[3]-[12] 10 Related Sòng Dynasty Pure Land Sages 十位相连宋朝净土圣贤

The following in English are summaries of the key events of 10 interconnected Pure Land practitioners in the Sòng Dynasty (宋朝: 960–1279), as recorded in the ‘Record Of Pure Land’s Noble Sages: First Compilation’《净土圣贤录:初编》, with many other cases within and beyond this record.

[1] 宋‧王氏(荆王妻)、[2] 宋‧侍妾


[1] Wáng Shì (Wife Of King Jīng): Part 1

Wáng Shì (王氏) of the Yuè state (越国) was the wife of King Jīng (荆王) in the Sòng Dynasty. (The King was Emperor Zhézōng’s [哲宗] Father’s younger brother [叔父].) She focused upon cultivating the Pure Land path, in day and night without interruption. She guided all the concubines and servant girls, together to give rise to the aspiration to seek birth in the Western Pure Land. Within them was a concubine who was lazy and lax. Wáng Shì told her, ‘It cannot be because of you, one person, who ruins my rules [for practice].’ She then banished her. As the concubine was frightened and regretful, she made determined efforts to be diligent for a long time, without exhaustion.

[2] Wáng Shì’s Husband’s Concubine (荆王侍妾)


One day, the [banished] concubine told another concubine, ‘I am leaving!’ That night, with extraordinary fragrance filling the room, she departed without sickness. The next night, the [second] concubine told Wáng Shì, ‘Last night, I dreamt of the reborn concubine, who asked me to express gratitude to you. As she was glad to had received your admonishment and instructions, to attain rebirth in the Western Pure Land, she is with immeasurable gratitude for your kindness.’ Wáng Shì said, ‘If she is able to enter my dream, then will I believe you.’


That night, Wáng Shì dreamt of the concubine, who expressed gratitude as described. Wáng Shì asked, ‘Can I go to the Western Pure Land?’ The concubine replied, ‘Yes.’  Thus, she guided her to walk along. In a moment, she saw a great pond with lotus flowers within, that were big and small, mixed with one another, with some flourishing, and some emaciating.

[Note 1: She is able to visit Pure Land due to her diligent practice.]


Wáng Shì asked what were the reasons for so. The concubine replied, ‘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.’


Within one lotus was a person in official clothing, seated with a treasure crown and necklaces adorning his body. She asked, ‘Who is this person?’ The concubine replied, ‘Yáng Jié (杨杰).’ There was also a person in official clothing seated, whose flower was [still] quite emaciated [then]. She asked who is this person. The concubine replied, ‘Mǎ Yú (马玗).’ (These two persons together cultivated Pure Land practice, whose deeds are also stated in this record.)


Wáng Shì asked, ‘Where will I be born?’ The concubine guided her to walk for about several miles, to see a flower throne, that was gold and jade with glorious splendour and penetrating bright light. She said, ‘This is your birth place, which is a golden throne, for the high grade of high birth!’ When Wáng Shì then awoke, she felt an interweaving sense of sorrow and joy.

[Note 2: There was probably some sorrow due to some remaining attachment then.]

[1] Wáng Shì (Wife Of King Jīng): Part 2


In that year, on her birthday, after rising in the morning, while holding a censer to burn incense, she stood to look at Guānyīn Bodhisattva’s pavilion. When all family members then went forward to offer her birthday congratulations, they saw that she has already taken rebirth.

[Note 3: This case reminds us that it is possible to depart for Pure Land with great ease when well and alive, in any posture, without being very old, sick or dying.]

[3] 宋‧马玗、[4] 宋‧永逸、[5] 宋‧婢


[3] Mǎ Yú

Mǎ Yú (马玗), with style name Zhòngyù (仲玉) was from Héféi (合肥) of Lúzhōu (庐州) in the Sòng Dynasty (宋朝). His Father was Zhōngsùgōng (忠肃公) Mǎ Liàng (马亮). When guarding Hángzhōu (杭州), Great Master Cíyún Zūnshì (慈云遵式) taught him the Pure Land Dharma Door, with his whole family then receiving Buddhism.

元丰中,玗遇僧广初,得天台《十疑论》,喜曰,‘吾今得所归矣。’ 遂依慈云十念回向法,行之二十余年。

Between the years 1078 -1085, Mǎ Yú met the monastic Guǎngchū. Having attained the Tiāntái [Great Master Zhìzhě’s] ‘Treatise On Ten Doubts About Pure Land’《净土十疑论》, he joyfully said, ‘I now have attained the place to return to!’ According to Great Master Cíyún’s method of ten recitations and dedication, he practised for more than twenty years.

[Note 4: The method is to, in each morning, while facing West, for ten times, within each breath, sincerely recite the name of Āmítuófó as many times as possible without interruption, before dedicating to be born in Pure Land. As Great Master Yìnguāng (印光大师) taught, this should not be practised beyond ten times, as it might harm one’s qì (i.e. chi) to form sickness (伤气受病).]


Later, he also befriended Wáng Gǔ (王古), and became more diligent in mindfulness of Buddha. He often liberated sentient beings. He once guarded Zīzhōu and Xīndìng, with benevolence in his governance. For recitation of sūtras and mantras, and contemplation of the Western Pure Land, he had a fixed daily discipline.

时荆王夫人梦游莲池,见有朝服而坐华上者,曰‘此马玗杨杰也。’ 时杰已化去,而玗尚无恙。

At that time, when King Jīng’s (荆王) wife Wáng Shì (王氏) dreamt of travelling to Pure Land’s lotus ponds, she saw two persons seated on lotus flowers in official clothing. When asking who they are, the reply was, ‘Mǎ Yú and Yáng Jié‘. At that time, Yáng Jié was already reborn, and Mǎ Yú was still without sickness.


When Mǎ Yú became sick in the year 1102, after bathing and changing to new clothes, he sat upright, recited the Buddha’s name and departed. There was a ‘mist’ like a green canopy that soared to the sky. Later, more than ten in his family together dreamt of him saying, ‘I have already attained birth in Pure Land’s high grade!’

[4] Mǎ Yú’s Servant Girl (马玗婢女)


In that autumn, Mǎ Yú’s (马玗) servant girl (婢女) who was bedridden, also recited the Buddha’s name and departed.

[Note 5: She could had been inspired by Mǎ Yú’s teachings and personal example.]

[5] Mǎ Yǒngyì


Mǎ Yú’s (马玗) son Mǎ Yǒngyì (马永逸) also practised the method of ten recitations, and the 16 contemplations [in the Contemplation Sūtra; 观经]. [See Note 4 on the method of ten recitations.] Passing more than thirty years, when he then became sick, he saw Āmítuófó and the two great Bodhisattvas [i.e. Guānshìyīn and Dàshìzhì; 观世音与大势至菩萨], coming to receive and guide him, as he formed his hands in the meditation mudrā and took birth peacefully. Fragrance filled the room. When his body was placed in the casket, on it grew five-coloured flowers, whose lights were brilliant.

[6] 宋‧杨杰、[7] 宋‧王仲回


[6] Yáng Jié

Yáng Jié (杨杰), with style name Cìgōng (次公) and self-named Wúwéizǐ (无为子), was from Wúwéi (无为) in the Sòng Dynasty (宋朝). Between the years 1078-1085, he had an official post that was in charge of matters of ritual and music. At first, he was fond of the Chán tradition. He followed Chán Master Tiānyī (天衣禅师) to travel, and meditated upon the honourable Layman Páng’s (庞公; 庞云居士) fundamental words.


Following orders to offer sacrifices at Mount Tài (太山), when he saw the sun rise like a round disk emerging, he suddenly had a great awakening.


In 1077, with his Mother’s sorrowful passing, he led a solitary life in peaceful ‘retirement’ to study the treasury of sūtras, thereupon with his mind taking refuge in Pure Land. He painted a six-foot Āmítuófó image to carry with him, for practising contemplation and mindfulness.


Throughout his life, he wrote many articles that pointed the way to Pure Land. Such as the preface of Tiāntái [tradition’s Great Master Zhìzhě’s] ‘Treatise On Ten Doubts About Pure Land’《净土十疑论》, where he [famously] wrote that ‘[If] attachment [is] not heavy, [one would] not [be] born [in this] Sahā [World. If] mindfulness [of Buddha is] not wholehearted, [one would] not [be] born [in the Land Of] Ultimate Bliss.’ (爱不重,不生娑婆。念不一,不生极乐。) …


是故阿弥陀经云,“若有善男子、善女人,闻说阿弥陀佛,执持名号,若一日,乃至七日,一心不乱。其人临命终时,阿弥陀佛,与诸圣众,现在其前。是人终时,心不颠倒,即得往生极乐国土。” 又无量寿经云,“十方众生,闻我名号,忆念我国,植诸德本,至心回向,欲生我国,不果遂者,不取正觉。”


噫,弥陀甚易持,净土甚易往,众生不能持,不能往,佛如众生何。夫造恶业入苦趣,念弥陀生极乐,二者皆佛言也。世人忧堕地狱, 而疑往生者,不亦惑哉。’


Between the years 1086-1093, when he was promoted as Zhèdōng (浙东) and Zhèxī’s (浙西) official, who examines for punishment, he was reborn. When approaching the end of life, he spoke this verse, ‘[Being] born [is] also without [that] to [be] attached [to, being] dead [is] also without [that] to renounce. [Like] great empty space within, these words are like so. If [it is] “wrong” [to be “attached” to the name of Āmítuófó, as some wrongly claim], so be it, [here with it I go, to his] Western [Land Of] Ultimate Bliss.’ (生亦无可恋,死亦无可舍。太虚空中,之乎者也。将错就错,西方极乐。)

[7] Wáng Zhònghuí

先是有司士参军王仲回者,与杰同乡里,尝从杰受念佛法门。问,‘如何得不间断。’ 曰,‘一信之后,更不再疑,即是不间断也。’ 仲回跃然。

Before this, there was a military official named Wáng Zhònghuí (王仲回), from the same hometown as Yáng Jié (杨杰), who followed him to receive the Dharma Door of mindfulness of Buddha. Wáng Zhònghuí asked him, ‘How to attain non-interruption [when mindful of Buddha]?’ Yáng Jié replied, ‘Once there is faith, not again doubting, [this] is [the same as] non-interruption.’ Hearing this, Wáng Zhònghuí enthusiastically rejoiced.


In the next year, when Yáng Jié was guarding Dānyáng (丹阳), one night, he dreamt of Wáng Zhònghuí, who said, ‘Formerly, I had received from you, the Pure Land teachings for guidance. Now that I have attained rebirth, I have come especially to express my gratitude.’ After bowing again, he departed.


Yáng Jié later received Wáng Zhònghuí’s son’s posted obituary, which said that Wáng Zhònghuí knew in advance of the date of his rebirth. He had gone everywhere to bid farewell to family and friends, thereafter departing.


After Yáng Jié was reborn, King Jīng’s (荆王) wife Wáng Shì (王氏), dreamt of travelling to the Western Pure Land, and saw a person seated on a lotus flower, those clothes fluttered with the wind, with a treasure crown and necklaces adorning his body. When asked who he is, the reply was ‘Yáng Jié‘.

[8] 宋‧王古、[9] 宋‧葛繁


[8] Wáng Gǔ

Wáng Gǔ (王古), with style name Mǐnzhòng (敏仲) was from Dōngdū (东都) in the Sòng Dynasty (宋朝), the great-grandson of Wénzhèng Gōngdàn (文正公旦). His ancestors of seven generations upheld the precept of non-killing. Wáng Gǔ further aspired to liberate one million sentient beings. He travelled to Jiāngxī (江西), and with Master Huìtáng (晦堂), Master Yángqí (杨岐) and many other teachers, studied Chán practice.


Soon after, he wrote the ‘Collection On Direct Pointers For Resolution Of Pure Land Doubts’《直指净土决疑集》to propagate the Western Pure Land teachings. When he led a solitary life in peaceful ‘retirement’, his chanting beads never left his hands. Walking, standing, sitting and lying down, he would cultivate the practice of pure contemplation, without having intermissions.


He also once wrote this in the preface of ‘Collection Of Pure Land Gems’《净土宝珠集》,



‘[Of] Āmítuófó’s mind within [are] sentient beings, unceasingly [with] new [ones] gathered [and] transformed. [Of] sentient beings’ minds within [is his] Pure Land, [with] thought [to] thought reborn [there].’ (弥陀心内众生,新新摄化。众生心中净土,念念往生。) …

[Note 6: This does not negate that Āmítuófó’s Pure Land is tangible and outside our minds too, while affirming that it is with mindfulness that it can be reached.]




Between the years 1082-1135, he was the Assistant Manager of the Ministry of Revenue [in imperial China], who due to party misfortunes, was removed. Soon after, he departed for the West.


When a monastic mentally travelled to Pure Land, he saw Wáng Gǔ and Gé Fán (葛繁) there.

[9] Gé Fán


Gé Fán (葛繁) was from Chéngjiāng (澄江) in the Sòng Dynasty (宋朝), an official of a fifth [or lower] rank in civil service. Regardless of residing in an official or a private residence, he always built a peaceful and quiet room, to offer to a Buddha image.


One day, when prostrating and reciting, śarīras fell from the sky.


Later, without sickness, while facing West, he sat upright and departed.

[10] 宋‧王氏(马永逸妻)


[10] Wáng Shì (Wife Of Mǎ Yǒngyì)

Wáng Shì (王氏) was the wife of Mǎ Yǒngyì (马永逸) from Héféi (合肥) in the Sòng Dynasty (宋朝). For a long time, she easily and comfortably cultivated Pure Land practice, with her deeds recorded in ‘Mǎgān [Mǎ’s Inferior Gem’s] Biography’. She also upheld the Buddha’s name, by practising the Indian method of ten recitations. [See Note 4 on the method of ten recitations.]




She also upheld the ‘Verse [For] Breaking [Free From] Hell’ (破地狱偈) from the Flower Adornment (Avataṃsaka) Sūtra (华严经), [as taught by Forest Of Awakening Bodhisattva (觉林菩萨)],

‘If [a] person desires [to] understand fully,
[the] three periods’ [i.e. past, present and future (teachings of)] all Buddhas, 
[one] should contemplate [the] Dharma realm’s [i.e. universe] nature,
[to] all [be] only [by the] mind created.’


One night, she dreamt of the Lord Of Hell [i.e. King Yama; 阎罗王] coming to thank her, saying he is indebted to the meritorious virtues from her upholding of the verse, with which sentient beings within hell who were born in good paths were many.

[Note 7: Her much meritorious virtues from (mindfulness of Āmítuófó and) upholding the verse were dedicated to hell-beings for alleviating their suffering.

On the origin of the verse in use, in ‘Record [Of The] Essential Mirror’《宗镜录》by the Pure Land Tradition’s 6th Patriarch Great Master Yǒngmíng (净土宗六祖永明大师), there was mention of a man named Wáng [Mínggàn] (王明干) [in the Sòng Dynasty (宋朝), who became a monastic named Sēngjùn (僧俊)]. He was however without practice of observing the precepts (戒行) or cultivation of good causes (善因), who died due to a minor illness.

[Three days later, he revived miraculously, as he wailed in repentance. He said that when he was about to die, two hell officials chased him to demand for his life. ] When led to hell, at its gates, he met a monastic who said he is Kṣitigarbha Bodhisattva (地藏菩萨), [and that when he was at Jīngchéng (京城), he once copied an image of him. Although he did not prostrate or make offerings before it, he will be repaid for his meritorious virtues.]

He instructed him the verse above, saying that if he is able to ‘recite [or] hear this verse, [he will be be] able [to] break [free from the] suffering of hell.’ (诵得此偈,能破地狱之苦。) [He said it is able to ‘close hell’s gate, and open the path to Pure Land’ (能闭地狱门,能开净土道) [if followed by mindfulness of Āmítuófó. Having said this, he disappeared.]

When he then [entered the city and] met the King Yama (阎罗王), he was asked what meritorious merits he has, [as he encountered the Dharma when alive]. He answered that he ‘only received a four-lined verse’ (唯受得一四句偈) , and stated it as above. The King then released him. ‘When reciting this verse, where [its] sound reached, those [who] received suffering all attained liberation [from it].’ (诵此偈时,当声至处,受苦之人,皆得解脱。)

King Yama hurriedly asked him to stop [probably as the others did not karmically deserve the teaching yet], and released him to the human world, as he revived. Later, when he examined the verse, did he know that it is from the Avataṃsaka Sūtra. After this, towards [Kōngguān (i.e. Emptinesss Contemplation) Monasterys (空观寺) Dharma Master Sēngdìng (僧定) and] all monastics, he spoke of this matter, and all listeners gave rise to the aspiration to faithfully receive the sūtra.

{Original Text (原文):  ‘纂灵记云:京兆人,姓王失其名。原无戒行,曾未修善因,患病致死。为二人引至地狱,于地狱门前见一僧,云是地藏菩萨,乃使诵偈云:若人欲了知,三世一切佛。应观法界性,一切唯心造(华严经夜摩天宫品,觉林菩萨之偈)。菩萨授经已,谓之曰:诵得此偈,能破地狱之苦。其人诵已,遂入见王。王问此人有何功德?答云:唯受得一四句偈。具说如上。王遂放逸,诵此偈时,当声至处,受苦之人,皆得解脱。’ -《宗镜录》}

This verse works as taught, as it enables the desperate hell-beings, who do not know any way out, to reflect and realise that their great karmic suffering is created and sustained by their own minds. Knowing so, they are able to repent sincerely, which clears negative karma that caused the suffering, and creates positive karma for breaking free from hell. This verse is thus named so.

The swiftest and easiest way to break free from hell is by direct and utmost sincere mindfulness of Āmítuófó, so as to connect to him and his blessings, to see him, and be guided by him to reach his Pure Land, as can be seen in an alternative ‘Verse [For] Breaking [Free From] Hell’ below, (among a few other versions). It works by instructing or reminding hell-beings to give rise to Faith in Āmítuófó’s power to save them, and the Aspiration to reach his Pure Land, by sincere Practice of being mindful of his name.

As Āmítuófó has immeasurable meritorious virtues, when connected to, he is able to share them directly to ‘dilute’ much but still limited negative karma, to empower quick departure from hell. Of course, as the intense suffering in hell makes it the most challenging place to be mindful of Buddha, it should be avoided in the first place.

According to ‘Speaking [Of The] Three Pure Land Sūtras’《净土三部经讲话》, before the Táng Dynasty (唐朝), there was a Vinaya Master Xuántōng (玄通律师). When at a monastery to spend the night, he overheard someone in the next room reciting the verse below, and he recited along two to three times, thereafter forgetting about it.




– 释迦牟尼佛

Verse [For] Breaking [Free From] Hell

[With] that [Amitā(bha)] Buddha’s fundamental vow’s power,
hearing [of his] name [‘Āmítuófó’, with] desire [for] rebirth,
all [will] reach that [Pure] Land [of his,
to] personally attain non-retrogression [for Buddhahood].

– Śākyamuni Buddha
(Immeasurable Life Sūtra)]

Due to the breaking of precepts later, after death, he went to meet King Yama, who slammed the wooden ‘gravel’ for alerting all in the hall (惊堂木), and sternly said that as he was born where the Buddha’s teachings were propagated, if he had learnt any Dharma door, he should now take the high seat to proclaim it. While sitting himself, Master Xuántōng tried to think of the Dharma that he had learnt, but could not recall anything. However, he remembered the verse, which he recited.

Once the verse was said, King Yama immediately towards him prostrated, and said that this verse is the text with the Western Pure Land Of Ultimate Bliss’ Āmítuófó’s chief (or overall; total; general) meritorious virtues (总功德), that based on the meritorious virtues of reciting it, he can be exempted from evil fruit of hellish rebirth, to return to the human world, and have his lifespan extended.

While the verse points out Āmítuófó’s meritorious virtues, they are also already fully contained in his name, which makes mindfulness of it meritorious and virtuous. When dying or due to shock after death, even those who were knowledgeable when well and alive are likely to forget most of what was learnt. However, if Āmítuófó’s name is upheld sincerely and regularly in everyday life, it will not be forgotten.

Therefore, if Āmítuófó’s name is remembered, there is no need to worry about not remembering any verses. What more, good (i.e. moral) Pure Land practitioners will reach his Pure Land swiftly, and not have to meet King Yama, while even the noble assembly from Pure Land will respect and praise those who are mindful of Āmítuófó’s name in everyday life.


After that, when bedridden, she upheld the Buddha’s name without stopping. Then departed, all relatives, and her maid, dreamt of her informing, ‘I have already attained birth in Pure Land!’

[Note 8: She could had been inspired by Mǎ Yǒngyì’s teachings and personal example.]

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

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Namo Amituofo : Translated summaries and notes by Shen Shi’an

1 Comment

  • Excellent post! Please continue sharing some for rebirth stories and biographies of those reborn in pureland in English.
    Most of the rebirth stories are in Chinese and are not accessible to the English audience.
    Please continue the good work!

Please be mindful of your speech, Amituofo!

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