Reflections on the Kyo Gyo Shin Sho: A Guide
by Hisao Inagaki, Professor Emeritus Ryukoku University, Kyoto, Japan

Transformed Buddhas and lands

At the basis of birth in the Transformed lands there are two vows, the Nineteenth and Twentieth Vows, which read:

If, when I attain Buddhahood, sentient beings in the lands of the ten directions who awaken aspiration for enlightenment, do various meritorious deeds, and sincerely desire to be born in my land, should not, at their death, see me appear before them surrounded by a multitude of sages, may I not attain perfect enlightenment.

If, when I attain Buddhahood, sentient beings in the lands of the ten directions who, having heard my Name, concentrate their thoughts on my land, plant roots of virtue, and sincerely transfer their merits toward my land with a desire to be born there should not eventually fulfill their aspiration, , may I not attain perfect enlightenment. (BDK, 12-II, IV, p. 16)

These two vows are originally meant to ensure the aspirants’ birth in the Pure Land but Shinran makes a unique interpretation here. Aspirants who undertake various good acts, including chanting Amida’s Name, are welcomed to the Pure Land after death. Since they pursue meritorious deeds with self-power, they are born in the Transformed Lands.

As has been explained above, each Buddha has three kinds of bodies: Dharmakaya, Sambhogakaya, and Nirmanakaya. Amida as a Sambhogakaya Buddha manifests numerous Nirmanakaya Buddha-bodies and lands in accordance with the needs of numerous beings to be saved by them. It is already disclosed in the Larger Sutra that there are two kinds of beings born in the Pure Land: those who move about freely and those who are in the embryonic state. The former are those who accept the various wisdoms of the Buddha and are to be born in the True Pure Land. The latter are those who doubt them but believed in the law of karmic retributions. The embryonic state is called by various names: border land, seven-jeweled palace, land of sloth and pride. In addition to them, Shinran includes in this category the lands for the nine classes of aspirants presented in the Contemplation Sutra. As for the Transformed Buddha, he states that this is the Buddha as the object of the ninth contemplation of the Contemplation Sutra, where it is stated:

…you should realize that his body is as glorious as a thousand million kotis of nuggets of gold from the Jambu River of the Yama Heaven and that his height is six hundred thousand kotis of nayutas of yojanas multiplied by the number of the sands of the Ganges River. The white tuft of hair curling to the right between his eyebrows is five times as big as Mount Sumeru…. His aureole is as broad as s hundred kotis of universe, each containing a thousand million worlds. In this aureole reside Transformed Buddhas numbering as many as a million kotis of nayutas multiplied by the number of the sands of the Ganges River. Each Buddha is attended by innumerable and countless transformed bodhisattvas. (BDK, 12-II, IV pp. 86-7)

Simply stated, for Shinran, the Buddha’s body and land that have limited dimensions are a transformed Buddha-body and land, whereas the immeasurable Buddha-body and land are the True Buddha and Land, that is, the Sambhogakaya Buddha Amida and the Pure Land. Those who are born in the Transformed Lands may be able to enjoy all sorts of pleasure but have various handicaps, such as being unable to see a true Buddha or hear the Dharma from him. Those born in the jeweled palace have to stay there for five hundred years, which, according to Genshin, are equivalent to many kalpas, before their transgressions of doubting are pardoned and they proceed to the True Pure Land.

Furthermore, in Shinran’s understanding, the Transformed Land is not separate from the True Land of Recompense but is included in it. The followers of the Nineteenth and Twentieth Vows are really born in the True Pure Land but, owing to their doubts, see delusory images of their own creation.

To sum up, the whole doctrinal system of the Kyogyoshinsho in relation to the vows may be exemplified as follows:

  1. teaching …………………… the Larger Sutra
  2. practice ……………………. the Seventeenth Vow
  3. faith ……………………….. the Eighteenth Vow
  4. enlightenment ……………... the Eleventh Vow
    aspect of returning ………… the Twenty-second Vow
  5. true Buddha land ………….. the Twelfth and Thirteen Vows
  6. transformed Buddha land ...... the Nineteenth and Twentieth Vows

Let us join Shinran in placing our minds in the ground of the Buddha’s Universal Vow and letting our thoughts flow into the sea of the inconceivable Dharma!

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