[58] The Principle Of ‘Vow Now For Birth Now’ 今发愿今往生的原理



C2: Encouragement [Of] Vow’s Transmission

[Sūtra]: Śāriputra, if [there] are people [who have] already vowed, [are] now vowing, [or] will [be] vowing, [with the] desire [to be] born [in] Amitā Buddha’s Land, all these people [and] others, [will] all attain non-retrogression for Anuttarā Samyak Saṃbodhi. In that land, [they have] already [been] born, or [are] now [being] born, or will [be] born. Therefore, Śāriputra, all good men [and] good women, if [they] have faith, should vow, [to be] born [in] that land. 


[Explanation]: [For those who have] already Vowed, [they have] already [been] born, [for those who] now Vow, [they are] now [being] born, [and for those who] will Vow, [they] will [be] born. [This] precisely reveals [that the] Vow given rise to, that relies [upon] Faith, [is] without falsehood, [as it will bear fruit accordingly].


Without Faith, [it is ] not able [to] give rise to [the] Vow [i.e. Aspiration], [and] without [the] Vow, [with only] Faith, [one] also cannot [be] born. [Or ‘… without Vow (and) Faith, (one) also cannot (be) born.’]


Thus [did the Buddha] say [that], ‘if [they] have Faith, [they] should Vow.’


Also, [on] Vow, [as it is the] contract [with (irreversible) agreement] of Faith, [and the] pivot [or hinge (i.e. centre of power)] of Practice, [it is] especially as [an] essential task [to give rise to it].举愿则信行在其中,所以殷勤三劝也。

[As when] raising [the] Vow, thus [are] Faith [and] Practice within it, therefore [with] earnest diligence, [did the Buddha] thrice encourage [it to be given rise to in this sūtra].


Furthermore, Vowing [to be] born [in] that land, is the same as [having the] two doors [of] rejoice [and] revulsion.

Revulsed renunciation [of the] Sahā [World, is] with reliance [upon the first] two [Noble] Truths [of] [1] suffering [and the causes of its] [2] accumulation, that gives rise [to the first] two kinds [of] great vows [that] correspond. 


[With] rejoice seeking [birth in the Land Of] Ultimate Bliss, is] with reliance [upon the last] two [Noble] Truths [of the] [3] path [and] [4] eradication [of suffering], that gives rise [to the last] two kinds [of] great vows [that] correspond. 

[Note 1:

[1] 第一弘愿缘第一苦谛。
[2] 第二弘愿缘第二集谛。
[3] 第三弘愿缘第三灭谛。
[4] 第四弘愿缘第四道谛。

[1] The First Great Vow is conditioned by the First Noble Truth of suffering.
[2] The Second Great Vow below is conditioned by the Second Noble Truth of the cause of suffering.
[3] The Third Great Vow below is conditioned by the Third Noble Truth of the end of suffering.
[4] The Fourth Great Vow below is conditioned by the Fourth Noble Truth of the path to the end of suffering.


[1] 众生无边誓愿度。
[2] 烦恼无尽誓愿断。
[3] 法门无量誓愿学。
[4] 佛道无上誓愿成。

Four Great Vows

[1] [Of] sentient beings [who are] boundless, [I] vow [to] deliver [them all].
[2] [Of] afflictions [that are] inexhaustible, [I] vow [to] sever [them all].
[3] [Of] Dharma Doors [that are] immeasurable, [I] vow [to] learn [them all].
[4] [Of the] Buddha path [that is] unsurpassable, [I] vow [to] accomplish [it].]


Thus attains non-retrogression on [the] path [to] great Bodhi [i.e. enlightenment of Buddhahood, as the above two doors embody all Four Great Vows (四弘誓愿), that express Bodhicitta (菩提心), which can be most swiftly and fully actualised via Pure Land].

问:今发愿但可云当生, 何名今生?

Question: [Of] ‘now Vowing’ (今发愿) [to be born in Āmítuófó’s Pure Land, this] only can [be] said [as] ‘will be born’ (当生), why [is this] named [as] ‘now [being] born’ (今生)?


Answer: This also [has] two meanings.


First, [is] about [this] one lifetime, [that is] named [as] ‘now’. [In this] present life giving rise [to the] Vow [to] uphold [the] name of Āmítuófó], when approaching [the] end [of this] life, [there will] definitely [be] birth [in] Pure Land.

[Note 2: With a definite Vow to be born in Pure Land, this is Aspiration, that is surely powered by Faith, which will be actualised together via lifelong Practice of sincere mindfulness of Āmítuófó’s name. This is how the Vow ensures there is Faith and Practice, and is central within the Three Provisions (of Faith, Vow/Aspiration and Practice), with its sincerity functioning like a bridge and binding agent between Faith and Practice. Thus was it compassionately and painstakingly taught thrice by the Buddha in this sūtra:

(a) 众生闻者,应当发愿,愿生彼国。

Those sentient beings [who] hear [this], should Vow, vowing [to be] born [in] that land.

(As taught after the teaching that beings born in Pure Land are all Avaivartikas, with immeasurable among them in the Position Of One Life To Replace Buddhas.)

(b) 若有众生,闻是说者,应当发愿,生彼国土。

If [there] are sentient beings, who hear this said, [they] should Vow, [to be] born [in] that land.

(As taught after the teaching that if departing beings wholeheartedly uphold mindfulness of Āmítuófó’s name, he will arrive with many noble beings to ensure their minds are not inverted, and guide them to immediately reach his Pure Land.)

(c) 若有信者,应当发愿,生彼国土。

If [they] have Faith, [they] should Vow, [to be] born [in] that land.

(As taught in the opening quote above.)]


Second, [is] about [this one] kṣaṇa [i.e. an instant, that is] named [as] ‘now’, [with] one thought corresponding, [is with] one thought [being] born, [with] thought [to] thought corresponding, [is with] thought [to] thought [being] born.


[The] wonderful cause [and its] wonderful effect, [are] not apart [from this] one [wholehearted] mind, like [a] balancing [scale’s] two ends, [when going] down [at one end, and] up [at the other end, they are at the] same time.

杆秤 (gǎnchèng) : Rod scale

[Note 3: As another perspective, the angle of tilt on one end is also equal to the angle of tilt on the other end. Thus does the effect correspond to the cause in magnitude.]

相反角度为相等 : Opposite angles are equal


Why wait for [our] Sahā [World’s karmic] retribution [to] exhaust, [to] then [be] born [in Pure Land’s] treasure ponds?


Now, only [needing] Faith [and] Vow [to] uphold [the] name [of Āmítuófó, our] lotus calyxes’ [or buds’] glorious light, [on their] golden platforms’ images [will] appear, [and we will] then no [longer be] persons within [the] Sahā World.

[Note 4: Due to various corresponding testimonials throughout history, many Pure Land Dharma Masters teach that with continual diligent practice here and now, one’s lotus calyx in Pure Land will grow well and glow brilliantly accordingly; and with lax practice, become shrivelled and dull accordingly. This means we should be as sincere, diligent and regular as we can in practice now, with each and every recitation of Āmítuófó’s name, to continue nurturing our lotuses.

Thus, the process of being born in Pure Land can begin now, from moment to moment, from thought to thought, till it is reached. Once fully ready to be born there, with Āmítuófó, this lotus flower will immediately appear, as the vehicle for reaching it. Even before reaching, if the flower is already growing without retrogression, one becomes a mere guest in this Sahā World, who is bound for Pure Land as the true ‘home’.

The truth of the principle of ‘vow now for birth now’ in Pure Land is attested by the vision of Wáng Shì (王氏) of the Yuè state in the Sòng Dynasty, as recorded in the ‘Record (Of) Pure Land Sages’《净土圣贤录》:


‘Of the world’s people who cultivate to be born in this Western Pure Land, once they give rise to this Aspiration with a thought, in this pond then grows a flower. With diligence and laziness not the same, the flourishing and emaciating are also different. Those who are diligent will have their flowers flourishing, and those who are lazy and neglectful will have their flowers emaciating. If diligently cultivating, passing a long time without ceasing, when mindfulness is proficient and contemplation is accomplished, as their forms disperse and their consciousnesses depart, they will definitely be born within them.’]


Extremely complete [and] extremely sudden [for enlightenment], difficult [to] discuss [and] difficult [to] conceive, only with great wisdom, [is one] then able [to] truly [have] Faith [in this aspect of the Pure Land Dharma Door].

– 净土宗九祖澫益大师

– Pure Land Tradition’s 9th Patriarch Great Master Ǒuyì
(Essential Explanation [Of The] Sūtra [In Which The] Buddha Speaks [Of] Amitā[bha] Buddha)

Namo Amituofo: Translation and notes by Shen Shi’an

Related Articles:

下文: 为何念佛难信?
Next Section: Why Is Buddha Mindfulness Difficult To Believe In?

Complete English Translation Of ‘The Essential Explanation On The Amitābha Sūtra As Spoken By The Buddha’

Some Quantum Theories Of Pure Land Principles

The Three Provisions

The Centrality Of Aspiration Within The Three Provisions

The Path To Non-Retrogression Starts Now

Verses On Aspiration For Birth

Why Did Śākyamuni Buddha Thrice Exhort Us To Aspire For Birth In The Pure Land Of Ultimate Bliss
Verses On Triple Exhortations

The Four Noble Truths & The Four Great Vows

How To Transcend Your Present Suffering Now

10 Related Sòng Dynasty Pure Land Sages

The Flower Adornment & Immeasurable Life Sūtras’ Verses For Breaking Free From Hell 

Please be mindful of your speech, Amituofo!

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.