Download - Gaining Buddhahood Through Amitabha-Recitation

  • 8/18/2019 Gaining Buddhahood Through Amitabha-Recitation


  • 8/18/2019 Gaining Buddhahood Through Amitabha-Recitation





    1. The Goal of Dharma-Learning Is to Gain Buddhahood 3

    2. Amitabha’s Fundamental Vo Is the Basi! Intent of All Buddhas 4

    ". Amitabha’s Fundamental Vo Is A!!laimed b# All Buddhas 7

    $. Faith in Amitabha’s Fundamental Vo Is %n!ouraged b# All Buddhas 8

    &. Amitabha’s Fundamental Vo Is '(e!iall# )reser*ed b# All Buddhas 10

    +. The Three 'utras Illuminate ,nl# % !lusi*e e!itation 14

    /. 0an usri esol*es to Be eborn in the Land of Bliss 16

    . 'amantabhadra Vo s to Gain ebirth in the Land of Bliss 17

    3. A*alo4ites*ara %n!ourages 5uiri to Be eborn in the Land of Bliss 18

    16. 0an usri and 'amantabhadra 7rge Fa8hao to 'ee4 ebirth in the Land of Bliss 22

    11. 'ha4#amuni and the ,ther Buddhas Ad*ise 7s to Loo4 to the 9estern )ure Land 40

    12. Amitabha- e!itation Is the Beginning and the %nd of All Dharma )ra!ti!es 41

    1". Amitabha- e!itation Is the )rofound Tea!hing of the Avatamsaka Sutra and the 'e!ret%ssen!e of the Lotus Sutra 43

    1$. Amitabha- e!itation 'ums 7( 'ha4#amuni Buddha’s 'a!red Tea!hings 45


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    1. The Goal of Dharma-Learning Is to Gain Buddhahood

    “Gaining Buddhahood through Amitabha recitation is the teaching o! the

    Buddhas"# $hat is to say% “reciting the name o! Amitabha Buddha# and thereby

    “gaining Buddhahood# is the goal o! Buddhism" &! 'e recite but do not become aBuddha% that is not the (ur(ose o! Buddhist teaching"

    $o learn the )harma% 'e must !irst ta*e re!uge in the $hree Gems" But ta*ingre!uge is not the goal but the !irst ste(% the !oundation" $he ultimate end o! ta*ing

    re!uge is to attain Buddhahood" &! not% it isn+t true learning o! the )harma or theta*ing o! re!uge" ,o it is 'ith Amitabha recitation" &! the !inal (ur(ose isn+t to

    become a Buddha% the (ractice is not real Amitabha recitation"

    $here are !our methods o! “ nian!o" -in.ocation or recollection o! a Buddha/"

    $hey are in.ocation at the le.el o! absolute reality% meditati.e in.ocation% in.ocationby .isuali0ation and oral in.ocation o! the Buddha+s name" $he nian!o 'e s(ea* o! is

    not the !irst three *inds% but the !ourth recitation o! the name" ! the !our .arieties%

    “name recitation# is the sim(lest% most direct and most 'ides(read" &t can be

    (racticed in any era% any'here and by anyone" &t is also the most sublime% sur(assingand reliable !orm" ,o 'hat 'e re!er to here is name recitation alone"

    As !or “Buddha%# there is ,ha*yamuni Buddha% Amitabha Buddha%

    Bhaisa yaguru -4edicine/ Buddha% A*sobhya Buddha" $here are Buddhas o! the (ast

    and !uture% the 1%555 Buddhas and the 15%555 Buddhas 6 7hich Buddha+s name do

    'e recite8 9ot those o! the (ast and !uture Buddhas% and not those o! the 1%555 and

    15%555 Buddhas" 7e recite only #$amo Amitabha %u&&ha'" attained Buddhahood ten (a)*as ago% Amitabha is the Buddha o!&n!inite Li!e" ,o Amitabha is a Buddha o! the (resent% as 'ell as a Buddha o! the!uture 'ho 'ill ! e:ist" And 'hat 'e s(ea* o! here is oral recitation o! the si:

    character 9ame o! a 4yriad ;irtues% $amo Amitabha %u&&ha " &n other 'ords% 'ecan achie.e Buddhahood by reciting $amo Amitabha %u&&ha "

    “Gaining Buddhahood through Amitabha recitation is the teaching o! theBuddhas# means that so long as they recite $amo Amitabha %u&&ha, (eo(le can

    gain Buddhahood% 'hether they li.e in the Age o! Correct )harma% the Age o!

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    ,emblance )harma% the Age o! )harma )ecline% or e.en the Age o! )harma

    E:tinction" the accom(lishment is assured in their (resent li!etime"

    2. Amitabha’s Fundamental Vo Is theBasi! Intent of All Buddhas

    Amitabha+s =undamental ;o' is the basic intention o! all the Buddhas" AllBuddhas commend it% urge !aith in it% and s(ecially e:tend its teaching and .aliditybeyond the e:tinction o! the )harma"

    “=undamental ;o'# has t'o meanings" ne re!ers to its origins in the causal

    ground -the en.ironment 'here the (ractitioner (ractices/% 'hile the second is

    “(rimary% or root% resolution"# Be!ore becoming a Buddha% a (ractitioner in thecausal ground as(ires to bo&hicitta -gaining Buddhahood to sa.e beings/ and

    underta*es the Bodhisatt.a (ractices" Each resolution he or she thus ma*es onbehal! o! sentient beings is a !undamental .o'" 7ith re!erence to the causal ground%

    each o! the ;o's Amitabha made !or the sa*e o! beings is a !undamental .o'"

    But in terms o! the root resolution% only the 1> th ;o' is the =undamental ;o'" $hereis a relati.e relationshi( bet'een the root and the branches and" &n this

    res(ect% all the ;o's a(art !rom the 1> th are secondary .o's"

    &n our school o! (ractice% “=undamental ;o'# usually re!ers to the 1> th ;o'%

    rarely the others" $here is a basis !or this"

    7ithin the $hree Pure Land ,utras% the “=undamental ;o'# re!erred to in the

    +n!inite i!e Sutra is the 1> th ;o'" $he sutra contains a “=undamental ;o' atha".

    By the power of the Fundamental Vow,Those who hear the name of Amitabha and want rebirthWill all arrive in his Land of Bliss, Achieving non-retrogression as a matter of course

    $he contents o! the gatha e:(lain the 1> th ;o'"

    Bodhisatt.a 9agar una says in his /ha*ter on the asy ath. %Am&ta'(a

    )u**(a+s ,un*amenta- .o/ &s -&ke t(&s I someone &nvokes me re &tes m namean* takes re u e &n me t(&s erson at on e atta&ns t(e karma o assuran e

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    $he “=undamental ;o'# here re!ers to the 1> th ;o' as 'ell% 'ith “recites my

    name and ta*es re!uge in me# being an e:(lication o! the 1> th ;o'" 7e can see that

    Bodhisatt.a 9agar una regards the 1> th ;o' as the =undamental ;o'"

    Bodhisatt.a ;asubandhu+s Treatise on Rebirth in the ure an& and 4aster

    $anluan+s /ommentary on the Treatise on Rebirth in the ure an& also ta*e the 1> th ;o' as the =undamental ;o'" ,ays Treatise on Rebirth. %T(ose /(o en ounter t(e

    o/er o Am&ta'(a+s ,un*amenta- .o/ never ome u em t 9(an*e* u& k- &tu- &--s t(e&r as &rat&on or re'&rt( an* &ves t(em er e t mer&t an* v&rtues as vast

    an* as *ee as t(e o ean

    $he gatha s mention o! “the (o'er o! Amitabha+s =undamental ;o'# isanother allusion to the 1> th ;o'"

    ,o in our school% remar*s about “the =undamental ;o'# or “the (o'er o! the

    =undamental ;o'# in.ariably re!er to the 1> th ;o'"

    &n “the basic intent o! all Buddhas%# “basic intent# means “goal"# Buddhas

    a((ear in .arious 'orlds !or the (ur(ose o! deli.ering sentient beings" $here is more

    than a single method o! doing so" As the saying goes% “$he Buddha ga.e a .ariety o!teachings to suit a range o! minds" &! there 'eren+t mani!old mentalities% 'hy 'as

    there the need !or numerous teachings8# Because sentient beings ha.e >

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    With infinite great compassion, the Tathagatacommiserates with the beings of the Three !omains

    Therefore he appears in the world to teach and enlightenthem "e wishes to save the multitudes by endowing them with real benefits

    $his e:tract is also *no'n as the “(assage on ,ha*yamuni Buddha+s basicintent !or a((earing in the 'orld%# or the “(assage on all Buddhas+ basic intent !or

    a((earing in the 'orlds"#

    &n the narro' sense% “$athagata# in “'ith in!inite great com(assion% the

    $athagata 6# re!ers to ,ha*yamuni Buddha himsel!" &n a broader sense it means theBuddhas o! the ten directions% and o! the (ast% (resent and !uture" All $athagatas

    and Buddhas (ossess great com(assion o! an indescribable% un!athomable andboundless nature" Because such com(assion e:ists only in Buddhas% it cannot be

    understood by beings belo' the stage o! Bodhisatt.a" $hat+s 'hy it is called “in!initegreat com(assion"#

    “Commiserates 'ith the beings o! the $hree )omains# means to ta*e (ity on

    ordinary beings in the $hree )omains and ,i: ealms" $his is 'hy the Buddhas

    a((ear in the 'orld" &! 'e 'ere not tra((ed in the burning house o! the $hree)omains or the sea o! su!!ering in the ,i: ealms% there 'ould be no need !or the

    Buddhas to ta*e (ity on us" &t is (recisely because 'e are alight in the burningmansion and dro'ning in the sea o! su!!ering that their great com(assion arises and

    they come to sa.e us"

    $o beings% the Buddhas naturally ha.e to teach the )harma% so they

    “teach and enlighten"# $he (ur(ose is to sa.e su!!ering beings and to bring them

    genuine bene!it"

    7ithin the )harma there are e:(edient bene!its and real bene!its" $he

    +n!inite i!e Sutra e:(lains the deli.erance o! Amitabha Buddha+s 1> th ;o'% 'hichcon!ers real ultimate bene!its" $here!ore the 1> th ;o' is the !undamental

    (ur(ose o! all Buddhas" ur e:(lication o! “the basic intent o! all Buddhas# is basedon the te:t o! the ;o'" $hough this (assage is only !i.e or si: sentences long% its

    im(lications are .ast and its meaning (ro!ound" &t can be said to all Buddhist


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    ". Amitabha’s Fundamental VoIs A!!laimed b# All Buddhas

    “Acclaimed by all Buddhas# means (raised by (ast% (resent and !uture

    Buddhas o! the ten directions" &n the +n!inite i!e Sutra, ,ha*yamuni Buddha told us

    Buddhas in the ten directions, as numerous as grains ofsand in the #anges $iver, all acclaim the Buddha of %nfiniteLife, commending his unfathomable power and virtue&

    $he 'orlds in the ten directions contain innumerable Buddhas" Ho' many8

    $hey cannot be counted" ,ha*yamuni Buddha com(ares their number to grains o!sand in the Ganges" ,e(arately they (roclaim the same thing% (raising the (o'er and merit o! Amitabha Buddha" “Po'er and .irtue# re!ers to

    Amitabha+s com(assion% 'isdom% !orce o! resolution% s(ecial (o'ers and .irtuousdeeds% as 'ell as the ca(acity o! his merit to sa.e sentient beings" E.en the Buddhas

    o! all directions consider the ability o! the Buddha o! &n!inite Li!e to beingsun!athomable" =rom this 'e can see that the (o'er o! Amitabha Buddha sur(asses

    that o! all other Buddhas" reali0ed their Buddha nature% o! course% all Buddhas are ali*e ande ual" But in the .o's they undertoo* in the causal ground to sa.e beings% and intheir ability to do so a!ter !ul!illing those .o's% Buddhas are not all e ual" $he

    resolutions underta*en by Amitabha a!ter !i.e (a)*as o! re!lection are hiss(lendi!erous ;o's% 'hich no other Buddha made" 9or are the time !rame and

    contents o! his ;o's matched by any other Buddha" in accordance 'ithhis ;o's% Amitabha became a Buddha only a!ter s(ent countless eons gaining

    the ability to sa.e each and e.ery sentient being" ,o he also di!!ers !rom other

    Buddhas in terms o! the accom(lishment o! his resolutions and (ractices% as 'ell astheir substance"

    Because o! di!!erences in the causal ground% the strength o! the resulting

    merit a!ter gaining Buddhahood also .aries" $hus 'hile Buddha nature is al'ayse ual% there can be large di!!erences in the ability to sentient beings" ,ome

    beings are easy to sa.e% others are hard to" $he di!!icult ones can only be

    sa.ed by Amitabha Buddha" As the reat /om*assion Sutra says% beings in our 'orldo! the =i.e $urbidities are a!!licted by an inordinate amount o! greed% anger and

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    ignorance@ abandoned by all other Buddhas% they can only be sa.ed by Amitabha"

    Among the realms in the ten directions% beings 'ith se.ere greed% anger and

    ignorance% because o! their collecti.e *arma% are born in our ,aha 'orld" nlyAmitabha Buddha is ca(able o! deli.ering them"

    &n other 'ords% other Buddhas may not be able to sa.e all the beings that

    Amitabha can" $hese beings must be deli.ered by Amitabha Buddha% because his(o'er and .irtue are s(ecial and un!athomable% dra'ing acclamation !rom all

    Buddhas" &ndeed% the other Buddhas recite $amo Amitabha %u&&ha, to

    set an e:am(le !or sentient beings e.ery'here" As the 1D th ;o' says

    %f, when % achieve Buddhahood, innumerable Buddhas inthe ten directions should not unanimously e'tol my name,may % not attain perfect enlightenment

    &t means that 'hen Amitabha gained Buddhahood% the achie.ement im(elled

    the countless Buddhas in all 'orlds to commend his name" Fnless this ;o' 'erereali0ed% he 'ould not become a Buddha" ,o the acclamation o! the other

    Buddhas is also one o! his resolutions" =urther% the +n!inite i!e Sutra says

    The Buddha told Ananda, (The ma)esty and power of theBuddha of %nfinite Life are boundless There is none amongthe unconceivable, innumerable Buddhas in all the worlds who do not acclaim them *

    7e see ,ha*yamuni Buddha re(eatedly (raising the a'e ins(iring (o'er and.irtue o! Amitabha Buddha" ,o Amitabha+s =undamental ;o' is “acclaimed by all


    $. Faith in Amitabha’s Fundamental VoIs %n!ouraged b# All Buddhas

    7hat all Buddhas encourage us to belie.e% and .oice their su((ort !or% is thisthat recitation o! Amitabha+s name assuredly leads to rebirth in the Land o! Bliss% and

    that rebirth there ensures the achie.ement o! Buddhahood" &n the Amitabha Sutra, the (assages on “Buddhas in the si: directions# all say

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    %n their own lands, these Buddhas, innumerable as grainsof sand in the #anges $iver, e'tend their long, broad

    tongues until they cover a great chiliocosm, spea+ing these words of truth ( entient beings should have faith in thissutra, acclaimed as containing unfathomable merit andsupported by all the Buddhas *

    “,entient beings should ha.e !aith in this sutra% acclaimed as containingun!athomable merit# signi!ies the Buddhas encouraging us to belie.e and acce(t the

    Amitabha Sutra, 'hich contains .irtue"

    $he sutra says that so long as 'e “recite Amitabha+sI name stead!astly%# 'e'ould “ha.e abundant .irtuous roots and meritorious blessings# and be assured o!

    rebirth in the Land o! Bliss" &! 'e hold !ast to Amitabha+s name% 'e 'ould be reciting“single mindedly% 'ithout de.iation# 'hich means “consistently and 'ithout

    changing"# $o recite the name stead!astly% single mindedly and 'ithout changing is'hat “!or one day 6 !or se.en days# means"

    7hen this (erson a((roaches the (oint o! death% Amitabha Buddha% together'ith A.alo*ites.ara and 4ahasthama(ra(ta as 'ell as the

    o! the great sea o! (urity% 'ill arri.e to recei.e him or her" Because the (erson 'ouldnot be troubled and obstructed by *armic debtors% demons or those o! other !aiths%

    his mind 'ould not be se.erely con!used" Correct thoughts 'ould arise and he'ould be reborn in the Land o! Bliss"

    ,uch is the content o! the Amitabha Sutra' &t also says that the 1> th ;o'+s

    im(lications are the basic intent o! all Buddhas% 'ho acclaim them and urge (eo(leto belie.e in them" As ,ha*yamuni Buddha e:(ounds this teaching% the Buddhas bear

    'itness and encourage us to ha.e !aith in it" $hat is because it is the goal o! all

    Buddhas" ,ha*yamuni Buddha+s teaching is thus e ui.alent to the teaching o! all theBuddhas" &n the t'el.e di.isions o! the Buddhist canon% the Buddhas collecti.ely bear

    'itness only to the Amitabha Sutra " $his is the sole teaching the blessing

    and (rotection o! all Buddhas" $hat is 'hy the scri(ture is also *no'n as the Sutra

    Su**orte& by A)) the %u&&has "

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    &. Amitabha’s Fundamental VoIs '(e!iall# )reser*ed b# All Buddhas this school o! teaching and (ractice is retained s(ecially by the

    Buddhas" &n the Circulation ,ection o! the +n!inite i!e Sutra, ,ha*yamuni Buddha


    %n times to come, the sutras and the !harma will perish But, outof pity and compassion, % will retain and preserve this sutra for ahundred years more Those sentient beings that encounter it canobtain deliverance as they wish

    $his is a .ery im(ortant (assage in the +n!inite i!e Sutra " et not many can see

    its signi!icance" &t allo's us to understand ho' much im(ortance ,ha*yamuniBuddha attached to this sutra and this teachingK &t also establishes their s(ecial

    conse uence !or all o! Buddhism"

    “&n times to come# means in the !uture" $he )harma cycle in our 'orld is

    di.ided into the Age o! Correct )harma% the Age o! ,emblance )harma and the Ageo! )harma )ecline" A!ter that comes the Age o! )harma E:tinction% 'hen “the sutras

    and the )harma 'ill (erish"# $he Age o! Correct )harma lasts ?55 years -some say athousand/% the Age o! ,emblance )harma a thousand% and the Age o! )harma

    )ecline 15%555 years"

    &t is no' about 2% 55 since ,ha*yamuni Buddha entered into nir.ana% so 'e

    are in the Age o! )harma )ecline" “)harma E:tinction# 'ould be a time 'hen all

    Buddhist scri(tures ha.e disa((eared !rom the 'orld" ! course% there 'ould be nomonastics% no $hree Gems" Peo(le 'ould be ignorant o! cause and e!!ect o! the (ast%

    (resent and !uture% as 'ell as o! *armic conse uences and the (rinci(les go.erning

    rebirth in the ,i: ealms" $hey 'ould not *no' that they should u(hold the =i.ePrece(ts and underta*e the $en Good Actions"

    E.en so% ,ha*yamuni Buddha says he 'ould sho' (ity and com(assion

    to'ards us as the scri(tures .anished one by one during the Age o! )harma

    E:tinction" He 'ould s(ecially (reser.e the +n!inite i!e Sutra, 'hich e:(ounds theteaching o! Amitabha Buddha+s deli.erance% in the 'orld !or a !urther hundred years

    -another translation o! the sutra says (er(etual (reser.ation/" &! sentient beings

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    encountered the sutra% they could be sa.ed and lea.e the cycle o! rebirth" ,o

    Amitabha+s =undamental ;o' is “s(ecially (reser.ed by all Buddhas"#

    $he reason Buddhas a((ear in .arious 'orlds is to sentient beings"

    nly a method that suits all ages% all beings+ ca(abilities and *armic inclinations% and

    im(oses no (re conditions or limitations% can com(rehensi.ely sa.e beings on a basiso! e uality" Amitabha+s =undamental ;o' does (recisely that"

    $he name $amo Amitabha %u&&ha contains all .irtues and merit" Anyone'ho 'ants to be reborn in the Land o! Bliss can be reborn by reciting #$amo

    Amitabha %u&&ha'" ,acred beings 'ho ha.e already esca(ed the cycle o! rebirth

    ha.e no need o! Amitabha+s deli.erance" $he ordinary beings o! our 'orld are eithergood (eo(le or bad (eo(le" E.en i! they are good% they (er!orm (ositi.e deeds and

    accumulate merit only according to circumstances@ they ha.e not yet ! !rom the su!!ering o! the ,i: ealms"

    Encountering negati.e conditions% bad (eo(le commit and !all into the

    $hree 7retched ealms" But i! they meet 'ith (ositi.e circumstances and collect

    merit through good actions% they could be reborn in the human or celestial realms"$here!ore good and bad (eo(le ascend or descend as they encounter di!!erent

    *armic conditions" $hey are still su!!ering ordinary beings% in need o! Amitabha+sdeli.erance"

    &n the onger Sutra, the /ontem*)ation Sutra and the Amitabha Sutra, ,ha*yamuni Buddha ma*es e:hortations to Bodhisatt.a 4aitreya% ;en" Ananda and

    ;en" ,ari(utra res(ecti.ely"

    $he onger Sutra is the +n!inite i!e Sutra " &n it% the Buddha urges 4aitreya to

    ensure that the teaching o! Amitabha+s =undamental ;o' circulates in our 'orld

    !" $he te:t says

    The Buddha told .aitreya, (Those who hear the name of thatBuddha /Amitabha0, re)oice and recite his name even once shallreceive the utmost benefit, which is to possess unsurpassedmerit and virtue *

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    $his (assage o! “E:hortation and Circulation# is 'here ,ha*yamuni Buddha

    urges Bodhisatt.a 4aitreya to (er(etuate Amitabha+s =undamental ;o'% so that it becomes lost"

    “$hose# in “those 'ho hear# re!ers to all sentient beings" &t doesn+t matter

    'hether they li.ed during the time o! ,ha*yamuni Buddha or a!ter he enterednir.ana% or i! they are good or bad (eo(le"

    “$he name o! that Buddha# means the great si: character name% $amo Amitabha %u&&ha'

    “ e oice# the (erson is delighted and grate!ul that Amitabha+s name can

    sa.e him" E.en i! he or she encounters and recites the name as death a((roaches%

    this (erson 'ill gain the ultimate bene!it rebirth in the Land o! Bliss and attainmento! Buddhahood there" $hus the re!erence to (ossession o! “unsur(assed merit and


    /ontem*)ation Sutra is the /ontem*)ation o! +n!inite i!e Sutra " &n this

    scri(ture ,ha*yamuni Buddha ad.ises ;en" Ananda

    The Buddha told Ananda, (Bear these words well in mind To

    bear these words in mind means to recite the name of the Buddhaof %nfinite Life /Amitabha0 *

    $he Buddha teaches ;en" Ananda ou must recite 'ell this (hrase% #$amo

    Amitabha %u&&ha'" $hat is “to recite the name o! the Buddha o! &n!inite Li!e%# as

    translated into Chinese"

    $he “'ell# in “bear these 'ords 'ell in mind# means to do something

    (ro(erly and stead!astly" Ho' do 'e recite 'ell8 &n general% by reciting #$amo

    Amitabha %u&&ha" scru(ulously" &n other 'ords% to recite earnestly and e:clusi.ely%'ithout de.iation% admi:ture or doubt" =rom start to !inish% 'e recite only $amo

    Amitabha %u&&ha, 'ithout mi:ing in other Buddhas% mantras or teachings and(ractices" 7e do not doubt the deli.erance o! Amitabha Buddha" 7ith (urity and

    sim(licity% 'e recite $amo Amitabha %u&&ha' $his is *no'n as “scru(ulous

    Amitabha recitation"#

    $he /ontem*)ation Sutra de.otes much s(ace to e:(licating the “13contem(lations# and the “three meritorious actions and nine le.els o! rebirth"# 4ost

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    (eo(le may thin*% “,ince that is so% 'e should circulate and (romote the substance

    o! the 13 contem(lations or the three meritorious actions and nine le.els o! rebirth"

    7hy did ,ha*yamuni Buddha tell Ananda to circulate the recitation o! Amitabha+sname8#

    7e should *no' that the most im(ortant (art o! a sutra o!ten a((ears at itsconclusion" At the end o! the /ontem*)ation Sutra, the Buddha did not instruct us to

    “contem(late the image# o! Amitabha Buddha% but to “recite the name# o! AmitabhaBuddha" =rom this 'e see that the (ur(ose o! the /ontem*)ation Sutra is not to

    e:(ound the contem(lations or the three meritorious (ractices and nine le.els o!

    rebirth" ather% it is to induce (ractitioners o! the ,acred Path 'ho adhere to such

    (ractices to underta*e e:clusi.e name recitation"

    Because the name contains all the .irtues o! Amitabha Buddha 'ith !unctionaluses !or the bene!it o! reciters% its recitation enables us directly to (ossess all o!

    Amitabha+s merit" Besides% contem(lati.e .isuali0ation is di!!icult 'hile namerecitation is easy" And the latter allo's the reciter immediately to ha.e Amitabha+s

    merit" E.en i! a (erson contem(lates (ro(erly% he or she is unable to ta*e on

    Amitabha+s .irtues at once" &n any case% most (eo(le are inca(able o! meditati.e.isuali0ation"

    ,o in terms o! methodology% contem(lation is relati.ely hard% nor is it the

    ultimate in terms o! merit" =or these t'o reasons the Buddha did not ad.ise the(ractice o! contem(lation% but instead ad.ocated name recitation" =or “Amitabhaand his name are one%# and name recitation is easy" the ob ects o! the 13

    contem(lations are not Amitabha Buddha himsel!% and the three meritorious

    (ractices and nine le.els o! rebirth% in the conte:t o! ordinary beings% are !la'ed.irtues" Com(ared 'ith the merit o! Amitabha+s name% they embody only !e'% not

    (lenti!ul% .irtuous roots and meritorious blessings"

    A!ter deli.ering the /ontem*)ation Sutra, ,ha*yamuni Buddha 'ent on to

    (reach the Amitabha Sutra -or Shorter Sutra3' &n the latter he mentioned no other

    (ractices $hroughout the 1%>?> character sutra% the Buddha s(o*e only about the

    (ractice o! name recitation" &n other 'ords% he 'as e:(ounding on “recite the

    name# in the (assage (Bear these words well in mind To bear these words inmind means to recite the name of the Buddha of %nfinite Life /Amitabha0* !rom the Circulation ,ection o! the /ontem*)ation Sutra " &n the Shorter Sutra, (for

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    one day, for two days 1 for seven days* is a re e:(osition o! the te:t in the/ontem*)ation Sutra s Circulation ,ection"

    &t 'as in the Shorter Sutra that ,ha*yamuni Buddha ga.e ;en" ,ari(utra his

    in unction on ho' to circulate the teaching that recitation according to Amitabha+s

    1> th ;o' ensures the attainment o! Buddhahood" &n the sutra% the Buddha% ta*ingthe initiati.e% called ,ari(utra+s name 3 times" ,ari(utra did not ans'er% and only

    listened uietly to the Buddha+s discourse" $'ice the Buddha as*ed ,ari(utra auestion% but the latter% des(ite being the 'isest among the disci(les% had nothing to

    say about the realm o! Amitabha Buddha" ,ari(utra could only res(ect!ully recei.e

    and oy!ully acce(t ,ha*yamuni Buddha+s e:(osition and in unction" $hus 'e see

    that the Buddha deli.ered this sutra “on his o'n initiati.e% 'ithout (rom(ting"#

    +. The Three 'utras Illuminate ,nl# % !lusi*e e!itation

    $he onger Sutra e:(licates only one thing% the /ontem*)ation Sutra

    underscores a single (oint% and the Shorter Sutra re.eals com(rehensi.ely" &n his/ommentary on the /ontem*)ation Sutra, 4aster ,handao says %T(e 48 .o/s o

    t(e Infinite Life 'utra e: -a&n on- t(at e: -us&ve re &tat&on o Am&ta'(a )u**(a+s

    name -ea*s to re'&rt( &n t(e Lan* o )-&ss T(e Amitabha 'utra s(o/s t(at /(et(eror a *a or seven *a s re &tat&on o Am&ta'(a+s name resu-ts &n re'&rt( T(e

    assa es on me*&tat&ve an* non9me*&tat&ve v&rtues &n t(&s sutra ;t(e

    :ontem(lation 'utra; un*ers ore on- t(at e: -us&ve name9re &tat&on -ea*s to


    “$he onger Sutra e:(licates only one thing# 6 $he substance o! each o! the

    ;o's is di!!erent% yet 4aster ,handao says they “e:(lain only# one thing" “ nly#

    is the same as uni uely% singularly meaning that the only thing the ;o's ma*eclear is that the e:clusi.e recitation o! Amitabha Buddha+s name leads to certain

    rebirth in the Land o! Bliss" $hat+s 'hy 'e say “the onger Sutra e:(licates only one


    A s*e(tic might as*% “7hy did 4aster ,handao ma*e such an inter(retation8Could he ha.e been mista*en8# 7e *no' that 4aster ,handao 'as an incarnation

    o! Amitabha Buddha@ there must ha.e been a reason he made such an e:(lication"

    &n e!!ect% each o! the ;o's teaches us to gain rebirth and then

    Buddhahood in the Pure Land by reciting $amo Amitabha %u&&ha " E.ery ;o'

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    induces us to achie.e rebirth and Buddhahood% and encourages sentient beings to

    admire the Land o! Bliss" &! the Pure Land 'ere not so (ure% mar.elous% magni!icent

    and transcendent% 'e 'ould not 'ish to be reborn there"

    $here!ore 'e can say that e.ery ;o' carries this message &! you 'ant to be

    reborn in the Land o! Bliss% 'hich is de.oid o! beings !rom the $hree 7retchedealms% you ha.e to recite Amitabha+s name 6 &! you 'ish to be reborn in the Pure

    Land% 'hose deni0ens ha.e gold colored bodies% you need to recite Amitabha+sname 6 &! you 'ant to be reborn in the Land o! Bliss% 'hose d'ellers immediately

    gain si: s(ecial (o'ers% you must recite Amitabha+s name 6 &! you 'ish to be reborn

    in the Pure Land% 'here beings at once achie.e the *arma o! assurance and non

    retrogression% you ha.e to recite Amitabha+s name 6 &! you 'ant to be reborn in arealm o! in!inite light and li!e% you need to recite Amitabha+s name" Each and e.ery

    ;o' ma*es clear that Amitabha recitation leads to rebirth in the Land o! Bliss" ,o4aster ,handao+s e:(lication has a (ro!ound underlying meaning"

    ,handao+s stri*ing% groundbrea*ing inter(retation is li*e a ray o! sunshine that the dar*ness% allo'ing us to see the light"

    “$he /ontem*)ation Sutra underscores a single (oint# 6 4aster ,handao

    notes that the sutra+s (assages on the .irtuous meditati.e and non meditati.e(ractices underscore only that “e:clusi.e Amitabha recitation certainly leads to

    rebirth in the Land o! Bliss"# ,uch an inter(retation is com(letely di!!erent !romthose o! other lineage masters" $he latter e:(lain that the (art on “meditati.e.irtues# illuminates the .irtuous meditati.e (ractices% 'hile that on “non meditati.e

    .irtues# em(hasi0es the .irtuous non meditati.e (ractices" But ,handao says that

    e:(lications o! “meditati.e .irtues# and “non meditati.e .irtues# all (oint to therecitation o! $amo Amitabha %u&&ha " $he reason 4aster ,handao *no's that

    ,ha*yamuni Buddha+s (ur(ose in deli.ering the /ontem*)ation Sutra is to inducesentient beings o! all abilities and *armic inclinations to recite $amo Amitabha

    %u&&ha" $he ultimate aim o! the Buddha+s discourse on meditati.e and non

    meditati.e .irtues is not those (ractices but recitation o! $amo Amitabha %u&&ha " $hus the .irtuous (ractices% 'hether meditati.e or non

    meditati.e% singularly underscore that “e:clusi.e Amitabha recitation leads to

    rebirth in the Land o! Bliss"#

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    &! 'e (ractice meditati.e contem(lation% or underta*e the three meritorious

    (ractices to'ards the nine le.els o! rebirth% 'e might not gain rebirth in the Pure

    Land" 7hy8 ne reason is that 'e cannot truly accom(lish those (ractices% so 'e'on+t attain rebirth" 'e cannot be reborn unless 'e dedicate the merit

    !rom such (ractices to'ards rebirth"

    Ho' Amitabha recitation is li*e along a su(er high'ay" $here is

    only one direction 7e can only go !or'ard% not bac*'ard" 7e cannot turn bac*"Be!ore the goal o! Buddhahood% there is no 'ay !or us to sto(" $hat+s 'hy

    'e say that gaining Buddhahood through Amitabha recitation is the teaching o! the


    &n the last three sections% 'e uoted (assages !rom the sutras to sho' that

    “Amitabha recitation leads to Buddhahood"# $he !ollo'ing sections 'ill cite thestories o! t'o as corroboration"

    /. 0an usri esol*es to Be eborn in the Land of Bliss

    &n the Sutra on %u&&ha-/ontem*)ation Sama&hi, the Buddha (redicted that

    Bodhisatt.a 4an usri 'ould be reborn in the Land o! Bliss" 4an usri made a .o' in

    the !orm o! a gatha.

    When my life ends, may % be able to eliminate all obstacles,ee Amitabha Buddha and be reborn in the Land of 2eace and 3oy

    Following rebirth in his realm, may Amitabha fulfill .y great wish by appearing and ma+ing A prediction of Buddhahood on my behalf

    Bodhisatt.a 4an usri is the !oremost in 'isdom and the teacher o! se.en

    Buddhas" &n the Sutra on %u&&ha-/ontem*)ation Sama&hi he states the goal o! his(ractice% re.ealing that his ultimate 'ish is to be reborn in the Land o! Bliss"

    4an usri is a Bodhisatt.a o! the highest le.el% a single stage remo.ed !rom

    Buddhahood" )es(ite his (osition% “the slightest mista*e 'ould lead to the gra.est

    error"# Consider Bodhisatt.a 4aitreya% 'ho d'ells in $usita Hea.en" )es(ite being

    ust a stage a'ay !rom Buddhahood% he has to 'ait ? billion and D5 million yearsbe!ore he can go to our ,aha 'orld and become a Buddha" A single stage can re uire

    that much time to accom(lish"

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    &! 'e are reborn in the Land o! Bliss% 'e immediately attain the status o! a

    Buddha" $hat is 'hy e.en Bodhisatt.a 4an usri as(ired to eliminate all im(ediments

    as death a((roached and uic*ly see Amitabha Buddha% so he could be reborninstantaneously in the Pure Land and !ul!ill his great 'ish" 7hat great 'ish8 $hat

    Amitabha a((ear and ma*e a (rediction about his attainment o! Buddhahood" $hat

    is the !oremost among his as(irations"

    . 'amantabhadra Vo s to Gain ebirth in the Land of Bliss

    &n the A4atamsa(a Sutra, Bodhisatt.a ,amantabhadra ma*es $en Great ;o's

    on behal! o! all beings and see*s rebirth in the Land o! Bliss" ,ays a gatha in the sutra

    When my life ends, may % be able to eliminate all obstacles And see Amitabha Buddha, so % may instantly be reborn in theLand of 2eace and 3oy

    $he substance o! this gatha is .irtually the same as that o! the (re.ious one"

    ,amantabhadra is also a Bodhisatt.a o! the highest le.el" $here are three .ersions o!

    the A4atamsa(a Sutra 5 cha(ters" $he “Cha(ter on

    ,amantabhadra+s Practices and ;o's# is the !inal one in the A4atamsa(a; it is also

    the sutra+s most im(ortant% uintessential cha(ter" &t is because o! this cha(ter thatthe A4atamsa(a Sutra is so esteemed 'ithin Buddhism"

    $he !ocal (oint o! the cha(ter is Bodhisatt.a ,amantabhadra+s $en Great

    ;o's% and his 'ish !or rebirth in the Land o! Bliss" $hus 'e s(ea* o! the “4aster o!the $en Great ;o's"# ,amantabhadra himsel! as(ires to rebirth in the Land o! Bliss%

    and urges ad.anced o!

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    4an usri and ,amantabhadra are attendants to ,ha*yamuni Buddha%

    re(resenting res(ecti.ely the Buddha+s 'isdom and resolution directed action" $hat

    they both considered the Pure Land their ultimate ha.en underscores the reason,ha*yamuni Buddha a((eared in the 'orld to teach the )harma" &t is to guide beings

    and instruct (ractitioners to see* rebirth in the Land o! Bliss"

    Consider the countless streams and ri.ers that !lo' through the land andultimately into the ocean" &! they did not do so% they 'ould ha.e no !inal destination"

    ,imilarly% i! )harma (ractitioners did not ha.e Amitabha+s Pure Land as their

    ultimate harbor% they 'ould be unable to attain the !inal state o! Buddhahood"$hat+s 'hy 4aster inguang said% “&! sentient beings o! the nine realms (ut aside this

    teaching% they 'ould ha.e no means o! Buddhahood"# By to bereborn in the Land o! Bliss% 4an usri and ,amantabhadra 'ere setting

    (ersonal e:am(les to underline the (oint"

    9e:t% 'e 'ill cite accounts o! mani!estations by Bodhisatt.a A.alo*ites.ara%

    as 'ell as 4an usri and ,amantabhadra% to urge lineage masters to see* rebirth in

    the Pure Land" $he stories 'ill !urther illustrate 'hat 'e ust said that 4an usri

    and ,amantabhadra 'ere setting e:am(les !or us" $hey 'ill also em(hasi0e thatAmitabha Buddha+s =undamental ;o' is “the basic intent o! all Buddhas% acclaimed

    by all Buddhas% encouraged by all Buddhas and s(ecially (reser.ed by all Buddhas"#

    3. A*alo4ites*ara %n!ourages 5uiri to Be ebornin the Land of Bliss

    $he !irst account is o! Bodhisatt.a A.alo*ites.ara encouraging 4aster Huiri tobe reborn in the Pure Land" 4aster Huiri 'as also *no'n as 4aster Cimin% a mentor

    o! state during the $ang )ynasty"

    4aster Huiri+s lay surname 'as in" He 'as a nati.e o! )onglai% intoday+s ,handong Pro.ince" )uring the reign o! $ang Em(eror Mhong0ong% hesa' $ri(ita*a 4aster i ing ourney to &ndia in search o! the )harma and 'as!illed 'ith admiration" He too set sail and% a!ter three years% arri.ed in &ndia"He .isited and (aid res(ects at all the sacred sites associated 'ith,ha*yamuni+s li!e and attainment o! Buddhahood% see*ing the scri(tures in,ans*rit"

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    1 e:(erienced much hardshi( and su!!ering% 4aster Huiride.elo(ed a re.ulsion to'ards our Jambud(i.a habitat" 7as there a country%

    a (lace% he 'ondered% 'here there 'as only ha((iness and no (ain8 7asthere a school o! (ractice that allo's a (ractitioner to see the Buddhas

    uic*ly8E.ery'here he 'ent% he (osed these uestions to $ri(ita*a masters

    o! the sutras% the 4inaya -monastic disci(line/ and scri(tural treatises thathe met" $hey all urged him to (ractice according to Pure Land teachings andsee* rebirth in the Land o! Bliss" He ha((ily (aid his res(ects and began to(ractice accordingly"

    4aster Huiri gradually made his 'ay to northern &ndia% in the

    north'estern *ingdom o! Gandhara" $o the northeast o! the royal city 'as alarge mountain% 'hich harbored a sacred image o! Bodhisatt.aA.alo*ites.ara" Peo(le 'ho as*ed 'ith the greatest sincerity and res(ect'ere o!ten able (ersonally to see the Bodhisatt.a"

    4aster Huiri 'ent to the summit" $here he made (rostrations andre.erences !or se.en days% and sto((ed ta*ing all !ood and drin*" A((lyinghimsel! 'ith great diligence% he 'as (re(ared to die% in the ho(e thatBodhisatt.a A.alo*ites.ara 'ould mani!est and instruct him"

    n the se.enth night A.alo*ites.ara a((eared in mid air% more than

    ten !eet tall and assuming (ur(le golden !orm" ,eated on a lotus (lat!ormmade !rom se.en *inds o! e'els% he ga0ed do'n at 4aster Huiri" $heBodhisatt.a stretched out his right arm and% stro*ing the mon*+s head% said%“&! you 'ish to (ro(agate the )harma to bene!it yoursel! and others% the only'ay is to recite e:clusi.ely the name o! Amitabha Buddha and sincerelyresol.e to be reborn in his Land o! Bliss" A!ter you see Amitabha and mysel!%you 'ill recei.e the greatest bene!it o! all" ou should *no' that Pure Land isa s(lendi!erous school o! (ractice that e:ceeds all other schools"# thus s(o*en% A.alo*ites.ara .anished" 4aster Huiri had been

    utterly e:hausted% but a!ter hearing these 'ords he 'as at once in.igorated"

    4aster Huiri li.ed during the time o! Em(eror Mhong0ong o! the $ang )ynasty"

    &ns(ired by the scri(ture see*ing ourney o! $ri(ita*a 4aster i ing to &ndia% heresol.ed to tra.el there himsel!" At the time there 'ere no air(lanes% steam shi(s%

    trains or cars" $he only means o! trans(ort 'as by sea" 9or did .essels ha.e anyna.igational tools@ they merely 'ent 'ith the (re.ailing currents% going '

    these carried them"

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    &t too* 4aster Huiri three years to reach &ndia" &n !act% he 'as sta*ing his li!e%

    ready to gi.e it u( in his determination to see* the )harma in &ndia" His resol.e 'as

    com(arable to that o! 4aster uan0ang% 'ho had said “better to ta*e a ste( to'ardsdeath in the 'est than to retreat a ste( to the east# during his uest to remedy the

    de!iciency o! scri(tures in China"

    $he more a (erson is a'are o! the su!!ering in our ,aha 'orld and the (ain o!re(eated rebirth% the greater his determination to !ind liberation" And i! someone is

    conscious o! the im(ortance !reeing hersel! !rom the cycle o! rebirth% she 'ill (ursue

    a school o! teaching and (ractice that can hel( her do so 'ith certainty" As theteaching goes% “Human !orm is hard to obtain but 'e ha.e gained it@ the )harma is

    di!!icult to hear% yet 'e ha.e heard it" &! 'e don+t achie.e liberation !rom this body inthis li!e% 'hen 'ill 'e do so8# ta*en human !orm and heard the )harma

    doesn+t mean 'e 'ould 'ish to be born again" 7e 'ould certainly 'ant to achie.e

    liberation this .ery li!etime"

    4aster Huiri had such a notion" $here may be >

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    A!ter returning to China he entered the ca(ital Changan% 'here he recei.ed

    the esteem o! the Em(eror and 'as a((ointed mentor o! state" He became *no'n

    as $ri(ita*a 4aster Cimin" A 'ell *no'n gatha o! his goes

    +n the causa) groun&, that %u&&ha 5Amitabha6 ma&e a great 4ow.+ wi)) *ersona))y we)come a)) who, ha4ing hear& my name, recite it'+t matters not whether they are *oor or rich,7r s)ow-witte& or high)y ta)ente&'+t &oesn t matter i! they hear the Dharma o!ten or8*ho)& the *rece*ts with great *urity,7r i! they ha4e bro(en the *rece*ts or committe& se4ere (armic o!!enses'So )ong as they turn their min&s aroun& an& recite Amitabha s name o!ten,Rubb)e can be trans!orme& into go)&'

    $his gatha can be said to underscore une ui.ocally the unconditional

    deli.erance o! Amitabha Buddha% 'hich stems !rom his great% (ro!ound com(assion"

    &t also highlights em(hatically the !undamental intent o! all the Buddhas" A.alo*ites.ara and 4ahasthama(ra(ta are attendants to

    Amitabha Buddha" ne re(resents Amitabha+s great com(assion% the other his

    immense 'isdom" $he (ur(ose o! the (air+s a((earance in this 'orld is to guide

    sentient beings to'ards the Pure Land and to recite $amo Amitabha %u&&ha "

    $here!ore those 'ho (ractice according to the teachings o! A.alo*ites.ara

    should *no' that the Bodhisatt.a+s aim in mani!esting in the 'orld is not that 'eshould continue such (ractice ! but that 'e e.entually come around to

    reciting Amitabha+s name" nly that truly !ul!ills A.alo*ites.ara+s !amous (ledge to“sa.e the su!!ering and those in (eril"#

    $he reason is that the tra.ails o! this 'orld are merely o! a secondary%

    tem(orary nature" =undamental su!!ering comes !rom our entra(ment in the cycle o!rebirth% 'hich rise to (er(etual (ain" &ts eradication alone is genuinedeli.erance o! those in di!!iculty and (ain" =undamental% e.erlasting su!!ering is

    terminated 'hen all beings are induced to underta*e Pure Land (ractice and reciteAmitabha+s name% gaining rebirth in the Land o! Bliss and becoming Buddhas there"$hat is the ultimate aim o! A.alo*ites.ara and 4ahasthama(ra(ta"

    16. 0an usri and 'amantabhadra 7rge Fa8hao

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    To 'ee4 ebirth in the Land of Bliss

    &n D D% 4aster =a0hao 'as at un!eng 4onastery in Heng0hou"ne day he suddenly sa' in his congee bo'l an image o! the Great ,acred

    Bamboo Gro.e 4onastery" Another day% he had a .ision in the same bo'l o!.arious monasteries on 4t" 7utai% as 'ell as magni!icent scenes !rom thePure Land"

    n A(ril % DD5% 4aster =a0hao 'as alone a!ter tra.elled to=oguang 4onastery on 4t" 7utai" &n the 'ee hours -bet'een 1 and 3 a"m"/he sa' an unusual beam o! light@ it came !rom a!ar and !ell on his (erson" He'ent to'ards the light and !ollo'ed it !or about ?5 )i -2? *ilometers/" $here

    he sa' a mountain% at the !oot o! 'hich !lo'ed a stream" $o its north stood astone gate'ay" Beneath it 'ere t'o children% 'ho called,udhana and 9anda"

    $he boys led 4aster =a0hao to a monastery" &ts signboard read “Great,acred Bamboo Gro.e 4onastery# e:actly 'hat the mon* had seen in hisbo'l" $he grounds o! the monastery 'ere (a.ed 'ith gold@ it had ro's o!trees !ashioned !rom the se.en e'els" $he treasure studded scene 'asmagni!icent"

    4aster =a0hao entered the grounds and 'ent inside the lecture hall"

    $here% on the 'est side% he sa' Bodhisatt.a 4an usri@ to the east 'asBodhisatt.a ,amantabhadra" Each sat on a sacred seat% 'ith tens o!thousands o! surrounding them" 4an usri and ,amantabhadra

    'ere e:(ounding the )harma to the assembly"4aster =a0hao 'ent u( to the t'o and (aid his res(ects"

    He then as*ed% “&n the Age o! )harma )ecline% ordinary sentient beings arelong remo.ed !rom the time o! the 7orld Honored ne" $heir *no'ledge issu(er!icial% their ca(abilities are 'ea* and their *armic a!!lictions arees(ecially se.ere" &t is .irtually im(ossible !or their innate% (ure Buddhanature to emerge" $he )harma is as .ast and as boundless as the ocean"7hich school should 'e (ractice% so 'e can most easily access the essence

    o! the )harma8#Bodhisatt.a 4an usri told =a0hao% “ our current (ractice o! nian!o

    Buddha in.ocationI is (recisely the one most suited to the Age o! )harma)ecline" Among all the schools o! (ractice% none is su(erior to Buddhain.ocation and ma*ing o!!erings to the $hree Gems" $hose 'ho canaccom(lish these 'ill be able uic*ly to com(lete the t'in (ractices o!accumulating meritorious blessings and 'isdom"

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    “Buddha in.ocation and o!!erings to the $hree Gems are the lo!tiestand most im(ortant (ractices" Because &% in (a)*as (ast% engaged in

    meditati.e in.ocation% in Buddha in.ocation% and made o!!erings to the$hree Gems% & obtained the All &nclusi.e 7isdom o! the $athagatas"

    “ ou should *no' that the .arious )harma (ractices% the (aramitas%dee( meditati.e concentration and e.en the Buddhas in the ten directions allarise !rom Buddha recollection and Buddha in.ocation" $hus the (ractice o!nian!o is the *ing o! all (ractices"#

    4aster =a0hao as*ed% “Ho' should 'e in.o*e8# e(lied Bodhisatt.a4an usri% “$o the 'est o! this ,aha 'orld is Amitabha Buddha" $he (o'er o!this Buddha+s .o's is un!athomable" ou should recite Amitabha Buddha+s

    name (urely% 'ithout interru(tion or de.iation" 7hen you die% you 'illcertainly be reborn in the Land o! Bliss% ensconced in the state o! nonretrogression"# thus s(o*en% the great holy beings 4an usri and,amantabhadra both reached out 'ith their golden arms to stro*e 4aster=a0hao+s head% saying% “Because you ha.e recited the name o! AmitabhaBuddha% you 'ill shortly attain su(reme 'isdom and enlightenment" &! thereare good men and 'omen 'ho 'ish to achie.e Buddhahood uic*ly% there isno better 'ay than Amitabha recitation" ,o long as they recite the name o!

    Amitabha single mindedly% they 'ill be able to gain enlightenment ra(idly"#4aster =a0hao 'as delighted to hear this" He (aid his res(ects to the said goodbye and le!t the hall" $he t'o boys escorted him outo! the monastery" As he li!ted his head% the edi!ice abru(tly disa((eared"4aster =a0hao gathered some roc*s to mar* the location"

    $he abo.e accounts come !rom %iogra*hies o! rominent Monastics " $hey tellus that A.alo*ites.ara% 4an usri and ,amantabhadra all ad.ise us to

    see* rebirth in the Land o! Bliss"

    $he second story arose !rom a .ision 4aster =a0hao had in his bo'l o! a

    monastic com(le:% on 'hose (ortal 'as inscribed “Great ,acred Bamboo Gro.e

    4onastery"# Fnli*e most tem(les% this one had grounds (a.ed 'ith gold" &ts

    buildings and lecture halls 'ere adorned 'ith .arious e'els% and they 'eresurrounded by sacred assemblies o! countless"

    Both the monastery and the assemblies 'ere o! magni!icent% sur(assing

    a((earance% unli*e anything in this 'orld" $hey resembled the Land o! Bliss% as

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    described in the Shorter Sutra " 4aster =a0hao thought they must be (art o! a sacred%

    other'orldly en.ironment% not a mundane one"

    nce he had the chance% 4aster =a0hao as*ed senior mon*s and other

    'orthies 'here he could !ind the *ind o! landsca(e he sa' in his bo'l" $hey told himit should be located on 4t" 7utai% a )harma ground associated 'ith Bodhisatt.a

    4an usri" Peo(le 'ho made sincere su((lications there o!ten sa' the Bodhisatt.amani!est" Later% a de.out =a0hao 'ent to 4t" 7utai 'ith a !e' li*e minded

    com(anions and e:(erienced this remar*able e(isode"

    7hen most (ractitioners encounter 'hether in dreams or

    during meditation or Amitabha recitation% they do not s(ea* 'ith the sacred beings"E.en i! they do% only a !e' 'ords are e:changed" 9one 'ere li*e 4aster =a0hao%

    'ho had a !ace to !ace dialogue and recei.ed instructions% and e.en blessings and a(rediction o! Buddhahood" ,uch an interaction 'as mar.elous indeed"

    4aster =a0hao 'ent inside the )harma hall and% a!ter (aying res(ects to the

    t'o said %In t(e A e o "(arma "e -&ne or*&nar sent&ent 'e&n s are-on remove* rom t(e t&me o t(e #or-*9

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    must !irst see* to end the rebirth cycle" E.en so% i! 'e can be born in the Land o! Bliss

    through Amitabha recitation% 'e 'ould not only end !urther rebirths% but ad.ance

    all the 'ay to Buddhahood" 7e 'ould become Buddhas in a single li!etime%accom(lishing both goals at the same time"

    ,ince he 'as a((ointed a teacher o! state% 4aster =a0hao must ha.e been a

    (erson o! substantial learning% morality and achie.ement in his (ractice" E.en so%'hen con!ronted 'ith the issue o! !reeing himsel! !rom the cycle o! rebirth% he

    became a'are o! his o'n shallo'ness and lac* o! ability% as 'ell as the 'eight o! his

    *armic a!!lictions" $he Buddha nature inherent in all sentient beings 'as obscured bythe a!!lictions and *armic obstructions% unable to emerge" 7ould &% he must ha.e

    thought to himsel!% ! be unable to e:tricate mysel! !rom re(eated rebirth inthe ,i: ealms o! the $hree )omains8

    7hen (eo(le are thoroughly con.inced that they cannot !ree

    !rom endless rebirth through their o'n e!!orts% 'hat 4aster ,handao calls “theconte:t !or !aith# arises" nly those e:(osed to such circumstances can belie.e and

    acce(t 'holeheartedly the deli.erance o! Amitabha Buddha" Peo(le 'ho do not

    understand that their *no'ledge is su(er!icial% their ca(abilities 'ea*% their *armicobstructions hea.y and their a!!lictions (o'er!ul% 'ill not be able to ha.e com(lete

    !aith in Amitabha+s deli.erance"

    Consider an ordinary (erson" Fnless he is conscious that he has !allen into an

    ocean and is bobbing u( and do'n 'ith the ' in danger o! dro'ning any

    moment% a desire to be rescued 'ould hardly arise in his mind" &! he is a'are he is in

    the 'ater% 'ithout ho(e o! e:tricating himsel!% ho' he 'ould not only acce(tsal.ation by a (assing shi( but embrace it 'ith his .ery li!e"

    $hat+s 'hy only those 'ho are a'are o! their o'n shallo' *no'ledge% !eeble

    ability and se.ere a!!lictions can thoroughly belie.e and acce(t the deli.erance o!Amitabha Buddha"

    ur de!icient ca(abilities can be com(ared to an inability to earn money% our

    hea.y *armic obstructions to an inca(acity to re(ay debts" Fnder such circumstances%liberation al'ays eludes us and the attainment o! Buddhahood is ho(eless" $o

    recogni0e clearly that 'e cannot e:tricate that constitutes “the conte:t

    !or !aith"#

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    7hat does a (erson in such circumstances do8 9ot go begging e.ery'here%

    but uic*ly !ind a 'ealthy bene!actor that is% de(end on Amitabha+s deli.erance"

    $his bene!actor must ha.e t'o characteristics" $he !irst is that he must be the'ealthiest (erson in the land" His treasure must e:ceed that o! the *ing@ in !act% it

    'ould be immeasurable" ,econdly% he must be the most com(assionate o! all (eo(le"

    His lo.e must be absolute% unconditional" as*s !or hel(% he 'ould gi.e it",uch is a genuine 'ealthy bene!actor"

    A (erson unable to sa.e hersel! needs to rely on a rich bene!actor" $o do so is

    to recogni0e com(letely Amitabha+s (o'er to us% and not to go begging the (lace"

    $o underta*e miscellaneous (ractices is li*e begging e.ery'here" $oday 'e

    (ractice this% tomorro' that" $oday 'e (artici(ate in this tomorro' that one"7e scramble !rom one )harma center to another" &s such (ractice good8 Com(ared

    'ith not (racticing at all% such (ractices are good and 'ill accrue some merit" etthey still resemble begging &! 'e can get something% 'e might be able to carry on a

    'hile% three meals a day" &! not% 'e 'ould go hungry" 7e 'ould still ha.e no

    means to (ay o!! our debts" $hroughout our 'e 'ould ha.e no secure (lace in'hich to d'ell" 7e 'ould al'ays be begging% !inding a ha.en" $hat is the

    result o! mi:ed (ractice"

    $o entrust our im(ermanent% changing com(letely to the eternal

    Amitabha Buddha% 'ho has an in!inite li!es(an and deli.ers beings absolutely% is to

    gi.e to $amo Amitabha %u&&ha " $hence!orth 'e 'ould recite $amo

    Amitabha %u&&ha e:clusi.ely and sto( mi:ed (ractice" $hat 'ay% 'e 'ould theroots o! rebirth 'ith a single blo'% and achie.e assured rebirth in the Land o! Bliss%

    !ollo'ed by certain BuddhahoodK

    $o do this is to rely entirely on our rich bene!actor% not to go begging

    e.ery'here" $o rely on our bene!actor is to de(end com(letely on Amitabha+s (o'er%

    and to cease begging e.ery'here is to sto( counting on sel! (o'er" nly byabandoning sel! (o'er 'ill 'e be able to de(end entirely on other (o'er" &! 'e gi.e to other (o'er% 'e 'ill naturally lea.e sel! (o'er behind" 7e 'ill no

    longer engage in miscellaneous (ractices% but (ractice e:clusi.ely"

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    4aster =a0hao as*ed% %T(e "(arma &s as vast an* as 'oun*-ess as t(e o ean

    #(& ( s (oo- s(ou-* /e ra t& e so /e an most eas&- a ess t(e essen e o t(e

    "(arma= $he )harma can be com(ared to the great ocean% 'ith no boundary as !aras the eye can see" &t can ma*e us !eel uite hel(less% not *no'ing 'hich o! the

    teachings to (ractice" $hat+s all the more so 'hen e.ery school seems beyond our

    ability to (ractice" &ndeed% e.en 4aster =a0hao !elt com(elled to as*% “7hich schoolshould 'e (ractice% so 'e can most easily access the essence o! the )harma8#

    )es(ite the great .ariety o! schools% i! 'e can gras( 'hat is !undamental% 'e

    'ould ha.e no regrets e.en i! 'e didn+t or couldn+t learn all the other teachings"But i! 'e do not gras( the essence% 'e 'ould still be de!icient and !eel regret!ul%

    e.en i! 'e learned all the other (ractices"

    4aster =a0hao (osed his (re.ious uestion !rom the (ers(ecti.e o! his 'ea*

    ca(abilities" $he !ollo'ing uestion !ocuses on the im(ortance o! the .arious schools

    o! teaching and (ractice"

    %)o*(&sattva Man>usr& to-* Master ,a?(ao @ our urrent ra t& e o nianfo

    ;)u**(a9&nvo at&onB &s re &se- t(e one most su&te* to t(e A e o "(arma

    "e -&ne + es(onding to =a0hao+s uery% 4an usri !irst tells him the ans'er and

    then e:(lains it in detail" $he “(ractice o! nian!o" is the *ey to this (assage"

    A certain gatha says

    9e must be !ocuse& in our *ractice, we must (now the way'+! we (now the way, )i!e an& &eath wi)) en& a)together'

    &t means that (ractice is not ust randomly !ollo'ing others in reading thescri(tures% chanting the sutras% ma*ing mountain (ilgrimages% (er!orming (enitence

    rites or oining )harma ser.ices" 9ot soK ather than (racticing ha(ha0ardly% i! 'ecould recogni0e the (ath% gras( its !undamentals and access its core% li!e% death and

    rebirth 'ould cease simultaneously and at once" But i! 'e !ailed to !ind the 'ay%

    understand the essentials and access the core o! the )harma% our (ractice 'ould bein .ain" $hat+s because i! li!e and death 'ere not ended% the cycle o! rebirth 'ould

    continue" 7e 'ould only be ma*ing a *armic connection 'ith the )harma li*egoing u( a treasure laden mountain and returning em(ty handed" ,o the “(ractice o!

    nian!o" is the *ey to this (art o! Bodhisatt.a 4an usri+s discourse" &t is also the

    “essence o! the )harma%# in the 'ords o! 4aster =a0hao"

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    $he (ractice o! nian!o is recitation o! #$amo Amitabha %u&&ha'" $here is a

    saying “All scri(tures in the t'el.e di.isions o! the $ri(ita*a are contained in the si:

    characters"# $he Buddha taught >

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    the $hree Gems as 'ell" But i! 'e don+t ha.e the ability% or i! the *armic conditions

    aren+t there% 'e should not mind" Amitabha recitation encom(asses e.erything"

    As !or o!!erings% some (eo(le ha.e the ability to ma*e them 'hile others do

    not" ,till others% e.en though they can do so% don+t *no' 'here to ma*e o!!erings"7ith Amitabha recitation% ho' it doesn+t matter i! 'e are ca(able or not@ so

    long as 'e ha.e a mouth% 'e can recite" (eo(le may be or ' 'or*they do% all can recite Amitabha+s name" $hat may not be true !or the (ractices o!

    other schools"

    %T(ose /(o an a om -&s( t(ese /&-- 'e a'-e Du& k- to om -ete t(e t/&n

    ra t& es o a umu-at&n mer&tor&ous '-ess&n s an* /&s*om $o com(lete the(ractices o! accumulating meritorious blessings and 'isdom is to attain Buddhahood"

    A gatha says% “9o need to culti.ate blessings and 'isdom !or three greatasam(hyeya-(a)*as; 'ith the si: characters 'e can e:it the uni.erse"# $he standard

    (ath to Buddhahood re uires culti.ating blessings and 'isdom !or three greatasam(hyeya-(a)*as, accumulating merit through the ,i: Paramitas and myriad

    .irtuous (ractices" Another 155 (a)*as are needed to (er!ect the 32 mar*s and >5

    (hysical characteristics o! a Buddha" nly then 'ill a (ractitioner achie.eBuddhahood" 7ithout going through this (rocess% there is no 'ay o! doing so"

    $hat is to (ractice through sel! (o'er" $o do so% 'e must ha.e e:ce(tional

    'isdom and ability@ our *armic obstructions must be minimal and our a!!lictions !e'"$his is beyond our ca(abilities" But i! 'e can recite the name o! Amitabha Buddha

    e:clusi.ely% 'e 'ould be able in short order to com(lete the (ractices o!

    accumulating both blessings and 'isdom" ,o it is said that there is “no need toculti.ate blessings and 'isdom !or three great asam(hyeya-(a)*as; 'ith the si:

    characters 'e can e:it the uni.erse"#

    Here “the uni.erse# re!ers to the $hree )omains and ,i: ealms" ,o long as

    'e rely on $amo Amitabha %u&&ha, 'e 'ould be able not only to lea.e the ,i:

    ealms% but also be reborn in the Land o! Bliss" nce there% 'e 'ould uic*ly gainBuddhahood"

    $he Bodhisatt.a also said% %)u**(a9&nvo at&on an* o er&n s to t(e T(ree

    ems are t(e -o t&est an* most &m ortant ra t& es )e ause I &n 4al(as asten a e* &n me*&tat&ve &nvo at&on &n )u**(a9&nvo at&on an* ma*e o er&n s to t(e

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    T(ree ems I o'ta&ne* t(e A--9In -us&ve #&s*om o t(e Tat(a atas )uring (ast

    (a)*as, Bodhisatt.a 4an usri gained the 'isdom o! Buddhas through meditati.e

    in.ocation% Buddha in.ocation and o!!erings to the $hree Gems" ! the three(ractices% “Buddha in.ocation# means declaiming Amitabha+s name" ,o long as 'e

    o(en our mouths and recite #$amo Amitabha %u&&ha," that is it"

    &! 'e had to “in.o*e through meditation%# 'e 'ouldn+t be able to do it" ,uchcontem(lation is di!!icult and its merit is less" 9ame recitation is easy% and its merit

    great" $hat+s because the si: character name and its substance are one" Amitabha+s

    !unctions and ca(abilities are contained in the name% so that the Buddha+s lightemanates !rom the bodies o! all those 'ho recite it% erasing their *armic a!!lictions"

    &n dar*% im(ure (laces% reciters 'ill at once see ad.ersity turn into good !ortune andesca(e their di!!iculties unscathed" &! they encounter ghosts% demons or monsters%

    they 'ill immediately e.ade them" &! *armic debtors beset them% $amo Amitabha

    %u&&ha can resol.e their con!licts and e.en the s(irits o! the debtors" ,oAmitabha recitation is said to be sim(le% easy and mar.elous"

    As !or meditati.e in.ocation% 'e are unable to do it 'hich means the

    (ractice 'ould ha.e no e!!ect" ! the three (ractices% there!ore% Amitabha recitationis the easiest"

    %I o'ta&ne* t(e A--9In -us&ve #&s*om o t(e Tat(a atas a re!erence to the

    (er!ect 'isdom o! the Buddhas" $here are three *inds o! 'isdom ,ra.a*a andPratye*abuddha 7isdom% Bodhisatt.a 7isdom% and All &nclusi.e 7isdom" $he !irst

    ty(e is associated 'ith ,ra.a*as and Pratye*abuddhas% a 'isdom o! the Lesser

    ;ehicle" $he second sort is lin*ed 'ith" $he last *ind is the 'isdom o!the Buddhas"

    $hough 'e are ordinary beings% !ull o! greed% anger and ignorance as 'ell as

    *armic obstructions% by relying solely on recitation o! $amo Amitabha %u&&ha 'ecan transcend the !irst t'o ty(es o! 'isdom and ra(idly attain Buddha 'isdom"

    4aster inguang said in a gatha.

    %e not sur*rise& that a sing)e recitation shou)& sur*assTen stages on the *ath o! the %o&hisatt4as;9e shou)& (now that the si: characters encom*ass the Three ehic)es7! the Sra4a(a, ratye(abu&&ha an& %o&hisatt4a

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    7e should not doubt% or be ama0ed% that by reciting $amo Amitabha %u&&ha

    'e could transcend the ten stages and sur(ass in 'isdom ,ra.a*as%

    Pratye*abuddhas and e.en" 7e should *no' that the si: charactername contains all the merit o! the $hree ;ehicles -,ra.a*a% Pratye*abuddha and

    Bodhisatt.a/% straight through to the attainment o! Buddhahood"

    urs is there!ore a school o! “hori0ontal transcendence"# 7hat do 'etranscend8 $he realms o! ,ra.a*as% Pratye*abuddhas and directly

    entering that o! Buddhas" $he hori0ontal transcendence o! such realms does not

    de(end on our o'n ca(abilities% but entirely on the (o'er and .irtue o! AmitabhaBuddha in other 'ords% on Buddha (o'er"

    &! the determining !actor 'ere our o'n ability% it 'ould be uncertain 'hether

    'e could e.en regain human !orm in the !uture" E.en i! 'e did% it+s an o(en uestion'hether 'e could encounter the )harma again" 7ith rebirth in the celestial realms

    .ery unli*ely% ho' much more so the cessation o! rebirth in the $hree )omains and,i: ealms 6 not to mention transcending the achie.ements o! ,ra.a*as%

    Pratye*abuddhas and Bodhisatt.asK

    ,o the issue is not one o! reliance on but on Amitabha Buddha" &!

    'e understand this% 'e 'ould be not be s*e(tical or ama0ed" 7hen 4asteringuang says “be not sur(rised%# he means 'e should be neither startled nor

    doubt!ul" “,hould *no'# means 'e ought to *no' and belie.e" And by saying “thesi: characters encom(ass the $hree ;ehicles%# he tells us that these si: characters

    both contain and sur(ass the $hree ;ehicles" Because Amitabha in!used into the

    characters all the merit he accumulated !rom his (ractice% his name crystalli0es the.irtues o! the Buddhas" $hat+s 'hy Bodhisatt.a 4an usri said that Amitabha

    recitation leads uic*ly to “the All &nclusi.e 7isdom o! the $athagatas"#

    % ou s(ou-* kno/ t(at t(e var&ous "(arma ra t& es t(e aram&tas *ee

    me*&tat&ve on entrat&on an* even t(e )u**(as &n t(e ten *&re t&ons a-- ar&se rom

    )u**(a9re o--e t&on an* )u**(a9&nvo at&on T(us t(e ra t& e o nianfo &s t(e k&no a-- ra t& es “$he .arious )harma (ractices# means the mani!old teachings o!

    ,ha*yamuni Buddha% 'hile “the (aramitas# and “dee( meditati.e concentration#

    re!er collecti.ely to the ,i: Paramitas and myriad .irtuous deeds" “$he (ractice o!nian!o is the *ing o! all (ractices# such a descri(tion and commendation can be

    said to be the highest (raise o! all"

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    $here is only one *ing in a *ingdom" He is uni ue% su(reme% (eerless" 9o one

    else is o! the same ran*% and no one can com(are 'ith him" $his “*ing# encom(asses

    and transcends all" He can be said to contain e.erything" &! the *ing is (resent%e.erything is com(lete@ 'ithout him% only a small (art remains" $he “*ing# can

    there!ore gi.e rise to e.erything and is the source o! all things" $his indicates that the

    .irtue and merit !rom the myriad (ractices arise !rom Amitabha recitation% and thatAmitabha recitation can gi.e rise to all the other schools o! (ractice"

    &t is im(ossible !or us to understand and learn all the >

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    $here are Buddhas o! the (ast% (resent and !uture" 4an usri does not 'ant us

    to recite the names o! (ast or !uture Buddhas% but that o! a Buddha o! the (resent"

    As !or (resent Buddhas% some d'ell in the east% some in the 'est% some in the southand some in the north" $here are Buddhas in all the ten directions" 7hich one should

    'e recite8 $he one in the Land o! Bliss to the 'est o! our ,aha 'orld Amitabha


    $his identi!ication o! a Buddha to the 'est is called “indicating the direction

    and establishing the entity"# ,o the teaching and (ractice o! Amitabha recitation is a

    school that “indicates the direction and establishes the entity"# $o “indicate thedirection# is to (oint out the Land o! Bliss to the 'est% and to “establish the entity# is

    to identi!y the Buddha called Amitabha" 7e can see that Pure Land teaching di!!ers!rom the Chan school+s “Pure Land o! the mind% Amitabha Buddha o! our o'n


    %T(e o/er o t(&s )u**(a+s vo/s &s un at(oma'-e ou s(ou-* re &te

    Am&ta'(a )u**(a+s name ure- /&t(out &nterru t&on or *ev&at&on #(en ou *&e

    ou /&-- erta&n- 'e re'orn &n t(e Lan* o )-&ss ens on e* &n t(e state o non9retro ress&on 7hat does “recite Amitabha Buddha+s name (urely and 'ithoutinterru(tion# here mean8 &s it the same as the “recite Amitabha Buddha+s name

    (urely and 'ithout interru(tion# in the “Cha(ter on Bodhisatt.a

    4ahasthama(ra(ta+s Per!ect 4astery o! Amitabha ecitation# in the Surangama

    Sutra< Actually% it is the same" But some (eo(le inter(ret the (hrase in the style o!

    the schools o! the ,acred Path -sel! (o'er/% and that 'ould be com(letely 'rong"

    &n !act% to “recite Amitabha Buddha+s name (urely and 'ithout interru(tion#

    is .ery sim(le" E.eryone can do it% and there is nothing es(ecially mysterious or

    abstruse about it" &t means to recite #$amo Amitabha %u&&ha" e:clusi.ely% 'ith the

    !re uency determined by ho' much time 'e ha.e" $o recite 'hen the thoughtcrosses our minds and 'hen 'e o(en our mouths that is to “recite Amitabha

    Buddha+s name (urely and 'ithout interru(tion"# &t is the same as 'hat 4aster,handao said about the “*arma o! assurance"# He said

    To re &te Am&ta'(a+s name s&n -e9m&n*e*- an* /&t(out var&at&on/(et(er /a-k&n stan*&n s&tt&n or - &n *o/n /(et(er or -on or

    s(ort er&o*s t(at &s t(e karma o assuran e It &s so 'e ause &t a or*s

    /&t( Am&ta'(a )u**(a+s vo/

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    &n “to recite Amitabha+s name single mindedly%# “single mindedly# means

    e:clusi.ely" &! 'e ha.e time to (ractice% 'e recite Amitabha+s name only" 7e do not

    meditate% chant sutras and mantras% do (enitence or engage in other (ractices"ther'ise our (ractice 'ould not be e:clusi.e@ it 'ould not be single minded% but o!

    t'o minds"

    &n our daily 'hether 'e are 'al*ing% standing% sitting or lying do'n% 'erecite Amitabha+s name according to ho' much time 'e ha.e" 7e eat 'hen it+s time

    to eat and slee( 'hen it+s time to slee(" 7e do things 'hen it+s time to do them%

    'ithout restrictions or inhibitions" $hat is to do something “'hether 'al*ing%standing% sitting or lying do'n% 'hether !or long or short (eriods"# $o recite

    Amitabha+s name single mindedly and e:clusi.ely is to do so 'ithout de.iation 'hich is the same as reciting “(urely and 'ithout interru(tion"#

    $here are t'o *inds o! Amitabha recitation" ne is to recite in a !ocused

    manner" $he other is to recite randomly% 'ithout !ocus" =ocused recitation meansthat in our !ree moments% 'e recite uietly% in a concentrated and single minded

    'ay" $o recite 'hile doing something else is un!ocused recitation" ,uch random

    recitation is also 'ithout de.iation% meeting the re uirement o! being “'ithoutinterru(tion or de.iation"#

    9ormally% there!ore% i! 'e aren+t reciting in a !ocused 'ay% 'e are doing so

    randomly" &! 'e aren+t reciting out loud% 'e are doing so so!tly" &! 'e aren+t(er!orming 4ajra recitation the li(s% but 'ithout (roducing sounds audible

    to (ersons nearby/% 'e are reciting silently" 7e can recite according to our (ersonal

    circumstances% *arma and ca(ability" &! 'e 'ish to do so !or an e:tended (eriod%'ithout interru(tion or becoming tired% it is best to use 4ajra recitation"

    %#(en ou *&e ou /&-- erta&n- 'e re'orn &n t(e Lan* o )-&ss Here%

    Bodhisatt.a 4an usri uses the 'ord “certainly# as a guarantee to sentient beings"“Certainly# means 155 (ercent not (ercent% but 155 (ercentK &! one (erson

    (ractices accordingly% a single (erson 'ill be reborn in the Pure Land" &! a hundred(ractice% a hundred 'ill achie.e rebirth" &t is the same 'ith 1%555 or 15%555 (eo(le"

    $hus the saying that i! 15%555 (ractice% 15%555 'ill be reborn"

    %Ens on e* &n t(e state o non9retro ress&on $hose reborn in the Land o!

    Bliss ha.e arri.ed in a realm o! Buddhas" ,ince that is so% they 'ill again retreat

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    on the (ath to Buddhahood" $he Shorter Sutra says%( entient beings born /inthe Land of Bliss0 all achieve non-retrogression .any attain the state of

    being one lifetime removed from Buddhahood * $he “state o! being oneli!etime remo.ed !rom Buddhahood# re!ers to those 'ho are Buddhas in 'aiting"

    7hen they !inished s(ea*ing% the t'o great holy beings 4an usri and

    ,amantabhadra reached out to stro*e 4aster =a0hao+s head and ga.e him a(rediction o! Buddhahood"

    %I t(ere are oo* men an* /omen F 7hat uali!ies (eo(le as good men

    and 'omen8 Are 'e good men and 'omen8 According to standard doctrines% 'e

    'ould not uali!y" egarding “good%# there is the good in the =i.e Prece(ts and thegood o! the $en Good Actions" $o udge our actions% s(eech and thoughts by the

    yardstic*s o! the =i.e Prece(ts alone% 'e do not uali!y as good men and 'omen" Allthe more so 'ith the $en Good Actions"

    &n the school o! Amitabha recitation% ho' anyone 'ho recites

    Amitabha+s name and as(ires to rebirth in the Land o! Bliss can be called a good manor 'oman" ,uch reciters% e.en though they still ha.e greed% anger and ignorance and

    !all (rey to negati.e beha.ior resulting !rom their *arma% !eel ashamed% *no'ing !ull

    'ell that they are ini uitous ordinary beings" &t is (recisely because they are recitersca(able o! !eeling ashamed that they can become good men and 'omen"

    &n his :*)ication o! +m*ortant oints in the Amitabha Sutra, 4aster uyi% the

    (rominent mon* o! the late 4ing and early Ning dynasties% e:(lained “good menand 'omen# thus

    oo* men an* /omen Monast& s or (ouse(o-*ers r& ( or oor o-* or

    oun 'e&n s &n t(e S&: $ea-ms or su'>e t to t(e ,our Mo*es o )&rt( &

    t(e (ear t(e name o Am&ta'(a )u**(a t(e&r mer&tor&ous roots o man4al(as /&-- (ave mature* Even & t(e (ave omm&tte* t(e ,&ve ravestTrans ress&ons an* Ten Ev&- A t&ons t(e an 'e a--e* oo*

    &t matters not 'hether they are monastics or householders% male or !emale%

    young or old% or 'hether they are beings in the ,i: ealms or sub ect to the =our4odes o! Birth" ,o long as they ha.e heard the name $amo Amitabha %u&&ha -“hear

    the name o! Amitabha Buddha# is the same as “hears o! Amitabha Buddha# in the

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    Shorter Sutra3, it means that their (ositi.e roots o! many (a)*as ha.e ri(ened" $hey

    may ha.e committed the most heinous *armic o!!enses% but they can all be called

    good men and 'omen"

    7hat is to “hear o! Amitabha Buddha#8 &t is to hear the teaching o!Amitabha+s deli.erance o! sentient beings% and to acce(t and belie.e it" &! 'e can do

    this% 'e are good men and 'omen"

    Ho' only human beings are able to hear Amitabha+s name and acce(t

    and belie.e in it" As !or hell beings% hungry ghosts and animals% ho' could they ha.ethe 'isdom to understand8 $herein lies the di!!erence bet'een those 'ho are

    res(onsi.e to the teaching and those 'ho merely !orm a *armic lin* 'ith it" $hose'ho understand are in the !ormer grou(% 'hile those 'ho don+t belong to the latter"

    $here is a saying% “once a teachingI (asses through our ears% it becomes

    ! a seed !or Buddhahood%# or “once itI enters through the ears% it becomes a

    (ermanent seed !or the ourney to enlightenment"# &! Amitabha+s name can enter

    through our ears% it (lants the seed !or our enlightenment and achie.ement o!Buddhahood" $hose 'ho “hear o! Amitabha Buddha# are there!ore *no'n as good

    men and 'omen" $he same meaning is !ound in the otus Sutra, 'hich says (%fthose whose minds are distracted and confused should enter a temple andrecite ‘Namo Buddha’ but once, they will all accomplish the path toBuddhahood *

    %So -on as t(e re &te t(e name o Am&ta'(a s&n -e9m&n*e*- F Here“single mindedly# means e:clusi.ely% not o! t'o minds" $o recite e:clusi.ely% relying

    on Amitabha alone and reciting his name that is to recite single mindedly" &t is also*no'n as “scru(ulous Amitabha recitation"# &t means 'e do not recite Amitabha+s

    name no'% mantras later in the day and sutras tomorro'% or do meditation the day

    a!ter and (ractice the esoteric tradition the !ollo'ing day" 7e do not engage in suchmi:ed (ractices"

    7hen 'e are reciting Amitabha+s name% it doesn+t matter 'hether 'e ha.e

    mental distractions and .e:ations or not" ,o long as 'e belie.e that Amitabharecitation leads to rebirth in the Land o! Bliss and (ersist 'ith our recitation% 'e 'ill

    assuredly be reborn in the Pure Land"

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    Let us no' go bac* and elaborate on the sentence% “$he (o'er o! this

    Buddha+s .o's is un!athomable"# &n the )harma% !i.e things are said to be

    “un!athomable# or “"# =irst% the number o! sentient beings isun!athomable" ,econdly% the !orce o! *arma is" $he third the (o'er o!

    dragons is un!athomable" =ourthly% the (o'er o! meditati.e concentration is" And !inally% the (o'er o! the )harma is un!athomable"

    “$he number o! sentient beings is un!athomable"# =rom the beginning to the

    end o! time% there is neither addition to% nor subtraction !rom% the number o! beings%

    'hich is 'ithout limit" &n other 'ords% i! sentient beings gained Buddhahood all atonce% their realms 'ould not be any !e'er" &! they did not become Buddhas% their

    realms 'ould not increase in numbers either" $here is no 'ay to calculate thenumber o! beings"

    Ho' many sentient beings are there among the si: ordinary and !our sacred

    categories% and in the nine )harma realms8 &t+s something that cannot be concei.ed"$here!ore “the number o! sentient beings is un!athomable"#

    “$he !orce o! *arma is"# 7hy is this so8 =or e:am(le% a cro' is

    naturally blac*@ it does not need to be dyed" An egret is born 'hite and needs no

    dyeing either" A (hoeni: or (eacoc* has naturally beauti!ul !eathers@ there is nothingarti!icial about them" Peo(le 'ho do not understand the intricacies say they are

    made by nature"

    &n ancient &ndia% a certain school o! thought held that e.erything in theuni.erse came into being s(ontaneously" $his is not 'hat the Buddha taught"

    According to the )harma% all things arise !rom a con.ergence o! *armic conditions"$here is a cause behind each e!!ect" &n the case o! cro's and egrets% their colors are

    the result o! their *armic contacts in (rior li!etimes 'ith blac* and 'hite" All things

    ha.e their *armic causes" An e!!ect cannot e:ist s(ontaneously 'ithout its cause"

    “$he (o'er o! dragons is un!athomable"# A dragon can summon the 'ind and

    the rain@ it can soar among the clouds and ride the mists" A single dro( o! 'ater can the entire uni.erse" $his is 'hy the (o'er o! dragons is un!athomable"

    “$he (o'er o! meditati.e concentration is"# &! a (erson can

    enter a su!!iciently (o'er!ul state o! concentration% his or her body 'ill not decay

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    e.en a!ter a hundred or a thousand years" $he Buddha had a !e' disci(les 'hose

    bodies are still in this 'orld" $a*e% !or e:am(le% ;en" Oasya(a" $he Buddha instructed

    him to (resent monastic robes to Bodhisatt.a 4aitreya 'hen the latter came to our'orld to become a Buddha" ,o Oasya(a has retained his (hysical (resence in this

    'orld" $hat is the case 'ith many other Arhats" $his illustrates the

    (o'er o! meditati.e concentration"

    &n such a state one can also e:ercise a .ariety o! s(ecial (o'ers" $his is

    un!athomable as 'ell" But there is a saying that “s(ecial (o'ers are no match !or the

    !orce o! *arma"# Among the Buddha+s disci(les% ;en" 4oggallana 'as the mostaccom(lished in s(ecial (o'ers" A!ter his mother !ell into the realm o! hungry ghosts%

    he 'as unable to sa.e her" nly by accumulating merit through o!!erings to the$hree Gems 'as he able to !ree her !rom her su!!ering" ,o the (o'er o! meritorious

    .irtue is su(erior to s(ecial (o'ers@ only it can neutrali0e negati.e *arma"

    “$he (o'er o! the )harma is un!athomable"# $he realm o! Buddhas can be

    understood only by Buddhas" &t cannot be di.ined by those at the Bodhisatt.a stage

    or belo'" ,o among the !i.e things% the (o'er o! the )harma is the

    most un!athomable o! all" And 'ithin the un!athomable (o'er o! the )harma% is the (o'er o! Amitabha Buddha+s .o's"

    Ho' much so8 $he /ontem*)ation Sutra tells o! a sentient being 'ho

    committed the gra.est *armic o!!enses but gains rebirth in the Pure Land at thelo'est o! the nine le.els" $his (erson% 'ho has done any good his entire li!e% is

    about to die" He starts to (anic only 'hen the !lames o! hell ha.e started to singe his

    !eet" At this moment he encounters a )harma !riend 'ho tells him the teaching o!Amitabha recitation" He recites #$amo Amitabha %u&&ha" but ten times and the

    hell!ire at once trans!orms into lotus !lo'ers" He not only esca(es the clutches o!

    hell% but the $hree )omains and ,i: ealms and gains rebirth in the Land o!Bliss% assured o! BuddhahoodK ,uch is the nature o! Buddha (o'er

    and Buddha merit"

    $he dialogue during 'hich 4an usri and ,amantabhadra ad.ise

    4aster =a0hao to see* rebirth in the Land o! Bliss is as sim(le as it is remar*able" 9ot

    a 'ord is su(er!luous or 'asted" Actually =a0hao+s uestions 'ere not only !orhimsel!% but (osed on our behal! as 'ell" 9or did 4an usri ans'er alone@

    ,amantabhadra also res(onded" &n !act% it 'as not ust the t'o 'ho

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    th ;o'" And the 1> th ;o' is about

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    “Embraced by Amitabha+s light% they are assured o! rebirth# Amitabha is a

    Buddha 'ho embraces" ,uch (eo(le are already en!olded in his light% to be

    abandoned" $hey do not ha.e to 'ait until they ha.e dra'n their last breath to becertain o! rebirth in the Pure Land" &n this .ery moment they are already assured"

    “=or them the onger Sutra (redicts a status e ual to 4aitreya+s# $he onger

    Sutra is the +n!inite i!e Sutra " &n it ,ha*yamuni Buddha has already madeBuddhahood (redictions on their behal!% adding that their status 'ould be e ual to

    that o! 4aitreya" Li*e 4aitreya% 'e too 'ill become Buddhas" $hat+s because all

    sentient beings in the Land o! Bliss are a single li!etime a'ay !rom Buddhahood"

    “$he /ontem*)ation Sutra hails them as *un&ari(a !lo'ers# &n the/ontem*)ation Sutra, ,ha*yamuni Buddha (raises Amitabha reciters as *un&ari(a

    !lo'ers" $hese are lotus !lo'ers" Peo(le e:tol the Buddha as a *un&ari(a !lo'er% andhe uses the same term to commend reciters" $his !urther indicates that Amitabha

    reciters 'ill become Buddhas"

    “A magical eli:ir trans!orms iron into gold# 7e ha.e long been li*e a hea( o!scra( iron% ordinary beings !ull o! greed% anger and delusion" ,uch beings are either

    good or bad% continually being reborn in the ,i: ealms" 7hat can ele.ate ordinary

    beings in the ,i: ealms into the ran*s o! the sacred% allo'ing them to enter therealm o! Buddhas8 9ot the merit 'e culti.ate% but recitation o! Amitabha+s


    Consider iron" $here is no 'ay to turn it into gold e:ce(t by means o! amagic (otion" they do% ordinary beings are still !ull o! greed% anger and

    ignorance" $he sole means o! li!ting them into sacred realms is a com(lete relianceon Amitabha recitation"

    !ESTION In Ma(a ana )u**(&sm &s Gure Lan* ons&*ere* a art&a-e: e*&entJ tea (&n or a om -ete u-t&mateJ tea (&n =

    ANS#E$ $here are the so called Pita*a% Common% )istincti.e and ound

    teachings" $he “ ound# teaching is (er!ect% com(lete" $he other three teachings are

    (artial or e:(edient@ they are incom(lete and not (er!ect% li*e the doctrines o! the,maller ;ehicle"

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    ANS#E$ $here no taboos at all in our Amitabha recitation" ecitation beads

    are used !or counting" ,ome (eo(le do not count% as they ha.e already made a

    regular habit o! Amitabha recitation" they are% ' they are doing%they recite" made a habit o! recitation% they need not use beads"

    But !or beginners% it is best to set a daily number !or recitations" $hey can use

    beads to count% a bead !or each recitation% or !or !i.e or ten recitations" &! 'e use abead to mar* !i.e recitations% com(leting a string 'ould mean 'e ha.e done ?55

    recitations" &! a bead denotes ten recitations% 'e 'ould ha.e accom(lished a


    !ESTION #(en *&* S(ak amun& )u**(a tea ( t(e t(ree Gure Lan* sutras an* &n /(at or*er=

    ANS#E$ &n terms o! un!olding the teachings% he !irst deli.ered the onger

    Sutra, then the /ontem*)ation Sutra and% !inally% theShorter Sutra " $he teaching o!

    the /ontem*)ation Sutra coincided 'ith the time the Buddha (reached the otus

    Sutra " =or it 'as 'hile he 'as deli.ering the otus Sutra that Oing Bimbisara 'asim(risoned by his son" )ee( inside the (alace% Nueen ;aidehi thought o!

    ,ha*yamuni Buddha% 'ho (aused his discourse on the otus Sutra to teach her the

    /ontem*)ation Sutra " &t should ha.e been shortly a!ter he taught the onger Sutra' 7e can+t be certain about the (recise time% but it should ha.e been around then"

    $hat is 'hy 'e say% “Amitabha recitation sums u( the Buddha+s sacred teachings"#