Great Master Yìnguāng’s Brief Explanation Of The ‘Praises Of The Six Thus Buddhas’ 印光大师略释《六即佛颂》

Great Master Yìnguāng’s Brief Explanation [Of The] ‘Praises [Of The] Six Thus Buddhas’


[The] Suí [Dynasty’s] Tiāntái [Tradition’s] Great Master Zhìzhě, [when] writing [the] ‘Commentary [On The] Sūtra [In Which The] Buddha Speaks [Of] Immeasurable Life Buddha’, established [the] Six Thus Buddhas’ meanings, [with this for] remedying [the] sicknesses [of those who have] personally resigned [to] fall, and [those who are falsely [with] themselves [as] honourable [and] great.

[Note 1: ‘The Wonderful And Essential Collected Writings Of The Commentary On The Sūtra In Which The Buddha Speaks Of Immeasurable Life Buddha’《观无量寿佛经疏妙宗钞》can be seen in Chinese at]

[Note 2: The teaching of the Six Thus Buddhas (六即佛) is another way to more broadly classify the stages towards Buddhahood, in terms of the degrees of alignment to Buddha-nature. It also corresponds with the more detailed stages of the fifty-two positions (五十二位) of Bodhisattvahood, which are briefly explained in Note 6 below. As all sentient beings have Buddha-nature by default, as the potential for Buddhahood, none should be ‘personally resigned to fall’. And as there are different degrees of realisation of Buddha-nature, non-Buddhas should not be ‘falsely with themselves as honourable and great’.]


Those Six Thus Buddhas, [are] first, [1] Principle Thus Buddhas, second, [2] Name Thus Buddhas, third, [3] Contemplation Practice Thus Buddhas, fourth, [4] Form Resemblance Thus Buddhas, fifth, [5] Partial Realisation Thus Buddhas, [and] sixth, [6] Ultimate Thus Buddhas. [The] ‘six’ explains [the] ranks’ shallowness [and] depth, [and the] ‘thus’ explains [what their] present essence exactly is.


For example, like [a] newborn child, with the parents’ bodies, [they are] without differences, yet [their] powers [and] functions [are] then [with] great forms [of] wide differences. [It] must not [be] said [that the] newborn child [is] not [a] human. [There] also must not [be] with matters of adults, ordering [the] child [to] undertake [them].


If able [to] know [the] ‘six’ [are] then [each] constantly ‘thus’, thus not giving rise [to] regression. Knowing ‘thus’ [is] then [each] constantly [of the] ‘six’, thus not giving rise [to] increased conceit. From now [on], striving hard [to] practise, thus from ordinary beings, then completely realising [the] Buddha fruit, from Principle Thus Buddhas, then accomplishing [as] Ultimate Thus Buddhas.


Those [1] ‘Principle Thus Buddhas’, [are] all sentient beings, [with] all having Buddha-nature. Although [with their] backs [to] awakening, joining [the] dust, reborn [in the] three realms [and] six paths, yet [their] Buddha-nature’s meritorious virtues, [are] still naturally complete, thus named [as] ‘Principle Thus Buddhas’, with [the] principle’s essence [that] exactly is [the same as the] Buddhas’.

[Note 3: The three realms (三途) are the three (lower) evil paths (三恶道) of the six paths (六道), of (i) hell-beings (地狱众生), (ii) hungry ghosts (饿鬼), (iii) animals (畜生), (iv) human beings (人), (v) asuras (阿修罗) and (vi) heavenly beings (天人).]


Wújīzi’s [i.e. Great Master Pǔrùn (普润大师)] ‘Praises [Of The] Six Thus Buddhas]’《六即佛颂》say, [1] ‘[With] movement [and] stillness, [the] principles are complete, [of] practice [of the] treasury’s practices, completely without [it, in] dimness following [the] material [to] go, [in the] distance, not knowing [to] return.’


With all sentient beings, yet [to] hear [the] Buddhas’ Dharma, not knowing [how to] practise, yet [this] one thought’s mind-nature, [is] completely [the] same [as the] Buddhas’, thus saying, ‘[With] movement [and] stillness, [the] principles are complete’. Due [to] their confusions, [with] backs [to their] own minds, creating all [kinds of] undertakings, thus saying, ‘[of] practice [of the] treasury’s practices, completely without [it’, with] practices completely not with Buddha-nature corresponding. All day [for] entire years, muddle-headed [and] dim, following [their] afflictions [and] false thoughts of material desires then acting, from birth until death, not knowing [to] inwardly illuminate [with] returned light, thus saying, ‘[in] dimness following [the] material [to] go, [in the] distance, not knowing [to] return.’


Those [2] ‘Name Thus Buddhas’, perhaps from good-knowing [friends], or from sūtras, hear [that this] immediate mind [is] originally complete [with] Buddha-nature, [that is with] stillness [and] illumination interpenetrating, non-arising [and] non-ceasing. Within names, [with] thorough understanding, knowing all dharmas [are] all as [the] Buddhas’ Dharma, [and that] all sentient beings can all accomplish Buddhahood, [is] that called hearing [of] Buddha-nature’s name, [to] then attain understanding [of what the] Buddhas’ Dharma is.


[The] praises say, [2] ‘Then listening [to] non-birth’s tune, beginning [to] hear deathlessness’ song, now knowing [what one’s] present essence is, turning over [to] resent oneself [for having] wasted time.’


From [the] past only knowing birth [and] death [in] rebirth, without having [an] ending date, now knowing Buddha-nature [is] true [and] constant, [that is] non-arising [and] non-ceasing. Since knowing [one’s] present essence is exactly accomplishing [of] Buddhahood’s true cause, then hastening [with] practice, instead resenting [that in the] past, [having] emptily passed time, so that [one has] yet [to be] able [to] truly realise [it].


Those [3] ‘Contemplation Practice Thus Buddhas’, rely [on] teachings [to] cultivate contemplation, [are] then [with the] Complete Teachings’ Five Grades’ external ordinary [beings’] positions [i.e. below the Ten Abodes’ (十住) noble positions (圣位)]. Those five grades, [are] [i] first, [the] Grade [Of] Rejoice, [with] those hearing [the] Dharma [of] true form, then [with] faith [and] understanding rejoicing. [ii] Second, [is the] Grade [Of] Study [And] Recitation, [with] those studying [and] reciting [the Wonderful] Dharma [Lotus] Flower [Sūtra], and many Great Vehicle Sūtras, then supporting contemplating [and] understanding. [iii] Third, [is the] Grade [Of] Explanation, [with] those personally speaking [with] inner understanding, then guiding [and] benefitting other people. [iv] Fourth, [is the] Grade [Of] Simultaneous Practice [Of The] Six Perfections, [with] those simultaneously cultivating [the] Six Perfections, then supporting contemplation [of the] mind. [v] Fifth, [is the] Grade [Of] Right Practice [Of The] Six Perfections, [with] those [having] right practice [of the] Six Perfections, then personally practising [and] transforming others, [with] practice [and] principles complete, [with] contemplation practice turning superior.

[Note 4: The Six Perfections (六度) are (a) generosity (布施), (b) precepts (持戒), (c) patience (忍辱), (d) diligence (精进), (e) concentration (禅定) and (f) wisdom (智慧).]


[The] praises say, [3] ‘[From] thought [to] thought illuminating constantly [on the] principles, [from] thought [to] thought ceasing illusory dusts, everywhere contemplating all dharmas’ nature, [to be] without [the] false [and] also without [the] true.’


Since completely awakening [to] Buddha-nature, relying [on the] teachings [to] cultivate contemplation, [to] remedy afflictions [and] habitual tendencies, thus saying, ‘[From] thought [to] thought illuminating constantly [on the] principles, [from] thought [to] thought ceasing illusory dusts.’ Understanding clearly [that every] one form [and] one smell, [is] without [that] not [of the] Middle Path, [that] all dharmas, [are] without [that] not [of the] Buddhas’ Dharma, [that] all sentient beings, will all become Buddhas, thus saying, ‘everywhere contemplating all dharmas’ nature, [to be] without [the] false [and] also without [the] true.’


Those [4] ‘Form Resemblance Thus Buddhas’, [are] called [those with] forms [that] resemble [those] liberated, [who are] then [with the] Complete Teachings’ Ten Faiths’ inner ordinary [beings’] positions. [With the] First Faith severing [wrong] views [and] confusions, [the] Seventh Faith severing [wrong] thoughts [and] confusions, [and the] Eighth, Ninth [and] Tenth Faiths severing dusts’ [and] sands’ confusions.


[The] praises say, [4] ‘[The] Four Abodes, although first liberating, [with the] six dusts yet [to be] completely emptied, in [the] eyes like having screens, in [the] sky seeing flowers red.’


Those Four Abodes, [are] [i] first, Sight [Of] All Abode, thus [with the wrong] views [and] confusions [of the] three realms. [ii] Second, [is] Desires’ Love Abode, thus [with the wrong] thoughts [and] confusions of [the] desire realm. [iii] Third, [is] Forms’ Love Abode, thus [with the wrong] thoughts [and] confusions of [the] form realm. [iv] Fourth, [is] Having Love Abode, then [with the wrong] thoughts [and] confusions of [the] formless realm. [Those of the] First Faith [have] severed [wrong] views, [and those of the] Seventh Faith [have] severed [wrong] thoughts, thus saying, ‘[The] Four Abodes, although first liberating’.


However, due [to the] habitual tendencies of forms, sounds, smells, tastes, touches [and] thoughts yet [to be] exhausted, thus saying, ‘[with the] six dusts yet [to be] completely emptied’, this only points [to those of the] Seventh Faith’s position, [of them] said.


[Those of the] Eighth, Ninth [and] Tenth Faiths, [are with] dusts’ [and] sands’ confusions broken, [with] habitual tendencies completely emptied. Those habitual tendencies, [are] just remaining smells of confusions only. Like plates filled [with] meat, although [having] gone through washing [to be] cleaned, still having raw meat’s smell. Of bottles storing wine, although [having] gone through washing, still have wine’s smell.


Those ‘in [the] eyes like having screens, in [the] sky seeing flowers red’, [are] with ignorance yet [to be] broken, not able [to] see [the] original essence of true emptiness’ Dharma realm.


Those [5] ‘Partial Realisation Thus Buddhas’, [are] of [the] Ten Faiths’ minds after, [with the] breaking one part [of] ignorance, realising one part [of the] Three Virtues, then entering [the] First Abode, and realising [the] Dharma Body, [they] are as [the] Dharma Body’s Great Beings [i.e. Bodhisattva Mahāsattvas].


From [the] First Abode until Equal Awakening, together [are] forty-one positions, [with] each [and] every [one] breaking one part [of] ignorance, realising one part [of the] Three Virtues, thus named ‘Partial Realisation Thus Buddhas’. With ignorance’s parts [having] forty-two grades, [with the] First Abode breaking one part, up to [the] Ten Abodes then breaking ten parts, going through [the] Ten Practices, Ten Dedications, Ten Grounds, up to Equal Awakening, then breaking forty-one parts.

[Note 5: The Three Virtues (三德) are the (i) Dharma Body’s virtue (法身德), (ii) Prajñā’s virtue (般若德) and (iii) liberation’s virtue (解脱德).]

[Note 6: After the (a) Ten Faiths (十信) are the forty-one positions (四十一位), which are the (b) Ten Abodes (十住), (c) Ten Practices (十行), (d) Ten Dedications (十回向), (e) Ten Grounds (十地) and (f) Equal Awakening (等觉) Bodhisattvas’ positions. All forty-one positions are those of the Dharma Body’s Great Beings (法身大士). The final position of (g) Wonderful Awakening (妙觉) is Buddhahood’s fruit (佛果), that breaks the forty-second grade (四十二品) of ignorance (无明). Together, these are the 52 positions (五十二位) of Bodhisattvahood that lead to Buddhahood.]


[The] First Abode, [is] then able [to be] in worlds without Buddhas, appearing [with their] bodies [to] be Buddhas, also again, according [to their] types, appearing [with] bodies, [to] deliver [and] liberate sentient beings, their supernormal path’s powers, [are] inconceivable. Moreover, [from] position [to] position [by the] fold superior, up to [the] forty-first position of Equal Awakening Bodhisattvas.


[The] praises say, [5] ‘[With] opening thus [of the] mind awakening, clear [with] all penetrating, [with] ending [of the] source still yet [to be] completed, constantly seeing [the] moon [with] haziness.’


That ‘[With] opening thus [of the] mind awakening, clear [with] all penetrating’, praises their sign of partial breaking [of ignorance (无明) and] partial realisation [of the Dharma Body (法身)]. That ‘[with] ending [of the] source still yet [to be] completed, constantly seeing [the] moon [with] haziness’, praises them, [but] still having ignorance’s ‘clouds’, yet [to be] able [to] pervasively see [the] light’s splendour, of [their] nature’s natural [and] true ‘moon’.


Those [6] ‘Ultimate Thus Buddhas’, [are] from Equally Awakened [Bodhisattvas’ position (等觉菩萨位), who] further break [the last] one part [of] ignorance, thus truly ending confusions completely, [with] blessings [and] wisdom complete, [with] pervasive realisation [that this] immediate mind [is] originally complete [with] that True Suchness’ Buddha-nature, entering Wonderful Awakening’s position, [to] accomplish [the] unsurpassable Bodhi path.


[The] praises say, [6] ‘Previously [with the] true [as that which] is false, today [with the] false all true, only returning [to the] original [and] constant nature, also without one dharma new.’


Those ‘Previously [with the] true [as that which] is false’, [are those] yet [to be] awakened before, only [with] these Five Aggregates, all of emptiness, then falsely giving rise [to] attachment, [to] form’s dharmas [and the] mind’s dharmas, [with] one another’s appearances established, thus [with] suffering [and] calamities following birth.

[Note 7: The Five Aggregates (五蕴) are (i) form (色), (ii) feeling (受), (iii) perception (想), (iv) mental formations (行) and (v) consciousness (识).]


[Having] already awakened after, also only [with] these Five Aggregates, yet [their] complete essence is [of] one True Suchness, completely without forms of form [and] mind [of the] Five Aggregates, [that] can [be] attained. Thus saying, ‘Previously [with the] true [as that which] is false, today [with the] false all true’.


However, of this true, that [was] realised, [it is] really not [with the] new attained, merely returning [to] that originally possessed True Suchness’ Buddha-nature only. Thus saying, ‘only returning [to the] original [and] constant nature, also without one dharma new.’


Also, sentient beings in confusion, see Buddhas [and] Bodhisattvas, and all sentient beings, [to] all be sentient beings, thus slandering [the] Buddhas [and the] Dharma, killing [and] harming sentient beings, not knowing [their] transgressions, instead with [these] as joy.


[The] Buddhas, already [having] pervasive awakening of [their] minds, [see the] mind, Buddhas [and] sentient beings, [these] three, [to be] without differences, see all sentient beings, completely [to] be ‘Buddhas’, thus for enemies [and] for relatives, for all [of them] speaking [the] Dharma, [to] enable [them to] attain deliverance [and] liberation. Even if [there are] those people of extreme evil, opposing [and] without Faith, also without one thought [with the] mind of abandoning [them], with seeing [of] them [to] be those yet [to be] accomplished Buddhas thus.

[Note 8: To diligently learn and sincerely practise mindfulness of Buddha for birth in Pure Land is to most swiftly expedite spiritual progress, from the stage of the First Thus Buddha to the stage of the Sixth Thus Buddha, to realise we are ‘thus Buddhas’. This is because both being mindful of Buddha, and being born in Pure Land, directly align to our Buddha-nature, which also directly connects to the Buddha’s blessings, which greatly help us to further realise our Buddha-nature – all the way.]

[Note 9: As taught by the Pure Land Tradition’s 13th Patriarch Great Master Yìnguāng (净土宗十三祖印光大师) in his ‘Letter For Master Wùkāi’《与悟开师书》at, ‘”In ‘Praises Of The Six Thus Buddhas”, studying it, this can be known. That one line [that sums up their essence], is “Faith, Aspiration and Practice” [for mindfulness of Buddha, to be born in Pure Land, for progress towards Buddhahood].’ (于《六即佛颂》研之可知也。一句者,「信愿行」也。)]

Pure Land Tradition’s 13th Patriarch Great Master Yìnguāng
(Shànghǎi Dharma Assembly [For] Protection [Of The] Country [And] Cessation [Of] Disasters’ Dharma Words):

Fifth Day [With] Brief Explanation [Of The] Tiāntái [Tradition’s] Six Thus[nesses’] Meanings, Together Speaking [Of] Eating [As] Veg[etari]ans [And] Releasing Lives

[By] Dèng Huìzài Recorded

Namo Amituofo : Translation and notes by Shen Shi’an

Related Teaching:

Praises Of The Six Thus Buddhas

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