Notes on Once-calling and Many Calling (2)
The teaching of many-calling should not be considered
In the Primal Vow are the words:
Saying my Name perhaps even ten times.
Know from the words ten times that appear from the
beginning in the Vow itself that saying the Name is not limited
to one utterance. And the word perhaps even makes it
clearer still that there is no set number of times one should
say the Name. This Vow shows the way that is easy to traverse
and easy to practice; it reveals the boundlessness of great
love and great compassion.
In the Smaller Sutra Sakyamuni Tathagata teaches,
"You should say the Name for one to seven days."
This sutra is called "the exposition delivered spontaneously,
not in response to a question." The Tathagata preached
it without being requested to. That is, Sakyamuni decided
to set forth in this sutra his fundamental intent in appearing
in the world; this is why it is "the exposition delivered
spontaneously, not in response to a question."
The Primal Vow that expresses Amida's selection of the Name,
the witness of the Buddhas throughout the ten quarters, the
basic intent of all the Buddhas in appearing in the world,
and the protection of Tathagatas countless as the sands of
the Ganges all indicate the Vow that the Buddhas praise the
The Vow that all the Buddhas say the Name in praise is stated
in the Larger Sutra:
If, when I attain Buddhahood, the countless Buddhas throughout
the worlds in the ten quarters do not all praise and say
my Name, may I not attain the supreme enlightenment.
This compassionate Vow declares, "If, when I have realized
Buddhahood, the countless Buddhas throughout the worlds in
the ten quarters do not all praise and say my Name, then I
shall not attain Buddhahood."
Praise means to be praised by all the Buddhas.
Single-heartedly practicing the saying of the Name of Amida
alone - whether walking, standing, sitting, or reclining
- without regard to the length of time, and without abandoning
it from moment to moment: this is called "the act of
true settlement," for it is in accord with the Buddha's
With single-heartedness solely saying Amida's Name:
single-heartedness is the diamondlike shinjin.
Solely saying Amida's Name is wholehearted single
practice. "Wholehearted" means not shifting to other
good acts, not turning one's thoughts to other Buddhas; "single
practice" is solely to practice the Name that embodies
the Primal Vow, free of all doubt. "Practice" means
to amend and rectify the unsettledness of the heart and say
the nembutsu. "Single" means sole, one. "Sole"
means having no thought of shifting to other good acts or
Whether walking, standing, sitting, or reclining - without
regard to the length of time, and without abandoning it from
moment to moment: for time (jisetsu), ji
is time in terms of the twelve hours of the day; setsu
indicates time as the twelve months and four seasons. That
times are not distinguished means that there is no need to
avoid impure occasions. Because there is no discrimination
among various activities, the word without regard is
This is called "the act of true settlement,"
for it is in accord with the Buddha's Vow: to entrust
oneself to the universal Vow is for the karmic cause resulting
in birth in the fulfilled land to become settled; it is called
the act of true settlement, for it is in accord with
the Buddha's Vow.
It is those who argue over once-calling and many-calling
who are termed people of other teachings and different
understandings. Other teachings applies to those
who incline toward the Path of Sages or nonbuddhist ways,
endeavor in other practices, think on other Buddhas, observe
lucky days and auspicious occasions, and depend on fortune-telling
and ritual purification. Such people belong to nonbuddhist
ways; they rely wholly on self-power.
Different understandings refers to saying the nembutsu
but not entrusting oneself to Other Power.
Different means to divide something that is integral
Understanding means to realize, to unravel. It is
seeking to understand through self-power while saying the
nembutsu. Hence the expression, different understandings.
Further, those who take up auxiliary good acts are people
endeavoring in self-power. "Self-power" characterizes
those who have full confidence in themselves, trusting in
their own hearts and minds, striving with their own powers,
and relying on their own various roots of good.
When we say the nembutsu, whether, at the upper limit,
Spending our entire lives in utterance, or down to ten
Or three or five times, the Buddha will come to welcome
This Amida accomplishes directly with the universal Vow,
Which is replete with compassion.
Foolish beings, when they become mindful of the Vow, are
Immediately brought to the attainment of birth; this is
Made the essential purport.
At the upper limit, spending our entire lives: at
the upper limit means top, to advance, to ascend. It means
"to the end of one's life."
Spending means "until exhausted."
Lives indicates form; it also means to manifest. Thus,
"saying the nembutsu to the very end of life."
Amida Buddha will come to welcome us...when we say the
nembutsu but ten or three or five times: this means that
it does not depend on the number of times the nembutsu is
Accomplishes directly with the universal Vow: directly
means true; it refers to the Tathagatas' direct teaching.
The "direct teaching" is the fundamental intent
of all the Buddhas in appearing in this world.
Accomplish means to do, to use, to be settled, that,
this, to encounter. "To encounter" implies form.
Replete means accumulated, momentous, ample. This
passage teaches us to realize that Amida's using and settling
on the Name that embodies the Vow is replete with the Buddha's
Moreover, Sakyamuni states in the Larger Sutra:
The reason the Tathagatas appear in the world is their
desire to save the multitudes of beings and by blessing
them with the true and real benefit.
Tathagatas indicates all the Buddhas.
Appear in the world means, "Buddhas come into
The multitudes of beings indicates all sentient beings.
The true and real benefit is Amida's Vow. Thus, the
reason that the Buddhas appear in the world age after age
is that they desire to bless and save all sentient beings
by teaching the power of Amida's Vow. Since they take this
as their fundamental intent, the Vow is called the true
and real benefit. Further, it is termed "the direct
teaching for which all Buddhas appear in the world."
The eighty-four thousand dharma-gates are all good practices
of the provisional means of the Pure Land teaching; they are
known as the "essential" or provisional gate. This
gate consists of the good practices, meditative and nonmeditative,
taught in the Sutra of Contemplation on the Buddha of Immeasurable
Life. Meditative good refers to the thirteen contemplations;
nonmeditative good refers to the good acts of the three
types of meritorious behavior and the nine grades of beings.
These all belong to the "essential" gate, which
is the provisional means of the Pure Land teaching; it is
also called the provisional gate. Encouraging and guiding
all sentient beings with various means through this "essential"
or provisional gate, the Buddha teaches and encourages them
to enter "the great treasure ocean of true and real virtue
- the Primal Vow, perfect and unhindered, which is the One
Vehicle." Hence, all good acts of self-power are called
"One Vehicle" here refers to the Primal Vow. "Perfect"
means that the Primal Vow is full of all merits and roots
of good, lacking none, and further, that it is free and unrestricted.
"Unhindered" means that it cannot be obstructed
or destroyed by blind passion and karmic evil. "True
and real virtue" is the Name. Since the wondrous principle
of true reality or suchness has reached its perfection in
the Primal Vow, this Vow is likened to a great treasure ocean.
True reality-suchness is the supreme great nirvana. Nirvana
is dharma-nature. Dharma-nature is Tathagata. With the words,
"treasure ocean," the Buddha's nondiscriminating,
unobstructed, and nonexclusive guidance of all sentient beings
is likened to the all-embracing waters of the great ocean.
From this treasure ocean of oneness form was manifested,
taking the name of Bodhisattva Dharmakara, who, through establishing
the unhindered Vow as the cause, became Amida Buddha. For
this reason Amida is the "Tathagata of fulfilled body."
Amida has been called "Buddha of unhindered light filling
the ten quarters." This Tathagata is also known as Namu-fukashigiko-butsu
(Namu-Buddha of inconceivable light) and is the "dharma-body
as compassionate means." "Compassionate means"
refers to manifesting form, revealing a name, and making itself
known to sentient beings. It refers to Amida Buddha. This
Tathagata is light. Light is none other than wisdom; wisdom
is the form of light. Wisdom is, in addition, formless; hence
this Tathagata is the Buddha of inconceivable light. This
Tathagata fills the countless worlds in the ten quarters,
and so is called "Buddha of boundless light." Further,
Bodhisattva Vasubandhu has given the name, "Tathagata
of unhindered light filling the ten quarters."
The Treatise on the Pure Land states:
Contemplating the power of the Buddha's Primal Vow,
I see that no one who encounters it passes by in vain;
It quickly brings to fullness and perfection
The great treasure ocean of virtues.
This passage states: "When I behold the power of the
Buddha's Primal Vow, I see that there is no one who encounters
it and passes by in vain. It effectively brings the treasure
ocean of virtues quickly to fullness and perfection."
Contemplating means to bring to mind the power of
the Vow. It also means to know.
Encounter means to entrust oneself to the power of
the Primal Vow.
No one passes by in vain: no one who has shinjin meaninglessly
remains in the world of birth-and-death.
Bring means to cause; it also means good.
Quickly means rapidly, fast.
Virtues signifies none other than the Name.
The great treasure ocean: all roots of good and all
virtues being full to the utmost is likened to the ocean.
By these words we know that these virtues quickly and rapidly
become perfectly full in the hearts of persons who entrust
themselves to them. Thus, though persons of the diamondlike
mind neither know nor seek it, the vast treasure of virtues
completely fills them; hence it is likened to an ocean of
Foolish beings, when they become mindful [of the Vow],
are immediately brought to the attainment of birth; this
is made the essential purport.
Made the essential purport means to take as central
and fundamental. It also means to reach. "To reach"
is to attain the true fulfilled land.
Foolish beings: none other than ourselves. Thus, "You
should take entrusting to the power of the Primal Vow to be
Become mindful means entrusting ourselves to the Tathagata's
Vow without any doubt.
Immediately (soku) means at once. Immediately
[attain] birth is to become settled in the stage
of the truly settled without any time elapsing, without a
day passing. This is expressed, when they become mindful
of the Vow, they are immediately brought to the attainment
Soku also means to ascend, which describes the status
of one who will necessarily rise to a certain rank. In secular
usage, to rise to the throne of the country is "ascension
to rank." The person of the rank of crown prince necessarily
rises to the rank of king. Likewise, ascending to the stage
of the truly settled is similar to holding the rank of crown
prince, with ascension to rank - enthronement in the case
of the prince - corresponding to the attainment of supreme
great nirvana. Amida has vowed that the person of shinjin,
having reached the stage of the truly settled, shall necessarily
attain nirvana. This is called the essential purport,
meaning that the realization of the enlightenment of nirvana
is taken to be fundamental.
Foolish beings: as expressed in the parable of the
two rivers of water and fire, we are full of ignorance and
blind passion. Our desires are countless, and anger, wrath,
jealousy, and envy are overwhelming, arising without pause;
to the very last moment of life they do not cease, or disappear,
or exhaust themselves. When we, who are so shameful, go a
step or two, little by little, along the White Path of the
power of the Vow, we are taken in and held by the compassionate
heart of the Buddha of unhindered light. It is fundamental
that because of this we will unfailingly reach the Pure Land
of happiness, whereupon we will be brought to realize the
same enlightenment of great nirvana as Amida Tathagata, being
born in the flower of that perfect enlightenment. This is
expressed, Foolish beings, when they become mindful of
the Vow, are immediately brought to the attainment of birth;
this is made the essential purport.
In the parable of the two rivers, "going a step or two"
signifies the passage of one or two years. The direct teaching
for which all Buddhas have appeared in this world - the Tathagata's
fundamental intent in his attainment of the way - has been
to make central the bringing of sentient beings to think on
Amida's Primal Vow so that they immediately attain birth.
Now, truly knowing Amida's universal Primal Vow and saying
This passage speaks of truly knowing the Tathagata's Primal
Truly refers to the diamondlike mind.
Know means to know that Amida guides sentient beings
who are filled with blind passions and karmic evil. Further,
know is to behold, which means to call to mind and
think on. Know thus means to call to mind and realize.
And saying the Name: and means extending to,
Saying (sho) means to utter the Name. Sho
also means to weigh, to determine the measure of something.
This means that when a person says the Name even ten times
or but once, hearing it and being without even the slightest
doubt, he or she will be born in the true fulfilled land.
Further, the Smaller Sutra teaches that one should
say the Name for seven days or a single day.
These passages are scriptural evidence for the teaching of
many-calling. I have not explained them as fully as I would
like, but you should see from these notes that the dispute
over once-calling and many-calling is pointless. The tradition
of the true Pure Land teaching speaks of birth through the
nembutsu. Never has there been mention of "birth through
once-calling" or "birth through many-calling."
Please understand this.
That people of the countryside, who do not know the meanings
of characters and who are painfully and hopelessly ignorant,
may easily understand, I have repeatedly written the same
things again and again. The educated reader will probably
find this writing peculiar and may ridicule it. But paying
no heed to such criticism, I write only that foolish people
may easily grasp the essential meaning.
Kogen 2 , Second month, 17th day
Written at age 85