Gunmo 212

Hymn Appreciation 1

                         Amida’s  Buddhahood

                                                             Koju Fujieda

                             Ryokeiji Temple

   ◎Amida has passed through ten kalpas now

      Since realizing Buddhahood;

      Dharma-body’s wheel of light is without bound,

      Shining on the blind and ignorant of the world.

                                              ---Hymn of the Pure Land

   I would like to appreciate this hymn first as it is chanted on the New Year’s morning. 
The brief meaning is as follows
: “Since Amida Buddha realized Buddhahood, it has passed
ten kalpas (aeons). The light that He radiates from His body of enlightenment reaches
boundlessly and brightens up those in the darkness of delusion.” The forty-eight hymns
beginning with the above are easy Japanese interpretations by Shinran Shonin of
“San’amidabutsuge” (the Hymns that admire Amida Buddha) written in Chinese by

The first four-character term “Midajobutsu”(Amida’s realization of Buddhahood) is very

short, but its content is profound enough. Shinran Shonin describes how Amid became a

Buddha and what for, in his Ichinen-tanen-shomon (Notes on Once-Calling and Many-Calling)
The gist is as follows:  

From this treasure ocean of oneness, form was manifested, taking the name of
Bodhisattva Dharm
ākara, who, through establishing the unhindered Vow as the cause,
became Amida Buddha. For this reason Amida is the “Tathagata of fulfilled body.”  Amida
has been called “Buddha of unhindered light filling the ten quarters.” This Tathagata is also
known as Namu-fukashigiko-butsu (Namu-Buddha of inconceivable light) and is the “dharma
-body as compassionate means.” “Compassionate means” refers to manifesting form, revealing
a name and making itself known to sentient beings.  It refers to Amida Buddha. This Tathagata
is light. Light is none other than wisdom; wisdom is the form of light. Wisdom is, in addition, formless;
hence this Tathagata is the Buddha of inconceivable light. This Tathagata fills the countless
worlds in the ten quarters, and so is called “Buddha of boundless light.” Further, Bodhisattva
Vasubandhu has given the name, “Tathagata of unhindered light filling the ten quarters.”

The above difficult expression might be digested like this. The top notion “this treasure ocean
of oneness” is the rich function basis of Buddha’s enlightenment. It is such a realm beyond ordinary
human beings’understanding that it sees through the realities of human sufferings with His wisdom
and accordingly moves into compassion to save those sufferers. But how can He let His formless
and colorless wisdom known to them? By selecting the most effective means of manifesting a form
as Bodhisattva and taking the name of Dharm
ākara, Dharmākara Bodhisattva fulfilled the
tremendously hardest wish to save them, and then became Amida Buddha. He chose to approach
(upāya) them Himself; that is why Namuamidabutsu is called an Upāya Dharma Body. When you say
Namuamidabutsu, .He is actually approaching you in delusion with His wisdom and compassion. This
great ‘project’ to save all sentient beings by “form” and “name” was His Original Vow, which was
fulfilled through eons of contemplation and practice.                                    

Thus “Amida realized Buddhahood” from the state of Dharmākara Bodhisattva. It means that
the way or reason of saving us deluded beings was accomplished, even ten kalpas (eons) ago, as the
Larger Sutra says. The fabulous numeral is nothing but the symbolization of the certainty of the
saving by Namuamidabutsu.                                                                          

Since “this Tathagata is light,” the light radiated from the Dharma body (enlightenment) spreads
like a wheel and shines out our dark world of delusion. Amida Buddha’s light is an enlightening call,
“You human beings are contending and killing each other, while you think of yourselves haughtily as
the master of this earth and nature. This fact proves that you are in delusion. You humans, why not
awaken to your own arrogance, repent your sin, and entrust yourselves to the true oneness of the
Tathagata saying the nembutsu? I will surely save you.”

“The blind and ignorant of the world” relates to “the evil world with the five defilements” stated
in the Amida Sutra. The defilements of this world really relate to me, not only to other people.
Actually I am breathing this world’s air, but I may tend to think the world is wicked, while I am right.
And yet I may be blind to this fact.  It is such a blind me that should be brightened by Dharma
body’s wheel of light. Asahara Saichi san composed a poem: “Midajobutsu no konokatawa, Imani 10ko
hetamaeri  Watasinokokoro ni hetamaite kudasarujihi ga Namuamidabutsu” (Amida has passed through
ten kalpas now since realizing Buddhahood; Amida has passed through my mind with compassion,

(I am thinking of going to appreciate some hymns in “my poor mind” from the next issue on.)