Spirital Practice

A Speech from Master Dao Yuan (Spiritual Practice) – Part III

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2. When both party resonate with each other, guarantee rebirth in Amitābha’s Land of Ultimate Bliss

Bear with me, all superior good people: Allow Daoyuan to sidetrack and say a few words. Yesterday, we talked about Great Strength Bodhisattvas learned Buddha-recitation Samadhi from Light Surpassing the Sun and Moon Buddha. Today’s subject is about when both party resonate with each other, guaranteeing rebirth in Amitābha’s Land of Ultimate Bliss. It will be more organize if we break it into three sections.

1. It is very difficult to awake and practice if you rely only on your own strength.

The Buddha-recitation Method, as the name suggests, teaches us to remember about Buddha. The Buddha are mindful to all sentient beings all the time. Buddha think about us. We think about Buddha. Only when both party remember each other, the technique progress.The advantage of chanting Buddha is that you can get the Buddha’s blessing. It is possible to liberate living and dying on one’s own. Other sects such as Zen are all self-reliant, but it is difficult to accomplish. There are three reasons: (1) We are mere common people. Our affliction are extensive. It is difficult to overcome. If one cannot overcome his/her affliction, then one cannot reach enlightenment. (2) If there is no Buddha’s protection, demon will come and disturb. (3) Too advance. Faculties of ordinary people cannot understand easily. Due of these three reasons, Zen Buddhism is for people with gifted talent. People that only have middle or low (dim and dull) root will have a hard time grasping it. Okay, let me elaborate them further.

(i) Our affliction are extensive. It is difficult to overcome: Within Tridhatu, delusion arising from incorrect views and thoughts is rooted in greed, hatred and ignorance. Greed, hatred and ignorance create many karmic obstacles. This has been the case for so long that we cannot even tell when it begins. It surly is difficult to overcome. And I shall further elaborate:

Greed — Greed is the affliction arising from pleasant situations, which can briefly divided into five categories: wealth, lust, fame, food, and sleep. They are the so-called “five desires”. Those who aren’t Buddhist will certainly likely give in to “greed”, but even for Buddhist, “greed” is no easy thing to get rid of. Let’s use “wealth” as our first example. Clothing, food, housing, and transportation all takes money. When money shows, our heart is loss and our wit become dim. They follow the money and turn away from what they originally have in mind! It could still consider fine if one seek wealth decently. However, beyond such scope, it is thirst for unjust wealth. It violates the Dharma and also the law. Look at how many brilliant people, who have made great achievements, and who have been ruined because of their appetite in money. It seems typical that everyone claims themself morally virtuous, but as soon as the money appears, they are charmed! On one hand, it is because money is convenient;On the other hand, we have been like that for so long that our habit just don’t act otherwise.

The second is “lust”. The lust of men and women is the foundation of living and dying. That is well known by all, but also most difficult to overcome. It is most difficult because since one was a living being, one already had such affliction. This is not only the case for the intelligent animals, even animals as little as bugs and worms are entrapped in the same affliction.

The third is “fame”. Since the Three Dynasties, aspire to fame has already been a problem in our country. After that, things escalate even further. It will consider as a problem if one is not yearn for fame. There is a western saying, “honor is the second life”. In the modern world, no matter the country, society or individuals, they are all competing for “honors”. Even great masters with morality and virtuous also hard to rid such habit. When they hear compliments from others, or when they been the praise on the newspapers, they rejoice. Everyone can talk senses out of this things, but once fame shows up, they are charmed!

The fourth is “food”. We are going to skip those cases where non-Buddhist indulge in their appetite. Buddhist has been educated about the principle of why not to eat the flesh of sentient beings – as sentient beings are the parents of our past and the Buddha of the future. Such sincere and heartfelt teaching should be enough to change one’s heart. However, for those with severe karma , they still cannot get rid of their habit of many lifetime. I have personally seen someone who shed tear only because the meal is undesirable. Although Buddhists do not eat meat, when it comes to vegetable that fit one’s appetite, they still tend to eat more. That is the case even for one have been practicing Buddhism for many years. They still cannot rid the habit. This is a saying called “gluttony obstructing the Tao, embracing sloth” to describe them.

Finally, when it comes to “sleep”, it is common for people in the world to dislike work and enjoy leisure. According to the Dharma, you should work hard all hours of the day and night, and you should not fall asleep. But because of our habit, one cannot help but fall asleep. After falling asleep, one will enter a state of darkness and confusion. It has almost no different from a corpse. And before “I know” and “view of self” are eliminated, nobody does not fall asleep.

These are all “greed”, that is, the afflictions caused by the present of of wealth, lust, fame, food, and sleep.

Hatred — Hatred is the affliction arising from unpleasant situation。May it be monastics or laypersons, when a situation don’t meet their expectation present, affliction arisen. There are so call 84,000 afflictions. And hatred is the most blazing. The Buddha had made analogy “Hatred is like a blazing fire, capable of burning the forest of meritorious deeds” He also said “A single thought of anger will open the door of 80,000 obstacles.” When people get angry, they don’t listen to others, they don’t fear being laughed at, they don’t fear falling into hell, and they don’t want Buddhahood! All sorts of upside down, reaching the level of indescribable. Although often one will feel remorse afterward, when the anger situation appeared, my heart lost its control!I

Ignorance — Ignorance here refer to inaccurate understanding. Reciting Buddha can liberate from living and dying is accurate understanding. But since the time that we cannot even trace back, the entanglement of ignorance has been deep. Misunderstanding arisen almost naturally. And it is difficult to overcome. That’s why the ancients have leave us warnings like: “A hundred years of life is as fast as a white horse passing by in front of narrow window”, “Life or death are counting between the breaths” , all of which are intended to awaken the delusional dream of people.

The explains the root of greed, hatred and ignorance are profound and it is very difficult to transcend.

(ii) If there is no Buddha’s protection, Demon will likely come to disturb: the demon, since the beginning of time, has had a grudge against all living beings. If there is no Buddha’s protection, it is hard to repel the demon. Now let’s talk about a koan:

Master Wuda was named the national master in the year of Xian Tong (860ad – 871ad), He was the chief sectarian, lived in AnGuo Temple. There was a time the emperor himself personally visited and listen to his Dharma lecture. While sometimes ago, some foreigner paid tribute to the emperor an extremely rare agarwood throne, the emperor did not use it because of its preciousness. He decided to give it to Master Wuda; Master Wuda accepted it, and was very proud.Something hated him took advantage of such opportunity and causing him carbuncles that resemble of a human face. The condition was so bad that almost killed him. Later it was cured by an extraordinary monk washing it with Samandhi Water. This monk also explains to him what had happened. He said Master Wuda in his previous lives was Yuan An of Han Dynasty. Yuan An proposed the execution of Chao Cuo and the grudge has been there since then. Yuan An had reborn ten times, all living the life of an eminent monk. Cuo couldn’t get his revenge so he just kept hold on to his grudge. And now since you accepted the agarwood throne and your arrogance arosen. So Cuo take advantage to revenge. At the end, Master Wuda wrote three volumes of Samadhi Water Repentances, which are still in circulation to this day.

Another example. in the 37th year of the Republic of China, I was in Mount Putuo. I was performing the “lamp lighting” ritual on the top of my head. There was an old practitioner who wanted to light the lamp together to make offerings to the Buddha. It is said that he lived in a thatched hut in Putuo Mountain. At that time, he really aspired Bodhicitta, wishing to cut off all his affliction and save all sentient beings by causing them to enter nirvana. One day while meditating, he suddenly heard a voice from nowhere saying: “How dare you aspired bodhicitta? How dare you want to liberate from living and dying” Since then, there was something entered his mind, and he no longer able to meditate. Anytime when he tried, he will find something disturbing his mind.

Base on this two stories, it is not easy to see it is difficult to get rid of demonic obstacles on your own.

(iii) Too advance. Faculties of ordinary people cannot understand easily:

This so-called enlightenment, is understand the truth of the heart and seeing self. However, our heart, and our self was covered and entangled by afflictions, which is obscure and difficult to see. In order to understand the heart and seeing self, one must see through all clinging views layer by layer, that is, even the last view about “Buddha” must also be swept away. For example, Once upon a time, Master DaoXin, the fourth patriarch of the Zen sect, went to visit NiuTou Moutain to aid Master FaRong. At that time, when Master FaRong was not yet enlightened, he lived in a thatched hut, observing his mind to recognize Tao. Master DaoXin wrote the word “Buddha” on his seat while Master FaRong was preparing tea. When Master FaRong returned and about to take his seat, he suddenly saw the word “Buddha”. At the exact moment that he was Shocked, Master DaoXin said “You still hold this?!” It can be seen that “Buddha” is also an obstacle. The Diamond Sutra says: “Those who see me in my form, And those who hear me by my voice, Misguided are their footsteps along the way, For they cannot perceive the Tathagata” Exactly referring to what we are talking about here. However, such principles is very profound, it is really difficult for ordinary people to understand.

With all of the above illustrations, we can see that even everyone has light (as in enlightenment), and everyone’s light is already perfect. Due to the extensive affliction, demonic obstacles, and profound of the truth; it is difficult to awake and practice relying only on your own strength.

2. It is not easy to rebirth in the Western Land of Ultimate Bliss relying only the blessing from Buddha

In the previous section, it was said that it is not easy to achieve enlightenment without relying on the power of the Buddha. This is due to the three reasons: our afflictions are extensive, demonic interference is severe, and lastly, it is plainly difficult, self enlightenment require profound understanding of the truth and difficult practices. So, what about the case that we solely rely on Buddha’s blessing? It will not work either. The reason that Light Surpassing the Sun and Moon Buddha teach Great Strength Bodhisattvas the method of Buddha-recitation Samadhi is because solely relying on Buddha’s blessing is not suffice. That’s why one need to be mindful to Buddha. When one be mindful to buddha and buddha being mindful to the one, when two party resonate with each other, then it grantee rebirth in Amitabha’s Land of Ultimate Bliss: The scripture said:

Suppose there were a person who always remembers someone else, but the someone else he remembers has entirely forgotten about him. If two such people were to meet, even if they were to see each other, they would not take notice. They would not recognize each other.

Let’s talk about the scriptures first: The “person who always Remember” is referring to Buddha—in our teaching at the moment, that Buddha will be Amitabha Buddha, and the “someone who entirely forgotten” are referring to sentient beings. The Buddha is dedicated in saving sentient beings, but all sentient beings forget about the Buddha! “To meet”, “To see” are on the perspecitve of the Buddha side. “not take notice”, and “not recognize” are on the perspective of the sentient beings side. The Buddha always meet and sees sentient being. If the sentiment being is being mindful of Buddha, they will sure meet or see the Buddha as well. On the other hand, if they do not know to be mindful of Budddha or they simply refuse to be mindful of the Buddha, they will not take notice nor recognize then. Another way to translate/interpret the scripture is replacing “if” with “although” Since you don’t recite the Buddha, “although” the Buddha is in front of you, you will not see it. Both translation/and interpretation are sound.

Yesterday, We talked about the koan of Amitabha being called a tattletale- the long-eared monk is the incarnation of Dingguang Buddha, Master Yongming is the incarnation of Amitabha. Master Yongming is “Appearance in trivial forms”, The long-eared monk is “appearance in challenging form”. At their time, the locals meet and see them on a regular basis. But who knew they were Buddhas? This is exactly like the scripture said “even if they were to see each other, they would not take notice. They would not recognize each other.

Today, let’s talk about another koan of Master Fenggan being called tattletale. Master Fenggan was a monk in the Guoqing Temple in Tiantai Mountain in the Tang Dynasty. At that time, there was an alternate official, Lu Qiuyin. He was summoned to look after the province. When he was preparing to take office, he suddenly suffered from severe headache. Things look bad and he was dying. Luckily, he has quite a nidana with Buddhism. Master Fenggan visited him and healed him. With gratitude, Yin asked if there are any eminent monks in the province? Master Fenggan told him Hanshan and Shide, the two monks in Guoqing Temple, are the incarnations of Manjushri Bodhisattva and Samantabhadra Bodhisattva. After Lu Qiuyin took office, he went to Guoqing Temple to visit the two Bodhisattva. The reception monk told Lu Qiuyin that Hanshan and Shide are two crazy monks. If Mr governor would like to meet them, he could just summon them. Lu Qinyiu find that inappropriate, so he visited the kitchen to meet the two Bodhisattva in person. When he saw the two Bodhisattva incarnation, Ku Qinyiu immediately bowed to the ground. Hanshan and Shide immediately ran with a laughter. Qiuyin chased after them and witness them enter a big rock and disappeared. Before they disappear, Hanshan left Qinyiu a line “Fenggan such a tattletale! Amitabha Buddha is there and you don’t serve. You come all the way here to bow to me for what?”

Fenggan is the incarnation of Amitabha Buddha, Hanshan, Shide is the incarnation of Manjushri Bodhisattva and Samantabhadra Bodhisattva. One Buddha and two Bodhisattvas live in Guoqing Temple at the same time. Among the other monks and regular followers of the temple, who would know them as Buddhas and Bodhisattvas? Isn’t this also an example of seeing but not taking notice? !

Buddhist do not use super natural powers to illuminate other sentimental beings. Needless to say for non believers, even Buddhist whine about the Bodhisattvas being not compassionate enough. When the world are so distressed, they still aren’t coming to save the world. Little do they know that all Buddhas and Bodhisattvas resolve in great bodhicitta at their original ground. They all take liberating sentimental beings as their mission, and are always “remembering sentient beings” and “acting to save them”. On the other hand, the sentient beings “do not notice” and do not recognize it. If you don’t be mindful of the Buddha and wait for the Buddha simply rescue you, you won’t be able to accomplish that! If you don’t be mindful of the Buddha, even if the Buddha is in front of you now, you won’t recognize it, the same as you aren’t seeing it. Even if the Buddha is standing by to pick you up, you would never follow him.

With all of the above illustrations, we can see that Buddha is always mindful of all living beings. However, if we don’t do the same to Buddha and rely solely on the Buddha’s blessing, we will still not be able to rebirth to the Western Pure Land of Ultimate Bliss.

3. Nidana in perfect harmony result in rebirth to Pureland.

From the two sessions above, we realize neither relying solely on our own power nor solely on Buddha’s blessing can accomplish enlightenment and rebirth to Western Pure Land of Ultimate Bliss. How about if combine both effort? I be Mindful of Buddha and Buddha be mindful of me. Harmonizing nidana, guarantee rebirth to the Pureland. the scripture said

If two people remember each other until the memory of each is deep, then in life after life they will be together like a form and its shadow, and they will never be at odds.

This passage said: If two people long for each other, and the yearning is deep, then the two will not be separated from this life to the next, like a shadow never separated from the object casting it. Here we should pay attention to two points: (1) The two must long for each other, and not just in shallow thoughts, but in very deep yearning. Earlier I said that it is difficult to break the afflictions by oneself; solution? relying on the blessing of Buddha, one can rebirth carrying along one’s karma. It is challenging to fend demonic disturbance all by oneself; solution? Buddha can fend off demons. The self-enlightenment method is advance and profound, and ordinary faculty will be difficult to understand; solution? The method of reciting the Buddha is simple and easy, thus easy to practice accurately. All of this is to say that it is easier to rely on Buddha’s power than doing it all on your own. (2) If you rely solely on Buddha’s blessing without participate yourself, you will hardly accomplish. As I said earlier, if we don’t recite the Buddha, even if the Buddha is looking upon us all the time, we will never be able to give birth to the Western Pureland of Ultimate Bliss.

In order to rebirth to the West, one must “yearn” and “yearn deeply.” This is a matter of the sentient beings. Buddha already doing his part and be mindful to all to the deepest and smallest level. However, only some of us will think of the Buddha and some of us will simply not. Since Buddha think of sentient beings all the time and rather deeply, the factor determining if one can rebirth to the Western Pure Land will certainly land on sentimental being’s own shoulders.Buddha sees all equally. It is like rain, may it be the (three) grasses or the (two) trees, they all receive nourishment equally.The three grasses and two trees are analogy of the five yanas. The Buddha’s teaching is equal, in his original intent, there is no difference between big or small;nor the differentiation of three yanas or of five yanas. However, as the faculty of all sentiment being are different, and the way they perceive are also different, there is the distinction of five yanas. Just as a large tree receives more rainfall, and a small grass receives less rainfall under the same rain. Further elaboration on the three grasses and two trees: The Pure Land Dharma bless all level equally, just like the the rain. However, those who are drenched must first have roots, like grass and trees; if there are no roots, they cannot grow even if they are covered with rain. And the root needs to be deep. It is obvious that it won’t benefit from the rain without root. However, If the roots are too shallow, they will not be able to withstand the wind and the sun. Here, the root is referring to the root of goodness (virtue, blessing, good nidana.) And the Pure Land school takes reciting Buddha as the root of goodness. Reciting the Buddha must be extremely sincere. It counts (as accomplishment) only if one have to resolve to rebirth to the Land of Ultimate Bliss through the act of reciting Buddhas’ name  Just like Great Strength Bodhisattva said “remembering”, “memory … is deep”, “remembering” (reciting) is growing root of kindness. “memory … is deep” (sincerely reciting) is growing the root deep. <<Amitabha Sutra>> says, “one cannot have few good roots, blessings, virtues, and causal connections to attain birth in that land.” So the requirement is having abundance of good root, blessing, and nidana in order to rebirth to the land of Ultimate Bliss. If you recite and recite deeply, you will have many good roots and merits, and you will be able to meet the powerful mindfulness of Amitabha’s toward sentient beings. And you will be born in the West.

Some people say: Amitabha is so merciful, you can be reborn to Pureland with as little as ten recitations, so why do we need to recite it every day? Why do we need to practice it deeply? Yes, it is true that one be able to reborn after ten recitation! But planning to do so to liberate oneself is not very reliable. Let’s say now you recite Buddha’s name for 10 breath long, and do not recite it ever again, and you wait for your end (death) to be reborn! Then surely you won’t make it. Because the “karma” in the principle of “rebirth carrying along one’s karma” is referring to old karma but not newly committed karma, as I said it in yesterday. You are always creating karmas (three types of Karma, Mental, Verbal and Physical), the merits and virtues of reciting ten times is no match of the karma you create unstoppably. How can you rebirth to the Pureland then? So, you have to remember more, you have to remember deeply. If all you care is reciting the Buddha’s name, you will naturally not lead to karma creation. To chant Buddha’s name, not only one need to recite it more, but also think of it deeply! What is consider as deep thought? As a phenomena, it is reciting Buddha’s name until you rebirth to the West. As a principle, it is reciting Buddha’s name until you reach the deep part of the heart. If one only focus on quantity but discard the quality (how to recite and remember deeply), even they can chant three thousand to hundred thousand times Buddha’s name a day, the mind still fantasizing aimlessly. They literally chanting with their voice but not reciting with their heart. In that case, the good root is too shallow, that won’t guarantee rebirth to the Pureland. One must recite each Buddha’s name to the deepest of our heart, to the Western Pureland, in order to resonate with the mindfulness of Buddha. And in such case, no doubt you will rebirth to the Western Pureland.

It is really quite exceptional that everyone here today dedicated to recite the Buddha. When you have made up your mind to reciting the Buddha’s name, you really should further seek deep recitation. How can we “yearn deeply”? There are three kinds of visualizations to make: (1) view the suffering of beings; (2) Don’t waste the root of goodness; (3) Don’t waste the Buddha’s grace.

First visualization, we observe sentient beings suffer endlessly. We would like to help but we are powerless to save them. Therefore, we seek rebirth in the West by reciting the Buddha’s name, attain the “patience with the non-producion of dharmas”, and return to save all suffering sentient beings;

Second visualization, Don’t waste the root of goodness: It is important to know that born in human form is scarce. One has to not committing murder, stealing, sexual misconduct, lying in the previous life, in order to born as human.In order to know about the reciting Buddha method, one also has to plant good root about the method in one’s previous life. It is really exceptional. On the other hand, it is rather effortless to loss such rare opportunity. Typical people that do not recite Buddha will create Karma (Mental, Verbal, and Physical). With a blink of time, one’s life is over and they will loss their human form, wasting the good root they had planted. Once we realizing this, we should right away recite Buddha’s name deeply.

Last visualization, Buddha is remembering us deeply. If we don’t think of Buddha back, aren’t we some ungrateful bunch?! Once you realize that , you should recite the Buddha deeply.

Nowadays, there are some Buddhists that do not understand the principle of the Pure Land School and its methods. They slander it as “Reliant. Guarantee can’t make Buddhahood.” ​​This is incorrect. The masters from the past refer the method as “ridding on Buddha’s power” was originally intended to praise the “superiority” of the “Pure Land School.” They never meant it is a method that is solely relying on Buddha’s blessing. Those slander remarks are made by amateurs and shouldn’t be followed. Additionally, Pureland school’s signature practice is the reciting method. How is reciting deeply not “self-reliance” On the one hand, you rely on your self to recite, on the other hand, you ride the blessing of Buddha’s mindfulness power. Like I said the whole time, it is going to be difficult to accomplish may you rely solely on your own strength or rely solely on Buddha’s Blessing. Only when both forces are combined – nidana in harmony, one can be born in the Pure Land. The Buddha is always waiting to welcome us! Rebirth to the West or not will solely depends on the our strength in “remembering deeply”!

Alight, this is enough side tracking. Everybody gather up your spirit. Let’s recite.

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