阿 彌 陀 佛 本 願
The Primal 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, 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 Offences
And Those Who Slander The Right Dharma.
Amida Buddha in His practising stage, many trillions of years ago – as Bodhisattva Dharmakara, under the guidance of Buddha Lokesvararaja – 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 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 attained Perfect Enlightenment ten kalpas ago as Amida Buddha. His Pure Land of Peace and Bliss had been splendidly established, 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 have declared that each Vow would be accomplished accordingly as He had promised, otherwise, He is not fit to be a Buddha.
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 has already accomplished our Pure Land birth 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 in saving all beings – His inconceivable Faith-mind (Shinjin, 信 心). Spontaneously, we would Say the Name (Namo Amida Butsu, 南 无 阿 彌 陀 佛), deeply grateful to The Buddha for having saved us. We are instantly grasped and not forsaken by the Light of Great Compassion.
Completing the cause of our Pure Land birth, here and now in this life, we know, without any doubt, that this is our last deluded life trapped in the painful cycle of relentless birth and death.
In the Gatha of True Faith (正 信 偈), Venerable Master Shinran passionately expresses in beautiful poetry, his direct and grateful experience on the Primal Vow that embodies Saying The Name as the act of true settlement:
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-mindedly 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-mindedly entrust and fully accept Amida’s Shinjin.
Thus, Saying the Name 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. The Name is praised by all the Buddhas throughout the ten directions. It is not our good nor is it our self-power practice. With the one thought moment of True Entrusting (Shinjin, 信 心) in The Primal Vow, we Say the Name, deeply grateful to Amida Buddha for having saved us, particularly in this spiritually defiled Dharma Ending Age (末 法 時 代) when all persons are badly consumed by the evil passions of greed, hatred, ignorance, jealousy and arrogance.
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 meagre spiritual capacities and 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-mindedly 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 Bliss is absolutely assured while we are still living out this unsatisfactory existence.
Let us Listen deeply and without any doubt, we will surely HEAR:
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
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