Vasubandhu (Sanskrit. Chinese 世親. Korean 세친, fl. 4th c.) was an Indian Buddhist scholar-monk, and along with his half-brother Asanga, one of the main founders of the Indian Yogācāra school. Vasubandhu is one of the most influential figures in the entire history of Buddhism.

 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vasubandhu

VASUBANDHU’S
DISCOURSE ON THE PURE LAND
JODORON
translated from Chinese by
Hisao Inagaki

VASUBANDHU’S
VERSES OF ASPIRATION FOR BIRTH:
UPADESHA ON THE AMITAYUS SUTRA

[VERSES]
O World-Honored One, with singleness of mind, I
Take refuge in the Tathagata of Unhindered Light
Shining throughout the Ten Directions,
And aspire to be born in the Land of Peace and Bliss. (1)

Depending on the sutras’ exposition
Of the manifestation of true merit,
I compose verses of aspiration in condensed form,
Thereby conforming to the Buddha Dharma. (2)

When I contemplate the nature of that Land,
I find that it surpasses all states of existence in the three worlds.
It is ultimately like space,
Vast and without bounds. (3)

Out of the Great Compassion inherent in the Right Path
And from the root of supramundane good has it arisen.
It is completely radiant with pure light,
Like a mirror or the sun or moon. (4)

It is composed of rare jewels,
And endowed with exquisite adornments.
Its pure and blazing light is brilliant
And serene, illuminating the whole world. (5)

Jewelled ornaments, pliant and soft like grasses,
Bend to right and left.
They produce delightful sensations in one who touches them,
Surpassing the sensations produced when kacilindika grass is stroked.
  (6)

A myriad varieties of jewelled blossoms
Are scattered profusely among the ponds, streams, and springs.
When a soft breeze moves the flowers and leaves,
Reflections of light interweave and shimmer in all directions. (7)

The palaces and various towers
Command unobstructed views in the ten directions.
There are trees displaying many colors,
All surrounded by railings of precious gems. (8)

Nets strung with innumerable jewels
Hang across the sky.
When bells of various kinds ring out,
They proclaim the message of the excellent Dharma. (9)

Magnificent flowers and robes rain down,
And numerous varieties of incense pervade everywhere.
The Buddha’s wisdom is pure and brilliant like the sun;
It dispels the darkness of the world’s ignorance. (10)

The sacred name enlightens people far and wide;
It is subtle and wonderful and is heard everywhere in the ten
  directions.
[The Land] is firmly upheld by Amida,
The Enlightened One, the Dharma-King. (11)

The hosts of sages in the likeness of pure flowers surrounding the
  Tathagata
Are born there, transformed from within the Flower of
  Enlightenment.
They enjoy the taste of the Buddhist Dharma,
Taking meditation and Samadhi as food. (12)

Forever free from bodily and mental afflictions,
They always enjoy pleasure, without interruption.
In this realm of the Goodness of the Mahayana
[All beings are] equal, and not [even] the names of unworthy beings
  are found there. (13)

Women, deformed and deficient persons and
[Those having] the seeds of the Two Vehicles are not born here.
Whatever aspirations sentient beings may have,
They will all be fulfilled. (14)

For this reason I aspire to be born
In Amida Buddha’s Land.
[He is seated] on the pedestal of an excellent, pure lotus flower
Adorned with innumerable great treasures. (15)

His physical marks of excellence shine for one fathom;
His form is incomparably superior to that of any other beings.
The wondrous voice of the Tathagata like that of Brahma
Is heard throughout the ten directions. (16)

Like earth, water, fire, wind
And space, [he] has no discriminative thoughts.
Heavenly and human beings, unshakable [in their spiritual
  attainments],
Are born out of the ocean of pure wisdom. (17)

Like Sumeru, the king of mountains,
[Amida is] supreme, wonderful and unequaled.
Heavenly beings and valiant men
Worship, circumambulate round him and look up to him adoringly. (18)

When I observe the Buddha’s Primal Vow-Power,
I find that those who meet with it do not pass by in vain.
They are enabled to gain quickly
The great sea of the treasure of merit. (19)

The Land of Peace and Bliss is pure and serene;
[The Buddha] always turns the undefiled wheel [of the Dharma].
Transformed Buddhas and Bodhisattvas [illumine the whole world]
  like the sun,
[While remaining motionless] like Mt. Sumeru. (20)

The pure, glorious light [of the Bodhisattvas],
In a flash of thought and simultaneously,
Illumines each and every Buddha’s assembly
And gives benefit to multitudes of beings. (21)

They manifest heavenly musical instruments, flowers, robes,
Fine incense, and so forth, with which they worship the Buddhas;
They praise and extol the merits of the Buddhas
Without discriminative thoughts. (22)

If there is any world in the universe
Without the treasure of merit of the Buddha Dharma,
I resolve to be born there
And to preach the Dharma like a Buddha. (23)

I have written this discourse and composed verses
With the wish to see Amida Buddha
And, together with all sentient beings,
Be born in the Land of Peace and Bliss. (24)

I have expounded a summary, in verse, of passages from the Larger Sutra on Amitayus.

[Commentary]
<First three Mindful Practices>
What do these Verses of Aspiration for Birth show? They show that one contemplates the Land of Peace and Bliss, sees Amida Tathagata and aspires to be born in the Land.
How does one contemplate and awaken faith? If a good man or woman performs the Five Mindful Practices and has accomplished them, he or she will eventually attain birth in the Land of Peace and Bliss and see Amida Buddha.
What are the Five Gates of Mindful Practices? They are: (1) worship; (2) praise; (3) aspiration; (4) contemplation; and (5) merit-transference.
What is worship? It is a bodily act of worshipping Amida the Tathagata, the Arhat, and the Perfectly Enlightened One. [One performs this act] because one aspires to be born in his Land.
How does one praise and eulogize [Amida]? One praises and eulogizes him by means of speech. One calls the Name of that Tathagata which describes his Light, the embodiment of Wisdom, wishing to practice in accord with the Dharma, that is, in agreement with the significance of the Name.
How does one aspire [to the Pure Land]? One constantly resolves; fixing one’s thought on the eventual attainment of birth in the Land of Peace and Bliss, one wishes to practice shamatha correctly.
How does one contemplate? One contemplates with wisdom, that is, contemplates [the Pure Land] with mindfulness, wishing to practice vipashyana in accord with the Dharma.
The contemplation is of three kinds: (1) contemplation of the glorious manifestations of the merit of the Buddha-land; (2) contemplation of the glorious merit of Amida Buddha; (3) contemplation of the glorious merit of various Bodhisattvas.
How does one transfer [the merit of the practice]? One does not forsake suffering beings, but constantly resolves in one’s mind to perfect the Great Compassion by putting merit-transference above anything else.

<Contemplation of the Pure Land>
How does one contemplate the glorious aspects of the Buddha Land? The glorious aspects of the Buddha Land are provided with the inconceivable power, and their nature resembles that of the wish-fulfilling Ma n}i-gem.
Concerning the contemplation of the glorious merits of the Buddha’s Land, there are seventeen aspects. What are the seventeen? They are the perfected glorious merits of (1) purity, (2) vastness, (3) essential nature, (4) luminous appearances, (5) manifold precious adornments, (6) magnificent illumination, (7) supreme sensation, (8) three elements, (9) rain, (10) light, (11) wonderful name, (12) lord Buddha, (13) kinsmen, (14) nourishment, (15) freedom from afflictions, (16) gate of the great principle and (17) fulfillment of all aspirations.
Accomplishment of the glorious merit of purity is described in the verse as:

  When I contemplate the nature of that Land
  I find that it surpasses all states of existence in the three worlds
.
     (3 ab)

Accomplishment of the glorious merit of vastness is described in the verse as:

  It is ultimately like space,
  Vast and without bounds. (3 cd)


Accomplishment of the glorious merit of essential nature is described in the verse as:

Out of the Great Compassion of the Right Path
And from the roots of supramundane good has [the Pure Land] arisen.
(4 ab)

Accomplishment of the glorious merit of luminous appearances is described in the verse as:

  It is completely radiant with pure light,
  Like a mirror or the sun or moon
. (4 cd)

Accomplishment of the glorious merit of manifold precious adornments is described in the verse as:

  It is composed of rare jewels,
  And endowed with exquisite adornment
. ( 5 ab)

Accomplishment of the glorious merit of magnificent illumination is described in the verse as:

  Its pure and blazing light is brilliant
  And serene, illuminating the whole world. (5 cd)

Accomplishment of the glorious merit of sensation is described in the verse as:

  Jewelled ornaments, pliant and soft like grass,
  Bend to right and left.
  They produce delightful sensations in those who touch them,
  Surpassing the sensations produced when kacilindika grass is stroked.(stanza 6)

Concerning the accomplishment of the glorious merit of the three elements, one should know that there are three elements. What are they? They are (1) water, (2) earth and (3) sky.

Accomplishment of the glorious merit of water is described in the verse as:

  A myriad varieties of jewelled blossoms
  Are scattered profusely among the ponds, streams and springs.
  When a soft breeze moves the flowers and leaves,
  Reflections of light interweave and shimmer in all directions.
(7)

Accomplishment of the glorious merit of earth is described in the verse as:

  The palaces and various towers
  Command unobstructed views in the ten directions.
  There are trees displaying many colors,
  Surrounded everywhere by railings of precious gems.(8)

Accomplishment of the glorious merit of sky is described in the verse as:

  Nets strung with innumerable jewels
  Hang across the sky.
  When bells of various kinds ring out,
  They proclaim the message of the excellent Dharma. (9)

Accomplishment of the glorious merit of rain is described in the verse as:

  Magnificent flowers and robes rain down
  And innumerable varieties of incense pervade everywhere.(10 ab)

Accomplishment of the glorious merit of light is described in the verse as:

  The Buddha’s wisdom is pure and brilliant like the sun;
  t dispels the darkness of the world’s ignorance.(10 cd)

Accomplishment of the glorious merit of the wonderful name is described in the verse as:

   The sacred name enlightens people far and wide;
  It is subtle and wonderful and is heard everywhere in the ten directions.
(11 ab)

Accomplishment of the glorious merit of the Lord Buddha is described in the verse as:

  [The Land] is firmly upheld by Amida,
  The Enlightened One, the Dharma-King.(11 cd)

Accomplishment of the glorious merit of kinsmen is described in the verse as:

  The hosts of sages in the likeness of pure flowers surrounding the Tathagata
  Are born there, transformed from within the Flower of Enlightenment.(12 ab)

Accomplishment of the glorious merit of nourishment is described in the verse as:

  They enjoy the taste of the Buddha Dharma,
  Taking meditation and Samadhi as food. (12 cd)

Accomplishment of the glorious merit in securing freedom from afflictions is described in the verse as:

Forever free from bodily and mental afflictions,
They always enjoy pleasure, without interruption
. (13 ab)

Accomplishment of the glorious merit in providing the gate of the Great Principle is described in the verse as:

  
In this realm of the Goodness of the Mahayana
  [All beings are] equal, and not [even] names of unworthy beings are found there.
  Women, deformed and deficient persons and
  [Those having] the seeds of the Two Vehicles are not born there.(13 cd & 14 ab)

One should know that the reward of the Pure Land is free of two kinds of unworthy beings: (1) beings themselves and (2) their names. The beings are of three kinds: (1) followers of the Two Vehicles, (2) women and (3) deformed and deficient persons. Because of the absence of these three imperfections, it is said ‘unworthy beings themselves are not found there.’ The names are also of three kinds. Not only are the three kinds of such beings themselves non-existent, but also even names ‘the Two Vehicles’, ‘women’ and ‘deformed and deficient persons’ are not heard there. Therefore, it is said ‘not even the names of unworthy beings are found there.’ ‘Equal’ means being equal and having the same characteristics.
Accomplishment of the glorious merit in fulfilling all aspirations is described in the verse as:

  Whatever aspirations sentient beings may have,
  They will all be fulfilled.
( 14 cd)

<Perfection of self-benefit and benefiting of others>
I have briefly explained the seventeen kinds of glorious merits of Amida Buddha’s Land, which manifest the Tathagata’s perfection of both the great merit-power for his own benefit and the merit for benefiting others.

<The Pure Land entering into the ultimate reality>
The adornments of the Land of the Buddha of Immeasurable Life are phenomenal aspects of a wondrous realm which has arisen from the ultimate reality. I have explained in due order the sixteen objects of perception (i.e. from the second to the seventeenth adornments) and the one (i.e. the first adornment). This one should know.

<Contemplation of Amida>
What is the contemplation of accomplishment of the glorious merits of the Buddha? We should know that it has eight aspects. What are the eight? They are: (1) accomplishment of the glorious merit of the seat, (2) accomplishment of the glorious merit of the body, (3) accomplishment of the glorious merit of speech, (4) accomplishment of the glorious merit of the mental activity, (5) accomplishment of the glorious merit of the congregation, (6) accomplishment of the glorious merit of the sovereign power, (7) accomplishment of the glorious merit of lordship, and (8) accomplishment of the glorious merit of the unfailing sustenance.

What is the accomplishment of the glorious merit of the seat? It is said in the verse:

  [He is seated] on the pedestal of an excellent, pure lotus flower
  Adorned with innumerable great treasures. (15 cd)

What is the accomplishment of the glorious merit of the body? It is said in the verse:

  His physical marks of excellence shine for one fathom;
  His form is incomparably superior to that of any other beings
. (16 ab)

What is the accomplishment of the glorious merit of speech? It is said in the verse:

  The wondrous voice of the Tathagata like that of Brahma
  Is heard throughout the ten directions. (16 cd)


What is the accomplishment of the glorious merit of mental activity? It is said in the verse:

  Like earth, water, fire, wind
  And space, [he] has no discriminative thoughts. (17 ab)


[Amida] has no discriminative thought’ because he has no discriminative mind.
What is the accomplishment of the glorious merit of the congregation? It is said in the verse:

  Heavenly and human beings, unshakable [in their spiritual attainment,]
  Are born out of the ocean of pure wisdom. (17 cd)

What is the accomplishment of the glorious merit of the sovereign power? It is said in the verse:

  Like Sumeru, the king of mountains,
  [Amida is] supreme, wonderful and unequaled. (18 ab)


What is the accomplishment of the glorious merit of lordship? It is said in the verse:

Heavenly beings and valiant men
Worship, circumambulate and look up at him adoringly. ( 18 cd)

What is the accomplishment of the glorious merit of the unfailing sustenance? It is said in the verse:

 When I observe the Buddha’s Primal Vow-Power,
  I find that those who meet with it do not pass by in vain.
  They are enabled to gain quickly
  The great sea of the treasure of merit.( 19)

When Bodhisattvas who have not yet attained the pure mind see the Buddha, they will finally be able to realize the Dharmakaya of Equality and will eventually be equal to Bodhisattvas of pure mind and those of the upper stages in the realization of tranquillity and equality.[

I have briefly explained the eight aspects [of the Buddha’s activity], demonstrating that the Tathagata’s glorious merits for his own benefit and that of others have been accomplished in due order. You should realize the implication of this.

<Contemplation of the Bodhisattvas>
What is the contemplation of accomplishment of the glorious merits of the Bodhisattvas? It is to contemplate the Bodhisattvas, in whom we find accomplishment of the merits in performing the four right practices. You should realize the implication of this.

What are the four? First, while dwelling motionless in a Buddha-land, [Bodhisattvas] display various transformed bodies throughout the ten directions, manifest performance of practices in accord with the Dharma and engage constantly in the Buddha’s work. The verse says:

  The Land of Peace and Bliss is pure and serene;
  [The Buddha] always turns the undefiled wheel [of Dharma].
  Transformed Buddhas and Bodhisattvas [illumine the whole world] like the sun,
  [While remaining motionless] like Mt. Sumeru. ( 20)


For they seek to enable sentient beings to bloom like lotuses in a muddy pool.

Second, at any time they choose, their accommodative and transformed bodies emit great light and reach all worlds in the ten directions simultaneously and in a flash of thought in order to teach and guide sentient beings; for they seek to remove the suffering of all sentient beings by various expedient means, practices and acts. The verse says:

  The pure, glorious light [of the Bodhisattvas],
  In a flash of thought and simultaneously,
  Illumines each and every Buddha’s assembly
  And gives benefit to multitudes of beings.( 21)


Third, having reached all the worlds without exception, they illumine each and every Buddha’s assembly. On such a vast and immense scale, they make offerings to the Buddhas, Tathagatas, pay homage to them and praise their virtues. The verse says:

  They shower heavenly musical instruments, flowers, robes,
  Fine incense, and so forth, with which they worship the Buddhas;
  They praise and extol the merits of the Buddhas
  Without discriminative thoughts. (22)

Fourth, they visit places in all the worlds in the ten directions where the Three Treasures do not exist. Establishing and glorifying the ocean-like merit of the treasures of the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha, they display and explain the correct practices to all. The verse says:

  If there is any world in the universe
  Without the treasure of merit of the Buddha Dharma,
  I resolve to be born there

  And to preach the Dharma as does a Buddha.( 23)

<All the glorious manifestations entering into the Vow-Mind>
I (i.e., Vasubandhu) have explained above the contemplation of accomplishment of the glorious merits of the Buddha-land, the Buddha and the Bodhisattvas. These three kinds of accomplishment are adorned with the resolution. One should realize the implications of this.

<Entering into the One Dharma Principle>
Presented in brief, they enter into the One Dharma Principle. The One Dharma Principle is the Purity Principle; the Purity Principle is Unconditioned Dharmakaya that is to be realized through True Wisdom.

<Two kinds of purity>
Purity is distinguished into two kinds. One should realize this. What are the two kinds? First, purity of the land as the receptacle, and second, purity of its inhabitants. The purity of the land refers to the accomplishment of the seventeen kinds of adornment of that Buddha-land; these are called the purity of the land. The purity of the inhabitants refers to the eight kinds of adornment of the Buddha and the four kinds of adornment of Bodhisattvas; these are called the purity of the inhabitants. Thus the One Dharma Principle contains these two kinds of purity. One should realize the implication of this.

<Converting beings with skillful means>
Bodhisattvas thus practice shamatha on the condensed presentation and vipashyana on the extensive presentation, and so attain the pliant mind. They truly realize both the extensive manifestations and the all-inclusive principle. Thus they accomplish the transference of merit by skillful means.
What is the Bodhisattvas’ transference of merit by skillful means? The Bodhisattvas’ transference of merit by skillful means is that they turn over all the merits and roots of good accumulated by performing the five kinds of practice, such as worship, to all sentient beings to remove their sufferings, for they do not seek to enjoy the pleasures for their own sustenance, but wish to embrace all sentient beings and help them attain birth in that Buddha-land of Peace and Bliss together with themselves. This is called ‘Bodhisattvas’ accomplishment of the transference of merit by skillful means
.’

<Eliminating hindrances to Bodhi>
Having mastered the method of accomplishing the transference of merit, Bodhisattvas can now eliminate the three hindrances to Bodhi. What are the three? First, by entering the gate of wisdom, they do not seek their own pleasure, and thus they eliminate any thought of self-attachment.
Second, by entering the gate of compassion, they remove the sufferings of all sentient beings and eliminate disinclination to give peace to them.
Third, by entering the gate of expedient means, they attain compassion for all sentient beings and thus eliminate any thought of seeking veneration and respect by others.
These are called elimination of the three kinds of hindrances to Bodhi.

<Coming into accord with Bodhi>
Having thus eliminated the three kinds of hindrances to Bodhi, Bodhisattvas can now completely attain the three minds which are in accord with Bodhi. What are these?
First, the undefiled pure mind: [they attain this mind] because they do not seek their own pleasure.
Second, the peaceful pure mind: [Bodhisattvas attain this mind] because they seek to remove the sufferings of all sentient beings.
Third, the blissful pure mind: [Bodhisattvas attain this mind] because they enable all sentient beings to reach Great Bodhi and [for this purpose] they receive sentient beings and lead them to attain birth in that Land.
These are called ‘completely attaining the three minds which are in accord with Bodhi.’ One should realize the implication of this.

<Summary of some key terms>
The three gates mentioned above – wisdom, compassion and skillful means – contain Prajna; Prajna contains skillful means. One should realize the implication of this.
The three eliminations mentioned above – elimination of any thought of self-attachment, elimination of disinclination to give peace to sentient beings, and elimination of any thought of seeking veneration and respect by others – are the ways of removing hindrances to Bodhi. One should realize the implication of this.
The three kinds of mind mentioned above – undefiled pure mind, peaceful pure mind and blissful pure mind – are combined to form ‘the supreme, blissful, unsurpassed and true mind.’ One should realize the implication of this.

<Fulfillment of the vows and the acts>
In this way the Bodhisattvas’ mind of wisdom, mind of expediency, mind of non-hindrance, and unsurpassed and true mind bring about birth in the Buddha’s Pure Land. One should realize the implication of this.
This is called ‘accomplishment of the acts of the Bodhisattvas, Mahasattvas, as they desire through the five Dharma-gates.’ The acts of body, speech, mind, wisdom and wisdom of skillful means as mentioned above are the Dharma-gates that conform to the way of birth in the Pure Land.

<Accomplishment of the beneficial acts>
Again, there are five gates, which in order produce five kinds of merit. One should realize the implication of this. What are the five gates? They are: (1) the gate of approach, (2) the gate of great assemblage, (3) the gate of residence, (4) the gate of chamber, and (5) the gate of playing ground.
Of the five gates, the first four produce the merit in the phase of ‘going in’ and the fifth produces the merit in the phase of ‘going out’.
The first gate in the phase of ‘going in’ is to worship Amida Buddha in order to be born in his Land; by this one attains birth in the Land of Peace and Bliss, and so it is called the first gate in the phase of ‘going in.’
The second gate in the phase of ‘going in’ is to praise Amida Buddha, while reciting his Name in compliance with its meaning and practicing in compliance with his light of wisdom; by this one joins the great assemblage. This is called the second gate in the phase of ‘going in.’
The third gate in the phase of ‘going in’ is to aspire single-mindedly and wholeheartedly to be born there and to perform the practice of shamatha, the samadhi of tranquillity; by this one can reach the Land of Lotus-Treasury. This is called the third gate in the phase of ‘going in.’
The fourth gate in the phase of ‘going in’ is to contemplate wholeheartedly those glorious adornments and so practice vipashyana; by this one can reach that Land, where one will enjoy various flavors of the Dharma. This is called the fourth gate of ‘going in.’
The fifth gate in the phase of ‘going out’ is to observe with great compassion all suffering beings, manifest accommodated and transformed bodies, and enter the garden of birth-and-death and the forest of evil passions, where [Bodhisattvas] play about, exercising transcendent powers; they thus dwell in the stage of teaching others through [Amida’s] transference of merit by their Primal Vow-Power. This is called the fifth gate in the phase of ‘going out.’
Bodhisattvas accomplish the practice for their own benefit with the four gates in the phase of ‘going in.’ One should realize the implication of this.
Through the fifth gate of ‘going out’ Bodhisattvas accomplish the practice of benefiting others by transference of merit. One should realize the implication of this.
Thus, by performing the five mindful practices, Bodhisattvas accomplish both self-benefit and benefit for others, and so quickly attain anuttara-samyak- sambodhi.

  End of my brief exposition of the essential of the Verses of Aspiration for Birth, Upadesha on the Buddha of Infinite Life Sutra


[Bibliography] H. Inagaki, Ojoronchu: T’an-luan’s Commentary on Vasubandhu’s Discourse on the Pure Land: A Study and Translation, Nagata Bunshodo, Kyoto, 1998, pp. 120-291.