The 8th International Conference Buddhism & Australia
Chinese Buddhist Encyclopedia Illustrations
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Buddha Speaks of Amitabha sutra
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Vakkula means “good bearing.” He was extremely handsome. In the past, during the time of Vipasyin Buddha, he made offerings of the Indian haritaki fruit to a Pratyeka Buddha, a sage enlightened to conditions. Because of this he received the retribution of long life in every life for ninety-one aeons. Foremost of the disciples in age, he lived to be a hundred and sixty. In past lives, Vakkula kept the precept against killing so conscientiously that he never killed a single creature, not even grass or trees. Thus he obtained “five kinds of death-free retribution.” Vakkula was a strange child. He was not born crying like most children, but entered the world smiling. Not only was he smiling, he was sitting upright in full lotus. Seeing this, his mother exclaimed, “He’s a monster!” and threw him on the brazier to burn.
After three or four hours, he hadn’t burned; he just sat there in full lotus laughing. Fully convinced that he was a monster, she then tried to boil him. When she took the cover off the pot several hours later, he just smiled back at her. “Oh no!” she cried, and threw him into the ocean. He did not drown, however, because a big fish swam up and swallowed him whole. Then a man netted the fist and cut it open. Vakkula stepped out, unharmed by the knife. So the fire didn’t burn him, the water didn’t boil him, the ocean didn’t drown him, the fish didn’t chomp him to death, and the fisherman’s knife didn’t cut him. Because he kept the precept against killing in every life, he obtained these “five kinds of death-free retribution.”
Aniruddha means “not poor.”53 Long ago, during the time of Pusya Buddha, a famine starved the people and reduced them to eating grass, roots, and leaves. It was the practice of a Pratyeka Buddha who lived at that time to go out begging only once every two weeks. If he received no offerings, he simply didn’t eat. Once day he went down the mountain to beg and, having received no offerings, was returning with his empty bowl when he was seen by a poor farmer—Aniruddha. The poor farmer addressed the Pratyeka Buddha most respectfully. “Holy Master,” he said, “you received no offerings. Won’t you please accept my lunch? As I am very poor, I can only offer you this cheap grade of rice, but if you want it, you can have it.” Seeing his sincerity, the Pratyeka Buddha accepted. After eating, he ascended into empty space, manifested the 18 miraculous changes, and left.
Just then the poor farmer saw a rabbit running towards him. The rabbit jumped up on his back, and no matter how the farmer tried to knock, brush, or shake it off, it wouldn’t budge. All alone in the field and terrified, he ran home. When he got there the rabbit had turned into a gold statue. He asked his wife to knock the rabbit off, but she couldn’t move it either. When they broke a gold leg off the rabbit, another would grow back in its place. In this way, the gold statue was never exhausted, and for ninety-one kalpas Aniruddha was “not poor.”
During the time of Shakyamuni Buddha he was the son of the Buddha’s father’s brother, the Red Rice King. He was the Buddha’s first cousin. Although he wasn’t poor, Aniruddha liked to sleep when the Buddha lectured on the Sutras. One day the Buddha scolded him: Hey! Hey! How can you sleep, Like an oyster or a clam? Sleep, sleep for a thousand years, But you’ll never hear the Buddha’s name! Hearing this, Aniruddha became extremely vigorous and didn’t sleep for seven days. As a consequence, he went blind. The Buddha took pity on him and taught him how to cultivate the “vajra illuminating bright samadhi.” He immediately obtained the penetration of the Heavenly Eye; he could see the great trichiliocosm as clearly as seeing an apple held in his hand, and was foremost of the disciples in possessing the Heavenly Eye.
Sutra: …together with all the Bodhisattvas, Mahasattvas: Dharma Prince Manjushri, Ajita Bodhisattva, Gandhahastin Bodhisattva, Nityodyukta Bodhisattva, and others such as these, all great Bodhisattvas, and together with Shakra, chief among gods, and the numberless great multitudes from all the heavens.
What is a Bodhisattva? Bodhisattva is a Sanskrit word. Bodhi means “enlightenment” and sattva means “being.” The word means “to enlighten those with sentience,” that is, to cause living beings to wake up.
Bodhisattva also means “enlightened among beings” because Bodhisattvas themselves are awake. Enlightenment is simply the opposite of confusion; confusion is simply non-enlightenment. With one enlightened thought, you are a Buddha. With one confused thought, you are a living being. With every thought enlightened, in every thought you are a Buddha. With every thought confused, in every thought you are a living being. Bodhisattvas are beings who can wake themselves up. Every day they are more enlightened, not more confused. Manjushri, also Sanskrit, means “wonderfully lucky,”54 or “wonderful virtue.”55 Of the Bodhisattvas, he is foremost in wisdom and is also known as “The Great and Wise Manjushri.” Bodhisattvas are enlightened beings and living beings are confused beings. Enlightened beings are those who are enlightened among all the confused living beings. In all situations, they are awake.
And so it is said,
Bodhisattvas transcend the world; living beings fall beneath the grinding wheel of sense objects. The difference between Bodhisattvas and living beings is that of enlightenment and confusion. We say, “enlightened, you’re a Buddha.” Enlightened, too, you are a Bodhisattva. Confused, you’re a living being. Manjushri
1) The room was filled with bright light. When Manjushri was born, a bright light filled the room. It was not the light of the sun, moon, stars or lamps. It represented Manjushri’s great Prajna wisdom and great intelligence which can disperse all darkness. 2) The vessels were filled with sweet dew. Sweet dew56 is the heavenly medicine of immortality which nourishes you and satisfies your hunger so that you don’t need to eat. Sweet dew satisfies, purifies, and refreshes. Hungry ghosts who have sweet dew poured over their heads immediately get rid of their offense karma and obtain a good rebirth.
This is called ‘opening the sweet dew door.” When it opens, the hungry ghosts run in and obtain their fill. Sweet dew filling the vessels represents Manjushri’s use of the sweet dew of Dharma to rescue living beings. 3) The seven jewels came forth from the earth. When Manjushri was born, gold, silver, lapis lazuli, crystal, mother-ofpearl, red pearls, and carnelian came forth from the earth. Why are they called “jewels?” Because they are rare. Whatever is scarce is precious. Earth, for example, is actually very precious. Without it we couldn’t sustain our lives, and yet no one thinks it is special because there is a lot of it. If you tried to give people a handful of dirt, they wouldn’t want it; they’d just throw it away. Water, too, is essential for life, but no one prizes it because it’s everywhere. All living things depend on water for survival. Therefore Lao Tzu said,
flower, would this day have come for you? You really should be grateful.” It doesn’t think in this way and it doesn’t wrangle. Travellers will notice that water gathers in the lowlands, in places where men do not like to go. It lives where no one else wants to live and so it is close in its nature to the Way. Water, fire, metal, wood, and earth benefit all things but because of their abundance, no one considers them precious.
Trees are everywhere and so no one values them, but gold is a treasure because it is rare. In the Land of Ultimate Bliss, where the ground is made of gold, dirt would be valuable. If you gave a clod of Saha dirt to someone in the Land of Ultimate Bliss…Ah!….it would be as precious as those rocks they are now bringing back from the moon. They are just rocks, but because they came from the moon they are very valuable. If you sent a worthless clod of dirt to the Land of Ultimate Bliss everyone would exclaim, “Rare indeed!” So, the seven precious gems are called “jewels” because they are hard to find.
Manjushri Bodhisattva has limitless treasuries of jewels. When he was born, the seven jewels welled up from the earth—endless for the taking and inexhaustible in their use. “Where are these treasuries?” you ask. They are in the place where Manjushri was born. “Can I go there?”
Don’t be so greedy. The travel expenses would cost more than the jewels you’d bring back. So don’t have this false thought 4) The gods opened the treasuries. Wheel-turning Sage Kings58 have seven treasures: a golden disc, white elephants, jade women, horse, pearls, ministers of the army, and gods to guard his treasuries. These treasuries were buried in the earth long ago and 58. Skt. cakravarti-raja
then forgotten, but when Manjushri was born, the guardian gods opened the treasuries so that the jewels could be obtained. 5) Chickens gave birth to phoenixes. Chickens usually give birth to chickens, but when Manjushri was born they gave birth to Phoenixes. Phoenixes are auspicious birds, and seeing one is a lucky sign.
In The Analects, Confucius wrote, “The phoenix hasn’t come and the river sends no map; I am finished.” The phoenix appears when a wise man rules and things are right in the world, as during the time of Emperor Shun (2255 B.C.) when these birds were commonly seen. During the time of Fu Hsi (2852 B.C.) a turtle rose out of the river with a chart on its back. The chart gave Fu Hsi the idea for the eight trigrams which combine to make the sixty-four hexagrams of the I Ching, the Book of Changes. “But now,” said Confucius, “one no longer sees such auspicious signs.
Thus I know that it’s all over. To expound the Way and its virtue is of no use.” 6) Pigs gave birth to dragons. Dragons ordinarily give birth to dragons and phoenixes ordinarily give birth to phoenixes. It’s not too strange for chickens to hatch phoenixes, but then pigs gave birth to dragons—dragon pigs, with scales. 7) Horses gave birth to unicorns. Horses usually beget horses, but they had unicorns. Unicorns, lions, and tigers are all called the “kings of beasts.”
The unicorn is also an auspicious animal. In China, during the time of the benevolent Emperor T’ang Ti Yao (2356 B.C.), there were many phoenixes and unicorns, and they were often seen. Later, when people’s karmic retribution grew too heavy, these auspicious creatures no longer appeared. Confucius wrote, In the time of Emperor T’ang Yao the unicorn and phoenix abounded.
When the Sage Confucius was born, a unicorn appeared. When his mother saw it, she tied a string around its neck. Near the end of Confucius’ live, some hunters killed a unicorn. When Confucius saw it, he noticed that it had the string around its neck; it was the same unicorn. Seeing this sign, he sighed deeply, for he knew that it would not be long before he died. “Unicorn! Unicorn! How my heart grieves…” he said.
When Manjushri was born, horses gave birth to unicorns. 8) Cows gave birth to white tsai. The white tsai is an extremely rare and auspicious animal. It’s not like an ox and it’s not like a horse; it’s not like a deer or a mule. It’s not like anything at all. It looks like a horse, but has the hooves of an ox. 9) The grain in the granaries turned to gold. What use is golden grain? Can you eat it?
“You can exchange it for money and buy a lot of grain,” you may say. I agree. A grain of gold is very valuable. 10) Elephants with six tusks appeared. Elephants usually have only two tusks, but when Manjushri was born they had six. These are the ten auspicious signs which appeared at Manjushri’s birth. They represent the Ten Paramitas: giving, morality, patience, vigor, concentration, wisdom, skill in means, vows, determination, and knowledge. They show that Manjushri is not like other Bodhisattvas.
If you would like to meet Manjushri Bodhisattva, you must first remember these ten signs. Then when you see him you will know, “This is my old friend and closest good knowing advisor.” Manjushri will be very pleased. “Yes! You are my old friend, my very good friend,” he will say. Although he doesn’t discriminate, if you don’t know him, he won’t approach you. The better you know him, the closer he comes. Therefore we should know the states of the Bodhisattvas so that we can be their brothers and friends. All the Bodhisattvas are our good knowing advisors, and in the future we will be Bodhisattvas, too. So don’t take yourselves lightly.
Ajita is Sanskrit for “invincible.”59 Ajita Bodhisattva is none other than Maitreya, “compassionate clan,”60 Bodhisattva. He specializes in cultivating the “compassionate heart samadhi” and is compassionate toward all living beings. Scolded, beaten, cheated, insulted, no matter how badly he is treated, he is compassionate in return. No matter how obnoxious living beings are, he protects them all even more lovingly than he would protect his own sons or daughters. His compassion and loving concern are limitless and boundless.
His belly filled with gruel, He mends old sacks to keep him warm And lives on chance, Old Fool. A scolding makes the Fool smile sweetly, While a beating makes him sleepy; Spit on his face, he lets it dry And saves his strength and energy. His calm, a peace past ridicule Gets him the jewel within the wonderful; Now that you’ve heard this song today Why worry about not perfecting the Way?
The song is about a stupid old man who wears a patched robe and eats his food plain, without soy sauce, hot sauce, or sesame oil. It doesn’t taste like much, but it fills his stomach. He mends his robes to stay warm and whatever happens, just happens: Something happens and he reflects it;
When it happens, it happens; when it’s over, it’s gone. He accords with conditions and does not change, does not change and yet accords with conditions. For him, In movement, there is stillness, In stillness, movement; Both movement and stillness Are still and moving.
But we won’t speak about it too deeply. If we did, it would be difficult to understand. Scolded, the Old Fool says, “Great!” If someone hits him, he falls asleep. Now isn’t that stupid? If ordinary people were hit, they would glare and shout, “Why did you hit me!” But the Old fool just falls asleep. Isn’t this wonderful? If you can master this, you’re doing pretty well; you have truly gained some genuine cultivation. “Spit in my face,” says the stupid old man, “and I just let it dry. If you spit in someone else’s face, the fire of ignorance would blaze thirty thousand feet into the air. “How can you insult me like that?” he’d say. But the old man doesn’t even wipe if off.
He just lets it dry. Although it’s not much effort to wipe it away, he still saves his strength and gives others no affliction. This is Paramita. If you can sleep when people hit you and let their spit dry on your face, this is ksanti-Paramita, the perfection of patience. If you do not understand this, what Buddhadharma do you study? You study day in and day out, but when this happens, you don’t know what dharma it is. If someone hit you to test your skill, you’d probably end up saying, “I’ve studied the Buddhadharma for so long. Why can’t I use it when the time comes?” The Paramita is the wonderful within the wonderful, the jewel within the jewel. If you’ve heard this news, how can you worry about not perfecting the Way? The Buddha and Bodhisattvas would never deceive you.
Gandhahastin is a Sanskrit word which is interpreted as ‘never resting.”61 Nityodyukta, also Sanskrit, means “ever-vigorous.”62 “Ever-vigorous” and “Never-resting” competed with each other. One was vigorous and the other never rested; one never rested and the other was vigorous. They watched each other: “If you don’t rest,” said one, “then I’ll be constantly vigorous.” “If you’re ever vigorous,” replied the other, “then I won’t rest.” In the six periods of the day and night they practiced the Way, each acting as the other’s Dharma protector. They raced every step of the way, and neither would let himself fall behind. Thus Gandhahastin is just Nityodyukta; Ever-vigorous is just Never-resting. These two have cultivated together as Dharma friends for limitless kalpas. “If you work hard, I’ll work harder! If you increase your efforts, I’ll double mine.” They are genuine cultivators, evervigorous and never-resting, Nityodyukta and Gandhahastin. Shakra, chief among gods, and the numberless great multitudes from all the heavens.
Shakra, or Sakro Devanam Indra, is the ruler of the TrayastriÌÇa Heaven, the Heaven of the Thirty-three. He is referred to in the Shurangama mantra as “Yin T’o La Ye.” Those who understand the Buddhadharma know that all gods, ghosts, and spirit kings, as well as all the great Bodhisattvas are contained within the Shurangama mantra. Those who do not understand the Buddhadharma say, “Buddhism does not include the heavens, the twenty-eight constellations…” They say this because they don’t understand that the heavens and the constellations, everything is within the Shurangama mantra. Shakra is Sanskrit; it means “the able heavenly ruler.”
Numberless great multitudes from all the heavens. Numberless, the heavens cannot be counted. In general there are thirty-three, but if you were to describe them in detail, you would speak of the limitless heavens within each heaven, just as there are also limitless worlds within each world and limitless countries within each country. Thus, many heavenly beings were present in the assembly.
At that time the Buddha told the elder Sariputra, “passing from here through hundreds of thousands of millions of Buddhalands to the west, there is a world called ultimate bliss. In this land a Buddha called Amitabha right now teaches the dharma.”
Commentary: At that time refers to the time when all the gods, Bodhisattvas, sravakas, bhiksus, bhiksunis, upasakas, and upasikas had gathered together to listen to Sakyamuni Buddha. The Buddha spoke to the wise elder Sariputra saying, “if you travel westward from here, from the pure abode in the jeta grove in the garden of the benefactor of orphans and the solitary, sravasti, india, and go through hundreds of thousands of millions of Buddhalands, you will find a world system called ‘the Land of Ultimate Bliss’. This is the happiest land there is. Nothing surpasses the happiness there, it is ultimate. “In this land, there is a Buddha. His name is Amitabha, ‘limitless light’.
He is also called amitayus, ‘limitless life’. His light is measureless, illumining the lands of the ten directions everywhere without obstruction, and his lifespan extends for hundreds of thousands of tens of thousands of millions of great kalpas without end.” After realising Buddhahood, this Buddha did not rest, but right now he speaks the dharma. He is not an unemployed Buddha; teaching the dharma is the Buddha’s job. Whoever teaches the dharma does the Buddha’s work; whoever doesn’t, does the demons’ work. So it is said, “Unless I teach the dharma to save living beings, I will have passed through my entire life in vain.”
Commentary: “Sariputra!” Said the Buddha, “Why is this land called ultimate bliss?”. Although he had great wisdom, Sariputra didn’t know enough to ask this question, and so the Buddha asked it himself. This is like yesterday when I asked you if you had any questions and you didn’t answer because you didn’t know what to ask. So I said, “Very well, I have a question for you. Do you like the rain?”. Thieves hate the rain. Why? If they go out to steal, they get all wet. “I want to steal something,” they say, “but it is raining. I will have to carry an umbrella. How inconvenient!” Travellers say, “I came here for a vacation and I haven’t seen a thing. Detestable rain!” Travellers and thieves don’t care for the rain.
But the farmer says, “Rain! My flowers will sell for thousands of dollars. Isn’t this fine?” The fruit growers say, “The rain will make my apples big, fat and sweet, my oranges too.” Now, would you say that lecturing sutras and speaking about the dharma is a good thing or not? Those who believe in the Buddhadharma say it is good, but those who are jealous of it say it is not.
Why is this land called ultimate bliss? Basically, Sariputra should have asked this question, but he didn’t, and so Sakyamuni Buddha said, “Sariputra, why is Amitabha’s country called ultimate bliss? Speak up!”.
The Buddha waited about five minutes. Sariputra said nothing, such great wisdom and yet he didn’t know what to say! He just stared blankly as you do when I ask you a question. But time is precious. Sakyamuni Buddha waited until he could wait no more. “All right,” he said, “I will answer it myself.” Sutra: “All living beings of this country endure none of the sufferings, but enjoy every bliss. Therefore it is called ‘ultimate bliss’.”
Commentary: In Amitabha Buddha’s land, living beings are born by transformation from lotus flowers. Their birth is pure, not one of desire and emotions, and so their bodies are pure and are not the result of sexual desire and the lustful thoughts of men and women. This is why they endure none of the sufferings, but enjoy every bliss. Why do we suffer? We suffer because our bodies are created from unclean substances of the father’s semen and the mother’s blood. We continually think of unclean things.
Men usually think of women, women of men. People eat their fill and, since there’s nothing else to do, sexual desire is foremost. When the time comes, men and women want to marry. If they don’t, they feel as if they have a great illness which has not been cured. Because the basis, the seed, is impure, the thoughts are impure, and those impure thoughts bring about all kinds of suffering.
Why is there suffering? For no reason other than this. Sutras are lectured and dharma is taught only to teach you one thing, have no unclean, impure thoughts, have no sexual desire. Without sexual desire you are one of the clear, pure, ocean-wide assembly of Bodhisattvas. With sexual desire, you are a ghostly living being of the five turbid realms. Cultivation and non-cultivation are right here.
If you can purify your mind, your merit and virtue are limitless. If you cannot purify your mind, your offences are limitless. Offences are created from impure thoughts. Such thoughts are causes planted in your self-nature and they result in the manifestation of offences and evil. But if your self-nature is pure, outwardly there will be no evil karmic retribution.
Therefore, you may study the Buddhadharma for several tens of thousands of great kalpas, but unless you understand the genuine doctrine you won’t get off the revolving wheel. If you understand the essential message of the Buddhadharma, however, you will know, “Oh! It is simply a matter of purifying my mind and will.” The Buddhadharma teaches you to purify your mind and will.
If you understand the Buddhadharma you can become enlightened, and once enlightened, you will never have unclean thoughts again. Why do people suffer? It is because of unclean thoughts. Why is there no suffering in the Land of Ultimate Bliss? It is because the people there have no impure thoughts. Thus, they endure none of the sufferings, but enjoy every bliss.
As we recite “Namo Amitabha Buddha” we each create and adorn our own Land of Ultimate Bliss. We each accomplish our own Land of Ultimate Bliss which is certainly not hundreds of thousands of millions of Buddhalands from here. Although it is far away, it doesn’t go beyond one thought. It is not hundreds of thousands of millions of Buddhalands from here, it is right in our hearts.
The Land of Ultimate Bliss is the original true heart, you will be born in the Land of Ultimate Bliss. If you don’t understand your own original true heart, you will not. The Land of Ultimate Bliss is defiled and so is that one thought of the mind and nature. It is just that now, as common people, we are defiled by attachment. If you can empty yourself of attachments, you will immediately see Amitabha Buddha, that is the Land of Ultimate Bliss.
Amitabha Buddha and living beings, do not discriminate between this and that, turn the light within. Know that originally you are the Buddha, and your original Buddhahood is just the Land of Ultimate Bliss. For this reason, you should cast out your defiled thoughts, your lustful desires, your confusion, jealousy, contrariness, and selfish thoughts of personal gain.
Be like the Bodhisattvas who benefit everyone and enlighten all beings. Just that is the Land of Ultimate Bliss. Don’t you agree that the absence of confusion and false thoughts is the Land of Ultimate Bliss? If it isn’t, what is? Good knowing advisors, you are all ones of great wisdom and great intelligence. You are all more clever than I, and in the future you will explain the dharma better than I do. But now, because you don’t know chinese, I am introducing you to this old-fashioned tradition. In the future you will transform it and make it unspeakably wonderful.
Sutra: “Moreover, Sariputra, this Land of Ultimate Bliss is everywhere surrounded by seven tiers of railings, seven layers of netting, and seven rows of trees, all formed from the four treasures and for this reason named ‘ultimate bliss’.” Commentary:
After explaining why this land is called ultimate bliss, Sakyamuni Buddha waited for Sariputra to ask about the limitless principles which remained but, as intelligent as he was, Sariputra simply didn’t know enough to ask. Why? It was because the pure land dharma door is simply too wonderful. Unable to wait any longer, the Buddha said, “Sariputra, I will tell you something else. In the most happy land there are seven railings which run horizontally like fences and are arranged vertically in seven tiers.” The railings represent the precepts, the netting represents concentration, and the trees represent wisdom. The number seven is used for the “seven classes,” the classification of the thirty-seven wings of enlightenment into seven groups:
1. The four applications of mindfulness 2. The four right efforts 3. The four bases of supernatural power 4. The five roots 5. The five powers 6. The seven limbs of enlightenment 7. The proper eight-fold path
How do the tiers of railings represent the precepts? Precepts prohibit evil and prevent error. Morality is simply all evil not done and all good conduct respectfully practised. Once you have taken the precepts, you cannot entertain confused false thinking. You must purify your mind and will. If you find yourself caught up in false thinking, rub your head and say, “I have left the home-life, I am hairless. I am no longer a layman and so I can’t be casual and think unclean thoughts. I must stop.” In this way the precepts are like a fence. It is illegal to jump it, you have to go through the gate. Thus, the seven tiers of railings represent the precepts. How do the seven layers of netting represent concentration? One does not enter or emerge from true concentration. With “naga
concentration” you don’t need to meditate because no external state will move your heart. You are always concentrated. Suppose you see something good to eat and think, “Not bad. I will try it out.” This displays a lack of concentration power, to say nothing of stealing food, which is a violation of the precepts! “Oh, a little thing like that is not important,” you think. It’s just because you transgress in minor ways, that, when something major comes along you slip up. People who transgress in little matters will transgress even more easily in big ones. It may be a small matter, but it is just the small matters which are difficult to change. If you change your small faults, you have concentration power.
Concentration is the state of being unmoved by situations. For example, when a woman sees a handsome man but has no thought of sexual desire, she is said to possess concentration power. When a man sees a beautiful woman but has no thoughts of sexual desire, that, too, is concentration. Seeing as if not seeing and hearing as if not hearing,
The eyes see forms outside, but inside there is nothing. The ears hear external sounds, but the mind does not know. The seven layers of netting represent concentration. Now do you understand the Amitabha sutra? If you don’t understand it completely, perhaps you understand a little. That’s why I am explaining it.
...and seven rows of very tall trees. The trees represent wisdom. If you have wisdom, you are tall, without it, you are short. It’s not a question of how tall or short your body is. With wisdom you are like seven rows of tall trees; without wisdom you are like seven rows of grass! The grass has smothered your heart and you grow stupider and stupider. ...all formed from the four treasures and for this reason called ‘ultimate bliss.’ the four treasures are gold, silver, lapis lazuli and crystal. “Is the Land of Ultimate Bliss made out of only four treasures?” You may wonder.
“Then why do you only mention four?” You ask. The four treasures represent the four virtues of nirvana: permanence, bliss, true self, and purity. 1. Permanence. Amitabha Buddha’s life span is limitless. Not only does Amitabha Buddha have a limitless life span, but when we are born in the Land of Ultimate Bliss, we will, too. If you would like to transcend death, seek rebirth in the pure land, because everyone there has limitless life. This is the virtue of permanence. 2. Bliss. Those born in the pure land endure none of the sufferings, but enjoy every bliss.
3. True self.
In this land, the self has eight great freedoms, eight functions, eight kinds of strength, and eight spiritual penetrations. These are The Buddha Speaks of Amitabha Sutra – The the eight kinds of wonderful function and are called the eight great freedoms of the self. a) One body can manifest limitless bodies. If a hundred people invite you to lunch, you can accept all their invitations and go to every dharma protector’s house to eat. One dharma protector might say, “He came to lunch at my house on such and such a day,” and another will say, “but he also had lunch at my house on that day!” They don’t know that you are able to respond to limitless offerings in a single day.
b) One body the size of a dust mote can completely fill the great thousand world systems. Isn’t this wonderful? In one mote of dust, Buddha-fields appear; in a Buddha-field, motes of dust appear. One country becomes as small as a mote of dust and one mote of dust becomes as large as a country.
c) The great body can lightly float to a distant place. It can fly. The body is big and awkward, yet it can gently float far away. d) One manifests limitless kinds of living beings which always dwell together in one land. We see mountains as mountains when actually they contain the palaces of the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. You see mountains and oceans but do not see the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas within them who are teaching the dharma. A layman has mentioned such a place where there are many people cultivating the way, he can see it and you can’t.
This is to cause limitless kinds of living beings to dwell in one place. e) All the organs are used interchangeably. The eyes can speak; the ears can see; the nose can eat. How can this happen? The six sense organs, the eyes, ears, nose, tongue, body and mind are interchangeable. Each of them has the function of the other six. Sages who have given proof to the fruit may speak with Bodhisattvas, but you wouldn’t know it if they were talking with their ears! “I don’t believe it,” you say.
Of course you don’t. If you did, you did have this talent yourself. But because you don’t believe, you don’t have it. How can you obtain that in which you do not even believe? f) The suchness of all dharmas without the thought of dharmas is obtained. Although one who realised true self obtains all dharmas, he has no thought of attainment. This is mentioned in the heart sutra as “no wisdom and no attainment.”
g) The meaning of one verse may be explained throughout limitless aeons. The meaning of a single line, a single word, cannot be fully explained even in limitless aeons. Why? Because he has free and unobstructed eloquence so that speaking in any place or in any dimension he always rests in the way and speaks the dharma. Speaking dharma in Buddha-fields and in motes of dust, any dharma he selects contains limitless meanings.
Having rightly attained the eight great freedoms, he does what he pleases and says what he likes. He can scold people, but they like to hear it. “He scolds very well,” they say. He may teach dharma by doing nothing but scolding people, and yet they say it is very nice to hear. Why? Because he has attained the eight great freedoms of the self. Because he himself is free, when you hear him speak, you too feel free.
h) The body pervades all places, like space. One body fills Buddha-fields in number as many as dust motes, but, like empty space, there is really nothing there. Although there is nothing there, it fills Buddha-fields in number as many as dust motes. What doctrine is this? That of freedom, the eight great freedoms of the self.
The sutra text below says, “...and throughout the clear morning each living being of that land, with sacks full of the myriads of wonderful flowers, makes offerings to the hundreds of thousands of millions of Buddhas of the other directions. At mealtime they return to their own country and having eaten they stroll around.” They can do this because they have obtained the eight great freedoms of the self.
The last of the four virtues of nirvana is that of purity. This land is pure. It is adorned with the four treasures which represent the four virtues of nirvana in unobstructed interpenetration. Thus it is named “ultimate bliss”. Sutra:
“Moreover, Sariputra, this Land of Ultimate Bliss has pools of the seven jewels, filled with the waters of eight meritorious virtues. The bottom of each pool is pure, spread over with golden sand. On the four sides are stairs of gold, silver, lapis lazuli, and crystal, above are raised pavilions adorned with gold, silver, lapis lazuli, crystal, mother-ofpearl, red pearls, and carnelian.”
“In the pools are lotuses as large as carriage wheels, green coloured of green light, yellow coloured of yellow light, red coloured of red light, white coloured of white light, subtly, wonderfully, fragrant and pure.” “Sariputra, the realisation of the Land of Ultimate Bliss is thus meritoriously adorned.”
Commentary: The previous passage of text described the exquisite beauty of the Land of Ultimate Bliss. This passage praises the subtle wonder of its water-pools. Having spoken of the seven rows of trees, the seven layers of netting, and the seven tiers of railing, Sakyamuni Buddha was waiting for Sariputra to ask further about that land. But the great, wise Sariputra, the Buddha’s most intelligent disciple, still did not know where to begin and probably hesitated for several minutes until the Buddha himself said, “Moreover, Sariputra, this Land of Ultimate Bliss has pools of the seven jewels.” There are pools in the saha world, but they are made of mud or cement. No one makes pools out of gold, silver, lapis lazuli, crystal, mother-ofpearl, red pearls, or carnelian.
Lapis lazuli is an opaque, blue semi-precious stone. It could be found near the country of magadha, in central india. Crystal is also called “water jade”. Mother-of-pearl has what looks like cart tracks running across it. Translated form the chinese it is “great shells”. The pools were not man-made. On the contrary, they appeared naturally. Within the pools, one finds the waters of eight meritorious virtues:
1. Tepid. It is warm and yet it is cool. In other words, once you get in the pool, if you want it a little warmer, it becomes so. If you think, “It is too hot. A little cooler, please,” then it becomes cooler. The quality of the water is inconceivable. 2. Pure. No matter how many times you wash with this water, it doesn’t get dirty. Unlike the water in our world, the more you wash with the water of the Land of Ultimate Bliss, the cleaner it gets. It feels like milk running over your body, smooth, comfortable, and extremely fine and subtle to the touch. The more you wash with it, the nicer you feel, there is no better feeling than this.
3. Sweet. You don’t have to drink it. Just wash with it, and you will know that it is very, very sweet. My disciple She Kuo Man in Hong Kong came to Gwan Yin cave where I was living once and ate noodles and drank water from my pool. Then she said, “Ah! This water is so sweet! Does it have sugar in it?” “No,” I replied, “It is just plain water.” “But it is so sweet!” She said.
“Perhaps Gwan Yin Bodhisattva has given you some sweet dew,” I said. “Oh!” She exclaimed, and was really delighted. At that time I was wearing rags and you could see my flesh through the holes in them. What do you think she did? She made me two sets of clothes, because she like the sweet water. The water in the Land of Ultimate Bliss is also sweet and delicious.
4. Soft. The water is not hard. It is very light and soft. 5. Moistening. When dirty people wash with it, they become clean. This water will wash any filth right off your body and leave you bright and clean.
6. Harmonising. If you wash with his water, your heart and mind will be at peace, without the slightest trace of bad temper. Without a hot temper, without the fire of ignorance, and without affliction, you will be in harmony with everyone. If they scold you, you won’t get angry, and if they knock you over, it won’t create a problem. “So what if they hit me?” You will say. You will be at peace with everyone. See how fine this is? 7. Banishes hunger and thirst. This is most important. After bathing in the waters of eight meritorious virtues, when it’s time to eat, you are not hungry and when it is time to drink, you are not thirsty. No milk and no bread and yet no hunger or thirst.
The Land of Ultimate Bliss is unspeakably wonderful. 8. Nourishes all roots. It gives sustenance to all your sense organs. Your eyes become bright and light and your ears, if once deaf, now can hear. If your nose is topped up, wash with the water of eight meritorious virtues and it will get to work again whatever you eat tastes good, and your hands and feet work without feeling tired. Not only that, the water also nourishes your good roots and gets rid of your bad karma. How great would you say this merit and virtue is? We should quickly seek rebirth in the Land of Ultimate Bliss so that we may bathe in the pools of the waters of eight meritorious virtues, and have our good roots nourished. This has been a general explanation of the waters of eight meritorious virtues.
Were I to speak in detail, I wouldn’t finish by the end of a great aeon. These waters have eight independent merits and virtues, eight happy merits and virtues, eight subtle, wonderful, inconceivable merits and virtues, and more. No matter what karmic obstacles you have, they all dissolve when you get into these pools. What are karmic obstacles?
They are those things which you dislike, the things which cause you to become afflicted. Without karmic obstacles there is no affliction and this is like a covering of golden sand. When we go to the Land of Ultimate Bliss, the pools of the seven jewels melt away our karmic obstacles. On the four sides are stairs of gold, silver, lapis lazuli, and crystal. We may think our stairways of marble are splendid, but those in the Land of Ultimate Bliss are inlaid with gold, silver, lapis lazuli, and crystal, and the pathways emit multicoloured rays of light.
Above are raised pavilions adorned with gold, silver, lapis lazuli, crystal, mother-of-pearl, red pearls and carnelian. Why are they adorned with so many treasures? To make them beautiful to look at! The seven jewels used to adorn the pavilions represent the perfection of Amitabha Buddha’s ten thousand virtues. The great adornments are the measure of his great virtuous practices, for without virtuous practice, there can be no seven jewelled adornments.
In the pools are lotuses as large as carriage wheel. Then how big are the pools? Each is as big as a hundred great seas. One great sea is big indeed, how big would you say a hundred great seas are? The lotuses in these pools are as large as carriage wheels, which are much bigger than automobile tires. The carriage wheels on the chariot of the wheel turning sage king are one yojana in diameter. A small yojana is forty miles, a middle-sized one is sixty miles, and a large one is eighty miles. This lotus, then, is eighty miles in diameter. Lotuses growing in pools as large as a hundred great seas
would have to be at least that big. Tiny flowers in such big pools wouldn’t look right. A song about Amitabha Buddha goes like this; Amita, the great sage and master. Serene, subtle, wonderful, beyond all others… Pools of seven gems.
Flowers of four colours and waves of solid gold. Amitabha Buddha is the great sage and master. His countenance is sedate, serene, and very wonderful. There is no image as fine as that of Amitabha Buddha.
The flowers in the pools are green coloured of green light, yellow coloured of yellow light, red coloured of red light, white coloured of white light. Light, bright light, subtly, wonderfully, fragrant and pure. The water is subtle and soft. It looks like water, but when you reach out to touch it, it feels as if nothing were there. It feels like water, but it is so fine that you can’t grab a hold of it. It is like there’s nothing there, but still it is there. It is just that subtle. “Wonderful” means ineffable. There is no way you can even think about it. The water is also fragrant. Once you get in it you won’t want to get out.
As soon as you smell its fragrance you will bring forth the bodhi mind. In this world, we chase after good smells, but in the Land of Ultimate Bliss, the fragrances cause one to say, “Too fine! I did better hurry up and cultivate the way.” The smells of this world cause you to think, “Not bad...it is really bitter at the temple. Cultivation isn’t as good as...”
But smells are defiled dharmas. Forms, sounds, smells, tastes and tangible objects are the five sense objects, and cultivators of the way must certainly see through and break all attachment to them. First of all, do not become attached to beautiful form. Beauty is only skip deep, beneath the skin there is just pus, blood, and flesh. In the surangama sutra we read of matangi’s daughter, who couldn’t give up her love for ananda. The Buddha asked her, “What is it about ananda that you love?”. “I love his eyes,” she said.
“All right,” said the Buddha, “I will pluck out his eyes and you may have them.” “Oh no,” she said. “If you do that, they won’t be of any use.” “If they are of no use, then what are you doing loving them?” Asked Sakyamuni Buddha. Hearing this, she immediately certified to the fruit of arhatship.
So you should not become attached to forms. In order to cultivate, you should borrow forms and sounds and yet not become attached to them. Don’t say, “Ah, this music is so beautiful. When I hear it, I...get all confused and don’t know what I am doing.” If you must sing, sing in praise of Amitabha Buddha. Don’t become attached to smells either.
When I was in hong kong people used to follow me around. They said I smelled good. I really disliked this and so I put some smelly stuff on myself to keep them away. Everything is made from the mind alone. If you have samadhi power, then fragrances aren’t fragrant and bad smells don’t stink, good sounds aren’t good sounds, and bad sounds aren’t bad, beauty isn’t beautiful, and ugliness isn’t ugly.
Samadhi power is the skill one derives from cultivation. If you have this skill, when people are good to you, you are not happy and when they are bad, you don’t become afflicted. With samadhi power, you won’t listen to the talk of your tongue when it says to you, “Take a taste of this and see if it tastes better than...” I often tell you that when I eat, I don’t know if the food is good or not. It is not that I don’t know. If I didn’t know I would be like wood or stone. I am just not affected by the taste. I eat the same amount, whether it tastes good or not, without discrimination. In the same way, greed for the objects of touch indicates a lack of samadhi power and shows that one has been turned by external states.
The lotuses of four colours in the Land of Ultimate Bliss shine with four colours of light which represent the four applications of mindfulness, the four right efforts, and the four bases of supernatural power. In reciting and studying the Amitabha sutra, we should cultivate samadhi power. If you have samadhi power, then the Land of Ultimate Bliss is right here. If you don’t, even if you went to the Land of Ultimate Bliss, you did run right off to the land of ultimate misery. With samadhi power, the land of ultimate misery is the Land of Ultimate Bliss. Without affliction, you can say, “everything is okay.” If that is not the Land of Ultimate Bliss, what is?
Sutra: “Moreover, Sariputra, in that Buddhaland there is always heavenly music and the ground is yellow gold. In the six periods of the day and night a heavenly rain of mandarava flowers falls, and throughout the clear morning, each living being of that land, with sacks full of the myriads of wonderful flowers, makes offerings to the hundreds of thousands of millions of Buddhas of the other directions. At mealtime they return to their own country, and having eaten, they stroll around.” “Sariputra, the realisation of the Land of Ultimate Bliss is thus meritoriously adorned.” Commentary:
Sakyamuni Buddha told Sariputra, “In Amitabha’s country, the gods play music all day and all night,” throughout the six periods: the beginning of the day, the middle of the day, the end of the day, the beginning of the night, the middle of the night, and the end of the night. Mandarava, a Sanskrit word, may be interpreted as, “according to your wish,”64 or “white flower”65. However you would like them to be, that’s the way these flowers are. At dawn when the sun is just rising, the living beings of his land, with sacks full of the myriads of wonderful flowers, make offering to the hundreds of thousands of millions of Buddhas of the other directions. How long does it take? Not long, just the time it takes to eat a meal, half and hour or so.
These living beings can travel to billions of Buddhalands in a very short space of time because they have obtained the eight great freedoms of the self, they are free and independent, and everything accords with their wishes. Having obtained the “as you will” spiritual penetrations, if they want to go somewhere, they arrive there immediately. When we bow to the Buddha, we should envision our bodies filling the limitless Buddhalands of the ten directions, personally bowing to all the Buddhas. If you can contemplate the dharma realm in this way, then your body is as big as the dharma realm. The avatamsaka sutra says, if one wishes to understand completely.
the Buddhas of the three periods of time. he should contemplate the nature of the dharma realm. everything is made from the mind alone. At mealtime they return to the Land of Ultimate Bliss and having eaten, they go for a walk.
peacocks, parrots, and egret, kalavinkas, and two-headed birds. In the six periods of the day and night the flocks of birds sing forth harmonious and elegant sounds; their clear and joyful sounds proclaim the five roots, the five powers, the seven bodhi shares, the eight sagely way shares, and dharmas such as these. When living beings of this land hear these sounds, they are altogether mindful of the Buddha, mindful of the dharma, and mindful of the sangha.”
Commentary: Since Sariputra still had no questions, Sakyamuni Buddha said “I will tell you a little more, Sariputra. In the Land of Ultimate Bliss there are many kinds of multi-coloured birds.” They are most unusual and beautiful. White geese are found in our world, too. Peacocks are especially beautiful. Parrots can talk! They may see you and say, “Hello!” Some chinese parrots say, “A guest is coming, a guest is coming.”
Some people even teach their parrots to recite the Buddha’s name so that they can be born in the Land of Ultimate Bliss. Egrets are the kind of bird which Sariputra’s mother was named after. They are also very beautiful.
Kalavinka is a Sanskrit word which means “good sounding bird.”66 Before it has even hatched from its egg, it sings more melodiously than any other bird. Two-headed birds67 have two heads on one body. Have you ever seen such a bird? Living beings are born this way as karmic retribution for too much sexual activity. Because the husband’s and wife’s sexual desire was so heavy that they indulged in intercourse day and night, they fell and turned into a bird-body with two heads. They have different consciousness, but the same karmic retribution. So be careful! If your sexual desire is too intense you may become a two-headed bird.
Someone says, “I did like very much to become one of those birds. People would watch over me and feed me and take care of me.” Perhaps. But the birds are animals just the same, and when their lives are over, they fall into the hells. It is dangerous. Don’t think that being a bird is a lot of fun, even though they can fly when they want to fly and perch when they want to perch. A bird’s retribution is incredible, it’s wisdom decreases life after life. But if you have wisdom, you won’t fall.
In the six periods of the day and night, these birds sing forth harmonious and elegant sounds, like a chorale, very fine music. The birds in the Land of Ultimate Bliss are not born as a result of their karmic offences, they are manifestations of Amitabha Buddha merit and virtue. In the Land of Ultimate Bliss, the three evil ways of rebirth do not exist. “If there are no animals,” you may ask, “then where did all the birds come from?”.
They are manifestations of Amitabha Buddha’s merit and virtue and their songs are dharma sounds which help him speak the dharma. Their clear and joyful sounds sound good to everyone. Everyone who hears them becomes happy because the sounds penetrate right into the heart. What is heard in the clear and joyful sounds? The sounds of the birds are the sounds of dharma:
The five roots:
The five powers:
1. Proper views.
This refers to your manner of regarding something, you mental outlook and your opinions, not to what you view with your eyes. You practice the non-outflow conduct in contemplating yourself. Your own views and understanding must be proper. But you may also explain proper views as the view you see with your eyes, that is, you may view what is proper, but not what is improper.
The Principle Proper Improper means “deviant”, as when people see something that causes them to give rise to deviant thoughts. The “view” is one’s vision of external manifestations. For example, if a bhiksu sees an improper person, he should not continue to look at him, if he looks, that is called an improper view. The sramanera precepts say, “Don’t sing or dance, use popular instruments, or attend or listen to such events.” Improper thoughts are also improper views. But if you can “see without seeing,” although it is improper, you don’t think of it as such, you may then be said to have proper views.
2. Proper thought.
Internally, where people cannot see, you use non-outflow wisdom. It is most important to be without outflows. I have explained this many times, but it seems that the more I explain it, the more outflows you have! Outflows flow out, you have a tiny bit of the water of wisdom, but you let it flow right out and use instead the fire of ignorance. There is nothing more wonderful in heaven and earth than the dharma door of no-outflows, and yet you still take no notice of it. Even if Sakyamuni Buddha himself appeared, if you had outflows, he couldn’t take you across.
To be without outflows, you must be free from improper knowledge, be without improper views and have no sexual desire. If you have sexual desire, you have outflows. With no sexual desire, you have no outflows, just this is proper thought. If you have desire, you have outflows, if you have no desire, you have no outflows. Proper thought belong to the mind, do not give rise to evil thoughts in the mind.
3. Proper speech.
With proper speech what you say is not the slightest bit offcolour. Your speech is completely correct. If someone speaks improperly to you, you should think of it as proper. This is pure mouth karma. Worldly men are of many kinds, and when they speak improperly, do not criticise them saying “Ah! He is speaking incorrectly!” On the other hand, be careful not to get too close to such people either. Proper thought is pure mind karma and proper speech is pure mouth karma.
4. Proper action.
Proper action refers to pure bodily karma. Use non-outflow wisdom do discard improper bodily karma, specifically sexual desires. I can’t make it too clear, I can’t say it too frankly. Many people say, “Oh well, emptiness is form and form is emptiness,” and they casually play around. This is improper action. When you use non-outflow wisdom, your behaviour is never improper. People with improper wisdom are not intelligent enough to behave properly, but they can do evil things, things involving men and women, miraculously well, better than anyone else. Proper action is purity of the body. Proper action, proper speech, proper thought mean purity of the karmas of body, mouth and mind.
5. Proper livelihood.
Proper livelihood refers to any livelihood which does not fall within the five kinds of improper livelihood:- a) Manifesting a strange style. “Look at me,” says the great vehicle monk dressed in small vehicle robes. “I am special. You should make offerings to me.”
“He is special,” say the blind followers. “He is probably a Buddha or a Bodhisattva,” taking the gaudy rick-rack for a treasure. b) Speaking of your own merit and virtue. “Do you know me? I have done many good deeds. I put a whole lot of money into building that bridge over there, and people walk back and forth on it because of my merit and virtue. I built a home for the aged and a school and I established scholarships as well. I built a temple where I support several hundred dharma masters, and I am acting as their dharma protector. The merit and virtue is mine, all mine!”. They
can get away with telling such stories to stupid people, but people with wisdom don’t even have to hear what they are saying, they can tell by looking at them that they are just telling stories. c) Fortune telling. People consult an oracle. “You should give me a million dollars,” he says, “and do good deeds. If you don’t, you will die tomorrow.”
“A million dollars isn’t too much to pay for my life,” the victim thinks, and so he gives, and the next day he doesn’t die. Of course he wouldn’t have anyway, but still he believes that he might have. “Tomorrow,” says the fortune-teller, “a very lucky thing will happen if you do a good deed today. Give fifty pounds of gold today and tomorrow you will get five hundred.” “Ten to one is not a bad ratio,” the man says handing him fifty pounds of gold. But the next day there is no gold, and he can’t find the fortune-teller either! “And I thought I did met an immortal,” he says.
d) Shouting and bragging. When it isn’t necessary, why shout? A certain dharma master used to startle people by bellowing at them. People were impressed even though they had no idea what he was saying. His voice was very resonant, but what is the point of yelling? With many people present, you can speak a little louder. Otherwise you shouldn’t yell. Why does a dharma master shout? He doesn’t know that it is one of the five improper means of livelihood.
e) Speaking of your own offerings. “I had the best lunch at layman so and so’s house,” he says, reciting the “lunch mantra.” “I had white fungus, mushrooms...” Another layman hears the mantra and can’t take it. “I did better borrow a hundred dollars and offer some vegetable to the dharma master.” He doesn’t know that the dharma master has transgressed the boundaries of proper livelihood by reciting the “lunch mantra” to move the layman’s mind and obtain good offerings.
6. Proper vigour.
This means bowing to the Buddha, reciting the Buddha’s name from morning to night, without resting. Strangely enough, if you go to chat with someone, the more you chat, the more energy you have talking, talking, too much talking. But of what use is all your vigorous talking? It is improper vigour. Proper vigour means doing that which is beneficial, improper vigour involves doing that which is not beneficial, such as being lazy with respect to the Buddhadharma, but chatting more vigorously than anyone else. A person with proper vigour comes to listen to the sutras when they are being lectured, no matter how busy he is. One with improper vigour doesn’t come, even though he has nothing else to do. Going to the movies, going sight-seeing, going everywhere but to the temple to listen to sutras is called improper vigour. Hunting for the best place to go gambling is also improper vigour.
7. Proper samadhi.
Samadhi, a Sanskrit word, means “right reception,”68 or “right concentration”69. Use non-outflow wisdom to cultivate samadhi and no improper states will move you. If you could remember even one sentence of the sutras I have explained to you, then when the time comes you could use it. But you forget, and so you meet the state, are turned by it, and run after it. This is because you have no proper concentration, no proper samadhi. “I know, I know,” you say, “I know I don’t have the proper samadhi.” If you know you don’t have it, then why don’t you find a way to obtain it? People! If you tell them that they have made a mistake, they say, “I know, I know.” If they know, why do they make such mistakes?
8. Proper mindfulness.
Be mindful of non-outflow wisdom. Do not have outflows. No matter what, don’t indulge in the slightest sexual desire. Having no sexual desire is proper mindfulness. Any thoughts of sexual desire is improper mindfulness. Someone once said, “That person is attracted to me. I can tell by the look in his eyes.” If you didn’t have sexual desire yourself, you wouldn’t be looking into his eyes in the first place. Just what kind of thoughts are you having when you look into his eyes? If you didn’t have sexual desire, you wouldn’t know that he did. If you were clear, clear, pure, pure, spotless, and undefiled, how would you detect his desire?
Speak up! If you know that others have desire, then you have it too, and, not having cut it off, your mindfulness is improper. You may explain these eight sagely way shares any way you wish, as long as it is with principle. However, you can’t just open your mouth and not know what to say. In explaining the dharma you must speak correctly and not deviate from the principle in the least bit.
And dharmas such as these refers to the four applications of mindfulness, the five roots, the five powers, the seven bodhi shares, the eight sagely way shares, the four right efforts, and the four bases of supernatural power, thirty-seven in all, the thirty-seven wings of enlightenment.
The four right efforts are:
1. Putting an end to evil which already exists. 2. Preventing evil not yet arisen from arising. 3. Bringing goodness which does not yet exist into existence. 4. Developing the good which already exists.
The four bases of supernatural power are:
Sutra: “Sariputra, do not say that these birds are born as retribution for their karmic offences. For what reason? In this Buddhaland there are no three evil ways of rebirth. Sariputra, in this Buddhaland not even the names of the three evil ways exist, how much the less their actuality! Desiring that the dharma-sound be widely proclaimed, Amitabha Buddha by transformation made this multitude of birds.”
Do not say that these birds came from one of the three evil realms. Why? In the Land of Ultimate Bliss there are not even the names of the hells, the realm of animals, or the realm of the hungry ghosts. How much the less could such creatures actually exist! “Then where did the birds come from?”. Wishing to spread the dharma-sound far and wide, with his vow power Amitabha created the kalavinkas and all the other birds to help him. They come from his spiritual penetrations and transformations, not from the three evil paths. Unlike the birds in this world which are born in the realms of animals, they are transformations of Amitabha Buddha’s dharma power.
Sutra: “Sariputra, in that Buddhaland when the soft wind blows, the rows of jewelled trees and jewelled nets give forth subtle and wonderful sounds, like one hundred thousand kinds of music played at the same time. All those who hear these sounds naturally bring forth in their hearts mindfulness of the Buddha, mindfulness of the dharma, and mindfulness of the sangha.” “Sariputra, the realisation of the Land of Ultimate Bliss is thus meritoriously adorned.”
Commentary: “Sariputra,” said Sakyamuni Buddha, “I’ll tell you how it is in the Land of Ultimate Bliss. The gentle breezes blow through small bells hanging from the seven layers of netting on the seven rows of trees. Their sound helps us recollect the Buddha, the dharma, and the sangha and is like a hundred thousand kinds of subtle music playing harmoniously all at once. Those who hear these sounds have no defiled thoughts but instead naturally recite, Namo Amitabha Buddha;
You ask, “Namo Amitabha Buddha”, perhaps, but how can they recite “Namo Amitabha Dharma?” It’s the dharma which Amitabha Buddha taught, how can you not say “Namo Amitabha Dharma?”. This is also the sangha which Amitabha Buddha taught and transformed, so how can you not say, “Namo Amitabha Sangha?”. Don’t be so unimaginative. My explanation is a new explanation for an old meaning, just like my explanation of nirvana.
In the realm of nirvana, the Buddha has no sexual desire, he is clear, pure, and undefiled. He is without improper thoughts of desire. His self-nature constantly gives rise to wisdom which is never destroyed. “Sariputra!” Sakyamuni Buddha called again. He is especially fond of his great disciple and thinks to himself, “Sariputra has a little wisdom, but he doesn’t know what to ask. I will have to tell him.”
Sutra: “Sariputra, what do you think? Why is this Buddha called Amitabha? Sariputra, the brilliance of that Buddha’s light is measureless, illumining the lands of the ten directions everywhere without obstruction, for this reason he is called Amitabha.”
Commentary: Sariputra should have asked this question himself, but just like you, he had gone off to samadhi. Whenever I ask you a question, you just stare at me blankly. Why is this Buddha called Amitabha? Amitabha means “limitless light”. This Buddha’s light is immeasurable so that not a single land in the ten directions is screened from it. For this reason he is called Amitabha.
Sutra: “Moreover, Sariputra, the life of that Buddha and that of his people extends for measureless, limitless asamkhyeya kalpas; for this reason he is called amitayus. And Sariputra, since Amitabha realised Buddhahood ten kalpas have passed.”
Commentary: Asankhyeya, a Sanskrit word, means “limitless number.”70 Amitayus means “limitless life”. It’s been ten great kalpas, or aeons, since he became a Buddha and how many great kalpas he will live in the future is uncertain, but boundless, measureless, asankheyaya kalpas they will be.
Sutra: “Moreover, Sariputra, that Buddha has measureless, limitless ‘sound-hearer’ disciples, all arhats, their number incalculable; thus also is the assembly of Bodhisattvas.” “Sariputra, the realisation of the Land of Ultimate Bliss is thus meritoriously adorned.”
Commentary: In Amitabha Buddha’s Land of Ultimate Bliss, there are many sravakas, ‘sound-hearer’ disciples who have certified to the attainment of non-outflows and are all arhats without desire. You can’t count them. The assembly of Bodhisattvas is just as big. Sutra: “Moreover, Sariputra, those living beings born in the land of the ultimate bliss are all avaivartika. Among them are many who in this very life will dwell in Buddhahood. Their number is extremely many; it is incalculable and only in measureless, limitless asamkhyeya kalpas could it be spoken.”
Commentary: Avaivartika is Sanskrit. It means “not retreating or turning away.”71 Those beings who are avaivartika do not retreat in position, conduct, or thought. Not retreating in thought means that every day their thoughts to cultivate increase. Not retreating in conduct means that day by day they work harder and never say, “I have cultivated for quite a while, it is time to take a rest.” Taking a rest is simply retreating and turning away from annuttarasamyaksambodhi, “the utmost right and perfect enlightenment.” Those who are avaivartika do not retreat in their quest for bodhi.
There are many living beings in the Land of Ultimate Bliss who in this very life can step into the position of Buddhahood. Born in a lotus flower, in one life they can realise Buddhahood. How many such beings are there? You could never count them all. They can’t be calculated or even estimated. All you can say is that, in limitless, measureless asamkhyeya kalpas, you could not name them all.
“Sariputra, those living beings who hear should vow, ‘I wish to be born in that country.’ and why? Those who thus attain are all superior and good people, all gathered together in one place. Sariputra, one cannot have few good roots, blessings, virtues, and causal connections to attain birth in that land.”
Sakyamuni Buddha said, “All those living beings who hear the doctrine I teach should vow to the born in the Land of Ultimate Bliss. Why? Because the sravakas and Bodhisattvas born there are all superior and good people.”
Although you may express the desire to the born in the Land of Ultimate Bliss, unless you have good roots, blessings, and virtuous conduct, you won’t be able to be reborn there. You must have cultivated all the paramita doors for many lifetimes and in this way obtained great good roots, great blessings, and great virtue, in order to have the opportunity to meet this wonderful dharma.
Sutra: “Sariputra, if there is a good man or a good woman who hears spoken ‘Amitabha’ and holds the name, whether for one day, two days, three days, four, five days, six days, as long as seven days, with one heart unconfused, when this person approaches the end of life, before him will appear Amitabha and all the assembly of holy ones. When the end comes, his heart is without inversion. In Amitabha’s Land of Ultimate Bliss he will attain rebirth. Sariputra, because I see this benefit, I speak these words. If living beings hear this spoken they should make the vow, ‘I will be born in that land’.”
“Sariputra,” said the Buddha, “If a good man or woman, that is one who holds the five precepts and cultivates the ten good deeds, hears the name ‘Amitabha Buddha’, that person should hold to the recitation of Amitabha Buddha’s name, just like holding something tightly in the hand.” Recite the name, “Namo Amitabha Buddha, Namo Amitabha Buddha, Namo Amitabha Buddha...” Whether for one day. In chinese, the word “whether” looks like this (). If you move the stroke in the middle, it changes into the word “suffering”, which looks like this: (). So you could say, “...suffering for one day, two days, three, four, five days, six days...” If you recite the Buddha’s name from four o’clock in the morning until ten at night for seven days, you can reach the level of one heart unconfused. When your life is about to end,
Amitabha Buddha thinks, “That living being suffered for seven days reciting my name, and so now I will guide him to the Land of Ultimate Bliss. The time has come!”. Then, Amitabha with avalokitesvara Bodhisattva, mahasthamaprapta Bodhisattva, and the entire clear, pure, ocean-wide assembly of Bodhisattvas appear before you, and lead you to the Land of Ultimate Bliss. If you think you can escape, you can’t. You are surrounded. At this time, your heart is without inversion. You won’t say, “I don’t want to go! It’s too boring there!’. It would never occur to you to refuse Amitabha’s invitation, and so you are born at once in the western land. “Sariputra,” the Buddha continues, “I see the advantages and so I am explaining them to you. If other living beings in the saha world hear these doctrines, they should make the vow to be born in that land.”
Previously, the text said, “...those living beings who hear should vow, ‘I wish to be born in that country.’” this passage says, “I will be born in that land,” that is “I vow that I shall certainly be born in the Land of Ultimate Bliss.”
Sutra: “Sariputra, as I now praise the inconceivable benefit from the merit and virtue of Amitabha, thus in the east are also aksobhya Buddha, sumeru appearance Buddha, great sumeru Buddha, sumeru light Buddha, wonderful sound Buddha, all Buddhas such as these, numberless as ganges sands. In his own country each brings forth the appearance of a vast and long tongue, everywhere covering the three thousand great thousand worlds, and speaks the sincere and actual words, ‘all you living beings should believe, praise, and hold in reverence the inconceivable merit and virtue of this sutra of the mindful one of whom all Buddhas are protective.’”
“Not only do I praise the subtle wonderful, inconceivable merit and virtue of Amitabha Buddha’s beneficial deeds,” said Sakyamuni Buddha, “but so does Aksobhya Buddha in the east.” Aksobhya Buddha of the vajra division in the east is the Buddha who eradicates disaster and lengthens life. His name means, “unmoving and eternally dwelling dharma body.”72 His dharma body does not move, and it eternally dwells. Sumeru appearance Buddha. Sumeru means “wonderfully high.”73 This Buddha’s marks are as lofty as mount sumeru. Great sumeru Buddha, that is, great wonderfully high Buddha. Sumeru light Buddha, wonderfully high light Buddha. All Buddhas such as these. The names of a few of the eastern Buddhas have been mentioned. If one were to speak of them in detail, they would be as numberless as ganges sands.
In his own country, each brings forth the appearance of a vast and long tongue, everywhere covering the three thousand great thousand worlds. How can one speak with a tongue like that? This represents the Buddhadharma circulating to all places, and the Buddha’s sincere and actual words, “All of you should believe, praise, and hold in reverence, the inconceivable merit and virtue of this sutra of the mindful one of whom all Buddhas are protective.” The Buddhas are mindful and protective of the sutra, just as they are mindful and protective of the wonderful dharma lotus blossom sutra. If you read or recite the Amitabha sutra, the Buddhas of the ten directions will happily come to your aid, and in the future, when your life is over, they will witness your rebirth in the Land of Ultimate Bliss.
Sutra: “Sariputra, in the southern world are sun moon lamp Buddha, well-known light Buddha, great blazing shoulders Buddha, sumeru lamp Buddha, measureless vigour Buddha, all Buddhas such as these, numberless as ganges sands. In his own country each brings forth the appearance of a vast and long tongue, everywhere covering the three thousand great thousand worlds, and speaks the sincere and actual words, ‘all you living beings should believe, praise, and hold in reverence the inconceivable merit and virtue of this sutra of the mindful one of whom all Buddhas are protective.’”
Commentary: After speaking of the Buddhas in the east who praise Amitabha Buddha, Sakyamuni Buddha spoke of the Buddhas in the south. “Sariputra,” he said, “in the south as well there are many, many Buddhas who extend their vast and long tongues to speak about the dharma.” Who are they?
They are sun moon lamp Buddha, well-known light Buddha, great blazing shoulders Buddha, who emits light from his shoulders, sumeru lamp Buddha, that is wonderfully high lamp Buddha, and measureless vigour Buddha who is energetic in the six periods of the day and night, as well as other Buddhas in number as grains of sand in the ganges river.
They all extend their vast and long tongues to cover the three thousand great thousand worlds and speak the truth, speak of what is, and do not speak falsely. “All living beings,” they say, “in all lands and all countries and in all the limitless worlds, should believe, praise, and hold in reverence the inconceivable merit and virtue of this sutra.” You must bring forth hearts of real faith, real vows, and real practice. Praise the inconceivable merit and virtue of this sutra which Sakyamuni Buddha spoke without request. If you believe, accept, praise, and recite it, all the Buddhas will protect you. Resolve to revere Amitabha Buddha and the Amitabha sutra. Sutra:
“Sariputra, in the western world are measureless life Buddha, measureless appearance Buddha, measureless curtain Buddha, great light Buddha, great brightness Buddha, jewelled appearance Buddha, pure light Buddha, all Buddhas such as these, numberless as ganges sands. In his own country each brings forth the appearance of a vast and long tongue, everywhere covering the three thousand great thousand worlds, and speaks the sincere and actual words, ‘all you living beings should believe, praise, and hold in reverence the inconceivable merit and virtue of this sutra of the mindful one of whom all Buddhas are protective.’”
Commentary: After speaking to the Buddhas in the east and south who praise Amitabha Buddha, Sakyamuni Buddha spoke of the Buddhas in the west, for example measureless life Buddha, who is just Amitabha, the Buddha of limitless life. You would recognise him right away. However, there are many Buddhas who have the same name. Measureless life Buddha might be Amitabha, the teacher in the western Land of Ultimate Bliss, or it might be some other Buddha. It might be Amitabha Buddha or it might not be. What if it is? What if it isn’t? Don’t by attached one way or the other, because there really isn’t any “is” or “is not”. The Buddhadharma is just that wonderful.
Which “is”? Which “isn’t”? Is and is not are your discriminations. For the Buddha there is one substance, one unity, and no division between this and that. The Buddha is identical with the way, and each Buddha is identical with every other. Although all Buddhas are the same, they are each adorned with their own individual dharma characteristics. In spite of the differing adornments, they are not like people who become jealous and obstruct each other saying, “Hey! How can you be so mean to me?”. The Buddha has none of this. “You are just me,” he says, “And I am just you, with no division.” Why? Because the Buddha has attained the state of no-self, where “is” and “is not” are the same.
Those who wish to become Buddhas must not have discriminative thoughts, false thoughts, desires, or longings. They must have nothing at all. This is truly wonderful to the extreme. Do not be attached. If you actually recognise Amitabha Buddha, you won’t waste your energy trying to discriminate one limitless life Buddha from another.
Measureless appearance Buddha has limitless marks. It is not known how many Buddha-marks he has. Measureless curtain Buddha is covered and sheltered by many jewelled curtains. Great light Buddha’s light shines everywhere. Great brightness Buddha, jewelled appearance Buddha, and pure light Buddha, all have a clear, pure, bright light. Were we to speak of all the Buddhas who are such as these in detail, they would be as numerous as the grains of sand in the ganges river.
All the Buddhas in the western Land of Ultimate Bliss and in the many Buddha-worlds extend their gigantic tongues. Now, when we extend our tongues, they can’t even cover a room, but the tongues of the Buddhas cover the entire three thousand great thousand world systems. Why? For them, the three thousand great thousand world systems are just one thought, and one thought is just the three thousand great thousand worlds. Three thousand great thousand worlds are not beyond one thought, and the Buddha’s tongue covers them all.
Don’t be attached to the idea that the Buddha’s tongue is actually that big. If it were, his speech would be clumsy. The appearance of the Buddha’s vast and long tongue indicates that, wherever there is dharma, the Buddha’s tongue is there, too. It is not for certain that our tongues are small. We too, can extend our vast and long tongues and cover the three thousand great thousand worlds, speaking the dharma and causing it to circulate. When you hear the Buddhadharma, don’t be attached. Although a tongue covers the three thousand great thousand worlds, there is not even a mote of dust, there is basically nothing at all. “Nothing?” You ask. “Then was the Buddha lying?”.
If the Buddha did not lie, how could you believe him! From the point of view of living beings, it seems to be a lie, but from the point of view of the Buddha, it is true, real speech, not false speech, not a lie. Living beings see it as a lie and the Buddha sees it as the truth. It’s the same speech, but when the Buddha speaks it, it’s true and when living beings speak it, it’s a lie.
This point is not easy to understand. If you want to be clear about this doctrine, do not fear suffering or difficulty. Work hard! You can’t just study for two and a half days and then think that you have mastered the work. You can’t stop listening to sutras or reciting the Buddha’s name. Don’t pretend to be investigating dhyana by doing nothing at all and saying, “I know what the Buddha said.
There’s not much to it, really. I have studied for about five years and it is all like that, not very interesting. So now I study nothing at all and it’s a great improvement. I don’t have nearly so many problems.” Such talk is not very principled, wouldn’t you say?
You should know that Sakyamuni Buddha cultivated blessings and wisdom for three asamkhyeya kalpas by practising giving and studying the Buddhadharma. He cultivated his fine characteristics for a hundred great kalpas and as a consequence he has the thirty two marks and eighty minor characteristics of a Buddha. Why don’t we have a single mark? Why do people look at you and say, “He is so ugly. Keep away from him. He is no good, you can tell by looking at him?”. Some people make you angry on sight. Why? It is because they don’t cultivate and they have no virtuous conduct, and it shows up in their appearance.
The Buddha’s tongue, then, covers the entire universe and speaks the truth. The Buddha does not cheat and he does not lit. Do not try to fathom the sage’s wisdom with your ordinary opinions, don’t try to measure the sage’s mind with your common mind. Haven’t I always told you that the first level Bodhisattvas, and tenth level Bodhisattvas don’t know the realm of equal enlightenment Bodhisattvas?
First stage arhats don’t know the realms of second stage arhats, and second stage arhats don’t know the realm of third stage arhats. First stage arhats may think that they are doing things correctly, but from the point of view of second stage arhats they may be wrong. Second stage arhats may think they are right, but the third stage arhats may look at them and say, “You are off just a little bit.”
I am your teacher, and you can’t know my realm. If you knew, you wouldn’t need a teacher. So reflect upon what I say. Don’t complain, “He is just talking.” This world is very dangerous. The only reason you haven’t disintegrated in the sea of suffering is because the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas are protecting you. Sutra:
“Sariputra, in the northern world are blazing shoulders Buddha, most victorious sound Buddha, hard to injure Buddha, sun birth Buddha, net brightness Buddha, all Buddhas such as these, numberless as ganges sands. In his own country each brings forth the appearance of a vast and long tongue, everywhere covering the three thousand great thousand worlds, and speaks the sincere and actual words, ‘all you living beings should believe, praise, and hold in reverence the inconceivable merit and virtue of this sutra of the mindful one of whom all Buddhas are protective.’”
Commentary: Not only are the Buddhas in the east, south and west are praising Amitabha Buddha, but those in the north praise him as well. Great blazing shoulders Buddha emits light from his shoulders. Most victorious sound Buddha has a spectacular sound which is heard throughout the three thousand great thousand worlds. “Then why haven’t I heard it?” You ask.
Hard to injure Buddha cannot be destroyed. No one can defame his Buddhadharma. You should hold in reverence the inconceivable merit and virtue, for it is most wonderful. Were the merit and virtue conceivable, it would have a limit. The sutra’s merit and virtue is without a limit and so it is the sutra of the mindful one of whom all Buddhas are protective. Because its merit and virtue is very wonderful, it is the sutra of which all Buddhas are mindful and protective. Because it is a sutra of which all Buddha’s are mindful and protective, its meritorious virtue is extremely wonderful. Now I shall quit speaking and that is also wonderful. Were I to keep talking, it wouldn’t be wonderful.
“Sariputra, in the world below are lion Buddha, wellknown Buddha, famous light Buddha, dharma Buddha, dharma curtain Buddha, dharma maintaining Buddha, all Buddhas such as these, numberless as ganges sands. In his own country each brings forth the appearance of a vast and The Buddha Speaks of Amitabha Sutra – The Principle Proper long tongue, everywhere covering the three thousand great thousand worlds, and speaks the sincere and actual words, ‘All you living beings should believe, praise, and hold in reverence the inconceivable merit and virtue of this sutra of the mindful one of whom all Buddhas are protective.’”
Commentary: Having spoken of the Buddhas in the north, east, south, and west, Sakyamuni Buddha again says to Sariputra, “In the world below there is a Buddha named lion who speaks the dharma with a lion’s roar.”
Well-known light Buddha’s name has been heard by everyone in the triple world. Famous light Buddha’s light as well as his fame shines everywhere within the triple world. Dharma maintaining Buddha exclusively upholds the Buddhadharma. You can explain his name in two ways. The first is that there is such a Buddha in the world below; the second is that you who now receive, maintain, and recite the Amitabha sutra will in the future become dharma maintaining Buddhas.
Sutra: “Sariputra, in the world above are pure sound Buddha, king of past lifes Buddha, superior fragrance Buddha, fragrant light Buddha, great blazing shoulders Buddha, vari-coloured jewels and flower adornment body Buddha, sala tree king Buddha, jewelled flower virtue Buddha, vision of all meaning Buddha, such as mount sumeru Buddha, all Buddhas such as these, numberless as ganges sands. In his own country each brings forth the appearance of a vast and long tongue, everywhere covering the three thousand great thousand worlds and speaks the sincere and actual words, ‘All you living beings should believe, praise, and hold in reverence the inconceivable merit and virtue of this sutra of the mindful one of whom all Buddhas are protective.’” Commentary:
Pure sound Buddha’s sound is clear, pure, and resonant. King of past lifes Buddha in past lifes made great and powerful vows. If you light incense, superior fragrance Buddha will appear and in the world above there is also a Buddha called great blazing shoulders. This light from his shoulders represents the two kinds of wisdom, provisional and real. Vari-coloured jewels and flower adornment body Buddha adorns the virtue of his supreme attainment with the causal flowers of the ten thousand practices. Sala tree king Buddha: the sala tree is found in india. Sala means “solid and durable”. No water can wash this tree away just as nothing can destroy the Buddha’s dharma body. The Buddha, then is like the sala tree.
Sutra: “Sariputra, what do you think? Why is it called ‘sutra of the mindful one of whom all Buddhas are protective?’. Sariputra, if a good man or good woman hears this sutra and holds to it, and hears the names of all these Buddhas, this good man or woman will be the mindful one of whom all Buddhas are protective, and will irreversibly attain to anuttarasamyaksambodhi. Therefore, Sariputra, all of you should believe and accept my words and those which all Buddhas speak.” Commentary:
Having praised the Buddhas of the six directions, Sakyamuni Buddha asks, “Sariputra, in your opinion, why is this sutra called ‘the sutra of the mindful one of whom all Buddhas are protective’?”. This section of the sutra, then, discusses the sutra’s name Sariputra just stared blankly. Sakyamuni Buddha waited in silence for about five minutes, and then he said, “I will tell you. Sariputra, if there is a good man or a good woman, one who maintains the five precepts and cultivates the ten good deeds, who can receive, maintain, recite from memory, and not forget the names of the Buddhas just mentioned, that good man or woman will be the mindful one of whom all Buddhas are protective. Not only will the Buddhas of the six directions come to his aid, but the Buddhas of all ten directions will support him.. He will further attain to irreversibility of position, thought, and conduct with respect to the attainment of the utmost right and perfect enlightenment, anuttarasamyaksambodhi.
“Therefore, Sariputra, all of you should believe and accept my words and those which all Buddhas speak. Do you see how extremely compassionate the Buddha is? We should be grateful to the point of tears and pay attention when the Buddha says, “All of you, adults and children as well, should believe and accept what I tell you.”
You should also believe and accept what I explain to you now. Don’t have doubts. Don’t say, “When it comes right down to it, I don’t know if the chinese dharma master’s doctrines are correct.” You should believe what I say. You should also believe what Sakyamuni Buddha says and what all the Buddhas praise as the inconceivable merit and virtue of this sutra of the mindful one of whom all Buddhas are protective. Believe me when I say that his sutra’s doctrines are true, real, and not false. You are certainly not being cheated, so vow to be born in the Land of Ultimate Bliss. Sutra:
“Sariputra, if there are people who have already made the vow, who now make the vow, or who are about to make the vow, ‘I desire to be born in Amitabha’s country,’ these people, whether born in the past, now being born, or to be born in the future, all will irreversibly attain to anuttarasamyaksambodhi. Therefore, Sariputra, all good men and good women, if they are among those who have faith, should make the vow, ‘I will be born in that country.’” Commentary: There sat Sariputra, sound asleep!
“Sariputra! Sariputra! Wake up!” Said the Buddha. “Those who have already vowed to be born in the Land of Ultimate Bliss have most certainly been born there. Those who now vow to be born there, and those who make the vow in the future will be born there in the future.” But in order to make vows you must have faith. Faith, vows, and practice are the three prerequisites for cultivation of the pure land dharma door.
First, believe there is a Land of Ultimate Bliss. Secondly, have faith in Amitabha Buddha. Thirdly, believe that you and Amitabha Buddha have a great karmic affinity, and that you can certainly be born in the Land of Ultimate Bliss. With faith in these three things, you may then make the vow, “I desire to be born in Amitabha’s country.”
There is a saying, “I want to be born in the pure western land.” “I want to be born there. Nobody’s forcing me to go, nobody’s dragging me there. Although Amitabha Buddha has come to guide me, I am going as a volunteer because I want to be close to him. I want to be born in the Land of Ultimate Bliss and to see Amitabha Buddha when my lotus flower opens. I want to meet the Buddha and hear the dharma.”
These are the vows you need. Then you must practice. How? Recite the Buddha’s name, saying “Namo Amitabha Buddha, Namo Amitabha Buddha...” As if you were trying to save your head from the executioner, running ahead to keep your head, like the sixth patriarch. He knew that after his death someone would try to steal his head, and so he told his disciples to take precautions. When he died, they wrapped his neck The Buddha Speaks of Amitabha Sutra – The Principle Proper with sheets of iron. When the thief tried to cut off his head, he couldn’t do it.
The great master the sixth patriarch protected his head, even after he had entered the stillness of nirvana. How much the more should we who have not entered the stillness “protect our heads” by cultivating the recitation of the Buddha’s name. Reciting the Buddha’s name is actual practice.
Faith, vows, and practice are the travel expenses for rebirth in the Land of Ultimate Bliss. They are your ticket. All those who vow to be born in the Land of Ultimate Bliss can attain irreversible position, thought, and conduct with respect to the utmost right and perfect enlightenment. All those who believe should make the vow, and this is an order! No kidding around. “I will be born in that country.” If you make this vow, you can be born in the Land of Ultimate Bliss. Sutra:
“Sariputra, just as I now praise the inconceivable merit and virtue of all Buddhas, all those Buddhas equally praise my inconceivable merit and virtue saying these words, ‘Sakyamuni Buddha can complete extremely rare and difficult deeds. In the saha land, in the evil time of the five turbidities, in the midst of the kalpa turbidity, the view turbidity, the affliction turbidity, the living beings turbidity, and the life turbidity, he can attain anuttarasamyaksambodhi and for the sake of living beings, speak this dharma which in the whole world is hard to believe.’”
Commentary: “Sariputra,” said the Buddha, “I will tell you some more good news. As I now praise the Buddhas in the six directions and the inconceivable merit and virtue of this sutra, all the Buddhas also praise me and my inconceivable merit and virtue.”
The Principle Proper
Sakya means “able to be humane,” and muni means “still and silent”. The Buddha humanely teaches and converts living beings, and silently returns the light within to cultivate samadhi. The humaneness is movement and the silence is stillness. He moves and yet is always still. He accords with conditions and yet never changes. For him there is nothing conditioned, nothing unconditioned, nothing done and nothing left undone. Sakyamuni Buddha is inconceivable.
In the saha world, where one enjoys no bliss but endures every kind of suffering, living beings endure a great deal. They undergo the bitterness unaware that they are suffering. In the evil time of the five turbidities. There are five turbidities in the saha world and they are just terrible! The reason we don’t realise Buddhahood is because we are stuck in the five turbidities, as if in quicksand, and can’t pull ourselves out. When we lift one leg, the other leg sinks deeper, and when we lift that leg, the first goes down. There’s really no escape.
But Sakyamuni Buddha is talented. With his great spiritual powers he can teach you to leap right out of the five turbidities, in a ksana, a mere instant of time. At night, when we recite the great transference of merit, we say, “Leaving the five turbidities in a ksana, and arriving at the lotus pool in the flick of a wrist.” Like a talented magician, Sakyamuni Buddha leaves the five turbidities, which are:
1. The kalpa turbidity.
Kalpa, that is, time, is turbid. It arises dependent upon the four other turbidities which increase daily, growing bigger and more extreme. That is to say, the turbidity of time is created with the help The Buddha Speaks of Amitabha Sutra – The Principle Proper
of the view turbidity, the affliction turbidity, the living beings turbidity, and the life turbidity, and takes the growth of the first four as its basic substance. It takes unceasing flaming as its mark, for, like flaming fuel, the more it burns, the higher it blazes. 2. The view turbidity.
The view turbidity takes the five quick servants as it’s basic substance. The five quick servants are the view of a body, the view of extremes, deviant views, the view of grasping at views, and the view of prohibitive morality. It takes mistaken wisdom and cattle morality as its mark. Seeing a dog, a cat, or a cow reborn in the heavens, some people imitate their conduct so that they may be reborn there too. With deviant knowledge and views, they take the genuine doctrine to extremes.
3. The affliction turbidity. The affliction turbidity takes the five dull servants, greed, hatred, stupidity, pride and doubt, as it’s basic substance, and the irritation of afflictions as it’s mark. 4. The living beings turbidity.
The living beings turbidity takes the combination of the three conditions of father, mother, and one’s own karma as it’s basic substance. It takes the unceasing turning of the wheel of rebirth as its mark. After the three conditions combine, the wheel revolves without stopping, back and forth. This life you are named john and next life, lee. This life you are a bhiksu and next life you are a bhiksuni. Bhiksus become bhiksunis and bhiksunis turn into bhiksus.
Isn’t this amazing? It really is!
5. The life turbidity. The life turbidity takes the reception of warmth as its basic substance and the decline and extinction of the life span as it’s mark. From youth to middle age on to old age and death, this is the mark of life. The Principle Proper
Sutra: “Sariputra, you should know that I, in the evil time of the five turbidities, practice these difficult deeds, attain anuttarasamyaksambodhi, and for all the world speak this dharma, difficult to believe, extremely difficult!”
Sutra: After the Buddha spoke this sutra, Sariputra and all the bhiksus, all the gods, men, and asuras, and others from all the worlds, hearing what the Buddha had said, joyously welcomed, faithful accepted, bowed and withdrew. End of the Buddha speaks of Amitabha sutra.
Commentary: You should know that, in the midst of the five turbidities, Sakyamuni Buddha attains the utmost right and perfect enlightenment and then speaks about the dharma which people find very difficult to believe. “This dharma is most difficult to believe, extremely difficult, really hard to believe,” says Sakyamuni Buddha. Sakyamuni Buddha says it’s hard, but I say it’s easy. Sakyamuni Buddha just said it’s hard. It’s not hard, really. All you need to do is recite, “Namo Amitabha Buddha”. Just go ahead and recite. Wouldn’t you say that is easy? No trouble at all. It doesn’t cost a thing and it takes no effort or time. It’s an extremely easy Buddhadharma.
After the Buddha spoke the Amitabha sutra, the greatly wise Sariputra and all the great bhiksus, all the world with its gods and men, as well as the eight classes of supernatural beings, gods, dragons, yaksa ghosts, gandharvas, asuras, garudas, kinnaras and mahoragas, hearing what the Buddha had said, joyously welcomed, faithfully accepted, bowed and withdrew. They bowed reverently to Sakyamuni Buddha to thank him for speaking the Amitabha sutra, and for teaching and transforming living beings. At that time all the great arhats bowed to the Buddha out of gratitude for having heard this dharma.
We now, hearing this supreme, deep, subtle, and wonderful dharma, have certainly planted great good roots in ages past. Consequently, we have a great affinity with Amitabha Buddha, and as a result have been fortunate enough to hear the Amitabha sutra and to recite the Buddha’s name. This is very rare.
When Buddhism first came to China from India, one of the most important tasks required for its establishment was the translation of the Buddhist scriptures from Sanskrit into Chinese. This work involved a great many people, such as the renowned monk National Master Kumarajiva (fifth century), who led an assembly of over 800 people to work on the translation of the Tripitaka (Buddhist canon) for over a decade. Because of the work of individuals such as these, nearly the entire Buddhist Tripitaka of over a thousand texts exists to the present day in Chinese.
Now the banner of the Buddha’s Teachings is being firmly planted in Western soil, and the same translation work is being done from Chinese into English. Since 1970, the Buddhist Text Translation Society (BTTS) has been making a paramount contribution toward this goal. Aware that the Buddhist Tripitaka is a work of such magnitude that its translation could never be entrusted to a single person, the BTTS, emulating the translation assemblies of ancient times, does not publish a work until it has passed through four committees for primary translation, revision, editing, and certification.
The leaders of these committees are Bhikshus (monks) and Bhikshunis (nuns) who have devoted their lives to the study and practice of the Buddha’s teachings. For this reason, all of the works of the BTTS put an emphasis on what the principles of the Buddha’s teachings mean in terms of actual practice and not simply hypothetical conjecture.
Buddhist Sutras. Amitabha Sutra, Dharma Flower (Lotus) Sutra, Flower Adornment (Avatamsaka) Sutra, Heart Sutra & Verses without a Stand, Shurangama Sutra, Sixth Patriarch Sutra, Sutra in Forty-two Sections, Sutra of the Past Vows of Earth Store Bodhisattva, Vajra Prajna Paramita (Diamond) Sutra.
Commentarial Literature. Buddha Root Farm, City of 10000 Buddhas Recitation Handbook, Filiality: The Human Source, Herein Lies the Treasuretrove, Listen to Yourself Think Everything Over, Shastra on the Door to Understanding the Hundred Dharmas, Song of Enlightenment, The Ten Dharma Realms Are Not beyond a Single Thought, Venerable Master Hua’s Talks on Dharma, Venerable Master Hua’s Talks on Dharma during the 1993 Trip to Taiwan, Water Mirror Reflecting Heaven. Biographical.
In Memory of the Venerable Master Hsuan Hua, Pictorial Biography of the Venerable Master Hsü Yün, Records of High Sanghans, Records of the Life of the Venerable Master Hsüan Hua, Three Steps One Bow, World Peace Gathering, News from True Cultivators, Open Your Eyes Take a Look at the World, With One Heart Bowing to the City of 10000 Buddhas. Children’s Books. Cherishing Life, Human Roots: Buddhist Stories for Young Readers.
Musics, Novels and Brochures. Songs for Awakening, Awakening, The Three Cart Patriarch, City of 10000 Buddhas Color Brochure, Celebrisi’s Journey, Heng Ch’au’s Journal. The Buddhist Monthly–Vajra Bodhi Sea is a monthly journal of orthodox Buddhism which has been published by the Dharma Realm Buddhist Association, formerly known as the Sino-American Buddhist Association, since 1970. Each issue contains the most recent translations of the Buddhist canon by the Buddhist Text Translation Society. Also included in each issue are a biography of a great Patriarch of Buddhism from the ancient past, sketches of the lives of contemporary monastics and lay-followers around the world, articles on practice, and other material. The journal is bilingual, Chinese and English
The Dharma Realm Buddhist Association (formerly the Sino-American Buddhist Association) was founded by the Venerable Master Hsuan Hua in the United States of America in 1959. Taking the Dharma Realm as its scope, the Association aims to disseminate the genuine teachings of the Buddha throughout the world. The Association is dedicated to translating the Buddhist canon, propagating the Orthodox Dharma, promoting ethical education, and bringing benefit and happiness to all beings. Its hope is that individuals, families, the society, the nation, and the entire world will, under the transforming influence of the Buddhadharma, gradually reach the state of ultimate truth and goodness.
The Venerable Master, whose names were An Tse and To Lun, received the Dharma name Hsuan Hua and the transmission of Dharma from Venerable Master Hsu Yun in the lineage of the Wei Yang Sect. He was born in Manchuria, China, at the beginning of the century. At nineteen, he entered the monastic order and dwelt in a hut by his mother’s grave to practice filial piety. He meditated, studied the teachings, ate only one meal a day, and slept sitting up. In 1948 he went to Hong Kong, where he established the Buddhist Lecture Hall and other Way-places. In 1962 he brought the Proper Dharma to the West, lecturing on several dozen Mahayana Sutras in the United States.
Over the years, the Master established more than twenty monasteries of Proper Dharma under the auspices of the Dharma Realm Buddhist Association and the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas. He also founded centers for the translation of the Buddhist canon and for education to spread the influence of the Dharma in the East and West. The Master manifested the stillness in the United States in 1995.
Through his lifelong, selfless dedication to teaching living beings with wisdom and compassion, he influenced countless people to change their faults and to walk upon the pure, bright path to enlightenment. Dharma Propagation, Buddhist Text Translation, and Education The Venerable Master Hua’s three great vows after leaving the home-life were (1) to propagate the Dharma, (2) to translate the Buddhist Canon, and (3) to promote education. In order to make these vows a reality, the Venerable Master based himself on the Three Principles and the Six Guidelines.
Courageously facing every hardship, he founded monasteries, schools, and centers in the West, drawing in living beings and teaching them on a vast scale. Over the years, he founded the following institutions: The City of Ten Thousand Buddhas and Its Branches In propagating the Proper Dharma, the Venerable Master not only trained people but also founded Way-places where the Dharma wheel could turn and living beings could be saved.
He wanted to provide cultivators with pure places to practice in accord with the Buddha’s regulations. Over the years, he founded many Way-places of Proper Dharma. In the United States and Canada, these include the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas; Gold Mountain Monastery; Gold Sage Monastery; Gold Wheel Monastery; Gold Summit Monastery; Gold Buddha Monastery; Avatamsaka Monastery; Long Beach Monastery; the City of the Dharma Realm; Berkeley Buddhist Monastery; Avatamsaka Hermitage; and Blessings, Prosperity, and Longevity Monastery. In Taiwan, there are the Dharma Realm Buddhist Books Distribution Association, Dharma Realm Monastery, and Amitabha Monastery.
In Malaysia, there are Zi Yun Dong Monastery, Deng Bi An Monastery, and Lotus Vihara. In Hong Kong, there are the Buddhist Lecture Hall and Cixing Monastery. Purchased in 1974, the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas is the hub of the Dharma Realm Buddhist Association. The City is located in Talmage, Mendocino County, California, 110 miles north of San Francisco. Eighty of the 488 acres of land are in active use. The remaining acreage consists of meadows, orchards, and woods. With over seventy large buildings containing over 2,000 rooms, blessed with serenity and fresh, clean air, it is the first large Buddhist monastic community in the United States. It is also an international center for the Proper Dharma.
Although the Venerable Master Hua was the Ninth Patriarch in the Weiyang Sect of the Chan School, the monasteries he founded emphasize all of the five main practices of Mahayana Buddhism (Chan meditation, Pure Land, esoteric, Vinaya (moral discipline), and doctrinal studies).
This accords with the Buddha’s words: “The Dharma is level and equal, with no high or low.” At the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas, the rules of purity are rigorously observed. Residents of the City strive to regulate their own conduct and to cultivate with vigor. Taking refuge in the Proper Dharma, they lead pure and selfless lives, and attain peace in body and mind. The Sutras are expounded and the Dharma wheel is turned daily. Residents dedicate themselves wholeheartedly to making Buddhism flourish. Monks and nuns in all the monasteries take one meal a day, always wear their precept sash, and follow the Three Principles: Freezing, we do not scheme.
Starving, we do not beg. Dying of poverty, we ask for nothing. According with conditions, we do not change. Not changing, we accord with conditions. We adhere firmly to our three great principles. We renounce our lives to do the Buddha’s work. We take the responsibility to mold our own destinies. We rectify our lives to fulfill the Sanghan’s role. Encountering specific matters, we understand the principles. Understanding the principles, we apply them in specific matters. We carry on the single pulse of the Patriarchs’ mind-transmission. The monasteries also follow the Six Guidelines: not contending, not being greedy, not seeking, not being selfish, not pursuing personal advantage, and not lying.
International Translation Institute
The Venerable Master vowed to translate the Buddhist Canon (Tripitaka) into Western languages so that it would be widely accessible throughout the world. In 1973, he founded the International Translation Institute on Washington Street in San Francisco for the purpose of translating Buddhist scriptures into English and other languages. In 1977, the Institute was merged into Dharma Realm Buddhist University as the Institute for the Translation of Buddhist Texts. In 1991, the Venerable Master purchased a large building in Burlingame (south of San Francisco) and established the International Translation Institute there for the purpose of translating and publishing Buddhist texts. To date, in addition to publishing over one hundred volumes of Buddhist texts in Chinese, the Association has published more than one hundred volumes of English, French, Spanish, Vietnamese, and Japanese translations of Buddhist texts, as well as bilingual (Chinese and English) editions.
Audio and video tapes also continue to be produced. The monthly journal Vajra Bodhi Sea, which has been in circulation for nearly thirty years, has been published in bilingual (Chinese and English) format in recent years. In the past, the difficult and vast mission of translating the Buddhist canon in China was sponsored and supported by the emperors and kings themselves. In our time, the Venerable Master encouraged his disciples to cooperatively shoulder this heavy responsibility, producing books and audio tapes and using the medium of language to turn the wheel of Proper Dharma and do the great work of the Buddha. All those who aspire to devote themselves to this work of sages should uphold the Eight Guidelines of the International Translation Institute:
1. One must free oneself from the motives of personal fame and profit. 2. One must cultivate a respectful and sincere attitude free from arrogance and conceit. 3. One must refrain from aggrandizing one’s work and denigrating that of others. 4. One must not establish oneself as the standard of correctness and suppress the work of others with one’s fault-finding. 5. One must take the Buddha-mind as one’s own mind. 6. One must use the wisdom of Dharma-Selecting Vision to determine true principles. 7. One must request Virtuous Elders of the ten directions to certify one’s translations.
8. One must endeavor to propagate the teachings by printing Sutras, Shastra texts, and Vinaya texts when the translations are certified as being correct. These are the Venerable Master’s vows, and participants in the work of translation should strive to realize them. Instilling Goodness Elementary School, Developing Virtue Secondary School, Dharma Realm Buddhist University “Education is the best national defense.”
The Venerable Master Hua saw clearly that in order to save the world, it is essential to promote good education. If we want to save the world, we have to bring about a complete change in people’s minds and guide them to cast out unwholesomeness and to pursue goodness. To this end the Master founded Instilling Goodness Elementary School in 1974, and Developing Virtue Secondary School and Dharma Realm Buddhist University in 1976.
In an education embodying the spirit of Buddhism, the elementary school teaches students to be filial to parents, the secondary school teaches students to be good citizens, and the university teaches such virtues as humaneness and righteousness. Instilling Goodness Elementary School and Developing Virtue Secondary School combine the best of contemporary and traditional methods and of Western and Eastern cultures. They emphasize moral virtue and spiritual development, and aim to guide students to become good and capable citizens who will benefit humankind. The schools offer a bilingual (Chinese/English) program where boys and girls study separately.
In addition to standard academic courses, the curriculum includes ethics, meditation, Buddhist studies, and so on, giving students a foundation in virtue and guiding them to understand themselves and explore the truths of the universe. Branches of the schools (Sunday schools) have been established at branch monasteries with the aim of propagating filial piety and ethical education. Dharma Realm Buddhist University, whose curriculum focuses on the Proper Dharma, does not merely transmit academic knowledge. It emphasizes a foundation in virtue, which expands into the study of how to help all living beings discover their inherent nature.
Thus, Dharma Realm Buddhist University advocates a spirit of shared inquiry and free exchange of ideas, encouraging students to study various canonical texts and use different experiences and learning styles to tap their inherent wisdom and fathom the meanings of those texts. Students are encouraged to practice the principles they have understood and apply the Buddhadharma in their lives, thereby nurturing their wisdom and virtue. The University aims to produce outstanding individuals of high moral character who will be able to bring benefit to all sentient beings. <poem>