Month: November 2019

Amida Buddha’s Call – Introduction


大 悲 無 倦 常 照 我


Saying the Buddha’s Name (南 無 阿 彌 陀 佛 – Namo Amida Butsu), that embodies Amida Buddha’s Primal Vow, is our sincere response, in deep gratitude for the Compassionate Call from the Tathagata of Immeasurable Light and Life. Through the power of the Vow, the Buddha’s infinite merits and virtues are equally bestowed on us, for our going forth to the Pure Land of Peace and Bliss…

“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.”


I take refuge in Amida Buddha, single-heartedly Saying the Name of the Tathagata of Unhindered Light, in profound gratitude for the inconceivable Gift of Salvation unconditionally bestowed on me. I fully accept and joyfully entrust myself, taking the only viable route, the easy path specially made for mundane foolish persons – the ‘White Path’ – out of this vicious cycle of birth, suffering and death…

White Path JPG

This Blog is created out of constant reflections on The Boundless Compassion of Amida Buddha, clearly and thoroughly expounded in the excellent teachings of Venerable Master Shinran on The True Pure Land Way. Based strictly on his wonderful magnum opus the Kyo Gyo Shin Sho, his other excellent expositions and poems, most articles posted here, would have each, a calligraphic visual presentation quoting the original classical Chinese text.


Suffering beings like ourselves do not know why we are born here – in a perishing environment firmly attached to greed, hatred, ignorance, arrogance and doubt – living perhaps for only a short period of a 100 years and then blindly leaving this world in agony for another unknown existence of continued pain and suffering. How painfully foolish and blind we are, not making use of this, extremely rare, precious human birth which has brought us the right conditions and opportunity to free ourselves forever from samsara – this vicious cycle of birth, suffering and death.

We should know that the Buddha Dharma is the only True Teaching in this world of absolute delusion, that gives us a chance and means of escaping from samsara. Painfully ignorant of this fact, the majority of us are led to become agnostics or to simply follow other widely touted, false spiritual teachings, which definitely and relentlessly keep us mercilessly strapped to the treacherous wheel of samsara.


All the Buddhas, in the innumerable universes and galaxies throughout the ten directions, have the same Great Compassion for all suffering samsaric beings, who are continuously and blindly trapped in the realms of gods, demi-gods, humans, animals, hungry ghosts and hell-beings. They want us to become fully Enlightened Buddhas and hence be completely free from all pain and suffering. Yet, due our intractable egos, developed over countless lifetimes – our solid intellectual and emotional arrogance – most of us simply do not have the aspiration or the humility to listen deeply to what the Buddhas taught.

These World-honored Buddhas know that, entrusting in Amida Buddha’s Primal Vow, is the easiest and most effective method of securing the Salvation of all pathetic, suffering beings – particularly during the Dharma Ages that lack the physical presence of a Buddha. Thus, all the Buddhas throughout the ten directions, praise and fully support Saying Amida’s Name which embodies the Primal Vow. Mundane foolish persons like us, should take heed of their exhortations by listening deeply to the Buddha Dharma and entrusting ourselves single-heartedly to this Universal Vow of Boundless Compassion.


Mundane foolish persons (凡 夫 – bombu), who have ‘Listened Deeply’ (深 聞) to the teachings on Amida Buddha and His fulfilled Vows, are brought to receive the Inconceivable gift of  Shinjin (信 心), the entrusting faith in Amida Buddha and His Primal Vow. With the ripening of good karmic seeds from their past lives, further nurtured by listening deeply to the Buddha Dharma in this life, these extremely rare persons, are able to entrust their karmic destiny single-heartedly to Amida Buddha and the power of His Vows. Their amazing journeys are gratefully told here under blog posts, listed below, as ‘Pundarikas’- rare white lotuses that arise from the mud of blind passions.

These marvellous stories from persons of Shinjin in Amida’s Primal Vow, are told by them solely for the purpose of encouraging would-be seekers trying to find the ‘EASY’ path of getting out of samsara. They are certainly not expressions of their ego trips but are simply ways of showing how “the most difficult of all difficulties” is resolved by just “listening deeply” to the Amida Dharma taught by Shakyamuni Buddha.

With profound gratitude to The Buddhas for saving them from samsara – the dreadful cycle of birth, endless suffering and death – they Say The Buddha’s Name (念 佛, Japanese: Nembutsu), which is the act of true settlement. Thus, when Shinjin is received, even wretched persons, like ourselves, who are overwhelmed with deep-rooted ignorance and blind passions – completely incapable of extricating ourselves from the firm clutches of pain and suffering – are saved solely by Amida Buddha and the power of His Compassionate Vow. Persons with truly settled Shinjin are embraced and not forsaken by Amida Buddha, as they now belong to the Truly Settled Group (正 定 聚) whose birth in the Pure Land is absolutely assured while they are still living out this precious, yet fleeting life of perpetual suffering.


Amida Buddha’s True and Real Shinjin (真 實 信 心), is His Sincere Mind and Absolute Confidence that all persons who single-heartedly accept His Primal Vow, will definitely be born, as they wish, in His Land of Peace and Bliss, at the end of their present lives. This Great Compassionate Vow  of  “Sincere Mind, Joyful entrusting, Aspiration for birth and Saying the Buddha’s Name”, had been wonderfully fulfilled ten kalpas ago when the Tathagata attained Supreme Buddhahood, after trillions of years, perfectly performing the extremely difficult practices of a Bodhisattva:

“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.”

The Primal Vow (阿 彌 陀 佛 本 願) is clearly the Buddha’s Promise to save all beings from the dreadful cycle of samsara. Thus, Saying the Buddha’s Name (南 無 阿 彌 陀 佛 – Namo Amida Butsu), fulfilled in the Primal Vow, is the active cause of our birth in the Pure Land. It is Amida Buddha’s Great Practice of directing His infinite virtues to us for our going forth. By the power of this Vow of Great Compassion, we are effectively pulled out from this treacherous samsaric world of delusion, at the end of this life.

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, out of samsara, the  painful and relentless realms of unsatisfactory existences.

Being always amongst the multitudes, The Tathagata, using various skilful methods, sets up the appropriate karmic connections with sentient beings to enable them to be saved in the future. We should know that Amida Buddha has already accomplished our Pure Land births 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 Shinjin.


Shakyamuni Buddha, who appeared in India over 2500 years ago, taught about the persistence of suffering and how to put an end to suffering. For 45 years, The World-honored One, Teacher of gods and humans expounded countless Dharma discourses and brought immeasurable number of disciples to enlightenment. The Tathagata’s strong presence and Buddha-field enabled persons of different capacities to obtain emancipation in the Age of Right Dharma (正 法 時 代) lasting 500 years from His parinirvana.

The Buddha then revealed that the main purpose for which He came to this world was to preach Amida Buddha’s Vow of Boundless Compassion which promises to save all mundane foolish persons (凡 夫, bombu), good or evil, irrespective of age, gender, social status, intelligence or living conditions. Shakyamuni Buddha knows that Amida’s Primal Vow is fully in accord with the nature and the extremely poor spiritual capacities of suffering beings, especially during the 1000 years of The Semblance Dharma Age (像  法 時 代) that came after the Age of Right Dharma and particularly, in the present Dharma Ending Age (末 法 時 代) that followed.

We are now deep in this Dharma Ending Age (末 法 時 代) in which 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, at the end of this life in mortal flesh.


Shinran Shonin, a true disciple of Shakyamuni Buddha, lived in Japan from 1173 – 1263. He listened deeply to the Buddha Dharma and honestly realizing that he was utterly incapable in performing difficult Buddhist practices, he abandoned all those sundry meditative and non-meditative practices after 20 years as a fervent practitioner. Single-heartedly he entrusted himself and took refuge in Amida Buddha and His Primal Vow. Receiving The Inconceivable gift of Shinjin (信 心),  the profound entrusting faith bestowed on him through the power of Amida Buddha’s Compassionate Vow, he clearly know, without any doubt, that he would become a Buddha at the end of his life.

With immense gratitude to Amida Buddha and deep compassion for his fellow suffering beings, he passionately composed in classical Chinese, 6 volumes of an excellent literacy masterpiece, the Kyo Gyo Shin Sho – The Teaching, Practice, Faith and Realization of the Pure Land Way (淨 土 教 行 信 證) – a wonderful complete exposition on the only viable and direct path to Amida’s Pure Land of Peace and  Bliss. For more than 30 years, he meticulously wrote down what he had been taught, his thoughts, experiences and intimate realizations on the inconceivable compassionate activities of the Tathagatas.

His huge treasury of wonderful writings included collections of Dharma teachings from the sutras and commentaries from his lineage teachers, beautiful poems, heart-felt writings and letters to his followers. All these Pure Land Dharma expositions from the Venerable Master, carefully and aptly delineating the ‘White Path’, or  ‘Easy Way’, is the only path now available for wretched beings like us to get out of samsara, at the end of our miserable lives.


The two World-honored Ones’ Boundless Compassion and the true benevolence of Master Shinran are extremely difficult to repay by a small, foolish and worthless lay follower. But strongly inspired by Master Shinran’s earnest teachings and his beautiful four line poetry, his Gatha of True Faith ( 信 偈), I make this pale attempt to convey my heartfelt gratitude to the Tathagatas and to Master Shinran. I sincerely wish that one more person will be encouraged to listen deeply to the True Pure Land Teachings of Master Shinran and come to hear The Call of Boundless Compassion; thereby putting a permanent end to that foolish person’s pain and suffering in samsara.

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 无 阿 彌 陀 佛
Namo Amida Butsu   南 无 阿 彌 陀 佛
Namo Amida Butsu   南 无 阿 彌 陀 佛


Home Page – The Call Of Boundless Compassion:

Chapter 2 – The Primal Vow (阿 彌 陀 佛 本 願)
Chapter 3 – Gatha of True Faith (正 信 念 佛 偈)
Chapter 4 – True and Real Shinjin (真 實 信 心)
Chapter 5 – True Disciple of Buddha (真 佛 弟 子)
Chapter 6 – Amida’s Gift of Salvation (南 無 阿 彌 陀 佛)
Chapter 7 – Karmic-consciousness of Shinjin (信 心 業 識)
Chapter 8 – TRUE AND REAL Teaching (真 實 教 行 信 證)
Chapter 9 – Listening Deeply (深 聞 淨 土 教 行 信 證)
Chapter 10- Hindrance of Doubt ( 疑 情 為 所 止)
Chapter 11- Dharma Ending Age (末 法 時 代)
Chapter 12- True Buddha and Land (淨 土 真 佛 土)
Chapter 13 – Ajatasatru – The Story of who we really are
Chapter 14 – Song on The Texture of Life
Chapter 15 – Stage of the Truly Settled (正 定 聚)
Chapter 16 – Natural Working of the Primal Vow (自 然 法 爾)
Chapter 17 – Saying the Buddha’s Name ( 南 無 阿 彌 陀 佛 )
Chapter 18 – Precious human birth
Chapter 19 – Embraced and not forsaken (攝 取 不 捨)
Chapter 20 – Shinran Shonin and The 7 Pure Land Masters

Blog Posts : PundarikasAmazing Journeys to receive Shinjin

18  Oct.2015 – Heng Ng: Embraced by Amida
03 Nov.2015 – Valerie: I Now ‘Get It’
04 Nov.2015 – Paul Roberts: Amida is a Real Buddha
08 Nov.2015 – Camille: Finding my True Dharma Family
12 Nov.2015 – Rick St.Clair: Finding a True Teacher of Shinjin
05 Dec.2015 – David Kruemcke: Abandoning self-power Pure Land
20 Dec.2017 –  Paul Roberts – Tribute to a Good Teacher
19 Nov.2018 –  Stage of the Truly Settled
08 Oct.2019 –  Ajatasatru – Story of who we really are

Other Blog Posts: Dharma articles and poems

25 May 2016 – Embraced and not forsaken
20 June2016 – Four Seals of Dharma
17 July 2016 – Footprints of JodoShinshu
04 Sept2016 – Hindrance of Doubt
28 Sept2016 – Dharma Ending Age
03 Jan. 2018 – Natural Working of the Primal Vow
15 Oct.2018 –  Amida’s Primal Vow
22 Oct.2018 –  Saying the Buddha’s Name ( 南 無 阿 彌 陀 佛 )
08 Dec.2018 – Precious human birth
08 Mar.2019 – Embraced and not forsaken
22 Jun.2019 – Shinran Shonin and The 7 Pure Land Masters
03 Aug.2019 – Nagarjuna – 1st True Pure Land Master
23 Sep.2019 – Vasubandhu – 2nd True Pure Land Master
08 Oct.2019 – Tan Luan – 3rd True Pure Land Master

Blog Posts with: Songs on Shin Buddhism

16 Dec 2016 –  Amida’s Gift of Salvation (music by Rick)
27 Jan. 2017 – Embraced and not forsaken (music by Rick)
07 Feb. 2017 – Nembutsu of Gratitude (lyrics & music by Rick)
09 Apr. 2017 – Song on The Texture of Life (music by Rick)

Tan-Luan – 3rd True Pure Land Master

Master Tan-Luan

本 师 昙 鸾

Tan Luan - artwork

These beautiful verses from the Gatha of True Faith, were composed by Venerable Master Shinran in deep reverence to Master Tan Luan. They precisely capture the core essential teachings on The True Pure Land Way, carefully expounded by this highly revered, truly accomplished, 3rd Jodo-Shinshu lineage teacher…

“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.

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.

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.”

Thus, this great lineage Master of Jodo-Shinshu (宗), clearly emphasized Amida Buddha’s Original Vows which cause the fruition of the Fulfilled Land of Peace and Bliss. In his Commentary on Bodhisattva Vasubandhu’s wonderful ‘Treatise on the Pure Land’  (淨 土 – Jodo Ronchu), Master Tan Luan elaborately tells us, about the wondrous manifestations of Other-power, that constantly seeks to save all suffering beings from samsara – the vicious cycle of birth and death, pain and suffering.

Master Tan Luan’s marvellous clarification – that a person who awakens Shinjin, would realize that birth and death is Nirvana – is indeed inconceivable to foolish persons like us. Yet, with the true settlement of Entrusting faith (信 心 – Shinjin) that comes from Other-power, we know, without any doubt, that we are assured of our birth in Amida’s Pure Land, which is a Fulfilled, sublime realm of non-differentiation between Nirvana and samsara. This perhaps, would give us an intellectual glimpse of the Ultimate Truth that is completely beyond the scope of our conceptual understanding.


Master Tan Luan (476 – 542), was born in Shanxi, China, near Mount Wutai where many famous Buddhist monasteries were located. At the age of 15, he became a monk and being an extremely ardent scholar and practitioner, he soon became well-versed in various Buddhist scriptures as well as non-Buddhist philosophies. He also established himself as a widely renowned scholar of Bodhisattva Nagarjuna’s four major Mahayana treatises, including the popular Madyamika and the Prajnaparamita.

Midway through his life he fell very ill and that led him to deeply realise the extreme fragility and impermanence of life. In order to improve his physical health and to lengthen his life, so that he could preach the Buddha Dharma extensively for a longer period, he decided to study the Taoist art to longevity. After 3 years of serious study under the most famous Taoist master at that time, he was presented with 10 volumes of scriptures on the secrets to immortality, as he set out again, eagerly looking forward to preach the Buddha Dharma. On his way to the city of Luoyang, he met a monk from India named Bodhiruci who gave a True Pure Land scripture and explained to him that, actually, the Pure Land way is the only path that can assure him of eternal life. Listening deeply to Bodhiruci, a kind and knowledgeable teacher, Master Tan Luan was instantly converted, awakened to the Dharma of Salvation through Amida’s fulfilled Vows. Thereupon, he burnt all his Taoist scriptures on immortality, discarding them forever.

With his single-minded expositions on the Inconceivable Dharma of Amida Buddha, Master Tan Luan became so well respected and revered that, the emperor of Wei dynasty would address him as ‘Divine Luan’ and offered him the Ta-Yen temple. The emperor of Liang of the Southern dynasty, also treated Master Tan Luan as a Bodhisattva and would bow in the direction of where the revered master lived. Fervently dispensing the Pure Land Dharma, far and wide, without respite till the last moment of his life, he resolved to lead many more mundane foolish persons to aspire for the Land of Happiness. He wanted every one (including pathetic persons like us), to take this truly effective Path of Salvation that is fully in accord with their nature and aptitude.

Master Tan Luan passed away at Ping yao-shan temple at the age of 67. It is reported in most accounts today that he actually returned to the Pure Land amidst wondrous and auspicious manifestations witnessed by those followers present. He had left with us, excellent writings on the True Pure Land Way, particularly his ‘Gatha of Praise to Amida Buddha (赞 阿 彌 陀 佛 偈)’ and ‘Commentary on Birth in The Pure Land (往 生 – Ojo Ronchu)’. Because of Master Tan Luan’s attainments and wonderful legacy of spreading the Pure Land teachings, almost all the Chinese Pure Land Schools have considered him to be their founder.

Based on the studies of various monks and scholars, it was said that the Pure Land teaching given to Master Tan Luan by Bodhiruci, was none other than, Bodhisattva Vasubandhu’s ‘Treatise on Birth in the Pure Land’. Listening deeply to that wonderful Treatise, he carefully wrote a ‘Commentary’ on it, that complimented with his deep understanding of the Sutras and Bodhisattva Nagarjuna’s Chapter on ‘Easy Practice’ (品). His consistent clarifications on the Other-power teaching based strictly on Amida’s Primal Vow, have also made him a highly revered teacher and an excellent authority on the Jodo-Shinshu lineage.


The True Pure Land Dharma specially taught by Master Tan Luan was the sole interest of Master Shinran, as it directly revealed the wonderful working of Amida Buddha’s Universal Vow of Boundless Compassion, made to effectively save ordinary foolish persons, like him (and us too) from the treacherous “ocean of samsara”. In his wonderful Commentary on the Treatise on Birth in the Pure Land (往 生 – Ojo Ronchu), Master Tan Luan clearly tells us that, the moment when we are able take refuge without any doubt in Amida Buddha and His Primal Vow, our births in the Land of Bliss are instantly assured. Our attainment of Nirvana is therefore, effectively made possible solely by the merit-transference from the Other-power – the power of the Primal Vow.

Thus, the moment when we are able to entrust ourselves single-heartedly in the Primal Vow, Amida Buddha’s infinite merits and virtues are transferred to us for our going forth to the Pure Land at the end of our lives and for our subsequent return to this world (in seen or unseen manifestations), possessed with transcendental powers to help others.

Master Tan Luan carefully explained that this “Path of cross-wise transcendence” is the only appropriate path now available for badly defiled, ordinary foolish persons, constantly distracted and overwhelmed by greed, hatred, ignorance, arrogance and doubt. Thus without any reservation, he compassionately urged us to choose this wonderful, Other-power path of Shinjin in Amida’s Primal Vow and be in complete correspondence with the true intent of this marvellous Vow.

The Primal Vow, is Amida Buddha’s absolute promise to save all miserable persons like ourselves who are 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 (Shinjin – 信 心) 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 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 and that its Vow power 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, even spiritual idiots like us.

Stage of the Truely Settled (正 定 聚), also called the Stage of Non-retrogression (住 不 退 轉) – is a term originally used in the traditional Mahayana teachings to describe the stage of spiritual development in the Bodhisattvas’ paths to enlightenment, when these Bodhisattvas will never backslide in their attainments. Their arduous practices of vast merit gathering, flawless good deeds and extremely difficult disciplines on the Path of Sages, through countless billions of lives, have brought them up to the eighth stage (Sanskrit: bhumi) on a ten bhumi spiritual climb, before realizing Buddhahood. These Bodhisattvas on the 8th bhumi and above have attained the Stage of Non-retrogression – they belong to the Group of persons absolutely assured of advancing to Nirvana.

This Stage of Non-retrogression, which Master Tan Luan clearly explained, is also the same stage instantly received by us – foolish sentient beings with the lowest spiritual capacity – the very moment, here and now, when our Shinjin is truly settled. As we are now relying single-heartedly and fully on Amida Buddha’s Vow -power, we too are absolutely assured of advancing to Nirvana, without going through countless billions of lives performing self-power, difficult practices, on the Bodhisattvas’ path.


Thirty-four Hymns on Master Tan Luan – composed by Master Shinran in profound reverence and gratitude to this great Jodo Shinshu teacher (based on his writings):

(From: Hymns on the Pure Land Masters – 1997 copyright Jodo Shinshu Hongwanji-ha)

Our teacher, Master T’an-luan,
Through the guidance of Bodhiruci,
Burned his scriptures on immortality, discarding them forever,
And deeply took refuge in the Pure Land.

Putting aside his lectures on the four treatises,
He taught Other Power, the working of the Primal Vow;
Guiding foolish beings bound by their blind passions,
He led them to enter the gate to nirvana.

The lord of the mundane world came to inquire
Why he aspired for the Pure Land:
“All Buddha realms throughout the ten quarters are pure;
Why do you turn to the land in the west?”

Lord: the ruler of the country.

Master T’an-luan answered: “Since my wisdom is shallow
And I have not yet attained the higher stages of bodhisattvahood,
I am incapable, with my powers of mindfulness,
Of thinking equally on all lands.”

Not attained the higher stages: not reached the stage of non-retrogression.
Incapable of thinking equally: his power of thought does not extend to the other pure lands.

Neither monks nor laity
Had any place to turn for refuge;
Master T’an-luan alone resolved
To lead them to aspire for the land of happiness.

At the behest of the Emperor of Wei,
He lived at Ta-yen temple in Ping-chou.
Later, near the end of his life,
He moved to Fen-chou.

Ta-yen [Great Cliff] temple: a temple that T’an-luan had built.
Fen-chou: the name of a country where the nembutsu came to flourish.

The Emperor of Wei venerated him,
Giving him the title, “Holy Luan”;
The place where he lived came to be known
As eminent Luan’s Cliff.

Emperor: the rulers of kingdoms are given the title “emperor” (“son of heaven”).

Exerting all his energy to spread
The act for birth in the Pure Land,
He lived at Hsuan-chung temple,
And in 542, moved to Yao-shan temple.

Hsuan-chung temple: a temple that T’an-luan had constructed. Tao-ch’o was a disciple of T’an-luan [of later times] and succeeded to residence at this temple.
542: the original gives the Chinese dating, “Hsing-ho 4 of the Wei dynasty” [Translator’s note].

On reaching the age of sixty-seven, his time come,
He attained birth in the Pure Land;
There were wondrous, auspicious occurrences,
And monks and laity all venerated and took refuge in him.

Wondrous, auspicious occurrences: such as indicate a Buddha’s appearance.
Took refuge: followed his words, relied on and revered him.

The emperor, wholeheartedly revering him,
Commanded that a tomb be built immediately
At the splendid site of Chin-ling,
In the Fen-chou district of Fen-his province.

Though we had the words of Bodhisattva Vasubandhu,
If Master T’an-luan had not clarified them,
How could we come to know the mind and practice
Of vast, majestic virtues, which are Other Power?

Knowing truly that the Primal Vow –
The perfect One Vehicle that brings about sudden attainment –
Grasps those who commit grave offenses and transgressions,
We are quickly brought to realize that blind passions and enlightenment are not two in substance.

Perfect One Vehicle that brings about sudden attainment: Embracing all the eighty thousand sacred teachings, without lacking any in the slightest, is referred to as “perfect” and as “sudden attainment.”
Blind passions and enlightenment are not two in substance: blind passions and enlightenment become one body and are not two.

Of the five inconceivabilities taught in the sutras,
The inconceivability of the power of the Buddha-dharma is supreme;
The inconceivability of the power of the Buddha-dharma
Refers to Amida’s universal Vow.

Amida has fulfilled the directing of virtue,
Which has two aspects: that for our going forth and that for our return.
Through these aspects of the Buddha’s directing of virtue,
We are brought to realize both mind and practice.

Our going forth and our return: The aspect for our going forth is the directing of virtue that seeks to bring us to birth in the Pure Land. The aspect for our return refers to Amida’s directing of virtue so that after going to the Pure Land we are enabled to perform the activity of Samantabhadra and benefit sentient beings.

The directing of virtue for our going forth is such that
When Amida’s active means toward us reaches fulfillment;
We realize the shinjin and practice of the compassionate Vow;
Then birth-and-death is itself nirvana.

The directing of virtue for our return to this world is such that
We attain the resultant state of benefiting and guiding others;
Immediately re-entering the world of beings,
We engage in the compassionate activity that is the virtue of Samantabhadra.

Beings: all the sentient beings throughout the ten quarters.
Samantabhadra: [the bodhisattva manifesting] the Buddha’s compassion in its complete fullness.

Vasubandhu speaks, in his Treatise, of “the mind that is single”;
Master T’an-luan, in his commentary, explains that
This is shinjin – itself Other Power –
That we who are possessed of blind passions attain.

The unhindered light filling the ten quarters
Shines on the beings in the darkness of ignorance
And unfailingly brings to attainment of nirvana
The person who realizes the one thought-moment of joy.

Through the benefit of the unhindered light,
We realize Shinjin of vast, majestic virtues,
And the ice of our blind passions necessarily melts,
Immediately becoming water of enlightenment.

Obstructions of karmic evil turn into virtues;
It is like the relation of ice and water:
The more the ice, the more the water;
The more the obstructions, the more the virtues.

Obstructions: karmic evil and blind passions. If the amount of karmic evil is great, the amount of virtue is great.

The ocean of the inconceivable Name does not hold unchanged
The corpses of the five grave offenses and slander of the dharma;
The myriad rivers of evil acts, on entering it,
Become one in taste with the ocean water of virtues.

Rivers of blind passions, on entering the ocean –
The great, compassionate Vow
Of unhindered light filling the ten quarters –
Become one in taste with that sea of wisdom.

Being born in the Buddha-land of happiness
Is the path to ultimate attainment of Buddhahood;
All the Buddhas acclaim the Pure Land,
For birth there is the unsurpassed means.

Path (doro): do means “broad path,” ro means “narrow path.”

T’an-luan teaches that the Buddhas adorn their three modes of action,
So that they are characterized by ultimate non-discrimination;
This is to heal the bodily, verbal, and mental acts of beings,
Which are false and delusional.

Non-discrimination: there is no differentiation of anything.
False (literally, “empty”) and delusional: vain and insane; karmic evil and blind passions.
Heal: to help or save. This is a homonym to the word meaning “to do away with.”

T’an-luan teaches that we reach the Buddha-land of happiness
Solely with the Name – the unsurpassed gem –
And true Shinjin,
For those born there follow no other way.

Unsurpassed gem: the wish-fulfilling jewel. If this jewel is placed in muddy water, not only will the water become clear, but there will be no discoloration. If crystal is put in muddy water, there will be discoloration. Thus, the myriad practices and good acts are likened to crystal, the Name to the jewel.

Although initially there are nine grades of beings,
Because the birth attained through Amida’s pure Primal Vow
Is birth that is no-birth,
The Pure Land is free of such discrimination.

Birth that is no-birth: birth that is apart from birth in the six courses. Persons of true and real shinjin are not born in the six courses or four forms of birth; hence, “no-birth.”
Nine grades of beings: Although originally there are nine grades of sentient beings, once they have been born in the fulfilled land, not a single one is differentiated.

The Name of the Tathagata of unhindered light
And the light that is the embodiment of wisdom
Dispel the darkness of the long night of ignorance
And fulfill the aspirations of sentient beings.

Master T’an-luan explains
That failing to practice in accord with reality
Means first, that shinjin is not genuine in that person,
For it appears to exist at times, and not to exist at others.

Failing to practice in accord with reality: not in accord with the teaching.
Appears to exist…and not to exist: at times one is convinced that one will attain birth and at other times one feels that one will not.

Second, shinjin is not single,
For it lacks decisiveness;
And third, shinjin is not enduring,
For it is disrupted by other thoughts.

Disrupted by other thoughts: because of the mixture there is no shinjin.

The practicer should remember that these three aspects of [untrue] shinjin
Are established with one leading to another:
Because one’s shinjin is not genuine,
It is not shinjin that is decisive.

Because it is not shinjin that is decisive,
Mindfulness does not endure;
Because mindfulness does not endure,
One does not realize shinjin that is decisive.

Because one does not realize shinjin that is decisive,
It is not genuine; thus T’an-luan teaches.
Whether practice is fully in accord with reality
Is determined solely by shinjin.

Practice in accord with reality: to entrust oneself to Amida in accord with the teaching.

Having turned from the little road
Of a myriad practices and good acts
And entered the great path of the Primal Vow, which is true reality,
We will quickly attain the enlightenment of nirvana.

King Hsiao, the Emperor of Liang,
Always faced in the direction
Of our teacher and paid homage to him,
Calling him Bodhisattva Luan.

Here ends the Hymns on Master T’an-luan


Listening Deeply to the True Pure Land expositions of Master Shinran and the wonderful explanations on Amida’s Vow-power, strongly emphasized by Master Tan Luan, may all foolish mundane persons like us, take heed of the benevolent advice of these truly accomplished teachers. Let us seize this extremely rare opportunity and make full use of this precious human birth before it quickly comes to the inevitable end.

Thus, abandoning all self-power meditative and non-meditative practices and entrusting our karmic destiny entirely to Amida Buddha and The Primal Vow, we have, without any doubt 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.

南 无 阿 彌 陀 佛 – Namo Amida Butsu
南 无 阿 彌 陀 佛 – Namo Amida Butsu
南 无 阿 彌 陀 佛 – Namo Amida Butsu