ORIGINAL TEXT IN KYOGYOSHINSHO
淨 土 真 佛 土
Bodhisattva Dharmakara made the relevant Vows that established the True Pure Land of Peace and Bliss – the Vows of Immeasurable Light and Life….
Reverently contemplating the True Buddha and Land
I realized that the Buddha is the Tathagata of Inconceivable Light
And that the Land also is the Land of Immeasurable Light
Because they have naturally arisen
Through the fulfilment of Vows of Great Compassion
They are called True Fulfilled Buddha and Land.
The Larger Sutra on The Buddha of Immeasurable Life taught by Shakyamuni Buddha, is The True Teaching that tells us about the amazing spiritual journey of a supremely resolute practitioner of the Buddha Dharma named Bodhisattva Dharmakara. It was during the time, trillions of years ago, when a Buddha named Lokesvaraja – the Tathagata, Perfectly Enlightened One, Possessed of Wisdom and Practice, Unsurpassed One, Teacher of Gods and Men, Buddha and World-Honored One, Knower of the World – appeared in this world. Dharmakara was then a king with superior intelligence, courage and wisdom and he distinguished himself in the world. On listening deeply to the teachings of the Buddha, he awakened aspiration for the highest, Perfect Enlightenment. So, renouncing his throne, he became a monk under the guidance of Buddha Lokesvararaja.
Following strictly the wonderful instructions of the Buddha and deeply contemplating over a long, long period of time, Dharmakara strictly performed all the incredibly difficult practices and hard disciplines required for the establishment of a perfect Buddha-land. He resolved that his Pure Land would be special, adorned with infinite excellent qualities, attributes and a perfect environment conducive for the practice of the Buddha Dharma and attainment of Perfect Enlightenment of all its residents.
Out of great compassion for all suffering sentient beings, he carefully selected and boldly made 48 inconceivable Vows, pledging to cause all persons – in accordance with their varied karmic propensities, natures and capabilities – to be born in a Buddha-land of Peace and Provision. His ultimate aspiration is to save all sentient beings – especially those who are unable to save themselves by their own power. Firstly, He sought to get everyone quickly out of samsara – the vicious cycle of birth, old age, suffering and death – and finally to have everyone attaining Buddhahood in His Pure Land; each Vow fulfilled exactly according to what He promised.
Boddhisattva Dharmakara had made these 48 inconceivable Vows in front of Buddha Lokesvararaja and the large holy assembly, explicitly emphazing in each Vow, that He did not deserved to be a Buddha, if each Vow is not fulfilled as he promised.
The Vow of Immeasurable Light (光 明 無 量 之 願) states:
“If, when I attain Buddhahood, my light should be limited, unable to illuminate at least a hundred thousand kotis of nayutas of Buddha-lands, may I not attain perfect Enlightenment.”
In connection with this Vow of Light (Wisdom), Bodhisattva Dharmakara had earlier declared this aspiration before The Buddha:
Even though the Buddha-lands are as innumerable
As the sands of the Ganges
And other regions and worlds
Are also innumerable
My Light shall shine everywhere
Pervading all those Lands
Such being the result of my efforts
My glorious power shall be immeasurable.
This Vow of Light is His promise of Infinite Wisdom capable of dispelling the ignorance of all sentient beings filling the countless universes.
The Vow of Immeasurable Life (壽 命 無 量 之 願) states:
“If when I attain Buddhahood, my life-span should be limited, even to the extent of a hundred thousand kotis of nayutas of kalpas, may I not attain perfect Enlightenment.”
In connection with this Vow of Life (Compassion), Bodhisattva Dharmakara had earlier declared this aspiration before The Buddha:
When I become a Buddha,
My Land shall be most exquisite
And its people wonderful and unexcelled
The seat of Enlightenment shall be supreme
My Land, being like Nirvana itself
Shall be beyond comparison
I take pity on living beings
And resolve to save them all.
This Vow of Life is His Great Compassion that bestows Infinite Life to every sentient being born in His Land of Peace and Bliss.
The Primal Vow (18th Vow), that embodies Saying the Name, is Amida Buddha’s absolute promise to all wretched sentient beings like ourselves who are firmly caught, for trillions of lives, in the net of samsara. Those who come to realize and truthfully admit their utter inability to free themselves by struggling in vain with their own self-power efforts and practices, are assured of Salvation, the moment when they single-heartedly entrust themselves, taking refuge in Amida Buddha and the power of The Primal Vow.
“If, When I attain Buddhahood
Sentient Beings of The Ten Quarters
With Sincere Mind, Joyfully entrusting themselves
Aspiring To Be Born in my Land
And Saying My Name perhaps even ten times
Should Not be born there
May I Not Attain The Supreme Enlightenment
Excluded Are Those Who Commit The Five Grave Offences
And Those Who Slander The Right Dharma.”
This Primal Vow is the universal pledge made to provide an ‘easy’ path to all sentient beings – especially in the Semblance and Dharma Ending Ages – fully in accord with the extremely poor spiritual capacities of deluded beings.
Fulfillment of Dharmakara’s Vows had been wonderfully accomplished when the Bodhisattva attained Perfect Enlightenment ten kalpas ago and became Amida Buddha with His Pure Land exquisitely established. This “western Buddha-land of Peace and Bliss is located a hundred thousand kotis of lands away from here” and it is here that Amida Buddha resides.
Amida Buddha is a True and Real Buddha and The Land of Immeasurable Light is a True and Real Buddha Land. Both had naturally arisen through the fulfilment of the Buddha’s Original Vows of Great Compassion. Thus, incorporating the Sanskrit names for ‘Amitabha’ (Infinite Light) and ‘Amitayus’ (Infinite Life), He is called Amida Buddha.
The Larger Sutra describes in detail the glorious adornments and splendid attributes of Amida Buddha’s Pure Land – “In that Buddha-land, the earth is composed of seven jewels, namely, gold, silver, beryl, coral, amber, agate and ruby – which have spontaneously appeared. The land itself is so vast, spreading boundlessly to the farthest extent, that it is impossible to know its limit…”
We should gratefully understand that The Land of Bliss was established by the marvellous fruition of Amida Buddha’s Vow-Power, solely for the sake of receiving all suffering beings who sincerely aspire to be permanently freed from all suffering.
Listening deeply (深 聞 佛 法) to the True Teaching taught in The Larger Sutra will certainly dispel the hindrance of doubt in our minds. We will not make the serious error of saying that Amida Buddha is a myth and that The Pure Land is just in the mind.
These appalling wrong views, are often propagated by modern day scholars and teachers of Jodo Shinshu who try to mix the True Teachings with other Buddhist traditions like Zen. They just deny themselves together with their gullible listeners, the only viable escape route out of samsara. How sad and painful this is !
Let us take heed of the benevolent advice of Master Shinran who repeatedly urged us throughout his expositions, to entrust ourselves single-heartedly and steadfastly to a True and Real Amida Buddha and The Primal Vow which promises to deliver all mundane foolish persons (凡 夫, bombu) to the shore of Enlightenment.
As we have now accepted Amida Buddha’s compassionate offer of the ‘easy’ escape route out of this painful world of delusion, we now belong to the Group of Truly Settled, while still living out this present life. Our birth in Amida Buddha’s True and Real Land of Peace and Bliss at the end of this life, is therefore, absolutely assured.
Single-heartedly entrusting our karmic destiny entirely to Amida Buddha and the Primal Vow, we Say the Name (Namo Amida Butsu, 南 無 阿 彌 陀 佛), knowing without any doubt that we are taking refuge in a True and Real Buddha and His True and Real fulfilled Land. We are profoundly grateful to Amida Buddha for having saved even wretched persons like ourselves.
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.
Clearly and distinctly, we now HEAR:
The Call of Boundless Compassion
Namo Amida Butsu 南 无 阿 彌 陀 佛
Namo Amida Butsu 南 无 阿 彌 陀 佛
Namo Amida Butsu 南 无 阿 彌 陀 佛