Gokuraku (極楽)

The word as geographical names in Japan.

Gokuraku-bashi Bridge (many bridges with the same name exist, such as a bridge over the inner moat of Osaka-jo Castle, which separates Yamazato-maru and Nino-maru, a bridge that is the origin of the name of Gokurakubashi Station on the Nankai-Koya Line of Nankai Electric Railway, and a bridge in Kanazawa-jo Castle). A geographical name of Meito Ward, Nagoya City, Aichi Prefecture.

A former geographical name of Suita City, Osaka Prefecture.

The name of a koaza (small administrative unit) in Oaza Takaze, Mizobe-cho, Kirishima City, Kagoshima Prefecture.

The name of a station on the Akechi Railway is Gokuraku Station. A pair of comedians of Yoshimoto Kogyo Co., Ltd., who have broken up is Gokuraku Tonbo. A figurative expression meaning that a person is in a joyful or happy state. The word is sometimes used as an exclamation by a person soaking in the bathtub.

One of the Buddhist terms in the list. It is described in this section.

Gokuraku' and 'sukhaavatii' are Sanskrit words used to refer to the Jodo (Pure Land) that Amida Nyorai established.
Sukhaa' is added to 'vat' to form a word in Sanskrit, 'sukhaavatii,' which means 'a place of happiness' or 'a place filled with happiness.'
The transcript was written as Shukamadai, Sokabattei, Shumadai and so on, and was translated as Anraku, Gokuraku, Myoraku, and so on.

In "Amida-kyo Sutra," it is said that 'the place is called gokuraku, since there is no shuku but only shoraku (all kinds of enjoyment).'
Also, since in Bonzobun (translation of Abhidhamma (ancient Buddhist works)) it is said that shuku is various painful feelings and the body and that shoraku (all kinds of enjoyment) is the basis of happiness, Gokuraku is a place where feeling and body are away from pain and only the basis of happiness exists.

Shinran commented about 'Gokuraku mui nehankai' in "Yuishinsho-moni" (Notes on Faith Alone) as shown below.

Gokuraku' is that peaceful Pure Land, where joy is always around and pain does not come near.
That place is called Anyo, and Donran Kasho said that 'with praise, I call the place Anyo.'
Also, in "Ron" (Muryoju-kyo Ubadaisha Ganshoge-chu (Commentary on [Vasubandhu's] Upadesa on the Sutra of Immeasurable Life)), it is called 'Rengezo Sekai' (the Lotus Matrix World) or 'Mui.'
In 'Nehankai,' perplexity without light is changed to satori (enlightenment) with Mujonehan (absolute nirvana). Kai' is a border, or the border of enlightenment.

In other words, Gokuraku, relatively speaking, is a peaceful place for feeling and the body, as opposed to pain in the real world. In the absolute sense, Gokuraku is a world without pain or joy, which is called mui nehan kai (world of enlightenment of absolutely permanent existence).

Gokuraku can be called a world 'filled with happiness.'
Therefore, people have referred to this place in various ways since the old times. Listed below are some other common names for Gokuraku.

Jodo (Pure Land)

Gokuraku Tanharakoku (極楽湛蕨国)




Muryo Komyodo




Rengezo Sekai

Daijo Zenkonkai

Ichijo Shojo Muryoju Sekai




Gokuraku is explained in detail in 'Jodo Sanbu-kyo' (the three main sutras of the Pure Land sect). Because the atmosphere of Gokuraku is described with particular detail in "Bussetsu Amida-kyo" (The Sutra of Amida Buddha), the summary of it is described below based on this sutra.

The time goes up before ten kalpa, and Amida Nyorai completed the path to becoming a Buddha by attaining enlightenment and established Jodo at a place over a billion Buddha-lands in the west. And even now, he preaches for people in this Gokuraku.

This Buddha-land called Gokuraku is a very broad world without borders, and the glory in the undergrounds, grounds and the air is extremely exquisite. The ponds of flowers, jeweled castles and pavilions, and treasure trees in this Jodo are all enchased with gold, silver, and jewels, and are richly decorated with Shichiho (seven kinds of treasures in Buddhism), or a million treasures. Further, they are very pure and shine very brightly. People can get any clothing and food they would like, and since the climate is in harmony, neither too cold nor too hot, it is a very pleasant place in which to live. The sound people can hear is like the constantly preached myoho (the teaching of Buddhism that is so deep it can't be explained in words), and the water, birds, trees and forest all make a Buddhist sound with Buddha's myoho. Consequently, in this Jodo there is no pain, but only joy exists.

In this world, all the people have Muryoju (immeasurable life) and Muryoko (immeasurable light), like Buddha, and there is no limit to their wisdom and mercy. People always receive horaku (pleasures of pious life), make kuyo (offerings) to various Buddha, and save people from pain when they go outside this world, and they make keyaku (lead people to good by teaching and giving them merits) for them. Moreover, this land is mui nehankai, which is a world corresponding to the logic of Buddhism, and it is explained that this is a world made by Buddha to lead and save all lives.

As for this Gokuraku, some people see it as Hodo, or a land of Hojinbutsu (Buddha who have earned their bodies in this world by completing their wishes in the common world), and others see it as Kedo (Transformed Land), or a land of Ogeshin (Buddha who changed his appearance, such as that of a person, in order to save people).

In summary, people in the Jodo sect see Gokuraku as Hodo; moreover, common people can also enter this Hodo. Contrastingly, people in Shodo-mon (Gateway of the Holy Path) who see this Jodo as a Hodo do not accept the presence of common people in this land, and people in Shodo-mon who accept the entry of common people to this Jodo preach this land as Kedo.

For example, in "Daijogisho" (The Principles of Mahayana), by Eon (Sui), Jodo is categorized into Koto no Jodo (Pure Land for cases), So no Jodo (Pure Land for phenomenon) and Shin no Jodo (Pure Land for faith), and it regards Anraku Sekai (world of Anraku) of "Hokekyo" (Lotus Sutra) and Jodo of Amitabha in "Kanmuryoju-kyo sutra" as lower Koto no Jodo, and also as Odo (response land). Also in the Tendai sect, Jodo of Amitabha is regarded as a land where common people and saints both exist, and it's a land of Retsuojin (Buddha of an inferior manifested body). Further, in the original "Hoen girin-sho" (a Buddhist book teaching the doctrine of Yuishiki sect), Gokuraku is regarded as Hodo of Tajuyo (Buddha who gives joy to people with the enlightenment he has earned).

People in the Jodo sect basically see Gokuraku as Hodo in Anrakushu (A Collection of Passages Concerning Birth in the Pure Land), by Doshaku. That is based on the phrase, 'Jodo Chu Jobutsu shitsu kore hoshin' (浄土中成仏悉是報身, all the Buddha in Jodo are Hoshinbutsu), in "Daijo doshokyo" (The Mahayana Sutra on the Equal Nature).

As for the reason common people can make ojo (enter Gokuraku), Shandao said that since common people believe in the oath of Buddha, the ojo of the common people is accepted by that oath of Buddha.

Jodo is Hodo. The reason for it in the Jodo sect is that since common people believe in the oath of Buddha they are allowed to make Ojo.

About this Jodo, it has been preached since ancient times that 'yuishin no mida, koshin no Jodo' and 'koshin no mida, yuishin no Jodo.'
It is said to mean that Gokuraku exists in a billion Buddha-lands in the far west, but that is just a way to lead people, and actually the heart inside a person is the Jodo and Amida Buddha is the heart itself.

This thought is mainly believed in the Kegon and Zen sects.
Their basis is the phrase contained in "Kegon-kyo Sutra:" 'Heart, Buddha and people, all three of them have no difference.'
In "Yuimagyo" (Vimalakirti Sutra), various differences appear with respect to the equality shown above, and it is said that 'if the heart is clean, the Buddha-land is clean also,' meaning that if a person's heart is clean, the Buddha-land is also clean, but if the person's heart is dirty, the land also is dirty. Further, people who have Yuishiki (consciousness-only, the basic doctrine of the Japanese Hosso school) thought say there is only a person's consciousness, and since Buddha and their land is inside the person's heart, they don't exist outside the person's consciousness.

However, people in Jodo-mon (Gateway of the Pure Land) make Jodo of Jiso (phenomenon) and hold the position that they see Buddha outside their hearts. Of course, even though people of Jodo-mon say that Gokuraku is Jodo of Jiso, they say it still matches the Buddhist thought of muso (without any shape). The position of Jodo-mon like this shows religious thoughts that are different from Shodo-mon.

[Original Japanese]