Collected Works of Shinran

Hymns on the Offense of Doubting the Primal Vow


As a mark of not apprehending Buddha-wisdom,
People doubt the Tathagata’s various kinds of wisdom,
Believe in the recompense of good and evil, rely on their practice
Of the root of good, and hence remain in the borderland.


Doubting the inconceivable Buddha-wisdom,
People devote themselves to saying the nembutsu in self-power;
Hence they remain in the borderland or the realm of indolence and pride,
Without responding in gratitude to the Buddha’s benevolence.


Practicers who believe in the recompense of good and evil
Doubt the inconceivable Buddha-wisdom,
And therefore remain in the city of doubt or the womb-palace;
Hence, they are separated from the three treasures.


Because of the offense of doubting the Buddha-wisdom,
They remain in the realm of indolence and pride or the borderland;
Because the offense of doubting is grave,
They pass long years and kalpas there; thus it is taught.


They are like the prince of the cakravartin king
Who, for offenses committed against the king,
Is placed in a prison,
Fettered in chains of gold.

Prison: the person who says the nembutsu in self-power is likened to a prince who, for serious offenses, is put in prison.
Chains of gold: because he is a prince, chains of gold are used to fetter him.


People who say the Name in self-power
All fail to entrust themselves to the Tathagata’s Primal Vow;
Because the offense of doubting is grave,
They are chained in a prison of seven precious materials.


No less than people of shinjin,
Practicers of doubt who cling to self-power should
Awaken to the benevolence of Amida’s great compassion
And endeavor in saying the nembutsu.


People who perform various good acts in self-power
All doubt the inconceivable Buddha-wisdom;
Hence, by the law of receiving the results of one’s acts,
They enter a prison made of the seven precious materials.


People who, doubting the inconceivable Buddha-wisdom,
Rely on their practice of the root of good and the root of virtue
Are born in the borderland or the realm of indolence and pride;
Hence, they fail to realize great love and great compassion.


Practicers who doubt the Primal Vow
Are born within lotus buds from which they cannot emerge,
Or are born in the borderland, or fall
Into the womb-palace; so Shan-tao admonishes.


Doubting Amida’s various kinds of wisdom,
They do not entrust themselves to the Buddha,
And yet they deeply believe in the recompense of good and evil,
And they diligently practice the root of good.


Those who have been born in the womb-palace
Because of their doubt of the Buddha-wisdom
Lack wisdom; to be destined for birth in the womb-palace
Is likened to being in prison.


They are born in a palace made of seven precious materials,
And there pass five hundred years;
Being unable to see or hear the three treasures,
They are wholly incapable of benefiting sentient beings.


For five hundred years they do not emerge
From the palace of seven precious materials or the borderland;
Having themselves committed offenses,
They suffer all forms of adversity.

Adversity: destruction and danger.


Those who practice the root of good
While believing deeply in the recompense of good and evil
Are good people whose minds are possessed of doubt;
Hence, they remain in the provisional, transformed lands.


Because they have not entrusted themselves to Amida’s Primal Vow,
Even though born within lotuses while possessed of doubt,
Their blossoms do not open immediately;
This is likened to remaining in the womb.


Then Bodhisattva Maitreya
Said to the World-honored one,
“What is the cause and condition of
‘Womblike birth’ and ‘transformative birth’?”


The Tathagata said to Maitreya,
“Relying on their practice of the root of good,
With minds possessed of doubt, beings remain
In the borderland, or womblike birth.”


For the offense of doubting Buddha-wisdom,
They are chained fast
In a prison for five hundred years;
This is taught as womblike birth.


Sentient beings who, doubting the inconceivable Buddha-wisdom,
Believe in the recompense of good and evil,
Will inevitably be born in the womb-palace;
Thus, they are taught to be beings of womblike birth.


Because they take the mind of self-power as essential
And do not entrust themselves to inconceivable Buddha-wisdom,
They are born in the womb-palace and for five hundred years
Are separated from the compassion of the three treasures.


Those who, doubting the inconceivable Buddha-wisdom
But believing in the recompense of good and evil,
Aspire to attain the Pure Land by practicing the root of good
Are taught to be of “womblike birth.”


The fault of doubting Buddha-wisdom is grave.
Becoming fully aware of this,
You should, with deep repentance,
Entrust yourself to inconceivable Buddha-wisdom.

The above twenty-three hymns were composed in order
to awaken people to the offense of doubting the Primal Vow
that embodies inconceivable Buddha[wisdom].