In the Vow of birth through the nembutsu, three minds are disclosed. Why does Vasubandhu, the author of the Treatise, speak of “one mind,” the mind that is single?
Answer: Vasubandhu appears to take the three together as one to make the matter easily comprehensible for dull and foolish sentient beings. The three minds are sincere mind, entrusting, and aspiration for birth. Looking into the intention of the Treatise through the literal meanings of these terms, I find that the three should be taken as one.
Why? First, for sincere mind (shishin), the character shi means truth, sincerity; shin means seed, kernel. Next, for entrusting (shingyo), shin means truth, reality, sincerity, fullness, ultimacy, accomplishment, reliance, reverence, discernment, distinctness; gyo means aspiration, wish, happiness, joy, gladness. Third, for aspiration for birth (yokusho), yoku means wish, desire, awakening, awareness; sho means accomplishment, establishment.
Sincere mind, then, is the mind that is the seed of sincerity, the kernel of truth. It is therefore altogether free of doubt. Entrusting is the mind full of truth, reality, and sincerity, the mind of ultimacy, accomplishment, reliance, and reverence; the mind of aspiration, desire, discernment, and distinctness; the mind of happiness, joy, and gladness. It is therefore altogether free of doubt. Aspiration for birth is the mind of desire and wish, the mind of awakening, knowing, completion, and establishment. Thus, these three minds are all true and real and completely free of doubt. Because they are free of doubt, they are the mind that is single.
Such are the literal meanings of these characters. You should consider them carefully.
Further, to consider the three minds, the first is sincere mind. This is the true and real mind that perfectly embodies and fully possesses the Tathagata’s consummate virtues. Amida Tathagata gives to all these true and real virtues [of sincere mind]; this is the significance of the Name being the essence of sincere mind. By contrast, the sentient beings of the ten quarters are utterly evil and defiled and completely lack a mind of purity. Being false and poisoned, they lack a true and real mind. Thus, for the Tathagata, when performing practices as a bodhisattva in the stage leading to Buddhahood, there was not a single moment – not an instant – in his endeavor in the three modes of action when his heart was not pure, true, and real. The Tathagata directs this pure, true mind to all sentient beings.
The Larger Sutra states:
No thought of greed, anger, or harmfulness arose in his mind; he cherished no impulse of greed, anger, or harmfulness. He did not cling to objects of perception – color, sound, smell, taste. Abounding in perseverance, he gave no thought to the suffering to be endured. He was content with few desires, and without greed, anger, and folly.
Always tranquil in a state of samadhi, he possessed wisdom that knew no impediment. He was free of all thought of falsity or deception. Gentle in countenance and loving in speech, he perceived people’s thoughts and was attentive to them. He was full of courage and vigor, and being resolute in his acts, knew no fatigue. Seeking solely that which was pure and undefiled, he brought benefit to all beings. He revered the three treasures and served his teachers and elders. He fulfilled all the various kinds of practices, embellishing himself with great adornments, and brought all sentient beings to the attainment of virtues.
From these sacred words we know clearly that this first mind is the Tathagata’s sincere mind, pure and vast. It is “true and real mind.” Because sincere mind is none other than the mind of great compassion, it is completely free of doubt.
Second is entrusting. The essence of entrusting is none other than the true and real mind. But the multitudes of beings in their bondage – foolish beings in defilement – completely lack pure shinjin, shinjin that is true and real. Because of this, it is hard to encounter the true and real virtue, hard to realize entrusting that is pure. Hence, as is explained in Shan-tao’s commentary, thoughts of desire arise constantly to defile any goodness of heart; the flames of anger and hatred in the mind consume the dharma-treasure. Even if one strives to the utmost with body and mind through the twelve periods of the day and night, and however importunate one’s action and practice may be, as though sweeping fire away from one’s head, it must all be called poisoned good acts, or empty, transitory, and false practices. It cannot be called true, real, and sincere action. Though one may direct the merit of such poisoned good toward birth in the Pure Land, it is of no avail. Why? Because when the Tathagata was performing practices as a bodhisattva, every single moment – every single instant – was filled with his practices in the three modes of action performed with a true and real mind. Hence, they were completely free of doubt. And the Tathagata directs this joyful trust that is pure, true, and real to all sentient beings.
The passage on the fulfillment of the Primal Vow in the sutra states:
All sentient beings, as they hear the Name, realize even one thought-moment of shinjin and joy….
With these sacred words we know clearly that this second mind – because of the Primal Vow – is entrusting that is pure, true, real, and perfect. It is shinjin. Shinjin, because it is none other than the mind of great compassion, is altogether free of doubt.
Third is the aspiration for birth. The essence of aspiration for birth is none other than pure, true, and real shinjin. But foolish beings transmigrating in samsara – multitudes passing many lives through long kalpas – lack the pure mind of directing merits toward attaining enlightenment and toward all beings, the true and real mind of directing merit. Thus, while the Tathagata was performing practices as a bodhisattva in the stage leading to Buddhahood, there was not a single moment – not an instant – in his endeavor in the three modes of action when he did not realize the mind of great compassion, taking the directing of his virtue to beings as foremost. Hence the Tathagata directs this pure, true, and real mind of aspiration for birth to all sentient beings.
The passage on the fulfillment of the Primal Vow in the sutra states:
[Through being] directed to them from Amida’s sincere mind, and aspiring to be born in that land, they then attain birth and dwell in the stage of non-retrogression.
With these sacred words we know clearly that this third mind arises as the call by which the great compassion of the Tathagata summons all sentient beings. The aspiration for birth that is great compassion – this is true directing of virtue.
Since these three minds are all directed to beings by the mind of great compassion they are pure, true, and real, and completely free of doubt. Hence they are the mind that is single.
Thus, on reading Master Shan-tao’s commentary, we find it written:
Someone on the western bank calls to him, “O traveler, with the mind that is single, with right-mindedness, come at once! I will protect you. Have no fear of plunging to grief in the water or fire.”
Further it states:
The white path that spans the river is an image for the awakening of pure aspiration for birth in the midst of greed and anger, of all our blind passions….Reverently embracing Sakyamuni’s teaching in his exhortations to advance westward and obeying Amida’s call to us with his compassionate heart, the traveler gives no thought to the two rivers of water and fire and entrusts himself to the path of the power of the Vow.
With these words we know that the pure aspiration that one awakens is not the mind of self-power of foolish beings. It is the mind directed to beings out of great compassion. Hence it is called “pure aspiration.” Concerning the words, “With the mind that is single, with right-mindedness,” then, “right-mindedness” refers to saying the Name. Saying the Name is the nembutsu. “The mind that is single” is deep mind. Deep mind is profound shinjin, which is steadfast. Steadfast, profound shinjin is the true mind. The true mind is the diamond-like mind. The diamond-like mind is the supreme mind. The supreme mind is the mind that is genuine, single, and enduring. The mind that is genuine, single, and enduring is the mind of great joy. When the mind of great joy is realized, this mind negates the three characteristics of non-entrusting; it accords with the three characteristics of entrusting. This mind is the mind of great enlightenment. The mind of great enlightenment is true and real shinjin. True and real shinjin is the aspiration for Buddhahood. The aspiration for Buddhahood is the aspiration to save all beings. The aspiration to save all beings is the mind that grasps sentient beings and brings them to birth in the Pure Land of happiness. This mind is the mind of ultimate equality. It is great compassion. This mind attains Buddhahood. This mind is Buddha. It is “practicing in accord with reality, being in correspondence with the Name.” Let this be known.
Here ends the explanation that the three minds are the mind that is single.
Are the three minds taught in the Larger Sutra and the three taught in the Contemplation Sutra identical or not?
Answer: The three minds taught in the two sutras are identical. How do we know this? We know it from the master’s commentaries.
Concerning sincere mind (shijoshin), he states: “Shi means true, jo means real.” Concerning the establishment of shinjin through [the teaching of] the Buddha and in relation to practice, he states: “Single-heartedly practicing the saying of the Name of Amida alone is the act of true settlement [of birth in the Pure Land].”
Further he states: “Deep mind (jinshin) is true and real shinjin.”
Concerning the mind of aspiration for birth and directing virtue to beings (eko hotsugan shin), he states: “This mind, in its profound entrusting, is like diamond.”
Thus we know clearly that the mind that is single is shinjin. Solely saying the Name is the right act by which birth is settled. Within the mind that is single, both sincere mind and the mind of aspiration for birth and directing of virtue are included.
Here ends the response to the preceding question.
Are the three minds of the two sutras discussed above and “hold steadfast” taught in the Smaller Sutra identical or not?
Answer: The Smaller Sutra states: “Hold steadfast to [the Name].” “Steadfast” means that the mind is firm and unchanging. “Hold” means not being distracted and not letting go. Hence the sense of “never becoming confused.” “Hold steadfast” is thus the mind that is single. The mind that is single is shinjin. Without fail, then, take refuge in and especially revere the true teaching of “Hold steadfast to [the Name]” and the true and sincere words, “With the mind that is single, never becoming confused.”
It is to guide people of the defiled world, who are given to error and falsity, that the author of the Treatise and the Pure Land master Shan-tao revealed the true essence of the Pure Land teaching. Although there are implicit an explicit expositions found among the three Pure Land sutras, their overall intent is to teach that only the mind that is single is the basis for entry [into the Pure Land]. Thus, each sutra opens with the words, “Thus [have I heard]….” The author of the Treatise begins, “With the mind that is single….” These words express the meaning of “thus.”
In this regard, we find in the commentary of the Pure Land master Shan-tao:
“[The Buddha’s supernatural powers work] in accord with the intentions” has two meanings. First, it means “in accord with the intentions of sentient beings.” All shall be saved in accord with their thoughts and desires. Second, it means “in accord with the will of Amida.” With five kinds of sight the Buddha perceives all beings perfectly and with six transcendent powers, works freely and without restriction. When beings are seen ready to be saved, in a single thought-moment – neither before nor after – the Buddha appears before them in both body and mind, and with the three wheels of thoughts, words, and deeds brings them to realization of enlightenment. Thus the ways in which the Buddha benefits beings differ according to their natures.
Further he states:
Reverently I say to the fellow practicers who aspire for birth: You should all deeply repent! Sakyamuni Tathagata is truly our compassionate father and mother. With a variety of compassionate means he leads us to awaken the supreme shinjin.
We clearly know from these words that those practicers have attained the cause of Buddhahood – the mind that is single – through the great compassion of the two honored ones [Amida and Sakyamuni]. Know that they are rare people, people of utmost excellence. But, foolish people caught in the cycle of birth-and-death – beings turning in transmigration – never awaken shinjin, never give rise to a mind that is true. Concerning this, the Larger Sutra states:
The most difficult of all difficulties is to hear this sutra and accept it in shinjin; nothing surpasses this difficulty.
Further, Sakyamuni teaches:
It is the dharma that, for all people in the world, is most difficult to accept.
Truly we know, then, that the crucial matter for which the Great Sage, the World-honored one, appeared in this world was to reveal the true benefit of the compassionate Vow and to declare it to be the direct teaching of the Tathagatas. The essential purport of this great compassion is to teach the immediate attainment of birth by foolish beings. Thus, looking into the essence of the teachings of the Buddhas, we find that the true and fundamental intent for which all the Tathagatas, past, present, and future, appear in this world, is solely to teach the inconceivable Vow of Amida.
When, through Amida’s directing of virtue to them by the power of the Vow, the foolish beings ever floundering in birth-and-death hear the true and real virtues and realize supreme shinjin, they immediately attain great joy and reach the stage of non-retrogression, so that without being made to sunder their blind passions, they are brought quickly to the realization of great nirvana.