One: Two Kinds [Of] Titles
Divided [In] Two [Parts]: First, Sūtra’s Title, Second, Commentary’s Title.
A1: Sūtra’s Title
Sūtra [In Which The] Buddha Speaks [Of] Amitā[bha Buddha]
A2: Commentary’s Title
Two: Dharma Master [Who] Translated Sūtra
[By] Yáo Qín [Dynasty’s] Tripiṭaka Dharma Master Kumārajīva translated
Three: Great Master [Who] Explained Sūtra
[By] Qīng [Dynasty’s] West Is Śramaṇa Ǒuyì Zhìxù explained
[Note 1: ‘West Is‘ (西有) is the Master’s self-given name, that reminds us of the ‘two “is“‘ (二有) in the opening of the sūtra’s Preface Section (序分) – ‘From here, [in the] western direction, passing ten [of] ten thousand [of] koṭis [of] Buddha Lands, is [a] world named “Ultimate Bliss”. [In] that land, is [a] Buddha named “Amitā[bha]”, now speaking [the] Dharma.’「从是西方，过十万亿佛土，有世界名曰极乐。其土有佛，号阿弥陀，今现在说法。」]
Four: Written Explanation’s Preface Text
Text Divided [In] Two [Parts]: First, Preface [On] Dharma Door, Second, Preface [On] Commentaries [And] Sub-commentaries.
A1: Preface [On] Dharma Door
[Explanation]: Originally, they, all Buddhas, [being] sympathetically mindful [of the] multitudes [of the] confused, according [to their] capacities gave [teachings to teach and] transform [them]. Although return [to the] original [is] without two, yet expedient [means have] many doors.
However, of all expedient [means] within, seeking that utmost straightforward, utmost complete [and] sudden, thus [is] nothing better than [to be] mindful [of] Buddha [to] seek birth [in his] Pure Land.
Also, of all mindfulness [of] Buddha’s Dharma Doors within, seeking that utmost easy, [and] utmost reliable, thus [is] nothing better than [to be with] Faith [and] Aspiration focused [on] upholding [the] name [of the Buddha].
Therefore, [with the] Pure Land [tradition’s] Three Sūtras together practised in [this] world, yet ancient [ones] only with [the] Amitā[bha] Sūtra, classified [it] as [part of] daily [chanting] practice.
[Note 2: Together with the ‘Immeasurable Life Sūtra’《无量寿经》and the ‘Contemplation Sūtra’《观经》 , these are the Three Sūtras (三经).]
How can it be that [this is] not [due to] seeing of upholding [the] name, [as the] one Dharma, [that] universally covers [the] Three Roots? Gathering Practices [and] Principles without [anything] omitted, unifying [the] Chán [door and sūtras’] teachings, yet without [that] excluded, [it is] especially inconceivable!
Three Roots (三根):
(1) Higher Roots (上根)
(2) Average Roots (中根)
(3) Lower Roots (下根)
‘宗教’ means ‘Principal [And] Teachings’, with ‘宗’ (Principal) short for ‘宗门’ Principal Door), and ‘教’ (Teachings) short for ‘教下’ (Teachings Below). ‘宗门’ is ‘禅宗’, the ‘Chán Tradition’. ‘教下’ is all other scripturally based traditions, such as the Tiāntái Tradition (天台宗), Consciousness-Only Tradition (唯识宗), Flower Adornment Tradition (华严宗) and others.]
A2: Preface [On] Commentaries [And] Sub-commentaries
Since ancient times, [of] people [who wrote] commentaries [and] sub-commentaries, [over the] ages, [there is] no lack [of them, but with] generations distant then obscured, [those] that remain [are] very few.
[By the] Most Venerable Yúnqī written as [the] ‘Sub-Commentary’, [it is] vast [and] subtle.
[By my] Father’s Elder Brother Master Yōuxī elaborated, [the] ‘Complete Middle Transcript’, [it is] profound [and] extensive.
Covering [all with light] like [the] sun [and the] moon [in the] middle [of the] sky, [those who] have eyes all [can] see [them].
Especially with text rich [and] meanings complex, [with] boundaries [that] cannot [be] measured, perhaps [for] delivering beginners [with] shallow knowledge, [they are with] Faith [and] Aspiration difficult [to] arise.
Thus again, not considering [my] mediocrity [and] ignorance, [am] again elaborating [with this] ‘Essential Explanation’.
Not daring [to be] with [these] two elders contending [to have] different [explanations], also not needing [to be] with [these] two elders forcibly [having the] same.
For example, [with] sideway seeing as peaks, [and] horizontally seeing as ridges, even if [with] all [seen] not exhausting Mount Lú’s true realm, [this] ‘Essential [Explanation]’ can still be considered to be [with how] each [and] every [one might] personally see Mount Lú only.
[Note 4: This analogy is derived from the poem titled ‘Inscription (On) Xīlín (Monastery’s) (西林寺) Wall’《题西林壁》by Sūshì (苏轼):
Horizontally seeing as ridges, sideway as peaks,
[from] far [and] near, high [and] low [seen], each [is] not [the] same.
Not recognising Mount Lú’s true face,
[is] only conditioned [by one’s] body in this mountain within.]
– 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
Next Section: Explanation Of Amitābha Sūtra’s Name
The First Layer Of Profound Meaning
Complete English Translation Of ‘The Essential Explanation On The Amitābha Sūtra As Spoken By The Buddha’