Introducing this excellent composition of the Gatha of True Faith in the Nembutsu – Saying the Buddha’s Name (南 无 阿 彌 陀 佛 – Namo Amida Butsu), Master Shinran sincerely expresses his profound gratitude to Shakyamuni Buddha for His True Dharma teaching on Amida Buddha and His fulfilled Land of Peace and Bliss…
“Thus, taking refuge in the true words of the Great Sage and carefully examining the commentaries of the great Patriarchs, I realize the depth and vastness of the Buddha’s benevolence. So, I compose the following Gatha of True Faith in the Nembutsu.”
These wonderful verses of true Faith (Shinjin – 信 心), were beautifully composed by Venerable Master Shinran, perfectly introducing the essential teachings on The True Pure Land Path taught by Shakyamuni Buddha and transmitted down to him through the Ages by the seven Lineage Masters. With deep reverence and gratitude for the benevolence of these outstanding Teachers, he carefully selected and pin-pointed those teachings, specifically relevant to the True Pure Land Path. Listening deeply to their commentaries and clear explanations on the three Pure Land Sutras, particularly ‘The Sutra of Infinite Life’ (無 量 壽 經), Master Shinran meticulously highlighted only those expositions that are deeply rooted in Amida Buddha’s Primal Vow, that he himself would single-heartedly follow:
“My heart and mind stand rooted in the Buddha-ground of the Universal Vow and my thoughts and feelings flow within the Dharma realm…”
Poetically written in Classical Chinese, these verses captured the vast kindness and intimate exhortations from Master Shinran as well as from every one of the seven Pure Land Masters. They fervently urged all mundane foolish persons (凡 夫 , bombu), like ourselves, to single-heartedly entrust themselves entirely to Amida Buddha’s Vow of Great Compassion which promises to liberate everyone from samsara – the vicious cycle of birth, suffering and death – especially during this Dharma Ending Age.
This Dharma Ending Age in which we now live, is the Age, when human beings – badly overwhelmed by greed, hatred, ignorance, jealousy and arrogance – are absolutely incapable of practising strictly in accordance with Shakyamuni Buddha’s lifetime teachings to obtain enlightenment by their own self-power, strict discipline, difficult practices. The Buddha, out of great compassion for all suffering beings, exhorts all His disciples like ourselves who truly do not have the aptitude for these practices, to sincerely entrust themselves completely to Amida Buddha’s fulfilled Primal Vow which is a sure and easy way for us to break free from the torture of samsara.
The Primal Vow, is Amida Buddha’s absolute promise to save all miserable persons like ourselves who are truly incapable to perform any spiritual practice. Thus, abandoning all self-powered practices, and single-heartedly relying on this Vow of Great Compassion, is now, the only option available to us, if getting out of samsara at the end of this life, is indeed our goal. Persons with entrusting faith in the Primal Vow, are truly settled in their minds and hearts, knowing that their attainments of Buddhahood are guaranteed, while they are still living out this precious life in mortal flesh.
Entrusting Faith (Shinjin – 信 心) on our part – the persons to be saved – is the faith-mind consciousness that fully accept the Primal Vow without any doubt. It comes about with the awareness that we are evil beings filled with blind passions, who have been transmigrating from the beginningless past with absolutely no possibility of escape from this vicious cycle of relentless pain and suffering. Thus, we accept Amida Buddha’s Primal Vow that embraces us, entrusting ourselves whole-heartedly to the Vow power that absolutely guarantees our births in the Pure Land. We would then, Say the Buddha’s Name – (南 无 阿 彌 陀 佛 – Namo Amida Butsu) – in deep gratitude, for the rest of our fleeting lives and thus remembering, the inconceivable Compassion of the Buddha, for having saved, pathetic persons like us.
The seven True Pure Land Masters cited by Master Shinran in the Gatha of True Faith were all truly well versed in the teachings and practices taught in most of the Theravada and Mahayana traditions which they had actively propagated earlier during their lifetimes. Yet, all the seven Lineage Teachers, ultimately took the True Pure Land Path themselves and were born in Amida Buddha’s Land of Peace and Bliss. It was through their wisdom and direct experience, that made them finally chose the Pure Land gate for freeing themselves and escaping from samsara.
Master Shinran and the seven Lineage Masters of Jodo-Shinshu (净 土 真 宗), had strongly encouraged all mundane foolish persons (凡 夫, bombu), spiritual idiots like ourselves – miserable human beings who simply lack the spiritual capacity and aptitude for difficult, self-powered, Buddhist practices – to entrust ourselves single-heartedly, to Amida Buddha’s Primal Vow, the Other Power that guarantees our complete freedom from all pain and suffering. They repeatedly urged us, through their wonderful expositions of the sutras and personal realizations, to take this ‘Easy Path’ that absolutely assures our attainment of Buddhahood at the end of our present lives.
Thus, Master Shinran together with our Lineage Teachers, have left behind a wonderful legacy, passing down to us, the precious teaching of Faith and Nembutsu – the sole lamp lighting the Path of Salvation in this Dharma Ending Age of spiritual darkness.
With profound gratitude to the World-honored Buddhas and deep reverence to the seven True Pure Land Lineage Masters before him, Master Shinran meticulously wrote the Shoshin Ge…
GATHA OF TRUE FAITH IN THE NEMBUTSU – 正 信 念 佛 偈
(1). 歸 命 無 量 壽 如 來 , 南 無 不 可 思 議 光.
Entrusting myself to The Tathagata of Infinite Life
I take refuge in The Inconceivable Light.
(2). 法 藏 菩 薩 因 立 時 , 在 世 自 在 王 佛 所,
覩 見 諸 佛 淨 土 因 , 國 土 人 天 之 善 惡 .
建 立 無 上 殊 勝 願 , 超 發 希 有 大 弘 誓.
Boddhisattva Dharmakara in His practising stage
Under the guidance of Buddha Lokesvararaja,
Examined the causes that create the various Buddhas’ Pure Lands
And the good and evil of humans and devas in those Lands.
He established the unsurpassed, incomparable Vow
And boldly declared this extremely rare, Universal Vow.
(3). 五 劫 思 惟 之 攝 受, 重 誓 名 聲 聞 十方.
普 放 無 量 無 邊 光, 無 㝵 無 對 光 炎 王
And after five kalpas of deep contemplations and reflections
He strongly pledged that His Name shall be heard in the ten directions
Everywhere, He sends forth Immeasurable, Boundless Light
Unhindered, Incomparable, Majestically Brilliant Light
(4). 清 淨 歡 喜 智 慧 光, 不 斷 難 思 無 稱 光,
超 日 月光 照 塵 剎, 一 切 群 生 蒙 光 照,
Pure Light, Joyful Light, The Light of Wisdom
Continuous, Inconceivable, Ineffable Light
The Light that Outshines the sun and moon, illuminating countless worlds
The multitudes of beings are all embraced by His Light.
(5). 本 願 名 号 正 定 業, 至 心 信 樂 願 為 因,
成 等 覺 證 大 涅 槃, 必 至 滅 度 願 成 就.
The Name embodying The Primal Vow, is the act of true settlement
This Vow of Joyful Entrusting with a Sincere Mind is the cause of birth
We will realize the stage equal to enlightenment and supreme Nirvana
And through the fulfillment of the Vow, we will surely attain Nirvana
(6). 如 來 所 以 興 出 世, 唯 說 彌 陀 本 願 海,
五 濁 惡 時 群 生 海, 應 信 如 來 如 實 言.
The reason for the Tathagata’s appearance in this world
Is solely to teach the ocean-like Primal Vow of Amida
The multitudes of beings in this evil Age of the Five Defilements
Should entrust themselves to the absolute true words of the Tathagata
(7). 能 發 一 念 喜 愛 心 , 不 斷 煩 惱 得 涅 槃 ,
凡 聖 逆 謗 齊 回 入 , 如 眾 水 入 海 一 味.
When the One-thought moment of entrusting joy is awakened in one’s mind
Nirvana will be attained without severing blind passions
Commoners, sages, dharma offenders and slanderers alike are thus converted
Like water from all sources acquiring the same taste on entering the ocean.
(8). 攝 取 心 光 常 照 護, 已 能 雖 破 無 明 暗,
貪 愛 瞋 憎 之 雲 霧, 常 覆 真 實 信 心 天.
The embracing light of compassion illumines and protects us always
Having already broken through the darkness of our ignorance
Still the clouds and mists of greed, desire, anger and hatred
Constantly obscure the sky of true and real Shinjin.
(9). 譬 如 日 光 覆 雲 霧, 雲 霧 之 下 明 無 暗.
獲 信 見 敬 大 慶 喜, 即 橫 超 截 五 惡 趣.
But just like the light of the sun being blocked by clouds and mists
Beneath those clouds and mists, there is brightness, not darkness
So on receiving Shinjin we experience gratitude and great joy
And instantly transcend cross-wise the five evil courses.
(10). 一 切 善 惡 凡 夫 人, 聞 信 如 來 弘 誓 願,
佛 言 廣 大 勝 解 者, 是 人 名 分 陀 利 華.
All ordinary foolish persons whether good or evil
When they have heard and entrust in the Universal Vow of the Tathagata
The Buddha called them persons of vast excellent understanding
Who are also named by people as ‘Pundarikas’
(11). 彌 陀 佛 本 願 念 佛, 邪 見 憍 慢 惡 眾 生,
信 樂 受 持 甚 以 難, 難 中 之 難 無 過 斯.
Amida Buddha’s Primal Vow that embodies saying His Name
For arrogant sentient beings with perverted views
To accept and be blessed with Shinjin is difficult indeed
It is the most difficult of all difficulties that anyone could meet
(12). 印 度 西 方 之 論 家, 中 夏 日 域 之 高 僧,
顯 大 聖 與 世 正 意, 明 如 來 本 誓 應 機.
The treatise Masters from India to the west
And the Eminent Monks from China and Japan
Clarified the true intent of The Great Sage’s appearance in this world
Revealing that Amida’s Primal Vow accords with the capacities of beings
(13). 釋 迦 如 來 楞 迦 山, 為 眾 告 命 南 天 竺,
龍 樹 大 士 出 於 世, 悉 能 推 破 有 無 見.
Shakyamuni Tathagata on Mount Lanka
Prophesied to the masses that in South India
Mahasattva Nagarjuna would appear in this world
To dispel the views of being and non-being
(14). 宣 說 大 乘 無 上 法, 證 歡 喜 地 生 安 樂,
顯 示 難 行 陸 路 苦, 信 樂 易 行 水 道 樂.
Proclaiming the unexcelled Mahayana Teachings
He realized the Stage of Joy and was born in the Land Of Peace and Bliss
Revealing that difficult practices are like hardships on the overland way
He urged us to take the easy path of Shinjin sailing joyfully by waterway
(15). 億 念 彌 陀 佛 本 願, 自 然 即 時 入 必 定,
唯 能 常 稱 如 來 号, 應 報 大 悲 弘 誓 恩.
When one deeply remembers Amida Buddha’s Primal Vow
Naturally in that instant, one enters the Stage Of Definitely Settled
And solely Saying the Tathagata’s Name always
Gratefully respond to Great Compassion’s Universal Pledge and grace
(16). 天 親 菩 薩 造 論 說, 歸 命 無 㝵 光 如 來,
依 修 陀 羅 顯 真 實, 光 闡 橫 超 大 誓 願.
Bodhisattva Vasubandhu, composing a treatise declared
That he himself took refuge in The Tathagata Of Unhindered Light.
In accordance with the sutras, he revealed the true and real
And elucidated the Great Vow of Cross-wise Transcendence
(17). 廣 由 本 願 力 回 向, 為 度 群 生 彰 一 心,
歸 入 功 德 大 寶 海, 必 獲 入 大 會 眾 數.
Through the power of His Primal Vow, Amida directs His merits
Manifesting the one-mind in order to save the multitudes of beings
So when one takes refuge and enters the great treasure ocean of virtues
Definitely, one obtains entry into Amida’s Great Assembly
(18). 得 至 蓮 華 藏 世 界, 即 證 真 如 法 性 身,
游 煩 惱 林 現 神 通, 入 生 死 園 示 應 化.
When one reaches that lotus-store world
One instantly realizes the body of suchness or dharma nature
Playing in the forest of blind passions, one uses transcendental powers
Entering the garden of birth and death one uses skillful means to guide others
(19). 本 師 曇 鸞 梁 天 子, 常 向 鸞 處 菩 薩 禮,
三 藏 流 支 受 淨 教, 焚 燒 仙 經 歸 樂 邦.
Facing toward the dwelling of our Teacher Tan Luan
The emperor of Liang paid tribute to him as a Bodhisattva
When he received the Pure Land teachings from tripitaka Master Bodhiruci
Tan Luan burnt his Taoist scriptures and took refuge in The Land Of Bliss
(20). 天 親 菩 薩 論 註 解, 報 土 因 果 顯 誓 願,
往 還 回 向 由 他 力, 正 定 之 因 唯 信 心.
Bodhisattva Vasubandhu explains in his treatise
That the fruition of the Fulfilled Land is itself manifestation of The Vow.
Going to the Pure Land and returning are merit transference of Other Power
And the cause of true settlement is solely due to Shinjin.
(21). 惑 染 凡 夫 信 心 發, 證 知 生 死 即 涅 槃,
必 至 無 量 光 明 土, 諸 有 眾 生 皆 普 化.
When a deluded and defiled, mundane foolish person awakens Shinjin
That person realizes, knowing that birth and death is Nirvana
Without fail, that person will reach the Land of Immeasurable Light
And then, universally guides all sentient beings to enlightenment
(22). 道 綽 決 聖 道 難 證, 唯 明 淨 土 可 通 入,
萬 善 自 力 貶 勤 修, 圓 滿 德 号 勸 專 稱.
Tao Cho asserted that achieving realization by the path of sages is difficult
Clarifying that only the Pure Land Way could deliver us
He downgraded the diligent practices of myriad good and self-power
Urging us to solely Say the Name endowed with perfect virtues
(23). 三 不 三 信 誨 慇 懃, 像 末 法 滅 同 悲 引,
一 生 造 惡 值 弘 誓, 至 安 養 界 證 妙 果.
With deep concern he taught the three aspects of entrusting and of doubt
And Compassion in the Dharma Ages of Semblance, Ending and Extinction
So, those with lifelong evil, should solely depend on The Great Vow,
Realizing the perfect fruit of nirvana in the Land of Serene Sustenance
(24). 善 導 獨 明 佛 正 意, 矜 哀 定 散 與 逆 惡,
光 明 名 号 顯 因 緣, 開 入 本 願 大 智 海.
Shan Tao alone understood the Buddha’s true intent
Pitying meditative and non-meditative practicers and people of grave evil
He revealed that Amida’s Light and Name are the cause and condition of birth
When they enter the wisdom ocean of The Primal Vow.
(25). 行 者 正 受 金 鋼 心, 慶 喜 一 念 相 應 後,
與 韋 提 等 獲 三 忍, 即 證 法 性 之 常 樂.
Followers would certainly receive the diamond-like mind
When the one-thought moment of joy and gratitude arises
Like Vaidehi they would similarly acquire the three insights
And instantly realize the eternal bliss of Dharma Nature
(26). 源 信 廣 開 一 代 教, 偏 歸 安 養 勸 一 切,
專 雜 執 心 判 淺 深, 報 化 二 土 正 辦 立.
Genshin widely expounded the Buddha’s lifetime teachings
Yet, he took refuge in the Land of Peace, urging others to do the same
Discerning that single-minded practice is profound; sundry practices shallow
He differentiated the respective births in The Fulfilled or Transformed Lands
(27). 極 重 惡 人 唯 稱 佛, 我 亦 在 被 攝 取 中,
煩 惱 障 眼 雖 不 見, 大 悲 無 倦 常 照 我.
Extremely evil persons should just Say the Buddha’s Name
Who has already grasped and embraced me
Though blind passions have obscured my eyes and I cannot see
Great Compassion is untiring and constantly illumines me.
(28). 本 師 源 空 明 佛 教, 憐 愍 善 惡 凡 夫 人,
真 宗 教 證 興 片 州, 選 擇 本 願 弘 惡 世.
Our teacher Genku was well-versed with Buddhism
And he showed pity on ordinary foolish people, whether good or evil
By spreading the True Teaching and Realisation in this scattered land
He propagated widely the selected Primal Vow to this evil world.
(29). 還 來 生 死 輪 轉 家, 決 以 疑 情 為 所 止,
速 入 寂 靜 無 為 樂, 必 以 信 心 為 能 入.
Our continued return to this cyclic home of birth and death
Is certainly due to the hindrance of doubt
Swift entrance into the peaceful, uncreated Realm of Bliss
Is necessarily brought about by Shinjin
(30). 弘 經 大 士 宗 師 等, 拯 濟 無 邊 極 濁 惡,
道 俗 時 眾 共 同 心, 唯 可 信 斯 高 僧 說.
The Mahasattvas and Teachers of the tradition who propagated the sutras
Save boundless beings of grave evil and defilements
Both monks and lay people of this present Age, should, with one mind
Solely trust the expositions of these great Masters.
These wonderful verses convey a clear message from Master Shinran and the seven great Teachers of The True Pure Land Tradition. They exhort us to take refuge single-heartedly in Amida Buddha, abandoning all self-power efforts and sundry practices for attaining emancipation and entrust ourselves entirely to The Primal Vow. Knowing with certainty that we are assured of salvation here and now, we naturally Say the Excellent Name endowed with perfect virtues, in deep gratitude for the Great Compassion of Amida Buddha.
Let us Listen Deeply to this beautiful Gatha and HEAR The Call of Boundless Compassion, accepting the inconceivable gift of Shinjin (信 心), the Entrusting faith freely bestowed by Amida Buddha on all hopeless persons and be forever freed from the firm clutches of pain and suffering in the relentless cycle of samsara at the end of our wretched lives.
Thus, we have clearly Heard:
The Call of Boundless Compassion.
The Buddha’s infinite merits and virtues
Are bestowed equally on all beings.
May all accept Amida’s Gift of Shinjin
And obtain birth in His Land of Peace and Bliss.
Namo Amida Butsu 南 無 阿 彌 陀 佛
Namo Amida Butsu 南 無 阿 彌 陀 佛
Namo Amida Butsu 南 無 阿 彌 陀 佛