Introduction to Upasaka Xia Lian Ju and the Mahayana Infinite Life Adornment Purity Impartiality and Enlightenment Sutra
Short Biography and Introduction to Sutra:
Upasaka Xia Lian Ju (夏蓮居老居士) was born as Xia Ji Chuan (夏繼泉), courtesy name Pu Zhai (溥齋), art name Qu Yuan (渠園), on March 20 1884 into a prominent gentry family. His ancestral home was in Yuncheng County of Shandong Province. An influential Buddhist Upasaka, scholar and statesmen of the late Qing and early Republican era, he was the eldest son of Qing era Yunnan Provincial Commandant Xia Xin You. After passing the imperial examinations, he held various appointments such as Magistrate of Jinghai District, Prefect in Jiangsu, Commandant of Zhili, and Vice Secretary of the Shandong Militia. After the Xinhai Revolution of 1911, he continued to hold various civic and provincial offices in Shandong. In 1916, he was appointed into the Secretariat of the Presidential Office, and in 1918 he won a legislative seat. He also implemented major reforms in his capacity as the Commissioner of the Shandong Salt Administration, his last major post.
In 1921, he retired from public life to focus on his various cultural and educational roles, as well as the propagation and revival of Buddhism. In 1925, he was persecuted by notorious warlord Zhang Zongchang, and fled to Japan. While in exile, he diligently and single-mindedly recited the name of Amitabha — thereby perfecting his Samadhi of Buddha-name recitation. He peacefully achieved Pure Land rebirth in 1965.
In 1932, he resolved to consolidate the five main extant versions of the Infinite Life Sutra, the most important Sutra of Pure Land Buddhism, into one perfect edition. As the Infinite Life Sutra was spoken by the Buddha multiple times during his 49 years of preaching, there existed many versions of the Sutra. After the Song Dynasty, only five out of the original twelve versions remained: 1) The Later Han version 2) The Sun Wu version 3) The Cao Wei version 4) The Tang Dynasty version 5) The Song Dynasty version. While there were previously attempts to consolidate the five extant versions into one, the resulting editions were suboptimal and not sufficiently faithful to the original works. Worried that the messy situation would confound later generations, Upasaka Xia Lian Ju vowed to create a perfect Grand Consolidated Edition to pass down to future generations, an edition that would remain completely faithful to the five original versions, without a single character being changed. The project would take him over a decade of painstaking research and effort to complete, and his finished magnum opus’ full title, a combination of the titles of the five original, was The Mahayana Infinite Life Adornment Purity Impartiality and Enlightenment Sutra (佛說大乘無量壽莊嚴清淨平等覺經 會集本). His magnum opus quickly won widespread acclaim, and several contemporary civic and religious leaders, such as the eminent Dharma Master Ci Shou (慈舟法師), supported and propagated it.
This Grand Consolidated Edition of the Infinite Life Sutra has been praised by the Ven. Master Chin Kung as the most important sutra of our era — uniquely relevant to the karmic inclinations of people today. He also recommends that all recite Chapter 6 in the morning, and Chapters 32–37 in the evening as daily practice.
Even though the final version of the Grand Consolidated Edition came out in 1946, a full English translation did not exist until this year. John Scot Walker’s 2021 translation of this all important Sutra marks a groundbreaking development for the Pure Land School, and he has generously made the electronic version available for the public to read and share:
The Infinite Life Sutra, The Way Of Buddha Mindfulness ( Translation of Upasaka Xia Lian Ju's…
First ever English translation of Upasaka Xia Lian Ju's Grand Consolidated Edition of the Infinite Life Sutra, the…
This translation has also been accepted and uploaded into The Matheson Trust Library for preservation:
Infinite Life Sutra
The Longer Sukhavativyuha Sutra, in a new translation by John Walker.