Essential Verses [On The] Amitābha Sūtra
[These verses only aspire to briefly explain the sūtra’s essential meanings.]
Verses [On] Preface Section
Verse [On] Confidence
Great Master Kumārajīva,
[who] translated [the] Amitābha Sūtra,
[with his] tongue becoming śarīrā,
gives us confidence [in it].
[Note: As the Sūtra-Translating Master of seven past Buddhas (七佛以来译经师), to assert the power of truth before his departure for offering faith in his works, Tripiṭaka Dharma Master Kumārajīva (三藏法师鸠摩罗什) declared, ‘Now, before this assembly, I truthfully vow that, if all that transmitted is without error, after cremating my body, my tongue will neither be scorched nor rot.’ (今于众前，发诚实誓，若所传无谬者，当使焚身之后，舌不燋烂。) As the tongue represents all communicated in words, while being one of the softest parts of the body, that should be easily burnt away, with it being the only part intact after cremation expresses the indestructible truthfulness of his works, as accurate reflections of the Buddha’s teachings.]
Verse [On The] Self-Spoken
[Our] fundamental teacher Śākyamuni [Buddha],
without [being] asked self-spoke,
[the] extremely profound [and] essential
[Note: The Pure Land teachings in the Amitābha Sūtra are so profound that only Buddhas understand them completely, thus being able to first teach them, to all other non-Buddhas. These teachings are so essential for guiding sentient beings to Buddhahood, that even if all beings are too ignorant to ask for them and about them, with their perfect compassion, the Buddhas will definitely take the initiative to teach them to those ready. This reminds us of how precious and important the Pure Land teachings are to all beings, even to the Buddhas.]
Verse [On The] Two Greats
with Great Bodhisattvas,
all listened [to, and] faithfully accepted,
[the] Amitābha Sūtra.
[Note: Even spiritually great ones already with self-liberation and those on the way to complete liberation appreciate the most skilful Pure Land teachings, as they most swiftly expedite progress to Buddhahood, for themselves and all other sentient beings.]
Verse [On] Right [And] Equally [Awakened Ones]
Those already [with] self-liberation,
likewise should [be] born [in the] Western [Pure Land],
[to] completely learn [to] deliver others,
[to] accomplish [as] Right [And] Equally Awakened [Ones].
[Note: Even Arhats and Bodhisattvas already self-liberated should seek birth in Pure Land to most swiftly master how to deliver all others to Buddhahood, and to become Buddhas themselves.]
Verse [On] Mañjuśrī [Bodhisattva]
[As the] teacher of seven Buddhas,
[even] Mañjuśrī Bodhisattva,
faithfully accepted mindfulness [of] Buddha,
[to] express great wisdom [to others].
[Note: As an ancient Buddha (古佛) remanifesting as a Great Bodhisattva out of great compassion (大悲), Mañjuśrī Bodhisattva already taught seven past Buddhas-to-be in this world, on how to accomplish Buddhahood. Thus able to embody great wisdom (大智), he expresses it by being a great example to all non-Buddhas, by faithfully accepting the Pure Land teachings to most swiftly expedite progress to Buddhahood.]
Verse [On] Maitreya [Bodhisattva]
[The] future descending [to be] born
Maitreya Honourable Buddha,
likewise faithfully accepted [and] cultivated,
[the] Pure Land Dharma Door.
[Note: Even Maitreya Bodhisattva (弥勒菩萨), who is destined to be the next Buddha in this world 5.67 billion years later, set a great example to all other sentient beings, by accepting and cultivating the Pure Land teachings. In Universal Virtue Bodhisattva’s Practices And Vows Chapter《普贤菩萨行愿品》, Maitreya Bodhisattva is taught to be seen by those born in Pure Land. Although he is also taught to be in Tuṣita Heaven’s Inner Court (兜率内院), he can manifest in Pure Land to learn and teach there at the same time too.]
Verse [On] Imparting
when accomplishing [as a] Buddha,
likewise will impart,
[the] Pure Land Dharma Door.
[Note: Even when Maitreya Bodhisattva accomplishes Buddhahood in this world 5.67 billion years later, he will also transmit the Pure Land teachings learnt, so as to guide other sentient beings then, to reach Pure Land, to most swiftly expedite their progress to Buddhahood.]
Verse [On] Transcending Heavens
Knowing [that the] Pure Land transcends
all heavenly realms,
heavenly [beings] likewise accept
[the] Amitābha Sūtra.
[Note: As the Pure Land Of Ultimate Bliss transcends all heavenly planes with its most refined physical splendours and most skilful spiritual benefits, while the heavens are not lasting in experience, and are still in the six paths (六道) of existence, wise gods seek birth in the Pure Land too.]
Verse [On] Every Human
Since every human [being],
is still [an] ordinary being,
[for a] long [time already], yet [to] accomplish [as a] Buddha,
[all] should [be] born [in the] Western [Pure Land].
[Note: Since even wise gods, Arhats and Bodhisattvas, with the last two being noble beings (圣者) seek birth in Pure Land, all human beings, who are just ordinary beings, who are much spiritually less advanced than them, should seek birth in Pure Land too. Once reaching it, humans will no longer be ordinary beings, while being destined to most swiftly become the most noble beings, as Buddhas.]
Verse [On] Two ‘Is'[es]
Passing here, [in the] western direction,
[a] hundred thousand koṭis [of] lands,
is [the Pure] Land [Of] Ultimate Bliss,
is Amitābha Buddha [speaking the Dharma].
[Note: Both the Pure Land Of Ultimate Bliss (极乐世界) and Amitābha Buddha (阿弥陀佛) teaching there are definite and tangible, a hundred thousand (galactic) world systems away in the West. Thus, the Buddha and his Pure Land should not be thought to be non-physical, to only be in the mind. Just as his Pure Land can be reached in person, the Buddha can be met to learn from in person there too.]
Verses [On] Main Principles’ Section
Verse [On] Suffering [And] Bliss
[The Pure] Land [Of] Ultimate Bliss,
is without all [kinds of] suffering,
only [with] receiving [of] all [kinds of] bliss,
thus named ‘Ultimate Bliss’.
[Note: There is no physical pain and mental suffering of any kind in Pure Land, while only having all kinds of physical pleasures and mental bliss, that are not distracting; that are only inspiring, conducive for the swiftest spiritual progress, towards the ultimate bliss of Buddhahood.]
Verse [On] Four Treasures
[With] seven layers [of] balustrades,
nets [and] lined trees,
[with] four treasures surrounding,
thus named ‘Ultimate Bliss’.
[Note: The seven layers (七重) express the seven categories of path qualities (七科道品), of (1) Four Mindfulness Foundations (四念处), (2) Four Right Efforts (四正勤), (3) Four As Wished Bases (Of Power) (四如意足), (4) Five Roots (五根), (5) Five Powers (五力), (6) Sevenfold Bodhi Factors (七菩提分) and the (7) Eightfold Noble Path (八圣道分). The Four Treasures (四宝) of (1) gold (金), (2) silver (银), (3) lapis lazuli (琉璃) and (4) crystal (玻璃) express (1) eternity (常), (2) bliss (乐) , (3) (true) self (我) and (4) purity (净), as the Four Virtues (四德) of Buddhahood.]
Verse [On] Ponds [And] Waters
[In] seven treasures’ ponds within,
[are] eight meritorious virtues’ waters,
[with] pond beds [of] golden sand,
[and] four treasures’ stairways.
[Note: The seven treasures are (1) gold (金), (2) silver (银), (3) lapis lazuli (琉璃), (4) crystal (玻璃), (5) tridacna (砗磲), (6) red pearls (赤珠) and (7) carnelian (玛瑙), while the four treasures are the first four, with all representing meritorious virtues’ adornments (功德庄严) filling the Pure Land. Even the pond beds are adorned, without filthy mud. The eight meritorious virtues of water are (1) being tranquil and clear (澄清), without muddy impurities, (2) being pure and cool (清冷), without cold and hot, (3) being sweet and pleasant (甘美), without saltiness and tastelessness, (4) being light and soft (轻软), without heaviness and hardness, (5) being moisturising (润泽), without spoiling and fading, (6) being peaceful and harmonious (安和), without being hurried and violent, (7) being able to eradicate hunger and thirst (饥渴), without rawness and cold, and (8) being able to grow and nurture all sense roots (长养诸根), without injuring and damaging all roots, with epidemics, increasing sickness, causing sinking, drowning and others.]
Verse [On] Lotus Flowers
[With] chariot wheel-like lotus flowers,
[of] immeasurable colours [and] lights,
refined, wonderful, fragrant [and] pure,
[these] are those places born.
[Note: Representing birth into great physical and spiritual refinement, wonders, fragrance and purity, the smallest wheel-like flowers are like Wheel-Turning Kings’ gold wheels (轮王金轮), as large as forty lǐs (里) or twenty kilometres in diameter. With blossoming of the flowers, there will be ascent on the shores of Pure Land to meet the Buddha, hear and practise the Dharma, and join the Saṃgha.]
Verse [On] Sky [And] Ground
[The Pure Land] constantly plays heavenly music,
[with] gold as ground,
[and] seven treasures’ towering pavilions,
[with such] meritorious virtues’ adornments.
[Note: That sky above is with adornments of heavenly flowers and music, for making offerings and offering sounds of the Dharma respectively. The ground below is with adornments of soft gold and other treasures, for magnificent and comfortable walking. Those in between are with adornments of ponds, waters, stairways, lotus flowers (as birthplaces), towering pavilions (as dwelling places), treasure trees and such. The seven treasures are (1) gold (金), (2) silver (银), (3) lapis lazuli (琉璃), (4) crystal (玻璃), (5) tridacna (砗磲), (6) red pearls (赤珠) and (7) carnelian (玛瑙).]
Verse [On] Making Offerings
[In] day [and] night raining [from the] sky,
[are] many wonderful kinds [of] flowers,
with clothes’ lapels filling [them],
making offerings [to the] ten directions’ Buddhas.
[Note: Many heavenly flowers fall from the sky all the time in the Pure Land, which can be caught with clothes’ lapels, to carry them, to make offerings to other directions’ hundred thousand koṭis of Buddhas.]
Verse [On] Blessings [And] Wisdom
Make offerings [to] all Buddhas,
[to] cultivate great blessed virtues,
[and] listen [to the] Buddhas’ spoken Dharma,
[to] realise great wisdom.
[Note: Through the Pure Land, with practice as in Verse 16, the above is how blessed virtues and wisdom can both be most swiftly cultivated at the same time (福慧双修), until both are complete and perfect (福慧圆满), which is to attain Buddhahood.]
Verse [On] Ease
Quickly [and with] ease,
early [in the] morning offering [to many] Buddhas,
[by] mealtime, promptly returning,
[for] eating and [doing] walking meditation.
[Note: There is ability to quickly make offerings to many other directions’ hundred thousand koṭis of Buddhas before noon for personal Dharma practices, and to learn from them, thus cultivating blessed virtues and wisdom at the same time (福慧双修). Physical eating in Pure Land is optional as the beings there can be with the Dharma (以法为食) and meditative bliss as food (禅悦为食).]
Verses [On The] Five Dusts
[With] music as sound dust,
[with the] ground as form dust,
[with the] flowers as sound [and] smell [dusts],
[and with] eating as taste dust.
Filling [with] flowers, scattering flowers,
[and] walking meditation [are as] touch dusts.
[with the] five dusts speaking [the] Dharma,
matching sentient [beings’] five roots.
[Note: The Pure Land skilfully fully utilises the five senses for its beings to learn the Dharma. This is a reason why Dharma-learning there is so swift and efficient, with no distractions by anything that is not of the Dharma.]
To be continued…
The Sūtra In Which The Buddha Speaks Of Amitābha Buddha (Amitābha Sūtra)