha’s land. Once they have reached that land, there is nothing that they fear. The four aspects of practice explained earlier come to be carried on naturally and effortlessly, and both self-benefit and benefiting others are necessarily fulfilled. Reflect on this.
Of those who abandon the sole practice and seek to perform sundry good acts, out of a hundred, at times scarcely one or two will attain birth, and out of a thousand, at times only three or five. For various circumstances confuse and disturb them; for they lose right-mindedness; for they do not accord with the Buddha’s Primal Vow; for they are in conflict with [Sakyamuni’s] teaching; for they do not follow the Buddhas’ words; for their concentration is not continuous; for their mindfulness is interrupted; for their directing of merit and aspiration are not earnest and sincere; for blind passions such as greed, anger, and various views arise and interrupt them; for they completely lack shame and repentance.
There are three grades of repentance:…high, middle, and low. In the high grade of repentance, blood flows from the hair pores of one’s body and issues from one’s eyes. In the middle grade of repentance, hot beads of sweat appear from the hair pores of one’s whole body, and blood issues from one’s eyes. In the low grade of repentance, one’s whole body is pervaded by heat and tears flow from one’s eyes. Although there are differences among these three levels, they are all performed only by those who have long cultivated roots of good for emancipation. But if people in this life revere the teaching, pay homage to monks, do not cherish their lives, and repent even small transgressions, this will penetrate to their hearts’ core, and if they repent in this way, their heavy obstructions, whether accumulated over a long or short time, will all swiftly be eradicated. People who do not do so may urgently seek [emancipation] through the twelve periods of the day and night, but in the end it will be of no avail. People who do not repent should know: Although one may not be able to shed tears and blood, if one is simply pervaded by true mind, it will be the same as [the repentance] described above.
It is not at all stated that any practicers of various other acts are illumined and embraced.
The Tathagata appeared amid the five defilement
And through well-suited provisional means, guides the multitudes.
At times, he explains attaining emancipation through listening to many teachings;
At times, realizing the three illuminations through but slight understanding.
At times, he teaches eradicating obstructions through meritorious conduct and wisdom,
At times, sitting and reflecting in meditation.
The various dharma-gates all lead to emancipation.
It is truly hard to continue cultivating merits through myriads of kalpas;
In each moment, blind passions intrude a hundred or a thousand times;
Though some may hope to realize dharma-insight in this Saha world,
They will pass kalpas countless as the Ganges’ sands in the six courses,
And still the time of realization will not come.
The various dharma-gates are not the same; they are called teachings of gradual attainment;
And one realizes nonorigination only through a myriad kalpas of painful practice.
Therefore, throughout your life, practice the nembutsu alone;
At the moment your life ends, the Buddha will come to receive you.
Even in the interval of a single meal, there is time
For greed and anger to arise; how would they not in a myriad kalpas?
Greed and anger obstruct the path to the human and deva realms;
One will come to settle in the three evil courses or the four evil realms.
Directing the merit of meditative and nonmeditative practices, enter the precious land;
These are the Tathagata’s distinct provisional means.
Vaidehi being a woman, her condition was that
Of a foolish being filled with greed and anger.
There are two kinds of virtue. First, there is virtue that is produced from a defiled mind and that does not accord with dharma-nature. Whether with regard to their cause or to their fruition, the good acts of foolish human beings and devas and the recompense of human beings and devas are all inverted, empty, and false. Hence, they are called untrue virtue.
To quote the “Moon-Matrix Section” of the Great Collection Sutra:
Out of billions of sentient beings who seek to perform practices and cultivate the way in the last dharma-age, not one will gain realization.
This is now the last dharma-age; it is the evil world of the five defilements. This one gate – the Pure Land way – is the only path that affords passage.
As long as ten thousand kalpas of practice have not been fulfilled, we can never escape from this burning house. For we are subject to inverted thinking and regression. The effort in each practice is quite large, but the acquired result is only falsity.
33 According to the Larger Sutra, true and provisional Vows were established. Further, in the Contemplation Sutra, provisional and true teachings are revealed. In the Smaller Sutra, only the “true” gate is taught, and provisional good acts are not discussed. Thus, what is true in the three sutras has as its essence the selected Primal Vow. What is provisional in the three sutras is essentially the practice of various good roots of good.
In considering the provisional Vow from this perspective, I find that there is the temporary aspect and the true, and further that there is an aspect of practice and an aspect of trust. This Vow is the Vow of Buddha’s appearance at death. “Practice” refers to the good of cultivating various virtues. “Trust” refers to sincere mind, aspiration, and desire for birth. Through the practice and trust of this Vow, the accommodated and the temporary provisional means that form the “essential” gate of the Pure Land way are revealed.
By means of this “essential” gate, three types of practice – right, auxiliary, and sundry – are disclosed. With regard to both the right and the auxiliary, there is single praxis and mixed praxis. Concerning practicers, there are two kinds: the meditative practicer and the nonmeditative practicer.
Further, the three minds are of two types, and there are two kinds of birth. The two types of three minds are the three minds of meditative practice and the three minds of nonmeditative practice. The meditative and nonmeditative minds are minds of self-benefit that vary with each person. The two kinds of birth are immediate birth and provisional birth. Provisional birth refers to womblike birth and birth in the borderland; it is birth like that attained beneath the twin sala trees. Immediate birth is transformative birth in the fulfilled land.
In the [Contemplation] Sutra, we also find the aspect of the true. It is the revealing of the diamondlike true mind, through which Amida’s grasping, never to abandon is disclosed. Thus Sakyamuni, the well-gone, who guides sentient beings of this defiled world, widely taught the mind of the “Vow of sincere mind and entrusting”; for it is entrusting that is the true cause of birth in the fulfilled land. Hence, the Larger Sutra states “entrusting.” It is the Tathagata’s Vow-mind that is completely untainted by the hindrance of doubt. Therefore the term “entrusting” (shin) is used. The Contemplation Sutra refers to it as “deep mind.” In order to contrast it with the shallow trust of beings, it is termed “deep mind.” The Smaller Sutra refers to it as “single-heartedness.” “Single” here implies that there is no mixing of two kinds of practice. Further, concerning single-heartedness, there is deep and shallow. “Deep” refers to the true and real mind that is [Amida’s] benefiting of others; “shallow” describes the mind of self-benefit through meditative and nonmeditative practices.
Depending on the minds [of beings], excellent practices are performed. There are gateways numbering eighty-four thousand and more. Whether they are gradual or sudden, they are suited to the capacities of beings. Hence, those who practice them according to their circumstances all gain emancipation.
But it is hard for the foolish and ignorant, who are ever sinking in birth-and-death, to perform acts with the mind of meditative practices, for this is to cease thinking and to concentrate the mind. It is also hard to perform acts with the mind of nonmeditative practices, for this is to discard evil and practice good. Thus, since it is hard even to visualize forms and fix the mind on them, [Shan-tao] states:
One may dedicate a lifetime of a thousand years, but still the dharma-eye will not be opened.
How much harder indeed is it to realize formlessness and cessation of thought. Therefore he states:
The Tathagata already knows that foolish beings of the latter age possessed of karmic evil and defilements are incapable of visualizing forms and fixing the mind on them. How much harder is it to seek realization without visualizing forms; it is like a person lacking transcendent powers building a house in the air.
In the expression, “gateways…and more,” “gateways” refers to the eighty-four thousand provisional gateways. “More” refers to the ocean of the One Vehicle, the Primal Vow.
35 Among all the teachings that Sakyamuni Buddha taught during his lifetime, those that teach attaining sacred wisdom and realizing the fruit in this world are called the Path of Sages. They are termed the path of difficult practice. Within this path there are Mahayana and Hinayana; gradual attainment and sudden attainment; the One Vehicle, two vehicles, and three vehicles; accommodated and true; exoteric and esoteric; departing lengthwise and transcending lengthwise. These are self-power teachings, the path of the accommodated gate of provisional means recommended [by those] in the state of benefiting and guiding others.
Attaining sacred wisdom and realizing the fruit in the Pure Land of peace is called the Pure Land path. It is termed the path of easy practice. Within this path there are departing crosswise and transcending crosswise; temporary and true; gradual attainment and sudden attainment; auxiliary, right, and sundry practices; mixed praxis and single praxis.
“Right [practices]” refers to the five kinds of right practice. “Auxiliary [practices]” refers to these five kinds of practice with the exception of saying the Name. “Sundry practices” refers to all the various practices other than the right and the auxiliary; these are teachings of gradual attainment that expound ways of departing crosswise; they are the temporary gate of self-power, which includes the teachings of meditative and nonmeditative practices, the three kinds of meritorious conduct, and the three levels of practicers and nine grades of beings.
“Transcending crosswise” refers to being mindful of the Primal Vow and becoming free of the mind of self-power; this is termed “Other Power of transcending crosswise.” It is the single within the single, the sudden within the sudden, the true within the true, the One Vehicle within the [One] Vehicle. It is the true essence [of the Pure Land way]. This has already been clarified in “Chapter on True Practice.”
36 With the expression “sundry practices” and also with “mixed praxis,” the term is single, but there are different meanings. “Sundry” embraces all the myriads of practices. In contrast to the five right practices, there are five kinds of sundry practices. The term “sundry” is used because the understandings and practices for birth as human beings, devas, bodhisattvas and so on are compounded [with aspiration for birth in Amida’s land]. Originally, they are not causes resulting in birth in the Pure Land. They are good acts that, with a change of mind, come to be directed toward birth; hence, they are termed “sundry practices within the Pure Land way.”
Further, concerning “sundry practices,” there is “single practice” and “single mind”; also, there are “combined practices” and “combined mind.”
“Single practice” refers to the performance of solely one kind of good act; hence it is termed “single practice.” “Single mind” refers to directing merit solely [toward birth in the Pure Land]; hence it is termed “single mind.”
Concerning “combined practices” and “combined mind,” because one performs various good acts together, the term “combined practices” is used; because minds of meditative good and nonmeditative good are combined, the term “combined mind” is used.
Further, concerning right and auxiliary, there is single praxis and mixed praxis. Regarding mixed praxis, there is single mind and combined mind. There are two kinds of single praxis: first, only saying the Buddha’s Name, and second, the five single [acts]. Concerning these [five] acts, there is single mind and combined mind. The five single [acts] are: 1) solely worshiping [Amida], 2) solely reciting [the Pure Land sutras], 3) solely contemplating [Amida and the Pure Land], 4 solely saying the Name, and 5) solely praising [Amida]. These are termed the five kinds of single praxis. The term “single praxis” is the same, but it has different meanings. It is meditative single praxis and also nonmeditative single praxis.
“Single mind” refers to singly performing the five right practices without double-mindedness; hence, “single mind.” This is meditative single mind, and also nonmeditative single mind.
“Mixed praxis” is to perform the auxiliary and right acts together; hence “mixed praxis.” “Combined mind” refers to mixing the minds of meditative and nonmeditative good acts; hence, “combined mind.” Reflect on this.
All the various practices of the Pure Land way are termed the “myriad practices” by Master Tao-ch’o and “sundry practices” by Master Shan-tao. Master Huai-kan called them “various practices.” [In the use of these terms,] Master Genshin followed Master Huai-kan, and Master Genku followed Master Shan-tao.
Relying on the teacher of the sutras, [Sakyamuni,] and turning to the commentary of Master [Shan-tao], I find that among “sundry practices” are combined practices performed with a combined mind, combined practices performed with a single mind, and single practice performed with a combined mind. Further, among right practices there is single praxis performed with a single mind, or single praxis performed with a combined mind, and mixed praxis performed with a combined mind; all are causal acts resulting in birth in the borderland, the womb-palace, and the realm of indolence and pride. Hence, although one is born in the land of bliss, one does not see the three treasures. The light of the Buddha’s mind does not illuminate and grasp practicers of sundry acts. How truly profound is the intent behind the temporarily guiding Vow! How clear become the teachings of the temporary gate and [Shan-tao’s] explanation [that they are for the awakening] of desire for the Pure Land!
In their explicit meaning, the three minds taught in the two sutras differ; in their implicit meaning, they are one. Here ends the answer to the question concerning the sameness and differences of the teachings on the threefold mind.
[Question and Answer: The Threefold Mind
and the Mind that is Single]
Answer: Concerning the Vow of the “true” gate, which is a provisional means, there is practice and there is trust. Further, there is the true and real, and there is provisional means.
The Vow is the Vow of cultivating the root of virtue. The practice is of two kinds: the root of good and the root of virtue.
The trust is the mind of sincerely directing merit and aspiring for birth.
Concerning practicers, there are the meditative and the nonmeditative.
The birth is birth that is Noncomprehensible.
The Buddha is the transformed body.
The land is the city of doubt and the womb-palace.
By taking the Contemplation Sutra as a model, we know that the [Smaller] Sutra also possesses an explicit meaning and an implicit, hidden, inner meaning.
Concerning its “explicit” meaning, the sutra-teacher Sakyamuni reveals the “true” gate, which consists of the root of good or of virtue, urges beings to have the single-mindedness of self-benefit, and encourages them to attain the noncomprehensible birth, rejecting all other practices of small good. Thus, the sutra teaches, “[Saying the Name is] the act of many roots of good, many virtues, and many merits,” and a commentary states, “The nine grades of beings should all direct [the merit of the nembutsu] and attain the stage of nonretrogression.” Further:
None [of the other dharma-gates] surpasses birth in the West through the nembutsu;
[With but] three or five utterances, the Buddha will come to welcome us.
This is the explicit meaning of the sutra; it is the provisional means within the “true” gate.
In its implicit meaning, the sutra discloses the true and real dharma that is difficult to accept. It reveals the inconceivable ocean of the Vow, seeking to bring beings to take refuge in the ocean of unhindered great shinjin. Indeed, because this encouragement is encouragement already given by Buddhas countless as the sands of the Ganges, this shinjin is also shinjin witnessed and praised by Buddhas countless as the Ganges’ sands. Hence, the sutra terms it “extremely difficult.” The commentary states:
Solely through the greatness of Amida’s universal Vow,
Foolish beings, when they become mindful of it, are immediately brought to attain birth.
I have set forth here the implicit, disclosed meaning.
The [Smaller] Sutra speaks of “holding steadfast.” Further, it uses the term, “the mind that is single.”
“Steadfast” reveals that the mind is firm and unchanging. “Holding” means not being distracted and not letting go.
“Single” means nondual. “Mind” is a term for the true and real.
Among the Mahayana sutras, this sutra is the one that was delivered spontaneously, not in response to a question. Thus, the reason Sakyamuni Tathagata appeared in the world, and the true intent of the witness and protection of Buddhas countless as the sands of the Ganges, lies solely in teaching this [sutra]. Accordingly, the mahasattvas who belonged among the four kinds of dependable people who spread the sutras, as well as the teachers of the Pure Land way in the three countries, guide people immersed in the wrong and falsity of the defiled world by revealing the nembutsu that is the true essence of the way.
Although in their general import the three sutras have explicit meanings and an implicit, hidden, inner meaning, they each reveal shinjin to be the basis for entry [into dharma]. Hence, each sutra opens with the words, “Thus [have I heard]…”
“Thus” (nyoze) signifies the aspect of genuine entrusting. Reflecting on the three sutras, I find that they all teach the true, diamondlike mind to be what is most essential. The true mind is great shinjin. Great shinjin is rare, most excellent, true and wondrous, and pure. Why? Because the ocean of great shinjin is extremely difficult to enter, for it arises through the power of the Buddha; because the true land of bliss is extremely easy to go to, for one is born there immediately through the power of the Vow. Here I have sought to discuss the sameness and differences of the “mind that is single” [in relation to the threefold mind of the Larger and Contemplation Sutras]; the import is as I have clarified above.
Here ends the answer concerning the meaning of the mind that is single in the three sutras.
[The “True” Gate: The Twentieth Vow]
With regard to the provisional means of the “true” gate, there is the root of good and there is the root of virtue. Further, there is the meditative single mind, the nonmeditative single mind, and the meditative and nonmeditative combined mind.
“Combined mind” means that sages and foolish beings – whether Mahayana or Hinayana – and all beings of good and evil, recite the Name with minds in which the auxiliary and the right are mixed together. The teaching is indeed one of sudden attainment, but the practicers are beings of gradual attainment. The practice is single, but the mind is mixed. Hence the term, “combined mind.”
“Meditative or nonmeditative single mind” refers to seeking the power of the Primal Vow with a mind that believes in [the recompense of] evil and good. This is termed the single mind of self-power.
“Root of good” refers to the Tathagata’s auspicious Name. This auspicious Name is perfectly possessed of the myriad goods; it is the root of all goods. Hence the term “root of good.”
“Root of virtue” refers to the Tathagata’s virtuous Name. This virtuous Name, with but a single utterance, fulfills the supreme virtues [in practicers], transforming all their evil. It is the source of the virtuous names [of the Buddhas] throughout the ten quarters in the past, present, and future. Hence it is termed the “root of virtue.”
Sakyamuni Buddha revealed this store of virtue to encourage and guide beings of the defiled worlds of the ten quarters. Amida Tathagata, in the beginning, established the Vow that beings ultimately attain birth in order to compassionately lead the multitudinous ocean of all beings.
The compassionate Vow already exists. It is the “Vow of cultivating the root of virtue,” also known as the “Vow of settlement of birth through placing thoughts [on the Pure Land],” the “Vow stating ‘If they do not ultimately attain birth,'” and the “Vow of sincere mind and directing merit.”
If, when I attain Buddhahood, the sentient beings of the ten quarters, on hearing my Name, should place their thoughts on my land, cultivate the root of all virtues, and direct their merits with sincere mind desiring to be born in my land, and yet not ultimately attain it, may I not attain the supreme enlightenment.
They doubt these wisdoms and do not entrust themselves. And yet, believing in [the recompense of] evil and good, they aspire to be born in that land through cultivating the root of good. Such sentient beings will be born in the [womb] palace.
People who lack the root of good
Are not able to hear this sutra,
But those who observe the precepts without fault
Are able to hear the right dharma.
If, when I become Buddha, all the sentient beings of the countless lands should hear my Name being expounded and, taking it as their own root of good, direct their merits toward the land of bliss, and yet not attain birth, may I not attain enlightenment.
People not possessed of this virtue
Are unable to hear the name of this sutra;
Only those who have observed the precepts without fault
Have now come to hear the right dharma.
Those of evil, arrogance, the hindrance of passions, and indolence
Will have difficulty entrusting themselves to this dharma;
But those who have encountered Buddhas in previous lives
Will listen joyfully to the teaching of the World-honored one.
Rare is it to obtain human life,
And difficult to encounter a Buddha’s appearance in the world;
Hard is it to attain the wisdom of entrusting:
Should you meet with and hear this teaching, pursue it with diligence.
The Buddha said to Ananda, “You must hold firmly to these words. To hold to these words is to hold to the Name of the Buddha of immeasurable life.”
You cannot be born in that land through the cause of small roots of good and small virtues. Hearing Amida Buddha’s Name being expounded, hold steadfast to it.
Although the many other practices are termed “good acts,” when viewed in relation to the nembutsu, one finds them altogether beneath comparison. For this reason, many passages in the sutras extensively praise the efficacy of the nembutsu. For example, in such passages as the Forty-eight Vows in the Sutra of the Buddha of Immeasurable Life, it is clear that by singly practicing the saying of the Name alone, one attains birth.
Further, as taught in the Amida Sutra, by singly practicing the saying of Amida’s Name for one to seven days, one attains birth.
Further, the witness of the Buddhas throughout the ten quarters, countless as the sands of the Ganges, is not hollow.
Again, the passages of this [Contemplation] Sutra presenting meditative and nonmeditative good acts show that by singly practicing the saying of the Name alone, one attains birth.
Such examples are not few. This completes the general exposition of nembutsu-samadhi.
Further, one should 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…
In their words and acts, the Buddhas are not in conflict with each other. Sakyamuni is the one who 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; but in fact 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… Further, he urges all foolish beings single-heartedly to practice the saying of the Name of Amida alone, for one to seven days, and to attain birth without fail.
The [sutra] 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 praise Sakyamuni:
In the evil age of the five defilements, in this evil world, among evil sentient beings, evil passions, and in a time when evil acts and lack of faith prevail, well does he 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.”
Considering the intent of the Buddha’s Vow, we find that, encouraging us to right-mindedness, it solely brings us to say the Name. In quickness of attaining birth, this practice cannot be compared with sundry, nonmeditative acts. As expressed in the extensive praise in various passages of this [Contemplation] Sutra and other scriptures, encouraging and bringing beings to say the Name is taken to be the crucial benefit. Reflect on this.
The [Contemplation Sutra] passage beginning, The Buddha said to Ananda, “Hold well to these words,” reveals precisely that Sakyamuni entrusted Amida’s Name to Ananda so that it would be passed down to distant generations. Although the advantages of the two gateways of meditative and nonmeditative practices have been taught up to this point, in view of the intent of the Buddha’s Primal Vow, this is to bring sentient beings solely to wholehearted utterance of the Name of Amida Buddha.
The land of bliss is the realm of nirvana, the uncreated;
I fear it is hard to be born there by doing sundry good acts according to our diverse conditions.
Hence, the Tathagata selected the essential dharma,
Instructing beings to say Amida’s Name with singleness, again singleness.
As this kalpa draws to a close, the five defilements flourish;
Since sentient beings possess wrong views, they find it hard to have faith.
We are taught to practice wholeheartedly the nembutsu alone, taking refuge in the path to the West,
But because of others our faith is destroyed, and we remain as we originally were.
Since innumerable kalpas in the past we have always been thus;
It is not that we realize this for the first time in this present life.
Because we have not encountered the excellent, decisive cause,
We have been transmigrating, unable to reach the other shore.
Though the various dharma-gates all lead to emancipation,
None surpasses birth in the West through the nembutsu.
When we say the nembutsu, whether throughout life or down to ten,
Or three, or five utterances, the Buddha will come to welcome us.
Solely through the greatness of Amida’s universal Vow,
Foolish beings, when they become mindful of it, are immediately brought to attain birth.
All Tathagatas use skillful means;
Now, Sakyamuni does the same.
Through his teaching of dharma in accord with the listener, all receive benefit;
All people, each coming to their own understanding, should enter the “true” gate…
The gateways of the Buddhist teaching are many, numbering eighty-four thousand,
For the capacities of sentient beings are not the same.
If you seek the place of the eternal, where your existence finds repose,
First find the essential practice and enter the “true” gate.
From what I see and hear about the monks and laity throughout the various areas these days, I find that there are different types of understandings and practices, and that single praxis and mixed praxis differ. Only when they perform [the nembutsu] with singleness of mind, ten out of ten are born. With mixed praxis, since the sincere mind is lacking, not even one in a thousand can attain birth.
The Tathagata seeks to clarify the excellence of virtue of holding to the Name. First, other good acts are criticized and labeled “small roots of good.” If performed without true trust, all meritorious acts – including charity, observance of the precepts, temple construction, making images, worship and chanting, seated meditation, repentance, and ascetic practices – are only small good acts, even though they are directed toward birth with aspiration for the Pure Land. They are not the cause of birth. If one holds steadfast to the Name in accord with this sutra, one will definitely attain birth. We know then that saying the Name is possessed of many roots of good and many merits.
I formed this understanding long ago, but people hesitated to accept it because of their doubts. Recently, I have obtained a copy of the sutra as engraved on a stone monument at Hsiang-yang and find that this text corresponds perfectly with the truth. Thus people have begun to embrace a deep faith. The inscribed text states:
Good sons and daughters, hearing the teaching of Amida Buddha, solely say the Name single-heartedly, without being disturbed by other thoughts. Because one says the Name, all one’s evils are eradicated. It is the act of many roots of good, many virtues, and many merits.
Hold steadfast (shuji) to the Name: shu (steadfast) means to accept firmly; ji (hold) means to maintain. Through the power of trust, one firmly accepts the Name in one’s heart. Through the power of mindfulness, one maintains it without forgetting.
It is difficult to encounter a time when a Tathagata has appeared in the world and to meet one. It is difficult to meet with and difficult to hear the teaching of the Buddhas. It is difficult to hear of the excellent dharma of bodhisattvas, the paramitas. It is also difficult to meet a true teacher, hear the dharma, and put it into practice. But the most difficult of all difficulties is to hear this sutra and accept it in shinjin; nothing surpasses this difficulty.
Therefore, I have presented the dharma thus, preached it thus, and taught it thus; accept it in trust and practice in accord with it.
As stated in this sutra, the cause of all pure practices is the true teacher. Although the causes of all pure practices are innumerable, if the true teacher is mentioned, they are all already exhaustively included. As I have taught, all evil acts arise from wrong views. Although the causes of all evil acts are innumerable, if wrong views are mentioned, they are all already included exhaustively. Further, I say: the cause of highest perfect enlightenment is shinjin. Although the causes of enlightenment are innumerable, if shinjin is mentioned, they are all already included exhaustively.
Good sons! There are two kinds of shinjin: one is trust and the other is searching. Such people, although they have trust, are incapable of searching. Therefore theirs is termed “imperfect realization of shinjin.”
Again, there are two kinds of shinjin: one arises from hearing and the other from reflection. These people’s shinjin has arisen from hearing but not from reflection. Therefore it is called “imperfect realization of shinjin.”
Again, there are two kinds: one is to believe that there is enlightenment and the other, to believe that there are people who have attained it. These people’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.”
Again, there are two kinds: one is trust in what is right and the other is trust in what is wrong. To say that there is causation and that there is Buddha, dharma, and sangha, is termed “trust in what is right.” To say that there is no causation or that there is a distinction in nature among the three treasures, or to trust in wrong words or [such wrong teachers as] Purana, is termed “trust in what is wrong.” These people, although they have trust in the treasures of Buddha, dharma, and sangha, do not believe that the three treasures are identical in nature and character. Although they believe in causation, they do not believe that there are any who attain realization. Therefore, such trust is called “imperfect realization of shinjin.” These people have acquired imperfect realization of shinjin…
Good sons, there are four acts that bring evil results. What are these four? The first is to recite the sutras in order to surpass others. The second is to observe the precepts in order to gain profit and esteem. The third is to practice charity in order to make others one’s followers. The fourth is to fix and concentrate one’s mind in order to reach the realm of neither thought nor no-thought. These four good acts bring evil results. Those who practice these four good acts are termed “people who sink, then emerge again; emerge, then sink again.” Why is it said that they sink? Because they aspire to the three realms of existence. Why is said that they emerge? Because they see brightness. To see brightness is to hear of precepts, charity, and meditation. Why do they sink again? Because their wrong views increase and they give rise to arrogance. For this reason, I teach in two verses in the sutra:
There are sentient beings who aspire to the various states of existence;
They commit good and evil acts out of attachment to existence;
Such people lose the path of nirvana.
This is called emerging briefly, and sinking again.
There are people who, although they practice in the dark ocean of birth-and-death
And attain emancipation, still have blind passions;
Such people receive again the recompense of evil.
This is called briefly emerging, and sinking again.
With regard to Tathagata, there are two kinds of nirvana: the created and the uncreated. Nirvana of the created is without permanence, bliss, self, or purity; uncreated nirvana is characterized by permanence, bliss, self and purity.
These people deeply believe that the two kinds of precepts both bring about good results. Hence this is termed “imperfect observance of precepts.” Such people have not realized trust and precepts; even though they hear many teachings, it is imperfect.
What is “imperfect 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 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 hearing.”
Further, having accepted these six divisions of scripture, they uphold, recite, and expound them solely for the sake of gain and profit, or out of attachment to various states of existence. Hence this is termed “imperfect hearing.”
[The Buddha said,] “Good sons, the foremost, genuine, true teachers are bodhisattvas and Buddhas.”
“World-honored one, why is this so?”
[The Buddha answered,] “Because of their three well-controlling powers. What are these three? The first is extremely gentle words. The second is extremely stern rebuke. The third is both gentle words and stern rebuke. Because of these, bodhisattvas and Buddhas are genuine true teachers.
“Further, good sons, the Buddhas and bodhisattvas are great physicians; hence they are called “true teachers.” Why? Because they know sicknesses and the medicines to cure them, and they give the medicine appropriate to the disease. It is like an excellent physician being skillful in eight kinds of healing. First, he observes the symptoms of the illness. There are three types: those of wind, fever, and water. To the patient of a wind disease, ghee is given. To the patient of fever disease, crystalized honey is given. To the patient of water disease, ginger infusion is given. Through knowing the root of the sickness, he is able to give medicine and cure it. Hence, he is called a good physician.
“The Buddhas and bodhisattvas are like this. They know all the sicknesses of foolish beings, which fall into three types: greed, anger, and folly. In the case of the sickness of greed, they make the person observe a skeleton. In the case of the sickness of anger, they make the person observe the features of compassion. In the case of the sickness of folly, they make the person observe the features of twelvefold causation. Because of this, the Buddhas and bodhisattvas are called true teachers.
“Good sons, a ferryman who safely transports his passengers is known as a good ferryman. So it is with the Buddhas and bodhisattvas. They bring all sentient beings across the great ocean of birth-and-death. Because of this, they are called true teachers.”
When you reflect on the true teachers,
You find they are like the father and mother who gave us birth.
They are like a nursing mother who nourished us with her milk.
They cause the elements of enlightenment to grow.
They are like a physician who cures our illnesses,
Like a deva raining down sweet dew,
Like the sun showing us the right path,
Like the moon turning its pure orb.
The Tathagata, out of great compassion,
Appears in this world,
And for the sake of sentient beings universally,
Turns the wheel of supreme dharma.
It is for sentient beings that the Tathagata
Strove with great effort for countless kalpas;
How could all the worlds repay
The Great Teacher’s benevolence?
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 that 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?
Attaining birth in the Pure Land, respond in gratitude for the compassion and benevolence!
Extremely difficult is it to encounter an age in which a 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.
Let us return!
Do not abide in other lands.
Following the Buddha’s guidance, let us return to our original home.
Once we have returned to our original land,
All our aspiration and practice will naturally reach fulfillment.
We are possessed of sorrow and joy by turns. Deeply reflecting on ourselves,
We must wonder: Were it not for Sakyamuni Buddha’s awakening of us,
When would we hear Amida’s Name and Vow?
Though we have received the compassion and benevolence of the Buddha, it is indeed difficult to repay.
The beings of the ten quarters in the same way transmigrate within the six courses endlessly; revolving in circles, they flounder in the waves of desire and sink in the sea of pain. It is rare to meet with the Buddhist path or receive birth into human existence; now, already, we have met with them. It is rare to hear the Pure Land teaching; now, already, we have heard it. It is rare to awaken shinjin; now, already, we have awakened it.
Such people do not realize the Buddha’s benevolence and do not respond in gratitude to it; though they perform practices, they give rise to contempt and arrogance in their hearts. For they act always for the sake of fame and profit; they have been enveloped in self-attachment unawares, and do not approach fellow practicers and true teachers; preferring to involve themselves in worldly affairs, they obstruct themselves and block others from the right practice for birth.
How grievous it is that, since the beginningless past, foolish, ignorant human beings possessed of defilements and hindrances have mixed the auxiliary and right and combined the minds of the meditative and nonmeditative practices, so that they have had no chance of attaining emancipation. Reflecting on our transmigration in birth-and-death, we realize how hard it is to take refuge in the power of the Buddha’s Vow, how hard it is to enter the ocean of great shinjin, even in the passage of countless kalpas. Truly we must sorrow at this; we must deeply lament.
Sages of the Mahayana and Hinayana and all good people make the auspicious Name of the Primal Vow their own root of good; hence, they cannot give rise to shinjin and do not apprehend the Buddha’s wisdom. Because they cannot comprehend [the Buddha’s intent in] establishing the cause [of birth], they do not enter the fulfilled land.
68 Thus I, Gutoku Shinran, disciple of Sakyamuni, through reverently accepting the exposition of [Vasubandhu,] author of the Treatise, and depending on the guidance of Master [Shan-tao], departed everlastingly from the temporary gate of the myriad practices and various good acts and left forever the birth attained beneath the twin sala trees. Turning about, I entered the “true” gate of the root of good and the root of virtue, and wholeheartedly awakened the mind leading to the birth that is noncomprehensible.
Nevertheless, I have now decisively departed from the “true” gate of provisional means and, [my self-power] overturned, have entered the ocean of the selected Vow. Having swiftly become free of the mind leading to the birth that is noncomprehensible, I am assured of attaining the birth that is inconceivable. How truly profound in intent is the Vow that beings ultimately attain birth!
Having entered forever the ocean of the Vow, I now realize deeply the Buddha’s benevolence. To respond with gratitude for the supreme virtues, I collect the crucial passages expressing the true essence of the Pure Land way, constantly saying, out of mindfulness [the Name that is] the inconceivable ocean of virtues. Ever more greatly rejoicing, I humbly receive it.
69 Truly we know that the teachings of the Path of Sages were intended for the period when the Buddha was in the world and for the right dharma-age; they are altogether inappropriate for the times and beings of the semblance and last dharma-ages and the age when the dharma has become extinct. Already their time has passed; they are no longer in accord with beings.
The true essence of the Pure Land way compassionately draws all of the innumerable evil, defiled beings to enlightenment without discrimination, whether they be of the period when the Buddha was in the world, of the right, semblance, or last dharma-ages, or of the time when the dharma has become extinct.
70 Relying on the teacher of the sutras and turning to the commentaries of the masters, I find that, with regard to the teaching of sutras, there are five kinds, distinguished in terms of their expositors: first, the Buddha’s exposition; second, the exposition of holy disciples; third, the exposition of heavenly beings and hermit-sages; fourth, the exposition of demigods; and fifth, the exposition of miraculous spirits. Thus, [the latter] four kinds of exposition are not to be relied upon. The three [Pure Land] sutras are the Great Sage’s own exposition.
When Sakyamuni was about to enter nirvana, he said to the bhiksus, “From this day on, rely on dharma, not on people who teach it. Rely on the meaning, not on the words. Rely on wisdom, not on the working of the mind. Rely on the sutras that fully express the meaning, not on those that do not.
“As to relying on dharma, dharma refers to the twelve divisions of scripture. Follow this dharma, not people who teach it.
“With regard to relying on the meaning, meaning itself is beyond debate of such matters as, like against dislike, evil against virtue, falsity against truth. Hence, words may indeed have meaning, but the meaning is not the words. Consider, for example, a person instructing us by pointing to the moon with his finger. [To take words to be the meaning] is like looking at the finger and not at the moon. The person would say, ‘I am pointing to the moon with my finger in order to show it to you. Why do you look at my finger and not the moon?’ Similarly, words are the finger pointing to the meaning; they are not the meaning itself. Hence, do not rely upon words.
“As to relying on wisdom, wisdom is able to distinguish and measure good and evil. The working of mind always seeks pleasure, and does not reach the essential. Hence it is said, ‘Do not rely on mind.’
“As to relying on the sutras that fully express the meaning, among all the sages, the Buddha is foremost. Among all the various scriptures, the Buddha-dharma is foremost. Among all human beings, the assemblage of bhiksus is foremost.”
The Buddha regarded the sentient beings of an age in which there is no Buddha as possessed of deep karmic evil. They are people who have not cultivated the roots of good that would enable them to see a Buddha.
73 Grounding myself in the right and true intent of the teaching and exploring the explanations made and transmitted by the venerable masters of the past, I will here set forth the true and provisional in relation to the Path of Sages and the Pure Land way, and caution people against nonbuddhist teachings based on opinions that are wrong, false, and misleading. Determining the year of Sakyamuni Tathagata’s entrance into nirvana, I will explain the distinctive characteristics of the right, semblance, and last dharma-ages.
Those who practice the way must continue without interruption for ten thousand kalpas before they can attain the stage of nonretrogression. Foolish beings of the present are said to be in reality “those whose thoughts of entrusting are as light as feathers.” Further, they are called [bodhisattvas merely in] “provisional name,” “those not settled,” and “foolish beings outside [the bodhisattva stages].” They have not yet departed from the burning house [of samsaric existence].
How do we know this? In the Bodhisattva-Ornament Sutra, the stages of practice leading to attainment of enlightenment are minutely distinguished; because of the principle functioning here, these stages are called the path of difficult practice.
I will clarify the reason for the Pure Land teaching by relating it to beings through its connection with the times and encourage them to take refuge in it; here, if the beings, the teaching, and the times were not in accord, it would be difficult to perform practice and difficult to attain enlightenment. The Sutra of Mindfulness of the Right Dharma states:
When practicers single-heartedly seek enlightenment,
They must always consider the times and the means;
If the times are inappropriate, there are no means.
This is called “loss”; it is not beneficial.
Why? Because it is like rubbing green wood to build a fire; fire cannot be made, for the time is not right. Because it is like merely breaking dry wood to build a fire; a fire cannot be made, for wisdom is lacking.
The “Moon-matrix” section of the Great Collection Sutra states:
During the first five-hundred year period after the Buddha’s parinirvana, my disciples will be resolute in acquiring wisdom. During the second five-hundred year period, they will be resolute in cultivating meditation. During the third five-hundred year period, they will be resolute in listening to the teaching and sutra-recitation. During the fourth five-hundred year period, they will be resolute in constructing towers and temples, practicing meritorious conduct, and performing repentance. During the fifth five-hundred year period, they will be resolute in conflict and strife, which will become widespread with the good dharma being diminished.
In ascertaining the nature of sentient beings of the present, we must consider that we are now in the fourth five-hundred year period following the Buddha’s departure from this world. This is indeed the age when beings should perform repentance, practice meritorious conduct, and recite the Buddha’s Name. In a single utterance of the Name of Amida Buddha, karmic evil that would involve one in eighty billion kalpas of birth-and-death is eliminated. Even a single utterance is thus; the person who practices the constant saying of the Name, is none other than the one who is always performing repentance.
In distinguishing the sutras that will remain in the world from those that will disappear, we must consider that all the teachings of Sakyamuni’s lifetime will last through the five hundred years of the right dharma-age and the thousand years of the semblance dharma-age; during the ten thousand years of the last dharma-age, sentient beings will diminish in number, and the sutras will all disappear. The Tathagata, out of pity for the sentient beings in the various forms of pain and torment, will have this sutra in particular survive, remaining for a hundred years.
The Great Collection Sutra states,
Out of billions of sentient beings who seek to perform practices and cultivate the way in the last dharma-age, not one will gain realization.
This is now the last dharma-age; it is the evil world of the five defilements. This one gate – the Pure Land way – is the only path that affords passage.
78 Thus, the multitudes of this evil, defiled world, ignorant of the distinctive characteristics of the latter age, revile the behavior and attitude of monks and nuns, but all people of the present, whether monk or lay, must take measure of their own capabilities.
79 Considering the teachings concerning the three dharma-ages, we find that the date of the Tathagata’s parinirvana falls on the fifty-third year (the year water/monkey) of the reign of King Mu, the fifth emperor of the Chou dynasty. From that year of water/monkey to the first year of our Gennin era (the year wood/monkey) it is 2,173 years. Based on the Auspicious Kalpa Sutra, the Benevolent Kings Sutra, and the Nirvana Sutra, we find that we are already 673 years into the last dharma-age.
He is a dharma-king that, basing himself on oneness, sets flowing the cultivation of beings.
He is a benevolent king that, widely reigning over the four seas, sends down the winds of virtue.
The benevolent king and the dharma-king, in mutual correspondence, give guidance to beings. The supramundane truth and the mundane truth, depending on each other, cause the teaching to spread. Thus, the profound writings are everywhere throughout the land, and the benevolent guidance reaches everywhere under heaven.
We foolish monks have been caught in heaven’s net and humbly submit to strict punishment; we have not a moment’s rest.
With regard to the dharma, there are three ages, and among people, there are three levels. The instruction imparting the teaching and precepts flourishes and declines according to the age, and words of condemnation or praise are accepted or rejected depending on the person. The fortunes of the three ancient eras arose and declined in different ways, and the wisdom and enlightenment of beings of the five five-hundred year periods after the Buddha’s demise differ. How can beings be saved by only one path? How can they be disciplined according to one principle?
Hence, we will distinguish carefully the right, semblance, and last [dharma-ages] and attempt to clarify how monks have observed or broken the precepts. There are three parts. First, the right, semblance, and last dharma-ages will be defined. Next, the behavior of monks in observing or breaking precepts will be determined. Finally, the teachings will be considered and compared with monks’ conduct.
First, to define the right, semblance, and last dharma-ages, we note that the various explanations differ. For the present, we will set forth one explanation. Kuei-chi, a Mahayana master, cites the Auspicious Kalpa Sutra and states:
After the Buddha’s parinirvana, the right dharma-age lasts for five hundred years and the semblance dharma-age for a thousand years. After this period of 1,500 years, Sakyamuni’s teaching will become completely extinct.
No mention of the last dharma-age is made here. According to other expositions, [the right dharma-age lasts one thousand years. However,] since nuns do not observe the eight rules of deference and are indolent, the [right] dharma does not extend any further [than five hundred years]. Thus, we cannot accept this teaching.
Further, the Nirvana Sutra states:
In the last dharma-age, a multitude of 120,000 great bodhisattvas uphold the dharma, so that it does not perish.
Since this statement concerns bodhisattvas of high rank, it also is irrelevant to our discussion here.
Question: If this is so, what is the behavior of monks during this 1,500 year period?
Answer: In the Sutra of Mahamaya it is stated:
During the first five hundred years after the Buddha’s parinirvana, seven holy monks, sages all, including Mahakasyapa, will uphold the right dharma in succession so that it does not perish. After five hundred years, the right dharma will become completely extinct.
Six hundred years after, the ninety-five kinds of nonbuddhist teaching will arise and vie with each other, but Asvaghosa will appear and subdue them all.
Seven hundred years after, Nagarjuna will appear and demolish the banners of wrong-views.
Eight hundred years after, monks will give themselves to self-indulgence and only a few will attain the fruit of enlightenment.
Nine hundred years after, menials will be made into monks and nuns.
One thousand years after, on hearing of the contemplation of bodily impurity, they will be enraged and give it no thought.
One thousand one hundred years after, monks and nuns will take wives and husbands, and will break and revile the precepts.
One thousand two hundred years after, monks and nuns will have children.
One thousand three hundred years after, the yellow monk’s robe will be changed to white.
One thousand four hundred years after, the four kinds of disciples will all be like hunters, and will sell the offerings made to the Three Treasures.
Here I declare: One thousand five hundred years after, two monks in the land of Kausambi will fall into dispute with each other and finally kill each other. As a result, the teachings will be stored in the naga’s palace.
This passage is also found in the Nirvana Sutra, fascicle eighteen, the Benevolent Kings Sutra, and others. According to these sutra passages, after 1,500 years, there will be no precepts, meditation, or wisdom. Therefore, the Great Collection Sutra, fascicle fifty-one, states:
During the first five hundred years after my nirvana, monks and others will be resolute in attaining emancipation through the right dharma that I have taught. (The first stage of sagehood that is attained is termed emancipation.) In the next five hundred years, they will be resolute in meditation. In the next five hundred years, they will be resolute in listening to the teaching. In the next five hundred years, they will be resolute in constructing temples. In the last five hundred years, they will be resolute in conflict and disputes, and the pure dharma will sink into dormancy…
This passage means that during the first three five-hundred year periods, the three dharmas of precepts, meditation, and wisdom will, in succession, be resolutely upheld. This corresponds to the two periods in the quotation above: the right dharma lasting five hundred years and the semblance dharma lasting one thousand years.
The period from that of temple construction on is the last dharma-age. Thus, Chi’s Commentary on the Diamond Sutra states:
The right dharma-age lasts five hundred years and the semblance dharma-age one thousand; after these 1,500 years, the right dharma will perish utterly.
We know, therefore, that the period from temple construction on belongs to the last dharma-age.
Question: If that is so, precisely to which period does the present age belong?
Answer: There are a number of theories concerning the years since the Buddha’s nirvana; I will present two of them here.
First, Master Fa-shang and others, based on the Chou Dynasty Record of Miraculous Events, state:
The Buddha entered nirvana in the fifty-third year (water/monkey) of the reign of Mu Wang-man, the fifth lord of the Chou dynasty.
If we accept this theory, from that year (water/monkey) to our present year, Enryaku 20 (metal/snake), it is 1,750 years.
Second, Fei Ch’ang-fang and others, based on the Spring and Autumn Annals of the state Lu, declare:
The Buddha entered nirvana in the fourth year (water/rat) of the reign of K’uang Wang-pan, the twenty [-first] lord of Chou.
If we accept this theory, from that year (water/rat) to our present year, Enryaku 20 (metal/snake), it is 1,410 years.
Thus, this present period belongs to the end of the semblance dharma-age. Conduct in this period is already the same as in the last dharma-age.
In the last dharma-age, only the verbal teaching remains; there is no practice or realization. If there were precepts, then there would be the breaking of precepts. But already there are no precepts; by the violation of what precept can the precepts be said to be broken? And since there is not even the breaking of precepts, how much less is there the observance of precepts! Therefore the Great Collection Sutra states:
After the Buddha’s nirvana, those without precepts will fill the land.
Question: In the sutras and the vinaya, those who break precepts are barred and refused permission to enter the sangha. Even those who break precepts are thus; how much more so those without precepts. Nevertheless, you now assert again with regard to the last dharma-age that there are no precepts. Why should monks feel the pain [of breaking precepts] without a wound?
Answer: Your reasoning here is erroneous. The conduct of monks during the right, semblance, and last dharma-ages is set forth in many sutras. Who is there, whether within or without – whether monk or lay – who has not read of it? Why should they, while being greedily attached to a wrong way of life, hide the right dharma that is the support of the country?
However, in the last dharma-age, with which we are concerned here, there are monks in name only. These nominal monks are the true treasures of the age. Are they not fields of merits? If, in the last dharma-age, there were those who observed precepts, they would seem strange and suspect, like a tiger in the marketplace. Who would believe in such things?
Question: We have already seen the subject of monks’ conduct in the right, semblance, and last dharma-ages discussed in many sutras. Is it stated in the sacred scriptures, however, that nominal monks of the last dharma-age are the true treasure?
Answer: The Great Collection Sutra, fascicle nine, states:
It is like genuine gold being regarded as a priceless treasure. If there were no genuine gold, silver would be regarded as a priceless treasure. If there were no silver, then brass – as spurious treasure – would be regarded as priceless. If there were no brass, then copper or nickel, iron, pewter, or lead would be regarded as priceless.
All such metals are the world’s treasures, but it is the Buddha dharma that is priceless. If there is no treasure of Buddha, the pratyekabuddhas is supreme. If there is no pratyekabuddhas, the arhat is supreme. If there is no arhat, other sages are regarded as supreme. If there are no other sages, beings who have realized meditation are regarded as supreme. If there are no beings who have realized meditation, those who strictly observe precepts are regarded as supreme. If there are none who strictly observe precepts, monks who imperfectly observe precepts are regarded as supreme. If there are none who imperfectly observe precepts, monks in name only, who shave their heads and wear a monk’s robe, are regarded as supreme.
Compared with followers of the ninety-five kinds of wrong paths, they are regarded as belonging to the first rank. They are worthy of receiving the world’s homage. They are the field of merits for beings. Why? Because they show that they are to be held in awe by sentient beings. If one pays homage to such monks, protecting and supporting them, before long one will surely attain the state of discernment.
In this passage, eight kinds of priceless treasure are mentioned: the Tathagata, pratyekabuddhas, sravakas, and those of the first three fruits; beings who have realized meditation, monks who observe precepts, and monks who break precepts; and monks in name only who are without precepts. These are the priceless treasures of the right, semblance, and last dharma-ages, respectively. The first four belong to the right dharma-age, the next three to the semblance dharma-age, and the last to the last dharma-age. Thus we know clearly that those who break precepts and those who have no precepts are all true treasures.
Question: Humbly reading the preceding passage from the sutra, I see that monks who break precepts and monks in name only are indeed all true treasures. Why is it stated in the Nirvana Sutra and the Great Collection Sutra:
If the king and the ministers make offerings to monks who break precepts, the three calamities will arise in the land, and they will eventually be born in hell.
It is so even with monks who break precepts; how much more so, then, with monks who have no precepts. Thus, with regard to a single person – the monk who breaks precepts – the Tathagata speaks at times with censure and at times with praise. Is there not the fault of two contradictory judgments in the exposition of the one sage?
Answer: Your reasoning is in error. In the Nirvana Sutra and the other sutras, there is an injunction against breaking precepts in the right dharma-age. This is not spoken with regard to monks of the semblance and last dharma-ages. Although the terms are the same, the times differ. There is injunction or sanction according to the age. This is the Great Sage’s intent. In the World-honored one, there is no fault of two contradictory judgments.
Question: If that is the case, how do we know that the Nirvana Sutra and the other sutras prohibit breaking precepts during the right dharma-age and that this does not apply to monks of the semblance and last dharma-ages?
Answer: It is as revealed in terms of the eight kinds of true treasure taught in the passage from the Great Collection Sutra quoted before. This is the proof. For depending on the age, all are regarded as priceless. However, the monk who breaks precepts in the time of the right dharma defiles the purity of the sangha; hence, the Buddha strictly prohibits this and does not allow him to enter. Thus, it is stated in the Nirvana Sutra, fascicle three:
The Tathagata has now entrusted the supreme, right dharma to kings, ministers, councilors, monks, and nuns… If there are some who break their precepts and slander the right dharma, the kings, ministers, and four groups of Buddhists should earnestly correct them. Such kings, ministers, and others will gain immeasurable merit… They are my disciples; they are true hearers. They will attain merit beyond measure…
Such words of injunction appear in numerous places throughout the sutras. All are injunctions explained for the right dharma-age, not teachings for the semblance and last dharma-ages. This is know because there is no dharma that can be abused, for the right dharma cannot be practiced in the latter part of the semblance dharma-age and in the last dharma-age. What is there that can be called abuse of the dharma? There are no precepts to be broken. Who is there that can be called one who breaks precepts? Further, in such times there is no practice of right dharma for a great king to safeguard. How should the three calamities be fomented, and how could the practice of precepts and wisdom be lost? Moreover, in the semblance and last dharma-ages, there is no one who attains the fruit of realization. Why should it be taught that the great king be advised by the two kinds of sages? Hence we know that the teachings in the preceding passages all refer to the right dharma-age, when precepts are observed, for only then can there be the breaking of precepts.
Next, concerning the thousand years of the semblance dharma-age, during the first five hundred years, the observance of precepts wanes by degrees and the breaking of precepts gradually spreads. Although precepts are observed and practices performed, there is no realization. Hence, the Nirvana Sutra, fascicle seven, states:
Kasyapa Bodhisattva said to the Buddha, “World-honored one, you have taught that there are four kinds of maras. How is it possible to distinguish between the teachings of maras and the teaching of the Buddha? If some sentient beings pursue the practices of maras and others follow the teaching of the Buddha, how are these various beings to be known?”
The Buddha said to Kasyapa, “Seven hundred years after my parinirvana, the mara Papiyas will gradually gain strength and will act incessantly to destroy the right dharma that I teach. It is like a hunter being clothed in monk’s robes. The mara Papiyas will be thus. In taking on the appearance of monks and nuns, laymen and laywomen, he will be like this… [He will say:] ‘Monks are permitted to acquire and keep menials, servants, cows, sheep, elephants, horses and so on, including copper and iron kettles and cauldrons, copper bowls of various sizes, and necessities of daily life; they may cultivate fields and plant seeds, buy and sell, engage in trade, and store grains and rice. The Buddha, out of his great compassion, takes pity on sentient beings and therefore permits them to engage in such activities and keep such things.’ All such sutras and vinayas are the teachings of maras.”
Already we see it stated, “Seven hundred years after my parinirvana, the mara Papiyas will gradually gain strength.” Hence we know that at that time monks will gradually come to desire and keep the eight kinds of impure possessions. The fabrication of these false teachings is the work of maras. These sutras clearly explain in detail the conduct of monks with reference to the age. They should not be doubted. Here I have cited one passage; know that others are in accord with it.
Next, in the latter half of the semblance dharma-age, observance of precepts will decline and diminish, and breaking precepts will increase enormously. Therefore it is stated in the Nirvana Sutra, fascicle six:…
Further, the Sutra of the Ten Wheels states:
If there is a person who, according to my teaching, abandons homelife and yet commits evil, then though he is not a sramana, he calls himself a sramana, and though he does no pure acts he calls himself one who performs pure acts. Such a monk opens the storehouse of all good acts and virtues to all the devas, nagas, and yaksas, thus becoming a true teacher of sentient beings. Though he cannot be said to know content with but few desires, he shaves his head and beard and dons monk’s robes. Through this, he increases the roots of good of sentient beings and discloses the path of good for the beings of the heavens…
Although the monk who breaks precepts is said to be a dead man, the traces of the power of precepts in him are like the cow’s liver. The cow may have died, but people can in full awareness derive the medicinal liver from it. It is like the usefulness of the musk after the musk deer has died.
As we see, it is stated [in the Nirvana Sutra], “In the poisonous kara forest, there is a single persimmon tree.” This is a parable teaching that the momentum of the semblance dharma-age is declining, and that in the defiled world characterized by the breaking of precepts, there are but one or two monks who observe precepts. Further, it is stated: “Although the monk who breaks precepts is said to be a dead man, it is like the usefulness of the musk after the musk deer has died. He becomes the true teacher of sentient beings.” Clearly we know that in this period the breaking of precepts gradually comes to be permitted and becomes the field of merits for the world. This is the same as in the passage from the Great Collection Sutra quoted earlier.
Next, after the end of the semblance dharma-age, there are no precepts whatsoever. Recognizing the momentum of the times, the Buddha praises those who are monks in name only, declaring them to be the field of merits for the world, in order to save the people of the last dharma-age. The Great Collection Sutra, fascicle fifty-two, states:
If, in the last age that follows, there is a monk in name only who, in accord with my teaching, shaves his hair and beard and wears a monk’s robe, and if there are lay supporters making offerings to him, these latter will acquire immeasurable merit.
Further, the Sutra of the Wise and the Foolish states:
If in the future, in the last age when the dharma-vehicle is about to perish, nominal monks should take wives and have them bear children, still lay supporters should pay homage to groups of four or more such monks just as they would to Sariputra, Mahamaudgalayayana, and the others.
Further, it states:
If one beats and scolds monks who break precepts, failing to recognize that they wear monk’s robes, the offense is the same as causing blood to flow from the bodies of a hundred billion Buddhas. If, because of the dharma that I teach, sentient beings shave their hair and beard and don monk’s robes, though they may not observe the precepts, they all bear the seal of nirvana already…
The Sutra of Great Compassion states:
The Buddha said to Ananda, “In the future age, when the dharma is about to fall into complete extinction, monks and nuns – who have abandoned homelife in accord with the dharma that I teach – will wander together from one winehouse to another, leading their children by the hand. While following the dharma, they will commit impure acts. While behaving thus because of wine, they will be my disciples in the Auspicious Kalpa, when a thousand Buddhas appear in the world. After me, the future Buddha Maitreya will be my successor, followed by others. Know that the succession will continue thus in order, until finally reaching Rocana Tathagata.
“Ananda, while following the dharma, people will perform the acts of sramanas merely in form and declare themselves sramanas; in appearance they will resemble sramanas, and they will still wear monk’s robes. In the Auspicious Kalpa, when the Buddhas from Maitreya down to Rocana Tathagata appear, such sramanas will, under those Buddhas, gradually enter nirvana in the realm of nirvana without residue. None will be left behind. Why? Because among the sramanas under the guidance of the Tathagatas, those who say the Buddha’s name even once, awakening one moment of trust, will gain virtue through their act that will ultimately not be in vain. Thus through Buddha-wisdom, I discern the dharma-realm…”
All these sutras, referring to the age, speak of the nominal monks of the last dharma-age in the future as the venerable teachers of that period. If the monks of the last dharma-age are constrained by the injunctions meant for the right dharma-age, then the teachings and the capacities of beings will fall into opposition, and human beings and dharma will not be suited to each other. Accordingly, the Four-Part Vinaya states:
When that which has not been prohibited is made into a prohibition, the [Buddha’s] three illuminations are sundered. Codifying such arbitrary opinions is an offense.
With the quotations from the sutras given above, the alignment [of dharma-ages and beings] has been completed.
In conclusion, I will cite the sutras and discuss them with respect to the last dharma-age. In its fundamental nature, the last dharma-age consists of the destruction of the right dharma, so that the three modes of activity cannot be regulated. The four modes of proper deportment are all violated. The Sutra Resolving Doubts concerning the Semblance Dharma-Age states:…
Further, the Final Testament Sutra states:…
Further, the Dharma-Practice Sutra states:…
The Mrgaramatr Sutra states:…
Further, the Benevolent Kings Sutra states:…
If one has taken refuge in the Buddha, one must not further take refuge in various gods.
Those among laywomen who hear of this samadhi and seek to learn it:…Take refuge in the Buddha yourself, take refuge in the dharma, take refuge in the sangha. Do not serve other teachings, do not worship devas, do not enshrine spirits, do not heed days considered lucky.
Laywomen who wish to learn this samadhi…must not worship devas or enshrine spirits.
Then Kharosti said to the beings of the heavens, “The moon and these other heavenly bodies each have their own sphere to govern. You are to save the four kinds of sentient beings. What are these four? You are to aid the human beings on earth, all nagas, yaksas, and further, scorpions. All such beings are to be saved without exception. In order to bring peace and happiness to all sentient beings, I have fixed the stars in their constellations. Each of these has its own divisions of space and time, down to the briefest hour. I will explain each in detail. The activities of each proceed regularly and prosper, varying according to the lands and their directions.”
Kharosti placed his palms together before the assembly and said, “I have thus set in their places the sun and moon, the annual seasons, and the major and minor heavenly bodies. What are the six seasons? The first and second months are the time of warmth. The third and fourth months are the time of sowing. The fifth and sixth months are the time of rain. The seventh and eighth months are the time of ripening. The ninth and tenth months are the time of chill. The eleventh and twelfth months are the time of heavy snow. The twelve months are thus divided into six seasons.
“Further, there are eight major heavenly bodies: Jupiter, Mars, Saturn, Venus, Mercury, the sun, the moon, and the star of eclipse. In addition, there are twenty-eight minor heavenly bodies, ranging from Krttika to Bharani. I have set them thus in order and have explained the laws of their placement. All of you, look and listen! All of you in this assembly, what are your thoughts? Are the methods by which I set them in place right or wrong? Do the activities and functioning of the twenty-eight constellations and the eight major heavenly bodies give you delight or not? Those who say yes and those who say no, each declare your views.”
A that time all the devas, human beings, ascetics, asuras, nagas, kinnaras, and others placed their palms together and said, “You, Great Sage, are the most revered among devas and human beings, and among the nagas and asuras also, non surpasses you. Your wisdom and compassion are supreme. For innumerable kalpas you have taken pity on all sentient beings, never forgetting them; hence, you have gained meritorious recompense and fulfilled your vows, and your virtues are like an ocean. You know all things of the past, present and future; among devas and human beings, there is not one who possesses such wisdom. There is no sentient being who could have made such laws and operations – the laws and operations of day and night, of moment and hour, of the major and minor heavenly bodies, and of the waxing and waning moon and the cycle of the year. All of us delight in this and find peace and joy in it. How wonderful! You, the one of great virtue, give peace and comfort to sentient beings.”
Then the sage Kharosti said, “Means such as the cycle of the year consisting of twelve months, and the laws governing the major and minor stars and the moments and hours, have all been explained already. Further, the great kings of the four continents have been placed at the four faces of Mount Sumeru, one king at each face. From each face, they reign over the sentient beings of that quarter. The deva-king of the northern quarter is Vaisravana. In his realm, there are many yaksas. The deva-king of the southern quarter is Virudhaka. In his realm, there are many kumbhandas. The deva-king of the western quarter is Virupaksa. In his realm, there are many nagas. The deva-king of the eastern realm is Dhrtarastra. In his realm, there are many gandharvas.
“These kings protect all lands and cities throughout the four cardinal points and four intermediate directions. Further, spirits are placed about as guards.”
When the sage Kharosti finished preaching, all the great assembly – including devas, nagas, yaksas, asuras, kinnaras, mahoragas, and human and nonhuman beings – rejoicing immeasurably, said, “It is good, it is good!” A this time, the devas, sages nagas, yaksas, asuras and others paid homage day and night to Kharosti.
Further, after an immeasurable length of time, there will be another sage. He will be named Kalika. He will appear in the world and again teach the laws governing the heavenly bodies and minor and major moons, and the essentials concerning times and seasons.
When the sage Light-Taste had preached the above, all the nagas on Mount Khalatiya where the sage lived venerated him with great reverence. With all their power as nagas, they paid homage.
When Papiyas finished delivering his verse, there was a mara woman in the assembly named Free-of-Darkness. This mara woman had, in the past, planted various roots of good. She stated, “The sramana Gautama is called by a name meaning ‘virtues’. If sentient beings are able to hear the Buddha’s name and wholeheartedly take refuge in him, no mara is capable of inflicting harm on them. Much less subject to harm, then, are those who, seeing the Buddha and hearing the dharma directly, adopt various means to deepen and broaden their wisdom and insight…An army of all maras hundreds of billions in number could not inflict harm on them even for a moment. The Tathagata has now opened forth the path to nirvana. I will go to the Buddha and take refuge in him.”
Then she declared in verse for her father:….
By practicing the dharma taught by all the Buddhas throughout the past, present, and future,
I will liberate sentient beings undergoing all forms of pain.
Attaining complete mastery in all dharmas,
I aspire to be like the Buddha in the future.
When Free-of-Darkness finished stating her verse, five hundred mara women in the palace of her father the king, including all her sisters and relatives, awakened the aspiration for enlightenment. Then the mara king, seeing that the five hundred women of the palace had all taken refuge in the Buddha and awakened the aspiration for enlightenment, felt a mounting anger and fear and sorrow….At that time, the five hundred mara women declared in verse to Papiyas:
If sentient beings take refuge in the Buddha,
Those people will be fearless in the face of a hundred billion maras.
All the more free of fear are those who have aspired to cross the current of birth-and-death
And reach the shore of uncreated nirvana.
If there are beings who offer a piece of incense
And scatter a blossom before the three treasures of Buddha,
Dharma, and Sangha,
They will give rise to a mind resolute and fearless,
Which cannot be defeated even by all the maras….
Our immeasurable evil from the past
Is all extinguished without any residue;
Now that we have taken refuge in the Buddha sincerely and wholeheartedly,
It is certain that we will attain the fruit of supreme enlightenment.
When the mara king heard these verses, his anger and fear greatly increased; his heart grew feverish with distress and melancholy, he sat alone in the palace.
At that time, the bodhisattva-mahasattva Light-Taste, hearing the Buddha teach the dharma, caused all sentient beings to sever their attachments and achieve the four pure practices….
[The Buddha said to Light-Taste,] “Bathe yourself, don clean robes, refrain form meat and from meals after noon, and do not eat things strong in taste or smell. Prepare a site for practice in a tranquil place and sit in right mindfulness with your legs crossed. Whether walking or sitting, think on the Buddha’s bodily features and do not let your mind be distracted. Do not perceive any other objects or think on other matters. For one day and night or seven days and nights, perform no other action. Sincerely think on the Buddha…and see the Buddha. With a small thought one sees a small Buddha; with a great thought one sees a great Buddha….With immeasurable thoughts, one sees the immeasurable and boundless Buddha body.
Then the mara Papiyas, surrounded in front and behind by eighty billion kinsmen, went to the place of the Buddha. On reaching it, he touched his head to the Buddha’s feet and paid homage to the World-honored one. Then he stated in verse….
All Buddhas of the past, present, and future, with great compassion,
Accept my homage! I repent all my evil acts.
In the two treasures of dharma and sangha, in the same way.
I sincerely take refuge without any other thought.
May I, this day, make offerings to, revere,
And venerate the guiding master of all the world.
All evils I extinguish forever and will never commit;
To the end of my life, I will take refuge in the Tathagata’s dharma.
The mara Papiyas, when he had finished stating this verse, said to the Buddha, ‘O World-honored one! The Tathagata, possessing a mind of equality and nondiscrimination with regard to me and all sentient beings, is always filled with joy and with compassion and forbearance.”
The Buddha said, “So it is.”
Then the mara Papiyas greatly rejoined and awakened the mind of purity. Again, before the Buddha, he touched his head to the Buddha’s feet in homage. He then circumambulated the Buddha three times to the right, reverently placed his palms together, and withdrew to one side, where he stood gazing at the Buddha without wearying.
[The Buddha said,] “All beings! If you keep your distance from wrong views, you will gain ten kinds of virtue. What are these ten? First, with your mind pliant and good, you will have companions who are wise and virtuous. Second, believing in the recompense of actions, leading even to death, you will not commit any evil acts. Third, venerating the three treasures, you will not trust in gods. Fourth, adopting right views, you will not decide propitious or unpropitious times according to the season, day or month. Fifth, always being born in realms of human beings or devas, you will never fall into the evil courses. Sixth, attaining a mind of clarity in wisdom and goodness, you will be praised by others. Seventh, abandoning secular involvements, you will always pursue the holy path. Eighth, parting from views of annihilation and eternality, you will believe in the law of causation. Ninth, you will always meet and be with people of right faith, right practice, and right aspiration. Tenth, you will be born into the good courses of existence.
“You will direct the roots of good acquired from casting off wrong views toward attainment of supreme, perfect enlightenment. People who do so quickly fulfill the six paramitas and will attain perfect enlightenment in a Buddha-land of goodness and purity. Having achieved enlightenment, they will adorn sentient beings with their virtues, wisdom, and all their roots of good in their own Buddha-land. Being born in those lands, people do not put trust in gods; leaving behind their fear of the evil course, they will be born into good courses on ending their lives there.”
Extremely difficult is it to encounter a Buddha’s appearance in the world,
And difficult again to encounter the dharma and the sangha.
Difficult is it for sentient beings to attain pure faith,
And difficult again to part from the manifold adversities.
Difficult is it to have pity on sentient beings,
And difficult above all to know content.
Difficult is it to be able to hear the right dharma,
And difficult indeed to practice it well.
If we come to know these difficulties and thus attain [the ten kinds of] equality,
We will always receive happiness in the world.
The person of wisdom is always quick to perceive
The ten kinds of equality….
Then the World-honored one taught the dharma to the gathering of evil spirits. At that time, some evil spirits in the assembly had in the past awakened a resolute faith in the Buddha’s teaching. After that, however, they had associated with evil teachers and had come to perceive in their hearts the faults of others. It was through this cause that they had been born evil spirits.
Then, in order to instruct the beings of the world, the World-honored one asked the deva-king Mahabrahma, lord of the Saha world, “Who protects and sustains the four continents?”
The deva-king Mahabrahma, lord of the Saha world, said, ‘World-honored one of great virtue! The deva-king of Tusita heaven, together with countless hundreds of thousands of Tusita gods, protects and sustains Uttarakuru.
“The deva-king of Paranirmitavasavartin heaven, together with countless hundreds of thousands of Paranirmitavasavartin gods, protects and sustains Purvavideha.
“The deva-king of Nirmanarati heaven, together with countless hundreds of thousands of Nirmanarati gods, protects and sustains Jambudvipa.
“The deva-king of Suyama heaven, together with hundreds of thousands of Suyama gods, protects and sustains Aparagodaniya.
“World-honored one of great virtue! King Vaisravana, together with a host of countless hundreds of thousands of yaksas, protects and sustains Uttarakuru.
“King Dhrtarastra, together with a host of countless hundreds of thousands of gandharvas, protects and sustains Purvavideha.
“King Virudhaka, together with a host of countless hundreds of thousands of kumbhandas, protects and sustains Jambudvipa.
“King Virupaksa, together with a host of countless hundreds of thousands of nagas, protects and sustains Aparagodaniya.
“World-honored one of great virtue! Seven constellations of the heavenly sage [Kharosti], three luminous bodies, and three celestial maidens protect and sustain Uttarakuru. These seven constellations of the heavenly sage are Sata-bhisa, Dhanistha, and Purva-bhadrapada, Uttara-bhadraphada, Revati, Asvini, and Bharani. The three luminous bodies are Saturn, Jupiter, and Mars. The three celestial maidens are Kuhan, Mina, and Meisha.
“World-honored one of great virtue! Among these seven constellations of the heavenly sage, Sata-bhisa, Dhanistha, Purva-bhadrapada are the domain of Saturn, and Kuhan is its star. Uttara-bhadrapada and Revati are the domain of Jupiter, and Mina is its star. Asvini and Bharani are the domain of Mars, and Meisha is its star. World-honored one of great virtue, these seven constellations of Kharosti, three luminous bodies, and three celestial maidens protect and sustain Uttarakuru.
“World-honored one of great virtue! Seven constellations of the heavenly sage, three luminous bodies, and three celestial maidens protect and sustain Purvavideha. These seven constellations of the heavenly sage are Krttika, Rohini, Mrga-sira, Ardra, Punar-vasu, Pusya, and Asleka. The three luminous bodies are Venus, Jupiter, and the moon. The three celestial maidens are Birisha, Michuna, and Katsukataka.
“World-honored one of great virtue! Among these seven constellations of the heavenly sage, Krttika and Rohini are the domain of Venus, and Birisha is its star. Mrga-sira, Ardra, and Punar-vasu are the domain of Jupiter, and Michuna is its star. Pusya and Aslesa are the domain of the moon, and Katsukataka is its star. World-honored one of great virtue! These seven constellations of the heavenly sage, three luminous bodies, and three celestial maidens protect and sustain Purvavideha.
“World-honored one of great virtue! Seven constellations of the heavenly sage, three luminous bodies, and three celestial maidens protect and sustain Jambudvipa. These seven constellations of the heavenly sage are Magha, Purva-phalguni, Uttara-phalguni, Hasta, Citra, Svati, and Visakha. The three luminous bodies are the sun, Mercury, and Venus. The three celestial maidens are Shakuka, Ka’nya, and Tora.
“World-honored one of great virtue! Among these seven constellations of the heavenly sage, Magha, Purva-phalguni, and Uttara-phalguni are the domain of the sun, and Shakuka is its star. Hasta and Citra are the domain of Mercury, and Ka’nya is its star. Svati and Visakha are the domain of Venus, and Tora is its star. World-honored one of great virtue! These seven constellations of the heavenly sage, three luminous bodies, and three celestial maidens protect and sustain Jambudvipa.
“World-honored one of great virtue! Seven constellations of the heavenly sage, three luminous bodies, and three celestial maidens protect and sustain Aparagodaniya. These seven constellations of the heavenly sage are Anuradha, Jyestha, Mula, Purva-sadha, Uttara-sadha, Sravana, and Abhijit. The three luminous bodies are Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn. The three celestial maidens are Birishika, Tatoba, and Makara.
“World-honored one of great virtue! Among these seven constellations of the heavenly sage, Anuradha and Jyestha are the domain of Mars, and Birishika is its star. Mula, Purva-sadha, and Uttara-sadha are the domain of Jupiter, and Tatoba is its star. Sravana and Abhijit are the domain of Saturn, and Makara is its star. World-honored one of great virtue! These seven constellations of the heavenly sage, three luminous bodies, and three celestial maidens protect and sustain Aparagodaniya.
“World-honored one of great virtue! Among the four continents, Jambudvipa is the most excellent. Why? Because the people of Jambudvipa are courageous and wise, and their pure acts benefit them. You, the Buddha, World-honored one, have appeared in it. For this reason the four great deva-kings of the directions all the more protect and sustain it. In Jambudvipa, there are sixteen great kingdoms. The four great kingdoms of Anga-Magadha, Vangamagadha, Avanti, and Ceti are surrounded by King Vaisravana and a host of yaksas, who protect and sustain them.
“The four great kingdoms of Kasi, Kosala, Vamsa, and Malla are surrounded by King Dhrtarastra and a host of gandharvas, who protect and sustain them.
“The four great kingdoms of Kuru, Vajji, Pancala, and Surasena are surrounded by King Virudhaka and a host of Kumbhandas, who protect and sustain them.
“The four great kingdoms of Assaka, Soma, Sorata, and Kamboja are surrounded by King Virupaksa and a host of nagas, who protect and sustain them.
“World-honored one of great virtue! Because the sages of the heavens protected and sustained the four continents in the past, they have been divided and situated in this way. Later – depending on whether the place was a kingdom, city, village, temple, or garden, beneath trees, among graves, or in mountain valleys, fields, rivers, springs, dikes, or jeweled islands in the sea or shrines to the gods – nagas, yaksas, raksasas, hungry ghosts, pisacas, putanas, kataputanas and so on were born there, by egg, womb, moisture, and metamorphosis. They dwell in those places but have no territory of their own. They have not received instructions from others. Thus, I pray that the Buddha array these spirits and station them throughout the lands of Jambudvipa for the protection of these lands and for the protection of all the beings. We would like to rejoice with them in receiving this instruction.”
The Buddha said, “It is so. Mahabrahma, it is as you say.”
Then the World-honored one set forth the meaning once more, teaching in verse:
In order to instruct the beings of the world, I,
The guiding master, asked King Brahma:
Who is it that protect and sustains
These four continents?
Brahma, teacher of the heavens, spoke thus:
With their followings, the kings of the heavens
Of Tusita, Paranirmitavasavartin,
Nirmanarati, and Suyama
Protect and sustain
The four continents.
Further, the kings of the four directions
And their followers protect and sustain them.
The twenty-eight constellations,
Their twelve central stars,
And the twelve celestial maidens
Protect and sustain the four continents.
Nagas, spirits, raksasas, and so on,
Who have received no instructions from others,
Go to and protect various areas
According to their place of birth.
I pray that the Buddha array
The devas and spirits variously,
And taking pity on sentient beings,
Make the torch of the right dharma burn brightly.
Then the Buddha said to Bodhisattva-mahasattva Moon-Matrix, “You who have knowledge of purity! At the beginning of this Auspicious Kalpa, when human life lasted forty-thousand years, the Buddha Krakucchanda appeared in the world. For the sake of countless, innumerable hundreds of thousands of billions of nayutas of sentient beings, this Buddha stopped the wheel of birth-and-death and turned the wheel of the right dharma. Further, he stopped the evil courses and established the good courses and the attainment of emancipation.
“This Buddha entrusted the four vast continents to the deva-king Mahabrahma, lord of the Saha-world, and to the deva-king of Paranirmitavasavartin heaven, the deva-king of Nirmanarati heaven, the deva-king of Tusita heaven, the deva-king of Suyama heaven, and other. In order to protect them, in order to sustain them, in order to manifest pity for sentient beings, in order that the seeds of the three treasures not be severed, in order that the three treasures flourish, in order that the vital energy of the earth, the vital energy of sentient beings, and the vital energy of the right dharma long abide and increase, in order to stop sentient beings from falling into the three evil courses, and in order to guide them toward the three good courses, he entrusted the four continents to Mahabrahma and the other deva-kings of the heavens.
“Thus the kalpa gradually elapsed and devas and human beings expired, all good acts and the pure dharma passed into extinction, and beings addicted to great evil and various blind passions increased. When human life lasted thirty thousand years, the Buddha Kanakamuni appeared in the world. This Buddha entrusted the four great continents to King Mahabrahma, lord of the Saha-world, and to the other deva-kings, from the deva-king of Paranirmitavasavartin heaven to the four great deva-kings of the directions and their followers. In order to protect and sustain the continents, and for all the other reasons, including stopping sentient beings from falling into the three evil courses and guiding them toward the three good courses, he entrusted the four continents to Mahabrahma and the other deva-kings.
“Thus the kalpa gradually elapsed and devas and human beings expired, the pure dharma passed away, and beings addicted to great evil and various blind passions increased.
“When human life lasted for twenty thousand years, the Tathagata Kasyapa appeared in the world. This Buddha entrusted the four great continents to King Mahabrahma, lord of the Saha-world, and to the deva-king of Paranirmitavasavartin heaven, the deva-king of Nirmanarati heaven, the deva-king of Tusita heaven, the deva-king of Suyama heaven, Kausika Indra, the four deva-kings of the directions, and all their followers. In order to protect and sustain the continents, and for all the other reasons, including stopping sentient beings from falling into the three evil courses and guiding them toward the three good courses, Kasyapa Buddha entrusted the four continents to Mahabrahma, the four deva-kings of the directions, and the others. He also entrusted them to the various sages of the heavens, the seven central stars, the twelve celestial maidens, the twenty-eight constellations, and so on in order to protect and sustain the continents.
“You who have knowledge of purity! Thus we have reached the time when human life lasts one hundred years – the time of defilement of the kalpa, defilement of the blind passions, defilement of the sentient beings, defilement of great evil and blind passions, and the evil world of strife. The pure dharma has vanished entirely, and all evils darken the world. Just as sea water has the single taste of salt, so the world is pervaded and filled with the taste of great blind passions. Evil ones in hordes, taking skulls in their hands and staining their palms with blood, slay one another. Among such evil sentient beings, I now appear in the world and attain perfect enlightenment beneath the bodhi tree. I received food from merchants led by Trapusa and Bhallika. For their sake, I divide Jambudvipa among the devas, nagas, gandharvas, kumbhandas, yaksas, and others, so that it be protected and sustained.
“Accordingly, all the bodhisattva-mahasattvas of the Buddha-lands throughout the ten quarters, without exception, will come and assemble here, gathering in multitudes. In this Buddha-land of Saha, where there are ten billion suns and moons, ten billion fourfold continents, ten billion fourfold great oceans, ten billion Encircling Iron Mountains and Great Encircling Iron Mountains, ten billion Mount Sumerus, ten billion fourfold asura castles, ten billion fourfold great deva-kings of the directions, ten billion Trayatrimsa heavens and so on, up to ten billion realms of neither thought nor no-thought that I will not enumerate in detail – in this Buddha-land of Saha, I will perform the Buddha’s work. In this Buddha-land of Saha, all the deva-kings Brahmas and their followers, as well as the deva-king Papiyas, the deva-kings of the Paranirmitavasavartin heavens, the deva-kings of the Nirmanarati heavens, the deva-kings of the Tusita heavens, the deva-kings of the Suyama heavens, the deva-king Indras, the fourfold great deva-kings of the directions, the kings of the asuras, the kings of the nagas, the kings of the yaksas, the kings of the raksasas, the kings of the gandharvas, the kings of the kinnaras, the kings of the garudas, the king of the mahoragas, the kings of the kumbhandas, the kings of the hungry ghosts, the kings of the pisacas, the kings of the putanas, the kings of the kataputanas and so on are gathered here in a great assembly with their followers in order to hear the dharma.
“In this Buddha-land of Saha, all the bodhisattva-mahasattvas and sravakas, without exception, have gathered here in order to hear the dharma. I will now, for the great assembly gathered here, set forth the most profound Buddha-dharma. Moreover, in order to protect the world, I will array the spirits gathered in Jambudvipa and station them throughout the land, and thus protect and sustain it.”
Then the World-honored one asked deva-king Mahabrahma, lord of the Saha-world, “To whom did the Buddhas of the past entrust these four great continents, in order that they be protected and sustained?”
Deva-king Mahabrahma, lord of the Saha-world, replied, “The Buddhas of the past entrusted these four continents to me and to Kausika Indra in order that they be protected. But we were at fault. [Thus,] my name and that of Indra have not been stated; only the other deva-kings and the constellations, luminous bodies, and central stars have been praised as those who protect and sustain them.”
Then deva-king Mahabrahma, lord of the Saha-world, and Kausika Indra touched their heads to the Buddha’s feet in homage and spoke these words, “World-honored one of great virtue! Well-gone one of great virtue! We now repent our failings. We are like small children, foolish and lacking in wisdom; how can we speak our names before the Tathagata?
“World-honored one of great virtue! Please pardon us. Well-gone one of great virtue! Grant us your pardon. Those gathered in the great assembly also, please pardon us. Having obtained freedom in expounding the teaching in our own dominions, we protect and sustain beings in order to lead them all into the good courses.
“Already in the distant past, under the Buddha Krakucchanda, we received our instructions, and we have already made the seeds of the three treasures flourish. Under the Buddhas Kanakamuni and Kasyapa, we again received the same instructions, and earnestly caused the seeds of the three treasures to flourish. This was in order that the vital energy of the earth, the vital energy of the sentient beings, and the vital energy of the right dharma – the taste of manda – long abide and increase. We too now receive instructions under the World-honored one also. Having obtained freedom in expounding the teaching in our dominions, we put an end to all strife and famine, and earnestly give protection in order to keep the seeds of the three treasures from extinction; in order that the three kinds of vital energy long abide and increase; in order to obstruct those sentient beings performing evil acts and protect and nurture those who practice the dharma; in order to stop sentient beings from falling into the three evil courses and to guide them into the three good courses; and in order that the Buddha-dharma be able to long abide.”
The Buddha said, “Excellent, excellent! Stalwart ones, let it be as you say.”
Then the Buddha said to the ten billion deva-king Mahabrahmas, “I place in your hands all beings who practice the dharma, abide in the dharma and accord with the dharma, and who shun evil. You, leaders of sages, obtain freedom in expounding the teaching in your own dominions in the ten billion fourfold continents. You have acquired places where you can freely exercise your powers. The sentient beings of those places are vile, coarse, and malicious; they altogether lack pity for others, conceive no fear for the next life, and impinge upon and distress the minds of all, whether warriors, brahmans, merchants and peasants, or serfs. They do so even to the minds of animals. In this way they engage in the destruction of life and hold to wrong views. Through these acts they bring about untimely winds and rains, the impairment and diminution of the vital energy of the earth, of sentient beings, and of the right dharma. You are to stop them and lead them to good acts.
“If there are sentient beings who seek to achieve good, who desire to obtain the dharma, who aspire to cross to the other shore beyond birth-and-death, who practice the paramitas of charity or one of the others, up to the paramitas of wisdom – sentient beings whose acts abide in the dharma, or who manage their affairs in order to perform practices – you should protect and sustain such sentient beings.
“If there are sentient beings who accept and uphold various sutras and treatises, recite them, expound them for others, and explain them, you should, with them, acquire sturdy powers through the means of mindfulness, enter the wisdom in which one does not forget what one hears, and discern the characteristics of all things, and moreover cause beings to part from birth-and-death, practice the noble eightfold path, and accord with the root of samadhi.
“If there are sentient beings in your dominions who, dwelling in the dharma, performing the methods of practicing samatha and vipasyana in order, and accomplishing the various samadhis, earnestly seek to practice in order to attain the three kinds of bodhi, you should remove evils and protect them, embrace them, warmly give them alms, and keep them from want.
“If there are sentient beings who practice charity by giving food and drink, clothing, or bedding, or who give medication for illness, you should cause the five benefits to increase for those almsgivers. What are these five? First, increase in life; second, increase in wealth; third, increase in pleasure; fourth, increase in good acts; and fifth, increase in wisdom. You will obtain benefits and happiness throughout the long night. Because of this, you will well fulfill the six paramitas, and before long, you will attain all-knowing wisdom.”
Then the ten billion deva-king Brahmas, with deva-king Mahabrahma, lord of the Saha-world, at their head, all said, “It is so, it is so. World-honored one of great virtue, in each of our own dominions, there are people who are vile, course and malicious, who lack pity for others, conceive no fear for the next life, and so on. We will stop them and cause the five benefits to increase for the alms-givers.”
The Buddha said, “Well spoken, well spoken! Let all of you be thus.”
At that time, all the bodhisattva-mahasattvas, all the great sravakas, and all the devas and nagas and so on, including all the human and nonhuman beings, praised [the deva-king Brahmas], saying, “Excellent, excellent! Valiant, courageous ones! You will cause the dharma to long abide, free all sentient beings from the evil courses, and lead them quickly into the good courses.”
Then the World-honored one, in order to clarify further the meaning, stated in verse:
I say to Moon-Matrix:
Upon entering the beginning of this Auspicious Kalpa,
Entrusted the four continents to Brahma and the others.
In order to obstruct all evil acts,
They make the eye of the right dharma bright;
They cast aside all evils
And protect and sustain those who practice the dharma.
They keep the seeds of the three treasures from extinction
And cause the three kinds of vital energy to increase;
They arrest the suffering in the evil courses
And lead them into the good courses.
Kanakamuni also entrusted the four continents
To King Mahabrahma and all the other deva-kings –
Of Paranirmitavasavartin, Nirmanarati, and so on,
And the four directions.
Next, Kasyapa Buddha also entrusted them
To deva-king Brahma, the four deva-kings
Of Nirmanarati and the other heavens,
Indra, the world-protecting kings,
And all the sages of the heavens in the past.
For the sake of all the worlds,
They set the constellations and luminous bodies in place
And had them protect and sustain beings.
When the world has entered the age of defilement and evil
And the pure dharma has become extinct,
I alone attain enlightenment that is supreme
And bring human beings peace and protect them.
Now, before this great assembly,
I have often been deeply troubled;
But you are to bestow alms and teach the dharma,
Support me and enable me to protect and sustain the world.
The bodhisattvas throughout the ten quarters
All without exception will come and gather here.
And the deva-kings also
Come to this Buddha-land of Saha.
I asked King Mahabrahma:
Who protected this world in the past?
The deva-kings Indra and Mahabrahma
Indicated the other deva-kings.
Then Indra and King Brahma
Begged me, the guiding master, for pardon, saying,
“In the dominions where we rule
We will stop all evil.
We will cause the seeds of the three treasures to flourish
And increase the three kinds of vital energy;
We will obstruct those who commit evil acts
And protect those who perform good.”
At that time there were ten billion maras. All together, at the same time, they rose from their seats, and joining their hands in homage, faced the Buddha, touched their heads to the Buddha’s feet, and said to the Buddha: “World-honored one! Awakening great courage, we will protect and sustain the Buddha’s right dharma and cause the seeds of the three treasures to flourish and to long abide in the world. We will now cause the vital energy of the earth, the vital energy of sentient beings, and the vital energy of the dharma all to increase. If there are disciples who listen well to the World-honored one, abide in the dharma and accord with the dharma, and perform practices so that the three modes of action correspond with the dharma, then we will all protect and sustain those people and see that they have all that they need…
In this Saha world,
At the time that it first entered the Auspicious Kalpa,
Krakucchanda Tathagata entrusted
All the four continents
To the deva-kings Indra and Brahma
And had them protect and sustain them.
Thus he caused them to nurture the seeds of the three treasures
And increase the three kinds of vital energy.
Kanakamuni also entrusted
The four continents
To Brahma, Indra, and the other deva-kings
And had them protect and sustain them.
Again, Kasyapa, in the same way,
Entrusted all the four continents
To Brahma, Indra, and the world-guardian kings
And had them protect people who practiced the dharma.
Further, the sages
And heavenly sages of the past
Entrusted the world to the central stars, luminous bodies, and constellations,
Dividing and arranging them.
In the world of the five defilements I have appeared;
I subdue the evil deeds of maras,
Form a great assembly,
And reveal the right dharma of the Buddha”…
All the assembled devas
Said together to the Buddha:
“In the dominions where we rule,
We will all protect the right dharma.
We will cause the seeds of the three treasures to flourish
And increase the three kinds of vital energy.
We will put an end to all disease and pestilence,
Starvation and strife.”
The Buddha said, “God of the sun, god of the moon, if you protect and sustain my dharma, I will have you enjoy long life and keep you from degeneration and decline.”
At that time there were ten billion deva-king Dhrtarastras, ten billion deva-king Virudhakas, ten billion deva-king Virupaksas, and ten billion deva-king Vaisravanas. They all, at the same time, together with their followers, rose from their seats, straightened their garments, bowed in homage with their palms joined, and spoke the following words: “World-honored one of great virtue! Each of us, in our own continent, will earnestly protect and sustain the Buddha-dharma. We will cause the seeds of the three treasures to flourish and long abide, and will make the three kinds of vital energy all increase…
“We now, with the same mind as our leader deva-king Vaisravana, protect the northern part of Jambudvipa and the teaching of all the Buddhas.”
The Buddha said, “It is so, it is so. It is just as you say. If, while clinging to existence, you want to reject pain and gain pleasure, you should protect and uphold the right dharma of the Buddhas. In this way you will certainly attain the recompense of immeasurable merit. If there are sentient beings who, following me, renounce worldly life, shave their hair and beard, and don monk’s robes, though they might not observe precepts, they all already bear the seal of nirvana. Further, there may be some who unjustly inflict distress and confusion on those who renounce worldly life but do not uphold precepts, abuse them and slander them, and taking swords and rods in their hands, cut them and flog them. They may seize their robes and begging bowls and snatch away their various daily provisions and utensils. Such people destroy the true and real fulfilled body of the Buddhas of the past, present and future; they demolish the eye for all devas and human beings. Because such people cause the right dharma taught by all the Buddhas and the seeds of the three treasures to sink into obscurity, they keep all devas and human beings from obtaining benefit. Since they will surely fall into hell, they cause the three evil courses to expand and grow full.”
[Further, it states:]
At that time, all the devas, nagas and so on, including all kataputanas and human and nonhuman beings, joined their palms in homage and said: “We will consider as our teachers and elders all those who are the Buddha’s disciples and those who, though they do not observe the precepts, shave their hair and beard and wear a monk’s robe at their shoulder. We will protect and sustain them, provide them with necessities, and keep them from want. If other devas, nagas and so on, including kataputanas, cause them distress or even look on them with evil thoughts, we will all together deprive them of their characteristics as devas, nagas, putanas, and so on, and make them ugly and unsightly. We will make it impossible for them to live together with us or to take meals with us. They will not be able to laugh or sport in the same place with us. In this way we will shun them and inflict punishment on them.
One must give up divination, study right views, and believe deeply and decidedly in the causation of evil and merit.
All those maras, all those spirits, and all those evil ones, with their accompanying groups, will each say, “I have attained the unexcelled enlightenment.” During the last dharma-age, long after my parinirvana, there will be many such maras, many such spirits, and many such evil ones. They will be active in the world, and as teachers, they will lead beings to fall into the trap of attachments and false views and to wander from the way to enlightenment. They will delude and confuse the ignorant and surely cause them to lose their minds. Where such spirits pass, familial houses will collapse and disperse, and their members will become maras of attachments and false views, losing the seed for becoming tathagata.
Without revealing themselves, the thirty-six spirit-kings, together with their followings of spirits numerous as the sands of the Ganges ten billion-fold, will take turns protecting those who receive the three refuges.
Those who take refuge truly and wholeheartedly, freeing themselves from all delusional attachments and all concern with the propitious or unpropitious, must never take refuge in false spirits or nonbuddhist teachings.
In various ways, to lesser or greater degree, they cling to signs of the propitious or unpropitious and worship spirits… they give rise to acts of the greatest and most oppressive evil, close to the evil karma that will lead them to Avici hell. Unless such people repent and cast off these acts of great evil – whether they do not leave homelife and receive full precepts, or whether they do – they will suffer the evil consequences.
Do not turn toward other teachings; do not worship gods.
Good sons and good daughters of pure trust must never serve gods to the very end of their lives.
Those who believe the deluded teachings of evil maras, nonbuddhists, or sorcerers foretelling calamity or fortune may be stricken by fear; their minds will become unsound. Engaging in divination, they will foretell misfortune and will come to kill various sentient beings. They may make prayers to gods or invoke spirits to beg for good fortune and wish for long life, but in the end these will not be obtained. Being foolish and ignorant, they will believe in false teachings and fall into inverted views and, finally bringing an untimely death on themselves, will enter hell with no prospect of emergence… Eight, undergoing misfortune, they will suffer from poison, prayers to evil gods, curses, and the spirits that emerge from corpses.
The rule of the person who renounces worldly life is not to pay homage to the king, not to pay homage to one’s parents, not to serve the six kinds of blood-relatives, and not to worship spirits.
At that time, there was a nephew of the three Kasyapa brothers, a brahmin with his hair tied in conch shape. This brahmin’s name was Upasena… He was always engaged in the study and practice of the way of hermit sages together with two hundred fifty brahmin disciples who also tied their hair in conch-shape. He heard that his uncles, the three Kasyapas, went with all their disciples to the place of the great sramana [Sakyamuni], shaved off their hair and beards and donned monk’s robes. Going to see his uncles, he spoke to them in verse:
Uncles! Have you worshiped fire for one hundred years in vain?
In vain have you performed austerities?
Today, do you all abandon this path of practice
Just as a snake sloughs its old skin?
Then his uncles, the three Kasyapas, said together, in verse, to their nephew Upasena:
In the past, we worshiped the god of fire in vain
And performed austerities to no purpose.
Today we abandon that path of practice
Indeed as a snake discards its old skin.
Further, there are sentient beings who, lacking the power of roots of good, are confused and misled by maras, nonbuddhist teachers, and spirits. During meditation, such beings may manifest forms to terrify you, or may appear with the features of comely men and women. You should meditate on “mind only”; the object will then disappear and harass you no more.
Sometimes they may appear in the forms of devas or bodhisattvas, or present figures replete with the features and marks of Tathagatas. They may teach dharanis, or charity, precepts, forbearance, endeavor, meditation and wisdom; or teach that equality is the true nirvana, or that emptiness, formlessness, and wishlessness is; or freedom from aversion and favor, or the nonexistence of cause and effect, or ultimate emptiness and tranquility. At other times, they may enable you to know your past lives or your futures. They may enable you to attain the wisdom of knowing the minds of others, or the capacity for unimpeded eloquence. Thus they may foster in you a grasping for worldly fame and profit.
They may cause you frequently to give rise to anger or joy, so that you grow accustomed to having an unstable nature. At times, you become extremely kind, or extremely sleepy, or extremely sick; your mind is given to negligence. At other times, you suddenly display great diligence, and afterwards abandon your efforts. You fall into uncertainty, with much doubting and much pondering. Or discarding your original excellent practices, you are brought to devote yourself to sundry acts, becoming entangled in worldly affairs and being drawn about here and there.
Again, maras and spirits may cause you to attain states that in small part resemble the various samadhis. These are all nonbuddhist attainments and not true samadhis. When you are abiding in meditation for one day, or two days, or three days, up to seven days, they may cause you to experience taking food and drink that is naturally fragrant and delicious; feeling pleasant repose in body and mind, without hunger or thirst, you thus become attached to your states. Or, they may cause you to lose moderation in meals, suddenly eating excessively or eating too little, so that your complexion changes accordingly.
For these reasons, practicers should constantly devote themselves to contemplating with wisdom and keep their minds from falling into a net of falsity. Strive to abide in right-mindedness, without grasping or clinging, and keep your distance from all obstructive acts. Know that none of the samadhis of nonbuddhist teachers is free from wrong views, attachment, and self-conceit, for they are undertaken out of desire for worldly fame, profit, and esteem.
The chapters “Ten Illuminations” and “Nine Admonitions” replying to the “ten divergences and nine delusions” posed by Li, the Taoist.
The first “divergence” set forth by the nonbuddhist states:
The spirit of the august Lao-tzu was entrusted to a wondrous hermit lady, and he was born from her left side. Sakyamuni entered the womb of Queen Maya and emerged from the right side.
The first illumination of the Buddhist states: Lao-tzu, contrary to the eternal laws, emerged from the left side after being entrusted to a herd girl. The World-honored one, conforming with the law of change, emerged from the right side of his sacred mother.
A person of enlightenment states: In reading the various commentaries on the Five Thousand Characters by Lü Ching-yü, Tai Shen, Wei Ch’u-hsüan, and others, and the glossaries compiled by the emperor Yüan of Liang and by Chou Hung-cheng, I find that they state that the title “august” has four applications: it is used for the three emperors and for the emperors Yao and Shun.
In ancient times these lords of great virtue stood above all the people; hence, they were referred to as “august.” Kuo-hsiang states in his commentary [on Chuang-tzu], “The person that the age regards as wise is the lord; those whose capacities are not recognized by the world are retainers.”
Lao-tzu was not an emperor or lord; he is not included among the four applications of the word “august.” In what documents is he casually referred to as “august”?
Moreover, such Taoist classics as Hsuan-miao, Chung-t’ai, Chu-t’ao, and Yü-cha, as well as the record Ch’u-sai-chi, state that Lao-tzu was born of his mother Li; they do not speak of a “wondrous hermit lady.” The statement by the nonbuddhist is incorrect, a groundless, fictitious tale.
Further, the Precious Record of Hermit Sages states:
Hermit sages do not take wives; hermit ladies do not take husbands.
Although they have the form of women, they do not give birth.
An event so miraculous [as Lao-tzu’s birth from a hermit lady] would certainly be spoken of as auspicious indeed. Why is it not mentioned in the Records of the Historian, and not noted at all in the Chou Writings? To search out what is merely imagined while denouncing the truth is none other than to trust in the words of the deluded and deceitful.
The Book of Rites states:
One who retires from government office and has no rank is said to “move to the left.”
The Analects states:
It is against propriety to wear robes with the left side outward [as viewed by others].
If the left side is superior to the right, why is it that Taoists, in their ritual processions, turn not to the left but rather to the right? Further, the imperial edicts all declare, “As stated to the right…” All of these examples are instances of according with the laws of Heaven…
The fourth “divergence” of the nonbuddhist states:
Lao-tzu lived in the days of King Wen and was teacher to the nation when the Chou rose to its height. Sakyamuni lived in the time of King Chuang and was a teacher in the land of Chi-pin [northern India].
The fourth illumination of the Buddhist states: Lao-tzu was a petty official in the government and humbly served in the archives. He did not live during the time of King Wen, nor was he a teacher when the Chou flourished.
Sakyamuni was in rank a prince, and he realized the enlightenment most honored in the world. His life corresponds to the height of King Chao, and he was the teacher of Jambudvipa…
The sixth “divergence” of the nonbuddhist states:
Lao-tzu began his life in the world during the reign of King Wen of Chou and ended his days in the time of Confucius. Sakyamuni was born into the family of Suddhodana; his period corresponds to the reign of King Chuang.
The sixth illumination of the Buddhist states: Lao-tzu, the incarnation of Kasyapa, was born in the year fire/hare [714 BCE] of the reign of King Huan and died in the year water/horse [519 BCE] of the reign of King Ching. Although he died in the time of Confucius, he did not live during the age of King Wen. The Buddha, the tamer of beings, was born in the year wood/tiger [1027 BCE] of the reign of King Chao and died in the year water/monkey [949 BCE] of the reign of King Mu. He was the heir of Suddhodana, and appeared before the time of King Chuang.
A person of enlightenment states: Confucius went to the kingdom of Chou to see Lao-tzu and ask about propriety. This is explained in detail in the Records of the Historian. There is no documentary evidence stating that Lao-tzu was the teacher of King Wen. He was born at the end of the Chou dynasty; this may be found in the records. The statement that he existed at the beginning of the Chou does not appear in the historical documents…
The seventh “divergence” of the nonbuddhist states:
Lao-tzu was born during the Chou dynasty and late in life went into the great desert. What became of him is a mystery; his final destination is unknown. Sakyamuni was born in the western lands and died near the Hiranyavati River. His disciples beat their breasts in sorrow, and large numbers of natives cried bitterly.
The seventh illumination of the Buddhist states: Lao-tzu was born at Lai-hsiang and buried at Huai-li. This is clearly known from the fact that Ch’in-i went to mourn him, but criticized him in regard to “the form of one who has hidden himself in Heaven.” Gautama was born in the palace and died beneath the sala trees. This became known in China during the reign of King Ming of the Han dynasty and is recorded in a treasured writing in the imperial library.
A person of enlightenment states: In the “Inner Chapters” of Chuang-tzu it is written:
When Lao-tzu died, Ch’in-i went to mourn him. He cried out only three times, then left the room. Lao-tzu’s disciples were puzzled and asked, “Weren’t you an old friend of the Master?”
Ch’in-i replied, “When I went in, I saw young people mourning for him as though they had lost their fathers, and old people mourning for him as though they had lost their sons. From the past, Lao-tzu has been called the form of one who has hidden himself in Heaven. At first, I too thought him such a person, but now I see it was not so.”
“Hidden” means to have withdrawn. “Heaven” implies gaining freedom from bondage. “Form” refers to the body. This passage means that Ch’in-i at first thought that Lao-tzu was a hermit sage who had gained freedom from the bonds of the physical body, but now he sees that he was wrong. Ah, Lao-tzu’s words flattered people and won their sympathy, but after all he could not evade death. He is not my friend…
The above are the ten illuminations of the Buddhist, replying to the ten “divergences” set forth by the nonbuddhist.
The nonbuddhist asserts first the “divergence” regarding left and right in birth; the Buddhist replies that there is here a distinction of superior and inferior in birth.
The Buddhist adds to illuminate the matter: The custom of wearing clothing with the left side outward is maintained by uncivilized peoples of the west and north; in China, commands that come from the “right” are respected. Thus, it is stated in the Spring and Autumn Annals:
The Prime Minister receives no imperial commands, but the assistant ministers receive commands. Is this not on the left [that is, unreasonable]?
The Records of the Historian states:
Lin Hsiang-ju’s contributions were great, and in position, he was to the right of Lien-p’o, who felt humiliated.
Further, it states:
Prime Minister Chang-i placed [the envoy from] Ch’in on the right and Wei on the left. Prime Minister His-shou placed Han on the right and Wei on the left.
Surely this indicates that the left side implies unreliability. The Book of Rites states:
Those who, through left [that is, wrong] ways, form groups and start riots among the masses are to be killed.
Does this not indicate that the right is superior and the left inferior? Huang Fu-mi states in his Biographies of Great Men:
Lao-tzu was a physiognomist of the state of Ch’u. He lived to the north of the Wo River and studied under Ch’ang-sung-tzu. When Ch’ang-tzu lay ill, Lao-tzu went to see him and inquired about his condition.
Further, Chi-k’ang states:
Lao-tzu studied the arts of the nine hermit sages under Chüan-tzu
Even though we examine the Records of the Historian and other great histories, we do not find it stated that Lao-tzu was born from an opening in his mother’s left side. Since there is no proper documentation, this assertion is obviously unacceptable.
It is evident that wielding a lance or moving a brush [with the right hand] is the beginning of letters and arms, just as the five aethers and the three kinds of luminous bodies are the beginning of yin and yang. Thus, in the Buddhist path, one turns to the right [i.e., correct way]; this accords with human activities, while the Tao of the left [i.e., incorrect, “sinister” path] of Chang-ling contradicts the normal way of Heaven. This is clear from the appearance [out of the right side] of Sakyamuni, who awakened compassion free of objects and responded to the desires of sentient beings….
Sakyamuni stood alone in heaven and on earth and occupied the position of the most revered. As one transcending the three realms and the six courses, his excellence was respected by all…
The nonbuddhist asserts:
Lao-tzu was a model, saving society and bringing people to salvation solely with the teaching of filial piety and loyalty, and manifesting the fullest compassion and love. Because of this, his fame and his teachings are transmitted perpetually, and the generations of kings, without alteration, have promulgated his profound influence without deviation for a myriad ages. Thus, in governing the country and in governing the household, his teaching has constantly served as a standard.
In Sakyamuni’s teaching, righteousness is discarded, parents are discarded; benevolence and filial piety are done away with. King Ajatasatru murdered his father, yet it is taught there was no offense. Devadatta wounded his cousin Sakyamuni with an arrow, but we do not hear of any punishment for his crime. Since common people are guided by his teaching, the evil is all the more compounded. If it is taken for a standard in society, how can good arise?
This is the tenth “divergence” regarding contradiction and conformity.
The illumination of the Buddhist states: [According to Taoists,] righteousness is inferior to the virtue of the Way, and propriety arises because loyalty and sincerity have attenuated. Small benevolence is despised as the conduct of lowborn women, and great filial piety is said to be practiced only by the rich.
Further, to laugh and sing on seeing people’s misfortune is not the manner in China, and to beat trays at funerals is not the rule of Chinese custom.
Thus, it is in order to instruct such people that filial piety is taught; it is to bring the people of the world to respect their fathers. Further, it is in order to instruct such people that loyalty is taught; it is to bring the people of the world to respect the king. For education with these teachings to spread to all countries is the utmost benevolence of the wise ruler. Throughout the four seas these teachings appear, and this is the great piety of the sacred king.
The Buddhist sutras state:
As the subject of mental activity transmigrates in the six courses, there is no being that does not become one’s father or mother. Since beings change ceaselessly in the three realms of birth-and-death, who can be distinguished as enemy or friend?
Further, it is stated:
Ignorance covers their eyes of wisdom, so that people come and go in birth-and-death. Through various acts committed in going and returning, people become parents and children reciprocally. In this way, enemies turn frequently into friends, and friend into enemies.
Thus, sramanas abandon mundane life and direct themselves toward the true. They treat all beings the same as parents and relatives. They discard worldly prosperity and pursue the way, and regard all beings as the same as their own relatives. (They practice the universally right mind and maintain the same attitude of universal friendliness.)
Further, in Taoism serene voidness is esteemed, yet you place importance on gratitude and love. In the dharma, equality is treasured, while you discriminate between friend and foe. Is this not delusion? That competition for power leads to forgetfulness of one’s parents is clearly documented in the histories; Duke Huan of Ts’i and King Mu of Ch’u are examples of this. Thus, is it not an error to seek to slander the sage [Sakyamuni]?
Here ends the tenth point regarding the inferiority of Taoism.
The two emperors unified the land; they lived at the beginning of the era of peace. The three sages established their teachings and advocated them in the period when the world had already become defiled. The Yellow Emperor and Lao-tzu actively discussed the essential meaning of profoundness, voidness, emptiness, and oneness, and the Duke of Chou and Confucius promoted the teachings of the arts of poetry, composition, propriety, and music. Illuminating the virtues of modesty and guarding the spirit of honesty are steps in ascending to sagehood. The three kinds of awe and the five constant virtues are causes for being born a human being or deva. These teachings implicitly accorded with the Buddha’s truth, but they did not correctly illuminate and exhaustively discuss it. It is like asking those who are mute or deaf the way; they can only point the direction and cannot tell us the exact distance. Or, we may wish to discover a river crossing from a rabbit or a horse; though they may know how to cross, they do not know the depth.
To extrapolate from these examples, the Yin and Chou dynasties were not propitious times for the spread of Sakyamuni’s teaching. The situation may be likened to a child being unable to look directly at blazing flames or dazzling light, or a weak-spirited man being unable to listen attentively to a violent thunderclap. Thus, on seeing rivers and ponds welling up and overflowing, King Chao stood in fear of the birth of a god, [Sakyamuni]. Seeing clouds and a rainbow change in color, the consort of King Mu rejoiced at the sage’s demise. In such circumstances, how could the teaching be received across the rivers of the Pamir range? How could contact be made with the truth from over the Himalayas? The Vimalakirti Sutra states, “It is not the fault of the sun or moon that the blind [do not see them].” Even though you might wish to engage in discussions that are like drilling holes, it would probably result only in harming the nature of your treasured “chaos.” It is beyond your understanding. This is the first blindness of the Taoist.
The second point of the Buddhist, concerning the construction of images and temple buildings:
From the time of Emperor Ming of the Han dynasty to the end of the Ts’i and Liang dynasties, there were over two hundred people, including kings, nobles, officials, men and women believers and monks and nuns, who deeply sensed the most sacred one and saw a miraculous radiance with their own eyes.
Further, there have been such accounts as those of the Buddha’s foot impression seen at Mount Wan, and a luminous Buddha image seen over the waters at Hu-tu. At the foot of Mount Ch’ing-t’ai, the [Buddha’s] figure appeared as the full moon, and outside the Yung-men gate an image of the rings at the top of a stupa was seen. King Nan-p’ing entered into deep correspondence with Buddha through a miraculous image, and Wen-hsüan received a revelatory dream through a sacred tooth relic. King Hsiao was able to cast a golden Buddhist image with one attempt, while the Emperor of Sung tried four times without success. There are countless such examples; it is impossible to mention them all. Though you be sightless, still how can you dismiss such miracles?
However, the virtue that is perfect is called nieh-p’an (nirvana); the way that reaches everywhere is called pu-t’i (bodhi, enlightenment); the wisdom that pervades all things is called Fo-t’o (Buddha). The Sanskrit terms have been transcribed with these Chinese words; thus, “Buddha” expressed in either language is clearly to be entrusted to. This is evident, because Fo-t’o or Buddha means “great awakening” in Chinese, pu-t’i or bodhi means “great Way,” and nieh-p’an or nirvana means “uncreated.” You, while daylong treading the broad earth of enlightenment, do not know that the great way is simply a different name for enlightenment. While you take bodily form in the realm of great awakening, you have still not learned that great awakening is a translation for Buddha. Thus, Chuang-tzu states:
Great awakening leads to knowledge of [human existence as] a great dream.
Kuo-hsiang states in commentary:
“Awakening” refers to a sage. The meaning here is that those whose hearts are distressed are all dreaming.
The commentary further states:
Confucius and Tzu-yu were not able to forget the words and apprehend the spirit; hence, they did not attain great awakening.
A person of virtue said, “The teaching of Confucius goes only up to here.”
Nirvana, which is tranquil illumination, cannot be known by the consciousness or apprehended through knowledge; rather, words are cut off and mental activity ceases. Thus, one forgets words. Dharma-body is possessed of the three aspects and four virtues; it is majestic and free of any annoyance. Hence, it is termed “emancipation.” Through spiritual awakening, one attains alleviation of distress. Confucius is spoken of as a sage, but his accomplishments are far surpassed by the Buddha. This we may assert, for we find it stated in Liu-hsiang’s Two Records of Antiquity:
One hundred fifty years after Buddhism was transmitted to China, Lao-tzu composed the Five Thousand Characters.
This being the case, both Chuang-tzu and Lao-tzu were aware of [and borrowed from] what was taught in the Buddhist sutras; the evidence for this is found here and there in their words and teachings…
The Sutra of Mindfulness of the Right Dharma states:
When people do not observe precepts, the devas fall into decline and the asuras flourish. Good nagas lose their power, and evil nagas gain in power. When evil nagas have power, there is frost and hail, as well as violent winds and ill rains out of season; the five kinds of grains do not ripen, epidemics arise and compete in virulence, and the people starve and kill each other.
When people observe precepts, the many devas grow in awesome majesty. The asuras decline, and evil nagas lose their power, while good nagas gain in power. When the good nagas have power, the winds and rains come at their proper times, and the four seasons are mild and harmonious. The nourishing rain falls, and rice and grain are abundant; the people enjoy peace, and arms and warfare are put aside. Epidemics do not occur…
A person of virtue states:
The Taoist states in Book of the Principle Hidden in the Great Sky and Book of Supreme Truth:
The Lord of the supreme great Way [Ling-pao T’ien-tsun] rules in Great Gossamer Net Heaven, which is infinitely vast and of fifty-five layers, on Mount Jade Capital, where the pavilion of seven precious substances with a golden shelf and jade-desk is found. Immortal youths and jade ladies attend him. He dwells beyond the thirty-two heavens and the three realms.
Further, we find it stated in the Chart of the Five Divine Peaks:
The Celestial Honored-one of the great Way governs at the capital of Great Profundity, located in the province of Jade Light, the prefecture of Golden Truth, the district of Heavenly Protection, the county of Primordial Illumination, the village of Settled Aspiration. No calamities intrude here.
The Scripture of Spirits states:
Great Gossamer Net Heaven lies at the top of the heavens in 555,555 layers.
The Chart of the Five Divine Peaks states:
“Capital” means to look over. The divine illuminated Lord of the supreme great Way, the Way of Ways, abides in the capital of Great Profundity, maintaining the tranquility.
Sound within the Heavens states:
Heavenly beings and hermits sound drums in the pavilioned palace. They attend at the jade capital and entertain the Lord of the Way.
Concerning the Catalog of Taoist Scriptures dedicated to the emperor by the Taoist [Hsüan Tu-kuan], all people say, “According to Lu Hsiu-ching, a man of the Sung, there are 1,228 [Taoist] volumes listed.” Miscellaneous works, including writings of the “tzu” category [belonging to various schools], were originally not included. Now, however, the Taoist [Hsüan Tu-kuan] lists 2,040 volumes. Among these are many [“tzu”] works taken from the “Catalog of Literature” of the Book of Han; 884 are erroneously listed and presented as Taoist writings…
It may be inferred that T’ao-shu [the author of The Art of Bodily Transformation] was none other than Fan-li. He intimately served Kou-chien, the king of Yüeh. The king and all his ministers, however, were taken captive by the kingdom of Wu and were forced to eat excrement and drink urine; they suffered extreme wretchedness. Further, Fan-li’s son was murdered by the kingdom of Ch’i. If Fan-li possessed the art of bodily transformation, why could he not transform himself and provide escape?
In reading the Record of the Creation of Heaven and Earth, we find the statement, “Lao-tzu was born from the womb of the imperial consort of King Yu.” In other words, he was the child of King Yu. It further states, “In station, he was an official in the archives.” That is, he was a retainer of King Yu. The Scripture on Converting the Natives [of India] states, “Lao-tzu was Tung-fang Shuo of the Han dynasty.” If this is actually so, why – since we know that King Yu was killed by the western barbarians – did Lao-tzu not, out of love for his father the king, give him a divine amulet to keep him from death?…
We have already referred to Lu Hsiu-ching’s catalog; it is without genuine substance. How ridden with errors it is! Hsiu-ching made his catalog as a great deception, but Hsüan Tu-kuan’s catalog [based on it] is deception compounded with deception…
The Larger [Nirvana] Sutra teaches:
There are ninety-six kinds of paths; only the single path of the Buddha is the right path. The other ninety-five are all nonbuddhist paths.
Discarding the nonbuddhist paths, I serve the Tathagata. If there are lords who make this same vow, let them each awaken the aspiration for enlightenment. Lao-tzu, the Duke of Chou, Confucius, and others guided people as disciples of the Tathagata, but they already followed wrong paths. Their teachings concern only mundane good; through them, one cannot part from the worldly and attain the sacred. Let lords and ministers, together with the nobility and the king and their families, turn from the false and adhere to the true, discard the wrong and enter the right. Thus the Treatise on the Establishment of Truth, setting forth the teaching in the sutras, states:
If your adherence to nonbuddhist paths is great and your adherence to the Buddha-dharma is light, you are possessed of wrong views. If your adherences are equal, your state is indeterminate, corresponding to neither good nor evil. If your adherence to the Buddhist path is strong and your adherence to the path of Lao-tzu is slight, you possess pure trust. “Pure” means immaculate both on the surface and within; all the grime and defilement of ignorance has been completely eliminated. “Trust” means to entrust oneself to the right and be free of wrong views. Hence, one is called a “disciple of the Buddha who possessed pure trust.” Other forms of trust are all wrong views. They cannot be called “pure trust”…
Discard the wrong teachings of Lao-tzu and enter the true teaching of the dharma!
The Buddhas of the zenith, countless as the sands of the Ganges,
Extend their tongues for the sake of such people as those of this Saha world
Who, committing the ten transgressions and five grave offenses, greatly doubt and slander the teaching,
Entrust themselves to wrong views, serve spirits, offer food to gods and maras,
Think delusional thoughts, seeking blessings, and wish for benefits,
And who, on the contrary, suffer calamities and disasters one after another, with increasing frequency,
Lie in bed with sickness in successive years, and
Grow deaf and blind, with broken legs and palsied hands –
Serving gods and receiving such recompense.
Why do they not abandon such practices and think on Amida?
The first is to take refuge in the Buddha. The [Nirvana] Sutra states:
If one has taken refuge in the Buddha, one must not further take refuge in various nonbuddhist gods.
Further, it states:
The person who takes refuge in the Buddha will not fall into the evil courses.
The second is to take refuge in dharma. That is, one should take refuge in and practice what the Great Sage taught, whether it be teaching or principle.
The third is to take refuge in the sangha. That is, the mind takes refuge in those who renounce worldly life and rightly practice the teachings of the three vehicles; hence, the [Nirvana] Sutra states:
One never again takes refuge in nonbuddhist paths.
Concerning methods of worship, in India there are the Vedas and in China the books of rites. These have never led to emancipation from the world. From the stance of the true, they are accommodated means to guide the worldly.
The course of hungry ghosts is termed preta in Sanskrit. This course is likewise present in all [samsaric] realms. Those hungry ghosts that possess merit become spirits of mountains and forests or of graveyards. Those without merit dwell in impure places, receive no food or drink, and are constantly flogged. Forced to fill in rivers and dam the oceans, they suffer pain without measure. Those beings who, harboring flattery and deception in their hearts, have performed the five grave offenses and ten transgressions of the lowest degree receive as recompense existence in this course.
Concerning the course of hungry ghosts, “hungry” refers to constantly starving, and “ghost” (kuei) implies returning (kuei). Shih-tzu states, “In the past, a dead person was called ‘one who has returned.'” Human spirits are called ghosts, while earth-spirits are called earth-gods… In form, they may resemble human beings or be like animals.
The mind that is not straightforward is said to “harbor flattery and deception.”
“Spirits” refers to ghosts. They all belong to the four courses of devas, of asuras, of ghosts, and of hell.
Maras are beings of the evil courses.
Second, to clarify the features with which maras appear: Whatever their particular type, they are all called maras. When we look carefully into their minor distinctions, we find that there are no more than three kinds: spirits of irritation, spirits of temptation at the different hours, and mara-spirits. The features with which these maras appear vary according to their kind.
Maras obstruct enlightenment by employing blind passions. Spirits attack the root of life by causing sickness.
Chi-lu asked, “Should one worship spirits?”
Confucius said, “One should not worship spirits. Why should people worship spirits?”
117 Reflecting within myself, I see that in the various teachings of the Path of Sages, practice and enlightenment died out long ago, and that the true essence of the Pure Land way is the path to realization now vital and flourishing.
Monks of Sakyamuni’s tradition in the various temples, however, lack clear insight into the teaching and are ignorant of the distinction between true and provisional; and scholars of the Chinese classics in the capital are confused about practices and wholly unable to differentiate right and wrong paths. Thus, scholar-monks of Kofuku-ji presented a petition to the retired emperor in the first part of the second month, 1207.
The emperor and his ministers, acting against the dharma and violating human rectitude, became enraged and embittered. As a result, Master Genku – the eminent founder who had enabled the true essence of the Pure Land to spread vigorously [in Japan] – and a number of his followers, without receiving any deliberation of their [alleged] crimes, were summarily sentenced to death or were dispossessed of their monkhood, given [secular] names, and consigned to distant banishment. I was among the latter. Hence, I am now neither a monk nor one in worldly life. For this reason, I have taken the term Toku [“stubble haired”] as my name. Master Genku and his disciples, being banished to the provinces in different directions, passed a period of five years [in exile].
On the seventeenth day of the eleventh month, 1211, during the reign of the emperor Sado-no-in, Genku received an imperial pardon and returned to Kyoto. Thereafter, he lived in the capital, at Otani, north of Toribeno in the western foothills of Higashiyama. In 1212, during the midday hour of the twenty-fifth day of the first month, he passed away. The auspicious signs [that occurred then], too numerous to record here, may be found in his biography.
118 I, Gutoku Shinran, disciple of Sakyamuni, discarded sundry practices and took refuge in the Primal Vow in 1201. In 1205 Master Genku, out of his benevolence, granted me permission to copy his Passages on the Nembutsu Selected in the Primal Vow. In the same year, on the fourteenth day of the fourth month, the master inscribed [the copy] in his own hand with an inside title, “Passages on the Nembutsu Selected in the Primal Vow,” with the words, “Namu-amida-butsu: as the act that leads to birth in the Pure Land, the nembutsu is taken to be fundamental,” and with [the name he had bestowed on me,] “Shakku, disciple of Sakyamuni.” That day, my request to borrow his portrait was granted, and I made a copy. During that same year, on the twenty-ninth day of the seventh intercalary month, the master inscribed my copy of the portrait with “Namu-amida-butsu” and with a passage expressing the true teaching:
If, when I attain Buddhahood, the sentient beings of the ten quarters say my Name as few as ten times and yet are not born, may I not attain the supreme enlightenment. The Buddha has now actually attained Buddhahood. Know that the momentous Primal Vow is not in vain, and that when sentient beings say the Name, they unfailingly attain birth.
Further, since my name “Shakku” had been changed in accord with a revelation in a dream, on the same day he wrote the characters of my new name [Zenshin] in his own hand. At that time, the master was seventy-three years of age.
Passages on the Nembutsu Selected in the Primal Vow was compiled at the request of the Chancellor, an ordained layman (Lord Tsukinowa Kanezane, Buddhist name Ensho). The crucial elements of the true essence of the Pure Land way and the inner significance of the nembutsu have been gathered into this work, which is easily understood by those who read it. It is a truly luminous writing, rare and excellent; a treasured scripture, supreme and profound. Over the days and years, myriads of people received the master’s teaching, but whether they were closely associated with him or remained more distant, very few gained the opportunity to read and copy this book. Nevertheless, I was in fact able to copy it and to paint his portrait. This was the virtue of practicing the right act alone, and the manifestation of the decisive settlement of birth.
Thus, suppressing tears of both sorrow and joy, I record the circumstances that have resulted [in my compilation of this work].
How joyous I am, my heart and mind being rooted in the Buddha-ground of the universal Vow, and my thoughts and feelings flowing within the dharma-ocean, which is beyond comprehension! I am deeply aware of the Tathagata’s immense compassion, and I sincerely revere the benevolent care behind the master’ teaching activity. My joy grows even fuller, my gratitude and indebtedness ever more compelling. Therefore, I have selected [passages expressing] the core of the Pure Land way and gathered here its essentials. Mindful solely of the profundity of the Buddha’s benevolence, I pay no heed to the derision of others. May those who see and hear this work be brought – either through the cause of reverently embracing the teaching or through the condition of [others’] doubt and slander of it – to manifest shinjin within the power of the Vow and reveal the incomparable fruit of enlightenment in the land of peace.
I have collected true words to aid others in their practice for attaining birth, in order that the process be made continuous, without end and without interruption, by which those who have been born first guide those who come later, and those who are born later join those who were born before. This is so that the boundless ocean of birth-and-death be exhausted.
On seeing a bodhisattva
Perform various practices,
Some give rise to a good mind and others a mind of evil,
But the bodhisattva embraces them all.
Here ends Chapter VI:
A Collection of Passages Revealing
The True Teaching, Practice, and Realization
Of the Pure Land Way