Amida Sutra for Chanting
The original sutra was written in a flowery style in which the images would be overwhelming for the modern reader. An educated reader might get the impression that the work was written by a 19th Century poet of the Romantic tradition. Furthermore, centuries of recopying in several different languages and cultures have resulted in a rather haphazard arrangement of the themes.

An attempt has been made here, therefore, to offer the reader more thematic guidance. This involved reducing the number of repetitions of stock phrases from the oral tradition as well as a rearrangement of contents where needed.

The result is an improvement for the modern reader as well as for the devotee who wishes to read aloud or chant the sutra. Some of the paragraphs, however, require lengthy explanations, for example, the appearance of the Lord of Lords. The appearance of divine beings deserves more than scant attention, especially when one of the criticisms leveled against Buddhism is that it is atheistic. This can not be true if the Lord of Lords appears in the oldest sutras as well as the Mahayana sutras. Many North American and European Buddhists simply ignore these passages. It is time for those on either side of this faith line to reexamine assumptions. Other passages in the Amida Sutra will not require the lengthy commentary although they themselves may many paragraphs longer.

This is a basic scripture of the Pure Land schools. It is one of the most frequently chanted in Asia. The following version is in iambic pentameter and can be chorally read, chanted or sung in English. Many of the repetitions have been left out and some material had to be gleaned for sake of brevity in a culture that is unaccustomed to long chanting sessions. The sutra has been empowered by all Buddhas who have existed, exist or will ever exist. If one reads it aloud once a day for 30 days, one will experience a deep spiritual change. The Japanese version of the names are used in the chant because they are easier to pronounce (ie. Maka mok ken ren is Mahamaudgalyana).

One time I heard it told, the Noble One,
The Buddha, occupied a garden, which
Was near Shravasti, in the Bamboo Grove
Together with a great assembly. All
Were bhikkhus and together they composed
A host twelve hundred fifty bhikkhus strong.
Moreover, there were arahants well known
Among the people: Shariputra and

Mahamaudgalyana (Maka-mok-ken-ren)
Mahakashypa (Maka-ka-sho)
Mahakatyayana (Maka-ka-sen-nen)
Mahakausthila (Maka-ka-ku-chi-ra)
Nanda (Nanda)
Ananda (Ananda)
Rahula (Ra-go-ra)
Gavampati (Kyo-bon-na-dai)

And all were great disciples, every one.
Along with them there could be seen as well
A host of Bodhisattvas. All were great:

Manjushri (Mon-ju-shi-ri)
Ajita (A-it-ta)
Gandhahastin (Ken-da-ka-dai)
Nityodyukta (Jo-sho-jin)

These few were only some of those who came
Along with Shakra, God of Gods himself,
And similar divinities in large
Assemblies. Thus were countless present then.

1. The Buddha spoke to his disciple first,
The Elder Shariputra, "Listen now,
O Shariputra. Far from here exists
A world, one called Sukhavati. This means
'The Highest Happiness, the Realm of Bliss.'
Amida Buddha rules this kingdom now.
He actually lives there presently,
Continually teaching Dharma Law.
And why is this land called the Land of Bliss?
And why is it called the Highest Happiness?
The reason, Shariputra, now is clear,
For beings living there experience
'Not having many sorrows.' They receive
Unceaslingly all kinds of happiness.
It thus is called the Land of Happiness.

2. Again, o Shariputra, it's adorned
With seven balustrades, with seven rows
Of trees and seven nets, with its décor
In precious crystal, silver, gold and beryl.
It thus is called the Land of Happiness.

3. Again, o Shariputra, it's adorned
With pools of seven treasures: gold, red-pearl,
White coral, silver, agate, crystal, beryl.
These pools are filled with virtues, eight in all:
Limpidity and purity along
With flexibility and calm; then too,
Refreshing coolness, power to prevent
A famine, fertilizing qualities,
Productiveness and sweetness represent
The spiritual qualities possessed
By water which are seen within these pools--
And they are pure unto their very depths!
What's more, you see around them golden sand.
The stairways leading to them gleam with gems:
With precious crystal, silver, gold and beryl.
These pools contain the lotus blossoming
As large as mammoth wheels. Their yellow hue
Is yellow splendour. Blue is splendour blue.
The red is splendour red. The colour white
Appears as splendour white. Each blossom's pure,
So fine and wonderful to gaze upon.
O Shariputra, thus perfected good
Adorns the Realm of Highest Happiness.

4. Moreover, Shariputra, there resounds
Celestial music, playing day and night.
The ground is made of yellow gold. Both day
And night it rains mandara flowers which
The beings there present to various
Enlightened Ones in many different worlds,
Returning when they want to their own world,
Enjoying family, food and friendship,
To stroll at will around the palace grounds.
O Shriputra, Highest Happiness
Contains perfected virtues in array

5. Again, o Shariputra, Realm of Bliss
Contains remarkable and wonderful
White swans, kavinkas, parrots, peacocks and
Those birds considered mythological.
Along with them exist some common birds.
Both day and night their songs enrapture all
Who occupy the realm Sukhavati.
These lovely sounds expound and clarify
Prajna, samadhi, viriya, shraddha
And sati, five great powers. They along
With Seven Factors of Enlightenment
(A deep investigation of the Law,
With effort, joy, and concentration; next,

Along with meditation, constitute
The Seven Factors of Enlightenment)
Are sung together with the Eightfold Path in harmony.
They thus enlighten those
Who dwell in Highest Happiness to live
The Law--the Dharma of Awakening--
And join the Sangha--our community.
These birds, o Shariputra, which are heard,
Are NOT born here because of past deeds;
Amida counters karmic punishment.
That's why in this realm, evil's not extant.
Yes, even evil's name does not exist.
How could there then be karmic punishment?
The birds exist to grace the beautiful
Adornments through Amida's skillful means.
They teach, by love of music, Dharma Law.
They sing harmoniously. Those who hear
Spontaneously turn towards the Law,
The Sangha and attaining Buddhahood.
O Shariputra, thus perfect good
Adorns the realm of Highest Happiness.

6. O Shariputra, why do we believe
The name Amida Buddha does indeed
Becomes the one who rules in this Pure Land?
Because his light, o Shariputra, does
Indeed pervade the quarters of the world
Immeasurably, unimpededly.
The word 'amida' means unlimited.
It thus becomes Amida Buddha well.
Again, o Shariputra, his life's length
Is limitless as well; the same is true
For those who gather in the Buddha's Land,
And since 'amida' means unlimited
It thus becomes Amida Buddha well.
Since he became Amida Buddha, time
Has passed beyond the measured centuries.
O Shariputra, humble listeners all
Await his words, rejoicing in his voice.
Their number's larger than imagining
Itself. The Holy Bodhisattvas can't
Be numbered either--limitless are they!
O Shariputra, thus perfected good
Adorns the realm of Highest Happiness.

7. O Shariputra, sentient beings born
Into the Realm of Highest Happiness
Have all attained the Mind of No Retreat.
Their fate is firmly fixed eternally.
Non-retrogressors all, Nirvana's theirs.
These many beings are successors in
A single life. Their number is beyond
Mere calculation. Thus in counting them
We use expressions such as limitless.
O Shariputra, sentient beings, who
Have heard this sutra, now can make the vow
To be reborn in Highest Happiness
So that together with superior
And worthy people they may gather there.
Moreover, Shariputra, you can NOT
Be born in Highest Happiness by your
Own cultivated roots of goodness, your
Conditioned Causation, or even your
Own merit, your own virture, your own works.

8. O Shariputra, if good people, men
Or women, hear about Amida's work,
Accept both Name and Title, even for
1day-2 days-3 days-4 days-5 days
6 days, or even 7 days without
Confusion and with single-pointedness
Of mind, Amida Buddha will appear
Before those people at descent of death
In company with many helpful guides.
These people aren't upset or wavering.
Immediately they progress towards
The Highest Happiness. Because I see
This benefit, I speak these words to you.
O Shariputra, sentient beings, who
Have heard this sutra, ought to make the vow
To be reborn in Highest Happiness.

9. O Shariputra, even as I praise
Amida Buddha's inconceivable,
Immeasurable roots of goodness, in
The Eastern Quarter there exist as well:
Immovable Buddha
Sumeru-Form Buddha
Great Sumeru Buddha
Wonderful Sound Buddha

The Southern Quarter shines with Buddhas too:
Sun-Moon-Lamp Buddha
Name Hearing Light Buddha
Great Flame-Shoulder Buddha
Sumeru Lamp Buddha
Limitless Energetic Striving Buddha

The Western Quarter shines with Buddhas too:
Limitless Life Buddha
Limitless Form Buddha
Great Light Buddha
Great Brightness Buddha
Treasure Form Buddha
Pure Light Buddha

The Northern Quarter shines with Buddhas too:
Flame Shoulder Buddha
Most Excellent Sound Buddha
Unstoppable Buddha
Sun-Birth Buddha
Pure Brightness Buddha

The Upper Quarter shines with Buddhas too:
Brahma Sound Buddha
Abode King Buddha
Perfume Arising Buddha
Great Flaming Shoulders Buddha
Mixed Color Treasure Wreath Body Buddha
Sala King Tree Buddha
Treasure Flower Virtue Buddha
Seeking All Principles Buddha
Like Sumeru Mountain Buddha

The Lower Quarter shines with Buddhas too:
Lion Buddha
Name Hearing Buddha
Name Light Buddha
Dharma Buddha
Law Flag Buddha
Law Keeping Buddha

They are as numerous as Ganges sands
And each, in his own world, extends his tongue
Until it universally expounds
Across the thousands of great thousand worlds
The truth which is contained in these words:
"All sentient beings should believe the words
This sutra here reveals, extolling and
Explaining all the virtues thought of and
Protected by the Buddhas everywhere."

10. O Shariputra, what is on your mind?
Why is this sutra called, "that thought of and
Protected by the Buddhas everywhere?"
Well, Shariputra, when there are good men
And women, who perceive this Sacred Name,
Recited by the Buddhas, or who hear
The sutra's title, they are thought of and
Protected by the Buddhas everywhere.

11. They all attain, not retrogressing, to
Complete and perfect Bodhi. It's because
Of this, o Shariputra, that you should
Believe, accept and honor what is preached
By many Buddhas in their many worlds.
If, Shariputra, there are people who
Aroused the wish, arouse the wish right now
Or shall arouse the wish to be reborn
In Highest Happiness, they are, in truth,
Reborn into that realm of Perfect Peace,
Or are reborn into Amida's World,
Or shall be soon reborn into that world.
Not retrogressing, they attain profound
Serene and unsurpassed enlightenment.
O Shariputra, therefore, all good men
Or women having faith shall thus arouse
The wish for birth in Buddha'a Highest World.

12. O Shariputra, even as I praise
Amida Buddha's inconceivable,
Immeasurable roots of goodness, all
Innumerable Buddhas now praise me
By saying, "Shakyamuni did a thing
So rare and difficult. In this our age
Of five corruptions (sentient beings, life,
The passions, views and history) he attained
To perfect and complete enlightenment
And preached for sentient beings Dharma, which
Is difficult for all the world to grasp."
O Shariputra, now you know that in
That in this evil age of five corruptions, I
Have done these things: I have indeed attained
To perfect and complete enlightenment
And preach for sentient beings Dharma, which
Is very hard for all the world to grasp;
However, I accomplished this in fact."

When Buddha finished, Shariputra and
The bhikkhus, gods, asuras, men and all
The others from the cosmos, having heard
What Buddha preached, accepted and believed.
They all departed joyous and serene.

Composed and Edited by
Fredrich Ulrich, Sensei
Manitoba Buddhist Church
Jodo Shinshu Buddhist Temples of Canada
January 18, 2000

To learn more about the Amida Sutra, click here.
Part 1 - Introduction to the Amida Sutra