梵文裡，每個母音算一個音節，其旁邊的子音是莊嚴那個母音的，當我們看到字母 s，其實就是一個音節 sa，如果你只是想要寫ｓ，那在寫字母時在下面要加一條斜線如 。所以子音的字母之下有斜線，表示不要加上母音 a；如要寫 sa，或 ka，或任何子音加母音a，只要寫上子音的字母就行，不需要加上母音a，因為a 音是每個子音裡最自然的發音部份，但如果母音不是ａ，則要加上那個母音的特別記號。
以下是以 ka 字母來寫各種不同符號（母音）
任何一個子音的符號（母音），加法都相同。所以經的題目是sa 字母的寫法，加上ｕ 母音符號 或為 su ，kha 加上一條直線┃ ，成為khā， va 和 ha，沒有特別符號所以是 ａ，有符號 ī 所以使 ta 成為 tī。
在音節 vyū ，ｖ 和ｙ 之間沒有母音，你也許認為應該寫成 ｖ加上 yū，但是 ｖ 無法發音；沒有母音，子音是無法發音的（你可以試試看），所以ｖ ，事實上是靠 yū 上的 ū來發音的。它是非常依賴 ｙ 字的，就如我們所看到的 vyū，所以 va 失去它自己所依靠的直線┃ ，同時也失去它的ａ母音，直接附著到 yū 上，於是寫成 ，這也是所有子音之間沒有母音的規則。
所以經題有六音，寫成六個單字或六個單位，由二個字而成 Sukhāvatī （極樂土）vyūuha （排列擺設）
* 是 r 若是子音無母音居中時之寫法。
（一）《佛說阿彌陀經》，鳩摩羅什大師由梵文譯成中文，大師之小傳刊於金剛菩海雜誌第廿三期；易果容居士由中文譯成英文，刊於第九期。我們所用的梵文本是 Muller-Nanjio 的版本，Anecdota Oxoniensia, Aryan Series, 第一冊第三部份 Clarendon Press, 1883。
Layout of the Land of Happiness
is the short title for The Buddha Speaks of Amitabha S&tra.1 There are two Su&tras by this title, one long and one short. We'll read the shorter one, of a length convenient to memorize and chant.2
The Sūtra describes the Western Paradise of Amitābha Buddha, which is called in Sanskrit , 'the land possessing happiness', or 'the land of ultimate bliss'. means 'a setting forth', 'a disposition', or 'a layout'. In other words, the Sūtra tells how the Land of Ultimate Bliss, Sukhāvatī, is laid out and arranged.
If one recites this Buddha's name, saying constantly Namo'mitābhabuddhāya, Homage to the Buddha Amitābha, he can be reborn in the Pure Land Sukhāvatī, and witness for himself the splendid adornments described in this Sūtra.
The Buddha Speaks of Amitābha Sūtra was spoken by the Buddha without anyone's request. But, you say, we always hear:
Dharma does not arise of itself;
The Way is not practiced in vain.
In general, because the Buddhadharma is spoken to meet the needs of living beings, someone must ask to hear a given Sūtra before it is explained. The Buddha spoke the Amitābha Sūtra although no one had asked for it because no one knew anything about the principle of its teaching, so no one could request it.
Previous lessons have described the sounds and writing system for Sanskrit. Now we will look at these sounds in more detail.
The unit of discrimination in Sanskrit is the syllable, or , 'imperishable' which we've been learning to write. The title divides into six ak+aras represented by six letter-units:
In Sanskrit each vowel counts for one syllable, and the surrounding consonants 'adorn' that vowel. The letter s is given as the syllable sa. If you want to write just s alone, you must add another mark: . The after any consonant tells you not to say the a vowel you would normally pronounce. To write sa or ka or any consonant plus a, you just write the letter and don't need to write in the vowel a, because the vowel a is a natural part of the pronounciation of each consonant. But if the vowel is other than a, you add a small sign which represents that vowel.
In the alphabet, the fourteen Sanskrit vowels are written as full letters. Those large forms are only used when you write the letters by themselves, or when you write a word which begins with a vowel. Otherwise, after any consonant, you use the shortened forms shown below:
Here is how you write the letter ka with these various signs:
The same signs are added to any Sanskrit consonant.
Consequently in the sutra title sa is the letter of the alphabet, and adding u we have su. kha has an additional ┃ , ā, to become khā. va and ha have no extra signs, for a is understood. tī has the sign īwhich makes ta into tī.
In the syllable vyū however, there is no vowel between the v and y. You might think this should be written v plus yū . But v by itself can't be pronounced, for no consonant can be said without a vowel (just try). The v actually relies on the ū of yū to be pronounced, leaning heavily on the y , just as pictured in the writing: vyū. Therefore, va loses the support of its vertical line ┃ and at the same time loses its a vowel, and is directly attached to the yū and is written . This is the principle followed in writing all combinations of Sanskrit consonants when no vowel falls in between. We say it's a consonant cluster when two or more consonants cluster or group up before a single vowel. The cluster is a single syllable and is written as one unit: vyū.
The Sūtra's title then consists of six sounds written as six characters or units. It is made up of the two words Sukhāvatī'land of bliss' and vyūuha 'arrangement'. These two words together form one phrase and the phrase as a whole has one meaning 'layout of the Land of Happiness'. This is one analysis of the title.
You should now be ready to decipher these words from next issue's lesson:
* is r when a consonant follows it with no vowel
in between; stands for .
Answers to last issue's test:
1. Corresponds to the title of the Chinese translation of this sūtra, Sanskrit , done by the Venerable Kumārajīva whose biography appears in VBS #23. An English translation of this Sūtra from the Chinese by Upāsaka I Kuo Jung is found in VBS #9. The Sanskrit text will follow the Muller-Nanjio edition, Anecdota Oxoniensia, Aryan Series, Vol. I, Part III, Clarendon Press, 1883.
2. The merit from memorizing and reciting this Sūtra is inconceivable and it may be used to cross over departed friends and relatives to a favorable rebirth.