English translation of the French language text "History of Pure Land Buddhism"

On Sunday 11 August 2002, we received a gift for the John D. Hughes Collection of an English translation of a French language text "History of Pure Land Buddhism" written by Mr Henri de Lubac.

The gift was made by the translator, retired English teacher and scholar, Mr Amita Bhaka.

President of the Buddhist Discussion Centre (Upwey) Ltd., Mr Julian Bamford, met with Mr Bhaka at his home in Mount Dandenong, where he was presented with six exercise books containing the hand written translation.

Mr Bhaka, who at the time was 77 years of age, had been looking for some time to find the right place for these Dhamma treasures to be housed and protected.

He acquired a copy of the "History of Pure Land Buddhism" while in Paris, France in 1962, commencing work on the translation into English on 23 February 1965, while living in Tamranoui, New Zealand. He completed the work on 23 December 1968.

Some years later he wrote to Mr de Lubac to enquire about the possibility of publishing the English translation.

He received a letter from Mr de Lubac dated 23 April 1976. Mr de Lubac was eighty years of age when he wrote the letter. Mr de Lubac's letter of reply, written in French, is included with the six exercise books.

Mr Bhaka requested that the original translation become part of the John D. Hughes Collection, and that a copy of any typed translation should also be given to another suitable Mahayana Buddha Dhamma library.

He was most pleased with the notion of the work being published online on one of our websites.

Mr Bhaka also gave three coloured prints to the Buddhist Discussion Centre (Upwey) Ltd. They are Buddha and Bodhisattva, Avalokeshvara and Bhavachakra.

Chapter One
(page 1)

The Inherited Doctrine of Karma is the Fundamental Buddhist Teaching

"The doctrine of the Act (deed), of karma, forms the keystone (crown) of the whole Buddhist building."1 This assertion by Étienne Lamotte is confirmed, it can be said, by the Buddha Sakyamuni himself, to whom the Mahavastu attributes these words: "Bhikshus (Monks), I teach nothing but karma." 2 Every true Buddhist can exclaim, with the devotee (disciple) of the Anguttara nikaya: "My karma is my estate, my karma is my inheritance, my karma is the womb which has engendered me. My karma is the race to which I belong. My karma is my refuge." 3 This law of karma is not of (a) Buddhist invention, but, inputting its stamp on it, Buddhism has fully adopted it; among the great authors of its tradition as well as its sacred texts, it is everywhere proclaimed, illustrated, commented on. The edifying writings instil it into the people. The philosophical systems are built up on its foundation. In his Treatise on the Great Faculty of Wisdom (Commentary on the Perfect Wisdom), the first Summary of the Mahayana, Nagarjuna extols it in these terms:

(a) The wheel by transmigration drags along man
With his passions and shackles.
Very strong, it goes around unhindered, nobody can stop it.

(b) Deeds performed during previous existences
change into every kind of form, (i.e. before the eye of the perceiver?).
The force of the deed in all-powerful.
There is nothing in the world like it.

(c) The deeds of previous existences are the masters
Which compel man to suffer his retribution
The wheel turns by the forces of deeds;
It turns in the sea of samsara.

(d) The waters of the ocean can dry up,
Sumeru's sail can be exhausted,
But the deeds of previous existences
Never dwindle away, never are exhausted.

(e) The long accumulated deeds
Dog their author
As a creditor pursues his debtor
Without letting go of him. 4

(e) You can mount from earth to Heaven,
From Heaven penetrate the Himavat,
From the Himavat dive into the sea:
Nowhere will you escape the deed.

(Footnote 5 - Translated Étienne Lamotte, vol. 1, pp. 347-349)

(Footnote 6 - The deed ever follows after us, Never lets go of us; Unswerving, Never missing its moment, without delay, Like the tide which follows the moon.)

(page 2)

Karma - Law of Retaliation
Whole World Born of Karma - Universal Cycle

The "fruit" (phala) of the act is in its likeness: this connection constitutes the karmic analogy (karmasadrata), a real "law of retaliation". 6 An inflexible, relentless law: "Leprosy is the flowers of the evil deed of which the fruit is hell"; and "what we call fate (daiva) is the heavy deed." 7 A universal law of multiple aspects: the force of acts not only causes the wheels of individual existences to revolve; it is the great cosmic Wheel, Samsara itself, wheel from all eternity it sets in motion (it sets in motion the great cosmic Wheel, Samsara itself, from all eternity. This "vast conception at once moral and mechanical of the universe." 8 takes the place in Buddhism of all ideas of a creating and rewarding God. "Whatever befalls creatures is solely the fruit of the deeds, good or bad, performed by themselves, things done, spoken or thought: there is no other Creator in the world." "The variety of the world is born of karma." "The whole world is born on karma." 9 In each of its states, it is the fruit of karma. Like the Brahman sacrifice, from which through the meditation of the fruit Upanishads it has borrowed its name, the Buddhist karma is therefore the Sovereign, Adhipati, who raises up, orders and sustains the universe.

Clouds come from the ocean streams.
Rain from clouds swells streams.
The cycle of karma is just the same,
From worlds beginning to sorrow's ending.10

In this universal cycle, each being - more exactly, each series of successive acts, whatever way this concatenation is explained - holds strictly the place its antecedents have made for it. The different individual series appear interlaced, but they do not really communicate with one another,11 and it is folly to imagine that one can receive something from another, or give him something.

(page 3)

A Way out of Karma - disinterested, non-possessive action - Buddha's role restricted to showing the Way

Doubtless the situation of the being subjected to his karma is not hopeless. The play of freedom is very restricted, but there it is. Deliverance is possible. Such is the glad news brought by Sakyamuni like other great "enlightened ones" before him, he has found "the Way Out"; he has "broken his existence like a shield (breastplate), or "as the bird breaks its shell"; he has "crushed the hosts of birth and death"; he knows how to destroy the prison and prevent it ever being rebuilt. 12 Nirvana can be attained, thanks to the "fruit of breaking up" produced by a "pure act". But this act "without object", "without any idea of utility", which destroys every desire and attachment because it no longer issues from any attachment r desire - nirvana is attained only on condition of not being desired in the usual sense 13 - this marvellous act "impossible to conceive" (a -cintya) is evidently not within anyone's reach. It can come about only at the end of a long series of detachments and renunciations, by someone who has said no to the world and to all its illusions; and moreover, no divine grace, no power from without, ever comes to hasten the moment. With stronger reason such a power does not come to supply the fulfilment of it.

(pages 3 and 4)

Buddha a guide, not a saviour. His followers are to be self-reliant. He is utterly extinguished, no longer able to reach us

Buddha applied to him signifies both his own enlightenment and his enlightening of others;14 but his action is limited to that. He does not want anyone to adhere to the Law through a simple feeling of respect for or trust in himself: each person must behave according to what "he himself has recognised, seen and grasped". In his final earthly existence, pitying men shacked by this ignorance to the wheel of karma, he "by is teaching reached out a hand" to them, instructing them "to act and think, rather than to believe, must less to worship". To the various classes of beings visited in turn by him, he gave the explanations sought; he expounded the Law to them, kindled their thirst for learning, and by his answers led them "to be entirely satisfied"; then he disappeared. Since he has "crossed over the realm of existence" and "attained the further side", entered into Nirvana, he is utterly "extinguished". He has wholly gone from us. No prayer can reach him, no help from him reach us. All that is left to us is to profit by his precepts and example. He was a "guide", a "principal conductor", a "physician"; he has "cleared a path", given out beneficial truths, "bequeathed" a teaching: he is not a saviour.

Shortly before his death at the village of Belouva, near Vaisali, he explained the matter distinctly. As he had just overcome by his strength of will a first onslaught of illness, his disciple Ananda said gently to him: "I found some comfort in the thought that the Blessed One would not be extinguished without having left his instructions on the subject of the fraternal (brotherhood) community." Sakyamuni replied: "What more, Ananda, does the Brotherhood require of me? I have taught the Law (Dharma, Dhamma) without any reservation, for the Predestined One is not one of those masters who keep their hands closed (tight shut). Here I am old and sick; I am at the end of my journey. hence, Ananda, be a light to yourselves, your own resources. Have no light other than the Law, no other resource."16

(Footnote 15 - Majjhima nikaya Madhyama Agama, 36th sutra (the Agamas correspond in Sandskrit Buddhism to the Pali nikayas) Vasubandhu, Abhidharmakosa, 1, 2 (translated Louis de la Vallée Poussin) Paul Mus, Barabudur, Sketch of a History of Buddhism based on the Archaeological Criticism of the Texts, vol. 1 (1935), p. 127. Alfred Foucher, The Life of Buddha according to the Texts and Monuments of India (1940), pp. 324 and 329. Mrs Rhys Davids, Buddhism, pp. 103 - 104. CB Marcus Aurelius, IV, 45.)

(page 5)

For Buddha, the Dharma is supreme. Cosmic effects of his death. His hidden splendour.

Far from claiming to be the Mind or Soul of a mystical body, Buddha therefore does not want even to remain the leader or director of the community founded by him: "What other protector than oneself is there? The Buddhas only point out the way." His role can in no way compare with that of Christ, who says of himself: "I am the Way" and "Without me, you can do nothing". Indeed, "many have left their homes for the homeless life for his sake", - but this is by no means in the same sense in which the disciples of Jesus have also left everything "for his Name's sake", in order to follow him. 17 As the propaganda pamphlet will explain - written towards the beginning of the first century of our era for the use of Greek settlers, and the original version of the Milinda-panha 18 - "the Buddha exists no longer except under the species of the Law". At the moment of his illumination, he said: "It is bad to live with nothing to venerate or obey" and he sought in the vast universe some being to whom he could submit; but finding none he concluded: "Therefore I must honour and venerate this Law, in which I have attained complete illumination; I am going to live by it." 19

Such is approximately the theory, the orthodox opinion in its rigidity. Surely however it was never lived without some adjustments. Let us first of all note, that even if it was still only a question of a wholly human sentiment, that one would not often be able to resign oneself to this austere impersonality. The person of Ananda remains, in the earliest Scriptures, the witness and as it were the incarnation of this feeling of reverent tenderness all trace of which a more austere school has not subsequently succeeded in suppressing. The narrative of Buddha's last moments was given emphasis by those sorrowful words: "Lo, all beings are forever abandoned to wretchedness, for the eye of the World has gone from us." If, at the announcement of this fatal moment, instead of the sere resignation preached by the Master, there was quite on the contrary "great terror", "intense panic", "shuddering of all beings", if gods and men began to weep, if Sumeru itself was felt to shake, it was not solely because a preacher had gone thence, his preaching completed! The rain spread around by "the Cloud, the Great Compassionate One", putting out the fire ceaselessly consuming (devouring) living beings, was not solely a rain of words! There is a constant recurrence of extolling "the incomparable brilliance" of Buddha, "his majestic dignity", etc. Well before the working out of the scholarly theories which assigned to him a body of luminous essence, it was thought that he had revealed his hidden splendour on two extraordinary occasions, the night of his illumination, and the night of the Nirvana.

(page 6)

Buddha rejects personal devotion to him and extols the Dharma as the true object of regard

Each disciple was a little like the good Ananda, of whom the Sutta Nipata relates that, at the sight of his Master, appearing one day as "a prince bright as a flame, shining like the stars and unobscured like the clear autumnal sun," he was "overcome by joy and in ecstasy". In one way or another, each school held forth concerning his nature. many held him to be a supernatural being (lokottara), a super-god (devatideva). Declarations were attributed to him which magnified him. It was felt too that his presence gave protection. "Wherever the ascetic Gautama shows himself, no spirit of evil can approach him; therefore, invite him here, and all these demons which torment us will flee." Even without the idea of obtaining some benefit, the desire to see him, to become personally attached to him, pierces through certain narratives, as in this request addressed by Srona Kotikarna to his master mahakatyayana, in the Divyavadana" "Thanks to my Master I have seen the Blessed One insofar as the teaching is his body (= I have seen the body of the Law, dhammakaya), but I wish now to see him in his visible body." 20

Other analogous stories were told. During his lifetime Sakyamuni had, it was said, protested several times against the futility of such a desire. He had said for example to Vaikkali: "What good would it do you to see this body of corruption (putikaya)? He who beholds the Dharma (the Law) beholds me"; and again, to a nun (bhikshuni) who, more loving or more curious than the Bhikshu Subhuti left her meditation to go and greet him: "Subhuti greeted me first, no you. What do I mean? Subhuti, contemplating the emptiness of all the elements (dhammas), has seen the Buddha's Body of the Law (dhammakaya); he has discovered the true worship (puja), that above all others, to render him. To come to greet by birth-body (jammakaya) is not to honour me." 21 The Ittivuttaka attributes to him these words: "The bhikshu who follows me by shaping the hem of my garment is far from me, and I am far from him. Why? Because seeing the Dharma he sees me." 22

(page 7)

Buddha's ever increasing role in the life of his devotees. Eye of the world. father of his disciples.

At the conclusion of another beautiful story of "two friends who act off with the desire to see the Blessed One," the Karmavibhangopadesa assigns these further words to him: "Seek, monks, whomsoever will uphold my Law; be diligent seeking him. Do not seek the one who uses the body come to me from my parents. The body of the Tathagata is the Law. The Body of the Law is his transcendent Body." 23 But these protests ascribed to Buddha did not shake the thirst for making personal contact with him, and in fact their ambiguity tended rather to augment than to reduce or obliterate it. They tended to confer a supernatural personality on him. For such words must be understood in the Indian perspective, after the Brahman analogy of Prajapati's body magically composed of the sacred syllables of revelation. Likewise, the heritage of his teaching, interpreted according to the then common magical notion of the heritage, forged between him and those who received it a much stronger link that this expression would (appears to) indicate. Truly he was the father of his disciples, as he was the King of the Law. They could truly be said to be born of his body, from his mouth, since it was confessed that he was himself "the eye of the world, the wisdom of the world, the gentle Law of the world, the Law of the world." They were the true race of Brahmans, since the name of the great Brahma was only one of his appellations . . . As time went on, these ideas assumed greater prominence, these metaphors were systematically marshalled, the spontaneous motion of the faithful masses drew its theoretical justification from the subtle scholastics, and by various but converging ways the founder of Buddhism was seen to assume an every increasing role in the life of his devotees. 24

King of the Law, sublime Lord,
Unique in all the universe.
Guider of men and gods,
Father of us and all things living! 25

(page 8)

Tale of the rejected devotee. His faith put him on the path to liberation.

More precisely, a few centuries after Sakyamuni's death, round about the (beginning of the) Christian era, the belief existed in certain circles that liberation could be attained by means of a simple calling to (invocation of) the Buddha. This is shown to us, for example, by a narrative dating from Kanishka (first or second century AD?) 26 and garnered by Asvaghosa, the "great forerunner" of the Mahayanist teachings, in his collection of prose tales mingled with verse which is called Sutralamkara, "the Embellishment of the Sayings" of Buddha. 27

A poor wretch begged to be admitted among the bhikshus. But the grave Sariputra, in charge of the community during one of Sakyamuni's absences, refuses, after investigation, to accept him. Moreover, the monks rebuff him and vy with one another in jeering at him. They maintain that, as far back as one goes in his past existences, he has never done the slightest good action. He must be lost forever and ever. However, see how Sakyamuni returning notices the wretch weeping. "Why do you weep?" "No bhikshu wants to accept me . . . The head of them all, Sariputra himself, above every other in intelligence, has rejected me." Then, Buddha sounding like thunder far off, comforted him thus: "Sariputra's sagacity is not penetrating enough. For innumerable aeons I have practised repentance and cultivated intelligence; I can help you."

Sariputra has not sifted your case thoroughly,
He cannot take it back far enough to solve
The subtle principle of karmas.

Then he added: "You have my permission to abandon the world. I desire to purchase in the bazaar of the Law a man full of faith like you. by means of the Law, I am going to obtain your salvation without losing a moment." Placing his gentle hand, bearing on it the emblem of the wheel, on the candidate's shoulder, he led him into the great hall of the community. There he questioned Sariputra who could only say: "I did not see worthy qualities in this man." Buddha replied: "Do not say so, Sariputra!"

Worthy qualities I consider to be
A subject by no means easy to discern.
The ores of the mountain,
When smelted, give gold.
so I shall use dhyana and intelligence
by way of a bellows
Blowing fullness of true worthiness into him,
Producing pure gold from him
Thus is it with this man
Whose hidden worth is like this gold.
(No matter how bad a man's karma, if we could go back "far enough" - to his origin - we would discover "pure gold" hidden in the seemingly unprofitable gravel.)

In fact, in the course of a previous life, he had been attacked one day by a tiger, while looking for wood in the forest, and cried out: "Adoration to Buddha!" This cry of faith (reliance), which at that time saved his body, had now put him in the way of final liberation. Asvaghosa concludes:

This single invocation of the Buddha
Has something in it not easy to discern:
By it this man has broken his evil circuit,
By it displayed his worthiness,
Whole-heartedly took his refuge in the Buddha,
and so must attain at last to liberation. 28

By virtue of this page and other parallels, Rene Grousset can say of Asvaghosa's works that sprouting those can be seen the personal religion which will come into being as Amidism. 29

"Destiny (fate) cannot equal the absolute power at his disposal; nor the sun so able to disperse all darkness, or the mild moon to allay the blaze of day. He it is who receives due adoration here, being the Unique": thus begins the Buddhaevita, the poem in which Asvaghosa recites the life of the Buddha Sakyamuni. 30 Moreover, about the same period, a tale like that of the Sutralamkara was related in the Divyavadana, this collection of "divine stores". 31

In the days of the fabulous antiquity, a certain Dharmasusi had committed great crimes: he had killed his parents, killed an arhat, burned a monastery. Now that had in no way prevented the holy man who was one day to become Sakyamuni from then receiving him among the monks whom he had arranged in groups, saying to him: "What is the point of rules? Only repeat constantly the formula: Homage to Buddha! Homage to Buddha!" 32

(page 10)

The parable of the sinking pebble and the hundred boulders borne safely on a boat. Religious suicide. Last thought.

The teaching which traces its way through such praises and narratives could well go back at least to the first century B.C. It finds expression indeed in the Sutra of Nagasena (in Chinese: Nasien King), a Chinese version of the Milinda-panha which is cited earlier. There is encountered an expression metaphor, earnestly commented upon, which the Chinese authors loved to quote, and which is found likewise in the Japanese Ginshin and Honen. King Milinda, the Menander of the Greeks, still sceptical, questions the old monk Nagasena: "You say: Men who in one existence have done evil for up to a hundred years, if they think of the Buddha at the moment of death 33 will all obtain after death rebirth in Heaven above. I can't accept that. You say furthermore: Let one kill a single living being, and at death he must go to hell (niraya). I can't accept that."

Then Nagasena asked the Kind: "If you take a little pebble, and lay it on the surface of the water, O King, will it float or sink?" The King replied: "The pebble will sink." Nagasena went on: "If you take a hundred boulders, and lay them on a boat, O King, will the boat sink?" "It will not", the king said.

Nagasena explained: "On account of the boat, the hundred boulders laid on it do not sink. Although a man have a thoroughly bad karma, let him think once of the Buddha, and on account of this thought he will not go to hell, but will be reborn in Heaven. The little pebble which sinks to the bottom is like a man doing evil and ignorant of Buddha's sutra: after death, he will go to hell."

The King then said: "Excellent! Excellent!"34

In the pali version of our Sutra, which is a late and adapted translation, there is added: "Good actions are like the boat". Certainly, an orthodox gloss in the line of Singalese monarchism. But, as M. Paul Demiéville remarks, 35 "this quite illogical interpolation sufficiently shows that the editors "of this pali version" have not understood or not wanted to understand the teaching alluded to here." The allusion, or rather the explanation, was nevertheless quite clear. 36

(page 11)

Transfer of merit and field of merit

To the teaching which crept into the tales of the Jatakas, which Nagasena justified by his parable, and which the monks of Ceylon found it hard to admit, some link moreover could already be found in the Hinayanist conception of "refuges", in that of the "transfers of merit" (pattidana, parinamana, parivasta) and in that of the "fields of merit" (punyahsetta), which brought a triple practical temper to the icon law of karma. For Buddhism has never been, in reality, as moderate or as rigorous as appears in certain reconstructions due to modern scholars, taking the Indian mentality too little into account, or too much influenced by a Hinayanist systematisation held to be "primitive", in fact by the monastic tradition of Ceylon. Neva, in particular, has it entirely resembled "a geometry from which Euclid would be absent".37 Despite cutting adages: "Nobody can do anything for the happiness or unhappiness of others", and: "It is foolish to believe that another can give (one something)", the Lesser Vehicle itself admits up to a certain point that the virtuous man can "share" his good actions by "directing" his merit to others. This principle of parinamana appears as old as Buddhism and even today, the cult allows of formulas or expresses the hope that the acquired merits will be transferred to dead parents or others. The Lesser Vehicle likewise admits that the smallest "root of good" if planted in the base "field of merit" of the Buddha, if, that is, any intention whatever relates it to the Buddha, "causes a great tree of blessing to spring up". 38

For, the virtue of his consummate perfection, a Buddha - and as much is to be said, in his own degree of the Arhat - possess a mysterious power, greater than that of the gods, and this power communicates a mystically efficacious virtue to the homage rendered to him.

(page 12)

Rebirth in Paradise ("Though Most Vile")

It was in vain to explain learnedly that, when beings "take refuge" in the Buddha, or make a cult of his relics, it is not the Buddha, henceforth "extinct", who rewards them for it, but that by these means beings assuage their own fever: the person of Sakyamuni continued nonetheless
to spread a religious effulgence which his disappearances - his "extinction" - could not extinguish. He himself declared, according to the Majjhina nikaya: "Monks, whoever utters with regard to me a simple sentiment of faith or affection, will go to paradise, nirvana and progress in the way of nirvana being reserved for those who apply themselves to the teaching".39 Certainly a relatively modest promise, since it is a question there again only of a wholly "worldly" (?heavenly) reward; a decided benefit, nevertheless, for the common herd of mortals, and the principle was laid down of this "other power", the idea of which Amidism will develop to the limit. The Digha nikaya says likewise: "He who dies on a pilgrimage, and with a thought calmed in the Buddha, will obtain a good destiny after death." 40

And the Dhammapada: "He who takes refuge in the Buddha will not depart to a bad destiny; when he gives up his body, he will go to the assembly of the gods." 41 The Abhidharma writings agree that the Buddha's pity differs from the pity of other pitiful beings (compassionate): "the pity of non-Buddhas is like that of a man lamenting, beside the river, the unfortunate person drowning; the Buddha's pity is like that of a man who jumps into the water and saves this unfortunate." 42

(page 13)

Easy and Difficult Practices

Then again - and it is one step more - we see, in the Nidanakatha, a future Buddha by the name of Sumadha, decide that when he attains the intuition of the Truth, it will be in order to help then the whole human race to cross the ocean of this miserable world; only after which he will himself enter nirvana. 43

However, it is above all the Greater Vehicle, that such ideas had to develop. They agreed well with the notion of the Buddha which little by little emerged from his new "biographies" such as the Buddhacarita of Asvaghosa, or the Lalitavistara. They found a favourable soil in the new type of the bodhisattva, this being "filled with compassion", who is no longer, like the arhat, "holy for himself", who "does not stop his thought at nirvana", but who, "free from every tie", wishes "to watch over the world" and devote himself to the salvation of all beings. 44 It can be seen cropping out on several occasions, in the second century, in the works of Nagarjuna, the great doctor "who gave a second turn to the Wheel of the Law", the selfsame one who earlier reminded us of the implacable law of karma. "Plant your merits in the field of the Buddha", says for example, the Mahaprajnaparamita-sastra, and the reward that you will reap from it will be like these lotuses which fill innumerable earths, etc." 45 And the Dasabhumivibhasa- sastra, in a passage which the Amidists will be fond of quoting: "Among the ways of this world, there are easy ones and hard ones. To walk on the way of the land is arduous, to steer by the way of the water is pleasant. So it is with the ways of the Bodhisattvas: some jealously practice the spiritual energy; others, by the easy practice of the means of faith rapidly arrive at the avaivarti." 46 A little further on, Nagarjuna writes again, using an image analogous to that of the Sutra of Nagasena47 : "By getting into the boat of the Eightfold Way, one can cross the sea difficult to cross over, cross it oneself and cause others to cross it.

(page 14)

Salvation Accessible to All

New stories, which do not figure in the pali canon, come to illustrate this teaching. New texts, more insistent and paradoxical, expound it: "Here are beings who have sinned in thought, word and deed: if t the end of this life, they think on the merits of the Buddha, they will escape the three evil destinies, and will obtain rebirth in heaven above, even though very wicked man."48 New expressions, or new senses given to old expressions, contribute to spreading it, without there being any reason however to attribute to them, even then, a too pressing significance: such as the appellation of "Masters of Great Alms" which the Lotus of the Good Law, gives to Sakyamuni, or that of "sons of Buddha", which it gives to his disciples. 49 The more supported idea of the "transfer of merit" confirms I. The ceremonies of the cult call it to mind. Thus it is that for a long time, the majority of Chinese monasteries, without distinction of sect or school, this liturgical innovation will be sung or chanted in a solemn tone: "From the fullness of my heart I humbly I humbly pray to you, to you, all the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas who dwell on high, you the host of lights, and then, father of money (Amitabha), and then the supremely powerful Bodhisattva Koan-yin, and all of you together, Devas and Nagas, gods of heaven and with . . . " 50 51

Thus in Buddhism itself, which appears at first sight, in its severity, so different from the majority of other religions, a place is made for ideas of grace, intercession, prayers, a trusting faith. A place is prepared at the same stroke for the idea of a salvation relatively easy, accessible to men in every condition of life, attained by a kind of "short means" or "short cut" . . . However, these ideas remained for a long time embryonic or to one side (lateral). They were to find one day this full blossoming - we mean: all the blossoming open to them in Buddhism and which we shall have to specify and weigh - in the cult of Amitabha, as practised by the sects of the "Pure Land", first in China, then in Japan.

End of chapter 1 "Amida" by Henri de Lubac S.J. Paris 1955


Page 1

Anguttara nikaya
Treatise on Perfect Wisdom
Treatise on the Act

Karma: Karma is one of the four "basic and interdependent concepts" (karma, maya, nirvana, yoga) which bring us directly to the case of Indian spirituality. YF1.3.
Karma = the "law of universal causality, which connects man with the cosmos, and condemns him to transmigrate indefinitely." YF1.3
Karma as refuge - the sure results of good conduct. Weakness = egoistic quest of merit.
All Buddha teaches is moral causality and rebirth.
Mahavastu, a Mahasanghika text which describes the ten stages of the Bodhisattvas career (440).
The Great Being
Vows 1. (p. 26); 39 and 43 (p. 34); 19 (p. 44) - moment of death
Check karma in Pure Land Texts
The insecurity of life. Our hidden karma.

Page 2

Sutra of Cause and Effect
Water Sastra

Dharmika Subhuti


"A karma may ripen in the very life in which it was performed, in the next life, in a succeeding life, or owing to the preponderance of 'counteractive' karma or to its being too weak, it may never ripen."
Why are we here? Our deeds have brought us here.

The Omniscient One knows the choicest deed (devotion) which bears the choicest fruit.

Page 3

Mahaparinibbana-sutta (Digha nikaya)
Mahaparinirvana-sutra (Mulasarvastivadin)

Nembutsu as "pure act" (without any idea of utility of possessiveness). Shinran's doctrine of grace. In the moral-mechanistic universe from where does this "freedom to chose", more or less independent of antecedent causality derive?

Does the "divine grace" come from 'without' or within' or 'beyond'?

Page 4

Majjhima nikaya
Madhyama Agama


Vijnaptimatra System

Page 5

Buddha's "incomparable brilliance"; "body of luminous essence"; "hidden splendour" - night of illumination, night of nirvana.

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Srona Kotikarma



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Buddha's transcendent body

Sakyamuni Buddha as a man imprisoned in a perishing body did well to discourage personal attachment to himself.

Calling to the Buddha as a means of liberation.

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Smallest roots of good related to Buddha spring up as great Trees of Blessing. I earn merit by virtue. I transfer this merit, and in so doing earn more merit, which I transfer and so on 'to infinity'!

Name Amitabha Buddha. The efficacy of this formula of homage derives from the powers of the Buddha which exist as product of this perfection. The efficacy is communicated, so the formula is the line of communication, the 'telegraph wire' between the Buddha and the devotee.

Pure Land = a Buddha-field = a mystical universe

Each Buddha's limited field of influence. Pure Land transcends such limits, encompasses every Buddha-field. Concerned with the unitive essence of all Buddhas and Buddha-fields

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Nirvana is not 'total extinction', utter annihilation, leaving a vacuum. It is the extinction of the finite individuality, and the defilements which recreate it.

Faith in and affection for the Buddha lead us to the Pure Land. In the Pure Land we 'apply ourself' to the Dharma.

"believe in Me with serene thoughts"

"should there be any difference between gods and men"

Thinking of the merits of the Buddha.
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"if in that Buddha Land of mine there should exist either Hell, the brute creation, or the realm of departed spirits . . ."

He is the surest refuge. His name is the seed of deliverance.

The Great Ocean of Merits.

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1. "esoteric spiritual purport of ancient scripture", i.e. the voice of the divinity in man. (The poet creates his poem without himself having comprehended the interwoven harmonies that the poem reveals.)
2. The literalizing and historicizing of pneumatic texts by psychic minds. What the Spirit has uttered, the mere mind materialises, distorts, depreciates.
3. Personification - and personalising - of the Christos, or divine essence of man's being, the Sonship. (the divine (God) - consciousness. the divine genius in man)
4. Historicizing of the spiritual drama.
5. Role of theological systemisation. Ecclesiasticism.
6. Sophia's excess led directly to Sophia's deficiency. The need to restore balance, harmony, proportion. (Platonic motif, one characteristically Hellenic.) "Evolutionary dereliction."
7. Adam not a man, but Man (generic). Christ, not a man, but Man (generic).
8. Reincarnation = psychic evolution, evolution of souls ("perfected knowledge of the whole earthly evolution", each man's "evolutionary problem".).
9. Method of impartation and appropriation of Pneuma.
10. ". . . cultus of . . . immanent deity in thought, word and deed . . ."
11. Nescience, lack of knowledge.
12. ". . . compendia of truth and wisdom that should guide the race through the course of self-controlled unfoldment."
13. ". . . at the very heart of every religious system an idea (model, archetype), personage who should typify and personify man himself, in his dual nature as human and divine . . ." ("the human compound")
14. ". . . eventual conversion into angels of light . . ." (apotheosis) ". . . man's inner ?????. . ."
15. ". . . every man became a living example in the proportion in which he embodied the ideal in his life and person."
16. Osiria, Zoroaster, Orphens, Heemes, Mithra, Krishna.
17. The personal effort to exercise the perfections of the inner divinity.
18. ". . . a method of designed cryptology . . . as much to hide their real meaning as to reveal it."
19. Esoteric method - drama, myth, allegory, nomenology (or name structure), number formulations (as chiefly in the Pythagorean system).
20. ". . . a cryptic typology and a symbolic alphabet or language . . ."
21. "The seed is the greatest of all hieroglyphs, for it is the end product of one cycle and at the same time the beginning stage of the next, thus furnishing the key to the whole ongoing process of life."
22. Ouypsz-oypos ". . . in Orphie theology the soul while in incarnation in the body was as though dead in its tomb." (N.B. resurrection)
23. ". . . the second century esotericist Plutarch . . ."
24. ". . . to form true notions of divine natures is more acceptable to them than any sacrifice or mere external act of worship."
25. Reflections - refractions (distortion)
26. Teletails, initiatory sites.
27. Jerusalem - allegorically the church, anagogically the city of heavenly peace.
28. Mosheim. History of the Early Church, vol. 11, 167. Origen's esotericism.
29. "Origen was the last champion of the true Christianity . . ."
30. The Myths derived from Ritual Drama.
31. B.J. Bacon, Jesus and Paul, p. 23, ". . . declares that by creditable estimate Christianity lost one half of its following to Marcion and other Gnostic 'heretics' bent on tearing it away from its Jewish associations and making it over in the true likeness of a Greek Mystery cult of individual spiritual realisation. This was the movement . . . due to the influx of Platonic and esoteric philosophies from Alexandria and Hellenic centres."
32. ?Amente = "the dramatic ritual name for a planet called Earth. . ."
33. ". . . the lower house of nature where the soul descends to have its incubation in matter, its land of bondage wherein it is under the law of sin and death until the course of growth is finished."
34. "The Gnostics asserted truly that celestial persons and scenes had been transferred to earth in the gospel and that it is only within the pleroma of the zodiac that we can identify the originals of both."
35. ". . . the sprouting of the grain was called upon to help the mind frame a more realistic conception of the resurrection of the divine seed that had been, like the grain, buried in the earth of flesh and sense."

1Étienne Lamotte, The Treatise on the Act by Vasubandhu, Chinese and Buddhist Miscellanies
2Edit. Émile Senart, vol. 1., p 246
3Anguttara nikaya (translated Al David-Neal, Buddhism, p. 152 Mahakarmavibhanga: "Beings are born from the womb of the Act." (translated Sylvain Léve, 1932, p 111)
4Dhammapada, 71: "The misdeed does not curdle at once like milk; like fire hidden under the ashes, it follows the misdoer to burn him." Jataka, 491: A misdeed seven thousand years old suddenly rises up "like a cobra". CB Acschylus, Agememnon, v. 764-768: Jeremiah IV, B: "Your conduct and your actions have designed that! It is the business of the evil you have done which strikes you to the heart.
6CB. The stanzas of Dharmika Subhuti (Paul Mus, Light on the Six Paths, 1939). The whole Sutra of causes and effects of good and evil, an apocryphon very popular in China from the seventh to the tenth century, is only a sequence of examples of karmic analogies (edited and translated Robert Gaulthiot and Paul Pelliot, 1926). CB Dante, Divine Comedy, Hell, XX, 28, 142: ". . . le controppasso".
7Santideva, Bodhicaryavatara, VIII, 81. Dhammapada, 127: "Neither in the kingdom of the air, nor sinking into the mountain recesses, will you find anywhere on earth a place to escape the fruit of your bad actions." Of the Sanskrit Udanavarga, see chapter IX: Karmavarga.
8Louis de la Vallé Poussin, Nirvana, p. 31.
9Vasubandhu, Abhidharmakosa, IV. 1. Dharmika Subhuti, Stanzas (p. 217).
10 The Water Sastra (translated Jacques Bacot, The Buddha, 1947, p. 32).
11 The same idea is found in jainism, a religion a little prior to Buddhism. It could be derived from the sankhya thesis on the irreducible plurality of the pioushas: Ananda K. Coomacaswamy, Buddha and the Gospel of Buddhism (1928), p. 231.
12 Mahaparinibbana-sutta (Digha nikaya, II.106) Mahaparinirvana-sutra, a Mahasarvastivadin test. Sanskrit Vinaya, etc.
13 Nirvana is not to be desired if it is to be attained. But the true aspiration to Nirvana is no longer a "desire". It could be compared, mutatis mutandis, to those acts which, according to Fénelon, made the "bride disappropriated from (dispossessed of) herself", which do not "mingle any sense (possessiveness) of ownership in the desires that she receives from God": The Gnostic by St Clement of Alexandria (ed. Paul Dudon, p. 210). CB. the Breve Compendio, translated into French by P. Binet and Bérulle, on "the desire for eternal glory" which one must "strip off" or "purify". We must renounce, Bérulle says furthermore, not the desire in itself, which "remains pure and whole in its energy and efficacy", but the "possessiveness by which the soul is attached to what it desires". CB Henri Bremond, Literary History of the Religious Sense, vol. XI, pp. 36 - 38. Previously, among others, St Catherine of Génes: Her Works and Her Life by Viscount Mario-Théodore de Bussierre (1926), pp. 82 - 83 and 118.
14 This double significance is applied from the beginning to the name of Buddha. CB. Paul Demiéville, Butsu (Buddha) in Hobegirin, III. p. 191. Mahaparinirvana-sutra, translated by Dharmaraksa: "Himself enlightened, he enlightens others"; P. Demiéville, The Council of Lhasa (1952), p. 125
16 Mahaparinibbana sutta (translated A Foucher, op. cit., pp. 301 - 302). On the meaning of dharma dhamma, CB M. and W. Geiger, Pali Dhamma (Munich, 1921); TR Steherbatsky, The Central Conception of Buddhism and the meaning of the word Dharma (London, 1923). Sylvain Lévi, Materials for the Study of the Vijnaptimatra System, p. 9: "Dharma is a word which, like cosmos and mundus, implies an idea of organisation and order, the code of Manu, for example, is a Dharma treatise; the collection of texts which regulate Buddhist life is called the Dharma."
17 Matt. XIX, 27 - 29 Majjihma nikaya, 1, 4
18 CB Alfred Foucher, Concerning the Indo-Greek King Menander's Conversion to Buddhism, in Translations of the Academy of Inscriptions, vol. 43, 2 (1943)
19 Brahma samyutta, in Samyutta nikaya, VI, 1, 2 (Paul Mus, Barabudur, p. 731).
20 Avadana-sataka. Mahaparinibbana-suttanta. Mahasudasana-suttanta. Bhumi-sala-sutra. Vinaya des Mulasarvastivadin. Ekottara Agama, 32 and 38. Madhyama Agama: "The Tathagatas devoid of attachment and perfectly enlightened are the protectors of the world; through them those who seek the meaning of (the right way) of existence obtain benefits and prosperity, and those who desire peace are full of joy and contentment." CB John Pouzyluski, he Parinirvana and the Obsequies of Buddha, in Asiatic Journal, 1919 and 1920. Divyavadana, p 19. CB L de la Vallée Poussin, in Museon, 1913, p. 262.
21 This last narrative is quoted by Nagarjuna, Treatise on the Great Power of Wisdom, ch XVI (Lamotte, vol. 2, p636). See further Samyutta nikaya, p. 120; Majjhima nikaya, p. 194 - 195.
22 Ittivuttaka (edited Windisch, pp. 90 - 91)
23 Following Sylvain Levi's translation (1932), pp. 172 - 175. CB p. 191: Should there be any who say: "Buddha is in paranirvana, so who receives the praises and worship (homage)?", show them the error of their own teaching."
24 Aganna sutta, etc. (CB Paul Mus, Barabudur, introduction, passim, et pp. 711 - 713
25 Homage to the Buddha (Mahayana), quoted in H. Kern, History of Buddhism in India, French translation, vol. II, p. 134
26 The date of Kanishka's reign is difficult to specify: 78 - 123, or perhaps 125 - 167? Le de la Vallée Poussin, India in the Time of the Mauryas, pp. 322 - 374, has spoken of the "puzzle of Kanishka". CB Henri Deyolies, The Data of Kanishka, the Art of Gandhara, and the Chronology of North-West India, in Asiatic Journal, vol. 239 (1951), pp. 133 - 152.
27 CB Sylvain Lévi, India the Civiliser (1938), p. 134 and in Asiatic Journal, 1908, 2, pp. 57 - 70, or further: "sutra in literary form." Paul Mus, Barabudur, p. 39
28 Translated by Édward Huber, from the Chinese version of Kumasajiva (1906), chapter IX, tale 57. "Buddha disavows Sariputra; pp. 283 - 287. The latest conclusion, in prose, is more vulgar: "So one sees that a huge reward is given in return for the slightest good intentions shown towards the Sublime, how much more so if we erect divine images and build stupas." "At the very beginning, as he does so often, Asvaghosa introduces the story by a short moral: "Even if you possess no more than a grain of worthiness, you must look to Buddha for your salvation. A man of little merit appealing to Buddha receives ambrosia from him. hence, let us wholeheartedly take refuge in the Buddha." For another text attributed to Asvaghosa, CB Hobogirin, I. p. 25.
29 History of the Far-East (1932), vol. 1, p. 78.
30 Translated Sylvain Lévi, in Asiatic Journal, 1892, I, p. 224.
31 Collection of edifying legends; like the works of Asvaghosa, on the frontiers of the two Vehicles. It presents close connections with the Vinaya of the Mulasarvastivadin. CB Sylvain Lévi, Sanskrit manuscripts of Mamiyan and Gilgit, in Asiatic Journal, March 1932, p. 24; he Formative Elements of the Divyavadana, in T'oung Pao, 1907, pp. 105 - 122.
32 pp. 258 - 259. Also see Vasubandhu, Abhidharmakossa, VII. 30C. CB Louis de la Vallée Poussin, Buddhist Notes¸ Royal Academy of Belgium, sessions of 13 October 1924 (p. 13) and 3 June 1929 (pp. 206 - 209).
33 It is known that the Buddhists attach a great importance to the last thought, called "thought at death" (maranacitta): determined by all those (thoughts) which have preceded it, this state of consciousness sums them up and in a fashion contains them all, whence its power of "projection" and consequently the sovereignty (adhipatya) which is attributed to it. CB La Vallée Poussin, Buddhist Notes, loc. cit. 5 January 1925 (p. 32); Nirvana, pp. 40 - 45 and 66 - 67. Paul Ottramare, Buddhist Theosophy, p. 212; Rene Grousset, The Indian Philosophies, vol. 2, p. 132 (Candrikirti). There is an analogous conviction in Hinduism. In the Bhagavad-Gita, Krishna says to Arjuna: "If, at the end of his life, when he leaves his body, such a man thinks of some substance, it is to that he makes his way, since he has then taken it as his model". Likewise, Sankara (CB E. Senart, edition of the Chandogya Upanishad p. 39, notes). "It is why certain individuals had the idea of making themselves masters of this last thought by recourse to suicide; after adopting the desired disposition, they jumped into the fire or drowned themselves in some sacred river (CB. Aug Barth, Forty Years of Indianism, vol. 1, p. 199) On the primitive superstitions bordered on here by Buddhism, CB Paul Mus, in Bulletin of the French School of the Far East, vol. 32 (1932), pp. 314 - 317. CB Saint Augustine, De vera religione, C. 24, n. 45: "Nam in quem locum quisque cesiderit, ibi debit incumbere ut surgat."
34 CB 106 (translated Paul Demieville, Chinese Versions of the Milindar panha, in Bulletin of the French School of the Far East, vol. 24, 1924, pp. 166 - 167. Menander was king of the Pundjat about 150 B.C.
35 Loc. cit.
36 It is known that the Chinese translations are based on the text of the Sarvastivada School. The pali version, subsequent to these, comprises retouchings made "by the Singalese scribes with a view to its adaptation to the doctrinal system of the Theravada School", Joseph Hackin, Sylvain Lévi and his work, in Bulletin of the Franco-Japanese House, vol. 8 (1937), p. 54
37 CB Pierre Charles, Honen and Salvation by Faith among the Mahayanists, in Miscellanies of Grandmaison (Research in Religious Science, 1929), p. 248. Paul Mus, Barafrudus, vol. 1, pp. 44 - 47: in the pali tradition itself are found the antecedents of the principal Mahayanist notions: "ancient Buddhism . . . was richer and more tinted than the scholastic Hinayanism to which led finally the reaction against the innovating tendency of the Greater Vehicle".
38 Louis de la Vallée Poussin, Buddhist Morality, (1927), pp. 215 - 217 and 228 - 233. CB Edward Conze, Buddhism, (Fr. translation 1952), p. 152: "Each Buddha has a certain limited field of influences, in which "with a profound, sublime, marvellous voice", he teaches the Dharma to creatures and thus assists them to gain illumination. A "Buddha Field" is a kind of "kingdom of God", a mystical universe, inhibited by the Buddha and the beings whom he governs and causes to ripen".
39 I, 142, Mahaparinibbana-sutta, XVI, 5, 8: "All those who die with a believing heart while on pilgrimage to holy places, will be reborn after death, the body being dissolved, in the blessed heaven."
40 II, 140. But, 138: "For monks and nuns, for the faithful laity of both sexes, the true manner of honouring the Buddha is to observe the rule, etc." CB, super, note 16.
41 288. CB Jakata, I, 97. Ekottara Agama, 32: "He who has sinned in deed, word or thought, if at the hour of his death he thinks of the merits of the Tathagata, he will be preserved from the three bad destinies, and though most vile, will be reborn in heaven." The Mahakarmavibhanga will go further; narrating the legend of the young and poor Malini, it says: "She gave a garland of straw to the monument of Sugata, and she gained the best of garlands of gold and precious stones, the garland of the Members of the Illumination." (translated Sylvain Lévi, pp. 148 - 149)
42 CB Louis de la Vallée Poussin, Doctrine of Refuges, in Chinese and Buddhist Miscellanies, vol. 1, 1932, pp. 68 - 69.
43 CB Charles Eliot, Japanese Buddhism, (1935), p. 392. In Siamese Buddhism (Hinayanist) there are traits reminiscent of Amidism: M Gallaud, The Life of Buddha and Buddhist Doctrines, (1931), pp. 148 - 149
44 Asanda, Mahayana-sutralamkara, ch IV, 26 (translated Sylvain Lévi, p. 42). Nagarjuna, Treatise on Perfect Wisdom, XXVII (translated Et. Lamotte, vol. 2, p. 954), Santideva, Bodhicaryavatara chapters 1 and 3, etc.
45 Treatise . . . I, 15 (Lamotte, vol. 1, pp 591 - 592)
46 9th varga. This Dasabhumivibhasa-sastra was translated into Chinese by Kumarajiva.
47 It does not appear however that Nagarjuna depends on the Sutra of Nagasena. CB Paul Demiéville, The Chinese Versions of the Milindapanha, p. 248
48 Text quoted, with other analogies, by Yabuki Yoshiteru, Researches into Amida Buddha, and reproduced by Paul Demieville, loc. cit, pp. 252 - 253. Ibid: Having thought before dying of the Buddha, the Dharma, the Sangha, the Refuges, the Gift and Heaven, the notable Sudatta is reborn in heaven, etc. CB the Avadana of the bird Nilakantha, a Tibetan novel from which M Jacques Bacot has translated an episode of the end of the Life of Marpa (1937, p 71).
49 Lotus, chp 27; and ch 1: "The numerous sons of Buddha feel themselves penetrated by grief . . . after having heard the voice of the Best of men who spoke of his nirvana as near at hand. (translated Eugene Burnouf, pp. 282 and 17; CB p. 18). In the Hinayana, the saint is the son of Buddha because he is "born from his mouth", ie "born of the Dharma"; Digha nikaya, III. CB Asanga, Mahayanasamgraha, X. 27: "Thou art the deliverer of all beings!" (translated Et. Lamotte, vol. 2, 2, p. 305). In the Lalitavistara, Sakra, addressing the future Buddha in the place of illuniation, exclaims: "O great Ocean of merits!"
50 See, eg Santideva, Bodhicaryavatara, III. 10.
51 Sutra of the Golden Light (translated into Chinese at the beginning of the 5th Century). CB J.J. M. de Groot, The Mahayana Code in China, its influences on the monastical life and lay world. (Amsterdam, 1893) p. 122.