In the morning service at Amida Shu temples and gatherings there is a passage that begins “Your radiant face, like a mountain peak catching the first burst of morning light, has awesome and unequalled majesty.” It is the first verse of a short text called Tan Butsu Ge, which is a section of the Larger Pureland Sutra.

Tan Butsu Ge literally means Song in Praise of the Buddha. In this case it is the Buddha Lokeshvararaja who lived an immense time ago in an altogether different world, perhaps a different universe. The song is sung in the sutra by Dharmakara Bodhisattva who subsequently, much much later, becomes Amitabha Buddha. It expresses his delight and astonishment on meeting the Buddha and tells how he is inspired by this meeting to enter the Buddha Way.

Radiant Appearance
This story of Dharmakara meeting Lokeshvararaja is told by the Buddha Shakyamuni to Ananda. The incident reflects the opening of the encounter between Ananda and Shakyamuni themselves. Ananda similarly has been struck by the radiant appearance of Shakyamuni. He says, “Oh Blessed One, I do not ever recall seeing the Tathagata so serene, purified, cleansed and radiant as I do today. This thought occurs to me ’Today the Tathagata dwells in the sphere of the most rare Dharma! the sphere of the Buddhas! … The Buddhas of the three times contemplate one another. Could it be that you are now bringing to mind all the other Buddhas? Are you gazing upon the tathagatas, arhats, Samyak Sambuddhas of the past, the future, and the present? Is that why your august presence shines with such radiance today?” and the Buddha replies, “You are right, Ananda, you are right.”

You can tell a lot from a face. My companions here tell me that they can tell when my illness of worse and when it is less bad because they can see it in my face. When i am bad, my energy withdraws inside and the face darkens. When I am well the opposite happens. Sometimes we see somebody that we are familiar with and we think, “Either he is in love, or he just won the lottery.” A radiance is evident to everybody.

Such radiance tells us the inner state of a person. It is also infectious. In the famous Fred Astair song, They Can’t Take That Away From Me, one of the things he treasures is “The way your face just beams.” When somebody has that radiance we all benefit, feel lifted and liberated. This is the effect that a Buddha has.

Receiving & Giving
How is it that a Buddha is so often radiant? The sutra tells us. The Buddha is radiant because he is receiving radiance himself. He has a mind full of the Buddhas of past, future and present. This is the real meaning of mindfulness. What energy comes out of us depends upon what energy goes into us and this is substantially a question of what we have in mind. Sometimes the mind is necessarily preoccupied with pressing difficulties. Sometimes it is full of the joy of love. The more troubles we carry around, the less opportunity we have to soak up the love.

The Buddha, therefore, recommended a simple life so as to give more space to contemplate the myriad Buddhas. In the Pratyutpanna Samadhi Sutra it says that the person who practises the samadhi sees Buddhas everywhere. This is religious consciousness - it is what all good religions instil. The terminology may vary but the basic inculcation of an openness to divine light is universally the same. Allowing in the radiant face that smiles upon us from every direction results in our own fact lightening up. In this way we can all be mirrors for the moonlight of the Dharma. In this way we bring happiness to one another - "their hearts will lighten and be joyful, happy and at ease."

We say that in the scriptues, light is a symbol for wisdom, but it is more than just a symbol and not just a metaphor - there really is light in the face of a person who receives the Dharma, just as there is spring in her step and song in her voice. Similarly, Tan Butsu Ge talks about “The melody of your enlightenment.” This radiance is a kind of visual music and when we are affected by it we want to sing, just as Dharmakara sings in the sutra. The other day when we were all in the Aphrodite Field together and the sun was shining his smiling face upon us, we started chanting, and the song of Buddha’s enlightenment filled the world. Tan Butsu Ge.

KO GEN GI GI       
I JIN MU GOKU        
NYO ZE EN MYO    
MU YO TO SHA        
NICHI GATSU MA-NI    
SHU KO EN NYO        
KAI SHITSU ON-PEI    
YU NYAKU JU MOKU    
NYO-RAI YO GEN      
CHO SE MU RIN        
SHO GAKU DAI ON    
KO RU JIP-PO        
KAI MON SHO-JIN    
SAN-MAI CHI-YE        
I TOKU MU RO     
SHU SHO KE U
JIN TAI ZEN NEN    
SHO BUTSU HO KAI        
GU JIN JIN HO      
KU GO GAI TEI        
MU-MYO YOKU NU    
SE SON YO MU        
NIN O SHI-SHI    
JIN TOKU MU RYO    
 
KU KUN KO DAI     
CHI-YE JIN MYO        
KO MYO I SO    
SHIN-DO DAI-SEN        
GAN GA SA BUTSU    
SAI SHO HO O    
KA-DO SHO JI    
MI FU GE DATSU    
FU-SE CHO I     
KAI NIN SHO-JIN        
NYO ZE SAN-MAI    
CHI-YE I JO    
GO SE TOKU BUTSU      
FU GYO SEI GAN        
IS-SAI KU KU    
I SA DAI AN    
KE SHI U BUTSU    
HYAKU-SEN-OKU-MAN
MU-RYO DAI SHO    
SHU NYO GO JA        
KU YO IS-SAI    
SHI-TO SHO BUTSU        
FU NYO GU DO    
KEN SHO FU KYAKU
 
HI NYO GO JA     
SHO BUTSU SE-KAI        
BU FU KA KE    
MU SHU SETSU DO          
KO MYO SHI SHO    
HEN SHI SHO KOKU        
NYO ZE SHO-JIN    
I JIN NAN RYO    
RYO GA SA BUTSU    
KOKU-DO DAI-ICHI    
GO SHU KI MYO        
DO JO CHO ZETSU    
KOKU NYO NAI-ON    
NI MU TO SO          
GA TO AI MIN    
DO DATSU IS-SAI    
JIP-PO RAI SHO    
SHIN YETSU SHO JO    
I TO GA KOKU        
KE RAKU AN NON    
KO BUTSU SHIN MYO    
ZE GA SHIN SHO    
HOTSU GAN O HI    
RIKI SHO SHO YOKU
JIP-PO SE SON    
CHI-YE MU GE    
JO RYO SHI SON    
CHI GA SHIN GYO        
KE RYO SHIN SHI    
SHO KU DOKU CHU    
GA GYO SHO-JIN    
NIN JU FU KE


Your radiant face,
Like a mountain peak
Catching the first burst
Of morning light
Has awesome and  
Unequalled majesty.
Like black ink by comparison
Are the sun, the moon, or the "mani" treasure.
Tathagata,
Such is your incomparable face.
The melody of your enlightenment  
Fills the world
Rare and precious  
Are your precepts,  
Learning, energy, meditation,  
Wisdom and amazing virtue.
The oceanic Dharma
Of all Buddhas  
Which you fathom
To its deepest depths
Dispels the 3 poisons  
From the heart -
You are like a lion:  
Valiant and divinely pure.
 
Great power!  
Deep wisdom!
Awesome light!  
Reverberation -  
A prayer I make, a Buddha to become
Equal to you, my Dharma king,
To lead all beings to the other shore
Leaving none behind.
The six paramitas  
To perfect
With prajna at their head.
Should I become Buddha:
I will fulfil  
This prayer completely:
To everyone  
I'll bring great peace.
To Buddhas countless
As sand grains
My offerings I make,  
And do not flinch
From the trials  
Of the incomparable Way,  
Powerful,  
Straight and true.
 
Though Buddha lands
And worldly realms
Be numberless
Like sand,
By sheer power  
Of aspiration
I'll fill them all
With light.    
Let me become a Buddha
And the multitude
Of beings
Will all enjoy
My primordial
Nirvana world.
By indiscriminate compassion
I will enlighten all.
Reborn here from no matter where
In my country their hearts
Will lighten and be joyful,
Happy and at ease.
Oh you Buddha, witness my vow,
My true aspiration,
Establishing my vow on you
Gives me the strength to fulfil it.
Buddhas throughout space and time
Of unimpeded wisdom
Always witness
My heart's practice.
No matter the obstacles, the hardships,
My practice will endure
Through all,
Without regret.

Views: 130

Replies to This Discussion

Thank you for this teaching Dharmavidya.  I  had thought of asking you about this verse ~ my favourite. So beautiful, I'm happy to learn more about it.

Currently on retreat in New York. James and I had a good discussion about "faith" this morning, and thought of you.

namo amida bu ~ Prajna

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