Shozomatsu Wasan by Shinran Shonin

Shozomatsu Wasan – Hymns of the Dharma ages.

Shinran Shonin, at age 85 (1257), wrote the Shozomatsu Wasan, some nine years after he had finished writing the Jōdo & Koso Wasan.

Shozomatsu Wasan comprises the following 5 chapters:

Shozomatsu no Jōdo Wasan: Verses 1-59

Doubt: Verses 60-82

Shotoku Taishi: Verses 83-93

Lament: Verses 94-109

ZenkojI: Verses 110-116

1. Shozomatsu no Jōdo Wasan
Verses 1-59

Shozomatsu Wasan 1

In the second year of Kogen – the year of fire serpent – on the ninth day of the second month, during the hour of the tiger, I was told in a dream:

Have faith in the Primal Vow of Amida
Those who have faith in the Primal Vow
Will, through the benefit of being embraced and never forsaken,
Attain the supreme enlightenment.

Shozomatsu Wasan 2

Tathagata Shakyamuni passed from the world
Now two thousand years ago, and more.
Two Dharma-ages – of the Right and the Semblance – have come to an end;
So weep, disciples of the Tathagata!

Shozomatsu Wasan 3

For sentient beings of the Last Dharma Age with the five defilements
Practice and enlightenment are now beyond reach;
And the teachings of Shakyamuni that had remained;
Have all passed into the Dragon Palace.

Shozomatsu Wasan 4

Throughout the three Dharma Ages – Right, Semblance, and Last –
Amida’s Primal Vow has spread.
In this world, at the end of the Semblance Dharma-age,
All goodness has entered the Dragon Palace.

Shozomatsu Wasan 5

The Daiju-kyo teaches that
In this age – the fifth five hundred years –
Because strifes and quarrels flourish,
The Pure Dharma was hidden and stilled.

Shozomatsu Wasan 6

When the tens of thousands of years’ life span of sentient beings,
Because of the gradual decay of their good karma,
Was shortened to twenty-thousand years,
The world was given the name ‘evil world of five

Shozomatsu Wasan 7

In the course of the corrupted Kalpa,
The bodies of sentient beings grow smaller gradually;
As the wickedness of the five defilements prevails,
They become like poisonous snakes and spiteful dragons.

Shozomatsu Wasan 8

Ignorance and afflicting passions grow thick,
And abound everywhere like particles of dust.
Yearning and detesting, becoming at odds or in accord,
Rise up like mountain peaks and high ridges.

Shozomatsu Wasan 9

Sentient beings have false views that rage and spread
Like dense thickets and forests of thorns and brambles;
The slander the followers of the Nembutsu,
And fierce attacks and bitterness prevail everywhere.

Shozomatsu Wasan 10

Due to life-span degeneration with its untimely and momentary life,
The two results – man and his surroundings – both come to an end,
And turning away from the true and clinging to the twisted prevails,
So that, senselessly, beings inflict harm upon each other.

Shozomatsu Wasan 11

Now is the Last Dharma-age, the fifth span of five hundred years,
For all sentient beings in this world –
Lacking faith in the Tathagata’s compassionate Vow –
There can be no liberation at all.

Shozomatsu Wasan 12

The ninety-five teachings defile the world.
The path of the Buddha alone is pure.
Only in the attainment of enlightenment exist
The natural workings to benefit those in the burning house.

Shozomatsu Wasan 13

Coming down to the age of the five defilements and its beings,
Whether of the Way or of the world men clash in turmoil,
And when they see those who are held in the Nembutsu,
Fierce suspicions and attacks break forth and seethe.

Shozomatsu Wasan 14

Those who may never attain enlightenment
Persecute followers of the exclusive practice of the Nembutsu;
The result of destroying the teaching of sudden attainment
Is that the vast ocean of birth-and-death persists without end.

Shozomatsu Wasan 15

Though we may believe this age and ourselves to be of the Right Dharma age
We are fools bottom-deep in afflicting passions,
And utterly without a mind of purity and truth.
How can we waken aspiration for Enlightenment?

Shozomatsu Wasan 16

The aspiration in the Path of Sages for enlightenment through self-power
Is beyond our minds and words;
For us, ignorant beings, ever spun in the rush of waves,
How is it possible to awaken such aspiration?

Shozomatsu Wasan 17

In a myriad of ages directly under Buddhas
Numbering three times the sands of the Ganges,
We awakened the great aspiration for enlightenment,
Our self-power insufficient, we have continued in transmigration.

Shozomatsu Wasan 18

Since the world has entered the Semblance and the Last Dharma-ages with the five defilements,
The teachings left to us by Shakyamuni have become hidden,
But as Amida’s compassionate Vow is spread,
Birth through the Nembutsu flourished.

Shozomatsu Wasan 19

Embracing the peerless beyond the world’s understanding,
Choosing and contemplating them for five kalpas,
The Vows of light and life
Became the source of great compassion.

Shozomatsu Wasan 20

The great aspiration for enlightenment in the Pure Land Gate
Wakens in beings the determination to become enlightened
Which is to say: the determination to become enlightened
Is the determination to save all sentient beings

Shozomatsu Wasan 21

That which is called the determination to save all sentient beings
Is the transference of Amida’s Wisdom-Vow:
Those who attain faith, this transference,
Realise the great nirvana.

Shozomatsu Wasan 22

Those who take refuge in the Tathagata’s transference of merit
Attain the determination to become enlightened
Cast away merit-transference of self-power:
Their benefiting of other sentient beings transcends all bounds.

Shozomatsu Wasan 23

Into the waters of the ocean of Amida’s Wisdom-Vow
The waters of entrusting to that Other Power flow completely,
So that, by the nature of the true recompensed land,
Afflicting passion and enlightenment have one taste.

Shozomatsu Wasan 24

All the people with deep faith
In the Tathagata’s twofold merit transference,
Because they attain the stage of equal to perfect enlightenment,
The mindfulness of Amida never weakens.

Shozomatsu Wasan 25

Those people who truly attain faith
Through the merit-transference of Amida’s Wisdom-Vow,
Through the working of being embraced and never forsaken,
Attain the stage of equal to perfect enlightenment.

Shozomatsu Wasan 26

For Bodhisattva Maitreya
Five billion six-hundred seventy million years will pass,
But those attaining true faith
Achieve enlightenment at this time.

Shozomatsu Wasan 27

Those who reach the stage of ‘equal to perfect enlightenment’,
By means of the Vow of birth through the nembutsu,
Are equal to Bodhisattva Maitreya
In attaining great nirvana.

Shozomatsu Wasan 28

When, immediately upon the attainment of true faith,
One becomes a member of the rightly determined,
He is equal to Maitreya, the Buddha-to-be,
And will realise supreme enlightenment.

Shozomatsu Wasan 29

Even learned masters of the Semblance Dharma-age
Laid aside the many teachings of self-power:
They entered the gate of the Nembutsu,
Because it corresponds to the times and the nature of beings.

Shozomatsu Wasan 30

Those pronouncing the revered Name of Amida
And truly attaining faith
Are constantly mindful of Amida
And desire to return in gratitude the Buddha’s benevolence.

Shozomatsu Wasan 31

When beings of this evil world of the five defilements
Have faith in the Selected Primal Vow,
Immeasurable, inexplicable, and inconceivable
Virtue fills the entire existence of these practicers.

Shozomatsu Wasan 32

The Buddha of unimpeded light declared:
In order to benefit sentient beings of the future
I have invested Mahāsthāmaprāpta Bodhisattva with
The Nembutsu of transcendent wisdom.

Shozomatsu Wasan 33

Out of compassion for the beings of the defiled world
Mahasthamaprapta Bodhisattva recommends the Nembutsu.
Those who have received faith are embraced
And are granted refuge in the Pure Land.

Shozomatsu Wasan 34

Through the compassion of Shakyamuni and Amida
The determination to become enlightened is awakened in us.
Only by entering the transcendent wisdom of faith,
Can we become one who returns in gratitude the Buddha’s benevolence.

Shozomatsu Wasan 35

Receiving the Nembutsu of transcendent wisdom
Is the work of Dharmakāra’s Vow-power.
Without the transcendent wisdom of faith,
How could we ever realise nirvana?

Shozomatsu Wasan 36

In the long night of ignorance it is the torch:
The wisdom-eye is in darkness, yet do not sorrow.
In the vast sea of birth-and-death it is the raft:
The hindrance of evil karma weights heavy, yet do not grieve.

Shozomatsu Wasan 37

Because the power of the Vow is without limits,
Even our evil karma, so deep and heavy, is not burdensome,
Because the Buddha’s wisdom is without bounds,
Even the bewildered and wayward are not abandoned.

Shozomatsu Wasan 38

About the Tathagata’s making of the Vow:
Without deserting beings in torment
And making it his supreme concern to transfer merit to them,
He consummated the mind of great compassion

Shozomatsu Wasan 39

Since pronouncing the Name with true faith
Is what is transferred by Amida,
It is called non-transference;
Thus reciting the Nembutsu through self-power is detested.

Shozomatsu Wasan 40

When, into the ocean of Amida’s Wisdom-Vow,
The waters of the good and evil hearts of foolish beings
Have entered, then immediately
They change into the heart of great compassion.

Shozomatsu Wasan 41

The perverse views and distractions of my followers
Given to wrong-doing will flourish,
They will destroy my teaching in the last age.
Thus it was told in the Renge-men-kyo.

Shozomatsu Wasan 42

Sentient beings who slander the Nembutsu
Plunge down into Avīchi hell, and
For eighty-thousand kalpas amidst great torment
Without respite they suffer – thus sutras teach.

Shozomatsu Wasan 43

The proper cause for the true recompensed land
Is given in the words of the two Honoured Ones, and,
Becoming one of the assembly of the rightly determined,
Unfailingly we will attain nirvana.

Shozomatsu Wasan 44

The countless Buddhas in the ten directions
Testify to the Nembutsu and protect its followers;
From their words we must recognize that the great aspiration for enlightenment
Cannot be accomplished through self-power.

Shozomatsu Wasan 45

The attainment of true faith is rare
In this defiled world of the Last Dharma-age.
From the testimony of Buddhas countless as the sands of the Ganges
It may be inferred how difficult it is to attain.

Shozomatsu Wasan 46

If we were not to encounter
The merit transference of outgoing and returning,
Our flowing through birth-and-death would be endless.
How should we keep from sinking in the ocean of suffering?

Shozomatsu Wasan 47

Having faith in the inconceivable Buddha-wisdom,
We are in the assembly of the rightly determined.
We, who are to attain the apparitional birth,
Are given excellent wisdom and will realise the supreme enlightenment.

Shozomatsu Wasan 48

Having faith in the inconceivable Buddha-wisdom,
Is taught to be the cause to the recompensed land.
Attaining faith, the right cause,
Is the most difficult among the difficult.

Shozomatsu Wasan 49

Casting aside our anguish of transmigrating from the beginningless past,
To be assured of attaining the supreme nirvana
Is due to the Tathagata’s two-fold merit transference.
Realising gratitude for such benevolence is truly impossible.

Shozomatsu Wasan 50

Followers who are born in the recompensed land are not numerous;
Practicers born in the transformed land are great in number.
Because, through self-power, the attainment of enlightenment is beyond our reach,
We have been transmigrating in samsara since innumerable kalpas ago.

Shozomatsu Wasan 51

The benign virtue of Namu-Amida-Butsu, Amida’s merit-transference,
Is vast and beyond comprehension,
And in the benefit of the outgoing merit-transference
We are led into the benefit of the returning merit-transference.

Shozomatsu Wasan 52

Out of the great compassion of outgoing merit-transference,
The great care of merit-transference of returning is attained.
If it were not for the Tathagata’s merit-transference,
How could we ever attain realisation in the Pure Land?

Shozomatsu Wasan 53

Amida, Kannon, and Dai-seishi,
Sailing on the ship of the great Vow
Upon the sea of birth-and-death,
Call to sentient beings and pull them aboard.

Shozomatsu Wasan 54

In all people with deep faith
In Amida’s Vow of great compassion
Whether they be awake or asleep, no matter where or when,
Namu-Amida-Butsu will naturally be uttered.

Shozomatsu Wasan 55

All the people of the Path of Sages
Depend primarily on the mind of Self-Power.
When they enter completely into the Other Power, which is beyond comprehension,
They realise that no reasoning is the true reasoning.

Shozomatsu Wasan 56

Although Śākyamuni’s teaching still exists,
Because there are no sentient beings who can practice it,
It is taught: there will be no one
Who can attain enlightenment in the Last Dharma-age.

Shozomatsu Wasan 57

O! Great Pure Land masters of three countries,
Receive and hold us in your pity!
Nurture true faith in us, and
Let us be led into the rightly determined state!

Shozomatsu Wasan 58

People to whom faith of the Other Power is endowed,
Since they are in reverence and in a great joy,
Are praised as ‘my good companions’
By the Teacher revered by all the world.

Shozomatsu Wasan 59

The benevolence of the Tathagata’s great compassion,
Even if we must crush our bodies, should be returned in gratitude.
The benevolence of the masters and teachers,
Even if we must break our bones, should be returned in gratitude.

2. Doubt
Verses 60-82

Shozomatsu Wasan 60

As evidence of not having received the Buddha-wisdom,
Because doubting the Tathagata’s five kinds of wisdom.
One believes in the recompense of good and evil and relies on the fundamental good,
One stops in the border land.

Shozomatsu Wasan 61

Because one doubts the inconceivable Buddha-wisdom,
And prefers to pronounce the Nembutsu through self-power,
One stops in the border land, the realm of sloth and complacency:
There is no gratitude for Buddha’s benevolence.

Shozomatsu Wasan 62

Those practicers who believe in the efficacy of doing good and evil
Have doubt in the inconceivable Buddha-wisdom.
They stop in the castle of doubt or the womb-palace,
And so they are separated from the three treasures.

Shozomatsu Wasan 63

Due to the offence of doubting the Buddha’s wisdom
One stops in the border land, the realm of sloth and complacency.
The offence of doubting is so grave,
That he is bound there many years and kalpas.

Shozomatsu Wasan 64

He is like the princes of King Chakravartin,
Who, chastened by the king and
Though bound with golden chains,
Were kept captive in a prison.

Shozomatsu Wasan 65

All those who recite the Name through self-power,
Have no faith in the Primal Vow of the Tathagata;
Because this offence of doubting is so grave,
They are imprisoned in the jail of the seven treasures.

Shozomatsu Wasan 66

Just as those people of faith,
The practicer of self-power with doubting mind
Should also realise the benevolence of the Tathagata’s great compassion,
And be diligent in pronouncing the Nembutsu.

Shozomatsu Wasan 67

Since those who do virtuous deeds through self-power
Doubt the Buddha’s wisdom, which is inconceivable,
Due to the karmic inevitability of their acts,
They confine themselves in the prison of the seven treasures.

Shozomatsu Wasan 68

People, doubting the Buddha’s inconceivable wisdom,
Yet relying on the fundamental good and virtue,
Are born in the borderland, the realm of sloth and complacency,
Where the great love and great compassion are unattainable.

Shozomatsu Wasan 69

Among those practicers with doubt in the Primal Vow,
There are those who are confined in the lotus bud.
They are abhorred for being born in the border land
Or are shunned for falling into the womb-palace.

Shozomatsu Wasan 70

They doubt the Tathagata’s five kinds of wisdom
And do not have trust in them;
Deeply believing in the efficacy of doing good and evil,
They expertly practice the fundamental good.

Shozomatsu Wasan 71

They lack wisdom who are born in the womb-palace.
Because they doubt the Buddha’s wisdom.
Their inevitable birth in the womb-palace
Is likened to being confined in a prison.

Shozomatsu Wasan 72

Being born in the palace of the seven treasures
Where they stay for five hundred years,
They are unable to see and hear the three treasures
And cannot provide benefits to sentient beings.

Shozomatsu Wasan 73

In the seven-treasured palace of the borderland,
Staying there for five hundred years,
They are tormented by the varied and numerous hazards,
Due to those conditions they have created themselves.

Shozomatsu Wasan 74

One, deeply believing in the efficacy of doing good and evil
And practicing the fundamental good,
Is a good person of the doubting mind
Who remains in the provisional, transformed land.

Shozomatsu Wasan 75

Since one has no faith in Amida’s Primal Vow,
Though he is born, while retaining his doubt,
His flower will not blossom immediately.
Thus he is likened to being in a womb.

Shozomatsu Wasan 76

There was a time the Bodhisattva Maitreya
Raised a question of the World-Honoured One,
‘What causes and conditions are there
For the womb-birth and the apparitional birth being so labelled?’

Shozomatsu Wasan 77

The Tathagata said to Maitreya,
‘While having the mind of doubt,
Those people rely on the practice of the fundamental good;
Hence they do not go beyond the womb-birth of the border land.’

Shozomatsu Wasan 78

Due to the offence of doubt in the Buddha-wisdom,
One will be imprisoned for five hundred years;
Thus, warning is given vehemently—
That is what is taught to be womb-birth.

Shozomatsu Wasan 79

Sentient beings doubting the inconceivable Buddha-wisdom
And believing in the efficacy of doing good and evil
Are destined to be born in the palace.
Such are taught to be as those of the womb-birth.

Shozomatsu Wasan 80

One depending primarily on the mind of self-power
And not relying on the inconceivable Buddha-wisdom,
For five hundred years, upon birth in the womb-palace,
Is to be separated from the compassion of the three treasures.

Shozomatsu Wasan 81

Doubting the inconceivable Buddha-wisdom,
Believing in the efficacy of doing good and evil,
And practicing the fundamental good, one aspires for the Pure Land.
This is what is taught to be the womb-birth.

Shozomatsu Wasan 82

The offence of doubting the Buddha-wisdom is grave.
If you come to understand this mind of doubt,
You should hold the mind of repentance as essential
And rely on the inconceivable Buddha-wisdom.

3. Shotoku Taishi
Verses 83-93

Shozomatsu Wasan 83

Through the benevolence of Prince Shotoku
We learn of the Vow of the inconceivable Buddha-wisdom
And enter the assembly of the rightly determined
Like Maitreya, the Buddha-to-be.

Shozomatsu Wasan 84

The great Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara, the world saviour,
Manifests himself as Prince Shotoku,
Like a father never forsaking us
And like a mother always accompanying us.

Shozomatsu Wasan 85

From the beginningless past to the present
Prince Shotoku, in his compassion,
Is always with us like a father
And is always there like a mother.

Shozomatsu Wasan 86

Due to the compassion of Prince Shotoku,
We are encouraged to enter
The Vow of the inconceivable Buddha-wisdom
To become one who is settled among the rightly determined.

Shozomatsu Wasan 87

Those who attain the faith of the Other Power,
In order to repay the Buddha’s benevolence,
Should spread the Tathagata’s twofold merit-transference
Broadly and extensively throughout the ten directions.

Shozomatsu Wasan 88

Prince Shotoku, the great merciful world saviour,
Is there like a father.
Avalokiteshvara, the great compassionate world saviour,
Is there like a mother.

Shozomatsu Wasan 89

From innumerable kalpas to the present age,
The evidence of his compassion is found
In making us adhere to the inconceivable Buddha-wisdom
Without discriminating between good and evil, pure and defiled.

Shozomatsu Wasan 90

Prince Shotoku, the Buddhist Master of Japan –
His immense benevolence is difficult to repay.
Take refuge with singleness of heart
And unfalteringly praise him in reverence.

Shozomatsu Wasan 91

The Prince of Jogu, utilising expedient means,
In his compassion for the sentient beings of Japan,
Spread widely the Tathagata’s compassionate Vow.
All should rejoicingly praise him in reverence.

Shozomatsu Wasan 92

Through vast kalpas of many births until now
We have been bathing in his compassion:
Incessantly taking refuge with singleness of heart,
We should rejoice in continuously praising him.

Shozomatsu Wasan 93

The compassion of Prince Shotoku,
Incessantly protecting and nurturing,
Encourages us to enter
The Tathagata’s twofold merit-transference.

4. Lament
Verses 94-109

Shozomatsu Wasan 94

Although I have taken refuge in the true teaching,
The mind of truth hardly exists in me;
Moreover, I am so falsehearted and untrue
That there cannot be any mind of purity.

Shozomatsu Wasan 95

Each of us shows an outward appearance
Of being wise, good, and diligent,
Possessing so much greed, anger, and wrong views,
We are filled with all kinds of deceit.

Shozomatsu Wasan 96

My evilness is truly difficult to renounce;
The mind is like serpents and scorpions.
Even doing virtuous deeds is tainted with poison,
And so is called false practice.

Shozomatsu Wasan 97

How shameless and unrepentant a person am I
And without a heart of truth and sincerity;
But because the Name is transferred by Amida,
Its virtue pervades the ten directions.

Shozomatsu Wasan 98

Being without even the slightest love or compassion,
How could I hope to benefit sentient beings?
If it were not for the ship of the Tathagata’s Vow,
How can the ocean of suffering be crossed?

Shozomatsu Wasan 99

With my mind as deceitful as serpents and scorpions,
I am incapable of accomplishing virtuous deeds of self-power.
Unless I rely on the Tathagata’s merit-transference,
I will end without shame and repentance.

Shozomatsu Wasan 100

A sign that the five defilements flourish,
Is that all of this age, whether of the Way or of the world,
While their outward form accords with Buddhism,
Inwardly revere and practice other teachings.

Shozomatsu Wasan 101

Lamentable is it that people, whether of the Way or of the world
Choose auspicious times and lucky dates,
Worship heavenly gods and earthly deities,
And are absorbed in divinations and rituals.

Shozomatsu Wasan 102

The titles of ‘monk’ and ‘Dharma-teacher’
Are said to be venerable ones.
But like the five perverted teachings of Devadatta
They are now used for the ignoble.

Shozomatsu Wasan 103

They are no different at heart
From non-Buddhists, the followers of Brahman and Nigaṇṭha;
They always wear the robes of the Tathagata,
And revere all supernatural beings.

Shozomatsu Wasan 104

Lamentable it is that these days
All in Japan, whether of the Way of the world,
While performing the rites and rituals of Buddhism,
Worship supernatural beings of heaven and earth.

Shozomatsu Wasan 105

A sign of the age of five defilements and perverted evils
Is that the titles of ‘monk’ and ‘dharma teacher’
Are used for slaves and servants, so that
They have become established as lowly titles.

Shozomatsu Wasan 106

Although they are monks in name only and do not adhere to precepts,
It has become the defiled world of the Last Dharma-age,
So, equally with Shariputra and Maudgalyayana,
We are encouraged to pay homage to and revere them.

Shozomatsu Wasan 107

Defiled karma is from the beginning unformed;
It is formed through delusions and perversions.
Though the nature of mind is pure from the beginning,
There are no people of truth in this world.

Shozomatsu Wasan 108

Cause for lamentation in this world of the Last Dharma
Is the use of Buddhist titles to demonstrate high rank
‘Palanquin-bearing-monks’ and ‘retainer-dharma-teachers’
By Buddhists of the Southern Capital and Northern Peak.

Shozomatsu Wasan 109

A sign of the contempt for the Buddha’s teaching
Is that ‘monks’ and ‘nuns’ are slaves,
And so the honourable titles of ‘Dharma-teacher’ or ‘monk’
Are used as appellations for help.

5. Zenkoji
Verses 110-116

Shozomatsu Wasan 110 & 111

The Tathagata of Zenkoji
Took pity on us and
Came to the Bay of Naniwa
Where Moriya, to whom even its name was unknown,

Called it, at that time, ‘the fever’ — hotoorike.
Saying it was likely the cause of the plague,
All the followers of Moriya together
Called it ‘hotoorike‘.

Shozomatsu Wasan 112

In order to spread it easily
Moriya called it ‘hotoke
So that all non-Buddhists of those days
Came to call the Tathagata ‘hotoke‘.

Shozomatsu Wasan 113

All the followers of the Buddha’s teaching in this age,
Based upon Moriya’s words,
And on the strength of his usage of ‘hotoke‘,
Hold ‘monks’ and ‘Dharma-teachers’ in contempt.

Shozomatsu Wasan 114

The Minister Moriya of Yuge,
Because of his boundless false views,
In order to urge all people,
Called the Buddha simply ‘hotoke‘.

Shozomatsu Wasan 115

While people ignorant of the words ‘good’ and ‘bad’
Are all of true heart,
My acting as though I knew ‘good’ and ‘bad’
Is a manifestation of total falsity.

Shozomatsu Wasan 116

I do not know right from wrong
Nor am I able to distinguish from falsity;
Though I lack even a morsel of mercy and compassion,
For name and fortune, I desire to be a teacher of others.

Related Pages & Links

Read: Jōdo Wasan – by Shinran Shonin
Watch: Jōdo Wasan – On Youtube

Read: Koso Wasan – by Shinran Shonin
Watch: Koso Wasan – On Youtube

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