The Juseige, Shiseige

In Japanese Pure Land Buddhism, namely Jodo Shinshu and Jodo Shu, one of the most popular chants in religious services is a certain excerpt of the Larger Immeasurable Life Sutra, or daimuryōjukyō (大無量壽經). This excerpt is called the jūseige (重誓偈) or shiseige (四誓偈). In Jodo Shinshu Buddhism, it is called the Juseige meaning “Hymn of the Grave/Serious Vow”, while in Jodo Shu it’s called the Shiseige meaning the “Hymn of the Four Vows”.

The text below is based off of a Jodo Shu prayer book I brought back from Japan recently. The pronunciation of some characters varies just slightly from other online versions I’ve seen, but don’t despair. Many characters have multiple readings, so just use whichever version you’re familiar with. Because this text is so short, people sometimes chant it more than once in a single session, but the number is up to you. Choose what suits you. Feel free to print this out and use it on your own time. Enjoy!

Can’t read the characters?

If you’re having trouble reading the Kanji characters, you might have one or two problems with your computer:

  • Your computer may not have Asian fonts installed. In Windows you have to enable UTF8 and East Asian fonts under the Control Panel. Modern Mac computers are fully compatible already.
  • Your browser may be assuming the wrong character set. If you use a relatively modern browser and use UTF8 as character set, you should be able to read fine. IE, Firefox and Safari all read this fine as far as I can tell.

Even if not, then you can still use the romanized characters. Also check out this excellent page for more information.

Disclaimer and Legal Info

I hereby release this into the public domain. Please use it as you see fit, but if you attribute it to this site, greatly appreciated. Also, please bear in mind this is an amateur work, and should not be taken too seriously.

Dedication

I dedicate this effort to all sentient beings everywhere. May all beings be well, and may they all attain perfect peace.

Namu Amida Butsu

Translation

A translation of this text can be found here.

The Juseige / Shiseige

Ga gon cho se gan
his — shi mu jo do
shi gan fu man zoku
sei fu jo sho gaku
ga o mu ryo ko
fu i dai se shu
fu sai sho bin gu
sei fu jo sho gaku
ga shi jo butsu do
myo sho cho jip — po
ku kyo mi sho mon
sei fu jo sho gaku
ri yoku jin sho nen
jo e shu bon gyo
shi gu mu jo do
i sho ten nin shi
jin riki en dai ko
fu sho mu sai do
sho jo san ku myo
ko sai shu yaku nan
kai hi chi e gen
mes — shi kon mo an
hei soku sho aku do
tsu datsu zen ju mon
ku so jo man zoku
i yo ro jip — po
nichi gas — shu ju ki
ten ko on pu gen
i shu kai ho zo
ko se ku doku ho
jo o dai shu ju
sep — po shi shi ku
ku yo is — sai butsu
gu soku shu toku hon
gan ne shitsu jo man
toku i san kai o
nyo butsu mu ge chi
tsu datsu mi fu sho
gan ga ku e riki
to shi sai sho son
shi gan nyak — kok — ka
dai sen o kan do
ko ku sho ten nin
to u chin myo ke

Chanting

There are a number of styles used for chanting the Juseige / Shiseige. Jodo Shinshu and Jodo Shu also vary in how they chant at the end of the sutra. One excellent audio recording can be found here for the Jodo Shinshu tradition You can hear the Jodo Shu version of the liturgy here.

In Jodo Shinshu, after chanting the Juseige, followers then chant the nembutsu 6 times slow and then dedicate the merit to all beings:

Invocation of Amitabha’s Name
南無阿彌陀佛
Na Man Da Bu (repeat 6 times)
Dedication of Merit (Eko回向)
Gan ni shi ku doku
byo do se is- sai
do hotsu bo dai shin
o jo an rak- koku

The verses of the dedication of merit can be translated as follows (original site here):

I vow that the merit-virtue of this truth
Be shared equally with all beings.
May we together awaken the Bodhi Mind,
And be born in the realm of Serenity and Joy.

In Jodo Shu tradition, sometimes a small 4-line chant called the honzeige (Hymn of the Original Vow) is chanted, followed by reciting the nembutsu 10 times:

Hymn of the Original Vow (Honzeige 本誓偈)
Mi da hon ze gan
goku raku shi yo mon
jo san to e ko
soku sho mu sho shin
Invocation of Amitabha’s Name (junen 十念)
南無阿彌陀佛 (repeat 10 times)
Na Mu A Mi Da Bu, Na Mu A Mi Da Bu
Na Mu A Mi Da Bu, Na Mu A Mi Da Bu
Na Mu A Mi Da Bu, Na Mu A Mi Da Bu
Na Mu A Mi Da Bu, Na Mu A Mi Da Bu
Na Mu A Mi Da Butsu, Na Mu A Mi Da Bu

Notice that for Jodo Shu, the 9th invocation of the Buddha’s name has the full “tsu” at the end.

Anyhow, if unsure, just see what your local temple does, or just try something yourself.

Translation

The chant here is translated from the Immeasurable Life Sutra below by Rev. Hisao Inagaki as follows:

1. I have made vows, unrivaled in all the world;
I will certainly reach the unsurpassed Way.
If these vows should not be fulfilled,
May I not attain perfect Enlightenment.

2. If I should not become a great benefactor
In lives to come for immeasurable kalpas
To save the poor and the afflicted everywhere,
May I not attain perfect Enlightenment.

3. When I attain Buddhahood,
My Name shall be heard throughout the ten quarters;
Should there be any place where it is not heard,
May I not attain perfect Enlightenment.

4. Free of greed and with deep, perfect mindfulness
And pure wisdom, I will perform the sacred practices;
I will seek to attain the unsurpassed Way
And become the teacher of devas and humans.

5. With my divine power I will display great light,
Illuminating the worlds without limit,
And dispel the darkness of the three defilements;
Thus I will deliver all beings from misery.

6. Having obtained the eye of wisdom,
I will remove the darkness of ignorance;
I will block all the evil paths
And open the gate to the good realms.

7. When merits and virtues are perfected,
My majestic light shall radiate in the ten quarters,
Outshining the sun and the moon
And surpassing the brilliance of the heavens.

8. I will open the Dharma-store for the multitudes
And endow them all with treasures of merit.
Being always among the multitudes,
I will proclaim the Dharma with the lion’s roar.

9. I will make offerings to all the Buddhas,
Thereby acquiring roots of virtue.
When my vows are fulfilled and my wisdom perfected,
I shall be the sovereign of the three worlds.

10. Like your unhindered wisdom, O Buddha,
Mine shall reach everywhere, illuminating all;
May my supreme wisdom
Be like yours, Most Excellent Honored One.

11. If these vows are to be fulfilled,
Let this universe of a thousand million worlds shake in response
And let all the devas in heaven
Rain down rare and marvelous flowers.”

This is the part of the sutra where the newly ordained Dharmakara (later Amitabha Buddha) speaks to his new teacher and proclaims these vows. These are not the main 48 vows per se, but sort of encapsulate Dharmakara’s overall intention to become the greatest of all Buddhas and liberate sentient beings everywhere.

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