Amitabha has got a big mouth. So do you.


The Juseige is the second of three gathas contained in The Larger Sutra of Immeasurable Life, a sutra of particular importance to Pureland Buddhists (particularly Jodo Shinshu founded by Shinran and Jodo Shu founded by Honen). The following passage recounts the story in which Bodhisattva Dharmakara promises to embark on a quest for enlightenment and then makes 48 Vows to relieve all suffering by providing a means of salvation. 

What is particularly interesting is that when I recite the Juseige as a Zen practitioner <gasp>, I focus on self-power (jiriki).   The verses represent an inspirational referring directly to my path and embodying my active engagement towards attaining enlightenment through my own ability.  A very centered statement about what my goal in practice is (although a more grandiose statement of intent than I would usually express) spoken in the first person.  While, I am assuming that a Pure Land practitioner would view this as more of a celebration of other-power (tariki) which places focus on the strength and form of Amitabha’s 48 Vows to help shoulder the load – to strengthen the practice.  A gatha celebrating the Vows spoken as through the mouth of the Bodhisattva Dharmakara.  For a moment during recitation we are each manifesting the same Vows.  Expressing the same drive.  Requiring the same intent.  But some of us relingish a small bit of control while others revel in it. 

Both jiriki and tariki are two sides of the same coin.  To focus too much on our personal power and presence closes the door of faith and breeds self-centeredness.  Too much focus on the power of others, supernatural (as in Amitabha) or mundane (as in a teacher or guru), closes the door to our own ability and ties us to the whims of others.  A balance is required – a focus and trust in our own strength and ability followed by a wholehearted leap into practice – great determination strengthened by a radical trust.  A skeptical and inquiring mind coupled with an open heart.

The Gatha Juseige exists on both levels.  It encourages determination and drive; nutures hope and independence while fostering a deep and abiding trust. 

I establish the Vows unexcelled,
And reach the Highest Path, Bodhi,
Were these Vows unfulfilled,
I would never attain Enlightenment.

I will be the great provider,
Throughout innumerable kalpas,
Should I fail to save all in need,
I would never attain Enlightenment.

Upon my attaining Enlightenment,
If my Name were not heard anywhere,
In the ten quarters of the universe,
I would never attain Enlightenment.

Practicing the Holy Way — selflessness,
Depth in right reflection and pure wisdom,
Aspiring toward the highest path,
I will be the teacher of devas and men.

My wondrous power by its great light,
Brightens the countless lands throughout,
Removes the darkness of the three defilements,
And delivers all from suffering and pain.

Opening the eyes of Wisdom,
I will end this darkness of ignorance.
Blocking all the paths of evil,
I will open the gate to Attainment.

Having attained Buddhahood untainted,
My august air shall illumine the ten quarters.
The sun and the moon being outshone,
The celestial lights shall hide in shame.

I will open the Dharma-storehouse
And bestow upon all the treasure of my virtues.
Constantly going among the masses,
I will preach the Dharma with a lion’s roar.

Paying homage to all the Buddhas
I will be endowed with all virtues.
Vows and Wisdom completely realized,
I will be master of the three worlds.

As Buddha’s wisdom unimpeded
Has no place its light cannot reach,
So my power of Merit and Wisdom
Shall be equal to the Honored One’s.

If my vows be certainly fulfilled,
May this whole universe quake.
And may the host of devas
Rain wondrous blossoms from the sky.