The Hymns on the Pure Land which we have the pleasure of presenting to the readers is a translation with annotation of one of Shinran Shõnin’s three major collections of hymns. As the founder of the Shin Buddhist Sect in Japan, Shinran left a number of works in Japanese and classical Chinese, in verse as well as in prose. His most important dissertation in classical Chinese is the Kyõ Gyo Shin Shõ (“Teaching, Practice, Faith, and Enlightenment”), 6 vols., whose précis in Chinese verse, Shõshin Ge (“Gatha of True Faith in the Nembutsu”), we have translated and published in the first volume of our translation series. If his religious philosophy is detailed in the former text, his religious sentiment is expressed in Japanese hymns. He composed more than five hundred hymns, of which those contained in the three collections, i.e., the Jõdo Wasan (“Hymns on the Pure Land”), Kõsõ Wasan (“Hymns on the Patriarchs”), and Shozomatsu Wasan (“Hymns on the Ages of Right Dharma, Semblance Dharma, and Decadent Dharma”), are particularly important because of the doctrinal implications and the direct relationships with our practical faith. These collections of hymns have also played a vital role in disseminating Shin Buddhist Faith throughout Japan and nourishing the spiritual lives of its followers since the eighth abbot Rennyo published a wood-block print edition of these hymns together with the Shõshin Ge for the use of daily recitation by priests and laymen.
Our translation of the Jõdo Wasan is not the first one. The first complete translation of the three collections of hymns was made by s. Yamabe and L. Adams Beck and published in one of the “Wisdom of the East” series in 1921. It was followed the next year by the publication of an English translation of the Jõdo Wasan with the Japanese original and a few marginal notes by u. Oshima of our university. Another translation of the Jõdo Wasan was made by Beatrice L. Suzuki and published together with other articles by Daisetsu Suzuki in A Miscellany on the Shin Teaching of Buddhism in 1949. In 1955 Kõshõ Yamamoto, once professor at our university, published the second complete translation of the three collections of hymns in his Shinshu Seiten. That the Jõdo Wasan has been translated four times during the past few decades is indicative of its importance in the religious life of Japan. Each translation has its own merit, and it is up to the reader to evaluate it. We believe in our own system, and, just as we have done in the previous volumes, we have presented our translation together with the Japanese original, its romanized reading, and notes to the ideas and terms which may be foreign to the readers.
In publishing the present volume, I express my hearty gratitude to Prof. R. Fujimoto, presently a visiting lecturer for the Buddhist Churches of America, Mr. H. Inagaki, lecturer of Shin Buddhism at our university, and Rev. L. s. Kawamura of Canada, who took the chief responsibility of translating and annotating the Jõdo Wasan. The first draft was made by Prof. Fujimoto and Rev. Kawamura, then a graduate student at our university, with the help of Rev. T. Nabeshima, then a graduate student. After the draft was carefully studied at the general meetings, it was turned over to Mr. Inagaki, who, taking the suggestions and criticism by other members into consideration, made the second draft and supplied notes with the help of Rev. Kawamura, Mr. Inagaki also added the introductory essay, glossary, etc., and brought the manuscript into the present form. Next, I extend my thanks to other members who read the manuscript and gave valuable suggestions. Particularly, my deep appreciation is due to Japanese American students studying at our university whose help has brought the translation up to the present level.
Our translation center has been working on annotated translations of Buddhist scriptures, such as those by Shinran Shonin, ever since the former president Kenju Masuyama established it in the first year of his presidency, i.e. in 1958. With his previous career as professor of Buddhism at Ryukoku University and, later, Bishop of the Buddhist Churches of America, he had a deep concern about translation works. He used to attend weekly general meetings and give directions and suggestions. But such an undertaking was, after all not his personal enterprise. Recognizing the necessity of Buddhist publications in English, the Hompa Honganji Temple and overseas Buddhist establishments, especially the Buddhist Churches of America, gave US fervent encouragements and generous financial help. Our successful publication of the Shõshin Ge in 1961, the Tanni Shõ in 1962, and a Portuguese edition of our English Shõshin Ge in 1964 was due to their spiritual and substantial support and to Rev. Masuyama’s wise leadership under which all members made their concerted effort in this project. It is to our great regret that Rev. Masuyama resigned his post last June owing to illness. His project, however, is being carried on with even greater enthusiasm by the members of the translation center. More and more books will be added to the list of our publications.
We sincerely hope that the readers will appreciate the faith and philosophy of Shin Buddhism through this translation series. We shall be content if the present book will help broaden their spiritual horizon. If it will light a candle of noble aspiration for Enlightenment in their minds, we shall have nothing more to ask. All the merits in this book are reserved for the original author, Shinran Shonin, and whatever demerit there is in it is due to us.
Hymns on the Pure Land
List of Chinese and Japanese Proper Nouns.
Index to Hymns (first lines)
A Sanskrit Reader
Crossing The Stream
Buddhism In A Nutshell
History of Buddhism In India
Concept & Meaning
The Nava-Nalanda-Mahavihara Research Publication Vol. I
Buddhist Essays & Reviews
The Spirit of Asoka