The Buddha Speaks of Amitabha Buddha Sutra Part 5
Shariputra, what do you think Why is this Buddha called Amitabha Shariputra, the brilliance of that Bud-dha's light is measureless, illumining the lands of the ten directions everywhere without obstruction. For this rea-son he is called Amitabha. Sutra Commentary: Shariputra, what do you think Why is this Buddha called Amitabha Shariputra, the brilliance of that Bud-dha's light is measureless, illumining the lands of the ten directions everywhere without obstruction. For this rea-son he is called Amitabha. The earlier sections describe the superior dependent and proper retributions. In this section, we learn more about the wonderful proper retribution. The proper retribution here refers to both the host and companions. Question: Do the residents of the Utmost Bliss Pure Land have share section or change section birth and death Answer: It depends on the types of Pure Lands that they are born into. If they are born into the Actual Reward Pure Land, then the residents belong to the change section body. If they are born into the Transformation Pure Land, then they belong to share section.
Why do we recite the Buddha’s name Because it represents Amitabha’s limitless wisdom. ‘Amita’ translates as limitless. Shakyamuni uses the Buddha’s name to capture limitless space (“light” spans the ten directions) and time (“lifespan” spans the three periods of time). Light represents stillness that is nonetheless constantly illuminating, constantly according with conditions. Life span illuminates but is con-stantly still, it accords with conditions but constantly remains unchanging. In light there is stillness, in stillness there is light. Space and time are interconnected just as the one true Dharma Realm’s entire substance is. Therefore, Amitabha is simply living beings’ inherent enlightened principle nature . The mind that can recite the Buddha’s name is initial enlightenment .
That which is recited, the Buddha’s name, is inherent enlightenment . Initial enlightenment is not separate from inherent enlightenment and vice versa. Initial and in-herent enlightenment are not dual; living beings and Buddha are not dual. The light of a Buddha’s Response Body can shine near or far (ranging from one yojana, or ten or a hundred or a thousand yojanas, or one world, or ten, or a hundred, or a thousand worlds), depending on the Buddha’s virtues. Amitabha’s Re-sponse Body light universally shines (everywhere). This is a natural light unlike the light that the Buddha sends out, say when he speaks Dharma. Amitabha’s light shines in all worlds without obstruction because he has deep conditions with living beings everywhere!
Light consists of two kinds:
1) Inner light : wisdom illuminates the principles .
2) Outer light : refering to the body’s light which is discussed here in the sutra. Amitabha’s body is of the Vajra substance, unobstructed and pure. It can manifest in all of the Dharma Realms. The Long Life Sutra states that his body has limitless light. When living beings encounter this light, the three defilements are eradicated. If those in the three evil paths encounter his light, their sufferings come to a sudden stop and at the end of life they will obtain liberation. Question: Then why can some see his light while others can-not And further, if his light shines on us regardless, why bother reciting his name Answer: Some can see his light because their gongfu is mature, or their prior life’s obstructions are shallower. Just be-cause one is blind does not mean that the sun does not shine. Just recite his name ten times without confusion and you’ll definitely see Amitabha, let alone his light! Sutra Text: Moreover, Shariputra, the lifespan of that Buddha and that of his people extends for measureless, limitless asam-khyeyas of kalpas. For this reason he is called Amitayus. And, Shariputra, since Amitabha became a Buddha, ten kalpas have passed.
Moreover, Shariputra, the lifespan of that Buddha and that of his people extends for measureless, limitless asam-khyeyas of kalpas. For this reason he is called Amitayus. The Dharma Body has no beginning and no end. It has no shape, and no mark. The Reward Body’s lifespan has a be-ginning but no end and is the result of cultivation. The Trans-formation Body’s lifespan accords with the Buddha’s original vow and living beings’ conditions. It can be short or long, and manifests as a result of cultivation. Amitabha’s vows #13 and #15 state that his lifespan will be limitless.
The inhabitants of the Western Bliss Pure Land will also have the same limitless lifespan. The mind nature illuminates yet is permanent and still. This is what sustains the limitless lifespan in the Pure Land. The substance of the mind nature that has been realized is measureless. Therefore this Buddha’s lifespan is also measureless. Dharma Treasury Bhikshu’s vows are infinite and therefore his fruition is also infinite. Asamkhyeyas means “limitless number.” Amitabha became a Buddha ten kalpas ago. Therefore, all of his vows must also have already come true. Currently, he is still speaking Dharma. So, hurry up, get reborn to his Pure Land and listen. Amitabha’s lifespan is limitless but eventually it will come to an end and his Orthodox Dharma will become extinct at the
upper half of the night. After that, GuanYin will then assume Buddhahood with the title Universal Light Merit and Virtues Mountain King Thus Come One. His Proper Dharma Age will also be limitless. Then Great Strength Bodhisattva will take over with the title of Good Dwelling Merit and Virtues Jewel King Thus Come One. All living beings in that land can obtain the position of Equal Enlightenment in one lifetime. We can cite eight anecdotes that illustrate Amitabha Buddha’s past vows and practices on the causal grounds:
1. In the past, in front of World Self-Mastery King Bud-dha , there was a king who listened to the Dharma and decided to leave the home-life. That was Dharma Treasury Bhikshu. He made 48 vows. His vows and practices were perfected and thus he became a Buddha.
2. The Dharma Flower Sutra mentions that, at the time of Great Penetrating Wisdom Victory Thus Come One , there were sixteen princes who left the home-life. They practiced pure conduct, vigorous-ly seeking to obtain Unsurpassed Bodhi. After that, Buddha entered Stillness, they constantly enjoyed re-ceiving and reciting the Dharma Flower Sutra. After- wards, they all attained Buddhahood. Amitabha was the ninth prince.
This example shows that accepting and maintaining the Lotus Sutra is also a Pure Land Dharma Door.
3. The Compassion Flower Sutra relates that, limitless kalpas in the past, there was a Wheel Turning Sage King called Non-fighting Mindfulness . He made offerings to Jewel Store Thus Come One . At that time, the King made a vow that when he accomplished Buddhahood, his country would have all sorts of purities and adornments. That Buddha then gave him a prediction that after kalpas as numerous as the Ganges’ sands, he would become a Buddha. His country will be called Safe and Blissful , another name for the Land of Utmost Bliss.
4. The Equal Uniting Maintaining Sutra states that at the time of No Defilements Flam-ing Title Rising King Thus Come One , lived the Pure Life Bhikshu who united and maintained all sutras, as many as fourteen hundred million divisions. In accord with living be-ings’ desire, he widely spoke Dharma. That was a previous incarnation of Amitabha.
Many left-home people mistakenly assume that the Pure Land Dharma Door only involves reciting the Buddha’s name, reciting the Small Amitabha Buddha Sutra and the 48 great vows (extracted from the Infinite Life Sutra). However, they should follow Amitabha Buddha’s example and also consider researching other doctrines and widely expounding them as well.
5. The Worthy Kalpa Sutra states that, at the time of Cloud Thunder Growl Thus Come One , there was a prince called Pure Blessings Reward Multitude of Sounds , who made offerings to that Buddha. He brought forth the Bodhi mind, seeking wisdom from above and transforming living beings below. He now is Amitabha Buddha.
6. The Worthy Kalpa Sutra states that, at the time of Gold Dragon Decisive Light Buddha , there was a Dharma Master called No Limit Jewel Sound Practices who gave his all to propagate the Dharma. He now is Amitayus. In other words, helping propagate the Buddhadharma also creates a lot of rebirth blessings.
7. The Contemplating the Buddha Samadhi Ninth Sutra says that at the time of Emptiness King Buddha , there were four bhikshus who were full of afflictions. A voice in space instructed them to contemplate the Buddha. They thus obtained the Buddha Mindfulness Samadhi. Amitabha was the third of these bhikshus. “Full of afflictions” means that they were burned by the fire of sexual desire. In such situations, just follow the lead of the above-mentioned monks and recite the Buddha’s name and you will get great benefits.
8. Like an illusion Samantha and Limitless Seals Dharma Doors Sutra tells us that, at the time of The Lion Roaming Golden Light Thus Come One, there was a king named Victorious Awesome Venerated Esteemed . He made offerings to that Buddha and practiced Chan. That king now has become Amitabha Buddha. This is just a short list of Amitabha’s past vows and practices on the causal ground. And, Shariputra, since Amitabha became a Buddha, ten kalpas have passed. The Dharma Body requires no attaining and from this standpoint therefore there is no need to mention ten kalpas. However, both the Reward and Transformation bodies require realization and therefore can be discussed in terms of kalpas.
One small kalpa is one increase and one decrease. An in-crease is the time it takes for the average lifespan to grow from ten years to 84,000 years, given that the average lifespan increases by one year every hundred years. A decrease is the time it takes for the average lifespan to reduce from 84,000 years back down to ten years, again changing at the rate of one year every hundred years. A middle kalpa is twenty small kalpas. Four middle kalpas is one great kalpa. Amitabha has been speaking Dharma since he originally accomplished Bodhi ten great kalpas ago. He vowed and accomplished a limitless lifespan in response to the fact it’s extremely difficult for living beings to encounter a Buddha.
This shows his compassion. Sutra Text: Moreover, Shariputra, that Buddha has measureless, limitless asamkhyeyas of Sound Hearer disciples, their number incalculable. So too is the assembly of Bodhisattvas. Shariputra, that Buddhaland is adorned with splendor and virtues such as these. Sutra Commentary: Moreover, Shariputra, that Buddha has measureless, limitless asamkhyeyas of Sound Hearer disciples, their number incalculable. So too is the assembly of Bodhisattvas. Amongst the inhabitants are countless Arhats and Bodhisattvas. In the Pure Land, we will be surrounded by countless
Good Knowing Advisers! They are all disciples of Amitabha Buddha who were born after him and obtained the fruition under his guidance. Vow 14: “Provided I become a Buddha, if anyone spends one hundred thousand kalpas to count the Arhats in my land who become Pratyekabuddhas, and can know their number, then I will not attain enlightenment. .” This is because the number of Arhats in his country is incalculable.
These Arhats all have the mind for Bodhi. Otherwise they would not have the capacity to be reborn into this Buddhaland. For example, Hinayana practitioners who make the Bodhi vow at the end of their lives can then be reborn there. Amitabha Buddha will then speak Dharma appropriate to their potential. Listening to the Dharma can help them sever view and thought delusions and thus attain the Arhat fruition.
The Pure Land is also a training ground for Bodhisattvas of all levels. These Bodhisattvas are as countless as the Arhats. Question: The Two Vehicles practitioners cannot get reborn to the Actual Reward Pure Land. Rather, the four fruition Arhats can be reborn in the Transformation Pure Land. Why then does the sutra mention only the fourth stage and not the remaining three fruitions
Answer: The Infinite Life Sutra says Arhats do not obtain re-birth to the Pure Land. This is from the perspective of the Actual Reward Pure Land. The sutra only mentions the fourth fruition for the sake of simplicity: if we can make it to the fourth stage in the Pure Land, the other three fruitions are much easier to attain. The Large Amitabha Sutra praises the merit and virtues of these Bodhisattvas:
1. Their wisdom is as deep and vast as the great ocean. Un-like ordinary people who cultivate in order to benefit themselves, Bodhisattvas cultivate to unfold their wisdom.
2. Their samadhi is unmoving like Mount Sumeru. The foundation of their practice is samadhi power. Therefore, the main branch of Orthodox Buddhism emphasizes the practice and development of samadhi power.
3. Their wisdom light is bright and pure, surpassing that of the sun. With wisdom one is naturally able to clearly il-luminate everything so that nothing is left in the dark. Everything is out in the open and one is proper and up-right.
4. Bodhisattvas’ Pure Dharma is perfect and complete like Snow Mountain. Purity here refers to the absence of de-sire, in particular, sexual desire. Why do we think non-stop It’s from excessive desires.
5. Bodhisattvas are level and equal like the ground. They cross over both evil and good beings. They have put a stop to the mad and discriminating mind and have trans-cended duality. We still suffer because we still want more: a biggER house, a nicER car, a prettier trophy wife, etc. The discriminating mind feeds our greedy mind.
6. Bodhisattvas are pure like water that can wash away all defilements. Defilements are not tolerated and hence washed away.
7. Bodhisattvas are like the Fire King who can burn all af-fliction fuel. Why is the difference between #6 and #7 Water can be used to wash external stuff, whereas fire must be used to burn up the impurities inside, just like we need to use high temperatures to smelt and purify gold. At the practice level, what are water and fire Fire is to use Chan or cross our legs to generate heat. Water is the great assembly: you and me.
8. Bodhisattvas are like the wind which comes to the world and universally reaches everywhere without any obstruc-tions. The wind is formless and does not truly manifest until it encounters resistance. Then it reveals itself as an unrelenting force of nature. For example, worlds are sus-tained by the Wind Wheel.
9. Bodhisattvas are like empty space, not attached to any-thing. They are free and at ease. They can adapt and ad-just to all environments.
10. Bodhisattvas are as pure as the lotus and are free from all defilements. Lotuses occupy a special place in Buddhism, denoting purity. This is because they arise from mud and are not stained by it. Beauty emanates from goodness and lack of defilements. The Buddhist practice is that of purity. Once purified, we then need to jump back into the mud to perfect our own purification.
11. Bodhisattvas are like a big vehicle. They can vastly transport living beings. They are humongous vessels that can ferry living beings across the sea of suffering to the shore of safety and bliss. Notice “big” is used in contrast to small. Vehicle denotes the ability to transport. Therefore, Small Vehicle refers to the ability to transport the small self while Big Vehicle can transport the big self. What is the small self It is the ego. How about the big self It is the combined selves of all sentient as well as insentient beings. It is simply the Dharma Body. Furthermore, the metaphor of a vehicle refers to a truly in-conceivable dharma of the Bodhisattvas. It symbolizes the ability to ferry beings to safety. You see, sentient be-ings are very hard to teach. They simply do not listen to reason. Therefore, Bodhisattvas must resort to transport-ing living beings to safety in order to rescue them.
Guess what is the big Dharma for transporting living be-ings It’s the Pure Land.
12. Bodhisattvas are like quaking Dharma Thunder. They shake and awaken the unawakened. Their Dharma can shock and awe living beings, causing them to wake up from their stupor and dreams. Sometimes, it is necessary to be heavy handed because living beings simply refuse to change unless fear is instilled in them.
13. Bodhisattvas are like sweet dew which rains down to nourish and benefit living beings. Sweet dew soothes and nourishes all living beings, extending their lifespans. Rain implies enabling each individual to absorb what they can. It also implies generosity. Bodhisattvas give more than we think we need.
14. Bodhisattvas are like the Vajra Mountain, hence the de-mons and externalists cannot move them. Vajra is the hardest substance in the universe, available only to the Mahayana practitioner. Why is it indestructible Because it cannot be conceived of by your mind. If you could conceive of it, then you could also come up with a way to destroy it. The Bodhisattvas’ appearance in the world is likened to erecting a Vajra mountain to defeat and subdue the de-mons and externalists.
15. Bodhisattvas are like the Brahma Heaven King because they are the best of all goodness. What is goodness In Buddhism, it is defined as not doing evil. Evil is to violate the precepts. The Buddha described these rules of morality in great detail to help us understand clearly the difference between good and evil. When the Buddhadharma is not available in the world through the precept Dharma, then goodness is to refrain from committing the ten evils, four of which are commited with the mouth: lying, cursing, frivolous speech and speaking with a double-tongue, three with the body: killing, stealing and sexual misconduct, and three with the mind: greed, hatred and stupidity. The Brahma Heaven King has a jeweled net which is extremely adorned. Likewise, the Bodhisattvas adorn Mahayana and each other’s practice and virtue without any rivalry. Question: It seems that the Buddha dwells too much on doom and gloom. Are we that bad Why did he not teach about goodness For example, can’t we try to do good and accept the fact that occasionally we slip up because we’re not perfect Answer: Good question! It makes sense because it’s coming from the perspective of people with ideals who believe in helping others but realize that they sometimes do make mistakes. It’s very commendable if you can be like this.
The world would be better off if more people acted and thought in this way. However, I feel that the Buddha’s approach will produce bigger and better goodness. Why If you concentrate on goodness and allow for minor mistakes, you inevitably make excuses for yourself. Whereas if you were to concentrate on purifying yourself from all evil, it would be much more virtuous because it is much harder to resist temptations. However, before you get too discouraged, let me share with you a well-known Buddhist secret: we all have the same Buddha nature.
For you non-Buddhists, this means that we are intrinsically good, very good, extremely good. The proof is that all of us are capable of compassion, kindness, courage, selflessness, generosity, caring, etc... Buddhas are the best that one can be. We, however, are simply not completely good yet because we still have imperfections. But if we can eliminate these imperfections, then we will become Buddhas and our original goodness will naturally manifest. That is why focusing on eliminating the imperfections is more effective and will ultimatelty produce the most good. Buddhism is not only about gloom and doom as one might think. 16. Bodhisattvas are like the Great Tree King because they can universally shade all beings and provide shelter from the rain. Drawing near them can provide relief against the burning heat of anger and hatred as well as the rain of desires. Bodhisattvas are the best source for all living be-ings to find rest and shelter. In that case, where can they be found
Obviously, they can be found where Mahayana is prac-ticed.
Someone raises her hand and adds that Bodhisattvas put up a lot of walls so that they are not easily spotted. That is right, they help discreetly and wish that it not be known. Therefore, they cannot be found where there are specta-cles. They will not proclaim that they are living Buddhas or incarnations. Nor do they demonstrate special skills or spiritual powers. Doing so would only appeal to our sense of greed or jealousy. We do not have enough time to discuss this exhaustively, therefore we will conclude by saying that drawing near them will lessen our afflictions. Someone else raises her hand and says that she believes that Bodhisattvas are within our hearts. Let me relate a Dharma to you. When I was practicing as a novice monk under Great Master Xuan Hua, we were very well taken care of and protected within his monasteries. But when we had to venture outside, then we were more exposed to tempta-ions and more likely to break precepts. One senior monk taught me this Dharma. Our teacher said that every time we went outside and were exposed, we could recite Mas-ter Xuan Hua’s name and would not break precepts. It re-ally worked!
That illustrates the point that was recently made: Bodhisattvas are within our heart. Have faith and they will pro-tect and aid us. 17. Bodhisattvas are like Mandarava Flowers. This flower is very rare and very difficult to encounter. It blossoms once in a blue moon and only lasts for a few hours. Similarly, Bodhisattvas only give us a brief moment to recognize them and it takes great causes and conditions to be able to encounter them. These flowers symbolize their beautiful conduct. Because they are pure goodness, Buddhas and Bodhisattvas are so magnetic and can be very handsome.
18. Bodhisattvas are like the Great Peng Bird , which can inspire awe and subdue the externalists. This bird possesses inconceivable spiritual powers and even terror-izes dragons who also have tremendous spiritual powers. The externalists are quite proud of their spiritual powers but they are no match for the Bodhisattvas. 19. Bodhisattvas are like the multitude of traveling birds. They do not store or save anything. They have the least attachments and dependencies. Revisiting the story that we mentioned at the beginning of this book of a monk who was so poor that he did not even have a ladle, I’ll give you my Hollywood version of what transpired.
A monk was practicing Chan at a monastery. Every day, when he was thirsty he would pick up a ladle and walk down to the river to take a drink of water. Realize how incredible his state was. Though he was still attached to his ladle, he could let go of everything else. Common mortals like us would not be able to make it without our friends, car, house etc! We are certainly a lot more confused than this monk. Question: Does the ladle carry any kind of metaphorical meaning Answer: Your question reveals your academic propencities. No it does not. This monk was able to let go of all his habit energies except for his depency on the ladle for drinking. So, one day, as he went down to the river to take a drink from the ladle, he suddenly awakened to his attachment to the ladle. He immediately dropped it in the river. That’s right, he did not even consider bringing it back to the monastery in case he might need it in the future, as rational people like us would do. He walked back to the monastery and, lo and behold, his teacher was waiting for him at the gate and asked, “What are your views”
That’s Chan parlance for, “Tell me what you know.” Or in layman’s terms, “What have you done to deserve my continued support of your practice” The monk therefore replied, “Last year, I was so poor that I only had a ladle. But this year, I am so much poorer because I don’t even have a ladle.” That is why his teacher said, “Good indeed! Good indeed!”—meaning, “ ou’ve understood and I also understand.” That’s Chan language for, “ ou’ve made it. I certify that you’re enlightened.” If you were enlightened then you would get the drift from just four words. Relinquish your attachments and then you can be as free as a bird. 20. Bodhisattvas are like the cattle king which cannot be de-feated. The cattle kings are strong and unyielding by na-ture. Why are Bodhisattvas invincible Perhaps it is be-cause they have no flaws. Or maybe it is simply because nothing can possibly damage them. In the event that they are flawed, then they are proficient at destroying the op-position before they can be defeated. Or if they cannot defeat their opponents themselves, then they can obtain help that is invincible.
What kind of help can render them invincible Ultimately, they are backed up by their teachers, by the Buddhas of the ten directions who are constantly mindful of them. The good news is that if we belong to the good side and place our faith in the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, then we as well cannot be defeated. 21. Bodhisattvas are like the great elephant king, in that they are well adjusted and subdued. They possess great powers and yet manage to keep them in check. Their afflictions, if there are any left, are kept in check. Just like elephants are kept in check with barbs, Bodhisattvas religiously observe the precept barbs to regulate themselves.
22. Bodhisattvas are like the lion king which is fearless. Their bravery comes from the awareness of their incomparable strength and skills. At the causal level, fearlessness is the result of practicing the giving of fearlessness. 23. Bodhisattvas are spacious like empty space. They possess great compassion and equanimity. Like empty space, they can embrace everything. Empty space is boundless. Our body may be bounded but our mind can become boundless. How By practicing great compassion and equanimity. Compassion is being unable to stand seeing others suffer and thereby doing something about it to provide relief. It takes doing and not talking to be compassionate.
Great compassion is to be of the same substance. What does that mean That is to realize that we all are interconnected, sharing the same Buddha nature, which is our substance. Starting out, we are all capable of compassion. But we tend to discriminate friends versus foes, family versus strangers. That is why we need to practice equanimity in order to progress toward great compassion. It does take quite a while. Question: What if my resources are limited, how can I possibly practice great compassion Answer: I can understand where you are coming from. Of course, you can normally live to a maximum age of 100, thus you are limited by time.
Furthermore, you only have so many assets, thereby limiting the number of people whom you could help. In particular, you are limited by this worst factor. Does any of you know what her biggest limitation is <No one knew the answer> It’s her impatience. Not only is she impatient, so are all of you. It is the sickness of modern times. Everyone is so focused on results. Her question really means, “How do I succeed in being greatly compassionate, which is an infinite state, when I am finite” Instead can you not focus on making your best effort to rescue others and not demand guaranteed success without which you will not even bother This is just to name a few of the characteristics of Bodhisatt-vas. It would take endless kalpas to speak of them all. Shariputra, that Buddhaland is adorned with splendor and virtues such as these: This is not the same as the sen-tence before because this refers to the Proper retribution.
The previous sentence was referring to the dependent retribution. The Large Sutra states that Amitabha made the vow, “When I attain Bodhi, my light will illuminate countless worlds. All dark and obscure places will be brightened. All the gods, humans, as well as venomous animals and insects who per-ceive my light, will become compassionate, do good, and will be reborn into my country.” Also, his great vow number thirteen indicates that his lifespan will exceed ten thousand hundred millions of nayutas of kalpas. In fact, he vowed that if his lifespan were limited, he would not become a Buddha. The Large Sutra also has an analogy: “Suppose that bhikshus numbering in the ten thousand hundred millions of nayutas and possessing the same spiritual powers as Mahamaudgalyayana were to count Amitabha Buddha’s initial assembly of Sound Hearers—they could at best come up to less than one hundredth.”
Furthermore, Amitabha Buddha also vowed that when he be-comes a Buddha, the Bodhisattvas residing in his country will have spiritual penetrations, wisdom, eloquence, hallmarks and subtle characteristics as well as an awesome spirit that are the same as his. Emphasing encouraging one to make the vow the vow Sutra Text: Moreover, Shariputra, the living beings born in the Land of Utmost 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 asamkhyeyas of kalpas could they be counted.
In our Saha world, there are just too many conditions for retreating. The Thus Come One is very compassionate. That is why he appeared in the world and brought the precept Dharma to help prevent living beings from regressing and falling into the lower realms. For example, observing the deviant sex precept will prevent falling into the animal realm by avoiding creating causes and conditions for this realm. In contrast, once born by transformation into the Pure Land, there are no such conditions for regression. There are no women and hence there is no problem of sexual desire in the Pure Land. In fact, the conditions there are even more favorable for one to make progress consistently and practice the Bodhisattva path. One of my disciples has a close friend who is a hot-shot dentist. This gentleman is absolutely non-religious and is actually quite full of himself.
When he passed away, my disciple came and requested the 49-day Dharma to assist his friend in obtaining rebrith to the Western Pure Land. So we did our part to give him the option to go to the Western Bliss Pure Land. And he did choose to go there. Afterwards, he came back to visit his daughter. She dreamt of him two nights in a row. That’s how attached he was to her. He said that he was quite comfortable but complained to her that since he went there he had nothing to do but cultivate! Moreover, Shariputra, the living beings born in the Land of Utmost Bliss are all avaivartika. Among them are many who in this very life will dwell in Buddhahood.
All means that all grades of birth, without distinction, are avaivartika.
Avaivartika: means “not retreating or turning away.” The residents of the Pure Land obtain all four kinds of Avaivartika:
1. Non-retreating in position: They will not regress to the rank of ordinary people because they have entered the flow of the sages. This means that they have reached at least First Stage Arhatship.
2. Non-retreating in conduct: To always cross over living beings, they will not fall back to the Two Vehicles who do not care to wade into the mundane to benefit living beings. This means that they have reached the Three Worthies.
3. Non-retreating in thought: To flow into the Bodhisattva Realm in thought after thought, their minds are set on the Middle Way. They lean neither towards empti-ness nor existence. This means that they are enlightened.
4. Non-retreating in the quest for Bodhi. They cannot help but become a Buddha.
Since they do not retreat in their quest for Bodhi, they are no longer like us ordinary people, who have not attained any fruition yet. The Two Vehicles do not practice the Bodhisattva path but are above ordinary people in attainment. Nonetheless, those of the Two Vehicles can attain ‘other birth’, which refers to births that are not the same in nature as those of ordinary beings ; however, those of the Two Vehicles have not yet certified to the Dharma Body.
1. Thought non-retreating: To have no other birth again .
2. Practice non-retreating: To only see the Way .
3. Position non-retreating: They are not ordinary people .
Question: Once we are reborn into the Pure Land, what is the big deal about non-retreating
Answer: There are many conditions for non-retreating, which provide great advantages:
1. You are not bound by illness and suffering .
2. There is no inappropriate conduct .
3. You often recite sutras and Dharmas .
4. You often do good .
5. You are often harmonious and in accord with the principles, and devoid of disobedience and fighting .
In our Saha land, the majority of people often retreat in cultivation. When led astray by desires and external states, most retreat and give in. The Ten Doubts Shastra , indicates that there are five causes and conditions that help the residents obtain non-retreating:
1. Amitabha’s great compassionate vow power provides assistance. Dharma Treasury Bhikshu vowed that when he becomes a Buddha, those who hear of his name, take refuge, and vigorously practice will obtain the Three Patiences, described later, and will obtain non-retreating toward all Dharmas. It is like entering the vast ocean riding on a great vessel: one will not easily get drowned.
2. This Buddha’s light constantly illuminates, making thoughts of Bodhi increase continually. His light gathers us in and increases our goodness, just as the light of the moon illuminates the darkness to help us avoid falling into pits.
3. The water, birds, trees, forests and wind are always speaking the Dharma, making those who listen become mindful of the Triple Jewel and therefore obtain non-retreating. This is like a confused person who hears the sound of the bell and subsequently has more proper thoughts.
4. The residents of the Pure Land have many Bodhisattvas as co-cultivators. Outside there are no demons or deviant companions. Inside, they have no afflictions. They therefore obtain non-retreating. The advantage of being in an environment where only superior and good people gather in cultivation cannot be emphasized enough! 5. Their lifespan is infinite kalpas, just like the Buddha’s. That is plenty of time to make significant attainments, and certify to sagely positions. This is like traveling ten thousand miles and finally reaching the treasure mountain: one is never poor again. Furthermore, in our Saha land, we are subject to confusion each time we are born. In contrast, one is born by transformation into the Western Bliss Pure Land onto a lotus flower and therefore is free from delusions, thus avoiding re-gressing due to committing offenses. In one lifetime those in the Pure Land can all make it to Buddhahood without regressing anymore. Regarding the Three Patiences, patience is to be able to recognize the phenomenon and noumenon allowing one’s mind to be at peace and at ease. There are three kinds of patience:
1. Sound Patience : Meaning to listen to the teachings and obtain peace of mind. This belongs to the Tenth Faith position of one who obtains awakening through hearing the Dharma.
2. Accordance Patience : By according with the true principles, one relies on one’s contemplative pow-er to obtain enlightenment. This pertains to the three Worthies who can subdue their retribution confusions, preventing the natureless six dusts from being pro-duced.
3. Non-production Dharma Patience : One’s understanding tallies with the true principles. This points to the Seventh Ground Bodhisattva or above. They are apart from all marks and thus enlighten to the true marks. According to the Flower Adornment Sutra, there are three kinds of patience:
1. Patience versus enmity and harm . We must endure being harmed, especially by those who can be so evil! The key here is to “peacefully” endure it. The second part that is not that easy to do is to refrain from retaliating, no matter how much one might feel like doing so. 2. Peacefully endure suffering
. The first type of patience entails enduring external factors. If we can no longer take it, we have the option of walking away in order to refrain from committing offenses. For if we commit more offenses, we would only compound the past enmity and we would not resolve the situation at all! This second type of patience is to endure internal sufferings that might manifest as sicknesses, calamities, or events that cause internal afflictions. The nature of the test is “oppression”: we have no way of getting relief. The internal pressure builds up until we implode or explode. We simply cannot walk away from it!
3. Dharma patience . This is obtained through understanding that all dharmas are false, that they arise from causes and conditions, lack a self-nature, and therefore we should not be attached to them. Worldly people need to learn how to develop the first two types of patience. This can make or break an individual. Once you effectively handle the first two types of tests, then you are qualified to move on to the test of Dharma Patience.
This is why our left-home training program is so special: it helps build the foundation to work at this third type of test. Having the proper foundation is critical to succesfully pass this third type of test. This is why we have a mix of serious cultivators and evil cultivators. The evil cultivators are tolerated so that they can help provide tests to the true cultivators. Question: How do I practice the third type of patience Answer: Someone suggests that based on his twenty year research of the Dharma, we need to learn to not be attached to things. He further explains that we should not think too much about things. For example, we should be such that we may have money but should not be that attached to it. I say, that is just a lot of talk. Let me give you an example. Let’s say I bought a very expensive wristwatch.
I enjoy it but claim that I am not attached to it because I really don’t think about it. That does not really count because I still own it. The true test is whether or not you are able to give it away. If you can, then you are on the way to truly being detached from it. Someone else sighs and says that he has at least 10,000 things that he has a hard time giving away. Keep giving away and eventually you will discover that which you really cannot give up. And once you figure out how to give up all the things that you cannot, then you will realize Dharma Patience. Another shastra, The Treatise on the Awakening of Faith , states that those who are born to the Western Bliss Pure Land often get to see the Buddha and thus eventually obtain non-retreating, whereas in the Saha world, the majority of cultivators are faced with retreating conditions.
This is why there is a saying: The Way is one foot tall , but the demons are a yard tall . Demons often come to harass us, causing us to give up or retreat. Today, we have new guests to our lecture during this Buddha recitation week. They probably cannot help but wonder about why we normally start our lecture with a Dharma Request protocol. This comes from Great Master Xuan Hua who brought Mahayana to the United States. Most temples do not have such a Dharma request protocol. Actually, it dates all the way back to the time when Shakyamuni Buddha first became enlightened. He then contemplated our world and decided not to teach the humans because we just would not be able to understand. At that point, the Brahma Heaven King knew. He immediately ordered Shakra to kneel behind him and both of them requested the Buddha to teach the Buddhadharma in order to benefit the Saha residents. They executed the Dharma request protocol and that was how the Buddha agreed to teach us the Buddhadharma. Regardless of how you might feel about the Brahma Heaven King and Shakra, we must be grateful to them for having requested the Dharma in order to enable us to end suffering and obtain bliss.
Question: I thought that the Buddha has infinite wisdom. Why did he decide not to teach us and then change his mind Answer: He saw that ordinary beings cannot possibly grasp what he sees and understands. Why not Because:
1. Our ego gets in the way. The Buddhadharma is designed to get rid of the ego, which is the source of all suffering. That is why it will reject the teachings if it ever feels threatened. By the way, that represents a real challenge in speaking Dharma because if I speak the truth then your ego will be offended. If I flatter your ego, saying how great you are in gracing our humble Way place with your presence and promise to teach you meditation to help you appreciate the sunset more, then you think that I am a good teacher. However that is the worldly dharma. The Buddhadharma is about speaking the truth which often offends your ego. That is why we sometimes have to compromise and not offend you too much, lest you never again set foot in our small temple.
2. What the Buddha sees and understands cannot be expressed with words or language. He then changed his mind because he was sincerely requested by the God Kings to speak Dharma for us.
Since I patiently waited for someone to ask the obvious follow-up question but no one did, let me ask it myself then. Question: If his wisdom cannot be expressed in words then what did he speak of How do his teachings help us gain the same vision and understanding as that of the Buddha’s Answer: The Buddhadharma is a set of principles and instructions. The principles refer to the Universal Truth. In order to understand the principles, just follow the instructions that the Buddha, Bodhisattvas and patriarchs gave us. One may know and speak of the principles but one must execute the instructions in order to truly see what the words mean.
Ultimately, Buddhism is about cultivation and execution: reciting the Buddha’s name, mantras, sutras, doing Chan and the other myriad practices. Their number is extremely many; it is incalculable. And only in measureless, limitless asamkhyeyas of kalpas could they be counted. In our Saha world, Shakyamuni Buddha already crossed over countless living beings. As he informed Maitreya in the Dharma Flower Assembly, the number of liv-ing beings who accomplished the multitude of fruitions from both the Hinayana and Mahayana Dharmas under him is countless. They all obtained non-regression. We will include the Chinese list for those who are curious:
. How many more are crossed over by Amitabha, given that his lifespan is infinitely longer!
Thanks to Amitabha’s inconceivable powers, even living beings who committed the Five Evil Offenses or the Ten Evil Deeds can, under the right conditions, be reborn to the Pure Land. The Ten Evil Deeds were mentioned above. The Five Evil Offenses are: 1) shedding the Buddha’s blood, 2) killing an arhat, 3) killing one’s father, 4) killing one’s mother, and 5) destroying the sangha’s harmony. If those who have commited such offenses can sincerely recite Amitabha’s name ten times at the time of death, then each thought can erase 80 hundred millions kalpas of birth and death offenses and they will be able to bring their own karma with them and be reborn .
They will see a gold lotus, as big as the sun, appearing in front of them and will be reborn in a single thought. Although they will stay in the Lower Lower Grade quarters, they can still certify to the three non-retreats. This happens only in the Western Bliss Pure Land! There was a king who was skeptical about the ability to bring one’s karma along to the Pure Land . He expressed his doubt to a monk. The monk said, “A huge rock would sink to the bottom of the water, would it or not” The king replied, “That’s for sure!” The monk continued, “What if it’s placed on a boat, would it still sink” The king sudden-ly understood, responding, “ es, if one relies on the power of Amitabha’s great vows, then one can easily escape the sea of suffering.” The patriarchs also say that by reciting the Buddha’s name, one can carry off one’s old karmas to rebirth.
However, one’s new karmas, created after one has learned of the Pure Land Dharma Door, cannot always be carried along. Pure Land practitioners should not on one hand recite Buddha’s name while creating offenses on the other. If they do, at death, ob-structions will arise and prevent their rebirth to the Pure Land. Amitabha Buddha does not protect criminals. Besides, our rebirth grade is proportional to our recitation power. Yong Ming Shou Chan Master , who is also a Pure Land patriarch, said, “No Chan but with Pure Land—10,000 cultivate, 10,000 obtain rebirth. Quickly make the vow and you will get there. If there is no cultivation there will be no rebirth to the Pure Land.” Question: Why do Chan practitioners not recite the Buddha’s name Answer: Let me see if I understand what you really are asking about. Are you asking why are Chan practitioners so sure that they can accomplish perfection in their Chan practice this lifetime and therefore do not feel that they need to recite the Buddha’s name to at least buy some insurance just in case It is what you mean to ask Ok, I cannot answer for those Chan practitioners that you refer to because I don’t know them. May I offer you my humble opinion In general, it is not the student’s fault but rather it is the teacher’s.
As far as I am concerned, a teacher’s job is to help the students obtain liberation as quickly as possible. He should teach his students the appropriate Dharma Door to match with their potential. For example, Chan should be taught to those with deep roots. In contrast, for people with shallow roots like us, it’s better to recite the Buddha’s name and hope for rebirth as soon as possible, because we are unlikely to be enlightened this time around. By the way, the converse also applies to Pure Land practitioners: those with superior roots should also be taught Chan instead of sticking soley with Pure Land. Why is it so difficult to accomplish Chan Let’s elaborate a little bit on ending birth and death. It’s not easy because we must be able to let go of everything that is precious to us: our money, car, house, jewelry, dog, children, wife etc... Whoever can do that, please raise your hand. <Today no one raised their hand.> If you have any attachment to any worldly thing, how can you expect to be able to transcend this world
Let me tell you a story.
In a prior life, Shakyamuni Buddha was born as the son of the emperor’s chaplain. He grew up and learned all the arts and knowledge. The emperor was very fond of him and appointed him to succeed his father as the emperor’s chaplain and bestowed upon him riches and honors. The emperor was most fond of his number one concubine. It turns out that our young chaplain was also smitten by her incomparable beauty. Think about it, this is the emperor’s girlfriend. We are not supposed to look at her long enough to fall in love with her! The young chaplain’s rivals in the court found out and quick-ly reported it to the emperor. So the emperor called in the young chaplain and asked him if the rumors were true. The young man said, “She is so irre-sistible!” What do you think the emperor did Someone said that he ordered his attendant to drag the young lad and lop off his head for this outrageous behavior. No. The emperor appreciated the chaplain’s honesty which is actually a compliment on the emperor’s impeccable taste. So the emperor said, “I understand. I allow you to spend sev-en days with her to find out for yourself.”
The young chaplain needed no more urging. He grabbed her by the hand and ran away. Time was of the essence. It turned out that the emperor’s favorite concubine fell for the young man’s fervor and passion. They therefore decided to elope together. Imagine how the emperor felt! He lost the most lovely person that he secretly cherished more than riches or kingdom. Fur-thermore, his most trusted chaplain betrayed him in spite of the emperor’s favors. So, the emperor became severely depressed. He neglected all the state affairs. His aides became alarmed and came up with a ruse. They organized a fair close to the emperor’s palace.
As the emperor happened to see the noise and commotion from his windows, he noticed a performer swallowing a razor sharp sword down his throat. That piqued his curiosity. He therefore turned around and asked the Prime Minister, “That is a most remarkable feat. Is there anything more difficult than that” The Prime Minister replied that he wasn’t sure. He then called in the new chaplain who said, “ es, Sire. It is much more difficult to give the most precious thing that you own.” This brought color back to the emperor’s face because he could identify with that degree of difficulty. He then asked, “Is there anything else more difficult than giving away your most cherished possession”
The chaplain replied, “It is much more difficult to give away your most treasured possession and feel no regret.” This cured the emperor. Speaking of security: ALL inhabitants of the Pure Land can attain Buddhahood in one single lifetime! This is explained in the Avatamsaka Sutra, chapter 39, “Entering the Dharma Realm.” Good Wealth Bodhisattva first met with Manjushri to learn basic wisdom .
He then visited the next 52 Good Knowing Advisers to learn separate wisdom . The very last adviser was Universal Worthy Bodhisattva, who told him to go to the Western Bliss Pure Land in order to per-fect all the causes for accomplishing Buddhahood in one life time. This is why the merit and virtue accrued from the first ten limitless practices of Universal Worthy Bodhisattva are then all dedicated toward seeking rebirth to the Pure land. So far, the sutra has elaborated the wonders of the Pure Land and the benefits it brings to the countless beings who are cul-tivating there. This helps bring forth the faith. Next the Bud-dha urges us to make the vow to be reborn there. Question: There are so many Bodhisattva Mahasattvas who are close to accomplishing Buddhahood. Why only mention GuanYin and Great Strength as the next Buddhas and not mention the others Answer: The Dharma Realm has infinite Buddhalands. As Buddhas enter Nirvana, there must be infinite successors. Furthermore, they take over not only in the Western Pure Land but also in other Buddhalands. Even with only two suc-cessors, we still cannot conceive of the end of their tenure! Sutra Text: Shariputra, those living beings who hear of this should vow: I wish to be born in that country.
And why Those who thus attain are all superior and good people, all gath-ered in one place. Shariputra, those with few good roots, blessings, and virtues, cannot be born in that land. Sutra Commentary: Shariputra, those living beings who hear of this should vow: I wish to be born in that country. And why We should believe in Amitabha’s inconceivable vow power. Our cultivation power can come about from deeply believing in that Buddha’s merit and virtue. Reciting his name will enable us to utilize his power. We should have deep faith. Then we can make great vows. His vow powers are truly inconceiva-ble. Indeed, it was in virtue of the power of Amitabha’s vows that the Western Bliss Pure Land was created. The key here is to have deep faith. If we can unite faith with vows, then it is like having a compass that points to the Western Pure Land. If one has no faith or belief, no amount of practice can bring about rebirth.
If faith and vows are solid then the chances of reciting the Buddha’s name ten times with one mind uncon-fused are pretty high. If you hold on to his name, then even though the wind blows, it cannot penetrate, even when it rains you cannot get wet. The recitation practice can be like a wall of metal providing us protection. With such solid samadhi power, one cannot possibly fail to obtain rebirth. The sutras say that, at the time of death, all of our roots disin-tegrate. Even our retinues, power and influence, elephants, horses and rare jewels are of no use. Only the vow king re-mains and will not desert us, guiding us forward such that, in the span of a ksana, we can obtain rebirth to the Western Bliss Pure Land. Question: How do I obtain that vow king Answer: I’m not sure because I have not obtained rebirth yet.
I believe that it takes making the vow for rebirth repeatedly. Each time, we have to mean it a little bit more. We need to be more sincere each time. Eventually, when we do it long enough, it becomes a vow king. This is why you notice that every time we cultivate, we keep on making the vow for rebirth. Good luck! Even Equal Enlightenment Bodhisattvas in the ten directions make the vow for rebirth to the West, so you can imagine how much more important it is for ordinary folks like us! Manjushri’s short verse on seeking rebirth is quite to the point, “I vow that at the end of life, I’ll be able to sever all afflictions, see Amitabha Buddha, and be reborn into the
Peace and Bliss Buddhaland.” Hurry up and make such a vow! Time is of the essence.
Those who thus attain are all superior and good people, all gathered in one place. Shariputra, those with few good roots, blessings, and virtues, cannot be born in that land. Superior and good people: like GuanYin, Great Strength Bodhisattva and other Equal Enlightenment Bodhisattvas! In that land, ordinary people and sages all gather and cultivate together. Those who hear of this Dharma Door and are able to bring forth the wish to be reborn there have a great amount of bless-ings. Can you make that vow If you cannot yet, continue to accrue your blessings. When you have accumulated enough blessings, you too will be able to make the vow.
People with superior roots are the good within the good. The great Shastra mentions five types of Bodhi mind: 1. Bringing Forth Bodhi Mind In particu-lar, within the sea of innumerable births and deaths, one can bring forth the mind for Great Bodhi. One can hold the Buddha’s name with one’s mortal mind and give rise to great awakening. 2. Subduing Bodhi By severing all afflic-tions, one can subdue one’s mind. In fact, it is through reciting the Buddha’s name that proper mindfulness can have the chance to manifest and afflictions will ex-tinguish themselves.
3. Clear Mind Bodhi One clearly under-stands that all dharmas are not outside the one mind, and that holding the Buddha’s name is through that mind, enabling one to clearly understand the true mark. 4. Escape Bodhi This refers to attaining the Patience of Non-production, transcending the Tri-ple Realm and arriving at the Buddha’s fruition. In fact, holding his name can unlock the Three Patiences, allowing one to horizontally transcend birth and death and unfold the Buddha’s wisdom. 5. Unsurpassed Bodhi This is also called sitting in the great bodhimanda and certifying to the supreme proper enlightenment.
Holding the Buddha’s name can help obtain non-regression and directly ac-complish Buddhahood. Superior blessings are blessings within blessings. The phrase ‘Amitabha Buddha’ is replete with the 10,000 virtues. Recite his name until one mind becomes unscattered and not upside-down. Then naturally the six paramitas are accomplished, because when one attains the Buddha recitation samadhi with one mind unconfused:
1. One is free from jealousy and greed: That is the giving paramita.
2. One is devoid of all evil: That is the precept paramita.
3. One has no anger or resentment: That is the patience paramita.
4. One has no thoughts of laziness: That is the vigor par-amita.
5. One’s mind no longer moves: That is the samadhi par-amita.
6. One is free from stupidity and darkness: That is the wisdom paramita.
The Vajra sutra says that Bodhisattvas dwell on no mark while practicing giving. That is why their blessings and vir-tue are countless. This is just blessings within blessings. In the Western Bliss Pure Land, we are born from transfor-mation on a lotus flower. There are no relatives or family, only Dharma Door retinues. Amitabha Buddha helps de-crease birth and death and increase the Way. Our Saha reti-nues, whether supportive or obstructive, are all just a gather-ing of enemies. Some are soft enemies, as when we mutually love each other. For instance, when you love me and I love you, then you do not allow me the chance to escape the Triple Realm and are thus a soft enemy who binds me up with the love rope. Others are powerful or hard enemies like our cred-itors such as evil friends, evil officials, evil thieves, including evil retinues. These hard enemies obstruct our Way karma and will not allow us to engage in pure practices. When things are as one wishes, we should contemplate them as a dream, an illusion, a bubble or a reflection. When things are not as one wishes, such as when one is slighted or slan-dered, it is due to offenses committed in the past. One should have fallen to the evil paths and deserves to be slighted. En-during it extinguishes the prior offenses and will enable one to attain Anuttara-Samyak-Sambodhi.
Therefore, one should refrain from blaming or reproaching others. Retributions will go away by themselves. Before you are reborn to the Pure Land, if you cannot contemplate retributions as such, you can still recite the Buddha’s name. If we can single-mindedly re-cite the Buddha’s name, when we see demons or freaks, we will not be shocked or moved and they will destroy them-selves. Question: Maitreya’s heavenly palace is incredibly blissful, and full of great co-cultivators, so why do you advise living beings to go to the distant Western Bliss Pure Land Answer: The Tushita Inner Court is far superior to the human realm. However, compared to the Western Pure Land, it is not as desirable. The Pure Land has ten advantages while the Tushita Heaven palace has ten disadvantages. The following are the ten advantages of the Western Pure Land has : 1
. The host: Amitabha is the host Buddha.
2. Long lifespan: It is limitless.
3. Land: The Pure Land is not realm bound (as opposed to the Saha world where we are bound by the Triple Realm). 4. No desire: We are free of afflictions. 5. There are no women or children. 6. There is non-retreat in cultivation.
7. It is not defiled: The environment is totally pure.
8. It is extremely adorned.
9. If we are mindful of the Buddha, he will help bring us to his country.
10. Reciting his name ten times can ensure rebirth.
Maitreya’s heavenly palace has ten disadvantages :
1. Land: It is limited.
2. Lifespan: is much shorter than that in the Pure Land.
3. It is realm bound: It is still part of the Triple Realm.
4. It is a heaven where there still is desire.
5. Both men and women co-habit.
6. The practice is not free from retreat.
7. It is defiled.
8. It certainly is not as adorned as the Pure Land.
9. Good thought gathers sentient beings versus relying on assistance from Amitabha Buddha’s vow power.
10. Cultivation is a lot more arduous and not free from suffering.
A butcher was on his death bed. He could see all the cattle that he killed in his life time coming to make claims on him, making his face distort in terror. He asked his wife to seek out help. She asked some monks for advice. They informed him that his karmic debts were so heavy that only reciting Amitabha’s name could help. So he began to recite. Pretty soon, he said that all the oxen and cows were gone. He was told to continue to recite. He did and asked his wife to give him some incense to hold as an offering to Amitabha. Pretty soon, he said, “Amitabha has come,” and passed away with a smile on his face. This is a case of having enough blessings so that at the end of life, one can encounter a Good Knowing Adviser who can teach one about the Pure Land Dharma Door. Lacking any of the three requisites for rebirth, you will not obtain rebirth.
There is another anecdote. A man committed offenses all his life. At death, he was supposed to fall to the hells to undergo punishment. His left hand held a fire source and his right hand held incense sticks. He faced the west and recited Amitabha’s name. He had not yet finished ten recitations but exclaimed that the Buddha arrived on a jeweled dais. As he finished saying it, he passed away. This is from his prior life’s blessings, which made it possible for him, in this life, to encounter a Good Knowing Adviser, bring forth the faith and recite the Buddha’s name in earnest and thus obtain rebirth. Furthermore, the Large Sutra also emphasizes that making the Bodhi vow, in particular the four great vows, is crucial for obtaining rebirth. To reiterate, the four great vows are:
1) Sentient beings are limitless, I vow to cross them over.
2) Afflictions are inexhaustible, I vow to cut them off.
3) The Dharma Doors are immeasurable, I vow to learn them all.
4) The Buddha Way is unsurpassable, I vow to realize it.
After making the vow for rebirth, it is critical to uphold the Buddha’s name. Each recitation eradicates all sorts of false thinking. Question: The Chan practitioner neither recites the Buddha’s name nor seeks rebirth. Does it mean that that individual has less good and fewer blessings Answer: Such individuals may possess lofty understanding and superior knowledge but may not be able to end birth and death this lifetime. They are much better off going for rebirth in such cases. Otherwise, their great blessings cannot free them from the wheel of reincarnation. In the future, their blessings will give them wealth, power and the ability to in-dulge in desires that are not ultimate. Patriarch YongMing said that, of those who practice Chan without Pure Land, 9 out of 10 will go astray . When the yin states manifest, confusing us, we cannot help but fol-low along. Please choose your practice carefully! Question: Recite the Buddha’s name ten times and obtain re-birth, so says the sutra. Why does it say that, “Those with few good roots, blessings, and virtues, cannot be born in that land” Answer: Have you tried reciting his name ten times as you were dying It is not that easy!
The proof is that if you did try before, you failed because you are still revolving in the wheel. Better prepare now: without delay practice reciting his name and increase your chances of rebirth. Question: It is said that reciting the Buddha’s name generates many good roots, blessings and virtues. Can you cite any su-tras that support this view Answer: I’ll quote two references: 1. The Great Compassion Sutra states that to recite the Buddha’s name once is to have good roots that are endless and that can help one enter the Great Nirvana.
2. The Praising the Merit and Virtues of the Buddhas Su-tra tells us that those who get to hear of the Infinite Life Buddha’s name and can sin-gle-mindedly maintain, recite and be mindful of it, can obtain blessings that are simply countless. They will always leave the three evil paths. At the end of their lives, they will obtain rebirth to his country. Revealing recitaRevealing recitaRevealing recita Revealing recita Revealing recita Revealing recita Revealing recitation merits to show tion merits to show tion merits to show tion merits to show tion merits to show tion merits to show tion merits to show tion merits to show tion merits to show tion merits to show tion merits to show cultivation path cultivation path cultivation path cultivation path cultivation path Sutra Text:
Shariputra, if there is a good man or good woman who hears of Amitabha and holds his name whether for one day, two days, three, four, five days, six days, as long as seven days with one mind unconfused, when this person nears the end of life, before him will appear Amitabha and all the Assembly of Holy Ones. When the end comes, his mind will be without inversion, and in Amitabha's Land of Utmost Bliss he will attain rebirth. Shariputra, because I see this benefit, I speak these words; if living be-ings hear this teaching they should make the vow: I wish to born in that land. Sutra Commentary: Shariputra, if there is a good man or good woman who hears of Amitabha and holds his name whether for one day, two days, three, four, five days, six days, as long as
seven days with one mind unconfused, when this person nears the end of life, before him will appear Amitabha and all the Assembly of Holy Ones. The previous section exhorts us to make the vow for rebirth. In this section, we are exhorted to start reciting the Buddha’s name, just as, when we want to start on a journey, we need to start by taking steps. A good man or good woman holds the five precepts and practices the ten good deeds.
They tend to draw near the sangha to assist in their work. Speaking about men and women and the discernment of gen-ders, the Pure Name Sutra relates a sto-ry: Shariputra followed Manjushri to visit the Elder Vimala-kirti. He asked a heavenly girl who was scattering flowers in Vimalakirti’s room, “Why did you not change out of your female body” She replied, “For the last twenty years, I have realized that seeking the marks female body cannot be ob-tained. What is there that can be changed It’s as if a magician made an illusory woman and someone asked her, ‘Why don’t you change out of your female body’ Is that man’s question legitimate” Shariputra replied, “It is not!
The illusion has no fixed mark. Therefore what is there to change” The heavenly maiden said, “All dharmas are such, and have no fixed marks. Why do you still ask about not changing out of the female body ” Then the heavenly lady used her spiritual powers to change Shariputra to look just like her, and herself to look like just like Shariputra, asking, “Why not change your female body” Shariputra, who now looked like a heavenly maiden replied, “I do not know how I changed into a female body.” The heavenly being said,
“Shariputra, if this female body can be changed then all fe-male bodies can also be changed. Just as you, Shariputra, are not female but appear as female, soo too all women are just like that. Although appearing as women, they are not fe-males. That is why the Buddha said that all the dharmas are neither male nor female.” Good people, whether men or women, have good roots: To have good roots would tend to put us on the Path for Bodhi. Bodhi bridges both cause and effect. One should also prac-tice various forms of path aiding Dharmas (aiding in accom-plishing the Way) such as giving, precepts, and the cultivation of blessings and virtues. Such path aiding Dharmas help one’s seeds for Bodhi to mature. The Two Vehicles have few good Bodhi roots.
The Gods and humans create blessings with outflows. Those with few blessings and virtues, although cultivating the paramitas, tend to seek human and heavenly blessings and bliss. They have not penetrated to the unconditioned, and have not yet attained non-outflow. In short, those with few good roots cannot ob-tain rebirth to the Pure Land. As for the blessings amongst the blessings: one can consider this to be the Buddha’s name which is replete with the 10,000 virtues. Those, whether male or female, young or old, from the six paths or four births (womb, egg, moisture or transfor-mation), if they can hear of the Buddha’s name, they have ac-crued goods roots for many kalpas. Without good roots, one will never get to hear of his name. For example, when Shakyamuni Buddha was in the world, he spent a lot of time
in the capital city of Sravasti which had 900,000 inhabitants. Amongst them:
1/3 saw the Buddha and listen to the Dharma.
1/3 heard the Buddha’s name, but never met him.
1/3 did not even hear of him.
The Avatamsaka Sutra underscores the importance of speak-ing Dharma. It says that if no one speaks the Buddhadharma for us, although we may have wisdom, we will not be able to understand nor will we be able to end suffering. That is why the sutra states that the causes and conditions for rebirth must include all three requisites of faith, vows and practice. With faith in Amitabha’s vow and practice power, one makes a vow for rebirth and then recites his name. Recit-ing his name time after time creates unsurpassed blessings and virtues. The objective of the practice is to reach the state of having one mind unconfused. If one is able to do so, then one will obtain inconceivable blessings and virtues, and at the end of one’s life, one will receive help from the Buddha and the as-sembly of sages. Furthermore, to have literary wisdom is to hear and then have faith and make the vow. To have contem-plative wisdom is to be able to recite the Buddha’s name while being mindful of him, thought after thought without in-terruption. One day, two days, three, four, five days, six days, as long as seven days with one mind unconfused. Those with sharp roots can obtain the Buddha recitation samadhi within one day. Those with dull roots may need seven days or more be- fore entering samadhi. Middle roots will be somewhere in between.
The other texts differ with respect to the length of time and the Dharmas recommended in order to obtain the Buddha rec-itation samadhi. The Large Sutra states that lay people should eat a vegetarian diet and maintain precepts purely for ten days and nights, sin-gle-mindedly reciting the Buddha’s name the whole time without interruption, and without even taking a break to sleep. These people will obtain rebirth in the Pure Land. The Drum Sound King Sutra also refers to ten days of cultivation. If we can receive and uphold the Bud-dha’s name, make our mind firm and durable, and can be mindful and not forget the Buddha’s name for ten days and nights and expel all scatteredness, then we will certainly see Amitabha Buddha. The Great Collection Sutra refers to 49 days of practice.
If we can single-mindedly be mindful of (any) Bud-dha’s name, whether sitting or standing, for 49 days, and if we can see the Buddha while in samadhi, then we will obtain rebirth this lifetime. The Ordinary Vessel Samadhi Sutra mentions 90 days of cultivation. If we vow to stand and sit for 90 days (half standing and half sitting) with one mind earnestly recit- ing the whole time , we will enter samadhi and be able to see Amitabha.
The Manjushri Prajna Sutra also talks about 90 days of cultivation . If we can sit upright for 90 days facing west, and single-mindedly be mindful of the Buddha, then we will be able to enter samadhi when our gongfu becomes deep.
In brief, one’s gongfu has to be deep enough, whether for one day or only for ten single-minded repetitions, to obtain help from Buddha . The Large Sutra says that Dharma Treasury Bhikshu vowed that those who can recite his name with one mind, even only for one day and night without interruption, will definitely ob-tain rebirth in his land. As for lay people who tend to be pressed for time, if they can sit upright, facing west, and recite his name for ten breaths every morning and night, they too can obtain rebirth. The Buddha Recitation Dharma is such that if we can be sin-gle-minded, whether for a long time or a very short time, then we can be reborn in the Western Bliss Pure Land. Furthermore, the Contemplating the Buddha Samadhi Sutra says that accomplishing the Buddha recita-tion samadhi has five causes and conditions:
1. Holding precepts without any violations .
2. Not giving rise to deviant views .
3. Not flattering, not being arrogant .
4. Not getting angry, not getting jealous .
5. Being valiant and vigorous .
This Buddha recitation samadhi is also called one mind un-confused. One mind has the following aspects:
One: only, purely one. Not two or more.
Single-mindedly focusing on the Buddha’s name.
The mind is not mixed or scattered.
Both mouth and mind recite.
If not scattered then it is called one mind.
No false thinking.
To attain samadhi.
Question: How can I recite Buddha's name in order to obtain great benefits
Answer: Recite with absolute deadly determination.
Question: What is deadly determination
Answer: Just do it and you will know. If you do it then you will understand. It cannot be easily described. However, it doesn't hurt to try explaining.
The mind is fundamentally agile, magical and able. So how can we have deadly determination Just stop dwelling on love, fame, money, etc., and instead concentrate on reciting the Buddha's name. The ancients have a saying: “Get to the point of putting false-thinking to death and seek to obtain life for the Dharma body.” For example, the thief who can put an end to his stealing mind can become a proper person. If the mind is really dead, who is reciting Buddha's name Reciting the Buddha’s name can be classified into two as-pects: 1) Phenomenon : After hearing of the Pure Land Dharma, one brings forth deep faith without skepti-cism. One recites single-mindedly, clearly, thought af-ter thought, whether sitting, standing, lying down or walking. There is no other thought but the Buddha’s name.
Though there is only one thought, one has not yet penetrated the noumenon. If one can maintain the Buddha’s name this way, one can sever all afflictions and do away with view and thought delusions. One can then be reborn to the first two types of Pure Lands: Ordinary and Sages Cohabit-ing and the Pure Land of Expedients. Phenomenon recitation can also be elaborated in light of the Four Complete Givings. Listening to Shakya-muni speak, we bring forth deep belief and make a vow for rebirth. We then practice and experience bliss from our practice; this is the happiness benefit. Simul- taneously, we plant seeds of goodness; this is the goodness benefit and gives rise to a sense of abhor-rence for the turbidities, which is the destroying evil benefit. Ultimately, we enter the principles and be-come enlightened; this is the entering the profound principles benefit.
2) Noumenon : As above, one recites to the utmost until one enters emptiness. One then is able to under-stand that outside of the mind that recites, there is no Buddha. And outside of the Buddha, there is no mind that can recite. Mind and Buddha are one and the same, one same substance. One recites and yet does not recite. Conversely, one does not recite and yet re-cites, thus penetrating the principles. At this stage, one is no longer confused by the two extremes of existence and emptiness. One can continue to recite until one sees one’s own Buddha nature. We can then be reborn into the latter two types of Pure Lands: The Actual Reward Without Obtructions and Permanently Still and Bright Pure Lands. Noumenon recitation is attained after phenomenon recitation is attained. According to the Bringing Forth the Faith Shastra, recitation can be done with three types of mind:
1) Straight mind : One is properly mindful of True Suchness, without confusion, and falls neither into ex-istence recitation ( if there is a Buddha one cannot dwell there!) nor into non-existence recitation ( if there is no Buddha then quickly walk on). One should attach to neither existence nor non-existence, but rather stay in the Middle Way.
2) Deep mind : To enjoy accruing all good dharmas and cultivate all the six paramitas and 10,000 Dhar-mas. Such a mind is without confusion. The sutras say that of all the good, mind comes first. Maintain goodness in your mind and all the other Dharmas will follow.
3) Great compassion mind : To obtain samadhi and widely cross over all living beings. The Buddha recitation is both a gradual and a sudden Dharma Door. The Manjushri Prajna Sutra says, “The Buddha told Manjush-ri, ‘If you wish to enter the One Conduct Samadhi , you should dwell in secluded and deserted places, renounce the chaotic mind, not grasp at marks and appearances, anchor your mind on one Buddha and single-mindedly recite his name. You should also sit upright facing west. If you can continuously be mindful of that one Buddha, then you will be able to see all the Buddhas of the past, present and future.” To be mindful of one Buddha’s merit and virtue is no differ-ent from being mindful of all the Buddhas’ merit and virtue: it is identical. The Dharma that Ananda heard is limitless. If one obtains the One Conduct Samadhi then all sutras and Dharma Doors can be known and differentiated, and can be understood. One can speak and proclaim them day and night. One’s wisdom and eloquence will be truly inexhaustible.
Furthermore, if you recite the Buddha’s name, there is no need to do contemplation. The contemplation Dharma is pro-found and subtle whereas the minds of living beings are scat-tered. However, it is difficult to accomplish the contempla-tion Dharma using a scattered mind. That is why the Con-templation Sutra lists out the sixteenth contemplation as recit-ing the Buddha’s name. In addition, if we recite the Buddha’s name, there is no need to investigate a topic. We only need to take that Buddha’s name as if it were a raft being used to cross the ocean. We dare not let go of it, even for the briefest of an instant. Our mouth recites and our mind focuses. Each syllable originates from the mind and is enunciated by the mouth. Our mind is clear and bright, not murky and not scattered. There are also two more analogies.
First, to recite the Buddha’s name is like a cat watching a mouse. Its spirit is totally aroused and its hair stands on end. Secondly, reciting the Buddha’s name is like a chicken hatching its eggs. The hen puts down all other thoughts, totally oblivious to thirst or hunger. If you can re-cite like this, although it’s phenomenon recitation, not only can you be assured of rebirth, but you are also bound to awaken to the principles as well. As Kong Gu Chan Master said, “There is no need to investigate who is reciting the Bud-dha’s name. Directly strive for becoming single-minded and one day you’ll be enlightened.”
Moreover, if you can recite the Buddha’s name and investi-gate, then it is called Pure Land and Chan parallel cultivation. We are not neglecting phenomenon or noumenon recitation. Rather, it’s like riding a boat to the west, in that we rely both on rowing with oars (Chan) as well as wind power (recitation). ong Ming Shou Chan Master said, “With Pure Land and Chan together, it’s like a tiger with horns: this life one is a teacher of men and, in the future, one will become a patriarch.” However, when investigating, there is no need to investigate another topic. One only needs to look at the Buddha’s name.
While reciting the Buddha’s name one should contemplate that outside of the mind that can recite (subject), there is no Buddha that is recited (object), and outside of the Buddha be-ing recited (object), there is no mind that can recite (subject). Both subject and object disappear, and the marks of the self and Buddha merge. If you say that they exist, then the mind that can recite is apart from form and severed from marks; and one understands that the Buddha being recited cannot be obtained. If you say that they are empty, then the mind that can recite is nimble and not murky; and the Buddha that is recited is clear, distinctive and bright. Both existence and emptiness are not separate and mind and Buddha are of one substance. If one investigates like this, then reciting the Buddha’s name can be called Real Mark recitation. Although, of the four kinds of recitation of the Buddha’s name, the latter forms are more profound than the earlier ones, when noumenon recita-tion is accomplished, then the earlier forms are connected di-rectly to the latter ones.
When the end comes, his mind will be without inversion, and in Amitabha's Land of Utmost Bliss he will attain re-birth. The people who have attained the Buddha recitation samadhi will be able see the Buddha come to greet them. This is self-power. Furthermore, the Large Sutra states that Dharma Store Bhikshu vowed that when he becomes a Bud-dha, the Gods and humans in all the worlds of the ten direc-tions who have already brought forth the Bodhi mind, culti-vated all sorts of merit and virtues, and made the vow to be reborn in the land of Utmost Bliss will, at their death, see the Buddha and the Assembly of Sages come and bring them back to the Pure Land. This is others-power. Depending on the level of their self-power, they get reborn to one of the four Pure Lands: 1. Sages and Commoners Cohabiting Pure Land: these people have not yet subdued self-attachment.
2. Expedients Pure Land with Residues: reserved for those accomplished practitioners of the Two Vehicles. 3. Actual Reward Adorned Pure Land: for the Bodhisatt-vas who are no longer attached to emptiness or exist-ence. 4. Permanently Still Bright Pure Land: when one is total-ly free from ignorance. What evidences do we have After death, the body becomes cold from the two feet on up, the top of the head being the last portion to cool off, as the eighth consciousness leaves through there.
Those with superior roots have no need to go through an Intermediate Skandha body, but rather can be reborn to the Pure Land in an instant, in a single thought, on a lotus dais by transformation. One is reborn into various grades depending on one’s level of gongfu and blessings. Note that there is no need to do the three contemplations, just recite the Buddha’s name! There is an old saying that gives us clues about our rebirth realms: “.” The last part of the body to remain warm gives some indication as to where we will be reborn.
Top of the head:
Birth to the Buddhas’ Pure Lands.
Eyes/forehead: Birth into the Heavens.
Heart: Birth to the Human realm.
Stomach: Falling to the Hungry Ghosts realm.
Knees: Falling to the Animal realm.
Bottom of the feet: Sinking down to the hells.
Question: Since the Contemplation Sutra emphasizes con-templation, why did we say that there is no need to contem-plate Answer: The answer also comes from the very same sutra, which describes various forms of contemplation (like the Re-ward body described in the Amitabha’s praise verse) that per-haps the ordinary people would have a hard time cultivating to success. The thirteenth contemplation describes an “inferi-or image ” contemplation (eight foot golden body ). However, those with heavy karmic ob-structions cannot succeed at this Dharma. Hence the six-teenth contemplation teaches the recitation Dharma which is very suitable for our Dharma Ending Age when living beings’ karmic obstructions are particularly heavy. The Contemplation Sutra’s lower grade rebirth chapter states that even a stupid man, if he can encounter a Good Knowing Adviser at the end of his life who urges him to recite the Buddha’s name, and if he can recite ten full times with utmost sincerity and without interruption, then each reci-tation will eradicate eighty hundred million eons of birth and death offenses. After his death, he will see a golden lotus as big as the sun appear in front of him and in the space of a thought, he will obtain rebirth.
Although in the Dharma Ending Age living beings may have dull roots, they are nonetheless still replete with their Buddha nature. The Buddha’s image and Amitabha’s name are not beyond the mind. It is the mind that creates the Buddha im-age . That mind is the Buddha . It is that mind that creates the Buddha’s name . That mind is the Buddha’s name . The sutra says that all the Thus Come Ones are the body of the Dharma Realm. They enter all living beings’ minds and thoughts. Therefore, when we think of the Buddha, that mind is just the 32 hall-marks and eighty subtle characteristics. That mind creates the Buddha .
That mind is the Buddha . Question: Why should we contemplate the hua tou, “Who is reciting the Buddha’s name” as taught by the Patriarchs Answer: It is taught to us out of compassion and it provides another means to help us suddenly awaken from our stupor to the Amitabha Buddha of our self-nature. Question: How does one know that Amitabha’s appearance is not a demon Answer: When his image appears without reciting the Bud-dha’s name, that is definitely a demon. The Shurangama Su-tra states, “If the demons come while you are cultivating Sa-matha and Vipasyana , then rinse your mind of deviant views.” That’s why the Chan school has a dictum, “, : if the demons come, cut their heads off; if the Buddha comes, cut his head off.”
Question: Reciting seven days without inversion, that’s dur-ing our life time
Question: Afterwards, if again one gives rise to confusion and creates offenses, can one still be reborn Answer: Afterwards, one does not give rise to confusion in one’s mind. At least, one can learn to perfect the skill to enter that Buddha recitation samadhi that will make one impervious to afflictions, praise or slander, gain or loss, and good or evil, etc. One then will be able to restrain oneself from giving rise to delusions and creating offenses. In the Large Sutra, the Ten Recitations Dharma says that eve-ry day in the early morning, one rinses one’s mouth, offers incense to the four directions, puts one’s hands together and makes ten recitations, each in one breath. One also recites during the day . A person who can thus recite in the morning and evening ten times, will obtain re-birth. There is a saying: “; Do not wait until old age to study the Way; half of the solitary tombs are for young people.” If one does not practice beforehand, the odds of achieving ten recitations without con-fusion at the time of death are not very good.
Question: The Western Bliss Pure Land is hundreds of thou-sands of billions of lands away, how can one be reborn there Answer: It is only as far as a single thought. Such is also the power of the Buddha. This is just like when the sun illumi-nates the earth—large spans are lit in the space of a thought.
Why do we need all three requisites to obtain rebirth To have faith alone is not true faith. To make vows but not be-lieve or recite is not to make true vows. Practice alone is not true practice. In fact, there are no definite distinctions be-tween the three. All three are just one. Although the Contemplation Sutra states that, at the time of death, if one valiantly and sincerely recites ten times, each recitation can erase the offenses of eighty hundred million kalpas of lifetimes, one can obtain the same result at normal times too! Like the bright sun that can dispel the darkness, each recitation’s wisdom light can erase one’s stupidity karmas.
Question: If we recite with a scattered mind, can it still erase karmas or not Answer: The Buddha’s name contains inconceivable power and can certainly erase karmas. But to recite with a scattered mind may not result in rebirth. This is because of having in-adequate power to overcome karmic obstructions that have been accumulating since beginningless time. Such poor reci-tation skill does not have enough force to break those bonds that still bind us back.
On the other hand, remember the anecdote of the 80 year old man who only recited the Buddha’s name once He did it with a scattered mind and yet when the causes and conditions ripened, he too was crossed over. Imagine how much more effective recitation can be when one is single-minded! In fact, if our past karmas had form, all of empty space would not be enough to contain them. Even if one were to recite 100,000 times day for one hundred years, and if each recita-tion eradicated the offenses from 80 hundred million eons of lifetimes, if the eradicated offenses were just like a melon, the remaining ones would be like the earth by comparison.
Confucius’ famous disciple an Hui would not mentally contradict humaneness for three months straight. He is the only one who could do it while the rest of the disciples could not. Similarly, those who practice reciting the Buddha’s name should be able to recite the Buddha’s name with one set of recitation beads (108 beads) without any false thoughts in between. That is what Yan Hui could surely do. Being sin-gle-minded and having no false thinking is called having good roots and causes and conditions . Shariputra, because I see this benefit, I speak these words; The MahaNirvana Sutra says that the Buddha has certified to the eight self-masteries of the I: 1. He can have transformation bodies as many as dust motes. 2. He can appear in all of the Dharma Realm.
3. His great body can levitate and fly to Buddhalands as numerous as Ganges sands.
4. He can manifest the forms of numberless living beings and yet still be at one place.
5. His six roots (sense organs) have attained self-mastery such that one root can be used interchangeably with any other root. 6. He has obtained all Dharmas and yet does not think that any Dharma has been attained. 7. He can speak Dharma with self-mastery, such that the meaning remains valid even after limitless kalpas. 8. He can go everywhere and yet cannot be seen, like emptiness. He is replete with the Five Eyes, so that he can “see the bene-fits.”
He can see all the ultimate Dharma true marks. “Benefit”: refers to the absence of confusion; one can clearly understand. In particular, it refers to the benefit of horizontal-ly escaping Samsara, getting rebirth in the Western Bliss Pure Land and certifying to the three non-retreats. In brief, “bene-fit” refers to the advantages coming from inconceivable mer-its and virtues. This is at the noumenon level. At the phenomenon level, “benefit” refers to the fact that at death one is able to rely on a lifetime of recitation power (self-power) and Amitabha’s power to attain a mind without inversion. This is the great benefit. Because of this lack of inversion, one can be reborn to the Land of Utmost Bliss, leave suffering and attain bliss, and end birth and death. In fact, at the end of life, at this critical moment, it is very hard to remain in control. The thinking mind (the sixth conscious- ness) is no longer working, and hence one’s habit energies swell up from the eighth consciousness.
This experience is often very chaotic. That is why practitioners of the Pure Land Dharma Door must cultivate both blessings and wisdom and make the vow for rebirth. At the end of life, naturally one’s mind will be free from inversion and will seek the three bless-ings, wisdom and rebirth. The first two are aiding causes for rebirth. The Shurangama Sutra says that “pure thought (; mean-ing purely good thoughts and no evil) will fly : at the end of life, one will surely be born into the heavens. Moreo-ver, if the ascending mind is already replete with the three seekings of blessings , wisdom , and pure vows , then naturally the mind will open up , and one will see the Buddhas of the ten directions and be re-born to the Pure Lands. On the other hand, if one does not know how to cultivate, or if one cultivates the externalist Dharma Doors and thus ob-tains deviant wisdoms, then one will certainly have no chance for rebirth. As for those who practice Chan without the aid of Pure Land, though they may be free of deviant wisdom they still have no assurance of rebirth. Regardless of whether they have ob-tained shallow or deep samadhi, at death, their habit energies may rise up and get them into trouble.
Even the Arhats and Bodhisattvas have their own confusions. Arhats have the confusion that arises from dwelling in the womb . The Bodhisattvas have the confusion of the separation of the skandhas. When the previous skandhas are extinguished, they go through the in-termediate skandha body and reincarnate in the form of new skandhas, appearing in the world again . Both will be confused about their prior lives. Those who are reborn to the Western Pure Land would not have this kind of problem since they will have the power to remember past lives, and they can attain Buddhahood in one lifetime there. The Buddha can see this and thus urges us to make the vow for rebirth. During the Tang dynasty, at Hui Lin temple, Dharma Master Yuan Ze and Mr. Li Yuan were good friends.
Mr. Li did not work and therefore was often at the temple. One day, they both wished to go visit Mount E Mei . Mr. Li wanted to go through Jing Zhou but Dharma Master Yuan preferred to go through the valley which required going through the capital. Mr. Li had withdrawn from worldly affairs and therefore did not wish to enter the capital. Dharma Master uan yielded to his friend’s wish. One day, their south bound boat ran across a woman fetching water from the river. Dharma Master Yuan cried when he saw the woman. Mr. Li was surprised and inquired. Master Yuan said that the woman had been expecting for three years and that he was three years late in becoming her expectant child. If they had not met with her it would not have mattered, however, since they did meet, the Dharma Master could no longer put it off. The Master wished that his friend would visit the family three days later, saying that there he would would find a newborn baby who would smile at him as proof. Further, the Dharma Master said that thirteen years later, outside of a Tibetan temple in Kang Zhou , they would meet again.
Mr. Li was sad and grieved. Dharma Master Yuan bathed and passed away that night. Three days later, Mr. Li went over to the family. The newborn baby smiled at him. This was the signal that Dharma Master Yuan was reborn in that family. After the Master’s funeral, Mr. Li returned to the temple. Thirteen years later Mr. Li went from Luo Yang to Hang Zhou to attend a meeting. There he ran into a kid tending to buffalos who was reciting a poem: “The vows made from three consecutive lives (past, present and future) are to be resolved ; We used to get together to enjoy the moon and taste the wind, but now it’s no longer sensible to bring it up (nostalgy for old times spent together) . I am ashamed that my old acquaintance has come from so far to see me ; This body is different but my soul is still the same .
Mr. Li asked him, “Master Yuan, are you well” The boy said, “Mr. Li, you are a man of your words indeed! Worldly conditions have not yet ended and that is how we suddenly meet again. One only has to sincerely cultivate without laziness to mutually meet again.” The kid then recited another verse, saying, “Whether it’s the prior body or later body, life is very busy. It would be very sad to speak of the causes and conditions. I have crossed rivers and climbed mountains many times. I now wish to return to my old neighborhood. ” Then he disappeared. Mr. Li returned to the temple. It is not clear whether or not the venerable monk returned to the human realm out of attachment to his best friend or other lofty aspirations. But I hope that you personally will not make the people you love have to come back to the human realm out of concern for you.
They would be much better off in the Western Bliss Pure Land; therefore do your best to help them get there as soon as possible. Master Qing Chan is a great Master of the Chan School. However, although he had the spiritual penetration of knowing his past lives, he still could not break through birth and death, not to mention the rest. Observing someone study the Way, he decided to recite the Buddha’s name, seeking to attain phenomenon and noumenon One Mind Unconfused. He decided to rely on the Buddha’s power to obtain rebirth and no longer relied on his own power alone.
We should also pay heed. He offers a perspective from an insider. If you can end birth and death then rely on your own power. If you cannot then choose other’s help judiciously. Question: If the Buddha is just the mind as previously said, then why do we have to rely on Amitabha’s power and not the Buddha of one’s self-nature Answer: The previous statement referred to the Perfect Sud-den Dharma Door. The Avatamsaka Sutra says that there is no differentiation between Mind, Buddha and living beings. Buddha is inside living beings’ minds. Living beings are just inside the Buddha’s mind. All three are fundamentally of one substance. One cultivates this Dharma Door and certifies to its principles as one attains one mind unconfused. Others are not different from oneself, understand that the other Buddha is just the Buddha of the self-nature.
The ques-tion reflects the fact that this principle is not yet understood, that’s why there still is a differentiation between self and oth-ers. Question: Since living beings’ offenses are numberless, how can reciting the Buddha’s name eradicate obstructions, allow-ing for rebirth to the Western Bliss Pure Land Answer: The shastra says that there are three ways to overcome evil offenses: 1. At the mind : We create offenses with the evil and false mind, when we recite the Buddha’s name with the true mind, the true can expel the false.
2. At the state : We create offenses and attach to upside-down states. Reciting, on the other hand, rides on the superior and wonderful merit and virtue of Amitabha. The superior overwhelms the inferior. 3. At the purity : Although we create offenses with our defiled mind, we recite the Buddha’s name with our pure mind, and this purity cleanses our defile-ments. The Buddha Recitation Dharma Door is an unsurpassed per-fect sudden Dharma Door. Simply recite the Buddha’s name.
There is no need to think and contemplate. Just recite with a straight-forward mind. Beyond sophistry , which nei-ther accords with true principles nor has any true principles, reciting the Buddha’s name severs all mental activities and views . This kind of Dharma Door is also highly recommended by cultivators with superior roots. M Míng , Horse’s Scream, was a Brahmin who was a king for 500 prior lives. He left the home-life and obtained the Dharma under Ven. Punyayaas . At that time, the king of the country wanted to eradicate the delusions of the masses and decided to let seven horses go hungry until the morning of the sixth day. He convened all sramanas and scholars from inside and outside the country to listen to Ma Ming’s Dharma.
All those who were there were awakened. The king tied the hungry horses in front of the assembly with grass. However the seven horses shed tears and refused to eat. Apparently, even the seven horses understood, indicating that the speaker was no ordinary monk. That was how the name Ma Ming came about. He was transmitted the Buddha Mind Seal School and was recognized as its twelfth patriarch. He wrote the Great Vehicle Bringing Forth the Faith Shastra . This says that if one is mindful of the West-ern Pure Land and Amitabha Buddha and dedicates all the merits and virtues from cultivation towards rebirth to that land, one will obtain rebirth, will often see the Buddha and will not regress. If one contemplates Buddha’s Dharma Body, often cultivates vigorously, and dwells in proper sa-madhi, then one will surely be reborn to the Land of Utmost Bliss.
Lóng Shù , or Dragon Tree, Bodhisattva was a tree spir-it. On the tree in which he lived, there were 500 dragons lis-tening to the Dharma. Afterwards, he met with Ven. Kapima-la who gave him a mind seal transmission. The Shurangama Sutra says that a bhikshu with great virtues called Dragon Tree attained the First Ground, the Happiness Ground, and was subsequently reborn to the Western Bliss Pure Land. The mother of Ven. Zhì Zh , Wise One, dreamt of five-colored fragrant incense. When she gave birth to him, the room was filled with a bright light. At the age of seven, he was verbally taught the Universal Door once and could re-cite it from memory. Afterwards, he vowed to be a sramana to spread the Buddhadharma. He met with Hùi S, Wisdom Contmplation, Chan Master who said that they used to listen to the Dharma at Líng Shn, Magic Mountain. One day, he recited the Lotus Sutra up to the chapter “Medicine King Bo-dhisattva’s Story.” When he recited the line, “This is true vigor, this true Dharma offering,” he suddenly entered the Dharma Flower Samadhi and obtained unob-structed wisdom.
He later stayed at mount Tian Tai and propagated that school. He recited the Buddha’s name and entered Stillness. And Great Chan Master Yng Míng, Always Bright, was an official who often liberated lives. He was also called Yán Shòu, or Lengthening Life. One day, he was sentenced to death by the King. As his execution approached, he showed no fear and said, “I’ve already saved limitless living beings. I have no regret now that I must die.” The executioner’s blade broke into three when it touched his neck. The King heard of this and pardoned him. Master Yng Míng, who at that time was still a layman, then brought forth the mind to leave the home-life, studied in the Tian Tai school and specialized in propagating the Pure Land Dharma Door. He entered Still-ness at the age of 72. Later, a monk who was very ill dreamt of King Yama bowing to the image of a monk. He asked who it was that King Yama was bowing to and was informed that it was Master Yng Míng because he was reborn to the supe-rior superior grade. Because King Yama venerated the Mas-ter’s great virtues, he bowed to his image. According to the Large Amitabha Sutra , there are three major grades of rebirth:
1. Superior : This grade is for those who made the resolve for Bodhi, cultivated all sorts of merit and vir-tue, vowed for rebirth, and specialized in reciting the Buddha’s name. At the end of their lives, the Buddha and Bodhisattvas come to greet them and bring them back to the Pure Land. They are born onto a golden lotus dais, obtain irreversibility, have deep wisdom, and possess vast spiritual penetrations and total self-mastery. They dwell in palaces in the sky made of the seven gems. They constantly draw near the Buddha and accomplish both the phenomenon and noumenon recitations .
2. Middle : Those who are born into the middle grade did not cultivate great merit and virtue but did make the resolve for Bodhi. They are reborn with lower wisdom. They accomplish the phenomenon rec-itation but not the noumenon recitation .
3. Lower : As with the middle grade, those of the lower grade did not create merit and virtue but did make the resolve for Bodhi. They specialize in recit-ing up to ten recitations. Their palaces are on the ground. . Again, it is important to revisit the major benefits of the Pure Land Dharma Door that the Buddha sees with his Buddha eyes. While the Arhat is confused at birth and the Bodhisattva is confused while in the womb
, the Pure Land Dharma Door can affect a horizontal escape of the five turbidities, allowing one to immediately obtain irreversibility. Even at the end of a Pure Land cultiva-tor’s life, their mind is unconfused. Their life has not been in vain. These are “without-outflow” benefits. Living beings can carry their karma along with them when they are reborn. This is only because they do not realize that karmas have no real nature. The Shurangama Sutra states that one can sud-denly awaken to the principles but the phenomenon must be cultivated gradually. If living beings hear this teaching they should make the vow: I wish to born in that land. Those who really believe the Buddha’s words should not hesitate and make the vow for rebirth. Next we go into the certification portion of the sutra.
Only the Buddhas can understand the inconceivable merit and virtues of this sutra, that is why it was spoken without request. The Buddhas of the six directions all give such confirmation. Citing Buddhas' praises to Citing Buddhas' praises to Citing Buddhas' praises to Citing Buddhas' praises to Citing Buddhas' praises to Citing Buddhas' praises to Citing Buddhas' praises to severseverseversever one's one's one's one's doubts doubts Sutra Text: Shariputra, just as I now praise the inconceivable benefits arising from the merit and virtue of Amitabha, so too in the east does Akshobya Buddha, Sumeru Appearance Buddha, Great Sumeru Buddha, Sumeru Light Buddha, Wonderful Sound Buddha. All Buddhas such as these, numberless as Ganges' sands, each in his own country, brings forth a vast and long tongue that covers the three thousand great thousand worlds and proclaims these sin-cere and true words: “
All you living beings should believe in this sutra which all the Buddhas praise for its inconceivable merit and virtue, and of which they are protective and mindful.” Sutra Commentary: Shariputra, just as I now praise the inconceivable benefits arising from the merit and virtue of Amitabha, Inconceivable (benefits from Amitabha’s merit and virtue) has five meanings:
1. To horizontally transcend the three realms: There is no need to wait until delusions are ended.
2. The Western Pure Land is replete with the four Pure Lands. All can suddenly certify to the three non-retreats and do not have to gradually certify to them. We can attain Buddhahood in one lifetime.
3. We only need to recite the Buddha’s name: There is no need to do Chan, contemplate or practice other expedi-ent Dharma Doors.
4. For a time period of one to seven days: There is no need to go through many kalpas, many lifetimes, many years or months of cultivation.
5. To recite one Buddha’s name results in having all Buddhas becoming mindful of you. It is just the same as reciting all of their names. All Buddhas share in each other’s merit and virtue, anyway. Amitabha’s merit and virtue are just Shakyamuni’s, or any other Buddha’s. This sutra is certified by all the Buddhas as containing the Pure Land Dharma Door. The sutra then lists out the names of the Buddhas of the six directions who all speak with the same sound, but from different mouths, to praise it.
There-fore, one should not be skeptical and should instead bring forth deep faith. First the east is mentioned because it represents the leader of all movements , symbolizing the spring time when the 10,000 things are born. The Buddhas have limitless virtues and therefore should have limitless names. Names are false names but virtues are real. Their names are either established in accord with living beings , or based on causal practice , fruition virtue , nature, mark, vows or practices. The six directions symbolize all ten directions. So too in the east does Akshobya Buddha, Sumeru Ap-pearance Buddha, Great Sumeru Buddha, Sumeru Light Buddha, Wonderful Sound Buddha Akshobya means “unmoving and eternally dwelling Dharma body.”
His dharma body is unmoving and dwells eternally. ‘Unmoving’ means it cannot be moved by the eight winds, which are so called because they are what worldly people love or hate and hence what makes their minds move. The winds are as follows:
1. Gain : This is a real obsession for most of us.
2. Loss : Most people cannot stand taking a loss.
3. Defamation : This arises from loathing another per-son and fabricating words to discredit and hurt them.
4. Eulogy : This arises from liking another person and feeling compelled to use good words to extoll his deeds, especially when they are not present.
5. Praise : In an attempt to promote or recommend an-other person, we publicly extoll his good points.
6. Defamation : Because of disliking another individ-ual, although there is no such fact, we fabricate stories and tell the multitudes.
7. Suffering : This has an oppressive connotation. We encounter evil conditions and evil states which oppress our body and mind.
8. Happiness : Also known as bliss, it makes the mind happy. We encounter favorable conditions and states which bring pleasure to the body and mind. There is a saying: “When body and limbs are still, at ease, at peace and unmoving, the eight winds blow but cannot move the mind .”
This Buddha cannot be moved by the three evil paths. He is always in samadhi, unmoving. This is Medicine Master Bud-dha. Sumeru Appearance Buddha: Sumeru means “wonderfully high.” Mt. Sumeru is “wonderful” because it is made of the four jewels: gold, silver, lapis lazuli and crystal, symbolizing the fact this Buddha’s body is replete with blessings and adorn-ments and the light of his hallmarks is brilliant. “Tall” because there is no taller mountain. This Buddha’s appearance is as lofty as Mt. Sumeru. This symbolizes the fact that the remaining nine realms (the Bodhisattva Realm, Pratyekabuddha Realm, Arhat Realm, God Realm, Human Realm, Asura Realm, Animal Realm, Hungry Ghost Realm and Hells) admire him because his blessings and wisdom are complete.
Great Sumeru Buddha: Mount Sumeru is the King of mountains. It is 84,000 yojanas tall and is the tallest mountain under the heavens. Similarly, this Buddha’s virtues are unsurpassed and he is supremely venerated in the Dharma Realm. Or it could also be said that this Buddha is the Great Dharma King and is most venerated in all other nine realms. Sumeru Light Buddha: Since Mount Sumeru is made of the four jewels, it is incredibly brilliant. This Buddha’s 10,000 virtues are complete and their light shines universally. He has turned his eight consciousnesses into the four wisdoms that universally shine on all living beings. Wonderful Sound Buddha: His sound is perfect and won-derful and is far better than any other living being’s.
His one sound is replete with all the living beings’ sounds. The Pure Name Sutra says that the Buddha uses one sound to proclaim the Dharma, causing living beings of various kinds each to attain their own appropriate understanding . Furthermore, with the same sound, each understands differently. Great roots achieve great understanding. They hear it as Great Vehicle Dharma. Shallow roots attain shallow understanding. They perceive his teaching to be in the realm of the Hinayana. Each has his own certification, self-mastery and accomplish-ment. All Buddhas such as these, numberless as Ganges' sands, each in his own country brings forth a vast and long tongue that covers the three thousand great thousand worlds and proclaims these sincere and true words: Buddhas in the eastern direction such as those mentioned, as many as the Ganges sands, all praise this sutra. Sands are used to symbolize a countless amount. Ganges also symbolizes “many.” It has plenty of sand. People universally consider its water as blessing water. They traditionally wade in and wash themselves in the belief that it will eradicate offenses. Some believe that putting dead people in it will make them ascend to the heavens. Although it has been destroyed countless times, its name permanently subsists. Buddhas often go around there to speak Dharma. Finally, this river is a place of reliance for the multitudes. Vast and long tongue means:
1. Truth being told.
2. It pervades everywhere.
If one can strictly uphold the non-lying precept for three life-times, one’s tongue can reach one’s nose. The Buddhas culti-vated purely for three asamkhyeya kalpas. It is no wonder that their tongue can be that big. It is one of the hallmarks of the Buddhas. “Vast” refers to the width while “long” refers to its length. Their tongues are soft, supple, red and wide. Cover means to surround and cover up . The three thousand great thousand worlds refers to a Bud-dhaland. The Avatamsaka Sutra, Leaving the World Chapter says that Bodhisattvas’ tongues have ten qualities: 1. Their tongues can distinguish, speak and explain () for all types of living beings endlessly. 2. They can speak and explain the endless Dharma Doors. 3. They can praise the Buddhas’ endless merit and virtue.
4. They have limitless eloquence in speaking Dharma.
5. They can speak and expound on the endless Great Ve-hicle Dharma Doors.
6. They can universally cover all of empty space in the ten directions.
7. They can universally shine on all the Buddhalands.
8. They can impartially praise all living beings.
9. They can follow and accord with all the Buddhas, making them rejoice.
10. They can tame and subdue all the demons and exter-nalists, extinguish birth and death, and enable one to reach Nirvana. Bodhisattvas who accomplish the above-mentioned Dharmas will obtain the Thus Come One’s unsurpassed tongue that can cover three thousand great thousand worlds. Therefore, the vast and long tongue thus described is obtained through cultivation. The Big Vehicle principles and Dharma Doors require vast and long tongues to praise them. Proclaims these sincere and true words: Do not be skepti-cal! The Buddhas only speak the truth. The ancients say: “Literature can be detailed or summarized , true principles neither increase nor diminish .” “All you living beings should believe in this sutra which all the Buddhas praise for its inconceivable merit and vir-tue, and of which they are protective and mindful.” All of you: The eastern direction has limitless worlds. To mention it means:
1. The Buddhas of the ten directions address their own inhabitants.
2. Shakyamuni Buddha addresses us, quoting the other Buddhas’ instructions.
They all certify the existence of the Western Pure Land to help those present in the Pure Land Dharma Assembly bring forth faith and re-spect. The Buddhas are mindful of those who recite this sutra: 1. Such people obtain the Buddha’s protection. a. Therefore they are more peaceful and stable.
b. And they have no obstructions and difficulties.
2. Such people also obtain the Buddha’s mindfulness.
a. Thus they become more vigorous.
b. And they will not regress or fall.
The protection is not received from Amitabha Buddha, but from all the Buddhas of the ten directions. Question: The other Buddhas did not speak this sutra, why should they be mindful and protective Answer: The king’s words are commands. The Buddha’s words become the sutra. They all praise the Western Pure Land. Shakyamuni speaks of the Amitabha Sutra. All the other Buddhas speak of the same. They are all mindful and protective of this unsurpassed Dharma Door which can save countless living beings. Question: Why not invite all the Buddhas Answer: Their state is different from ours. They did not come but actually did.
The Dharma Body pervades the Dharma Realm, they neither have to go nor come anywhere! Sutra Text: Shariputra, in the Southern World, Sun-Moon Lamp Buddha, Well-Known Light Buddha, Great Blazing Shoulders Buddha, Sumeru Lamp Buddha, Measureless Vigor Buddha, all Buddhas such as these, numberless as Ganges' sands, each in his own country brings forth a vast and long tongue that covers the three thousand great thousand worlds and proclaims these sincere and true words: “All you living beings should believe in this sutra which all the Buddhas praise for its inconceivable merit and virtue, and of which they are protective and mindful.”
Sutra Commentary: Shariputra, in the Southern World, Sun-Moon Lamp Buddha, Well-Known Light Buddha, Great Blazing Shoulders Buddha, Sumeru Lamp Buddha, Measureless Vigor Buddha… Going clock-wise, the Buddhas of all the other directions also praise and protect this sutra. The southern direction also has countless Buddhas in count-less Buddhalands, all of whom praise the Pure Land Dharma Door. Here only five of these Buddhas are mentioned. Sun-Moon Lamp Buddha is named according to the Three Wisdoms: True, Mundane and Middle. His body light and wisdom light illuminate within and without.
The sun illumi-nates the day and nurtures the ten thousand things. It symbol-izes the Buddha’s Mundane Wisdom which illuminates the phenomenon and enables living beings to accomplish the Way. The moon illuminates the night and can dispel all darkness, symbolizing the Buddha’s True Wisdom which il-luminates the principles, destroying and eradicating all igno-rance. A lamp can illuminate both day and night as one wish-es , symbolizing the Middle Wisdom. Well-Known Light Buddha : His name encom-passes the 10,000 virtues and is well-known throughout the Dharma Realm. Well-known refers to his name which has great renown.
Light refers to his light, which illumi-nates inside and outside. His kindness light universally shines, aiding and protecting all living beings. His name and light universally shine on the four Pure Lands. Living beings who hear of his name or encounter his light will obtain en-lightenment. Great Blazing Shoulders Buddha emits light from his shoulders. This Buddha got his name from the Two Wis-doms, the actual and provisional. These two wisdoms emit great light, hence “great blazing.” “Shoulders” has the con-notation of being able to shoulder heavy loads. This Buddha uses the great blazing light from the Two Wisdoms to burn up the afflictions of the great number of living beings.
Sumeru Lamp Buddha: His body light is like that of a lamp which can destroy darkness. He is named after the four wis- doms. Mount Sumeru is made from the four jewels, each having its own light that can illuminate like a lamp. This symbolizes the fact that the Buddha transformed his eight consciousnesses into the four wisdoms: the sixth conscious-ness becomes the Wonderful Observing Wisdom, the seventh consciousness becomes the Equal Nature Wisdom, the first five consciousnesses become the Accomplishing What is to be Done Wisdom, and the eighth consciousness becomes the Great Perfect Mirror Wisdom. The sixth and seventh con-sciousnesses are first to be transformed through causes , while the rest are transformed as a result of retribu-tions . His four wisdom light can destroy the Three Delusions: view delusions, thought delusions and igno-rance .
Measureless Vigor Buddha is named after his practices. “Measureless” means that he went through three asamkhyeya kalpas practicing the six paramitas. Time and practice are both measureless. At his causal grounds, he is always vigor-ous, fearless and never retreats. All Buddhas such as these, numberless as Ganges' sands, each in his own country brings forth a vast and long tongue that covers the three thousand great thousand worlds and proclaims these sincere and true words: “All you living beings should believe in this sutra which all the Buddhas praise for its inconceivable merit and virtue, and of which they are protective and mindful.” Again all the Buddhas of the ten directions provide certification to this Dharma Door. Now that you’ve heard of this wonderful Pure Land Dharma Door, you must not waste the opportunity. Bring forth real efforts to practice it.
Sutra Text: Shariputra, in the Western World, Measureless Life Buddha, Measureless Appearance Buddha, Measureless Banner Buddha, Great Light Buddha, Great Brightness Bud-dha, Jeweled Appearance Buddha, Pure Light Buddha, all Buddhas such as these, numberless as Ganges' sands, each in his own country, brings forth a vast and long tongue that covers the three thousand great thousand worlds and proclaims these sincere and true words: “All you living beings should believe in this sutra which all the Buddhas praise for its inconceivable merit and virtue, and of which they are protective and mindful.”
Sutra Commentary: Shariputra, in the Western World, Measureless Life Bud-dha, Measureless Appearance Buddha, Measureless Ban-ner Buddha, Great Light Buddha, Great Brightness Bud-dha, Jeweled Appearance Buddha, Pure Light Buddha… The Western direction has measureless Buddhas who also praise the Pure Land Dharma Door. The sutra only lists sev-en. Measureless Life Buddha is Amitabha Buddha. He also praises Shakyamuni Buddha for speaking this sutra. The oth-er meaning is that the Buddhas of the ten directions are num- berless. If they are named, say based on their numberless vir-tues, it is not unusual for many Buddhas to share the same name. Question: Even Confucians avoid praising themselves.
Why does Amitabha describe himself as inconceivable Answer: Not only Amitabha but all Buddhas praise this Pure Land Dharma Door. Even if Amitabha praises himself, what harm is there if it can positively influence living beings, making them aspire for rebirth Unlike ordinary people, the Buddhas work with facts and do not engage in self-promotion. Measureless Appearance Buddha has limitless marks. His name is based on his appearance: he has measureless hall-marks. His response body has 32 hallmarks while his Reward body has measureless hallmarks. Each Buddha has three bodies, each with measureless marks. Measureless Banner Buddha is adorned with numberless jeweled banners.
Both the measure of his body and its merit and virtue are tall and most adorned like a banner. His name is based on the Dharma. “Banner” contains the meaning of “breaking the deviant and revealing the proper.” This Bud-dha established measureless Dharmas that act like banners to destroy the deviant and institute the proper Dharma. Living beings have measureless levels of potentials. That is why he speaks of measureless Dharmas to cross them over, hence-forth the name Measureless Banner.
Great Light Buddha: His name is based on wisdom . One could also say that it is based on mark . His body and wisdom lights illuminate everything. The light of purity pen-etrates everywhere. It is still and yet illuminates all of empty space, belonging to the wisdom light. As for his body light, it is constantly emitting light and illuminating long distances as well as particulars. The Lotus Sutra mentions one such example in which the white hair hallmark light can illuminate the eighteen thousand hundred million Buddha lands of the eastern direction. Like Shakyamuni Buddha, before speaking the Dharma, Great Light Buddha would emit light.
The light of this Buddha’s great wisdom, the Wisdom of All Modes , can illuminate the Dharma Realm to cross over all living beings. Great Brightness Buddha: His name is also based on wis-dom. He obtained the three clairvoyances, heavenly clair-voyance, past lives clairvoyance and ending of outflows clairvoyance, and destroyed the darkness of the five dwellings and afflictions. The Buddha’s three clairvoyances enable him to know everything. That is why each Buddha is called the One with Proper and Universal Knowledge .
They can destroy the darkness of the three delusions. Jeweled Appearance Buddha: His name is based on marks. “Jeweled” conveys a venerated and honored meaning. This Buddha’s marks are numerous and very adorned, refined and superior, inspiring living beings to venerate and honor him. Furthermore, his whole body is like fine gold. All of his marks are like jeweled appearances. Both his inner and outer marks are both venerated and honored. Pure Light Buddha has incredibly bright lights. His name is based on wisdom. “Pure” means devoid of defilements. “Light” refers to both the body and wisdom light. They both emit light from extreme purity. His wisdom light is perfect-ed, free from defilements and pure, leaving nothing that is not illuminated. His wisdom light can purify all affliction and defilements.
All Buddhas such as these, numberless as Ganges' sands, each in his own country brings forth a vast and long tongue that covers the three thousand great thousand worlds and proclaims these sincere and true words: “All you living beings should believe in this sutra of which all the Buddhas praise its inconceivable merit and virtue, and of which they are protective and mindful.” Again all the Buddhas of the ten directions provide certification to this Dharma Door.
Sutra Text: Shariputra, in the Northern World, 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, each in his own country brings forth a vast and long tongue that covers the three thousand great thousand worlds and proclaims these sincere and true words: “All you living beings should believe in this sutra which all the Buddhas praise for its inconceivable merit and virtue, and of which they are protective and mindful.”
Shariputra, in the Northern World, Blazing Shoulders Buddha, Most Victorious Sound Buddha, Hard to Injure Buddha, Sun-Birth Buddha, Net Brightness Buddha… Blazing Shoulders Buddha: He uses the Two Wisdoms, Mundane and True, to shoulder living beings. This was explained in a prior section. Most Victorious Sound Buddha: His sound cannot be defeated. His sound is beautiful and wonderful, surpassing all other sounds. It is replete with inconceivable power. It cannot be surpassed by any sounds of the nine realms of living beings. This Buddha’s three karmas are most superior. Sound refers to the mouth karma. When he speaks Dharma, his single perfect sound can cause living beings of different species to understand. His sound is truly inconceivable, reflecting total self-mastery. Hard to Injure Buddha:
His teaching cannot be defamed. He certified to the ultimately durable principles. When the true is total and the delusions are exhausted, one can no long-er be injured. His Dharma body is permanently dwelling and cannot be destroyed. All the demons cannot obstruct or cause difficulties at all. Sun-Birth Buddha: He appears in the world and uses his wisdom light which is as bright as the sun to dispel all living beings’ stupidity and darkness. He uses his wisdom like the sun to vastly propagate the Dharma. Or one could say he uses his wisdom like the sun to produce good dharmas in living beings. The Buddha appears in the world and uses his sun-like wisdom to illuminate and destroy the worldly self and other stupidity and darkness. He is like the bright sun that embellishes the skies: the multitudes’ confusion is burned up and destroyed. Net Brightness Buddha: He extends the teaching net to fish out living beings.
The Dharma Doors are measureless like the net holes. The teaching principle’s brightness can oblite-rate living beings’ stupidity and darkness. He gives us this teaching net to enable living beings to bring forth clarity and understanding. Each teaching net is accomplished by the Buddha’s wisdom, is clear and bright, thoroughly penetrating and can obliterate confusion and darkness. All Buddhas such as these, numberless as Ganges' sands, each in his own country brings forth a vast and long tongue that covers the three thousand great thousand worlds and proclaims these sincere and true words: “All you living beings should believe in this sutra which all the Buddhas praise for its inconceivable merit and virtue, and of which they are protective and mindful.” Again all the Buddhas of the ten directions provide certification to this Dharma Door.
Sutra Text: Shariputra, in the World Below, Lion Buddha, Well-Known Buddha, Famous Light Buddha, Dharma Buddha, Dharma-Banner Buddha, Dharma Maintaining Buddha, all Buddhas such as these, numberless as Ganges' sands, each in his own brings forth a vast and long tongue that covers the three thousand great thousand worlds and pro-claims these sincere and true words: “All you living beings should believe in this sutra which all the Buddhas praise for its inconceivable merit and virtue, and of which they are protective and mindful.” Sutra Commentary: Shariputra, in the World Below, Lion Buddha, Well-Known Buddha, Famous Light Buddha, Dharma Buddha, Dharma-Banner Buddha, Dharma Maintaining Buddha… The lower direction also has numberless worlds and number-less Buddhas who also praise the Pure Land perfect sudden Dharma Door. The water wheel supports the continents where living beings live. The water wheel relies on the metal wheel. Below the metal wheel, there is the wind wheel. The wind and metal wheels rub with each other creating the fire wheel between them. This Saha world is propped up by the wind wheel. Below it, there is the space wheel. This world has the three realms (samsara). There are layers upon layers of such worlds.
Lion Buddha: The lion is the king of the animals. With its roar, it can terrify the hundred animals. Likewise, the Buddha is the Dharma King. When he speaks Dharma, all demons and externalists are frightened out of their wits. The Dharma King speaks Dharma with self-mastery. Of the heavenly de-mons and externalists who get to hear it, all are subdued and bring forth the faith. The Buddha’s self-mastery when speak- ing the Dharma is similar to the lions’ self-mastery when amongst the beasts. Well-Known Buddha is well-known throughout the Dharma Realm. His name can cause the ten directions to quake. This was explained earlier. Famous Light Buddha: His light of wisdom is well-known. His wisdom light is like that of the sun: it can illuminate eve-rything under heaven, dispel darkness and nurture the 10,000 things, benefiting all living beings. Those who hear of his name or encounter his light will be enlightened. Dharma Buddha: Dharma has the connotation of a “pathway or road”, enabling vehicles to follow and rely upon it. The Buddhadharma is like pathways for living beings to follow to their destination.
This Buddha’s practice can be the model for us to imitate. In particular, he teaches the three non-outflow studies that living beings can rely upon for practice to reach the other shore. He uses the Buddhadharma as his body. Both conditioned and unconditioned Dharmas can be relied upon. Dharma-Banner Buddha: Banner has a high and conspicu-ous meaning. When this Buddha speaks Dharma, his teach-ings far surpass all the others, being clear, evident and ulti-mate. He established all sorts of Dharmas (Four Noble Truths, Twelve Conditioned Links, Six Paramitas, etc …) which are superior and well known like high flying banners. The Three Vehicles practioners, the gods, dragons and eight-fold division, humans and non-humans, etc. all venerate and look up to him.
Dharma Maintaining Buddha: He exclusively upholds the Buddhadharma. He upholds the Hinayana, Mahayana, sud-den, and secret dharmas to teach living beings according to their capacities. He maintains the past Buddhadharma to transmit to the future generations. All Buddhas such as these, numberless as Ganges' sands, each in his own country brings forth a vast and long tongue that covers the three thousand great thousand worlds and proclaims these sincere and true words: “All you living beings should believe in this sutra which all the Buddhas praise for its inconceivable merit and virtue, and of which they are protective and mindful.”
Again, all the Buddhas of the ten directions provide certification to this Dharma Door. Sutra Text: Shariputra, in the World Above, Pure Sound Buddha, Constellation King Buddha, Superior Fragrance Buddha, Fragrant Light Buddha, Great Blazing Shoulders Bud-dha, Varicolored Jewels-Adorned Body Buddha, Sala Tree King Buddha, Jeweled Flower Virtue Buddha, Dis-cerning All Meanings Buddha, Like Sumeru Mountain Buddha, all Buddhas such as these, numberless as Gan-ges' sands, each in his own brings forth a vast and long tongue that covers the three thousand great thousand worlds and proclaims these sincere and true words: “All you living beings should believe in this sutra which all the Buddhas praise for its inconceivable merit and virtue, and of which they are protective and mindful.”
Shariputra, in the World Above, Pure Sound Buddha, Constellation King Buddha, Superior Fragrance Buddha, Fragrant Light Buddha, Great Blazing Shoulders Bud-dha, Varicolored Jewels-Adorned Body Buddha, Sala Tree King Buddha, Jeweled Flower Virtue Buddha, Dis-cerning All Meanings Buddha, Like Sumeru Mountain Buddha… In the upper direction, there are layers upon lay-ers of worlds, just like in the lower direction described earlier. Above this Desire Realm are the six Desire heavens. Above that are the four Dhyanas’ eighteen heavens. And above the four Dhyana heavens are the four heavens of emptiness Above the emptiness heavens is the space wheel.
Above the space wheel, is the wind wheel. Above the wind wheel is the fire wheel. Above the fire wheel there is the metal wheel. Above the metal wheel is the water wheel. Above the water wheel there are measureless worlds. Such wheels exist in measureless layers. Therefore the upper direction also has numberless Buddhas and Buddhalands. Question: If all directions have Pure Lands, why praise the Western Buddhaland Answer: This is not a good question. If we were to praise the Eastern Lands, you’d complain too! You think too much! Question: Why not praise all the Pure Lands in the Dharma Realm Answer: There are three reasons:
1. To make it easier for the newly initiated to grasp and believe.
2. The Buddha can only cross over those with whom he has conditions. On the causal ground, he perfected his profound and vast virtue. He then brought all sorts of teachings to the worlds that can bring joy to living be-ings and help them to bring forth the faith. He also can activate the seeds planted in the past, making it hard for the demons’ obstructions to impede us, enabling our substance nature to unfold and prosper. 3. The Buddha seeds arise from conditions. Conditions pervade the Dharma Realm. One thought is just all thoughts . One living being is just all living beings . Offering one stick of incense, one flower, one sound, one form, is sufficient for the Buddhas to certify repentances, give predic-tions and rub the crown of the head. All the Buddhas of the ten directions and three periods of time are of one universal substance. This Western Pure Land was created from conditions which pervade the entire Dharma Realm. There is no need to discriminate.
Those with shallow roots should focus on the Western Dharma. Sharp rooted people have no need to forsake the West and seek the Flower Store . Don’t discriminate so much! Don’t proclaim that the Western Pure Land is provi- sional while the Flower Store is actual, or the Western Land is small and the Flower Store large. It all falls on worldly calculating and discriminating. That would prevent you from attaining the provisional and actual one single substance. This is because big and small have no nature . Note: According to the Flower Adornment Sutra, Flower Store refers to the world system that Vairochana Buddha created from his Bodhisattva practice. Within this Flower Store World System, there are countless world sub-systems, among which there is one called Lotus Store World within which our Saha world and the Western Bliss Pure Land are on the thirteenth tier. Pure Sound Buddha’s sound is clear and pure. His sound mark is beautiful and wonderful, making listeners become elated. This Buddha’s sound is pure, free of defilements.
There is no attachment to self, no attachment to Dharma. Constellation King Buddha: Constellation King can be explained as: 1. The moon is the king of the night. All the other constellations, no matter how bright they shine in the sky cannot compare with the moon. Similarly the Buddha is the Dharma King who obtained the great enlightenment: no other living being can compare with him. The Buddha is the king of the Bodhisattvas, Two Vehicle Sages and ordinary people because he has already obtained self-mastery. 2. The North Star is the king of the night. All the other constellations surround this star out of respect. Similarly, the Buddha is the enlightenment king with whom all the nine realm living beings can take refuge. Superior Fragrance Buddha: This Buddha is complete with the five parts of the Dharma Body fragrance: 1. Precept fragrance 2. Samadhi fragrance
3. Wisdom fragrance
4. Liberation fragrance
5. Liberation knowledge and views fragrance
There is no better fragrance than the precept and virtue fragrance.
The Ox-head Chandana incense is foremost among the different types of incense. It is said that six zhu (a Chinese measure of about 7.8125 grams) of it is worth all of the Saha world. The Shurangama Sutra says that once this incense is burned, it can be simultaneously smelled throughout 40 lis (averages to about 2,400 miles). Similarly, the Buddha certified to the five part Dharma Body fragrance and can universally permeate the ten directions in a way that even the Ox-head Chandana incense cannot. If you light incense, Fragrant Light Buddha will emit light. The fragrance spreads very far and the light speaks Dharma.
He also practiced the Buddha recitation Dharma Door. He used incense and light for adornment and thus attained Bud-dhahood. In the Shurangama Sutra, the Great Strength Bo-dhisattva Perfect Penetration Chapter says that to recollect the Buddha or to recite his name is to see the Buddha, for sure, now and in the future. Even the Buddha of the past is not far. Without any expedients, one’s mind can naturally open up, and like one who burns incense, his body will be permeated with its fragrance.
Worldly fragrances can only stop filth but cannot destroy darkness. In contrast, the Buddha’s precept, samadhi and wisdom fragrance can not only stop and eradicate view and thought filth but can also illuminate stillness and encompass empty space, as well as illuminating and destroying the darkness of ignorance. As in the Southern Worlds, Great Blazing Shoulder Buddha emits light from his shoulders, representing the two kinds of wisdom: provisional and actual. Varicolored Jewels-Adorned Body Buddha adorns the vir-tues of his fruition with causal flowers of the Six Paramitas and Ten Thousand Practices. The fruition virtues thus adorn the Dharma Body. Hence his name is based on his practice. The mind flowers blossom and therefore adorn themselves. Or it could be that his body is adorned by the multitudes of varicolored jewels, rendering his body most beautiful and good.
Sala Tree King Buddha: The sala tree is found in India. Its name means “solid and durable.” This tree is taller and big-ger than any other and does not wither because of old age or cold. This symbolizes the Buddha’s Dharma Body principle substance. The Buddha certified to the ultimate solid and durable Dharma body substance which surpasses all the other nine realms. Thus he is named as the Dharma King. Like the great tree king which can provide umbrage, the Buddha can also cover over and provide shade to all living beings. Jeweled Flower Virtue Buddha: On the causal ground he cultivated the 10,000 practices (flowers) to adorn the fruition virtue.
His causal practices are as honored as the jeweled flowers. His body, wisdom, merit and virtue are like jewels that are highly prized. This Buddha is replete with the ten thousand virtues. He is most adorned, honored and venerated like jeweled flowers. The flowers of the world can wither, but jeweled flowers are solid and durable, wonderful and good. So too are this Buddha’s virtues. Discerning All Meanings Buddha: His wisdom knows all, sees all. “Meaning” refers to states. The Buddha has the five eyes and can see all the states. Both worldly dharmas and transcendental dharmas are all inexhaustible. So are the meanings (“states”).
This Buddha obtained the Wisdom of All Modes and is replete with proper knowledge and views. He can see the ultimate real marks of all dharmas, whether they be provisional or actual, skewed or perfect, sudden or gradual, general or specific—he can see all the meanings. There is nothing that he does not know or see. Like Sumeru Mountain Buddha: As we mentioned earlier, Mount Sumeru is made from the four jewels and is the tallest mountain. This symbolizes the Buddha’s four virtues which are as lofty in the world. Question: Why recommend rebirth to the Western Bliss Pure Land and not the other Pure Lands Answer:
There are three reasons:
1. Those with lower roots can have a better chance to bring forth the desire for rebirth and execute the three requisites for the Pure Land Dharma Door. This makes it easier for them to be single-minded.
2. Amitabha used extensive vow power to adorn his land. All Buddhas thus praise him.
3. Amitabha has tremendous affinity with living beings in our world.
In fact, when Buddhas cross over living beings and have dif-ficulty in helping them, whether or not the accomplishment of those beings will be shallow or deep depends on three things:
. Buddhas cannot cross over those with whom they have no affinity. (If prior conditions are shallow then living beings will not be transformed that easily!)
2. In fact, Amitabha has such deep affinity with living beings because of his vast 48 vows on the causal grounds.
3. Without the Pure Land teaching, living beings would not be able to know what to do to get reborn there.
In the Large Amitabha Sutra, Amitabha tells Maitreya Bodhi-sattva that there are seven hundred twenty hundred million who have been reborn to the Pure Land. Each one of these has already made offerings to incalculable Buddhas like Mait-reya Bodhisattva.
As for the other worlds:
1) In Brightness Far Illuminating Buddha’s land, eighty hundred million Bo-dhisattvas have been reborn to the Pure Land.
2) In Jewel Store Buddha’s land, ninety hundred million have been re-born. 3) In Measureless Sound Buddha’s land, 220 hundred million have. In addition, there are many others from num-berless different worlds who were reborn to the Western Bliss Pure Land. Those with shallow roots can simply recite the Buddha’s name to obtain rebirth.
Those with superior roots already un-derstand that to recite Amitabha is to recite all the Buddhas’ names, and to be reborn to the Western Bliss Pure Land is to be reborn to all Buddhalands of the ten directions. There is no need to let go of the West, or seek the Flower Store. The Western Bliss Pure Land is not outside of the mind! All Buddhas such as these, numberless as Ganges' sands, each in his own country brings forth a vast and long tongue that covers the three thousand great thousand worlds and proclaims these sincere and true words: “All you living beings should believe in this sutra which all the Buddhas praise for its inconceivable merit and virtue, and of which they are protective and mindful.” Again all the Buddhas of the ten directions provide certification to this Dharma Door.
All the Buddhas thus praise Amitabha’s merit and virtue. In the Large Amitabha Sutra, Dharma Treasury Bhikshu vows that when he becomes a Buddha, all Buddhas will praise him and his Buddhaland. Question: All the Buddhas praise the Pure Land Dharma Door, why does the Sixth Patriarch say, “People in the eastern direction create offenses, recite the Buddha’s name and seek rebirth to the Western Pure Land. In which land do people in the western direction who create offenses and recite the Bud-dha’s name seek rebirth ”
Answer: This is meant for sharp rooted people in the Chan school and not meant to denigrate the Pure Land Dharma Door. People with dull roots should rely on the Pure Land Dharma Door. In fact, one could say that the Sixth Patriarch was praising the Real Mark Buddha recitation. Real Mark means that neither the Buddha nor the Pure Land exist outside of the mind; evrything is part of the true nature. This is con-sistent with the Pure Land teachings which advocate reciting one’s own nature Amitabha Buddha and also state that the Western Pure Land is not apart from pure mind, etc…
Sutra Text: Shariputra, what do you think Why is it called Sutra of which all Buddhas are protective and mindful Sharipu-tra, if a good man or good woman hears this sutra and upholds it, and hears the names of all these Buddhas, this good man or good woman will also be the one of whom all Buddhas are protective and mindful, and will irreversibly attain to Anuttara-Samyak-Sambodhi. Therefore, Shari-putra, all of you should believe and accept my words and those which all Buddhas speak. Sutra Commentary: Shakyamuni praised the Buddhas of the six directions, repre-senting all ten directions.
The Buddha’s name is replete with the unsurpassed perfect and ultimate ten thousand virtues. Shakyamuni then explains the name of the sutra. Shariputra, what do you think Why is it called Sutra of which all Buddhas are protective and mindful Sharipu-tra, if a good man or good woman hears this sutra and upholds it, and hears the names of all these Buddhas, this good man or good woman will also be the one of whom all Buddhas are protective and mindful, and will irreversibly attain to Anuttara-Samyak-Sambodhi. If a good person accepts and upholds the sutra, all Buddhas of the ten direc-tions will be mindful and protective of him or her. They will also help him or her irreversibly progress towards Bud-dhahood. The Large Amitabha Sutra says, “If one has not al-ready cultivated blessings and wisdom in the past, then one cannot hear of this Proper Dharma. We have already venerat-ed and served all Thus Come Ones; that is how we obtained the causes and conditions necessary to hear of this principle
.” The Flower Adornment Sutra says: “. , ; I’d rather endure the sufferings of hell in order to hear of the Buddha’s name, than be born into the heavens and not hear of the Buddha’s name.” To be able to hear of the sutra and up-hold it, one must be of superior roots with great causes and conditions and as a result, will obtain all the Buddhas’ protec-tion. To hear the sutra and uphold it is to recite the Buddha’s name. Those who recite the Buddha’s name therefore also obtain protection from the Buddhas.
The Buddha has three virtues:
1. Prajna virtue: Wisdom and virtue reach the ultimate.
2. Liberation virtue: The severing virtue is ultimate.
3. Dharma Body virtue: The mind nature reaches the ul-timate.
Question: If we recite the Buddha’s name with a scattered mind, can we obtain the three non-regressions Answer: There are both narrow and broad meanings. The Investigating Good and Evil Karmic Retributions Sutra states that if you recite Earth Store Bodhisattva’s name with a scattered and defiled mind, then it is not considered as being heard. ‘Scattered and defiled mind’ refers to the mind being defiled with view delusions (88 grades) and thought delusions (81 grades).
Though the mouth may recite, one cannot obtain literary wisdom. This is because one’s samadhi power is in-adequate and therefore the wisdom nature cannot manifest. Thus one cannot bring forth the mind of faith and understand-ing. However, one can still obtain worldly good retributions. But unless one develops some samadhi power, one will not obtain the world transcending non-regressions. If one obtains the Buddha recitation samadhi, wisdom unfolds and view and thought delusions are destroyed, thus transform-ing the defiled mind into the pure mind. One can enter the Similar Position , called Obtaining Similar Non-production Patience , or Similar to the Primary Principle , or Obtaining the Pri-mary Principle Complete Giving Entering the Principles Benefit ; one can obtain the equivalent of hearing the names of the Buddhas of the ten directions.
It is imperative for us to recite until reaching the state of “one mind unconfused” and get rid of our view and thought delu-sions before all Buddhas will be able to become mindful and protective of us. That is the narrow sense. At a broader level, whether or not one obtains the recitation samadhi, the Buddha’s name has inconceivable power and can plant superior seeds to be reborn in the future. In addi-tion, the Buddhas are greatly compassionate and kind; they do not discriminate at all. Just recite and obtain their help: we can access inconceivable power from their names.
In the Large Sutra, Shakyamuni Buddha told Maitreya, “Out of kindness, compassion and pity for living beings, I will up-hold this sutra an extra 100 years after all the other sutras dis-appear. This sutra and the Large Amitabha Sutra are of the same Pure Land Dharma.” The Buddhas are mindful of all good men and women who uphold this Sutra because it is the proper cause for rebirth to the Western Bliss Pure Land.
There are three kinds of living beings:
1. Those with deviant samadhi
2. Those with no samadhi
3. Those with proper samadhi
If we enter proper samadhi then all the Buddhas will be mind-ful of us .
There are three kinds of Buddha nature:
1. Conditioned Cause Buddha Nature : From hearing of the Buddha’s name, the Buddha seeds are planted in the eighth consciousness. In this life and in future lives we will surely get to see the Buddha and obtain liberation. As the Lotus Sutra states, “Even if a person with a scattered mind enters a stupa or temple and recites ‘Na Mo Buddha’, he has already accom-plished the Buddha Way .”
2. Understanding Cause Buddha Nature: If there is a good man or woman who hears of this sutra, and accepts, maintains, reads, recites, explains its meaning and practices it, when he reaches the single-mindedness response, that is the Buddha recitation sa-madhi, then the Pure Land manifests. He will under-stand that the Pure Land is just the mind. As the Lotus Sutra states, “Of those who get to hear the Dharma, there is none who will not accomplish Buddhahood .”
3. Proper Cause Buddha Nature : In the Earth Store Sutra, the Buddha tells Earth Store Bodhisattva, “If a good man or woman who within the Bud-dhadharma plants a few good roots, whether as much as one hair, one dust mote, one grain of sand or one drop of water, then you should use your Way power to support and protect such a person, enabling him to cul-tivate the unsurpassed Dharma and not allowing him to regress or get lost .” The seeds of hearing the Dharma or reciting the Buddha’s name belong to the first two types: conditioned and under-standing causes. They assist in making the proper causes manifest and cause us to bring forth the Bodhi mind. Then the Buddhas will be mindful of us and we will ob-tain Anuttara-Samyak-Sambodhi. Any type of these three natures can accomplish Buddhahood. To obtain the Buddhas’ mindful protection really involves the three types of wisdom:
1. To hear of the Pure Land Dharma is literary wisdom.
From hearing one brings forth deep faith: believing that the Buddha recitation Dharma is most wonderful. 2. To accept this Dharma is contemplative wisdom. One accepts and cherishes it in one’s heart, abhors defile-ments and admires purity, and makes the vow to seek rebirth. 3. To maintain it is cultivation wisdom. One maintains the Buddha’s name. The pure recitations follow one another until one obtains “one mind unconfused.” Those living beings who can hear of this sutra and the Bud-dha’s name definitely must possess great roots.
Therefore, Shariputra, all of you should believe and ac-cept my words and those which all Buddhas speak. The Buddha says that all living beings should believe and accept my words. “My words” refers to the principles con-tained in the proper text section describing both the proper and dependent retributions and adornments. It particularly exhorts us to seek rebirth thereby reciting the Buddha’s name. Believe means not to have any doubt. In other words, do not doubt the principles that were expounded. Rather, bring forth the mind to accept, maintain and not forget them. This ap-plies to everyone, to all living beings. We should all believe Shakyamuni’s words as well as all the Buddhas’ words. As for those who cannot bring forth the faith, the Large Amitabha Sutra says, “Non-believers come from evil paths. Their remaining catastrophes have not been consumed and therefore they are stupid and do not believe. They are not able to obtain liberation yet.”
Shariputra, if there are people who have already made the vow, who now make the vow, or who will make the vow, I wish to be born in Amitabha's country, these people, whether born in the past, now being born there, or to be born there in the future, will irreversibly attain to Anuttara-Samyak-Sambodhi. Therefore, Shariputra, all good men and good women who believe should make the vow, I will be born in that country.
Sutra Commentary: The previous section urges living beings to have faith in the Pure Land Dharma. This section urges us to then make vows. Shariputra, if there are people who have already made the vow, who now make the vow, or who will make the vow, I wish to be born in Amitabha's country, these people, whether born in the past, now being born there, or to be born there in the future, will irreversibly attain to Anuttara-Samyak-Sambodhi. Who have already made the vow, who now make the vow, or who will make the vow reiterates that the vows are actual-ly made. It is clearly the case that without faith one cannot make vows. Similarly, without making the vow there would be no faith. That is why it says that those who have faith should make the vow for rebirth.
Wish denotes hope and born refers to the five skandhas.
To make vows is self power. Amitabha’s vow to pull us there is other’s power. This Pure Land Dharma is complete with both kinds of power and therefore has a higher success rate. If one makes the vow for rebirth during the three peri-ods of time, one will definitely be reborn there without fail. We are urged to make vows for rebirth three times in this su-tra:
1. The first time we are urged to make vows is in the sec-tion that describes adornments of the proper and de-pendent retributions. Living beings who are reborn all obtain non-retreating. Therefore, we should make a vow for rebirth.
2. The second time occurs in the section stating that recit-ing the Buddha’s name and obtaining the recitation samadhi will enable one, at the end of one’s life, to be unconfused and to obtain rebirth.
3. This section is the third time that we are urged to make vows. Question: If living beings of the ten directions make vows and are reborn into the Western Bliss Pure Land, isn’t there overcrowding Answer: Vimalakirti’s room is only one zh ng (3 and 1/3 me-ters) in size and can accommodate 32,000 lion seats, so how can Amitabha’s vow be limited The Western Bliss Pure Land is just like the vast ocean, it can receive all streams and rivers.
At this point, it is helpful to revisit the three requisites for the Pure Land Dharma Door: faith, vows and practice. Faith leads to making vows. And without vows, one cannot be re-born. These two work hand in hand. Vows are the ticket for faith, enabling us to benefit from our belief. In other words, to have faith and make vows is like having the ticket in hand, enabling us to get to the promised land. Furthermore, the vow is like the hinge of the door of practice, enabling the door to stand securely. To make a vow contains both faith and practice. All three are one and each one is not separate from all three.
Vows involve the two aspects of admiring the Western Bliss Pure Land’s bliss and detesting the Saha world’s suffering. These two Dharma Doors are replete with the four great vows. Detesting the Saha world because it is full of so much suffering, based on the Truth of Suffering, motivates us to bring forth the vow to rescue the measureless living beings. In the Saha world, afflictions have a way of easily piling up.Therefore, based on the Truth of Accumulation, we make the vow to sever the endless afflictions. And because we ad-mire the Western Bliss Pure Land and seek to be reborn there, when the Way aiding conditions are sufficient, we will be able to hear Dharmas teaching us how to attain the Way. We will make vows based on the Truth of the Way to study the countless Dharma Doors. Finally, admiring that all the living beings in the Western Bliss Pure Land will obtain the three non-retreatings and certify to the Unsurpassed Bodhi, based on the Truth of Extinction, we make a vow to attain the Way. Anuttara-Samyak-Sambodhi is Sanskrit for Unsurpassed Proper Equal Proper Enlightenment.
It is among the terms that are not translated due to: 1) having secret meanings, like mantras; 2) being venerated, like Prajna; 3) having multiple meanings, like bhikshu; 4) referring to things that do not exist in our world, like Jambudana ; and finally; 5) ac-cording with ancient usage, like this word. The term can be explained from the bottom up. “Sambodhi” is Proper En-lightenment, which is to surpass the six destinies, and not give rise to deviant enlightenment. “Samyak” means Proper and Equal, meaning to surpass the Two Vehicles, who are not equal because they seek self benefit and do not benefit others. Also, the Two Vehicles lean toward the biased Truth and do not want to wade into the mundane to benefit living beings. Thus, for the Two Vehicles, true and mundane are not equal. “Anuttara” means Unsurpassed. It surpasses the Bodhisatt-vas’ Equal Enlightenment.
Question: We can recite Amitabha’s name to obtain irreversi-bility. Are there any other expedients Answer: It is not only through reciting, praising and bowing that we obtain irreversibility. We should also sincerely repent in front of the Buddhas, request that they stay in the world, rejoice in other’s merit and virtue, make transferences and make vows. We should practice all of the ten inexhaustible conducts of Universal Worthy Bodhisattva. Thanks to re-pentance, fixed retributions can be turned. It is like with the as-you-wish pearl—one can obtain irreversibility through making a wish. Furthermore, thanks to the Buddha’s mindful protection, we can obtain irreversibility toward Anuttara-Samyak-Sambodhi. Therefore, Shariputra, all good men and good women who believe should make the vow, I will be born in that country. Wait no further, make the vow for rebirth now. Question: “Will” make the vow makes sense but why mention “now” Answer: “Now” has two meanings:
1. To make a vow this lifetime will result in being reborn this lifetime.
2. There are ninety ksanas in each thought. At that level, each recitation is the cause for rebirth, therefore recita-tion after recitation continually plants the seeds for re-birth, the more vigorously we recite the Buddha’s name, the bigger and brighter our lotus flower grows in the lotus pool of the Western Bliss Pure Land; the more lax we are in our recitation, the quicker our lotus flower shrivels up.
This inconceivable response is not separate from our mind. In terms of responses, we can bring up a few. Great Master Ke (can) Jiu (long time) often recited the Lotus Flower Sutra. He entered samadhi for three days. He came back and told his followers that he went to the Western Bliss Pure Land and saw that it is as described in the sutras.
It is not unusual for some devoted Pure Land practitioners to pass away and have their room filled with bright lights and fragrance. There was a queen in Vietnam who believed in the Pure Land Dharma and lead her retinue in its practice. One of her at-tendants passed away without any illness. That night the queen dreamt of the attendant coming back to thank her for teaching her the Pure Land Dharma Door because she had ob-tained rebirth already. She described the Western Bliss Pure Land as it is in the sutra and urged the queen to practice more vigorously. The queen asked, “Can I also obtain rebirth” The attendant replied that she already saw the lotus flower for the queen and that she will definitely be reborn with an upper grade. Later, on the queen’s next birthday, she saw GuanYin and stood up to greet her. Her retinue later came to wish her happy birthday and found that she had died while standing up. Making the vow for rebirth will allow for rebirth.
That creates the pull that will take us there. This a true asset that we can certainly count on at our final critical juncture. The Universal Worthy Bodhisattva’s Practice and Vows Chapter says, “Further, when a person is on the verge of death, at the last instant of life, when all his faculties scatter and he departs from his relatives, when all power and status are lost and nothing survives, when his prime minister, great officials, his inner court and outer cities, his elephants, horses, carts, and treasuries of precious jewels can no longer accompany him, these kings of vows alone will stay with him. At all times, they will guide him forward, and in a single instant he will be reborn in the Land of Ultimate Bliss. Arriving there, he will see Amita Buddha, Manjushri Bodhisattva, Universal Worthy Bodhisattva, the Bodhisattva Who Contemplates At Ease, Maitreya Bodhisattva, and others.
The appearances of these Bodhisattvas will be upright and adorned, and their merit and virtue complete. The Buddha will then give a prediction. Buddha Buddha Buddha s praised this rare merits to praised this rare merits to praised this rare merits to praised this rare merits to praised this rare merits to praised this rare merits to praised this rare merits to praised this rare merits to praised this rare merits to praised this rare merits to praised this rare merits to praised this rare merits to make one understand Buddha's kindness make one understand Buddha's kindness make one understand Buddha's kindness make one understand Buddha's kindness make one understand Buddha's kindness make one understand Buddha's kindnessmake one understand Buddha's kindness make one understand Buddha's kindness make one understand Buddha's kindnessmake one understand Buddha's kindness make one understand Buddha's kindness make one understand Buddha's kindness Sutra Text:
Shariputra, just as I now praise the inconceivable merit and virtue of all Buddhas, all those Buddhas also praise my inconceivable merit and virtue, saying these words: Shakyamuni Buddha can accomplish extremely difficult and rare deeds in the Saha world during the evil time of the Five Turbidities: during the kalpa turbidity, the view turbidity, the affliction turbidity, the living beings turbidi-ty, and the lifespan turbidity. He can attain Anuttara-Samyak-Sambodhi and for the sake of living beings pro- claim this Dharma, which the whole world finds hard to believe.
Shariputra, just as I now praise the inconceivable merit and virtue of all Buddhas, all those Buddhas also praise my inconceivable merit and virtue, saying these words: Shakyamuni Buddha, by praising Amitabha, is therefore praising all Buddhas. They praise him in return by stating that he can accomplish difficult deeds. Shakyamuni Buddha can do what others cannot. In particular, he can proclaim the Pure Land Dharma in the time of the Five Turbidities. There are ten pairs of ease and difficulty:
1. In the Pure Land we often get to see the Buddha, there-fore practice is easy. In the Turbid world we do not encounter the Buddha that often, therefore practice is difficult.
2. In the Pure Land we often hear the Dharma, making it easy to cultivate. In the Turbid world this is not the case, therefore it is difficult.
3. In the Pure Land superior and good people assemble, therefore it is easy. In the Turbid world evil friends lead and pull us, thus making it difficult.
4. In the Pure Land there are no demonic obstructions therefore it is easy. In the Turbid world the multitude of demons harass us, therefore it is difficult.
5. In the Pure Land we do not have to undergo reincarna-tion, therefore it is easier. In the Turbid world: we have the difficulties of incessantly revolving in the wheel.
6. In the Pure Land it is easier because the three evil paths do not exist. The Turbid world is more difficult because it is easy to fall into the evil destinies.
7. In the Pure Land it is easier to cultivate because of superior Way aiding conditions. In the Turbid world it is harder because of defiled conditions (e.g. birth) and karmic obstructions.
8. In the Pure Land it is easier because the lifespan is measureless. In the Turbid world it is more difficult because the lifespan is much shorter.
9. In the Pure Land it is easier because we certify to non-retreating. In the Turbid world it is harder because most cultivators retreat.
10. In the Pure Land we will surely attain Buddhahood in one lifetime thereby making it easy. In the Turbid world it is very difficult to attain Bodhi even after many many kalpas. Living beings in the Saha world have to endure a lot of suf-fering and yet often are unaware of their suffering. They conveniently tend to forget about it. It is much harder to explain the Pure Land Dharma to living beings in the turbid world than in the Pure Land because they have dull roots. Or perhaps, their karmic obstructions are particularly heavy and they have a hard time bringing them-selves to execute the three requisites for rebirth. Furthermore, it is not easy to explain the sudden Dharma to them.
It is much easier to explain to them the gradual teaching: the Five Precepts, Ten Good Deeds, Four Noble Truths, Twelve Con-ditioned Links, etc… Furthermore, the 49-day Dharma is just too good to be true! This is like trying to explain colors to the blind. For our Buddha to speak this Dharma really shows his inconceivable merit and virtue in attempting to help benefit living beings. Shakyamuni Buddha can accomplish extremely difficult and rare deeds in the Saha world during the evil time of the Five Turbidities: during the kalpa turbidity, the view turbidity, the affliction turbidity, the living beings turbidi-ty, and the lifespan turbidity.
Only Shakyamuni Buddha can do it. Shakyamuni: Shakya is Sanskrit for “capable and humane.” Muni is Sanskrit for “still and silent.” His name is based on compassion and wisdom, the two virtues. Capable relies on the humaneness virtue to utilize expedients to help and bene-fit living beings. That is compassion virtue. Stillness can il-luminate and encompass empty space, at ease and unmoving. Silent indicates an absence of words and yet accords with the principles. That is wisdom virtue. Can accomplish extremely difficult and rare deeds. He can endure the difficulties in teaching and transforming living beings. In fact, the World Honored One crossed over count-less living beings, and gave many predictions for Bud-dhahood.
That is why the Buddhas of the ten directions praise Shyakyamuni Buddha. Saha world: Saha is Sanskrit for “able to endure.” In other words, to be able to endure and accept suffering and vexa-tions. From the Buddha’s perspective, it refers to his vast and great kindness and compassion. He can patiently endure the multi- tudes of difficulties of crossing over living beings of this world. From the living beings’ perspective, it refers to their heavy and profound stupidity and ability to bear and endure this land’s eight kinds of suffering and not seek to escape or put an end to it. Evil time of the Five Turbidities can be explained in five aspects. Turbidities can be likened to quick sand: it is very difficult to extricate oneself from it.
The Shurangama Sutra says it’s like water which originally is clear and pure. Then sand and dirt are tossed into the water. The result is that the dirt loses its obstructedness while water loses its clarity. That is turbidity. Its presence makes it very difficult to discern or see clearly. During this time of turbidity, the three small calamities, fire, water and wind, gradually arise, afflictions become more se-vere, living beings lean towards evil, defiled views gradually increase, and the lifespan shortens. On the whole, everything gradually deteriorates, becomes evil and abhorrent.
Altogether, there are five turbidities:
1. The kalpa turbidity refers to turbid times. The kalpa turbidity arises dependent on the other four turbidities, taking the growth of the other four as its basic sub-stance. Originally, there were no turbidities, they merely happen to arise at this time. The kalpa turbidi-ty also takes unceasing flame as its mark. Like flaming firewood, the more it burns the higher it blazes. Shakyamuni realized Buddhahood in this time. So he knows how difficult it is to do so. He therefore decid- ed to speak of this Dharma without request because it’s one of the most important Dharmas for our time. In the Decreasing Kalpa, the time of the kalpa turbidity occurs when the average lifespan reaches 20,000 years. When the lifespan reaches 100 years, that is called the Five Turbidities Evil Time.
This is when Shakyamuni Buddha appeared in the world. He taught this Pure Land Dharma to help us horizontally escape. Without the Pure Land Dharma, living beings will have a hard time obtaining liberation. More specifically, the kalpa turbidity takes the five view delusions as substance and nature. During this time, many prefer to draw near the externalists. Evil views proliferate. There will be times of hunger, epi-demics and wars which could happen concurrently. 2. The view turbidity takes the five quick servants as its basic substance. The five quick servants are:
1) Body views : we deeply love and attach to the body, not realizing that the body is just the four elements falsely united. It is false, like a mirage and is impermanent.
2) Extreme views : we believe in nihilism or permanence, which are the two extreme views, instead of the Middle Way.
3) View grasping views : we take what is not a retribution as a retribution, such as in the case of the Unlearned Bhikshu.
4) Precept grasping views : we take what is not a cause to be a cause, such as those who cultivate the unbeneficial ascetic practices. And finally,
5) Deviant views : we do not believe in cause and effect.
These five belong to the view delusions and are called servants because they can make living beings create offenses and thus undergo retributions, drawing them into the flow of birth and death. View delusions take mistaken wisdom and cattle morality (i.e. all the views that arise in confusion ) as its mark. With deviant knowledge and views, people take the genuine doc-trine to extremes. In contrast, all the living beings of the Western Bliss Pure Land have proper views. More specifically, living beings’ views are not proper. Deviants views are rampant. When the Buddha was in the world, there were 96 types of deviant views from the externalists. Nowadays, deviant religions and de-viant teachers abound. That is why it is called view turbidity.
3. The affliction turbidity takes the five dull servants as its basic substance.
The five dull servants are:
1) Greed: attaching to pleasant states, we do not realize that all conditioned dharmas are like a dream or mi-rage.
2) Hatred: toward unfavorable states, we give rise to hatred and anger, grow impatient and do not realize that one thought of hatred opens the door to the eighty thousand obstructions.
3) Stupidity: toward neutral states we give rise to stupid thoughts, failing to understand and analyze that all dharmas are imperma-nent, and ultimately empty.
4) Arrogance: toward living beings, we cannot be humble, and we do not understand that all living beings are basically equally en-dowed with the Buddha nature. And finally,
5) Doubt: toward the Dharma, we harbor doubts and do not understand that one ought to draw near what is good, and that one ought to proceed on the Way.
These five servants belong to the thought delusions. The afflic-tion turbidity takes the irritation of afflictions, which makes one upside down and feeling oppressed, as its mark. In contrast, the living beings of the Western Bliss Pure Land are free from afflictions. During this turbidity, living beings are increasingly greedy for deviant dharmas, use swords and weapons to fight, and continually file lawsuits against one an-other. They use flattery and lies to transmit deviant dharmas not to mention the rest of the unwholesome dharmas. Living beings endure all sorts of afflictions other than the five views.
4. The living being turbidity takes the combination of the three conditions of father, mother and one’s own karma as its basic substance. It takes the unceasing turning in the wheel as its mark. Here “form” and mind can be characterized as “ugly” and “inferior”. The five skandhas unite to form living be-ings. The skandhas are: 1) Form, which has solidity and the connotation of impeding.
2) Feeling, which has the connotation of being receptive (to the five dusts). 3) Thought, which has the connotation of grasping at marks. This skandha corresponds to the sixth consciousness that processes, calculates, and thinks about the dharmas.
4) Formation, which has the meaning of flowing. This corresponds to the seventh consciousness that constantly evaluates and discrimi-nates, thought after thought, unceasingly like the con-stant flow of the white water rapids. And finally, 5) Consciousness, which has the meaning of sustaining. This corresponds to the eighth consciousness that con-tains the three elements of breath, warmth and life. Though living beings are a union of the five skandhas, the skandhas nonetheless cover up their true nature. In contrast, living beings of the Western Bliss Pure Land are born from transformation. They are pure and adorned.
Today, people do not respect their parents, left-home people or their ancestors. They do not cultivate ac-cording to reason and the principles. They are not afraid of the evil retributions of future lives. They do not cultivate generosity and do not practice giving. They do not create merit and virtue. They do not cul-tivate the vegetarian Dharma. They do not observe the pure precepts. They draw near evil external conditions, do evil and do no good. That is why this period is called the living being turbidity. More specifically, during this time living beings arise from the aid of evil external conditions, from the five skandhas falsely uniting, and from creating offenses and failing to do good. The Lotus Sutra says that dur-ing this time, the ten directions are constantly dark and obscure, the three evil destinies expand, the asuras pro-liferate, the heavenly realm diminishes, most of those who die fall to the evil paths, and body strength and wisdom decrease because of offense retribution causes and conditions. Living beings lose bliss as well as thoughts of bliss. Utterly confused, they bob in the sea of birth and death.
5. The life turbidity takes the reception of warmth as its basic substance and the decline and extinction of the lifespan as its mark. Both cause and effect are inferior. Cause refers to the view and thought turbidities. View and thought delusions are the causes for the feeling ret-ribution. Effect refers to the living beings turbidities, to the coarse and miserable five skandhas which are the effect for birth. As a retribution for the killing karmas, the average lifespan will not exceed 100 years. In contrast, living beings in the Western Bliss Pure Land have a measureless lifespan, equal to that of Amitabha’s! More specifically, in our modern era, the lifespan is ra-ther short, rarely exceeding 100 years, due to suicide, abortion, malnutrition, poverty, hunger, epidemics, etc. which cause premature deaths. He can attain Anuttara-Samyak-Sambodhi and for the sake of living beings proclaim this Dharma, which the whole world finds hard to believe. Shakyamuni Buddha accomplished his cultivation in the midst of these most diffi-cult times. He then compassionately expounded this Pure Land Dharma, which is most difficult to believe in. The whole world: including the nine realms. Only the Bud-dhas will be able to fully understand this Dharma Door.
There are ten things that the world finds hard to believe:
1. We have been accustomed to this impure land and our minds have no qualms about enduring its hardships. When, all of a sudden, we hear of the Pure Land Dharma describing a land of such adornments and pu-rity, we cannot help but find it hard to believe.
2. Even if one has no doubt about the Western Pure Land, it is not uncommon to believe that one could seek re-birth to any of the Pure Lands of the ten directions in-stead of seeking rebirth to the West only.
3. Even if one believes that one will obtain rebirth in the future, this Saha world is ten billion worlds apart from the Land of Utmost Bliss. Hence one cannot help but wonder whether or not rebirth is possible to such a far away land.
4. Even if one believes that the Western Land is not far, one cannot help but doubt that ordinary people who have such heavy offenses and numerous obstructions can manage to obtain rebirth to such a land.
5. Even if one believes that one can obtain rebirth there, one may still doubt whether merely reciting the Buddha’s name alone will be enough to ensure rebirth. There must be other extraordinary and wonderful Dharma Doors!
6. Even if one does not have any of the above objections, still one must surely hold the Buddha’s name for a very long time! How can holding his name for one day or up to seven days be enough for rebirth 7. Even if one can obtain rebirth after seven days of reci-tation, birth in most realms are of the four forms: from womb, egg, moisture or transformation. So how come in the West, there is only birth by transformation on a lotus flower
8. Even if we believe in birth by transformation on a lo-tus flower, for most people who initially enter the Way, the majority of them will retreat. How can one be born to the West and then magically obtain irreversibility 9. Even if irreversibility is possible, one cannot help but doubt that dull rooted people would receive rebirth help or whether sharp rooted people would seek rebirth there at all. 10. Even if one is free of the above doubts, one can also have doubts pertaining to what the other sutras say about the Buddha's existence or non-existence, the Pure Land's existence or non-existence. One is suspi-cious and cannot decide on what to believe. Question: Why does Shakyamuni Buddha appear in world when the average lifespan is 100 years while Maitreya will appear when it’s 80,000 years Answer: They have different vows and therefore appear in the world at different times. The issue is why worry about a long life The Buddhas live long enough to do what they must do. Then they leave so that they are no longer in the way. Did you know that Shakaymuni Buddha had to spend 49 years of his life doing his work whereas Maitreya will only teach one day and night and then he will be done Sutra Text:
Shariputra, you should know that I, in the evil time of the Five Turbidities, perform these difficult deeds, attain Anuttara-Samyak-Sambodhi, and for the entire world proclaim this Dharma which is difficult to believe, ex-tremely difficult! Sutra Commentary: Shariputra, you should know that I, in the evil time of the Five Turbidities, perform these difficult deeds, attain Anuttara-Samyak-Sambodhi, and for the entire world proclaim this Dharma which is difficult to believe, ex-tremely difficult! To attain Supreme enlightenment in the midst of the five turbidities is indeed rare and extremely diffi-cult.
The verse of penetrating the Dharma and awakening to the Way in the Sixth Patriarch Sutra says: “Who realizes that within the house on fire the Dharma King can be found ! Recite earnestly during the three periods of time Who realizes that within the ten myriad six dusts, there is a lotus bud whose blossom brings the proper light onto the world .” Shakyamuni also compassionately preached this Pure Land Dharma which is most difficult to believe, that by simply re-citing the Buddha’s name, one can obtain such inconceivable benefits. Furthermore, to be able to proclaim this Dharma is itself a most difficult task!
Therefore, to be able to hear of this Dharma is most rare and difficult. During the view turbidity, we are definitely bound by deviant views and confused by deviant teachers. During the affliction turbidity, we are invariably trapped by greed and desire and needled by evil offenses.
During the living being turbidity, we are lulled into complacency with defile-ments and filth, we cannot thoroughly awaken, and we are resigned to our own weakness and frailty, unable to spring and soar. During the lifespan turbidity, we simply give up and surrender to the flames and lightning of impermanence which swallow us up. In the face of all these obstacles, we can see why the oppor-tunity to practice the Pure Land Dharma Door is so valuable! In the turbid worlds, bringing forth the resolve to cultivate is not easy. How much more difficult it is to accomplish the Way. To attain the smaller fruitions may be feasible. But to attain the Buddha fruition is certainly not easy at all. Last but not least, we are at the transmission section. Trans-mission comes from the Chinese l u tong . Li u is , which means to flow and transmit to the end of time, denoting the time aspect. While tong is , which means penetrating the ten directions, denoting the space aspect. Therefore, transmission means that it is true everywhere as well as at all times.
After the Buddha spoke this Sutra, Shariputra, all the bhikshus, and all the gods, humans, asuras, and others from all the worlds, hearing what the Buddha had said, obtained great delight, faithfully accepted it, bowed and withdrew. Sutra Commentary: After the Buddha spoke this Sutra, Shariputra, all the bhikshus, and all the gods, humans, asuras, and others from all the worlds, hearing what the Buddha had said, obtained great delight, faithfully accepted it, bowed and withdrew. Spoke this Sutra: Again, this Dharma Door is most incon-ceivable, difficult to believe and difficult to understand. No one had enough wisdom to even request it. Shakyamuni Buddha used his wisdom to illuminate the potential of living beings. Seeing that their good roots were maturing, he decid-ed to speak of it without being requested. From all the worlds refers to the insentient worlds that can be destroyed and are subject to decay. The gods referred to are those of the Triple Realm. Humans in the Saha world are particularly able to endure.
Asuras are non-gods; they have heavenly blessings but lack heavenly virtue.
All the Arhats, bhikshus, eight-fold division beings and those from the other worlds obtained great delight from listening to the sutra. Delight comes from the Chinese hoan xi . Hoan refers to a happy facial expression while xi re-fers to a happy mental attitude. This truly inconceivable Dharma Door can allow for a horizontal escape from samsara, enabling living beings to quickly certify to the true and per-manent. Those who are able to hear it are naturally ecstatic. Just as, when those who have been suffering of cold and hun-ger hear of warmth and abundance, and when those who have been groping in dark and obscure places know of a way to get to light and brightness, they naturally feel elated, jump with joy and obtain what they never had before. So too are those who have been immersed in defilements ecstatic upon hearing of the Pure Land. The Buddha is replete with five kinds of words:
1. True : His words reflect the true marks.
2. Actual : He tells it like it is, and does not add or subtract anything.
3. Such : His words are in accord with the principles.
4. Not false : He does not tell lies.
5. Not different : He would never utter strange words, say things that would weaken us or dampen our spirits, or things to frighten or shake us. Therefore we can believe his words. They faithfully accepted it and brought forth great faith in these teachings that have been certified by the Buddhas of the ten directions as well. “Faith” means not have the slightest bit of doubt. “Accept” means to internalize and not forget the Buddha’s name. They bowed to Shakyamuni Buddha in gratitude. To bow is a rather special Buddhist way of expressing gratitude.
The Chinese do three and a half bows expressing appreciation for the great kindness of the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas and to offer one’s body as a vehicle for taking refuge with the Triple Jewel. Finally, they withdrew and put the Buddha’s instructions into execution without fail. After hearing the teachings, the next step is to put them into practice. Question: The sutra starts by enumerating the great virtuous ones such the Arhats and Bodhisattvas. Why does it end without mentioning the Bodhisattvas Answer: Bodhisattvas certainly are the last ones to be ungrate-ful and fail to appreciate the Buddha’s kindness. This fact can be taken for granted and therefore can be omitted.
The sutras say that in the Dharma ending age, if one hundred million one hundred million people cultivate, maybe one will obtain the Way. However, those who rely on reciting the Buddha’s name will surely be crossed over . The Pure Land Dharma Door is most suitable for our times. Faithfully culti-vate in earnest, obtain rebirth to the Pure Land, unfold your wisdom, and then come back to the Saha world to save living beings. A Vietnamese nun disciple decided to bow to me as her teacher.
One day she asked for my permission to observe the funeral services for her just deceased Vietnamese Acharya (teacher). My disciple was clearly very emotional and told me that she owed her training to her former teacher. She also told me that she wanted her teacher to return to the human realm to continue her work instead of asking me to try to send her teacher to the Western Bliss Pure Land with our 49-day Dharma. I was mum because she did not ask me for my opin-ion. A couple of weeks later, during a staff meeting I hap-pened to mention that her teacher was destined to return to the human realm but that this was not such a good idea because her manner of death would indicate that she did not know how to cultivate. In other words, coming back to the human realm is rather risky because she has no really good Dharma to practice.
I said that if it were up to me, I’d prefer to go to the Pure Land where it is much more conducive for cultiva-tion. My nun disciple then confessed that for quite a while, every time she had her daily sitting meditation session, she kept seeing her teacher coming at her with a rather angry ex-pression. Furthermore, her Dharma sister in Vietnam also re- lated to her that she also saw their teacher in an unhappy state. I explained to my disciple that her teacher was asking for help. I scolded her and told her how ignorant she was. Who was she to decide where her teacher should go next It would be much better to provide her teacher with a choice. In other words, her teacher had been upset that my disciple did not request for my help so that her teacher could have a choice between going to the Western Pure Land or another realm. My disciple immediately understood, knelt down asked me to execute our 49-day Dharma to provide assistance to her teacher. I agreed. Two weeks later, her teacher was reborn to the Utmost Bliss Pure Land and no longer bothered her during her meditation sits. She later reported to me that during that same time period in Vietnam where the great as-sembly was gathered for her funeral services, everyone saw a bright light that traveled from the Buddha Hall into the sky.
The moral of the story is this: unless you can be enlightened this lifetime, it’s much better to go for rebirth to the Pure Land to cultivate. Do not come back to the defiled lands until you are no longer confused and can really help others. End of the Sutra of the Buddha's Teaching on Amitabha Dharani For Rooting Out Karmic Obstructions and For Being Reborn In the Pure Land:
Na mo e mi duo po ye Duo tuo qie duo ye Duo di ye tuo E mi li du po pi E mi li duo xi dan po pi E mi li duo pi jia lan di E mi li duo pi jia lan duo Qie mi li qie qie nuo Zhi duo jia li Suo po he. (3X)
The three Sages of the West
A native of Vietnam, Master ongHua came to the US for college where he earned a BS and an MBA with the aspiration of eventually returning to Vietnam to help rebuild his war-ravaged country. However, after climbing up the corporate ladder and reaching executive management positions, he found himself disillusioned with the business world. Around this time, he was exposed to Great Master XuanHua's teachings, which inspired him to enter monastic training. He soon realized that he had discovered his true calling, and decided to dedicate the rest of his life to serving Buddhism. Master ongHua not only studied meditation in the Gui ang Lineage of Great Master Xuan Hua, but also inherited the Lin Ji lineage from Master Man Giac.
Now that he has investigated Mahayana for over 20 years, Dharma Master ongHua continues the Buddhist tradition of “repaying his teachers’ kindness” by extensively speaking on the Buddhadharma and vigorously training the next generation of cultivators. In the past several years, many of Master ongHua’s students have become accomplished meditators. Master ongHua advocates the joint practice of Chan and Pure Land. This way those who have the potential can obtain immediate liberation through Chan. Furthermore, at the end of this lifetime, all those who truly believe will have the chance for rebirth to the Pure Land. He offers a practical, contemporary explanation of the Buddha’s ancient teachings in order to help us penetrate the sages' wisdom and apply it to our daily lives, hoping that all living beings will quickly escape suffering and attain bliss.