Spiritual Practice is something often I want to post more on my blog. After all, it is the only investment that can possible generate a return against aging and death.
It is not an easy task thou. The content often will be either too technical or too general to be appealing. It is a great blessing that I come across this resource. Master Dao Yuan speak about a specific chapter in <<Shurangama Sutra>>, The <<Shurangama Sutra Chapter on Great Strength Bodhisattva’s Perfect Penetration Through Mindfulness of the Buddha>> The actual text of this chapter is translated and available here from paragraph 5:120 – 5:127.
If you happen to be literate in Chinese. It is better for you to visit the actual article.
On the other hand, most people that visit this post here cannot read Chinese. I hereby humbly offer a translation of the article. I tried my best to make it easiest to understand. I hope you will benefit from it.
Speech Records in Buddha Center – The 3rd Series
(The Dharma Gate of Chanting the Name of the Buddha1 & <<Great Strength Bodhisattva’s Perfect Penetration Through Mindfulness of the Buddha>>2)
Speaker: Master Dao Yuan
1. The Dharma Gate of Chanting the Name of the Buddha: One method, (out of many) of Buddhist practice. It is special as it is most relevant in our time. More explanation is coming in the actual article.
2. <<Great Strength Bodhisattva’s Perfect Penetration Through Mindfulness of the Buddha>>: This is a chapter from <<Shurangama Sutra>>. For beginners that are trying to understand, “Great Strength Bodhisattva” is the name of a person. “Mindfulness of the Buddha” is the method this person that is sharing to the audience. Perfect Penetration is a milestone toward liberation.
According to the commentary of Venerable Master Hsuan Hua (Go here and find “perfect penetration” in page.) This path of liberation will be somewhat like this: Step 1. Releasing the six sense-organs –> 2. Cultivate “perfect penetration” –> 3. Realize the emptiness of the nature of what we so call people –> 4. Free ourselves from attachment to self –> 5. fully understand emptiness, even dharmas –> 6. Liberate from the attachments to dharma –> 7. Emptiness also no longer arises.
Table of Content
Preface of Speech Records in Buddha Center – The 3rd Series
Bhikkhu Jing Lang
Holding the name of Amitabha Buddha and seeking rebirth in the Land of Ultimate Bliss of the West (The Chanting Method) is a special blessing1 of the Shakyamuni Buddha; The renowned method that was “spoken without being asked, a blessing of ultimate compassion; it can make the sentient beings living at the end of the dharma, through practicing this method, irreversibly attain anuttarā-samyak-sambodhi2.” .
This method is so special. Masters throughout history give it their highest praise. In particular, Master Yong Ming said “Anybody practicing this method will all successfully rebirth in Amitabha’s land of ultimate bliss” Master Ou Yi called it “Fitting the largest audience, easiest to execute” and “utmost of ultimate; perfectest among perfection”
The past masters and great virtuous persons, who practiced this method, witnessing Amitabha Buddha, and rebirth to his land of ultimate bliss, have recorded again and again throughout history. Among the eight Mahayana schools in our country (China), the one that can most popularize the society and deeply influencing people is also the Pure Land School3. This, of course, proves its merits.
Since the late Qing Dynasty, Tirthika has been raging and deviant insight is rampant. This has greatly affected the way Chinese think. As a result, the Pure Land School, the popular representative of Buddhism in the society, was hit hard by obstacles. To discuss these obstacle further, we can categorize them into three different groups: The obstacles arise from 1. non believers. 2. believers with doubts. 3, superstitious followers.
The first group, the obstacles arisen from non-believers: Tirhika falsely accusing Pure Land School and worshiping Buddha are superstition. They label it idol worshiping. In the name of education reform, they destroy temples and confiscate properties. Younger generation were lured into the door of Tirhika’s deviant insight. This has stifled the vitality of Buddhism to grow and expand along generation.
The second type of obstacle arisen from believers with doubts: This is not a problem of Trihika only. Even among Buddhist, there are people 1. falsely believe the practice of reciting the name of Buddha lack depth. Such method is only suitable for old ladies but not suitable for people with gifted talent. (a popular misconception among educated individuals) 2. doubting that the practice of reciting the name of Buddha being too trivial and too easy for what it claimed can accomplish. They believe Dharma is as vast as the ocean. Even a wise man spending his whole life on it, he will still not able to see what is on the horizon. And now the Chanting method suggest only by reciting the name Amitabha Buddha, one can accomplish the ultimate goal. That doesn’t add up. 3. claiming rebirth in Amitabha’s land of ultimate bliss is an act of cowardice. People chosen to do so only seek self interest and it doesn’t abide the Mahayana Buddhism principle of saving all sentient beings. 4. claiming the greatest accomplishment from reciting the name Amitabha Buddha is merely rebirth in Amitabha’s land of ultimate bliss, but not enlightenment in the present life. It seems more straightforward to directly seek enlightenment right away using other Buddha’s teaching.
The third group of obstacle arisen from superstitious followers. They devotedly recite Buddha’s name and worship Buddha seeking blessing in the heaven realm or human realm. They have no understanding of Buddha’s teaching. They do not know what is liberation from living and dying. Not to mention about “develop bodhicitta” and “practice the path of bodhisattva.” In Buddhist terms, this is call “upside-down,” which is just “blind belief”. While reciting Buddha’s name with such superstitious mind will still accumulate merits, it is too far from the Buddha’s original compassionate intention of saving sentimental beings.
Aside from the Tirhika factors, the Buddhism school themself are also responsible for these obstacles. First of all, masters that is morally and scholastically accomplished do not lower their status to reach the bottom of society to spread Buddha’s teaching. As a result, the ordinary citizens and even novice followers, are largely ignorance of Buddhism’s principle and practice. With misunderstanding and bias, this people become vulnerable to Tirhika’s deviant insight. Secondly, The chanting method is too board and diverse. Such contradicting phenomenon is ubiquitous. Originally, in <<The Amitabha Sutra>>, the teaching only said “hold the name.” As for the method of “holding”? There is no elaboration. The masters throughout history have different opinions and wisdom, and each set their own “holding method”. All have their own strengths, and all have their achievements. But for followers now a days , these methods sometimes fits and other time just don’t. Those who chant hardly gain practical benefits. Even after reciting for decades, one still cannot resonate with the Buddhadharma. For the most simple, and universally integrated method, there is no better way than the method of “gathering the six faculties” from Great Strength Bodhisattva in <<Shurangama Sutra>>! It can be said to be the Dharma gate within Dharma gate, the teaching within the teaching. The next question thou, how exactly do we “gather” the “six faculities”? Followers again quarrel and disagree with each other.
All of this challenges are real. For example, I (Bhikkhu Jing Lang) have, for a long time, committing those same fallacies in the second categories. If there is no proper discussion and correction, one cannot develop faith in the Chanting Method. Without faith, one will have no way to make the vow; even less so to actually practice. And the superstitious followers that seek only blessing from heaven and man realm are utmost pitiful! If one seek answer of these questions, please read this <<Speech Records in Buddha Center>>
The content of this <<Speech Records in Buddha Center>> was given by my teacher, The Venerable Master Dao Yuan, during the eleventh lunar month of the lunar calendar in the 50th year of the Republic of China. It is the time when Keelung city Zhèng Dào Mountain Hǎi Huì Temple having its recitation sessions. The teaching follows <<Great Strength Bodhisattva’s Perfect Penetration Through Mindfulness of the Buddha>> chapter of <<Shurangama Sutra>> plus examples and elaboration from other scriptures and koan. In regard of the obstacles/challenge listed above, there are incisive explanation. My master, in simple terms, compare the difficulty of practicing the Chanting method and other Buddhism school’s method. The teaching of how to “gathering the six faculties” is exceptionally detailed. With respect to overcome doubts, develop faith, understanding the teaching, making vow, and guiding the practice, my master give his most sincere advice. The teaching is rich in meaning and eloquent. giving the audience an ascending journey from loss to joyous. It is like the light house of the dark night; the rescue boat of the sea of suffering. It is a pity that my pen aren’t as capable as my master’s tongue and this recording can only feature approximately 20% of the lesson. The Venerable Master gave an improvised speech without a script and it is a pity that I have no way to proofread the omissions.
This article was broken down and published in multiple issue of Bodhi Tree Monthly Magazine. It has won admiration from all parties and decided to print the full article as an individual book, for ease of circulation. Hereby I have written down a few extra words to mark this exceptional nidana.
Written in the 51st year of the Republic of China, Taiwan’s Guāngfù Festival, in the Haihui Temple of the Pure Land Sect.
- special blessing: Most of the teaching recorded in Buddhism are words of Buddha answering questions/problem of the other beings. We can take those teaching are meant for those audience. It is not the case here for “The Chanting Method.” This method is something Buddha share on his own. Thus we believe it is applicable to all beings and a method that Buddha himself truly believe to be relevant.
- anuttarā-samyak-sambodhi: Only for setting the context, you can take it as the goal of Buddhism.
You can google this and find a more thorough explanation.
- Pure Land School: a tradition of Buddhist teachings that are focused on the Buddha Amitābha. To briefly set our context here, the goal is to rebirth to Amitabha’s land of ultimate bliss to continue attain buddhahood in a much more favorable environment. the Chanting method is one practice method within the Pure Land School to achieve the rebirth.