Praises Of The Contemplation Sūtra’s Three Grades (Nine Grades)《观经》三辈(九品)赞

Praises [Of The] Contemplation Sūtra’s Three Grades (Nine Grades)




[High Grades’ Praise]

[The] High Grades [are with] high practices’ high roots’ persons, [who] seek birth [in the Western] Pure Land [to] sever greed [and] anger. With regard to [their] practices’ differences, [they are] divided [into] three grades, [with the] Five Doors continuously supporting [their] Three Causes. [With] one day [to] seven days [having] focused diligence, [at the] end [of] life riding daises [to] exit [the] six dusts. [With] rejoice [for that] difficult [to] encounter, now attaining meeting, forever realising [the] unconditioned Dharma-nature’s body.

(Those ‘Five Doors’, [are] thus [i] Reverent Prostrating, [ii] Highly Praising, [iii] Making Vow, [iv] Contemplating Clearly [and] [v] Dedicating. [The] Three Causes, [are] thus [the] Three Blessings.)…

[Note 1: The High Grades (三辈) are these three grades – (i) High Grade’s High Birth (上品上生), (ii) High Grade’s Middle Birth (上品中生) and (iii) High Grade’s Low Birth (上品下生).]

[Note 2: The Three Blessings (三福) can be seen at]

[Note 3: The six dusts (六尘) are (i) form dust (色尘), (ii) sound dust (声尘), (iii) smell dust (香尘), taste dust (味尘), touch dust (触尘) and dharma dust (法尘).]

[Note 4: The unconditioned Dharma-nature’s body (无为法性身) is all Buddhas’ Dharma Body (法身) that pervade all space and time, as realised with Buddhahood (佛果), then becoming one with it.]

[Note 5: The Five Doors (五门) are taught in the Rebirth Treatise《往生论》, which can be seen at]



[Middle Grades’ Praise]

[The] Middle Grades [are with] medium practices’ medium roots’ persons, [upholding] one day’s Purification Precepts, dwelling [in] golden lotuses. [With] filial support [of their] fathers [and] mothers, teaching [and] dedicating, for [them] speaking [of the] Western [Pure Land’s] happiness’ [and] bliss’ causes. [The] Buddha with [his] Voice-Hearers’ assembly [will] come [to] receive [them], directly to [A]mitā[bha Buddha’s] [i.e. Āmítuófó (阿弥陀佛)] flower seat’s side. [In a] hundred treasures’ flower ‘cages’ passing seven days, [from] three grades [of] lotuses blossoming, [to] realise [the] Small [Vehicle’s] (小乘) truths [first]…

[Note 6: The Middle Grades (中辈) are these three grades – (iv) Middle Grade’s High Birth (中品上生), (v) Middle Grade’s Middle Birth (中品中生) and (vi) Middle Grade’s Low Birth (中品下生).]

[Note 7: The causes for reaching the Western Pure Land are the Three Provisions (三资粮):]

[Note 8: The Purification Precepts (斋戒) are the Eight Precepts (八戒) of abstaining from (i) killing lives (不杀生), (ii) stealing (不偷盗), (iii) sexual conduct (不淫), (iv) false speech (不妄语), (v) drinking alcohol (i.e. consuming intoxicants) (不饮酒), (vi) wearing perfumes, flowers and garlands, applying fragrant oils on the body (不着香花鬘,不香油涂身), (vii) siting (and lying) on high, broad and big (chairs and) beds (不坐高广大床), singing, dancing, having entertainment, going to see or hear such (不歌舞倡伎,不往观听), and (viii) untimely eating (不非时食).]

[Note 9: The Middle Grades’ beings will realise the Great Vehicle’s (大乘) truths later, although still as swiftly as possible.]



[Low Grades’ Praise]

[The] Low Grades [are with] low practices’ low roots’ persons, [with the] Ten Evils, Five Transgressions [and] others, [with] greed [and] anger. [Breaking the] Four Heavy [Precepts], stealing [from the] Saṃgha [and] slandering [the] Right Dharma, not yet [with] repentance [and] regret [for their] past faults. When [at life’s] end, [with] suffering’s forms like clouds gathering, [and] hell’s fierce fires before [these] transgressing persons. Suddenly meeting rebirth’s good-knowing friends, [who] urgently encourage focused recitation [of] that Buddha’s name [i.e. Āmítuófó (阿弥陀佛)]. [A] manifested Buddha [and] Bodhisattvas, following [their] sounds [will] come, [in] one thought’s moment, [with their] minds entering treasure lotuses. [With their] three flowers’ obstacles heavy, blossoming [after] many kalpas, at those times, [then] beginning [to] give rise [to] Bodhi’s cause.

[Note 10: The Low Grades (下辈) are these three grades – (vii) Low Grade’s High Birth (下品上生), (viii) Low Grade’s Middle Birth (下品中生) and (iv) Low Grade’s Low Birth (下品下生).]

[Note 11: The Ten Evil Karmas (十恶业) are (i) killing lives (杀生), (ii) stealing (偷盗), (iii) sexual misconduct (邪淫), (iv) having false speech (妄语), (v) double-tongued speech (两舌), (vi) harsh speech (恶口), (vii) useless speech (绮语), (viii) greedy desires (贪欲), (ix) anger (嗔恚) and (x) false views (邪见).]

[Note 12: The Five Heinous Transgressions (五逆罪) are (i) killing of father(s) (杀父), (ii) killing of mother(s) (杀母), (iii) killing of Arhat(s) (杀阿罗汉), (iv) causing Buddha(s) to bleed (出佛身血) and (v) breaking up of harmonious Saṃgha(s) (破和合僧).]

[Note 13: The Four Heavy Precepts (四重戒) are against (i) killing lives (杀生), (ii) stealing (偷盗), (iii) sexual (mis)conduct (邪淫), (iv) false speech (妄语) and consuming of intoxicants (饮酒).]

[Note 14: Only the last two grades take kalpas to blossom, in six and twelve kalpas, which are only six and twelve days in the Western Pure Land’s time respectively. In this sense, ‘many kalpas’ is actually not so many.]

[Note 15: To give rise to Bodhi’s cause is to give rise to the Bodhi Mind (Bodhicitta: 菩提心), the vow to guide one and all to Buddhahood.]

[Note 16: All (i)-(ix) Nine Grades (九品) mentioned in Note [1], [6] and [10] be seen at for each grade’s full details, as the above three verses are only their ‘summaries’, with some elaborations. Note that the Three Grades (三辈) in the Contemplation Sūtra《观经》and the Immeasurable Life Sūtra《无量寿》do not match ‘one-to-one’ numerically.]


Pure Land Tradition’s 2nd Patriarch Great Master Shàndǎo
(Commentary [On The] Contemplation Sūtra [In] Four Fascicles: Scattered Goodness’ Meaning)

Namo Amituofo : Translation and notes by Shen Shi’an

Please be mindful of your speech, Amituofo!

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