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



C2: Encouragement [Of] Vow’s Transmission

[Sūtra]: [Śākyamuni Buddha:] Śāriputra, if [there] are those [who have] already Vowed [i.e. aspired], or [are] now Vowing [i.e. aspiring], or will [be] Vowing [i.e. aspiring], [with the] desire [to be] born [in] Amitā[bha] Buddha’s [Pure] Land, all [of] them [will] attain non-retrogression [for] Anuttarā Samyak Saṃbodhi [i.e. Unsurpassable Equally Perfect Enlightenment of Buddhahood]. In that land, [they have] already [been] born, or [are] now [being] born, or will [be] born. This is why, 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 shows [that] Vow given rise to, that relies [upon] Faith, [is] without falsehood, [as it will bear fruit accordingly].


Without Faith, [one 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 [to be] born [in that land].’


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].

枢 (shū) : Pivot (Hinge)


[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. [See Note 4]


[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. [See Note 4]


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) [i.e. giving rise to the] Vow [to be born in Āmítuófó’s Pure Land, this] only can [be] said [as] ‘will be born’ (当生), how [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’. Now giving rise [the] Vow [to] uphold [the] name of Āmítuófó], when approaching [the] end [of this] life, [there will] definitely [be] birth [in] Pure Land.

[Note 1: 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。
Sentient beings who hear [this], should Vow, aspiring [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 Stage Of One Life To Replacement.)

(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, [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 2: 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 3: 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. In this sense, the process of being born in Pure Land can begin now.]


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].

– 净土宗九祖藕益大师

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

注 4 | Note 4:

[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.

Related Articles:

The Three Provisions 三资粮
The Centrality Of Aspiration Within The Three Provisions
The Path To Non-Retrogression Starts Now
The Four Noble Truths & The Four Great Vows
How To Transcend Your Present Suffering Now

Namo Amituofo: Translation and notes by Shen Shi’an

Please be mindful of your speech, Amituofo!

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