REV.

JŌ SH Ō ADRIAN CÎRLEA

THE 48 VOWS OF AMIDA BUDDHA

CRAIOVA, 2013 1

Copyright © Adri an Gheorghe Cîrlea All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced without prior written permission fro m the author. Rev. Josho Adrian Cîrlea is the representative of Jodo Shinshu Buddhist Co mmunity fro m Ro mania, founder of Tariki Dojo Craiova and Tariki Dojo Bucharest. He is also the author of The Path of Acceptance – Commentary on Tannisho , published by Dharma Lion in 2011, and of Jodo Shinshu Buddhist Teachings, published by Dharma Lion in 2012. Cîrlea Adrian O.P. 6, C.P. 615 Craiova, Dolj, Ro mânia phone: 0725854326 e-mail: josho_adrian@yahoo.com yahoo id: josho_adrian skype id: josho_adrian blog of the author: www.amida-ji-retreat-temple-ro mania.b logspot.com

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I dedicate this book to my parents and grandparents from this life (Gheorghe, Tamara, Constantin, Ioana, Gheorghe, Cristina) and other lives. May they always have peace, love and happiness in their hearts, receive faith in Amida Buddha and be born in his Pure Land.

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..... Birth in the borderland of the Pure Land – auxiliary article to “Three Vows Of Salvation”………...………….........................explanation of the 12th Vow ……………………………………………………………......Vows related with the salvation of all sentient beings…………….. the capacities and activities of beings who attained Enlightenment in the Pure Land after being Born there……………………….......explanation of the 31st Vow……………………………. The Infinite Light of Amida Buddha .explanation of the 18th.......... CHAPTER ONE .....explanation of the 32nd Vow……………………………………………………………… CHAPTER TWO ....…….... Three vows of salvation ....... 19th and 20th Vows ……………………………………………………………......... Amida’s transcendental manifestations will last forever explanation of the 13th Vow (Infinite Life)….Vows about Amida Buddha and his Pure Land ....…………………… All Buddhas praise Amida’s Name and encourage us to say it explanation of the 17th Vow…………………………………… Beings born in the Pure Land will definitely become Buddhas explanation of the 11th Vow………………………………......explanation of the 22nd Vow…......... No discrimination of women in the salvation of Amida Buddha explanation of the 35th vow…. CHAPTER FOUR -Vows related with bodhisattvas in other lands 5 7 9 10 13 17 19 26 27 34 41 46 49 52 57 60 72 85 ....... The Pure Land of Amida reveals in its Light all the Buddhalands ...........………........... CHAPTER THREE ......……………………..........explanation of the 33rd Vow Returning from the Pure Land ........Vows explaining the characteristics....................... The manifestations of the Pure Land .....................Table of contents Foreword…….....…………………………………………………...... The so-called “exclusion” in the 18th Vow………………………........... The peace and happiness of shinjin .

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Vows related with the salvation of all sentient beings – to be explained in the second chapter. 4. These beings are sometimes called humans and devas in my land. the capacities and activities of beings who attained Enlightenment in the Pure Land after being born there. Vows explaining the characteristics. 3. Among all the 48 vows. 7 . Shinran Shonin and the other Masters of our tradition paid attention only to some while ignoring the rest. For a better understanding I divided the 48 vows of Amida Buddha in the following way: 1. These vows will be explained in the third chapter. shravakas in my land or bodhisattvas in my land. This book is my personal attempt to provide easy to understand explanations on the vows so that people can live in accordance with them and acquire the true and real salvation from birth and death.Fore word In the moment Dharmakara became Amida Buddha. his 48 vows and his Pure Land became real and effective methods for the salvation of sentient beings. 2. Vows about Amida Buddha and his Pure Land These vows will be explained in the first chapter. Why is that? Because not all the vows of Amida Buddha are directly related with our salvation as ordinary beings or they do not contain refferences that might be useful to us here in this present life. Vows related with bodhisattvas in other lands – to be explained in the fourth chapter. According to my classification we can say that the first two categories of vows are especially mentioned in Shinran’s and the Master’s writings.

I decided to briefly explain even the vows not mentioned by our Masters. However. No written work can be considered to be perfect and complete. But because my knowledge and understanding are limited and I myself am not a spiritually advanced Buddhist. if he likes. the reader should first concentrate his attention on understanding the vows that Shinran Shonin and the seven Masters explained and he may ignore the rest.Thus. the vows Shinran himself considered important and read my explanations of the rest of the vows only as an extra option. So please. This is why I will be glad and grateful to receive comments and suggestions from my readers. my explanations of the vows to which Shinran paid no attention are also limited. I am grateful to Rev Jokyo George Gatenby of Australia for his valuable advice and assistance. so I am looking forward to future improvements of this text. treat with utmost care and take as essential the vows which really matter. because of the goal of this book. 8 .

CHAPTER ONE Vows about Amida Buddha and his Pure Land 9 .

This infinite Light embraces. ” the 12th Vow This is the Vow in which Dharmakara. Shinran Shonin also said in his Hymns of Benefit in the Present : Countless Amida Buddhas reside In the light of the Buddha of Unhindered Light. the actual Amida Buddha1 promises that his Light as a Buddha will be infinite. each having eighty-four thousand secondary marks of excellence. 4 Amida is the Buddha of Infinite Life and Infinite Light. protects and brings the wisdom of faith (shinjin) into the hearts and minds of people who are open to Amida’s message of salvation. say his Name in faith. Among all Buddhas. All these beings need to do is to entrust themselves in him. especially those whose karma is so heavy that they deserve to be born in hell. In the Contemplation Sutra. Each one of these transformed Buddhas3 protects The person of true and real shinjin. when I attain Buddhahood. my light should be limited. he is the only one who promised that he will save (lead to Buddhahood) all beings no matter their spiritual capacities. unable to illuminate at least a hundred thousand kotis of nayutas of Buddha lands. each ray of light shines universally upon the lands of the ten directions. the two aspects of Amida Buddha. may I not attain perfect Enlightenment. chapter 17.explanation of the 12th Vow “If. it is said: “Buddha Amitāyus2 possesses eighty-four thousand physical characteristics. embracing and not forsaking those who are mindful of the Buddha . aspiring to be born in his Pure Land. 1 10 .The Infinite Light of Amida Buddha . 3 Manifestations of Amida Buddha which accords with the particularity of each being. Each secondary mark emits eighty-four thousand rays of light. 2 Amitayus means „infinite Light” while A mitabha stands for „infin ite Life”.

etc. 4 11 . But in all these Pure Lands. In the chapter eleven of the Larger Sutra it is said: Read the chapter “The Ten Benefits in this life of a Nembutsu follower” from my book. the Light of Amida is also seen and praised. capable of liberation them forever from birth and death. The devotees of each great Buddha who owns a special Pure Land will go there through various practices that make them connected with that specific place and once born there they continue their practice under the guidance of that Buddha. “A thousand kotis” is a symbol for infinite. understand and accept when we become open to the Light of Amida. “kotis” being an incomprehensible number. This twofold vision is the effect of Amida’s Light into the minds and hearts of the devotees. that is when we receive shinjin. like the Medicine Buddha (Yakushi Nyorai). False teachers can’t influence us and we’ll never distort the essentials of the Jodo Shinshu Dharma in our presentations. that is with no chance of attaining Buddhahood by any self power practice and of perceiving the salvation of Amida as true and real.This Light of Amida dispels the darkness of the minds of sentient beings giving them the capacity of seeing themselves as they really are. beyond our capacity to calculate. especially by the Buddhas who govern those lands and who show it to their devotees. This is because all Buddhas are aware of the wonderful method of Amida’s salvation and recommend it to all beings 5.. This is what we feel. Some world systems are lower or higher on the scale of spiritual evolution while some are especially manifested by the Enlightenment and Vows of great Buddhas. especially the fourth and sixth benefit. The Light of Amida also protects us from wrong understanding of the teaching. Green Tara’s Land. The Light of Amida is always sent toward beings in all the corners of the universe – “hundred thousand kotis of nayutas of Buddha-lands ”. „Jodo Shinshu Buddhist teachings”. 5 See my explanation of the 17th Vo w fro m this book. “Buddha lands” are all the places and worlds in the universe as it is considered that each world system is governed or taken care of by a Buddha who appears and preaches the Dharma there.

Some become opened to it sooner while others will do so in the future. It is like an immense magnet attracting all beings to him. in each of the four intermediate directions. The light of some Buddha illuminates a hundred Buddha lands. All the Buddhas. and above and below.“The majestic light of Buddha Amitāyus is the most exalted. In the same way. śrāvakas. Amida will continue sending it until all hells are empty and all beings will become Buddhas. No other Buddha’s light can match his. 12 .” […] “The light of Amitāyus shines brilliantly. and north. Briefly. I am not the only one who now praises his light. illuminating all the Buddha lands of the ten directions. west. Amida’s Light is a permanent presence upon beings everywhere. […] So. Amida’s Infinite Light is a transcendent manifestation capable to go anywhere in the universe. There is no place where it is not perceived. opened or not opened to it. and bodhisattvas praise and glorify it in the same way”. that of Amitāyus illuminates the eastern Buddha lands as numerous as the sands of the Ganges River. Through his Light Amida tries permanently to influence beings and make them accept his salvation contained in the Primal Vow (18th ). and that of others a thousand Buddha lands. pratyekabuddhas. it illuminates the Buddha lands in the south. It can be felt in the hearts and minds of the believers in the aspect of shinjin.

” the 13th Vow This vow simply means that his transcendent manifestation (Sambhogakaya body or Dharmakaya as compassionate means) 7 will last forever for the benefit of all beings. We simply cannot have access to ultimate Dharmakaya or Buddha nature just like that. So we need a transcendent bridge from this world of birth and death (Samsara) to Buddhahood.Amida’s transcendental manifestations will last forever . to attain Buddhahood. It is a grave mistake to speak about Amida Buddha only in terms of his ultimate reality beyond form (Dharmakaya as suchness) and forget his transcendent manifestation (Sambhogakaya or Dharmakaya as compassionate means 8) in form and Name. nor a symbol or metaphor. my life-span should be limited. were fulfilled and transformed into useful tools for delivering sentient beings. This transcendent bridge is Amida Buddha and his Pure Land. 8 We cannot understand ‘Dharmakaya as suchness’ but ‘Dharmakaya as compassionate means’ makes himself known in Light and Name.explanation of the 13th Vow (Infinite Life) “If. This body and his Pure Land are the result of his vows which. when I attain Buddhahood. We “Kalpa” is an impossible to calculate notion of time. upon his Enlightenment. “Kotis of nayutas of kalpas” is often used to mean an infin ite period. as we are and in this present life and with this very body. but Dharmakaya in action for the sake of sentient beings. but a living Buddha who has a transcendent body with multiple manifestations for the sake of sentient beings. even to the extent of a hundred thousand kotis of nayutas of kalpas6 . because without the form and Name of Amida there would be no possibility for us. sentient beings. 6 13 . 7 See the chapter „About Amida Buddha and his Pure Land” fro m my book „Jodo Shinshu Buddhist Teachings”. may I not attain perfect Enlightenment. It is very important to understand that a Buddha like Amida is not an abstract concept. Dharmakaya as compassionate means is still Dharmakaya.

“Rise to your feet. do not understand. Only in Amida Buddha with a form and Name. assumed the correct posture. This transcendent bridge. that is. and as far as the eye can see there is nothing but the vast expanse of water. in Amida as described in the Larger Sutra. demonstrating his sincere reverence. Amitāyus emitted a great light. when myriads of things are submerged. As long as one is unenlightened. Mount Sumeru. and. The following passage is a testimony for us to accept in faith the real existence of A mida Buddha as an En lightened Person: “The Buddha said to Ānanda. Amida Buddha as an Enlightened Person with his transcendent body9 . Even so was the flood of light emanating from Amitāyus. I wish to see that Buddha. This is what those who deny the reality of Amida in his transcendental form and of his Pure Land. All the lights of śrāvaka s and bodhisattvas were outshone and surpassed. Shinran Shonin also talked about Amida in ultimate terms but he encouraged people to entrust themselves to Amida as described in the Larger Sutra whose story told there he fully accepted. put your palms together. and its hosts of bodhisattvas and śrāvaka s.” As soon as he had said this. rearranged his robes. and respectfully revere and worship Amitāyus. joined his palms together. rearrange your robes. together with large and small mountains and everything else shone with the same [golden] color.[…] Ānanda stood up. 9 14 .first entrust in Amida Buddha as an Enlightened Person. prostrated himself on the ground. Then he said to Śākyamuni Buddha. and worshiped Amitāyus. can one have true faith. “World-honored One. one cannot have faith in the Dharmakaya as suchness or ultimate Buddha nature. In Dharmakaya as suchness one can only dwell when he becomes a Buddha himself because in that state there is a transcendence of any duality. will last eternally as the 13th Vow Amida Buddha in his transcendent body (Dharmakaya as co mpassionate means or Sambhogakaya) and his Pure Land was also revealed to Ananda and to those gathered on the Vu lture Peak to listen to Shakyamuni Buddha’s sermon about Amida which was later reg istered as The Larger Sutra . his Land of Peace and Bliss. The Encircling Adamantine Mountains. That light was like the flood at the end of the period of cosmic change that fills the whole world. which illuminated all the Buddha lands. faced westward. go in his Pure Land after death and there we become Buddhas ourselves.

concentrated their thoughts. let us suppose that all the innumerable sentient beings in the worlds of the ten directions were reborn in human form and that every one became a śrāvaka or pratyekabuddha. 15 . “Have you also heard the great voice of Amitāyus expound the Dharma to all the worlds. Shakyamuni said to Ananda: “The lifespan of Amitāyus is so long that it is impossible for anyone to calculate it.” The Buddha asked. which also contains many schools. The Pure Land tradition. On this path. I have. “Yes.”[…] 10 In chapter 12 of the Larger Sutra . is one of the main streams of Mahayana Buddhism. At that time Ānanda saw the splendor and majesty of Amitāyus resembling Mount Sumeru. Mahayana represents a great number of schools which relies on the Sanskrit canon. There was no place that was not illuminated by the light emanating from his body of glory [Sambhogakaya or Dharmakaya as compassionate means – Amida’s transcendent body]. Lik ewise. and exercised the power of their wisdom to the utmost to reckon the length of the Buddha’s lifespan by the number of kalpas. but for the liberation of all sentient beings. the follower makes the vow of practicing the Dharma not only for himself. which rises above the whole world. all spontaneously produced. I have. So. from the ground to the Heaven of Pure Abode?” Ānanda replied. This Vow is in accord with the well known Mahayana 11 verse: “as long as space endures and unenlightened beings exist. Amida’s Infinite Life stands for Infinite Compassion. The four groups of followers of the Buddha in the assembly saw all this at the same time. those of the Pure Land saw everything in this world. “Have yo u seen that land filled with excellent and glorious manifestations. so this symbolical number is mentioned again to suggest the infinite and impossible to calculate life of this Buddha’s body 10 .” 11 Mahayana or Buddhism of the Great Veh icle has the goal of leading all beings to attain Buddhahood. Even if they assembled in one place. To give an illustration. Also the Infinite Life of Amida means that he will have enough patience and enough time to help all beings. even after a thousand million kalpas they could still not reach its limit. guiding sentient beings to the Way of the Buddha?” Ānanda replied. Then the Buddha said to Ānanda and Bodhisattva Maitreya. “Yes. He will and only the Buddha’s light remained shining bright and glorious.promises. may I too remain to dispel the miseries of the world”. Even “a hundred thousand kotis of nayutas of kalpas” is still limited time when measuring the life span of Amida.

as he himself said 12 : “If I should not become a great benefactor In lives to come for immeasurable kalpas To save the poor and the afflicted everywhere. May I not attain perfect Enlightenment.endlessly work to save us all. chapter 8. without the small break in his activity. 16 .” 12 Larger Sutra .

may I not attain perfect Enlightenment. means that in the Pure Land there is no obstruction caused by karmic evil and blind passions.lands 13 . even if their manifestations and conditions are different.explanation of the 31st Vow “If. as numerous as the sands of the Ganges. my light should be limited.” 14 Shinran Shonin said in his Jodo Wasan (Pure Land hymns) : “When we take refuge in the Pure Land of Amida.The Pure Land of Amida reveals in its Light all the Buddhalands . By being born in the Pure Land of Amida we fulfill the aspirations of all Buddhas 14 . Thus. innumerable and inconceivable Buddha-lands. as stated in the 17th 13 “If. Everything is seen and revealed in its true nature and the ultimate nature (Dharmakaya as suchness) of all the Buddhas and Buddhalands is the same. the 31st Vow shows the unity between Amida as an Enlightened Person and his Pure Land.” the 31st Vow This Vow is linked with the 12th Vow where Dharmakara. when I attain Buddhahood. capable to illuminate all the Buddha. my land should not be resplendent. the actual Amida Buddha. like images reflected in a clear mirror. may I not attain perfect Enlightenment. Upon birth in the Land of Amida. all the lands of the Buddhas. 17 . “Like images reflected in a clear mirror”. This is because. when I attain Buddhahood. which is his own manifestation. are revealed to us and we understand the specific characteristics of each one of them. By becoming Buddhas upon birth in the Pure Land we understand this Dharmakaya unity between all Buddhas and their lands. revealing in its light all the immeasurable. The things that are now inconceivable for our unenlightened minds will be known when we attain Buddhahood in the Pure Land. The Light of Amida is also the Light of his Pure Land. promises that his light as a Buddha will be infinite. unable to illuminate at least a hundred thousand kotis of nayutas of Buddha-lands.

they extend their long. each Buddha encouraging those born in their lands to entrust to Amida. Yashah-prabha Buddha. To praise the one Buddha. southern quarter. so do the Buddhas in the eastern quarter.lands praise Amida’s method of salvation and encourage beings to follow it 15 . broad tongues and. While dwelling in their own lands. and Ananta-virya Buddha. that praise Amida 16 and encourage beings everywhere to follow the method of birth in his Pure Land. pronounce these words of truth: Sentient beings should accept this sutra entitled 'Praise of the Inconceivable Virtue and Protection by All Buddhas. Duspradharsa Buddha. Aditya-sambhava Buddha and Jalini-prabha 18 . Buddhas from all the Buddha. all Buddha.lands point to Amida’s Land. such as Candra-surya-pradipa Buddha. there are in the northern quarter Buddhas as numerous as the sands of the Ganges. as numerous as the sands of the Ganges.' [8] "Shariputra. we can safely assume that all the lands of the Buddhas have their main roads connected to the Pure Land. Mahaprabha Buddha. Mahameru Buddha. and Manju-svara Buddha. Amida.' [7] "Shariputra. nadir and zenith. Amita-ketu Buddha. they extend their long. western quarter. Mahaprabhasa Buddha. Vaishvanara-nirghosa Buddha. Thus. Meru-dhvaja Buddha. Meru-pradipa Buddha. encompassing with them the universe of a thousand million worlds. pronounce these words of truth: Sentient beings should accept this sutra entitled 'Praise of the Inconceivable Virtue and Protection by All Buddhas. northern quarter. there are in the western quarter Buddhas as numerous as the sands of the Ganges. just as I praise the inconceivable virtue of Amida Buddha. encompassing with them the universe of a thousand million worlds. they extend their long. Amita-dhvaja Buddha. We take refuge in all the Buddhas. pronounce these words of truth: Sentient beings should accept this sutra entitled 'Praise of the Inconceivable Virtue and Protection by All Buddhas. broad tongues and. such as Arci-skandha Buddha.' [9] "Shariputra. with the mind that is single Is to praise all the unhindered Ones” 15 See the exp lanation of the 17th Vow. This might also be the meaning of the 31 st Vow. Meru-prabhasa Buddha. Ratna-ketu Buddha and Shuddha-rashmi-prabha Buddha.Vow. In short. such as Amitayus Buddha. encompassing with them the universe of a thousand million worlds. While dwelling in their own lands. While dwelling in their own lands. such as Ak sobhya Buddha. And it is proved by Shakyamuni in the Smaller Amida Sutra when he enumerates all the Buddhas in the eastern quarter. 16 [6] "Shariputra. there are in the southern quarter Buddhas as numerous as the sands of the Ganges. broad tongues and. Maharci-skandha Buddha.

Salendra-raja Buddha. Maharci-skandha Buddha. from the ground to the sky. pronounce these words of truth: Sentient beings should accept this sutra entitled 'Praise of the Inconceivable Virtue and Protection by All Buddhas.' [11] "Shariputra. broad tongues and.' [10] "Shariputra. While dwelling in their own lands. all the myriads of manifestations in my land. While dwelling in their own lands. whose fragrance pervades all the worlds of the ten quarters.'” 19 . should not be composed of both countless treasures. such as Brahma-ghosa Buddha. encompassing with them the universe of a thousand million worlds. Ratnotpalashri Buddha. Gandhottama Buddha. which surpass in supreme excellence anything in the worlds of humans and devas. Gandha-prabhasa Buddha. While dwelling in their own lands. encompassing with them the universe of a thousand million worlds. Yashas Buddha. pronounce these words of truth: Sentient beings should accept this sutra entitled 'Praise of the Inconceivable Virtue and Protection by All Buddhas. Dharma-dhvaja Buddha and Dharma-dhara Buddha. Ratna-kusumasampuspita-gatra Buddha. Naksatra-raja Buddha.The manifestations of the Pure Land – explanation of the 32nd Vow “If. broad tongues and. Yashah-prabhasa Buddha. ponds. encompassing with them the universe of a thousand million worlds. pronounce these words of truth: Sentient beings should accept this sutra entitled 'Praise of the Inconceivable Virtue and Protection by All Buddhas. they extend their long. such as palaces. there are in the nadir Buddhas as numerous as the sands of the Ganges. causing all bodhisattvas who sense it to perform Buddhist practices. pavilions. then may I not attain perfect Enlightenment. streams and trees. Dharma Buddha. when I attain Buddhahood. there are in the zenith Buddhas as numerous as the sands of the Ganges. Sarvaartha-darsha Buddha and Sumeru-kalpa Buddha. such as Simha Buddha. ” the 32nd Vow The wonderful manifestations of Amida’s Land are also presented Buddha. and of a hundred thousand kinds of aromatic wood. broad tongues and. they extend their long. they extend their long.

in that Land of Utmost Bliss there are seven rows of balustrades. Shariputra. Shariputra. It is as if a hundred thousand musical instruments were playing together. which proclaim such teachings as the five roots of goodness. they produce subtle. For this reason. and seven rows of trees. the Dharma and Sangha. kalavinkas and jivamjivakas. Shariputra. even the names of the three evil realms do not exist there. beryl and crystal. in that Buddha-land heavenly music is played continually. Six times during the day and night birds sing with melodious and delicate sounds. such as swans. how much less the realms themselves? These birds are manifested by Amida Buddha so that their singing can proclaim and spread the Dharma. when soft breezes waft through the rows of jewelled trees and jewelled nets. Shariputra. In the ponds are lotuses as large as cha riotwheels -. "In that Buddha-land. Shariputra. On hearing them. you should not assume that these birds are born as retribution of their evil karma. Shariputra. wonderful sounds. peacocks. The beds of the ponds are covered solely with gold sand. section 3: "Shariputra. the five powers.' Again. sharis. that Buddha-land is filled with such splendid adornments. why is that land called 'Utmost Bliss'? The beings in that land suffer no pain but only enjoy pleasures of various kinds. After the meal they enjoy a stroll. parrots. filled with water of the eight excellent qualities. the Dharma and the Sangha. Everyone who hears the sounds spontaneously becomes mindful of the Buddha. and carnelian.” 20 . Above these stand pavilions adorned with gold. sapphire. encompassing everything. The reason is that none of the three evil realms exists in that Buddha-land. the Land of Utmost Bliss is filled with such splendid adornments.' Again. the red a red light and the white ones a white light. For this reason. silver. Every day. silver. in that land there are always many kinds of rare and beautiful birds of various colors. They are marvelous and beautiful. They are all made of four kinds of jewels and extend over the whole land. "Again. the people of that land fill the hem of their robes with exquisite flowers and go to make offerings to a hundred thousand kotis of Buddhas dwelling in the worlds of other quarters. in the Land of Utmost Bliss there are seven-jewelled ponds. the Land of Utmost Bliss is filled with such splendid adornments. that land is called 'Utmost Bliss. Shariputra. Six times during the day and night mandarava flowers rain down from the sky. and from the four sides of each pond rise stairs of gold. seven rows of decorative nets. in the serenity of the early morning. rosy pearls. fragrant and pure. the seven practices leading to Enlightenment.the blue ones radiating a blue light. Shariputra. But. "Again. Then they return for their morning meal. crystal. that land is called 'Utmost Bliss. Shariputra. and the Eightfold Noble Path. the yellow a yellow light.in the Smaller Amida Sutra (Amida-kyo)17 where Shakyamuni 17 Smaller Amida Sutra . Shariputra. beryl. The ground is made of gold. the people of that land become mindful of the Buddha.

crystal leaves. flowers and fruits of silver. agate branches.Shariputra…”. white-silver flowers and beryl fruits. beryl trees with leaves. ruby leaves. 18 21 . it is wonderful. Shakyamuni makes extensive descriptions of the Pure Land as a proof of the authenticity of the 32nd Vo w: Section 14: „Again seven-jewelled trees completely fill that land. agate trunks. crystal. beryl trunks. ruby branches. white-silver trunks. Shariputra. There are some made of gold. There are jewelled trees with beryl roots. that place is supreme in beauty…. silver trees with leaves. ruby twigs. Shariputra ……. there are jewelled trees with purple-gold roots. crystal twigs. some of silver. There are jewelled trees with coral roots. There are jewelled trees with ruby roots. coral twigs. coral leaves. beryl twigs. flowers and fruits of crystal. He starts preaching that sutra without being asked and he says on and on something like: “Shariputra. There are jewelled trees with white-silver roots. such is his enthusiasm in presenting them. coral trees with leaves.describes them to Shariputra in an ecstatic manner not even giving time to his listener to ask questions. It is very important to realize that Shakyamuni does not speak about the Pure Land of Amida in terms of ultimate reality beyond form (Dharmakaya as suchness) but instead he uses many images and colourful words 18. coral branches. beryl leaves. The language of the Three Pure Land sutras is In the Larger Sutra too. ruby or agate. white-silver twigs. There are jewelled trees with crystal roots. purple-gold leaves. coral. white-silver branches. flowers and fruits of ruby. ruby flowers and agate fruits. beryl branches. crystal trunks. agate leaves. coral flowers and ruby fruits. flowers and fruits of beryl. "There are gold trees with leaves. white-silver leaves. flowers and fruits made of various jewels. crystal flowers and coral fruits. purple-gold flowers and white-silver fruits. There are jewelled trees with agate roots. ruby trees with leaves. coral trunks. flowers and fruits of beryl. agate twigs. purple-gold branches. ruby trunks. in that land there are so and so places and so and so precious treasures…. beryl flowers and crystal fruits. There are also trees made of two to seven kinds of jewels. purple-gold trunks. agate flowers and purple-gold fruits. crystal trees with leaves. "Again. purple-gold twigs. It seems that Shakyamuni doesn’t even allow himself time to breathe when he speaks about the beauties of the Pure Land. flowers and fruits of gold. and others made of beryl. crystal branches. agate trees with leaves.

ruby pools with beds of agate sand. monasteries. beryl pools with beds of crystal sand. coral pools with beds of amber sand. and so on. "Inside and out. have faith or aspire to be born into Dharmakaya as suchness. one cannot take refuge. agate pools with beds of ruby sand. Some of them are ten yojanas in length. their trunks are evenly spaced. clearly not intended to practitioners who are trying to go beyond forms. such as kung and shang. spontaneously arise and make symphonic music. amber pools with beds of coral sand. clear. their branches are in level layers. are bathing pools. purple-gold pools with beds of white-jade sand. their leaves are symmetrical. palaces and pavilions are spontaneous apparitions. breadth and depth. When a pure breeze wafts through them. whose flowers and leaves hang down and diffuse perfumes everywhere. Heavenly lotuses of blue. created by Amida out of Compassion for sentient beings. some are twenty yojanas. to right and left. silver pools with beds of golden sand. "There are golden pools with beds of silver sand. completely covering the surface of the water. They are brimful of the water of eight excellent qualities. This is why we have a Buddha as Dharmakaya as compassionate means in Form and Name called Amida in whom we can entrust and a Pure Land where we "These jewelled trees are in parallel rows. such as pearls and moon-bright mani gems. yellow and white bloom profusely in various tints and tones. breadth and depth. thirty. their flowers harmonize.” 22 . Section 16: "Again. others. "On the banks of these pools are sandalwood trees. exquisite sounds of the pentatonic scales. white-jade pools with beds of purple-gold sand. the halls. until we come to those measuring a hundred thousand yojanas in length. all adorned with the seven jewels and hung with curtains of various other jewels. The brilliant colors of these trees are so luxuriant that it is impossible to see them all. and their fruits are well arranged. Although the true nature of all Buddhas and their manifestations is ultimate Dharmakaya. The 32nd Vow shows without any doubt that the Pure Land is a transcendental realm with myriads manifestations.descriptive and effusive. Others are composed of two to seven jewels. fragrant and tasting like nectar. pink. crystal pools with beds of beryl sand.

our attainment of Buddhahood would be impossible.' He is living there now . and is surely the offence of slandering the true Dharma 21. but he even points to a direction where it can be found.” People who make this grave offense cannot be born in the Pure Land of A mida Buddha. passing a hundred thousand kotis of Buddha-lands. is called slandering the right Dharma. Without them.”22 and also in the Larger Sutra : Read the exp lanation of the 13th Vow (Infin ite Life of A mida Buddha). no bodhisattva. 22 Section 2 of the Smaller Sutra .' where there is a Buddha named 'Amida. He mentions this direction in the Smaller Amida Sutra: "If you travel westward from here. The 11th Vow pro mises attainment of Buddhahood of those born in the Pure Land. Deciding on such views. but as long as we are here in this present body we accept the duality of the saviour (Amida Buddha) and those to be saved and of samsara and the Pure Land. whether through understanding thus in one's own mind or receiving the ideas from others. Only when we are born in the safe environment of the Pure Land we will naturally realize ultimate Buddhahood 20 or Dharmakaya of non-duality. teaching the Dharma. 21 It is stated in the Kyogyoshinsho : „Saying there is no Buddha. no bodhisattvaDharma. you come to the land called 'Utmost Bliss. To insist on talking in ultimate and non-dualistic terms while we are still unenlightened is futile. is a common error. Such statements imply that Shakyamuni of lying and might obstruct many beings from entering the Pure Land Dharma gate. 20 19 23 . no Buddha-dharma. to negate the existence of Amida Buddha and of his Pure Land or to call them symbols. . See the au xiliary article „The ‘exclusion’ in the 18th Vow”. metaphors or fictional stories.might wish to be born after death19 . More than this. If we read carefully the Three Pure Land sutras we notice that Shakyamuni is not just making the effort of describing the Pure Land with its myriad manifestations.

Humans. thus subject to impermanence. "The Bodhisattva Dharmakara has already attained Buddhahood and is now dwelling in a western Buddha-land. if I use many beautiful words and colorful images to describe it. with sincere mind entrusting themselves. "Has the Bodhisattva Dharmakara already attained Buddhahood and then passed into Nirvana? Or has he not yet attained Buddhahood? Or is he dwelling somewhere at present?" The Buddha replied to Ananda. the Pure Land is beyond samsara and cannot be compared with the realms caught in the power of birth and death. in the west of the town” you will be sure that I speak about an actually existing place. Also. because the aspiration to be born in the Pure Land is an important part of the Primal Vow 24 and our escape from samsara. aspiring to be born in my land. If I tell you. “it’s there. called 'Peace and Bliss. so all its treasures and manifestations are supreme in beauty while in the same Section 10 of the Larger Sutra . Also. devas (gods) plus other kinds of sentient beings and the environments in which they are born are the product of their unenlightened karma." Thus. It is as though I speak to you about a certain park I would like you to visit. No doubt Shakyamuni has the same intention when describing the Pure Land of Amida. these transcendent manifestations show that the Pure Land surpasses all other places in the world of suffering – “surpass in supreme excellence anything in the worlds of humans and devas”. it is clear that by describing in many words the wonders of the Pure Land and by pointing to a direction where this Pure Land is. should not be born there. I might even inspire in you the wish to go there. If. In fact. Read the article “Three Vo ws of Salvation” fro m this book. and saying my Name perhaps even ten times. 24 23 24 . when I attain Buddhahood. Shakyamuni Buddha bears witness to its actual existence and to the authenticity of the 32nd Vow.“Ananda asked the Buddha. the sentient beings of the ten quarters. may I not attain the supreme Enlightenment . but the Pure Land of Amida is the manifestation of his supreme Enlightenment and pure merits.' a hundred thousand kotis of lands away from here23 .

causing all bodhisattvas who sense it to perform Buddhist practices. like palaces.time they have the power to deepen and strengthen the dedication of those engaged in the practice of liberating themselves and others (bodhisattvas): “a hundred thousand kinds of aromatic wood. whose fragrance pervades all the worlds of the ten quarters. They are spiritual treasures.” It is obviously that the treasures found in the Pure Land are not intended for the enjoyment of the six senses but for expressing the Dharma. ponds. pavilions. praising Amida’s virtues and showing the supreme place this enlightened land occupies among other Buddha lands. aromatic wood. etc. calling beings to the Dharma. 25 . even if they are described using the terms we are familiar with. streams and trees.

CHAPTER TWO Vows related with the salvation of all sentient beings 26 .

meditative practices 2. the doctrine of the Three Dharma Ages refers to the gradual decline of the capacit ies of beings to practice the Dharma and attain realization through it.Three vows of salvation – explanation of the 18th . non-meditative practices Meditative practices include various types of meditation and visualization that we can find in all schools of Buddhism from Theravada to Mahayana and Esoteric Vajrayana 25 . observing precepts. But Shinran disagreed with this. Non-meditative practices include chanting sutras. The first period of 500 years after the physical death of the Buddha (parinirvana) is called the right Dharma age. The third and last Dharma age lasts for 10. In it “only the verbal teaching remains”. wisdom and precepts) with often attainment of emancipation. The last of Three Dharma Ages. etc. These non. It is characterized by gradual decadence in the determination by which practit ioners. while nobody is capable of observing the precepts and of truly practicing med itation or other Buddhist methods based on self power. practice the Way. Generally speaking. Self indulgence slowly takes place and fills the minds and hearts of the follo wers.000 years after the second age. They can also be transferred or directed toward various goals. This is especially true in the period of the last Dharma age (Mappo) 26 in which we now live.meditative practices are said to generate merit or positive karmic energy that help the practitioner attain higher rebirths or spiritual states. The breaking of precepts becomes mo re and more co mmon among monks and nuns and “only a few attain the fruit of Enlightenment”. Shinran said we are 26 25 27 . Buddhist practices taught by Shakyamuni can be classified into two groups: 1. It is an age characterized by correct understanding and practice of the Dharma in all its aspects (meditation. saying that as long as we are not enlightened and our minds are darkened by ignorance. 19th and 20th Vows Generally speaking. abstaining from evil or doing various good acts. we cannot create genuine merit. and Shingon Shu in Japan and Tibetan Buddhism. Only the Buddhas. The second Dharma age is called the semblance Dharma age. both monks and lay. which lasted 1000 years after the previous one. including one’s future Enlightenment.

and he said that the true merit transference actually takes place from Amida Buddha to the devotee who has faith in him. Amida Buddha. may I not attain the supreme Enlightenment. Read the articles “Thre Three Dharma Ages” and “Jodo Shinshu – the only effective path in this last Dharma Age” fro m my book. Shinran considered merit transference from the practitioner toward Enlightenment as being futile. This exclusive reliance is described in the 18 th Vow or the Primal Vow. Just wish to be born in the Pure Land. with sincere mind entrusting themselves. In it. We wish to be born in the Pure Land and say the Name of Amida because we entrust in Amida’s power to bring us there. Amida promises: If. These three aspects: 1. This is because there cannot be any desire to be born in the Pure Land or a genuine saying of the Name if one doesn’t accept the existence of Amida Buddha and his capacity to make us be born there. 28 . can have true merit. Nothing else is needed. should not be born there. now living in this las t Dharma age in which only the Pure Land teaching remains the only path to liberation. desire to be born in his Land and call his Name. because I will exp lain it separately in the next article. Jodo Shinshu Buddhist Teachings. 2. have faith and say the Name. faith and 3. the sentient beings of the ten quarters. and saying my Name perhaps even ten times. are in fact three manifestations of the same thing. when I attain Buddhahood. 27 I especially deleted the so-called „exclusion” sentence from this vow. Thus.27 Let us consider these words: All sentient beings that entrust to Amida. saying of the Name. wishing to be born. aspiring to be born in my land. which is faith or the entrusting heart (shinjin).of course. we should give up any thought of generating or accumulating merit and instead rely exclusively on Amida Buddha’s Power of salvation. There is no mention of merit or things that the practitioner should add to the power of Amida. will be born there.

at their death. when I attain Buddhahood. may I not attain perfect Enlightenment. Saying of the Name (nembutsu) is the natural expression of faith and is the same as faith. should 28 I like Inagaki Sensei’s simp le statement: “He who has faith in Amida Buddha thinks of him. see me appear before them surrounded by a multitude of sages. concentrate their thoughts on my land. the Vow by which Amida Buddha saves all who entrust in him. (20) If. but still wish to be born in his Pure Land. There cannot be any true nembutsu – i. sentient beings in the lands of the ten quarters. but still Amida does not abandon such people. This kind of faith mixed with reliance on their own merit and personal power is not in accord with the 18 th Vow. Especially for those who are not capable to rely exclusively on him. and he who thinks of h im says his Name. This is the case with the 18th Vow. good or evil. when I attain Buddhahood. plant roots of virtue. Let’s read and understand these Vows: (19) If.Namo Amida Butsu means “I take refuge in Amida Buddha” and to take refuge is to have faith.e. who awaken aspiration for Enlightenment. Amida created the 19th and 20th Vows. However. Thus. the situation is that not all practitioners are able to give up entirely the attachment to their personal power in reaching birth in the Pure Land. old or young.” 29 . sentient beings in the lands of the ten quarters who. having heard my Name. the nembutsu of Other Power – without genuine faith28 . They simply cannot rely exclusively on Amida but think there is still something they need to add to his Power so that they will deserve to be born in the Pure Land. male or female. should not. they remain attached to the idea of merit accumulation even if they also rely on Amida. do various meritorious deeds and sincerely desire to be born in my land. and sincerely transfer their merits towards my land with a desire to be born there.

The concentration of thoughts on the land of Amida and the desire to be born there is done this time through recitation of the Name. They do not stop at meditative and non-meditative practices. but among all practices they chose only one.meditative practices to become a Buddha in the Pure Land of Amida. In the Smaller Amida Sutra (Amida-kyo) the recitation of the Name of Amida is called the root of all virtues. like Shakyamuni. Usually followers of various schools do meditation practices or observe precepts. do a good deed like saving a life. they think this will help them to be born in Amida’s Pure Land and actually transfer the merit of these practices (meditative or nonmeditative) toward their future birth there. etc. etc. So. the recitation of the Name is supreme. welcoming them in the Pure Land. For example. because among all Buddhist practices recommended by Shakyamuni... What does Amida say in the 19th Vow? That those who do various meritorious deeds in order to be born in the Pure Land will see Amida Buddha at their death surrounded by many sages. abstaining from meat. The various meritorious deeds mean they continue to practice many kinds of meditative and nonmeditative practices. may I not attain perfect Enlightenment. The expression “hearing my Name” from the 20th Vow means to become aware of the Name of Amida and to say it both in mind and with one’s mouth. which is to say the Name of Amida Buddha. when they observe precepts.not eventually fulfill their aspiration. whenever they do a visualization or contemplation of Amida in accord with the Contemplation Sutra or even when they do other meditation techniques. They change the direction of their Buddhist practice toward Amida Buddha. This is the difference between them and other Buddhists and this difference makes them to enter Amida’s influence and guidance. in order to become a Buddha in this life. but practitioners of the 19th Vow change the goal of these meditative and non. The followers of the 20th Vow make another important step further into the Light of Amida Buddha. to “plant roots of virtue ” 30 .

for example. Like followers of the 19th Vow. the 19th and the 20th . to choose among all practices only this practice. 31 . is that people following them are also born in the Pure Land of Amida and escape once and for all from samsara or birth and death. until the lowest level of the lowest grade. But if we read the Contemplation Sutra on Amida Buddha we see that among those born in the Pure Land through directing their merit in one way or another there are various grades and differences. but consider this Name recitation to be their own virtue and a practice that depends on their own capacities to be done correctly. the better the place one occupies in the Pure Land. and so on. The various levels are established only according to the personal virtues of the practitioners in their previous life when they transferred the merit acquired through various meditative or non-meditative practices and through nembutsu recited in self power. What we see from reading these two vows.e. i. the lower level of the highest grade. the middle level of the middle grade. the middle level of the highest grade. But no mention is made there about those who enter Amida’s Pure Land through faith alone as in the 18 th Vow. the higher level of the highest grade. So they transfer the merits they think they accumulated through a good recitation toward birth in Amida’s Pure Land. those of the 20th Vow are also not free of doubts and do not rely exclusively on Amida’s Power to be born in the Pure Land. Amida especially finishes these two vows with the promise that the practitioners fulfilling the requirements contained in them will definitely be born in his Pure Land and if this will not happen then it means he does not deserve to be called a Buddha or he is not a Buddha – “may I not attain perfect Enlightenment ”. They are still dependent on their own power and their faith in Amida is not absolute. then the higher level of the middle grade. The more the virtues.mentioned in the 20th Vow means to recite exclusively the Name of Amida. Not all are equal.

who have absolute faith or still cling to their so called power and merit but wish to be born in the Pure Land. while the second and third door are leading to an anteroom or waiting room where you have to stay for a while until having access to him. But those who are born in the Pure Land through the gate of the 19 th and 20th vows do not immediately become Buddhas but due to their clinging to personal power they continue to stay there in an unenlightened state of mind until they overcome their doubts and attachments to the so called merits and virtues and entrust entirely to the Power of Amida Buddha. the 19th and the 20th Vows are the three Vows of salvation which give deliverance from birth and death to all beings that rely exclusively or partially on Amida Buddha. Birth here is not a punishment. but practitioners actually keep themselves there by their doubts and clinging to their own power. It is like a house with three doors.What does this mean? Why are those born through faith alone not mentioned in any of these categories? Shinran said this is because they immediately become Buddhas when they are born in the Pure Land. This anteroom or waiting room to perfect Enlightenment in Amida’s Pure Land is called the borderland of the Pure Land or the realm of indolence and pride. the city of doubt. and for Buddhas there are no categories in which they can be classified. The 18th is the Vow of direct entering into the true Pure Land. 29 Read the au xiliary article “Birth in the borderland of the Pure Land” fro m this book. the womb like palace 29. while the other two are Vows of indirect entering. etc. 32 . One door is the main one which leads directly to the owner and in his presence you become like him (a Buddha sharing the activity of Amida). The 18th .

33 . Many people go through these three vows of salvation consciously or unconsciously in their Buddhist practice. for the first time we truly heard the 18th Vow in which no special virtue or capacity was mentioned in order to be born in the Pure Land. Then. after listening again and again to the teaching. the root of all virtues. so again attachment to our own power kept us prisoners of doubts. but still we felt this is too easy. Many of us had a time when we practiced other Buddhist methods to become a Buddha in this life after we abandoned various religious paths or didn’t have any religion at all. we heard about Amida’s Pure Land and we stopped aspiring to attain Enlightenment in this life but wanted to be born there. while the Contemplation Sutra where visualization of Amida. we heard that nembutsu is the greatest practice among all Buddhist practices. Then. Still. Then. are provisional means for those who still can’t rely exclusively on Amida Buddha. without waiting until they become perfect. And finally. contemplating our true capacities and the Compassion of Amida. With this nembutsu of faith and gratitude we enter directly into the presence of Amida. but the nembutsu of faith and gratitude. where we too become Buddhas and forever join his salvation work. So. and we start reciting it. So we continued to follow various practices to feel we are better people than others. and we received faith. we realized he is like a mother who wishes to save her children quickly from the danger of fire and death. Shinran considered its deliverance to be the main reason for Shakyamuni’s appearance on earth. we felt we need to do something in order to deserve it. transference of merits and the nine grade of aspirants are mentioned and the Smaller Amida Sutra (Amida-kyo) where the recitation of the Name alone is encouraged as the root of all virtues. the nembutsu we continued to recite was no longer the nembutsu based on self power.Because these three Vows – and especially the 18th – are mentioned in the Larger Sutra on Amida Buddha. doubting that birth in the Pure Land is so easy. the Master of the Pure Land.

the entire 18 th Vow is as follows: “If. and saying my Name perhaps even ten times. when I explained the 18th Vow. after the joy of a hope. so after all the 18th Vow is not quite universal. Excluded are those who commit the five grave offenses and those who slander the right Dharma. I admit that I got really frightened every time I read that part. because I wanted to offer it a special chapter. “Three Vows of salvation”. I kept asking again and again. with sincere mind entrusting themselves. So. I kept hitting against this sentence that was refusing to go away. “What if I committed one of those grave offenses myself?”. 34 . but they become unsure right after reading the last sentence: “excluded are those who commit the five grave offenses and slander the right Dharma”. an “exclusion” still exists. I especially avoided its last sentence. Something seems wrong. when I felt as though I couldn’t handle my own life. like I never managed to really enjoy my meeting with Amida. should not be born there.The so-called “exclusion” in the 18th Vow In the previous article. But is this the way things really are? In my first days as a Jodo Shinshu follower. I had reached for Amida Buddha’s help in a very difficult time. when I attain Buddhahood. the sentient beings of the ten quarters. It was like a lump. when I still did not have a direct contact with anyone from our tradition I was trying really hard to understand the purpose of this “exclusion”. and now. there are some people that aren’t received by the Compassion of Amida.” Many people that come into contact with the Primal Vow of Amida Buddha experience two types of reactions: they are happy in finding the message that is full of hope in the first part. may I not attain the supreme Enlightenment. aspiring to be born in my land.

The Buddhist teaching must be always understood in its spirit. or else .. no matter how we acted. and the “exclusion” in the Primal Vow is just an admonishment addressed to some stupid and crazy kids. We all have been admonished at least once by our mothers while we were kids and our behavior became unbearable.”.if we were to die without going through a change of heart and without abiding in a state of gentleness and forbearance.But it wasn’t long until the calm came into my heart: “everything is all right. that are always ready to make mistakes. So.. while correcting the erroneous view that nembutsu followers must go through a change of heart every time they get angry or do something bad.” remains unfulfilled because of the first part of the Vow that proves the unconditioned salvation of a real mother. how could you doubt me?” seems that Amida would have said. Maybe we were afraid in that moment that she will leave us or who knows what she will do if we do not behave properly. Shinran said: “Suppose that attainment of birth were possible only by going through changes of heart day and night with every incident that occurred. trying her best to change us. how could we ever gain freedom from birth and death?” In chapter 16th of the same writing. do not commit them. But that “or else. would not Amida’s Vow that grasps and never abandons us be rendered meaningless?” 35 . but a warning: “some actions are very serious. but in the end she was always there.human life being such that it ends even before breath exhaled can be drawn in again . Amida Buddha’s Compassion is like a mother’s love. It’s not an “exclusion” in its own way. what is the real purpose of the Primal Vow? Shinran said in Tannisho : “If it were only by observing precepts and upholding rules that we could entrust ourselves to the Primal Vow. and the reader of the sacred scriptures must not stop at the words but should try instead to see beyond them. In that case . admonishing us. but always welcoming us with her love..

independent of its illusions. A Buddha can’t make a statement and immediately after. but also of the salvation and indiscriminate working of Amida. deny it or state its contrary.but actually. Probably. the effects of those offenses are annihilated by the Endless Compassion that is received in the believer’s heart through the awakening of faith. Something appears though in the moment of the awakening of faith. making it straight. it would be absurd to abandon them because of their ignorance. something like: “I will save you all even if you just say my Name ten times .. permanently driven by the tendencies of our negative karma and always capable of committing any act. the Vow coming from the profound contemplation for five kalpas has no meaning. 36 . has committed at least once one of these offenses. Amida Buddha knows the true capacities of human beings and he didn’t create his Primal Vow for those capable of reaching Enlightenment by their own power: “To destroy your blind passions means to become a Buddha and for the one who is already a Buddha. I changed my mind and I impose some hard conditions that you won’t be able to cross”. in the same time. to the supreme Nirvana. that is the fully understanding of the hopeless spiritual situation we are in.Because Buddha has Endless Compassion and sees every being as his own child. manifested in his Vow and Name.” In Shinran’s opinion. This attitude would be against the Bodhi Mind and the most elementary Mahayana vows.. an event that completely transforms our life’s direction. especially those who committed the five grave offenses and slandered the right Dharma. this “exclusion” actually shows that even the worst beings are included in the salvation of Amida. driven by our illusions or blind passions. each of us. something called “change of heart”. in our past lives or this life. I think that the mentioning of these gravest offenses is a clue that they are not wanted in the disciples’ behavior but. In the moment we start to rely on Amida Buddha we experience this “change of heart”.

the ten transgressions and every kind of evil acts.Although in the Sutra of Immeasurable Life appears the “exclusion” mentioned above. I will further present questions and answers from Kyogyoshinsho that will bring light upon this subject. The other sutra speaks only of committing the evil of the ten transgressions and five grave offenses. and who are possessed of various evils also attain birth. it is granted that such a person can attain Birth. Excluded are those who commit the five grave offenses and those who slander the right Dharma. Question: Suppose a person has committed the five grave offenses but has not slandered the right Dharma. in the Sutra of Contemplation the situation is completely different. “Question: The Sutra of Immeasurable Life states: ‘Those who aspire for Birth are all brought to attainment. he attains birth. In the sutra. Why doesn’t this sutra mention the slandering of Dharma among the evil acts which can’t obstruct birth in the Pure Land? This is a very important aspect that must be well understood. can be born in the Pure Land if he meets a good spiritual teacher. Here Shakyamuni Buddha tells Ananda and Vaidehi that a man lying on his death bed that committed the five grave offenses. suppose there is a person who has only slandered the right Dharma but is free of the 37 . Because a person has not slandered the right Dharma. nothing is said of slandering the right Dharma. Because of committing both these two kinds of evil act.’ The Sutra of Contemplation on the Buddha of Immeasurable Life states: ‘Those who have committed the five grave offenses and the ten transgressions.’ How are these two sutra passages to be reconciled? Answer: The first sutra speaks of committing two kinds of serious evil act: the five grave offenses and the slander of the right Dharma. Further. a person is unable to attain Birth. listens to his advices and recites Namo Amida Butsu even ten times.

righteousness. The person who slanders the right Dharma falls into great Avici hell. the right Dharma is the Buddha-dharma. he will definitely be unable to attain Birth. propriety. In this way he passes through a hundred thousand great Avici hells one after another. whether through understanding thus in one’s own mind or receiving the ideas from others. is called slandering the right Dharma. This is because slandering the right Dharma is an evil act of extreme gravity. Such a foolish person has already slandered it. he passes on into the great Avici hell of another quarter. will he attain it or not? Answer: Although he has only slandered the right Dharma and has not committed other evil acts. no Bodhisattva-Dharma. that it should exceed the evil of the five grave offenses in seriousness? Answer: If there were no Buddhas and bodhisattvas to expound the mundane and supramundane good paths and to teach and guide sentient beings. how could we know of the existence of benevolence. wisdom. no Buddha-dharma. Question: Taking such views only concerns the person himself.five grave offenses and other evil acts. if he aspires for Birth. What pain and suffering does his act inflict on other sentient beings. and sincerity? Such mundane good 38 . How is this known? A sutra states that the person who has committed the five grave offenses falls into great Avici hell and fully undergoes their recompense for one kalpa. Further. this is like seeking ice that is not water or fire without smoke. The Buddha does not indicate any time when it is possible for him to emerge. How can it be deemed reasonable that he attain it? Question: What are the characteristics of slandering the right Dharma? Answer: Saying there is no Buddha. Deciding on such views. and when that kalpa has run out. how can it be reasonable to think that he would aspire to be born in the Buddha-land? Suppose the person aspires for Birth merely because he craves to be born into happiness. no Bodhisattva.

he kneeled and asked forgiveness. then relies with sincerity on Amida Buddha’s Compassion. I would though add one thing: both sutras talk about slandering the true Dharma in the present moment: “the right Dharma is the Buddha-dharma. In Buddhism there are no eternal punishments except for a mind locked in mistake. This reminds me of a thing that happened during Shakyamuni’s time: A man deeply offended the Buddha. the person who slanders the right Dharma is involved in the gravest karmic evil. but that is not valid if slandering the Dharma becomes a mistake of the past. Such a foolish person has already slandered it. It’s logical to say that a person who still slanders the Dharma in his mind can not have a sincere aspiration for birth in the Pure Land. the one who slandered the Dharma in the past but goes through a change of heart in the present time. through a change of heart.” I think the passage quoted above says it all about the so-called “exclusion” from the Eighteenth Vow. throwing in his face every kind of harsh words. which in fact punishes itself. Thus. So.would all be cut off. It’s logical to be this way. but the mind that changes its ways can not be the same as the old one. Buddha said: “Get up. Going before him. how can it be reasonable to think that he would aspire to be born in the Buddha-land?”. You know only the gravity of the five grave offenses. but the next day he felt sorry and asked for forgiveness. admits and feels sorry for his act.” 39 . the person who stays now in front of me is not the same as the one offending me yesterday. but it does not refer to a situation when he slandered it in the past and now. “He already slandered it” refers to a slander that still goes on in that person’s mind. he understands the evil he did and repents about it. a mistake which is now repented. and the sages of the supramundane would all perish. and not that they arise from the absence of the right Dharma. that person will attain birth in the Pure Land.

because he is now a new man. a born again person in the light of Buddha’s Compassion. 40 . completely separated by the old man from this life or the past lives.The nembutsu follower who dwells in the true shinjin can not slander Buddha Dharma and has nothing to do with any of the acts he did before receiving faith.

This is why he created it and made it in such a way so that both people who completely entrust in him and also those who cannot completely entrust. 41 . Those who completely entrust in Amida Buddha and let go of all clinging to any form of reliance on their personal power become themselves Buddhas in the very moment when they are born in the Pure Land. many are guided to the transformed land.Birth in the borderland of the Pure Land auxiliary article to “Three Vows of Salvation” “On the assertion that a person born in the borderland will in the end fall into hell. and that. despite this that birth there will ultimately end in vain would be to accuse Shakyamuni of lying. after the evil of doubt has been expiated.” (Shinran Shonin – Tannisho) Everything related with the Pure Land is the creation of Amida Buddha. All the manifestations of Amida Buddha. Since practitioners of shinjin are few. How are they reading the sutras. and other sacred writings? I was taught that practitioners who lack shinjin are born in the borderland because of their doubt concerning the Primal Vow. they realize Enlightenment in the fulfilled land. Amida Buddha realized that it is easier for unenlightened sentient beings to attain Enlightenment or Buddhahood in the favorable environment of his Pure Land. In what authoritative passage do we find such a statement? It is deplorable that this is being maintained by people who pretend to be scholars. while those who entrust in Amida but still cling to some kind of personal power do not become immediately Buddhas when they are born in the Pure Land. are real and effective in helping sentient beings to achieve supreme Buddhahood. treaties. To declare. be born there and escape once and for all from samsara. But there is a difference between these two categories of people. especially his true Pure Land and the borderland of his Pure Land. It comes from his enlightened activity and is the manifestation of it.

Master Shan-tao said: “those born in the fulfilled Pure Land are extremely few. It is adorned in manifold ways. those born in the transformed Pure Land are many. “the womb-palace”. furnished with a 42 . being in the special environment of this borderland of the Pure Land they have the opportunity to overcome their doubts and entrust completely in Amida Buddha. are imprisoned in a golden palace where they enjoy all pleasures but they are not able to see the king. but are free once and for all from the suffering of birth and death in samsara. like “the realm of indolence and pride”.People in this second category are in fact born in the so called borderland of the Pure Land. etc. Also there are many other names for the borderland. Hence they remain in the borderland or the realm of indolence and pride…” or “the city of doubt”. It is also taught in this chapter: “Since practicers of shinjin are few. At the same time.” Transformed land and borderland are the same. They are safe. This comparison appears in the Larger Sutra : “The Buddha said to Maitreya. a term used by Shinran in his wasans: “…People devote themselves to saying the nembutsu in self-power. “Consider the case of the noble cakravartin-king who possesses a prison embellished with the seven precious substances. but still they are not liberated. They do not attain the state of Buddhahood. because they committed offenses against the king. many are guided to the transformed land. This borderland of the Pure Land is also described as a luxurious prison “made of seven precious materials” where people who doubt the Power of Amida Buddha and recite nembutsu while relying on self power or are aspiring to be born in Amida’s Pure Land by depending on their personal merits and virtues are like princes who.” This is because there are very few who completely renounce the reliance on their personal power and calculations and entrust 100% to Amida’s Power.

canopied bed.” The Buddha said to Maitreya. they are born in a womb-palace. among which the Eighteenth is called the Primal Vow. If young princes commit offenses against the king. capable of benefiting sentient beings in the exact moment of attaining birth in the Pure Land is the consequence of receiving shinjin or the complete faith of Amida Buddha during this present life. Then. Because they doubt the Buddha’s wisdom. To doubt also means to doubt the Primal Vow of Amida in which is described the method and cause of direct birth into the fulfilled Pure Land – the total entrusting in Amida. Amida Buddha has 48 Vows. they desire to leave that place. If these sentient beings become aware of their past offenses and deeply repent. and hung with many silken banners. “These sentient beings are precisely like that. they realize Enlightenment in the fulfilled land.. people who doubt Amida Buddha’s Power in the present life will have to expiate their doubts by realizing their stupidity in the borderland or this womb like palace.. Becoming a true Buddha..” To doubt the Buddha’s wisdom means to doubt that Amida created the perfect method for saving you and to believe that there is still something you need to do or add to his enlightened activity in order to be born in his Pure Land. while to rely on Amida while entertaining doubts means to be born in the borderland of the Pure Land. To deeply repent . So they will have a change of heart and receive shinjin in the place called “borderland of the Pure Land”.” As we clearly saw in this chapter from Tannisho and in the quote I chose from the many passages one can find in the sutras about birth 43 . they are imprisoned there….. in this chapter of Tannisho it is said. means to realize how foolish the idea of adding something to the working of Amida is. Unfortunately. This Vow contains the direct cause of attaining complete Buddhahood in the moment of our birth in the Pure Land.. “after the evil of doubt has been expiated.

his own doubts obstruct him from entering the main continent: the Power of Amida is that which caused him to be born in the border region. both those who entrust completely and those who still have an incomplete trust. is not a realm within Samsara. There is no retrogression or falling back from the borderland of the Pure Land into hell or any other samsaric realms because this place has nothing to do with Samsara. In fact.in the borderland. They are the ones who are keeping themselves out of the main continent of the Pure Land. Amida Buddha has such an Infinite Compassion and good methods of saving sentient beings that he succeeds in offering salvation from Samsara even to people who doubt and don’t rely completely on his Power. It is very important to understand that the Pure Land in both its aspects. while Amida carried them out of Samsara once and for all. Amida brings sentient beings safely out of Samsara. while the latter will stay for a while in the borderland until they overcome their doubts. but a manifestation of the enlightened activity of Amida which is situated beyond the reach of birth and death. this place is not one from which one can fall back into the lower realms or the hells. but a place within the Pure Land where people who relied on Amida Buddha during their present life but were still clinging to their self power will stay until they overcome their doubts and completely entrust themselves to Amida Buddha. not being allowed to enter the main continent and meet the king. It is like an immigrant who was received in the country of Amida but he is still kept at the border region. just they are kept in that region by their own doubts. It is not the fault of Amida or a punishment that some are born in the borderland. 44 . Only the Enlightened Power of Amida Buddha is that which makes possible even birth in the borderland of the Pure Land. the borderland and the true Pure Land. not to mention birth in the true Pure Land itself.

except he doesn’t completely entrust himself in Amida.One who entered the borderland of the Pure Land is already in the safe embrace of Amida Buddha. His journey in samsara is definitely over. 45 . and there is not a single word in the sutras and the sacred texts saying otherwise.

46 . women in the immeasurable and inconceivable Buddha-lands of the ten quarters who. when I attain Buddhahood. may I not attain perfect Enlightenment.explanation of the 35th VowIf one reads the 35th Vow of Amida Buddha without carefully understanding its meaning. we do not define ourselves by these terms. we naturally “renounce” our womanhood or manhood – that is. awaken aspiration for Enlightenment and wish to renounce womanhood. this Vow does not look down on women. he might come to the conclusion that there is a prejudice against women: “If. By birth in the Pure Land we become Buddhas and go beyond the limitations of being a woman or a man. In his Letters 30 Rennyo Shonin often especially addresses women. but it shows that women are equally treated as men by the salvation of Amida Buddha. whatever teaching they may rely upon.” 30 Gobunsho or Ofu mi. Apart from this. should after death be reborn again as women. rejoice in faith. they must realize they will never be saved in regard to the afterlife.” “Womanhood”. So. In reality. so upon birth in the Pure Land of Amida where we attain Buddhahood. like “manhood” is just a limited form for us living in samsara or the world of delusion and suffering. having heard my Name.No discrimination of women in the salvation of Amida Buddha . Here are just a few quotes: “Let all women living in the present age deeply entrust themselves with singleness of mind to the Amida Tathagata. our true nature or Buddha nature is not of women or men. as though there is something wrong with being a woman. contrary to some texts which promote the idea that women have fewer chances than men to become Buddhas.

which he calls “the Vow of Women’s Attainment of Buddhahood”: “Amida Tathagata himself made the supreme great Vow concerning women who are abandoned by all other Buddhas. This is the Primal Vow of Other Power. “By just entrusting herself solely to Amida Buddha (with no double-mindedness. and rely single-heartedly and firmly on Amida to save them [bringing them to Buddhahood] in the afterlife. which of the other Buddhas will save them?” Resolving to go beyond all other Buddhas and save women. the Vow of Amida Tathagata. bringing them to Buddhahood in the afterlife. and with the single thought that Amida saves her in regard to the afterlife) a woman will readily become a Buddha. should realize and have absolutely no doubt whatsoever that there is deliverance for all those who simply rely deeply (single-heartedly and steadfastly) on Amida Buddha and entrust themselves to that Buddha to save them. she will unfailingly go to the land of utmost bliss and become a splendid Buddha. cast off the sundry practices.“Women who have renounced the world while remaining in lay life and ordinary women as well. They should have no doubt whatsoever that such women will be born without fail in the land of utmost bliss.” Especially in the letter “On Women Attaining Buddhahood”. thinking. “If I do not save women. they should simply repeat “Namo Amida Butsu. he meditated for five kalpas. Once they have realized this. Namo Amida Butsu”. Rennyo Shonin speaks about the 35th Vow of Amida Buddha. when they then feel thankfulness and joy at being saved in regard to the afterlife.” “All women – if they are concerned about the afterlife and have a sense of reverence for the Buddha Dharma – should simply entrust themselves deeply to Amida Tathagata. undergoing practices for numberless 47 . If this mind is free of the slightest doubt. with steadfast.

Thus it is Amida who originated the incomparable Vow. he made the all-surpassing great Vow. including women. Although his Primal Vow already made no discrimination among sentient beings. women who deeply rely on Amida and entrust themselves to him to save them in regard to the afterlife. 48 . Especially because other practices or religious systems might discriminate women.” All these passages prove that there is no discrimination against women in the salvation of Amida Buddha. “Women’s Attainment of Buddhahood”. Thus. we may say that the 35 th Vow supports the 18th Vow by emphasizing that all beings. he wanted to make another Vow to be sure that nobody will ever ever say that women are not included in his salvation. For this reason. Amida wants to reassure them that in his case. are born in the Pure Land and become Buddhas if they fully entrust themselves to Amida.kalpas. they need not worry about anything. will all be born in the land of utmost bliss.

All Buddhas praise Amida’s Name and encourage us to say it . and saying my Name perhaps even ten times. 31 49 . it means that all beings can attain freedom from birth and death through it. the sentient beings of the ten quarters. The true reason of any See the explanation on the 18th Vow in my article „Three Vo ws of Salvation” fro m this book.”31. Thus. the 18th Vow Shinran said in Notes on Essentials of Faith Alone : “This Vow of Compassion [the 17th] already shows that the Primal Vow. The method of saying the Name in faith33 . innumerable Buddhas in the lands of the ten directions should not all praise and glorify my Name. aspiring to be born in my land. may I not attain perfect Enlightenment. is the true cause of Birth 32 selected by Amida”.” the 17th Vow In this vow Dharmakara promised that when he becomes Amida Buddha his Name will be praised by all Buddhas so that sentient beings are encouraged to entrust to it and say it in faith.explanation of the 17th Vow “If. is the easiest of all methods created by any Buddha to bring sentient beings to supreme Enlightenment. the 17 th Vow supports the 18th Vow (the Primal Vow) in which the saying of Amida’s Name in faith and with aspiration to be born in his Pure Land is mentioned: “If. 33 Read „Nembutsu of faith and gratitude” from my book Jodo Shinshu Buddhist Teachings. As it requires no special spiritual capacities or merit on the part of the practitioner. with sincere mind entrusting themselves. where I also exp lain the 19th and the 20th Vows. should not be born there. when I attain Buddhahood. 32 Birth in the Pure Land of A mida Buddha. which is mentioned in the Primal Vow of Amida (18th Vow). may I not attain the supreme Enlightenment. when I attain Buddhahood. which encourages the saying of the Name.

Buddha’s appearance in the world is exactly this, to save everybody, with no distinction whatsoever, letting no one outside. Buddhas have only this goal in mind, to help all beings attain Buddhahood and because of this they develop various methods and do their activities in many forms and places. Seeing Amida’s method of salvation contained in the 18th Vow (nembutsu of faith) all Buddhas praise it because they realize that in comparison with the methods created by them this is the easiest and most effective in all times and places, especially when the capacities of beings are very low or actually inexistent like in this last Dharma age. They all praise and glorify the Name of Amida in order to encourage beings everywhere to say it themselves. Thus the Buddhas become living witnesses of the efficacy of saying Amida’s Name in faith. So, this vow shows that Amida has the perfect method among all methods and thus he is the supreme Buddha among all Buddhas. To be the supreme Buddha does not mean he is the boss of all Buddhas, but that he has the best method of saving sentient beings. Not only other Buddhas praise Amida’s Name, thus encouraging beings everywhere to say it in faith, but they also work in many hidden and unknown ways to guide us and make us all accept Amida’s method of salvation. This is also the meaning of the 17th Vow. This vow also shows that the Name of Amida Buddha is not just another name like for example, “John” or “Smith” and saying of this Name is not an ordinary saying of any name. On the contrary, it is the Name that all Buddhas say and glorify. Buddhas are supreme in the universe, no one is their equal in Wisdom, Compassion or anything else, and so if the Name of Amida is recited and glorified by all Buddhas it means that this Name is also supreme in the universe. The Name, Namo Amida Bu, contains all the merits and virtues of Amida Buddha and is the manifestation of his Enlightenment. Through Amida’s Name ultimate Buddhahood is made accessible to all beings upon birth in the Pure Land. Ordinary unenlightened beings can attain Buddhahood and freedom from birth and death only 50

through Amida Buddha’s Name said in faith.

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Beings born in the Pure Land will definitely become Buddhas - explanation of the 11th Vow “If, when I attain Buddhahood, humans and devas in my land should not dwell in the Definitely Assured State and unfailingly reach Nirvana, may I not attain perfect Enlightenment.” the 11th Vow According to Shinran Shonin, the 11th Vow has many names, “the great Vow of necessary attainment of Nirvana”, “the Vow of the realization of great Nirvana.", "the Vow of realization which is Amida's directing of virtue for our going forth.", etc. Also “the Definitely Assured State” appears under many names like the “stage of the truly settled”, “the truly settled of the Mahayana”, “the stage of non-retrogression”, “the stage equal to perfect Enlightenment”, “assured of Nirvana”, “assured of birth in the Pure Land”, etc. This vow offers two chronologically distinct benefits: 1. attainment of the definitely assured state and 2. attainment of Nirvana or Buddhahood. According to Shinran Shonin the first benefit is received in this life, at the very moment faith (shinjin) arises in the heart of the follower, while the second happens upon birth in the Pure Land: According to the true essence of the Pure Land way, one entrusts oneself to the Primal Vow of Amida in this life and realizes Enlightenment in the Pure Land; this is the teaching I received.” 34 The next two passages from Shinran’s work explain the first benefit of the 11th Vow: „To respond to your question concerning the cause of Birth, at the moment we realize true and real shinjin, we receive [the benefit
34

Tannisho, chapter 15th ..

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Amida Buddha has vowed that the person who has realized this true and real shinjin immediately comes to dwell in the stage of the truly settled.”37 “Immediately” is very clear – it means here and now. hence. may I not attain the supreme Enlightenment. we unfailingly come to dwell in the Tathagata's Vow. Attainment of the stage equal to perfect Enlightenment is taught to be attainment of the same stage as Maitreya Bodhisattva. 38 The true and real saying of the Name is to say Amida’s Name in faith. “The Buddha has vowed that persons who realize this true and real saying of the Name38 and true and real entrusting shall immediately be brought to dwell in the stage of the truly settled. Dwelling among the truly settled is also taught to be attainment of the stage equal to perfect Enlightenment. We find this in the compassionate Vow 35 . 36 35 53 . In the following passage we see that the first benefit of the 11th Vow. who is in the rank of succession to Shinran quotes the 11th Vow." 36 “Establishing the great Vow of necessary attainment of Nirvana. which states: "If. in this present life. This is the nembutsu shinjin. When we entrust in Amida Buddha we enter immediately in the stage of the truly settled or those assured of birth in the Pure Land and of subsequent attainment of Nirvana.of] Amida's grasping. [Shinran's Response to Senshin ] letter 7 fro m A Collection of Letters (Zensho Text) 37 Passages on the Two Aspects of The Tathagata's Directing of Virtue . is the same as the stage in which Maitreya Bodhisattva is now dwelling. the human beings and devas in my land do not dwell among the settled and necessarily attain Nirvana. namely the stage equal to perfect Enlightenment or the definitely assured state (“stage of the truly settled”). never to abandon us . when I attain Buddhahood.

Buddhahood. Thus, the Larger Sutra states [that such a person] is "next [to Enlightenment], like Maitreya." 39 As far as we know from the sutras, Maitreya Bodhisattva does not dwell in the Pure Land, but in the Tusita heaven and will surely attain Buddhahood in his next life. So we, who received shinjin in this life, are like him in the sense that we’ll also attain Buddhahood when the life of our present bodies is over and we are born in the Pure Land of Amida. Shinran Shonin explained this in letter 3 of Mattosho: “Although they differ, the terms ‘truly settled’ and ‘equal to Enlightenment’ have the same meaning and indicate the same stage. Equal to the perfect Enlightenment is the same stage as that of Maitreya, who is in the rank of succession to Buddhahood. Since persons of shinjin will definitely attain the supreme Enlightenment, they are said to be the same as Maitreya.” 40 It is clear from the above passages that the definitely assured state or the stage of the truly settled is a state prior to perfect Enlightenment or Buddhahood. It is “the rank of succession to Buddhahood” in which Maitreya dwells. Such a state is equal to Enlightenment in the sense that Enlightenment is surely to be attained, so the person of shinjin is "next to Enlightenment, like Maitreya.” The interpretation of Shinran is very clear that this stage is attained in this very life. We cannot see anywhere in the sutras a passage where it is said that Maitreya is now in the Pure Land. I repeat it, because I think it to be of utmost importance, Maitreya is not in the Pure Land, but in the Tusita heaven, waiting for his next birth when he will finally become a Buddha like Shakyamuni. If he is not in the Pure Land now and
39

A Collection of Passages on the Types of Birth in the Three Pure Land Sutras [Realization ], by Shinran Shonin. 40 Please read more about this in the article „Equal to Maitreya Buddha” fro m my book, Jodo Shinshu Buddhist Teachings.

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we are not in the Pure Land now, it logically follows that the stage in which Maitreya and the people who entrust in Amida now dwells is a stage to be found before birth in the Pure Land. So, for the people of shinjin, the first part of the 11th Vow is a promise for this present life, when the first moment of faith (shinjin) appears in their heart. And as Shakyamuni himself explains in the Larger Sutra, when the expression “humans and devas” in the Pure Land appears in this sacred discourse it is only in relation with the states of existence prior to their birth in the Pure Land: “They are all of one form, without any differences, but are called 'heavenly beings'(devas) and 'humans' simply by analogy with the states of existence in other worlds. They are of noble and majestic countenance, unequaled in all the worlds, and their appearance is superb, unmatched by any being, heavenly or human. They are all endowed with bodies of Naturalness, Emptiness, and Infinity." 41 To have the body of Naturalness, Emptiness and Infinity, is surely a proof that these people born in the Pure Land of Amida through the gate of the Primal Vow 42 actually attained Buddhahood or supreme Enlightenment (Nirvana), which constitutes the second promise of the 11th Vow. If we enter the definitely assured state in the very moment we entrust in Amida Buddha, it means that when we die we are born into the Pure Land “carrying” with us this definitely assured state . This is explained in the passage from the section 22 of the Larger Sutra,
Shinran himself made refference to that passage in the Larger Sutra , in his work Passages on the Pure Land Way [REALIZATION] : “Further the sutra states: The words "human beings" and "devas" are used simply in accordance with the usage elsewhere. Their countenances are dignified and wonderful, surpassing things of this world. Their features, subtle and delicate, are not those of human beings or devas; all receive the body of naturalness or of emptiness, the body of boundlessness.” 42 Read the explanations on the Primal Vow in the article „Three Vows of Salvation” fro m this book.
41

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named by Shinran “the passage teaching the fulfillment of the 11 th Vow”43 : “in that land there are neither beings who are destined to adverse conditions nor those whose destinies are uncertain.” We enter the Pure Land as beings that already dwell in the definitely assured state, who are certain of attaining Nirvana and who attain it not after a long time of further practice in the Pure Land, but immediately after we are born there 44. This is the correct view of our Jodo Shinshu school and of Shinran Shonin. For a person of true faith who dwells in the definitely assured state, there is no further need of practice because he has no “adverse conditions” to overcome . Thus, for someone whose destiny is fixed, the moment of birth in the Pure Land is immediately followed by the attainment of Nirvana. The image which comes to my mind is that of a seed and the tree. When we become open to the Primal Vow of Amida Buddha, he plants in us the seed of shinjitsu shinjin (true faith). Any seed will certainly become a tree; it has the fixed destiny to become a tree. In our case, the seed of true shinjin will naturally rise and become a Buddha. So, we are born in the Pure Land carrying this seed in us which immediately transforms itself into the Tree of Enlightenment or Nirvana.

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Passages on the Pure Land Way [REALIZATION] by Shinran Shonin: “Concerning the supreme Nirvana, the passage teaching the fulfillment of this Vow in the Larger Sutra states: ‘The sentient beings born in that land all dwell among the truly settled, for in that Buddha Land there is not one who is falsely settled or not settled.’” 44 If we enter the Pure Land with faith mixed with doubt and attachments to our own power, we do not immediately attain Nirvana, but stay for a while in the border land of the Pure Land until we overco me our doubts. Read the auxiliary article „Birth in the border land of the Pure Land” fro m this book.

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Such sentient beings. may I not attain perfect Enlightenment. and indeed there is no greater burden than to be unenlightened and a slave of samsaric existence. what they received from Amida Buddha through faith (shinjin) cannot be compared with any attainment of unenlightened beings.explanation of the 33rd Vow I think the 33rd Vow can be linked with the first part of the 11th Vow because it refers to the present life of a nembutsu devotee when he entrusts to Amida Buddha and immediately enters the stage of being assured of Nirvana (the “definitely assured state”): If. his method of salvation. to hear Amida’s call of “come as you are”. they feel the happiness of knowing that they are free from birth and death. no matter what high place they occupy in samsara. To be touched by Amida’s Light means to be opened to him. that is. We may call this peace and happiness a form of relief. sentient beings in the immeasurable and inconceivable Buddha-lands of the ten quarters. which is a freedom that not even devas (gods) experience. should not feel peace and happiness in their bodies and minds surpassing those of humans and devas. Indeed.The peace and happiness of shinjin . They accept this Light. (33rd Vow) Sentient beings touched by the Light of Amida are those who entrust to his Primal Vow. we ordinary people who entrust in Amida Buddha know that we received something which even they don’t have – the assurance that when our present life is ended we will attain Buddhahood in the Pure Land. No matter how much happiness the great gods who live eons of joy may experience. We can compare the situation with being in prison. when I attain Buddhahood. who have been touched by my light. but continue to remain 57 . although remaining ordinary people until their birth in the Pure Land. like when a great burden is taken from our shoulders. Those who know they will be released from it have more reason to be happy than those who have all the pleasures in the world.

For However. in our bed. 46 45 Bonnos – illusions and blind passions. People in whom shinjin is determined do not doubt. with our minds that do not dwell in the peace of Nirvana here and now. It is also the peace of knowing that no matter how we die. attach no significance to the condition. This aspect is well exp lained in the ninth chapter of Tannisho . for my own part.no need of special feelings to be born in the Pure Land”. We are those who are promised freedom. but in hate. of persons in their final moments. It is very important to understand that the peace and happiness mentioned in the 33rd vow are not those which occur after the blind passions and ignorance are extinguished from the mind.under bars. or in the street like homeless people. we are accepted exactly as we are and we’ll be born directly in the Pure Land. good or bad. Please read „Co mmentary on the ninth chapter . because such peace and happiness comes only after birth in the Pure Land. We know that we are assured of the attainment of Nirvana when we die and are born in the Pure Land. lust and all the 108 bonnos 46 . attachments. we should not think that we must always feel such joy as to dance in the air in every mo ment of our life and that we are always ready to go to the Pure Land. no matter we feel good or bad. so it’s normal that our happiness is greater 45 . We know that we are received as we are by Amida Buddha. The Path of Acceptance – Commentary on Tannisho ”. if we die of old age or in our youth. due to our attachments and karmic consequences. from my book. but until then we remain ord inary beings filled with attachments to our bodily existence. if we smile and die peacefully with the appearance of wise persons or we cry because of pain or fear. The peace and happiness we feel upon entrusting in Amida Buddha is the relief of knowing that no matter what problems and sufferings we might still experience in this life. and so abide among the truly settled. we know that this is our last life as ignorant beings and that our misery will not continue into another. 58 . Shinran Shonin explained this in one of his Letters: "I. no matter if our death makes a good impression or not.

this is the peace and happiness of ordinary people who have faith in Amida. wish to be born in his land and say his Name will be born there.even for those ignorant and foolish and lacking in wisdom .this reason their end also . 59 . So. than the peace of shinjin. he just promised that those beings who entrust in him. Amida Buddha did not mention a special condition in which nembutsu followers must live or die in order to be born in the Pure Land.is a happy one. We can’t achieve more peace in this life." In his Primal Vow.

throughout the ten directions.Returning from the Pure Land . accumulate merits. those who wish to teach and guide sentient beings in accordance with their original vows return immediately to samsara to save all beings. Majushri and Samantabhadra) 47 are working to save and guide sentient beings. Tathagatas. visit Buddha-lands to perform the bodhisattva practices.those born in the Pure Land attain Buddhahood and also return to save all beings. the 22nd Vow At my first reading of this great vow I wrongly thought that it is referring to two categories of beings born in the Pure Land. Please follow my explanations carefully. I think that the key element in understanding this vow is the 2nd section of the Larger Sutra where we can see how the great Bodhisattvas who were among the assembly on Vulture Peak (Maitreya. deliver all beings from birth and death. For they wear the armor of great vows. perfect Enlightenment. bodhisattvas in the Buddha-lands of other directions who come and are born in my land should not ultimately and unfailingly reach the Stage of Becoming a Buddha after One More Life. But when I deeply contemplated this vow I realized that it is referring to only one category of people . when I attain Buddhahood. Such bodhisattvas transcend the course of practice of the ordinary bodhisattva stages and actually cultivate the virtues of Samantabhadra”. one that will reach the stage of a Buddha after some time spent in the Pure Land (one more life) while the others.explanation of the 22nd Vow “If. Excepted are those who wish to teach and guide sentient beings in accordance with their original vows. may I not attain perfect Enlightenment. and establish them in the highest. 47 60 . make offerings to Buddhas. Shakyamuni explains: The Larger Sutra was preached by Shakyamuni on the Vu lture Peak in Rajagriha. enlighten uncountable sentient beings as numerous as the sands of the River Ganges.

4. To praise all the Buddhas. The four main Bodhisattva vows: 1. To make abundant offerings. 3. It is very important to understand that these are exactly the original vows or the great vows mentioned in the 22nd Vow. 8. I vow to conquer them all. and the ten vows or pledges of Samantabhadra: 1. I vow to become like Him. No matter how perfect a Buddha would be. No matte r how numerous the beings would be.e. I vow to fully understand it all. To accommodate and benefit all living beings. 7. 2. They also show how an Enlightened person will act in his endless career of helping sentient beings. 2. 4. give generously) To repent misdeeds and evil karmas. To rejoice in others' merits and virtues. To request the Buddhas to remain in the world. To request the Buddhas to continue teaching. 5. Which are the vows of the Bodhisattva Path? In Mahayana there are two main lists. 3. All these fourteen vows represent the aspiration to become a Buddha for the benefit of oneself and all beings. following the virtues of the Mahasattva Samantabhadra.Each of these bodhisattvas. To follow the teachings of the Buddhas at all times. 9. To pay homage and respect to all Buddhas. No matter how profound the Dharma (the teaching) would be. I vow to save them all. 61 . 6. To transfer all merits and virtues to benefit all beings. (i. No matter how numerous the passions would be. is endowed with the immeasurable practices and vows of the Bodhisattva Path. 10. and firmly dwells in all the meritorious deeds.

IV: 16. freely sporting there with transcendent powers.The term “original” does not mean a personal vow which is somehow separated from the vows mentioned before. This traveling shows that birth in the Pure Land is not a final destination but a permanent return in various forms to help all beings. but a vow in accordance with the authentic Bodhi mind. Now let’s read the further sentence from section 2 of the Larger Sutra: He freely travels in all the ten quarters and employs skillful means of emancipation. one observes all sentient beings in pain and affliction. will do their saving activities by traveling to all places in the universe and will use skilful means in accordance with the particularities of each being to be saved. and you will naturally feel the urge to include them all into your salvation activities. after you are born in the Pure Land you will spontaneously feel that all beings are as important as your cat or your mom. IV: 15. these people who are born in the Pure Land. Kyogyoshinsho. and assuming various transformed bodies to guide them. So.luan49: 48 49 Kyogyoshinsho. one attains the state of teaching and guiding. no matter you now aspire to go to the Pure Land to especially save your mother or your cat from this present life. In his Kyogyoshinsho he quoted Vasubandhu. This is brought about by the directing of virtue through the power of the Primal Vow. thus wearing the armor of great vows. So. enters the gardens of birth-and-death and the forests of blind passions. This is why Shinran Shonin called this vow. 62 . yourself included. our 1st Indian Patriarch48 : With great compassion. and who wish to teach and guide sentient beings in accordance with their original vows. “the vow of directing virtue for our return to this world”. He then quoted from T’an.

63 . and an accommodation to the level of beings in those places in orde r to create the necessary conditions for the Dharma to be preached. I already explained that the 11th Vow is the one in which it is stated that those born in the Pure Land will attain supreme Enlightenment or Buddhahood. a skilful means. teaches and guides all sentient beings. Bodhisattvas in aspiration who have made the vows of becoming Buddhas for themselves and all beings. Some bodhisattvas may be very much advanced and on various higher levels. Anyone who now makes the above Bodhisattva vows may call himself or herself a bodhisattva in aspiration. but who are still on the path and still unenlightened (not Buddhas yet)."Directing virtue for return to this world" means that after being born in that land. a s how for the eyes of unenlightened people. Now stop. so why. because this and the following passages are very important and should be well understood. again. but as long as they have not reached perfect Enlightement I also include them in this category.” Now let’s go on reading from section 2 of the Larger Sutra to see how exactly those who attained Enlightenment in the Pure Land actually save beings: He enters the treasury of the Dharma of the Buddhas. is attainment of Enlightenment mentioned? And why this time it is said that Enlightenme nt will take place in the innumerable worlds where we travel to save all beings? The ans wer is that this time the attainment of Enlightenment is just a play. and reaches the Other Shore. and gaining the power of compassionate means. one returns and enters the thick forests of birth-and-death. The entire 2nd section of the Larger Sutra and other passages from various sutras prove that there are in fact two types of bodhisattvas mentioned in Mahayana texts: 1. and brings all to enter the Buddha way together. Throughout the innumerable worlds he attains Enlightenment.

Such bodhisattvas where assembled at the Vulture Peak when Shakyamuni preached the Larger Sutra.” If we read the 2nd section of the Larger Sutra we see that an Enlightened Bodhisattva follows the same pattern like Shakyamuni in our present world. Innumerable Bodhisattvas. As he does so. he takes seven steps. "I will become the most honored One in the world.and 2. pure and inconceivable wisdom. “…having left the heavenly palace. all the Bodhisattvas in the assembly had reached the shore of Emancipation. he first dwells for some time in the Tusita heaven where Maitreya is now dwelling (first dwelling in the Tusita Heaven. In this category we find Maitreya. Soon after he is born from her right side. Mahasthamaprapta. Then he utters these words. Bodhisattvas who already attained Buddhahood or perfect Enlightenment but who do not remain secluded in this Enlightenment. he descends into his mother's womb. when preaching the Dharma. and then. They had acquired the Buddha's immeasurable merit and attained the sacred. an effulgence illuminates everywhere in the ten quarters and innumerable Buddha-lands shake in six ways. etc. such as these assembled there all at once. Samantabhadra. Avalokitesvara. he proclaims the true Dharma ). These are in fact. Mahasattvas. Thus." 64 . It is clear from the following passage from the end of the same 2nd section that they already attained Buddhahood and are in fact Buddhas who manifest themselves as Bodhisattvas: “With such roots of virtue. Buddhas who manifest the mselves as Bodhisattvas.

After sending back the white horse that he has been riding. washes off the grime of the passions. It is like the story of Gautama repeats itself. he goes on teaching the Dharma. exactly like Shakyamuni in our present world. 65 . and reveals the pure white Dharma. opens the Dharma-gate. He cuts his hair and shaves his beard. thus guiding others to the attainment of freedom from birth and death: […] destroys wrong views. perfect Enlightenment. sickness and death. he takes off his magnificent clothes and puts on a Dharma robe. wealth and throne. After realizing the futility of the ascetic practices he washes himself in the river. Then he emits a great flood of light to inform Mara of this. Then he renounces his kingdom. protects the Dharma-castle. or in other words. which means that his 50 Such an Enlightened Bodhisattva follows the exact pattern of Siddharta Gautama before he became Shakyamuni Buddha. but in reality. he endlessly brings sentient beings to emancipation. according to the Larger Sutra. he puts on the show of disappearing into the non-comprehensible state of beyond form and non.After a childhood and youth filled with various achievements and pleasures he encounters old age. removes afflictions.form. he demonstrates that he passes into Nirvana. and he realizes the impermanence of the world. He unifies everything in the Buddha Dharma. flushes the gutters of desire. sits upright under a tree and strives at ascetic practices for six years in accord with the traditional way 50. Then he attains the supreme Dharma and realizes the highest. Mara and his army come to attack and tempt him. And at the end of his physical body. and goes into the mountains to practice the Way. eats moderately and then he takes a sit under the Bodhi tree with his legs crossed. together with the jeweled crown and ornaments which he has been wearing. and thus proclaims the right teaching. After this attainment of Enlightenment. but he brings them under control with the power of wisdom and makes them all surrender.

Josho. where he starts again the same story. performing acts of compassion for sentient beings. including images of man or woman. the reader of these lines. Also. So. but because you have Compassion for Josho and other beings of this earth. If Josho is attached to his own personal power. you play this game for Josho because his mind cannot be convinced in another way. so the Bodhisattva. The sutra says: Just as a magician with his perfect skill can create at will various illusions. then you need to show Josho that a person like himself can become a Buddha and in order to encourage him to start practicing you take the appearance of a person who is unenlightened and who passes through the same difficulties like him. am a stupid unenlightened person :) You attained Enlightenment many kalpas ago. in the distant past. let’s imagine that you. Because you are a Buddha. 66 . your listeners will trust your various teachings and follow them. Josho. struggled and attained.activities in various manifestations continue in other places of the universe. too. to become Enlightened. He manifests himself everywhere in innumerable Buddha-lands. can freely teach and transform beings. you decided to manifest yourself here. then he can do this. you start teaching them Amida’s method of salvation. are a Buddha and I. at will. tirelessly and with diligence. his friend or teacher. thinking that if you. having thoroughly learned all the methods of emancipation and attained serene awareness of reality. Simply stated. and because indeed most of the people from your time and especially after you leave your physical body. if Josho or others become deeply aware of their own limitations and incapacity to become a Buddha like you in this life. But what they and Josho do not know is that you were Enlightened from the very beginning of your life in their realm and that all your years spent among them were just a useful mean for them and others to entrust to you and to your teaching. is thus encouraged to start practicing. will be incapable to attain Enlightenment in their present life. After “many struggles” you attain Enlightenment and thus prove to Josho that it’s possible for him too.

we will manifest ourselves as Bodhisattvas. we clearly see now that the Stage of Becoming a Buddha after One More Life. that is. promised in the 22nd Vow. Clearly. like the Buddha Shakyamuni. too. When we are born in the Pure Land we automatically gain the capacity to always playing the role of becoming Buddhas and teaching the Dharma like Shakyamuni himself. we act like Samantabhadra who is himself an Enlightened Bodhisattva or a Buddha manifesting himself as Bodhisattva. represents the capacity of those who attain Buddhahood in the Pure Land to endlessly manifest themselves in various places in the universe and become active Buddhas there for the sake of sentient beings. The text of the 22nd Vow is clear about this: Such bodhisattvas transcend the course of practice of the ordinary bodhisattva stages and actually cultivate the virtues of Samantabhadra. Exactly like the Bodhisattvas described in the section 2 of the Larger Sutra. where Shakyamuni is also described as a Buddha who actually attained Enlightenment many kalpas ago and plays this game many times for the sake of unenlightened beings. And it’s a logical conclusion that only someone who already became a Buddha can play this role of always becoming a Buddha. one who is only a bodhisattva in aspiration cannot do all these saving activities. as Buddhas who do not remain secluded in their own Enlightenment. They benefit sentient beings without limit. As Buddhas from the Pure Land. Where. So. Shinran Shonin explained this in his Hymns of the Pure Land: Those who reach the Pure Land of happiness Return to this evil world of the five defilements.The above explanation you can find in the Lotus Sutra. and the 22nd Vow describes only what those who become Buddhas in the Pure Land will do. 67 .

If we read all of the 48 Vows in the Light of the 18th (Primal Vow). perfect compassion of Buddhas is referred to by the name of the Bodhisattva Samantabhadra clearly shows that Samantabhadra attained and represents Buddhahood and that we. after attaining the same Buddhahood in the Pure Land. without any mention of special merits. as Shinran explained. It is important to understand that in the 22 nd Vow the words “bodhisattvas in the Buddha-lands of other direction who come and are born in my land ” are not used in relation to those who aspire to attain Buddhahood for themselves and all beings through their own power. will benefit sentient beings. then we come to the conclusion that the 22 nd Vow is a promise for all ordinary people who come to be born in the Pure Land from all places of samsara. and going throughout quarters. The supreme. will manifest ourselves exactly like him. if we attain the Land of Bliss. as Shinran did. Why is that? Because. compassion of Buddhas is referred to by the name Bodhisattva Samantabhadra. not even in aspiration. In the case of the 22nd Vow bodhisattvas from the Buddha-lands of other directions or bodhisattvas in aspiration also include us. will great love and great compassion.As Shinran himself explained in a note to his 17 verse of the Hymns of the Pure Land: We sentient beings. in which birth in the Pure Land is promised for those with simple faith. the supreme. awaken the ten perfect of the The last sentence. the awakening of the Bodhi Mind – the aspiration to attain Budhahood for oneself and all 68 . This is a false interpretation and I am going to explain why. Some may interpret that the 22 nd Vow is a promise only for bodhisattvas in aspiration or Bodhisattvas who already attained Buddhahood and not for ordinary people who have a simple faith in Amida Buddha and who are not capable to follow the bodhisattva path. ordinary people of simple faith (shinjin).

This mind is given us by the Other-Power. 51 69 .” By having simple faith in Amida Buddha we are assured of attaining Buddhahood in the Pure Land and of coming back. Shinran said: “Faith is One Mind One Mind is the Diamond-like Mind. aspire to your and other beings’ Liberation by relying on the Compasion of Amida (his Primal Vow). The mind that seeks to save sentient beings Is True Faith endowed by Amida’s Compassion. appears in Jodo Shinshu in the form of the entrusting heart (shinjin). So says Vasubandhu. a work whose author is Master Vasubandhu. The two aspects of the Bodhi-Mind are to aspire to the attainment of Buddhahood for himself and others. to help all beings in all places of the universe. the awakening of the Bodhi Mind. The Diamond-like Mind is the Bodhi-Mind.” The One Mind or faith (shinjin) represents the cause of Enlightenment. that is. Master Shan-tao himself said: “Awake your Bodhi Mind to Amida’s Compassion”. the Master of Discourse 52 . Since this is the Bodhi-Mind. In the “Hymns on Patriarchs ”. it has two aspects 51 : “To take refuge with One Mind in the Buddha Of Unhindered Light Shining throughout the Ten Directions Is the mind aspiring to become Buddha. So.” “The mind aspiring to become Buddha Is the mind seeking to save sentient beings. the obligatory condition in Mahayana of attaining the supreme Enlightenment. 52 Discourse on the Pure Land (Jodoron ).beings – is fulfilled in the awakening of faith in the Primal Vow of Amida Buddha. as Buddhas manifested as Bodhisattvas.

rejoice in their dedication (the 5th pledge of Samantabhadra). ordinary beings of simple faith. and forever defending and protecting the true Dharma of all Buddhas (the 8 th pledge) and bringing it to all places. We will forever encourage and guide beings everywhere in accordance with their capacities. The following are only two quotes from among many who prove this: The aspect for our return [to this world] 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 53 . make offerings to them. help them to enter the ocean of Amida’s perfect merits (the 10th pledge). 70 . Hymns of the Pure Land Masters. in accordance with the 17th Vow.Shinran Shonin was very clear in his writings about the meaning of the 22nd Vow which is a promise addressed to us. we will forever feel gratitude to them and always visit their Buddhalands to make offerings to them: “make offerings to Buddhas. praise them (his 2 nd pledge). „We” are the ones who will perform the activity of Samantabhadra after „we” attain Buddhahood in the Pure Land. ask them to go on preaching the Dharma (his 6th pledge) and assist them by saving beings ourselves (the 9th pledge). Exactly like Samantabhadra. verse 36. guide all beings to entrust to the Primal Vow. Shinran Shonin assured us in his Kyogyoshinsho : 53 54 Hymns of the Pure Land Masters. Tathagatas. throughout the ten directions” as the 22nd Vow promises. note to the verse 34.54 And because our attainment of Buddhahood in the Pure Land is due to the working of Amida and all Buddhas who. We engage in the compassionate activity that is the virtue of Samanabhadra. Immediately reentering the world of beings. we will always pay homage to all Buddhas (the 1st pledge of Samantabhadra).

when one has boarded the ship of the Vow of great compassion and sailed out on the vast ocean of light. Let this be known."55 55 Shinran Shonin. KGSS II 72-78 71 . The darkness of ignorance is immediately broken through. and quickly reaching the Land of Immeasurable Light. the winds of perfect virtue blow softly and the waves of evil are transformed."Thus. one realizes great Nirvana and acts in accord with the virtue of Samantabhadra.

These beings are sometimes called „humans and devas in my land”.CHAPTER THREE Vows explaining the characteristics. the capacities and activities of beings who attained Enlightenment in the Pure Land after being born there. „shravakas in my land” or „bodhisattvas in my land” 72 .

73 . Their countenances are dignified and wonderful. Their features.Vows explaining the characte ristics. are not those of human beings or devas. hungry spirits. They are of noble and majestic countenance. the body of boundlessness. beings born in the Pure Land are sometimes called “humans and devas (gods) in my land “. humans. and Infinity. 56 Shinran himself made refference to that passage in the Larger Sutra . which doesn’t mean that in the Pure Land there are the six unenlightened realms of existence. all receive the body of naturalness or of emptiness. 58 See my explanation of the 11th Vo w fro m this book. Emptiness." 56 To have the body of Naturalness. in his work Passages on the Pure Land Way [REALIZATION] : “Further the sutra states: The words "human beings" and "devas" are used simply in accordance with the usage elsewhere. without any differences. Emptiness and Infinity.” 57 See my exp lanation on the Primal Vo w in the article „Three Vo ws of Salvation” fro m this book. animals. heavenly or human. They are all endowed with bodies of Naturalness. unequaled in all the worlds. the capacities and activities of beings who attained Enlightenment in the Pure Land after being born there. which constitutes the second promise of the 11th Vow58 . unmatched by any being. and their appearance is superb. subtle and delicate. Shakyamuni himself explains in the Larger Sutra that when the expression “humans and devas” in the Pure Land appears in this sacred discourse it is only in relation with the states of existence prior to their birth in the Pure Land: “They are all of one form. namely the hells. is surely a proof that these people born in the Pure Land of Amida through the gate of the Primal Vow57 actually attained Buddhahood or supreme Enlightenment (Nirvana). As I previously explained. surpassing things of this world. fighting spirits (demigods) and gods. but are called 'heavenly beings'(devas) and 'humans' simply by analogy with the states of existence in other worlds.

a realm of hungry spirits or a realm of animals. no falling again in the realms of samsara for those born after death in the Pure Land of Amida. may I not attain perfect Enlightenment. may I not attain perfect Enlightenment. They differ greatly from one another and this is due to the different types of karma they inherit from past lives. they are encouraged to take refuge in Amida and wish to be born in his land in order to escape the danger of repeating the bad experiences of samsara. when I attain Buddhahood.” In the following vows the characteristics of beings born in the Pure Land are well explained: The 2nd Vow: “If. when I attain Buddhahood.” This is in close connection with the 4th : “If. But once they are born in the Pure Land and become Buddhas they are 74 .” Unenlightened beings in samsara have various forms and shapes. color and beauty. humans and devas in my land should not all be of one appearance. hungry spirits and animals) are especially emphasized in this vow because people are normally very much afraid of being born there. may I not attain perfect Enlightenment. when I attain Buddhahood. humans and devas in my land should after death fall again into the three evil realms. So. The 3rd Vow: “If. there should be in my land a hell. when I attain Buddhahood. They are forever safe and forever outside birth and death. may I not attain perfect Enlightenment. The three evil realms (hells.” There is no retrogression.That the Pure Land is an enlightened realm outside birth and death is also showed in the 1st Vow of Amida Buddha: “If. humans and devas in my land should not all be the color of pure gold. and should there be any difference in beauty.

To be of the color of pure gold means to have transcendent bodies of the qualities of Enlightenment. 75 . may I not attain perfect Enlightenment. not knowing even the events which occurred during the previous hundred thousand kotis of nayutas of kalpas. color and any differences. the 21st Vow is another proof that those born in the Pure Land attained Buddhahood and have enlightened transcendental bodies: If. The 5th Vow: “If. humans and devas in my land should not remember all their previous lives. with which they penetrate deeply into the nature of all dharmas and reach their subtle essence. when I attain Buddhahood. Also. so I will not explain it again with each vow. when I attain Buddhahood. thus becoming a Buddha. the sentient beings born there all fully posses the thirtytwo physical characteristics of a Great Man as well as perfect wisdom. Other qualities will be presented in the following Vows. may I not attain perfect Enlightenment . Shakyamuni Buddha said in the Larger Sutra about those born in the Pure Land of Amida: “Ananda. Their supernatural powers know no obstruction and their physical senses are sharp and clear”.” This is one of the main characteristics of someone who attained freedom from birth and death.liberated from the shackles of karma and go beyond form. The 6th Vow: 59 A Great Man is an En lightened Person. a Buddha. the numerical expression “hundred thousand kotis of nayutas of kalpas ” stands for infinite. humans and devas in my land should not all be endowed with the thirty-two physical characteristics of a Great Man59 . This is what is meant by “all be of one appearance ”. that he is able to know his previous lives when he was still unenlightened. Again.

when I attain Buddhahood. humans and devas in my land should not possess the supernatural power of travelling anywhere in one instant.“If. But even without leaving the Pure Land we can hear with the “divine ear” the teachings of all Buddhas as promised in the 7th Vow: “If. when I attain Buddhahood. at least those of all sentient beings living in a hundred thousand kotis of nayutas of Buddha-lands. which is promised in the 8th Vow. and especially to see the former relatives and places they are born in the six realms and the forms they take in their new lives will be very useful in helping them. will make us be aware of the mental states they have and how to deal with them: “If. may I not attain perfect Enlightenment . as promised in the 9th Vow: “If.” 76 . hear their teachings and pay homage to them. may I not attain perfect Enlightenment. may I not attain perfect Enlightenment . humans and devas in my land should not possess the divine ear of hearing the teachings of at least a hundred thousand kotis of nayutas of Buddhas and should not remember all of them. This.” Traveling anywhere in an instant according to one’s wishes means we can always be together with any being we want to help. even beyond a hundred thousand kotis of nayutas of Buddha-lands.” Also because we are able to travel anywhere we can go even to other Buddha Lands. when I attain Buddhahood. humans and devas in my land should not possess the faculty of knowing the thoughts of others.” To see everything as we wish. when I attain Buddhahood. together with the faculty of knowing the thoughts of all living beings. humans and devas in my land should not possess the divine eye of seeing even a hundred thousand kotis of nayutas of Buddha-lands. may I not attain perfect Enlightenment .

They are like the great earth. […]Their wisdom is like the ocean. not to mention the most important teachings. they are pure in mind and without indolence. This is the same with having understood emptiness of all phenomena. it is said: “Whether going or coming. They have destroyed envy by not being jealous of the superiority of others. beautiful or ugly. they bear no enmity or grudge against anyone. because they have no discriminative thoughts. humans and devas in my land should give rise to thoughts of self-attachment. Also. and their Samadhi. like the king of mountains. because they have no attachments. […] They are like the sky. to perceive all beings with equanimity and nondiscrimination.We will not only hear but also remember everything we heard from their teachings which is wonderful when we think that in the state we are now we can hardly remember even small things. […] They are like a flock of playful birds. aversion or attachment”. Free of mental hindrances. because their great Compassion reaches everywhere without discrimination. With the heart of great Compassion to benefit all living beings and with tenderness and self-control. […] Their samsaric bodies and evil passions have been extinguished together with their remaining karmic tendencies. in the 10th Vow it is said: “If. proceeding or remaining. [….] They are like the vas sky. In them there is no idea of self or others. 77 .” To be free of self attachment is to go beyond limited visions of “I and others”. they always become teachers and harbor no thought of discrimination. because they do not store things. their acts are in accordance with their will and are unrestricted. no idea of compensation or dispute. such as pure or impure. when I attain Buddhahood. may I not attain perfect Enlightenment. their hearts are unattached. […. In the Larger Sutra. and they have no thought of discrimination. […] Thus they become lamps to the world and fields of supreme merit.

no ignorance and no blind passions. This Vow does not imply that those born there do not know that suffering exist in samsara or do not do anything to stop it. when I attain Buddhahood. no wrongdoing can be found in the beings born in the Pure Land: If. and if these clothes should need sewing. they 78 . humans and devas in my land should not enjoy happiness and pleasure comparable to that of a monk who has exhausted all the passions. They can help others because they are forever free from all internal and external obstacles. and if the fine robes as prescribed and praised by the Buddhas should not be spontaneously provided for them to wear. themselves a manifestation of pure karmic merits: If. as the 27 th Vow says. (the 38th Vow) But no mater what words. perfect happiness is the natural condition of those born in the Pure Land. (the 39th Vow) Even the dressing garments that are promised (in the 38th Vow) to cover the transcendental bodies of the Enlightened persons in the Pure Land are not worldly clothes. as Enlightened beings. because. but religious and Dharmic adornments. names and other means accessible to us we use to describe the beings and manifestations associated with them. but in themselves. humans and devas in my land should even hear of any wrongdoing. as it is promised in the 39th Vow: If. may I not attain perfect Enlightenment. may I not attain perfect Enlightenment. may I not attain perfect Enlightenment. blindness or suffering can be found. humans and devas in my land should not obtain clothing. we cannot really succeed in understanding them at the level we are now as unenlightened beings. bleaching. when I attain Buddhahood. as soon as such a desire arises in their minds. no wrongdoing. Because they have no attachments. when I attain Buddhahood.As it is promised in the 16th Vow. dyeing or washing.

may I not attain perfect Enlightenment. return to samsara as 79 . too: those who wish to teach and guide sentient beings in accordance with their original vows. so their bodies of manifestations have unlimited life span. except when they wish to shorten them in accordance with their original vows. They can shorten their presence in the Pure Land by free will if they chose a mission in various samsaric worlds. If. the 15th Vow explains another very important point: “If. As I already explained in the chapter dedicated to the 22 nd Vow. afte r attaining Buddhahood there. when I attain Buddhahood. humans and devas in my land should have limited life-spans. (the 27th Vow) Next. The expression in accordance with their original vows appears in the 22nd Vow. Those born in the Pure Land are beyond death. This is a very important aspect that must be taken into consideration when discussing the state of beings born in the Pure Land through the gate of the Primal Vow. when I attain Buddhahood. which are glorious and resplendent and have exquisite details beyond description. the four main Bodhisattva vows and the vows of Samantabhadra – the guideline of an endless career of saving others after attaining Buddhahood in the Pure Land. even with the divine eye. the “original vows” are in fact.are beyond description and are situated beyond our experience and even the experience of gods. This proves that the terms “humans and devas in my land” and “bodhisattvas in my land” are referring to the same type of beings – all those who are born in the Pure Land through the gate of the Primal Vow (the gate of simple faith in Amida) and who. may I not attain perfect Enlightenment”. to distinguish by name and calculate by number all the myriads of manifestations provided for the humans and devas in my land. Or actually they can either be in the Pure Land and in other worlds at the same time. sentient beings should be able.

may I not attain perfect Enlightenment”. Buddhas who manifest themselves as Bodhisattvas. and will forever 80 . Thus. in the 23rd Vow and the 24th. These words refer to the same thing – us after being born in the Pure Land through the Primal Vow and attaining Enlightenment there. when I attain Buddhahood. If “humans and devas” were terms related with the states of existence prior to their birth in the Pure Land. it is promised that all beings born in the Pure Land are the personal disciples of Amida Buddha. it is promised again. “bodhisattvas in my land” and “sravakas in my land”. the expression “bodhisattvas in my land” from the following vows. So again. So. There is also another term which describes those born in the Pure Land through the gate of the Primal Vow – “sravakas in my land” and it appears in the 14th Vow: “If. like Samantabhadra. but in this vow it preserves its original meaning of “disciple” and “hearer”.Enlightened Bodhisattvas to save all beings. These vows are also an elaboration of various aspects already promised in the 22 nd Vow. Usually “sravaka” is used in the sense of a person who seeks to realize Nirvana for himself. even if all the beings and pratiekabuddhas living in this universe of a thousand million worlds should count them during a hundred thousand kalpas. Avalokitesvara. that beings who attain Buddhahood in the Pure Land of Amida. Vajrapani. Their number is infinite because they come to be born in the Pure Land from all the corners of the universe and will continue to do so in the infinite future. show what these beings became after being born in the Pure Land and attaining Buddhahood – Enlightened Bodhisattvas. there is no diffe rence between “humans and devas in my land”. * In my next explanations I will concentrate on the vows which mention the words “bodhisattvas in my land”. the number of the sravakas in my land could be known. that is. etc.

throughout the ten directions . can go everywhere in the ten direction of the universe to make offerings to all Buddhas. Please carefully read my exp lanations of the 22nd Vo w of A mida Buddha fro m this book. when I attain Buddhahood. 60 81 . Bodhisattvas who already attained Buddhahood or perfect Enlightenment but who do not remain secluded in this En lightenment.manifest themselves as Bodhisattvas 60 .Ordinary type of bodhisattvas in aspiration who make the vows of becoming Buddhas for themselves and all beings. These are in fact. should not be able to reach immeasurable and innumerable kotis of nayutas of Buddha-lands in as short a time as it takes to eat a meal. clearly like looking into a mirror. all the Buddha lands of the ten directions. to perform meritorious acts of worshipping the Buddhas with the offerings of their choice. 61 In the 22nd Vow it is pro mised that Bodhisattvas in the Pure Land will make offerings to Buddhas. (23rd Vow) If. out of gratitude for their benevolence and guidance 61 : If. Tathagatas. bodhisattvas in my land should not be able. Anyone who now makes the above Bodhisattva vows may call h imself or herself a bodhisattva in aspiration. praise them and worship them. may I not attain perfect Enlightenment. Those who are born in the Pure Land of Amida through the gate of the Primal Vo w become such Buddhas who manifest themselves as Bodhisattvas. bodhisattvas in my land. (24th Vow) This is because the Enlightened Bodhisattvas of the Pure Land can see. but who are still on the path and still unenlightened (not Buddhas yet). as they wish. there are two types of bodhisattvas: 1. as promised in the 40th Vow: If. in order to make offerings to Buddhas through my transcendent power. and 2. when I attain Buddhahood. the bodhisattvas in my land who wish to see the immeasurable glorious Buddha-lands of the ten As I explained in the article dedicated to the 22nd Vow. Buddhas who manifest themsel ves as Bodhisattvas. may I not attain perfect Enlightenment. when I attain Buddhahood.

may I not attain perfect Enlightenment. it is promised that the Enlightened Bodhisattvas of the Pure Land will have unsurpassed and unlimited wisdom for instructing beings everywhere in accordance with their capacities: If. the wisdom and eloquence of bodhisattvas in my land should be limited. They can also hear and learn spontaneously any type of teaching they wish. as promised in the 46th Vow: If. when I attain Buddhahood. and the 30th Vow. In the 25th Vow. bodhisattvas in my land should not acquire eloquence and wisdom in upholding sutras and reciting and expounding them. when I attain Buddhahood. may I not attain perfect Enlightenment. when I attain Buddhahood. just as one sees one's face reflected in a clear mirror. bodhisattvas in my land should not be able to hear spontaneously whatever teachings they may wish. (30th Vow) This aspect is also contained in the 22nd Vow where it is said that those born in the Pure Land will enlighten uncountable sentient beings as numerous as the sands of the River Ganges. are able to engage in saving and 82 . (25th Vow) If. may I not attain perfect Enlightenment. that means us after being born in the Pure Land of Amida.quarters. and establish them in the highest. 29th. perfect Enlightenment . bodhisattvas in my land should not be able to expound the Dharma with the all-knowing wisdom. (the 46th Vow) These Enlightened Bodhisattvas. may I not attain perfect Enlightenment. (29th Vow) If. when I attain Buddhahood. should not be able to view all of them reflected in the jeweled trees. may I not attain perfect Enlightenment.

although sometimes Vajrapani can appear as a guardian god. In the Buddhist iconography Vajrapani is often depicted as a wrathful warrior 65 with his outstretched right hand brandishing a vajra and his left hand holding a lasso to bind demons. Just as Samantabhadra Bodhisattva. we too. one of the most important Enlightened Bodhisattvas of Mahayana Buddhism. Their names are M isshaku Kongo and Naraen Kongo. may I not attain perfect Enlightenment. He is the protector of Buddha Dharma.guiding sentient beings because they have manifestations (“bodies”) like the Vajra-god Narayana: If. Manjushri their wisdom. represents the endless saving activity of all Buddhas. 64 Also Avalokitesvara represents the great compassion of the Buddhas. Vajrapani is known as Kongojin (“Diamond-hand”). 65 In Japan. In some depictions he wears a skull crown66 with his hair standing on end while in others he wears a five pointed Bodhisattva crown to depict the power of the five major 62 Here the word „god” is not used in the sense of a limited being karmica lly related to the realm of the gods. 63 In Japan. How wonderful it is that after we are born in the Pure Land we will be exactly like these two great Enlightened Bodhisattvas! Just like Samantabhadra we will always be active in samsara. will forever protect it and destroy wrong understandings. "thunderbolt" or "diamond" and pani. "in the hand") 63 . lit. and he represents the Power of all Buddhas. there should be any bodhisattva in my land not endowed with the body of the Vajra-god Narayana. (26th Vow) Vajra.god 62 Narayana is in fact Vajrapani (from Sanskrit vajra. Vajrapani represents the immense and all surpassing Power of the Buddhas 64. when I attain Buddhahood. and Tara their miracu lous deeds. Vajrapani is known as Kongojin ("Diamond-hand) which manifests as two pair of muscular guardian deit ies of the Buddha Dharma often depicted at the entrance of Buddhist temples. and like Vajrapani we will be all-powerful! And because Vajrapani is a protector of the Dharma. mentioned in the 22nd Vow. " Naraen" is the equi valent of Narayana from Sanskrit. 66 The skull crown is also an iconographic symbol of Mahakala. 83 .

Akyobhya.Buddhas (Vairocana. 84 . Ratnasambhava. Amogasiddhi) and he has a third eye. Amida.

CHAPTER FOUR Vows related with bodhisattvas in other lands 85 .

I begin with the 34th Vow which does not specifically mention the word “bodhisattvas in the lands of the other quarters”. but is clearly referring to them: If. “Little store of merit” refers to their previous existence and “bodhisattvas in my land” refer to their actual state of Enlightened Bodhisattvas in the Pure Land. that is. This Vow refers to the previous states of existence of actual Enlightened Bodhisattvas from the Pure Land. who have heard my Name. may I not attain perfect Enlightenment. living in other realms. when I attain Buddhahood. they also became able to see the Bodhi. bodhisattvas who are not Buddhas yet. should not be able to see the Bodhi-tree which has countless colors and is four million li in height. sentient beings in the immeasurable and inconceivable Buddha-lands of the ten quarters. when they were unenlightened bodhisattvas in aspiration.tree of Amida Buddha. bodhisattvas in my land. when I attain Buddhahood. upon birth in the Pure Land and their attainment of Buddhahood. but still not enlightened. I wish to explain the special case of the 28th Vow in which there is a little strange usage of the term „bodhisattvas in my land” who have “little store of merit”: If. should not gain the bodhisattva's insight into the non-arising of all dharmas and should not acquire various 86 . even those with little store of merit. Although they were bodhisattvas of little merit. before explaining this category of beings. However. Such beings are bodhisattvas on various levels of spiritual development.Vows related with bodhisattvas in othe r lands The following vows are related or associated with beings who are advanced on the Buddhist Path but who do not dwell in the Pure Land of Amida. This being said lets start explaining the vows related with bodhisattvas in other realms.

when I attain Buddhahood. something only bodhisattvas with superior capacities can attain: “Those with superior capacities attain innumerable [merits by the] insights into the non-arising of all dharmas. bodhisattvas in the lands of the other quarters who hear my Name should not instantly gain the first. Also in the 48th Vow. Such dharanis are also acquired by these bodhisattvas. So. The three insights are 67 : 67 The Three Pure Land Sutras by Zuio Hisao Inagaki. which is. attain “insight into the non-arising of all dharmas”. The “insight into the non-arising of all dharmas” is the spiritual awakening in which one recognizes that from the perspective of ultimate reality. a superior bodhisattva who does not dwell in the Pure Land. may I not attain perfect Enlightenment. may I not attain perfect Enlightenment . (the 34th Vow) Sentient beings who are already on the bodhisattva path. all the three insights related with the dharmas or phenomenal existence is mentioned: If.” When the word “dharma” is used with small “d” it refers to all existence and phenomena in general. Those bodhisattvas will not be subject to rebirth in evil realms before they become Buddhas.profound dharanis. in accordance with the Larger Sutra. second and third insights into the nature of dharmas and firmly abide in the truths realized by all the Buddhas. but hears and accepts the Name of Amida. The Dharanis are mystic phrases containing the fundamental significance of the Dharma which help remembering the teaching and enhancing concentration. nothing really arises or perishes. suddenly realizes fundamental truths about the phenomenal existence. by hearing the Name of Amida. 87 .

bodhisattvas in the lands of the other quarters who hear my Name should not all attain the samadhi called 'pure emancipation' and. should not be able to make offerings in one instant to immeasurable and inconceivable Buddhas.1. World-Honored Ones. 88 . Bodhisattvas in other realms who hear and accept Amida’s Name also attain the Samadhi of “universal equality” (samantānugata). while dwelling therein. when I attain Buddhahood. when I attain Buddhahood. So. humans and devas in the immeasurable and inconceivable Buddha-lands of the ten quarters. become Buddhas. This Samadhi is related with the capacity to behold innumerable Buddhas in an instant and see them at all times. without losing concentration. Thus. should not always be able to see all the immeasurable and inconceivable Tathagatas until those bodhisattvas. as promised in the 42nd Vow: If. Insight into reality through hearing the sacred sounds 2. the truths about the nature of all phenomena become clear to the bodhisattvas who accept Amida’s Name. This is promised in the 45th Vow: If. insight into the non-arising of all dharmas. Insight into reality by coming into accord with it 3. bodhisattvas in the lands of the other quarters who hear my Name should not all attain the samadhi called 'universal equality' and. while dwelling therein. as explained at 34th Vow. too. when I attain Buddhahood. may I not attain perfect Enlightenment. in which one can see the innumerable Buddhas. They also attain the Samadhi called ‘pure emancipation’. they can make offerings to all of them in the same time. The 37th Vow states: If. may I not attain perfect Enlightenment.

Such advanced bodhisattvas who may have the bodies of humans and devas. 89 .] means that sentient beings. shinjin is something that both bodhisattvas in other lands and ordinary people in this world can equally receive. if they have true faith.who having heard my Name. bodhisattvas in the immeasurable and inconceivable Buddha-lands of the ten quarters. but hearing the Name. So.” So. having heard how the Buddha’s Vow arose – its origin and fulfillment. but simply rejoice in faith also deserve the respect of all devas and people of the world. bodhisattvas in other lands will always be able to perform sacred practices until they attain Buddhahood. But even people who do not perform bodhisattva practices.. who have heard my Name. should not be respected by all devas and people of the world. And as Shinran said: ‘The word “hear” [. rejoice in faith. even if they are ordinary people. But both. (37th Vow) In this case hearing the Name is related with “rejoice in faith ”. deserve the respect of all beings of the world first and foremost because they accept the Name of Amida in faith. when I attain Buddhahood. not because they perform bodhisattva practices. the main point of this vow is not “bodhisattva practices”. And they are thus called just because they say the nembutsu of faith. deserve the respect of all devas and all beings. If. Thus. should not. Some people of shinjin may be capable to perform bodhisattva practices while others don’t. referring in essence to all beings who entrust in Amida. In the 36th Vow it is promised that after their present life ends.are altogether free of doubt. we can say that the 37th vow can be placed in this category of bodhisattvas in other lands but in the same time it goes beyond it. and perform bodhisattva practices. always perform sacred practices until they reach Buddhahood. may I not attain perfect Enlightenment. This is mentioned in many parts of the sacred texts where those who say the Name in faith are called white lotuses and rare beings. may I not attain perfect Enlightenment. prostrate themselves on the ground to revere and worship me. after the end of their lives.

bodhisattvas in the lands of the other quarters who hear my Name should not rejoice so greatly as to dance and perform the bodhisattva practices and should not acquire stores of merit. The attainment of the state from which they cannot retrogress is especially mentioned in the 47th Vow: If. bodhisattvas in the lands of the other quarters who hear my Name should not be reborn into noble 90 . where it is also said that immense joy fills the hearts of such superior beings: If. may I not attain perfect Enlightenment.The expression “until they reach Buddhahood” which can be read in other vows related with bodhisattvas in various realms. The promise that they will always perform meritorious bodhisattva practices is contained in the 44 th Vow. Because they have accepted the Name of Amida. may I not attain perfect Enlightenment. when I attain Buddhahood. at any time before becoming Buddhas. have impaired. Such bodhisattvas will be always born in noble families where they will have the proper conditions for going on with their Buddhist practices: If. bodhisattvas in the lands of the other quarters who hear my Name should. which they will follow “until they reach Buddhahood”. is a proof that these bodhisattvas are spiritually advanced but they are not Buddhas yet. they will never retrogress and never abandon their spiritual practice. when I attain Buddhahood. when I attain Buddhahood. inferior or incomplete sense organs. In the 41st Vow it is promised that such bodhisattvas who accept Amida’s Name will never have imperfect bodies in all the states of existence they will be born until they finally become Buddhas: If. when I attain Buddhahood. too. bodhisattvas in the lands of the other quarters who hear my Name should not instantly reach the Stage of Non-retrogression. may I not attain perfect Enlightenment.

families after their death. may I not attain perfect Enlightenment. (43rd Vow) 91 .