Gatha of Refuge by Master Shan-tao



Gatha of Refuge in the Three Jewels
from Commentary on the Contemplation Sutra

by Master Shan-tao


Let all monks and laymen gathered here
awaken the mind of highest aspiration!
How difficult it is to reject all known pleasures
and leave the world of Samsāra!
How hard it is to seek the teaching of Buddha!


Let us all develop the determination to receive
the mind of faith indestructible and clear as a diamond!
Let us all close forever the gate to existence
ruled by four kinds of blind passions: desire, anger, jealousy and delusion!
Let us all enter without any doubt Amida’s Light,
which is the ocean-like Wisdom and Compassion.
Let us become one with Him and in a deep reverence
repeat after our master Vasubandhu:


"Being one with Buddha, we take refuge
in the Buddha of Unhindered Light Shining throughout the Ten Directions"
and in the Ocean of Dharmakaya of all Buddhas
including every Sambhogakaya Buddha and every Nirmanakaya Buddha.


We pay homage to every bodhisattva
as well as every practitioner of the Dharma
even though their number is inconceivable.
They all are the manifestation of Amida’s Pure Land!
They all are the beautiful adornments of Amida’s Pure Land!
They promulgate the Law of ten stages as great as the ocean,
which has neither a shore nor a bottom;
their Wisdom of the three lower levels sustains the world;


We pay homage to those who have practiced during ten long kalpas,
as well as those who have not yet finished their task;
To those who have already perfected their wisdom,
as well as those who are still trying to accomplish it;
To those who have already extinguished their blind passions,
as well as those who are still struggling with them;
To those who live among us due to residual karma,
as well as those who are fully emancipated;


To those who still practice self-effort,
as well as those totally free from any self-effort;
To those already gifted with the mind of true faith,
as well as those who are still aspiring to such a treasure;
To those blessed by the happiness of perfect wisdom,
as well as those now approaching that perfection;
They all are being transformed into Amida’s Mind;


They all abide in oneness by entering the ultimate nirvana.
Therefore let everyone present here
take refuge in the Three Sacred Buddha Bodies.*


Let us accept the transcendent protection of the Primal Vow –
the invisible power which knows no obstacles.
We, the disciples of Buddha,
together with all possible sages of the Three Vehicles,


Equally long to grasp the Mind of Compassion,
equally seek the life of non-retrogression,
equally wish to be provided for by the Other Power
with the precious presence of all Buddhas.


Trapped in bodies sculpted by ignorance,
life after life we have been rolling along
like stones over the cliff of a steep mountain.
Through this gatha we encounter Shakyamuni Buddha,
the special treasure in our unfortunate time
which does not understand the true Dharma.


We learn from Him about Amida’s Primal Vow –
the Ultimate Gate into Eternal Happiness.
Everyone who thinks upon these verses
will manage to see the exquisite face of Amida,
shall realize in a single moment the benefits of the visual contemplations,
and shall live henceforth emancipated from the blind passions.


The inconceivable nature of such a realization
is a supreme-level teaching, itself protected carefully
in the treasure-house of the Contemplation Sutra.
This gatha emerges from the Mind of Buddha
to lead us into Oneness with Amida.


All Buddhas, as numerous as the sands of the Ganges,
by a full bright spectrum of their mystic powers
affirm Amida’s teaching delivered by Shakyamuni Buddha
as the Ultimate Gate called the Pure Land.


Let us all vow to share the merit of this gatha
with all sentient beings without any discrimination
so as to enable them to awaken the aspiration for Bodhi
by the way known as “Birth in the Pure Land.”