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

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3. Remember the Buddha and be mindful of the Buddha, certainly they will see the Buddha

Bear with me, all superior good people: Allow Daoyuan to sidetrack and say a few words. Yesterday, we talk about when both party resonate with each other, it guarantee rebirth in Amitābha’s Land of Ultimate Bliss. And in the scripture, we covered up to the line at “If two people remember each other until the memory of each is deep, then in life after life …they will never be at odds.” Today’s subject is about “remember the Buddha and be mindful of the Buddha, certainly they will see the Buddha.” It will be more organize if we break it into three sections. Please refer to the scripture:

1. Temporary remembering is weak, That is no match to scattered thoughts

“Out of pity for living beings, the Thus Come Ones of the ten directions are mindful of them as a mother remembers her child. If the child runs away, of what use is the mother’s regard? But if the child remembers his mother in the same way that the mother remembers the child, then in life after life the mother and child will not be far apart. If living beings remember the Buddha and are mindful of the Buddha, certainly they will see the Buddha now or in the future.”

In its worldly senses, A mother is the best representation of utmost compassionate. Although the kindness of the father and mother are often discussed on a par, it seems the love of the mother is more than that of the father. Why would I say that? For example, if a child is unworthy and like for example committed theft and adultery, the father often in his anger and drives him/her out of the family. And it is different in mother’s case. Her anger towards the unworthy children is certainly there, but in her anger, there will also a deep sense of pity. And she will never bear to give up and cast them out. To the Buddhas, all living beings are like the beloved son of a loving mother. Although sentient beings do not think of the Buddha and commit bad deeds like killing, stealing, sexual misconduct, and lying, the Buddha will never abandon them. The Buddha will see that they are pitiful, just like a loving mother who will never abandon her unworthy children. However, if the child runs away from the mother, what is the use of the mother even though she think of them all the time? Even though the Buddha are mindful to all sentient beings, but all sentient beings turn their backs from enlightenment, going against the Buddha. What use of the Buddha’s recollection? If a son is immensely think of his mother, just like his mother thinking of him, the mother and son will be reunited, and they will never deviate from each other life after life. If sentient beings are mindful of the Buddha as earnest and sincere as Buddha being mindful of sentient beings, they will be able to see the Buddha immediately, and they will never deviated from the Buddha in the future.

Up to this point, we were talking about principle of “Buddha-recitation Samadhi.” And we are about to talk about the method of Buddha-recitation:

The last line of scripture that we went through said “If living beings remember the Buddha and are mindful of the Buddha.” Living beings are just like you and me. “Remember”, “be mindful”, in their general sense are referring to the same thing, which is “to think about”. Here, it is intentionally differentiating “remembering Buddha” from “being mindful of Buddha.” Base on its context, and the translation perhaps were not able to fully relate its original intent, the idea is “temporarily thinking about” is called “remembering” here, and “remembering consistently for a long time” is called “be mindful” The reason to make such differentiation is to teach us about the practice in the most practical sense. One should know temporary remembering is weak (not powerful) If it aren’t match to scattered thoughts, then they aren’t certain to see Buddha now or in the future.

Ordinary people must learn Buddhism. If you don’t study Buddhism, not only you will be unable to recognize the truth, but also not able to recognize the delusion. What is delusional? That is, a mind that is constantly thinking about things (every day to every moment). We have been ordinary people more times than just this life. It is not overstate that we have been like this as far back as the beginning of time. And such delusions way have become habitual already. We pretty much think things involuntarily. (Note: At the moment of the speech, a person walk in from outside.) For example, when I give a lecture here, if a person walks in from the outside, everyone “has” to look up. We act before even we know it. That’s a clear proof that our mind is constantly acting. It is thinking of things every day, what does it think of thou? The usual greedy thoughts – thinking of desires, think of prosperities; hatred thoughts – when think of misfortune; ignorance thought – confusion and things that aren’t even clear and sensible to themself. These busy mind not only act during the day, it is also working during sleep (dreaming.) What is the benefit of such endless thinking? Apart from getting dizzy from exhaustion, which makes the mind further scattered, it can be said that there is nothing to gain truly. Base on its nature of such, we called it “scattered mind.” After learning the dharma, you will know that there is a “true mind” (some translated it to true heart?), and at the same time you will recognize the “delusional mind” – the scattered mind. Only after you recognize it can you put it in check. It is not going to be easy thou because we have been delusional like that since the beginning of time.The habits really stick won’t budge!

The intent to recite the Buddha is to counteract the delusional mind (scattered mind); But if we only recite it sparingly, it will be no match against the scatter mind! That’s why I said, in such condition, “we can’t be certain to see Buddha now nor in the future” That’s also why I said yesterday, taking advantage to liberate yourself merely through “ten recitation” is unreliable. It is worth accentuate thou, it doesn’t even takes ten recitation to rebirth to the west, even one recitation can achieve that, but that is referring to the case at the end of one’s life. Once one experienced all his karma of this life, when he/she has no more longing, when his heart is without inversion (up side down), may it be ten recitation or one recitation, he will attain rebirth in Amitabha’s Land of Ultimate Bliss. Please don’t underestimate its difficulty because it sounds simple.  In order to have ones mind in check at the end of life, so that it don’t long things or fall upside down aren’t easy. Recognizing you lived a life filled with desires and also delusional, the state of longings will certainly come as you approach the end of life. Typically speaking, It is common for the elderly to gather relatives and leave many wills, such as financial accounts, personnel matter, etc., if the beloved children aren’t making it there yet, one struggle to live and wait, if one can’t wait anymore, they die with their eyes remain opened. This is the heart of longing, and the mind of inverted (falling up side down). It is easy to agree one should not be greedy to crave the world at these time, but it is difficult to do it in reality. If you can rally up the will to be “mindful of the Buddha” and recite the Buddha wholeheartedly, and abandon all cravings, then you will be in resonance with the Buddha. So the dying thoughts are utterly important. Additionally, if a person is nearing the end of his life, he happens to encounter a good teacher’s teaching, and he who hears it believes and accepts it. Reciting the name of Amitabha Buddha (ten times) and died. In such case there is no doubt he will rebirth in the Western land of ultimate Bliss. Because when he was about to die, his resolve was utmost, his fear was pressing, his vows will be strong, and his intent will be powerful, so he could be reborn in the West with ten or even one chant. That is referring to the case at the end of one’s life.

When we recite the Buddha in the Buddhist center, it is easier to concentrate. Because the Buddha statues and dojos’ solemnness, all those who come into contact are genuine companions. It is easier, but it is still inevitable that our mind fancy this and that. So what do you think the situation will be like in the regular life? It will be much more scatter and delusional! (As it is a habit since the beginning of time.) To correct such deep-rooted habit, one must be recited regularly and recited frequently. Don’t wish for lucky break and taking chances.

2、Be mindful for a long time will result in fine skill and you will have one heart unconfused

The idea of “Remembering the Buddha” has been discussed earlier. Now let’s talk about the principle of “being mindful of Buddha.” (Please note that “reciting the Buddha” is used interchangeably with “being mindful of Buddha”. It is much easier to see why in the Chinese language. For simplicity, take the following brief explanation. There are actually three techniques used to “being mindful of Buddha” that was named in record. The method of Reciting Buddha’s name to be mindful of Buddha was the simplest and widely promoted by master of pureland school. Therefore, when we say reciting Buddha, we are actually referring to Be mindful of Buddha as the scripture said.) Just now I said that temporary thinking about is called “remembering”. Its strength is weak and it is not easy to rebirth to the West. To practice the reciting method one should resolve to liberate himself form living and dying. If one merely rejoice in being mindful of Buddha, it will only serve as planting good root, it cannot liberate yourself form living and dying. If you want liberate yourself from living and dying, you must develop skill in reciting Buddha. Someone had asked: Buddha-nature (Buddha-dhatu) is inherited within everyone, why bother being mindful of Buddha?Well, we don’t even know about Buddha-nature until such were taught by Buddha. Who has actually seen this so called Buddha-nature?

Since the beginning of time, ordinary people have had deep afflictions and obscured their Buddha-nature. They must get rid of their afflictions before the Buddha-nature can appear. But it’s not easy to get rid of afflictions! Only after you reborn in the Western Pureland of Ultimate Bliss, it is easy to get rid of it. Therefore, “rebirth carrying along one’s karma.” is a special virtue of the chanting method. But karma—the power of afflictions is too great; as the Sutra of the Past Vows of Earth Store Bodhisattva (Ksitigarbha Sutra) says: “The power of karma is extremely great. It rivals Mount Sumeru in its heights. It surpasses the great oceans in its depths. It obstructs the path leading to sagehood.” Look how powerful this is! It is very difficult to cut it off, and it is not easy to carry it along. If you want to carry the karma to rebirth to the West, you must recite the Buddha more to receive more power of the Buddha.

Our ancestors used to chant 100,000 times the name of Buddhas a day. That is to enhance the reception of Buddha’s power in order to carry karma and rebirth to the West. Of course, the more you recite the Buddha, the better. If you specialize in one trick, you will develop skill in it. If you are practicing multiple tricks, you may not be able to achieve your wish to develop the skill. For example, the goal of chanting 100,000 time the name Amitabha Buddhas is challenging for the usual monk. Not to mention how difficult it is for lay Buddhist who is entangled by a lot of other businesses. Giving up?  How do one liberate from living and dying then? One must set an agenda, to recite how many iteration in the morning, and to recite how many in the evening. Use chanting beads to keep track of counts and stick with your agenda.Do it every day without absences. On top of that, putting additional effort in adding counts (chant Buddha’s name additionally) whenever you can. Chant some more when you are making diner, doing laundry, riding a car, traveling… There is not a place a time that you cannot chanting Buddha’s name. In this way, you can reach more recitations. This is the unique convenience of chanting school. We, ordinary people, are busy all the time. We have to take a break from our busy schedule, don’t make excuse using your busy schedule. You are busy, he is busy. When will one stop being busy? Until death do us part, probably. If you aren’t resolve to liberate from living and dying, then we don’t have to talk about it! On the other hand, If you plan to liberate from living and dying, you must practice it seriously, to recite Buddha’s name. Housework must be done, and the Buddha must be minded (recited); everyone should allocate their time wisely, and put Buddha recitation as essence.

People in the world tend to think of family affairs as more important than reciting Buddha’s name. This is actually upside down. This is “lost.” Such mindset must be changed. In this Buddhist hall, there are fewer young people. Most of us are over 30s  40s or even older. We have been busy for decades. What are we being busy for? Some of the people here have children and grandchildren, and waiting for them to perform filial piety! That’s so deeply “lost”! Once your daughter was raised at the age of 20 and married off, is she still yours? If she has food on her table, and you have your own as well, you entertain her once a while when she is visiting, then your relationship can still be fine. If you have no food to eat and expect your daughter to support you, not only will she not treat you as a mother, she will treat you even worse than an ordinary relative! Of course, we shouldn’t over generalize, but majority of the cases are just like how I said. What about sons? We have this old saying that once you get a wife and forget your own mother. If they give birth to a grandson, you have to also take care of him. And they (your son and daughter-in-law will blame you If you don’t take care of grandson well. Think about it, your children can’t be filial to you, how can you expect your grandson to be filial to you? Is this not deeply lost within deep lost. If you think you are busy, what are you busy for? Aren’t you busy for your children or grandchildren? When you are so always busy and one day you have to die, nobody will take that for you! You must understand that your children and grandchildren are collector for your previous lives’ deed. You do your part to to repay the debt, don’t be lost having all those delusional fantasy or expectation.

Reciting Buddha’s name is a matter of liberating yourself from living and dying. If one failed to rebirth to the West, once we lose this human body, it will takes ten of thousand of aeon to regain our ground. And we cannot practice even when we want to during those time. So, be sure to cherish the reincarnated human body and properly practice. Reciting Buddha’s name more to tap into Buddhas’s blessing to fight against the force of karma. Only then can we carry the karma to rebirth to the West, and not be led into the evil realm by karma. It’s like a “tug-of-war”, where the stronger pull over the weaker side.

Some people say: Buddha’s power is so inconceivable. It is like  “When alum is thrown into turbid water, the turbid water has to be clear; when a Buddha’s name is thrown into a scattered mind, the scattered mind cannot but become a Buddha.” Why bother practice it again and again? Such saying is merely highlighting the Buddha’s name has the power to deal with scattered mind. It is meant to be a praise for the excellence of the Pure Land School Method. It should be noted that the water turbidity also have different scale. If the turbidity is intense, the water will be clear only after a long time. Scattered minds also have different scale, and if the habit is only mild, a single Buddha’s name can make the mind undisturbed. People who have intense scatted mind, like many of us, reciting the Buddha’s name once or twice can’t turn the distracted mind into a Buddha’s mind. It takes a lot more practice/recitation before it can achieve that. For example, an advertisement that sells soap may says: “You can wash it off with a little soap.” There are not wrong. If there isn’t a lot of dirt or grease, sure it only require a little soap. However, if the dirt is too greasy, like a rag that has not been washed for many days in the kitchen, then you need to use more soap and soak it for a long time before it can be cleaned. Reciting Buddha’s name to counter scatter mind, to overcome the power of karma share the same similarity. In order to highlight such principle, that’s also why in the scriptures, they explicitly differentiate the concept of “remember” and “be mindful of”.

3、Resonance, thy paths shall cross; and one is certain to see Buddha

So we just finished talking about “remember the Buddha and are mindful of the Buddha” Now, let’s talk about “certainly they will see the Buddha now or in the future” According to the principle of the Pure Land school, when you practice reciting the Buddha’s name, you can only see the Buddha when your remuneration is exhausted (about to die), the moment when you reborn in the west. So there are people wonder if it is reliable? I would like to provide some explanation and examples (actual cases) that one can also witness Buddha at the current moment. First case is witnessing Buddha in dreams. When the practice of be mindful of Buddha, thinking about Buddha turn into a natural habit, the act of remembering become true (or purified) (another possible way to interpret master Dao Yuan’s saying is the target (perception) of what you trying to remember or be mindful of (suppose to be Buddha) has become purified and more authentic), one can see Amitabha Buddha in a dream. The idea of seeing Buddha in dream is straightforward. You thinking of something a lot in day time, so the thing may appears in your dream as well. Sadly, during daytime, ordinary people intensively think about ordinary things, thus their dreams are never far from greed, hatred, and ignorance. When dreaming of prosperity,  greed arisen from the heart; when dreaming of adversity, hatred arisen from the heart; and there are some confused dreams. In the dream, you are confused, and you are still confused when you wake up, that is ignorance (greed, hatred and ignorance are refer as the three poison in Buddhism). Most of the dreams of ordinary people are like this. Rarely one will dream of Buddha.

With the same logic, it is very easy for a mother to dream of a son who travels far away. If a mother’s beloved son travels far away and fails to return as scheduled, it is easy for her to dream of him because she is missing him. On the other hand, her son is having fun traveling, forgotten about his mother for a while already, thus he hardly dream about his mother. Even if someone told him that his mother missed him, he could also miss his family too, but he still won’t dream of his mother as his longing is not strong. If the son actually wants to be home but unable to do so, and he is missing his mother dearly, then he can dream of seeing her. All of this is to say that seeing mom in a dream still requires deep longing, let alone seeing a Buddha? Only if our skill of reciting Buddha (be mindful of Buddha) is solid, we can restrain the three poisons. Thus we stop dreaming of the realm of the three poisons, but the realm of Buddha instead. If we are still having chaotic and confused dreams, we should feel dishonored, and convert the negative emotion into effort to chant Buddha. All of this is to say that that dreaming of a Buddha also requires considerable effort/skill. If you want to see the Buddha during the day (awake state), that will require even more skill. In the past, many great masters of the Pure Land School have seen Buddhas. Not only the masters, but whoever spends time and effort can see the Buddha.

There is a koan in the book <<Afterlife Collection>>: There was a Mr Ge who believed in Taoism and practiced immortal magic. His wife believed in Buddhism. They would like to convert each other but came to no agreement. As a result, they each practice their own way. In ancient time, all women of our country weaved cloth. Mrs Ge chanted the name of Buddha every time she threw the shuttle during weaving. After a while, Amitabha Buddha appeared in the sky. Mrs. Ge paid her respects while calling her husband to pay homage. Mr Ge can only saw the upper half of the Buddha’s body. Since then, he also became a believer, and he followed his wife to study the Buddha, and accepted the Pure Land Practice.

Also, I have personally heard people practice Buddhist chanting told stories about seeing the Buddha with their own eyes. Here are two cases:

(1) In the seventeenth year of the Republic of China, I lived in Lingyan Mountain Temple in Suzhou. There was an old lay Buddhist who had been chanting Buddha for many years in front of a wall. One day, he suddenly saw a bright light in front of my eyes. When he opened my eyes to look, the wall disappeared, and he only saw the three statues of the western saints, which were thirty feet more or so tall. After a few minutes, they gradually disappeared. ”

(2) In the 33rd year of the Republic of China, I went to Mount Wutai (Mountain of Five Platforms)’s Nantai (Southen Platform). I heard that not long before my visit, a lama visited there as well. When he was chanting Buddha outside Nantai Temple, a statue of Amitabha Buddha suddenly appeared in the air which were thirty feet more or so tall. The visiting Lama called the local monks pay homage and worshiped together. The Buddha statue stayed for more than an hour. There were total 25 witness for this happened.

These are some of examples of seeing the Buddha in the present. As many years back as the Ge’s family and as recent as the monks and witnessess of Lingyan Mountain and Wutai Mount . These are all evidence as accountable as it can be. So why can’t we see the Buddha ourself? Because what we are mindful of are the realm of ordinary people, that’s why we can see ordinary people, but not Buddhas. Just like the vulgar people in society, desiring only in vulgar things, and all he sees is also vulgar people. It is the same principle that only those who are attentive to holiness can see the saints. If you recite the Buddha constantly and sincerely, you will be able to sense and resonance to the Dao. Nowadays, people expecting to see Buddha only after recite three or five times. When they failed to see the Buddha, they complain that the method is ineffective. This is a huge mistake. Think about it, they only perform recitations occasionally and that is without sincere longing. That have no power of reach at all. How could a Buddha respond? Buddha, is like “The bell is on the rack, and when it is knocked, it will ring.” Big knock will make a big sound, small knock will make only a small sound, and no knock will make no sound. There is nothing personal when a bell ring or does not ring. Bell’s innate nature is to make sound and the sound reach everywhere. The bell is always waiting for you to ring. And the Buddha’s innate nature is compassion, it also reach everywhere, always waiting for you to reach for it.

The purpose of the Pure Land is to have the Buddha receive you when your remuneration is exhausted, and to liberate from living and dying. As soon as the lotus blossoms open, you will be born and sees the Buddha, and you will always sees the Buddha, never regressing. Out of the 84,000 dharma doors, nothing is easier than this method. However, those of us who recite Buddha’s name should not take it too easily; We must know who is reciting that resonance with Buddha, and who are Buddha receiving. How can I recite and successfully resonate with Buddha? Hint: That is to use the three kinds of visualizations I talked about yesterday: (1) view the suffering of beings, Desire to rebirth in the West. Achieving super powers, great bodily characteristics, wisdom and eloquence, and return to save sentient beings. (2) Don’t waste the root of goodness. (3) Don’t waste the Buddha’s grace. By doing these three kinds of visualizations, you will naturally be able to recite more and more sincerely. Today, I will add another kind of visualization, that is, to observe the suffering of living and dying, and seek liberation. We are living in the good realms, and our affliction are already endless. If we fall into the three evil realms in the future, the suffering will be unspeakable. Now, our Buddha’s recitation cannot become one with the Buddha’s mindfulness, that is because there are too many delusions. If you contemplate the suffering of your own life and death, you will be able to recite the Buddha earnestly, and delusions will naturally gradually reduced. If you recite the Buddha sincerely, and have few delusional thoughts, you will be able to sense the connection of Buddha, and you will definitely see the Buddha.

Alight, this is enough side tracking. Let’s recite.