The Shoshinge was written by Shinran Shonin, as a portion of his much larger work, the Kyogyoshinsho. The Shoshinge appears at the end of the second chapter of the quite voluminous six chapter work, the Kyogyoshinsho.
The Shoshinge is written in the form of a song or poem, and consists of exactly 120 lines. The Shoshinge is also one of the most fundamental of sutra chants recited in Jodo Shinshu. At our mother temple in Kyoto, the Nishi Hongwanji. the beautiful sound of ministers and lay people chanting this centuries old chant, is something almost indescribable.
In the Shoshinge, Shinran expresses his own religious faith, but he also expresses his deep conviction, his insight, his realization, his humility, and his profound gratitude, which are all his shinjin, or his true heart and mind.
The English translation of the gāthā is from The True Teaching, Practice and Realization of the Pure Land Way, Vol. I., Shin Buddhist Translation Series, Hongwanji International Center, Kyoto, Japan.
|1 (LEADER) Ki myo-u mu ryo-u
ju nyo ra-i
(ALL) Na mo fu ka shi gi ko
Ho zo bo sa-tsu in ni ji
Zai se ji zai o bus-sho
|In the Tathagata of Life Beyond Measure we take refuge and also proclaim
That in the Light Surpassing All Thoughts and Ideas, we joyfully do the same,
Dharmakara while on the bodhisattva path kept strict abidance
And in Lokesvararaja Buddha he found excellent guidance.
|2- To ken sho butsu jo do in
Koku do nin den shi zen maku
Kon ryu mu jo shu sho gan
Cho host ke-u dai gu zei
|He examined the origins of the Buddhas’ pure lands with utmost concentration;
Of everything good and bad in those lands he made full observation.
The Original Vows of great deliverance became articulated,
And his unsurpassed and highest Aspiration emanated.
|3- Go ko shi yui shi sho ju
Ju sei myo sho mon jip-po
Fu ho mu ryo mu hen ko
Mu ge mu tai ko en no
|After timeless and deep concentration, he was undeterred
From making the Vow that everywhere his many names be heard:
Light Beyond All Measure, Light Unbounded and Unconfined,
Light Unhidered, Light Unequaled, Light of all Brilliances Combined,
|4- Sho jo kan gi chi e ko
Fu dan nan ji mu sho ko
Cho nichi gakko sho jin setsu
Is-sai gunjo mu ko sho
|Light That Is Pure, Light That is Joyful, Light of Wisdom Flowing,
Light Unceasing, Light Beyond All Words, Beyond All Knowing,
And Light Surpassing the Sun and Moon. These Lights shine everywhere –
On all the worlds and likewise on all sentient beings wheresoever
|5- Hon gan myo go sho jo go
Shi shin shin gyo gan ni in
Jo to gaku sho dai ne han
His-shi metsu do gan jo ju
|Our truly settled state is the Vow of Amida Buddha’s Name;
Through the mind of true and sincere entrusting to Buddhahood we aim.
The highest bodhisattva stage — our enlightened situation —
Without a doubt fulfills the Vow of our ultimate liberation.
|6- Nyo rai sho-i ko shus-se
Yui setsu mi da hon gan kai
Go joku aku ji gun jo kai
O shin nyo rai nyo jitsu gon
|Sakyamuni Buddha did on this very Earth appear
To make Amida’s Innermost Aspiration utterly clear.
We multitudes of beings who reside in times of great defilements
Should trust in the truth of the Buddha’s words and thus avoid beguilements.
| 7- No hotsu ichi nen ki ai shin
Fu dan bon no toku ne han
Bon jo gyaku ho sai e nyu
Nyo shu shi nyu kai ichi mi
| One thought-moment of joy emerges from our deep contemplation,
And without the severing of our blind passions we gain liberation.
Foolish and wise offenders of the Dharma, who by the grasp of the Vow are graced,
Resemble the rivers that on entering the ocean transform into one salty taste.
|8- Ses-shu shin ko jo sho go
I no sui ha mu myo an
Ton nai shin zo shi un mu
Jo-fu shin jitsu shin jin ten
| The light of all-embracing Compassion shines on us always – it’s true-
Protecting us all as though the darkness of ignorance has already been broken through;
Even so, extending over the sky of true shinjin are cautions that we must heed:
The vast, misty clouds of anger and hatred and selfish desire and greed.
| 9- Hi nyo nik-ko fu un mu
Un mu shi ge myo-mu an
Gyaku shin ken kyo dia kyo ki
Soku o cho zetsu go aku shu
| But just as the darkness of clouds and mists obscures the light of the sun,
Below the clouds we can still see the light, for the brightness cannot be undone.
When the grasp of joyful entrusting our humble reverence is deep.
Over the five evil realms of existence we crosswise and instantly leap.
|10- Is-sai zen maku bon bu nin
Mon shin nyo rai gu zei gan
Butsu gon ko dai sho ge sha
Ze nin myo fun da ri ke-
| All foolish beings who are living on earth and whether they’re evil or good
And trust in the great universal deliverance – striving for sure Buddhahood –
As excellent people of vast understanding by the Buddha are acclaimed;
Such people, in fact, pundarikas – or white lotus flowers – are named.
|11- -mi da butsu hon gan nen butsu
Ja ken kyo man naku shu jo
Shin gyo ju ji jin ni nan
Nan chu shi nan mu ka shi
| Nembutsu rightly embodies the Buddha Amida’s Original Vow,
And for evil-minded, ignorant, and arrogant beings it certainly still proves now
Very hard to receive with deep trusting joy and difficult also to hold;
Of all of life’s challenges, this one must be the most difficult one, we are told.
|12- In do sai ten shi ron ge
Chu ka ji-chi i-ki shi ko so
Ken dai sho ko se sho i
Myo nyo rai hon zei o ki
| The writers of India wrote texts on the teachings, explaining each word one by one,
As well as the masters of the Middle Kingdom and the Land of the Rising Sun.
The true intent for the appearance of Sakyamuni, the Sage, they made plain;
They also revealed that to people of all Ages the Vows of Amida pertain.
|13- Sha-ka nyo rai ryo ga sen
I shu go myo nan ten jiku
Ryu-ju dai ji shut-to se
Shi-tsu no zai ha u mu ken
| Long ago on Mount Lanka, Sakyamuni the Tathagata foretold – the scriptures do say –
To multitudes of followers listening intently that far off in the future one day
A great noble master, Nagarjuna by name, would surely in this world appear.
To make all the views on both being and non-being strikingly, perfectly clear.
|14- Sen ze-tsu dai jo mu jo ho
Sho kan gi ji sho an raku
Ken ji nan gyo roku ro ku
Shin gyo i gyo shi do raku
| The marvelous Mahayana teachings Nagarjuna clearly expounded,
And eventually he attained the stage of Peace and Bliss unbounded.
He said that difficult practice was like our walking on land, which can be
Very hard; while easy practice was likened to sailing on a smooth, gentle sea.
|15- Oku nen mi da bu-tsu hon gan
Ji nen so-ku ji nyu hi-tsu jo
Yui no jo sho nyo rai go
O ho dai hi gu zei on
| When we grasp with total mindfulness Amida’s Innermost Aspiration,
We enter the definitely settled stage without any hesitation,
By keeping our focus on the Tathagata’s Name with a sincere and trusting attitude,
We express to the Great Compassionate Vow our deep and heartfelt gratitude.
|16- Ten-jin bo satsu zo ron setsu
Ki myo mu ge ko nyo rai
E shu ta ra ken shin jitsu
Ko sen o cho dai sei gan
| In treatises did the great Bodhisattva Vasubandhu write
That he himself took refuge in the Buddha of Unimpeded Light;
Relying on the Larger Sutra, he declared that crosswise we
Transcend samsara by the Great Vow to realize True Reality.
|17- Ko-yu hon gan riki e ko
I do gun jo sho is-shin
Ki nyu ku doku dai ho kai
Hitsu gyaku nyu dai e shu shu
| The power of the Vow and Amida’s transference of merits form the core
Of the manifestation of the One Mind to guide all beings to the other shore.
When entering the Great Treasure-Ocean of merits all seekers for certain are bound
For the Pure Land Path, where those of the Great Assembly are to be found.
|18- Toku shi ren ge zo se kai
Soku sho shin nyo hos-sho jin
Yu bon no rin gen jin zu
Nyu sho ji on ji o ge
| On Reaching the Lotus-Storehouse World, or the threshold of true liberation,
They instantly realize Dharmakaya, or total emancipation.
Beset with blind passions, they will manifest transcendent potentiality
And in various forms return to lead others to ultimate reality.
|19- Hon shi Donran ryo ten shi
Jo ko ran sho bo satsu rai
San zo ru shi ju jo kyo
Bon jo sen gyo ki raku ho
| Donran was greatly revered by Emperor Liang of the Chinese nation,
And he as a bodhisattva received the emperor’s veneration.
When from Bodhiruci to Donran the Pure Land teachings came,
Embracing the Doctrine, he completely destroyed his Taoist works with a flame.
|20- Tenjin bo satsu ron chu ge
Ho do in ga ken sei gan
O gen ne ko yu ta riki
Sho jo shi in yui shin jin
| Donran, in his comments on Vasubandhu, said that it made perfect sense
That the Vows are the cause and effect of our birth in the Land of Recompense.
The directing of virtue – its going and returning – is Other Power’s endurance:
Through shinjin – or entrusting – comes the stage of Right Assurance.
|21- Waku zen bon bu shin jin potsu
Sho-chi sho-ji soku ne han
His-shi mu ryo ko myo do
Sho-u shu jo-u kai fu ke
| That true entrusting is awakened in foolish beings is Amida’s dana,
For we instantly realize that birth-and-death is identical to nirvana;
On reaching the Land of Immeasurable Light we most assuredly share
In the process of liberating all sentient beings in all places – everywhere.
|22- Doshaku kes-sho do nan sho
Yui myo jo do ka tsu nyu
Man zen ji riki hen gon shu
En man toku go kan sen sho
| Doshaku said that by the Path of the Sages enlightenment is hard to attain;
The Pure Land Path is the only path to enter liberation’s domain.
He criticized harshly the self-power practice of trying to do the good deed
And urged us to focus on Amida’s Name, which is true virtue’s wonderful seed.
|23- San-pu san shin ke on gon
Zo matsu ho metsu do-hi in
Is-sho zo aku chi gu zei
Shi an nyo gai sho myo ka
| Three aspects of faith – of both pure and impure – he kindly explicated;
He has guided all seekers – Dharma Age notwithstanding – with Compassion unabated.
On encountering the Innermost Aspiration, through our misconduct has found no surcease,
We will realize true liberation when we reach the Land of Peace.
|24- (LEADER) Zen-do-u do ku myo-u bus-sho-u i
(ALL) Ko ai jo san yo gyaku aku
Ko myo myo go ken in nen
Kai nyu hon gan dai chi kai
| Zendo alone wanted wanted to clarify the Buddha’s true intent,
And pitying self-power practicers and beings whose lives in evil are spent,
He taught that the Light and the Name are the cause and condition for their Pure Land birth.
He said when they enter the Great Wisdom Ocean of the Original Vow’s real worth.
|25- Gyo ja sho ju kon go shin
Kyo ki i-chi nen so o go
Yo i dai to gya-ku san nin
So-ku sho hos-sho shi jo raku
| And at the same time experience the joy of one thought-moment, they will find
That they, too, have received the indestructible Diamond Mind;
To them the bliss of True Reality instantly will unfold –
As threefold insight came to Vaidehi in the stories and sutras of old.
|26- Gen shin ko kai i-chi dai kyo
Hen ki an nyo kan is-sai
Sen zo shu shin han sen jin
Ho ke ni do sho ben ryu
| Genshin deeply delved into the Buddha’s teachings from the distant past,
And solely of the Path of the Pure Land he became an enthusiast.
Setting apart true practice from acts that sundry practices demand,
He showed the difference between our birth in the Transformed versus Recompensed Land.
|27- Goku ju aku nin yui sho butsu
Ga ya-ku zai hi ses-shu chu
Bon no sho gen sui fu ken
Dai hi mu ken jo sho ga
| By saying the Name with a trusting heart, the seekers will know that despite
Their heavy karmic burdens, they are embraced by Amida’s Light.
Though they are unaware because of blind passions and burdensome karma,
On them Great Compassion continues to shine – the Light of Buddha Dharma.
|28- Hon shi Gen ku myo buk-kyo
Ren min zen ma-ku bon bu nin
Shin shu kyo sho ko hen shu
Sen ja-ku hon gan gu a-ku se
| Master Genku studied Buddhist teachings as thoroughly as he could.
He felt great pity for all foolish beings – for the evil and also the good.
To distant regions of Japan the Pure Land teachings he unfurled
And transmitted Amida’s Original Vow to all the defiled world.
|29- Gen rai sho ji rin den ge
Ket-chi gi jo I sho shi
So-ku nyu ja-ku jo mu i raku
Hit-chi shin jin i no nyu
| Continuing the cycle of birth-and-death, or samsara, comes about
Certainly as a result of the ties that bind us to feelings of doubt.
But entering the realm of uncreated tranquility or quiet transcendence,
Results from the mind of true entrusting and the grasping of interdependence.
|30- Gu kyo dai ji shu shi to-o-o-u
Jo sai mu hen go-ku jo-ku aku
Do zo-ku ji shu gu do shin
Yu-i ka shin shi ko-u so-u se-e-tsu
| The masters who spread the Pure Land teachings throughout the world all sought
To liberate countless beings, who in the world of defilement were caught.
With mindfulness should all, both ministers and lay, who live in the present Age,
Place complete trust in the exquisite teachings of each respectable Sage.