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Verse of Seeking the Way (Gudō no ge 求道の偈)

Chanted in connection with ceremony of taking precepts (tokudo shiki 得度式):

When bodhisattvas in the round of birth and death
first give rise to the thought of awakening,
their earnest quest for bodhi
is strong and immovable.
The merit of that single thought
is deep, vast, and without limit.
Were the Tathagata to explain it conceptually
he could not exhaust it to the end of time.
bosatsu oshōji  菩薩於生死
saisho hos-shinji 最初發心時
ik-ko gubodai 一向求菩提
kengo fuka do 堅固不可動
hiichi nen kudoku  彼一念功徳
jin ko mugai sai 深廣無涯際
nyorai fun bes-setsu 如來分別説
gu go funō jin  窮劫不能盡

The "single thought" (ichinen 一念) referred to here is "giving rise to the thought of awakening" (hotsu bodaishin 發菩提心), i.e. the bodhisattva's aspiration to attain buddhahood for the sake of all living beings, but ichinen also means "an instant," which is the amount of time it takes for a single thought to occur in the mind. The verse thus draws a contrast between the instantaneous thought of awakening, which produces unlimited "merit" (kudoku 功徳), and "conceptual explanation" (funbetsu setsu 分別説), which relies on discriminatory thought (funbetsu分別) and can drag on forever and still not be able to fully convey the profound consequences of the intention to seek bodhi.