Monday, September 20, 2010

Shinran's Shoshinge (Part 1)

How inconceivable!
Throughout the universe
The ceaseless, boundless activity of Namu Amida Butsu
Awakens me to what is real and true.
This is my reliance,
My refuge,
My wholehearted trust.

Namu Amida Butsu is the call of the Vow
Made by Amida,
The Buddha of Immeasurable Light and Life,
When he was Dharmakara, a Bodhisattva,
Who, coming into the presence of the great teacher
Lokesvararaja Buddha,
Was enabled to see that which is invisible
And yet visible to the mind's eye—
The Pure Lands of all the Buddhas
And how they became so.

To establish such a realm for all beings,
Whether good or evil,
A realm without discrimination or condition,
Was Dharmakara's deep yearning, his Great Vow.
He spent five kalpas—
A time and effort beyond comprehension,
Fulfilling this most excellent and rare Vow,
This dynamic Vow
The primal Vow
The original Vow
By which his name conveys enlightenment to all.

Throughout the universe this Name resounds
This Vow continues like light
Unbounded by space or time
Without hindrance
Needless of cause or condition
Illuminating our greed
Our anger
Our blind and calculating foolishness.

Just as I am
This all-embracing Vow enables me to become a buddha!
Its light in all its many facets
Stronger than the light of the moon
Stronger by far than the light of the sun
Illuminates even the least particle of dust
In the countless worlds of the Universe
Shining equally on all.

The Nembutsu of Amida's Great Vow
Is the dynamic cause for my birth
Into the realm of enlightened beings,
The Pure Land.
Because of the Vow
My mind of true entrusting, my shinjin,
Is assured
As is my ultimate enlightenment,
Identical with that of Amida's,
Resulting in the great, complete Nirvana.

Sakyamuni Buddha was born into this world
With the sole mission of teaching
The treasure-ocean of Amida's Vow
To rescue we who constantly pollute
Our streams of birth and death.
Please listen to the truth of Sakyamuni's message!

The mind of true entrusting, shinjin,
Arises from my awakening to the reality
Of Amida's Great Vow.
No need to sever evil passions to reach Nirvana!
Ordinary people,
Holy monks,
We who break the five precepts—
All of us, equally, just as we are,
Though like various polluted rivers
Become of one taste on entering the ocean of the Vow.

To receive and be taken in
By Amidas Great Compassion
Is to be perpetually transformed,
Protected by its light.
Yet, while my inner darkness is thus broken,
My cloudy mists of anger, hatred, and desire
Continue to obscure shinjin's bright sky
Though shinjin, in the same way as sunlight filtered
Through mists and clouds,
Continues to cast light into the darkness below.

To receive this shinjin is to know great joy.
Simultaneously, I am emancipated
From the limbo of a world without dharma.
Of all of us,
Good and evil together,
Who hear and awaken to Amida's Great Vow,
The Buddha says: we are persons of shinjin.
Those who comprehend this completely
Are like a white lotus blooming.

Yet, having received this mind of true entrusting,
This shinjin,
To neither doubt nor question it,
To retain it,
To not forget that the Nembutsu of Amida's Great Vow
Is directed to all sentient beings—
Including arrogant persons and those of wrong views—
Is the most difficult of all difficulties.

The great dharma teachers
Of ancient India, China and Japan
Make clear Sakyamuni's emphasis that
When compared with Amida Buddha's pure activity
All we sentient beings are calculating
And defiled.
Sakyamuni's teachings disclose to us
Our inconceivable endowment—
Universal enlightenment,
Made possible through Amida's Great Vow

In a sermon on Mt. Lanka,
Sakyamuni talked about Nagarjuna,
A bodhisattva of southern India
Who later appeared in this world
To destroy misleading views
Of "being" and "non-being."
Nagarjuna proclaimed the great dharma
Of Mahayana,
And identified for us the joyous stage
Of birth in the Pure Land.
He described this Pure Land Way
As like the ease of an ocean voyage,
Whereas the way of difficult practices
Is like traveling a rough and dangerous path
On foot.
Once we entrust to the vessel of Amida's Vow,
At that instant, says Nagarjuna,
Our birth in the Pure Land is assured!
To fully express our gratitude for this,
Let us utter Amida Buddha's Name always.


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