阿 彌 陀 佛 本 願
Amida Buddha’s Primal Vow is the Tathagata’s absolute promise to all wretched sentient beings like ourselves who are firmly caught, for trillions of lives, in the net of samsara, the vicious cycle of birth, suffering and death. 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 offenses
And Those Who slander The Right Dharma.”
Amida Buddha in His practising stage, countless trillions of years ago – as Bodhisattva Dharmakara, under the guidance of Buddha Lokesvararaja – boldly made forty-eight inconceivable Vows, out of great compassion for all suffering sentient beings. These Vows are made fully in accord with the varying karmic circumstances, capacities and natures of beings – the main purpose is to ultimately free everyone, without exception – from the relentless and painful cycle of samsara.
All these Vows have already been wonderfully fulfilled when the Bodhisattva – after countless trillions of years of extremely hard practices in meditation, generosity and strict moral disciplines – attained Perfect Enlightenment ten kalpas ago as Amida Buddha. His Pure Land of Peace and Bliss had been splendidly established specifically to receive all beings who really aspire to be born there and be permanently freed from the dreadful torture of samsara. In every one of the Vows, Amida Buddha had declared that each Vow would be accomplished accordingly as He had promised, otherwise, He is not fit to be a Buddha.
Through Amida Buddha’s innumerable manifestations in this world, The Tathagata, without a moment respite, tirelessly saved countless beings in the past and continues right now to lead those in the present who are karmically ripe, to be born in His Land of Serene Sustenance. Being always amongst the multitudes, The Tathagata, using various skillful methods, sets up the appropriate karmic connections with sentient beings to enable them to be saved in the future.
Listening Deeply (深 聞) to the wonderful, True Pure Land teachings of Venerable Master Shinran and his core emphasis on the saving power of Amida Buddha’s Primal Vow, we have given ourselves the extremely rare opportunity to escape from samsara. Let us listen deeply and reflect on what he wrote:
“The word ‘Hear’ in the passage from the Larger Sutra means that sentient beings, having heard how the Buddha’s Vow arose – its origin and fulfilment – are altogether free of doubt. This is to ‘HEAR’. ”
The Primal Vow – that is the 18th Vow – has caused countless mundane foolish persons (bombu 凡 夫), both good or evil, stupid or intelligent , male or female from different social status and environments – to be born directly into The Pure Land of Peace and Bliss and come to the end of all suffering, the beginning of Buddhahood. We should know that Amida Buddha had already accomplished our Pure Land births through the power of The Primal Vow, by fulfilling for each of us our aspirations and their attendant practices – all ignorant sentient beings will realise this fact sooner or later when they are karmically ready to receive Amida Buddha’s precious gift of Salvation.
The Primal Vow is also Amida Buddha’s simple and clear instruction on how we can confidently get to His Pure Land at the end of this life:
.. Single-heartedly and joyfully entrust yourself to me
.. Aspire to be born in my Pure Land
.. Saying my Name
Thus, by sincerely and joyfully entrusting ourselves, single-heartedly taking refuge only in Amida Buddha and The Primal Vow; aspiring for birth in the Pure Land, we have fully accepted His Absolute Confidence – His inconceivable Faith-mind (Shinjin, 信 心) – that continuously seeks to save all suffering beings. Spontaneously, with the one thought-moment of entrusting faith (Shinjin, 信 心), we would Say the Buddha’s Name (Nembutsu, 念 佛) – (Namo Amida Butsu, 南 无 阿 彌 陀 佛) – deeply grateful to The Buddha for having saved us, here and now, during this present life.
Completing the cause of our Pure Land birth by fully relying on the Other-power (Buddha-centered Power), we are instantly grasped and never forsaken by the Light of Great Compassion. The darkness of our stubborn ignorance is now broken through and the hindrance of doubt in our minds and hearts, that had plagued us for trillion of births, naturally disappears, just like darkness dissipating by itself in the presence of Light.
In the Gatha of True Faith (正 信 偈), Master Shinran passionately expresses in beautiful poetry, his direct and grateful experience on the Primal Vow:
“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.
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.”
Regarding fulfilment of The Primal Vow, Master Shinran wrote:
“The passage declaring the fulfilment of the Primal Vow in the Larger Sutra states: All sentient beings, as they hear the Name, realize even one thought-moment of Shinjin and joy, which is 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. Excluded are those who commit the five grave offenses and those who slander the right Dharma.”
“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.
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.”
“Saved by the inconceivable working of Amida’s Vow, I shall realize birth in the Pure Land”: the moment you entrust yourself thus to the Vow, so that the mind set upon saying the Nembutsu arises within you, you are immediately brought to share in the benefit of being grasped by Amida, never to be abandoned.
Know that the Primal Vow of Amida makes no distinction between people young and old, good and evil; only Shinjin is essential. For it is the Vow to save the person whose karmic evil is deep and grave and whose blind passions abound.”
Thus, for those who entrust themselves to the Primal Vow, no good acts are required, because no good surpasses the Nembutsu. Nor need they despair of the evil they commit, for no evil can obstruct the working of Amida’s Primal Vow. – (Tannisho – Lamenting Divergences chapter 1).
We see that The Primal Vow is clearly Amida Buddha’s pledge to every sentient being. He had already attained Supreme Enlightenment and The Pure Land wonderfully established, although not all sentient beings would single-heartedly entrust themselves to this Vow of Boundless Compassion at this time. The enlightenment of all sentient beings had already been fulfilled at the hands of Amida Buddha. Therefore, The Primal Vow is constantly in an active mode, instantly fulfilled the moment sentient beings single-heartedly entrust themselves and fully accept Amida’s Shinjin.
Saying the Buddha’s Name (Namo Amida Butsu, 南 无 阿 彌 陀 佛) embodied in The Primal Vow, is the Great Practice and an active other-power cause of our birth in The Pure Land and attainment of Nirvana. It is not our good nor is it our self-power practice. It is simply our act of true settlement, knowing that we will become Buddhas at the end of this fleeting life.
“The Vow that all the Buddhas Say the Name is stated in The Larger Sutra:
If, when I attain Buddhahood, the countless Buddhas throughout the worlds in the ten quarters do not all praise and Say my Name, may I not attain the Supreme Enlightenment.”
In this spiritually defiled Dharma Ending Age (末 法 時 代) when all human beings are karmically overwhelmed by the evil passions of greed, hatred, ignorance, jealousy and arrogance, everything we perceive is fleeting; ultimately false. Only Saying the Buddha’s Name (Nembutsu, 念 佛) – remembering the Buddha – which is fully supported by all the other countless Buddhas in the infinite worlds, is True and Real.
If we seriously desire to be completely free from all pain and suffering at the end of this precious human life which has given us the right opportunity of encountering The Buddha Dharma, we should completely put aside all meditative and non-meditative practices. We should know that these practices on the Path of Sages are simply beyond our natures and meagre spiritual capacities. Therefore, struggling to practice them for the purpose of getting out of samsara will definitely be in vain.
If we honestly admit that we just Do Not possess the ability to free ourselves by self-power from the relentless, fearful nightmare of samsara, we will realize that we Do Not have any other choice but to single-heartedly entrust our karmic destiny entirely to Amida Buddha and The Primal Vow.
Thus, fully relying on Other-power – the natural working of Amida Buddha’s Primal Vow – we know that our birth in the Land of Peace and Happiness is absolutely assured while we are still living out this unsatisfactory existence. Our endless wandering in the painful realms of samsara has finally come to an end, at the end of this life in mortal flesh.
Let us Listen deeply, knowing without any doubt, that Amida Buddha has dedicated all His merits and virtues for our going forth to The Pure Land of Ultimate Happiness. We have now clearly and surely HEARD:
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