Attributes of the Pure Land School of Buddhism - Worldly Truths
I.Attributes of the Pure Land School of Buddhism - Worldly Truths
- Be reverential and trusting towards Amitabha Buddha, and compassionate and understanding to other people. In our deportment, we should be modest and amiable.
- Be sincere and scrupulous in your relationships. Avoid evil and cherish good. Be an upstanding citizen by showing civic-mindedness and respecting the law.
- We should feel that our foolishness and capacity for wrongdoing exceed those of others, and that we aren’t qualified to argue with them.
Do not speak gossip, listen to gossip, spread gossip or discuss gossip.
Avoid finding fault with others, publicizing their transgressions or exposing their private matters.
Do not quarrel with others over whether you or they are right.
Do not neglect the law of cause and effect, or harbor ill will.
Do not be false, or engage in flattery or misrepresentation.
- Be respectful and caring towards your family and relatives to create harmonious ties.
Hold virtue and benevolence in high regard, and cultivate propriety and accommodation.
Maintain an agreeable countenance and pleasant speech, and smile from the bottom of your heart.
Think compassionately of sentient beings and treat people generously.
Be humble and courteous, never prideful. Have a sense of shame and always be grateful for the Buddha’s kindness.
- Give peace of mind, happiness, hope and benefit to others. Do everything sincerely and lovingly. Be thankful and respectful under all circumstances.
- Learn from Amitabha Buddha’s great compassion: Treat others the way Amitabha treats you.
For persons who really make a resolve to practice, they will not wait for the rules and other requirements before they want to modify their own. Only because we are ordinary beings whose habits are hard to change, we need some norms, and the "Attributes 2 –Worldly Truths" are norms prepared for us.
According to the “Worldly Truths” of Pure Land Buddhism, being a person who learns Buddhism and practices Amitabha-recitation, one should try their best, under given conditions, to practice the Five precepts or other good deeds and meritorious virtues as taught by the Buddha, in addition to the Five Relations and the Five Constant Virtues of human relations and morals, even though knowing one’s own potentiality may not be able to complete them totally. Otherwise, we are not qualified as a learner of Buddhism. For instance, among others, we should be filial towards our parents, be fraternal towards our siblings, provide relief for the poor, protect animals…etc. whether or not we have received the precepts, we should try our best to uphold the Five Precepts and the Ten Good Actions that is appropriate under circumstances and accordance to our ability. To actively perform good deeds and accumulate virtues accordingly is the basic obligations that a person and, in particular, a Buddhist truth seeker, should fulfill. Having said that, these meritorious virtues should not be regarded as prerequisites or auxiliary means for attainment of rebirth.
Being a person who is aware of himself as an iniquitous ordinary being subject to endless rebirth, what does he feel when he is trying to achieve the precepts that he has already known couldn’t be achieved? In modern China, Master Hong Yi is famous of observing the Vinaya (rules or codes of conducts). He understands the Vinaya very well and carefully introspects himself. He said he was not a Bhiksu (a monk who has taken the full precepts) not even qualified for the Five Precepts, and at best just an Upāsaka (a lay follower) with higher marks. His status is just like that, let alone ours. As a result (or In this respect), we need an alternative approach in regard of monastics’ the three categories of dignified manners (deeds, words and thoughts) correction of evil doings and revert to good deeds moral cultivation, and their self-discipline in relation to virtue integrity. To us, the tenets and traditions of our school show the methods and contents of our disciplines.
A few years ago, I compiled “The Pure Land Charter” because a proper sect of Buddhism should have a similar charter in place in order to establish itself. A charter is equivalent to the constitution of a country, which is fundamental and should contain their own attributes, including the ultimate truths and the worldly truths. We use the second part “Attributes of the Pure Land School (2): Worldly Truths (governing everyday life)” as the content of our half-monthly recitation, and also integrate them into the Three Categories of Appropriate Behaviors. Why? Because the purpose of recitation is not just oral chanting, but also memorization in the brain and conservation in the mind, making them a part of our character and our life. Here comes the saying, “to blend into the bone marrow, to transform into the character, and to turn into the life” Therefore, we must make use of the half-monthly reflection time to recite the attributes.
In addition to the half-monthly recitation before the mass, I also hope that everyone recite and think about the attributes once every morning when you get up. There are two kinds of recitation: oral recitation and corporal recitation. We start with oral recitation, and then move on to corporal recitation, which translates the contents into the three categories of karma (i.e. deeds, words, and thoughts) and in our daily life, so that the whole body and mind recite simultaneously. It’s just like what I have said: blended into the marrow, transformed into one’s character, and integrated into one’s own life.
Finding wrongdoings each other is one of the monastics’ half-monthly recitation of precepts. The purpose is to let us aware of our own fault, and to let us know about the needs for improvement. Here comes an ancient saying, “Be aware of wrongdoings day by day, and to rectify them day after day; being unaware of wrongs in one day means being self-opinionated at that day.” We are so easily adapted to our own opinion. Another saying, “One who not knowing his own fault in one day will make no progress at that day.” If that happens, our destiny cannot be corrected. Here is another saying, “Be happy when hearing of one’s own fault; pay respect to people who perform good deeds once hearing about it.” We should be humble in acceptance of criticism of our faults, and do not have a grudge against the fault-finders, or consider them as spreading gossip or slandering us. If we do think that way, we are not Buddhist practitioners but ordinary persons. So, we should be as humble as those who feel happy when hearing of their own fault and pay respect to people who perform good deeds. In such way, one’s destiny can be changed.
Many seekers on the Buddhist path cannot escape from the fate of calamity or the fate of misery when it comes. Why is the fate not changed? It is because these seekers have not made efforts on cultivation of the mind, or not rectified themselves inside the heart. Even worse, they blame on others, complain about others, accuse others of doing harm to them, or thrusting faults on them, and feel that others have caused all their sorrows. How can such a fate be changed?
Do rectify faults first before doing good deeds. There is a reason for saying that. The general precepts of the buddhas stipulate, “Refrain from doing evil, and actively do good, and purify the mind. These are the teachings of the Buddha.” Looking at the sequence of the words, “refrain from doing evil” is placed before “actively do good”, just the same as “do rectify faults first”. Hence, correcting one’s own faults or mistakes is very, very important. What is “doing good” truly according to the teachings of our school? The answer is Amitabha-recitation, and also to have faith in the teachings and then teach others to believe. That is doing good. What is rectifying faults then? That is to rectify our behaviors in accordance with the standards as written in the attributes or teachings laid down by the holy sages and the virtuous of ancient times.
Contents of the attributes is just like a mirror, without which we can’t see dirty faces and don’t know cleaning is required. Facing the mirror of the attributes, we can discover our habitual behaviours and faults, and hence feel more ashamed. Also because of the reflective function of the dharma mirror, we can sense our blemishes, face them squarely, and set the goals for improvement. Although we may not be able to achieve a hundred percent of the goals, but at least we can accomplish certain portions. So, I hope everyone will think about the attributes at least one time per day, put them into daily practice, and have them blended into the marrow and transformed into our life, so that our speech and behaviorr are the same as the contents of the attributes.
Ancient worthies say, “being absent for a while, just like a dead body.” So, without the spiritual nourishment of Buddhist Dharma, a person is no longer a human being. As a seeker on the Buddhist path, we have to continuously absorb nutrition of the Buddhist dharma, otherwise we are not qualified. How can we absorb nutrition of the Buddhist dharma then? Our spiritual foods have to rely on the truth and words derived from the Buddha’s wisdom. We therefore have to recite daily the insightful words of the Buddha. So, contents of the Attributes II – the Worldly Truths (governing everyday life ) have to be memorized and contemplated one time every morning, taking the words of the Buddha and the sages as our life and the standards for our daily behavior.
If a person really accepts the dharma of Pure Land Buddhism, he will certainly believe that he is an iniquitous ordinary being. Once realizing oneself as an iniquitous ordinary being, a person will become humble and amiable and not allow self-pride or arrogance to prevail. The temperament will subsequently change. According to the teachings of the Pure Land School, the ultimate truths can appreciate and experience from the worldly truths, while the experience of the worldly truths will gain access to the ultimate truths. The two complement each other.
At what level should we be obedient and reverent to Amitabha? Up to the level of ‘Namo’. ‘Namo’ means ‘taking refuge’. We entrust our precious life to Amitabha, pass it to Amitabha, and wholly believe and follow Amitabha’s deliverance. We entrust all to Amitabha.
Our life is not just once at this time, but is a continuum of the past, present and future. So, we should entrust our life – a continuum with birth and death in the past, present and future, impermanent, recycling, segmented life, and take refuge to Amitabha Buddha.
If we truly have the mind of reverence and obedience, ‘namo’, taking refuge, surrender, reliance, we must always remember the Buddha and recite the Buddha. Amitabha-invocation and Amitabha-recitation is the cause, while rebirth to achieve Buddhahood is the effect. From now on, we are certain to leave this turbid and evil, impermanent and recycling life , and assured to be one of the bodhisattvas in the Land of Bliss with infinite life, the infinite light. The infinite compassion and infinite wisdom.
For respect, it means humility and modesty internally；it also means politeness and reverend in appearance. Being a Buddhist, the word “respect” is very important to us. It is said that we pursue the Buddhist teachings with respect. With one part of respect, we attain one part of benefit. With ten parts of respect, we attain ten parts of benefit.
Be reverential and trusting towards Amitabha Buddha, and compassionate and understanding to other people. In our deportment, we should be modest and amiable.
We should think and realize the above as much as possible. If we can practice it, there will have basically no argument, be harmonious, be joyous, then it can reach a state of purity.
A Buddhist should be modest and amiable, so the Worldly Truths say: In our deportment, we should be modest and amiable. When people talk to us and do something for us, we should say, “yes, yes; sure, sure”. Try to avoid negative thinking, and taking an offensive attitude against them in consideration.
Humility and submissiveness is important to a practitioner, particularly in Buddhism, particularly the words spoken by the teachers. We must say immediately, “Yes, yes; sure’ sure; yes!” Don’t judge with secular thinking, and think that we are right, and the teachers’ words do not match with our thinking. It is not the right attitude that a Buddhist should have.
If we realize Amitabha’s compassionate mind of deliverance, we will 100 per cent to receive and accept Amitabha’s deliverance, creep under Amitabha’s feet, walking to and fro within Amitabha’s embrace, and respect Amitabha Buddha 100 per cent.
As a person respect Amitabha Buddha 100 per cent, he must be 100 per cent humble and modest. Having the temperament of Amitabha’s compassionate mind, he knows how to care other people, forgive other people. It is because he know Amitabha is proactive, equal and unconditional in delivering sentient beings.
Although we still have greed, hatred and delusion, our afflictions are severe, our karmic attachment is heavy, and all these weakness are exposed under adverse conditions, we can turn around immediately because our capacity to adjust our emotion and to review in retrospect is strong.
In our teaching, we talk about Amitabha’s deliverance, and about Amitabha’s love, as well as Amitabha’s forgiveness for us. Think about it: If Amitabha does not love us, why does he deliver us? If Amitabha does not forgive us, how can we be delivered?
Think about it: We have committed the three karmas life after life till now, so how can we get through the hell’s gate reigned by Yama King? Will Yama King forgive us? Yama King refuses to forgive us, and the law of cause and effect refuses to forgive us. Only Amitabha Buddha will forgive us, and not bargain with us, but come to deliver us.
If we can realize how deep Amitabha’s love is, we can love others as deep as Amitabha does; if we can realize how great Amitabha’s forgiveness, we can forgive others as great as Amitabha does.
An Amitabha-reciter must have deep faith in “aptitude”. He must deeply believe that he is an iniquitous sentient being, without any chance to leave the cycle of birth-and-death. However, owing to this name, and with the augmentative cause and support given to us by Amitabha Buddha, we are empowered and will not feel afflicted being an iniquitous sentient being. Our life, thereafter, will be stable and happy; we will live with regret at and repentance for [our karma], as well as with gratitude and humility.
With the grace of Amitabha Buddha, we care of others with a gentle mind, as said in the attribute of our sect’s Worldly Truth: Be reverential and trusting towards Amitabha Buddha, and compassionate and understanding to other people. In our deportment, we should be modest and amiable. It is the living of Amitabha-recitation.
“Be reverential and trusting towards Amitabha Buddha”. That means “to learn from Amitabha Buddha’s great compassion: Treat others the way Amitabha treats you”. It is, of course, merely a kind of admiration; but having such a mind is better than none. Although we cannot reach [Amitabha’s level], we can at least do whatever we can [in that direction].
If a person is in emotion, feeling unfair or full of grievances, it indicates he has two kinds of deficiencies:
One is that he does not know the relationship between ‘aptitude’ and ‘teaching’. He considers himself as a benevolent person who has not done anything faulty. Besides, he does not realize by experience love and forgiveness of Amitabha Buddha.
And the other is that he is just a beginner of this Dharma teaching, and his experience is not deep enough.
All the Buddhas who descend to this world urge us sentient beings “to refrain from evil deeds, and to practice various virtues”. In [Amitabha’s] Fundamental Vow, It is also said that “excluded are those who commit the five gravest offences and abuse the right Dharma”. In the Second Fascicle of the Larger Sutra, the meaning of this statement is augmented to the admonition of the Five Virtues and the Five Evils.
So, we know that Amitabha deeply wants all Amitabha-reciters “be sincere and scrupulous in interpersonal relationships; avoid evil and cherish good; be an upstanding citizen by showing civic-mindedness and respecting the law”, just like the second statement in the attributes of the Pure Land Sect of Buddhism (2): Worldly Truths (governing everyday life).
Everyone who learns Buddhism and recites Amitabha’s name should spur themselves on fulfilling their duties and obligations that associate with their position – “Be sincere and scrupulous in your relationships. Avoid evil and cherish good. Be an upstanding citizen by showing civic-mindedness and respecting the law”, and recite Namo Amituofo in this manner.
Paying great attention to benevolence and justice, keeping morality in human relationship, stressing on filial piety, and respecting etiquette are rooted in the Buddhist law of cause and effect. Buddhism is always conservative. Only by staying conservative the original visage of Buddhism can be kept.
In this turbid and unwholesome world, people live just like in darkness, and only the Buddhist teachings serve as our eyes, or as a bright light illuminating the world. In the Age of Dharma Decline, technologies for improving our desired living develop with giant strides, while the way to cultivate our moral character and to mould our temperament degenerates day by day.
As a householder, we must be sincere and scrupulous in our relationships with others, avoid evil and cherish good, be a vegetarian and an Amitabha-reciter, be rectified in the threefold karma [i.e. deeds, words, and thoughts], and be proficient in the teachings, before becoming a leader of an area.
Being sincere and scrupulous in our relationships, Amitabha-reciters should guide our relatives to recite Amitabha’s name, and attain rebirth in the Land of Bliss together. If it is so, we are always with the Buddha forever, and all family members unite together. As we become a Buddha, people can get close to us, and we can deliver all sentient beings.
So, as a householder, we should be an upstanding citizen by showing civic-mindedness, respect the law and fulfill our duties and responsibilities, recite Amitabha’s name with singles of mind, so that it becomes a Buddhist family of Amitabha-recitation, and becomes a role model of a householder family leading all members to aspire to be reborn in the Land of Bliss.
To study the Pure Land teachings, all of us should be self-aware that we are iniquitous ordinary beings subject to endless rebirth, full of severe afflictions, and lack of conditions for emancipations. That is to say, “we should feel that our foolishness and capacity for wrongdoing exceed those of others”. If we are aware of this, we shall easily have faith in, and accept Amitabha’s deliverance.
However, there are several tiers regarding this attribute statement “we should feel that our foolishness and capacity for wrongdoing exceed those of others”: legal iniquity, moral iniquity and religious iniquity.
The deep faith in “aptitude” [i.e. capacity, or karmic inclinations] covers all three tiers [of iniquity], out of which the religious tier is most fundamental. Why? Some people may consider themselves as an upstanding citizen who shows civic-mindedness and respects the law, also a person being sincere and scrupulous in human relationships, and being observant of morality, kindness and benevolence… So, from the legal point of view, he is not guilty, not a criminal or offender. In terms of ethics and morality, he is also not a wicked or vicious person.
However, in Buddhism, all of us have greed, hatred, delusion, and ignorance, which are iniquitous, and are sources of all malicious deeds. So, with respect to the three tiers of the deep faith in “aptitude”, are we obedient to the law and scrupulous in human relationships?
In case of under serious review, we are not able to reach the standards. So, we are not just iniquitous religiously, but also legally and morally.
We Buddhists, particularly the Pure Land practitioners, should find that we are inadequate and imperfect persons. We make many mistakes, and we are useless or even, narrow-minded, defiled, mean persons. If we do so, we can possibly make progress on the road towards Buddhahood, and sublime.
It is because, with this mindset, we will constantly review ourselves in all matters. As the proverb says, “Seek the cause in oneself if something cannot be achieved.” In the process of retrospect, the glory of one’s moral conducts will show up gradually.
A practitioner always hopes that he can improve and elevate himself every day, so that he will not stand still. As the Great Learning says, “If you can improve yourself in a day, do so each day, forever building on improvement.”
That is to say, a person who is self-cultivating, even a politician, must constantly elevate his own standard, and make his present day better than the day before. Therefore, a practitioner is always reviewing himself, enabling himself to discard the obsolete and follow the new trend. The old one has passed. From now on, he is a new person who can at any moment turn his back on evil and do good. Happily he moves towards what the maxim says “If you can improve yourself in a day, do so each day, forever building on improvement.”
After a task is done, we should review it down to tiny matters, and see what else can be done for perfection. If we can do this, there will be room for improvement. Next time, we can do better and move towards perfection. If we don’t “feel that our foolishness and capacity for wrongdoing exceed those of others”, but feel that “other people are foolish and their capacity for wrongdoings exceed me”, then we cannot upgrade and improve ourselves.
The “Attributes – Worldly Truths” mention that we should “not speak gossip, listen to gossip, spread gossip, and discuss gossip”. Being a Buddhist, we have to strictly follow this tenet, no matter we are monastic or householder. Don’t spread around sayings once you have heard; that is retailing gossip.
Moreover, if the matter involves ourselves, we tend to put the blame on someone else, or to gloss over. We seldom share the blame and admit our own faults; instead, we always insist that we are right, and others are wrong. It is similar to a saying in the Holy Bible of the Christians: We always see a tiny thorn in the eyes of others, but we cannot see a big trunk in our own eyes.
So, our practice should, in the first place, adhere strictly to morals in speech. As a practitioner, we should keep no lying, no slandering, no harsh speech, and no idle talks. On issues relating to interests or disputes between people, we should keep our mouth shut.
Ordinary people, however, are accustomed to bad habits, and emotional from time to time. Not only they cannot “digest” the gossip, but accumulate and brew them in mind. Once they encounter another person or occasion, they will let the cat out of the bag and pour out to each other. Such an attitude should not be a Buddhist’s.
Gossip mostly comes from speeches. So, in our attributes there are many remarks about speech, such as “not to speak, not to listen, not to spread, and not to discuss” gossip. This is corresponding to the Five Precepts and the Ten Wholesome Deeds set by the Buddha, of which most of the norms are directed against speech karma. So, we should not speak gossip or grumble because speech karma is the easiest way to commit offense or wrongdoing, and also the easiest way to reduce our blessings, and increase our bad karma.
All offenses always are incurred from lacking strict adherance to morals in speech. So, we have learn to keep our mouth shut. We should review our mistakes, not to blame others. If we find other people’s mistakes, we should not spread over. Don’t talk to others, even your best friends.
It is because your best friend has his/her best friends. Hence, words can spread out, and we make offenses. Talking bad words at other back is the worst in virtues. So, it is important for a Buddhist practitioner to be sincere in mind, then do not make careless false speeches and gossips.
Where does the practice begin? Start with no false speech, meaning that we should not be carefree in our talk, not only do not speak deceitful words, but also no double tongue, no slanderous or evil words, no lying, and no idle talk. This is very important.
Begin our cultivation with no false speech. Try your best not to read, not to listen, not to speak, and not to spread gossip. Not even engaged in small talks. Cherish your words like gold, and always keep your mouth shut.
In an organization, if an officer reminds us of something about the public affairs, it is not regarded as a gossip. We should accept with humility. It is said to be ‘delighted when hearing of virtuous acts, and prostrated when hearing of wrongdoings. In this way, our meritorious blessings can be increased, and our karmic obstructions can be eliminated.
When other people point out our faults, we should admit with humility. Even if they slander us at the back, we should accept too. In some cases, if it is required to clarify, we should make it clear, and express it as such. If it is difficult to say and explain, it is better to accept willingly, plainly and peacefully.
Each of us ordinary beings has greed, anger, delusion, arrogance and doubt, and the most easily observed are anger and arrogance. In case of a person being heavily attached to self (egocentric), anger and arrogance will be revealed more easily.
Anger and arrogance are mainly revealed through one’s self-esteem and the sense of inferiority, because self-esteem and inferiority are in one entity. When self-esteem is not present, the sense of inferiority takes over. When the sense of inferiority becomes excessive, self-esteem emerges imperceptibly. If one has no self-esteem and no sense of inferiority, he will has a leveled mind, and see things with an ordinary heart. Although he may have a dispute at the moment, he will forget about it afterward, without keeping a sense of resentment.
The phrase “maintain an agreeable countenance and pleasant speech” is quoted in the Infinite Life Sutra, of which the original states, “maintain an agreeable countenance and pleasant speech, gratify other’s desire before they ask”. The text indicates that during his cultivation in the causal ground, Amitabha Buddha is amiable and considerate of sentient beings’ needs, soft in words and humble in behavior.
The phrase “smile from the bottom of your heart” is quoted from the Ksitigarbha Sutra, of which the original states, “smile from the bottom of his heart, and practice almsgiving in person”. Told by the Buddha, the text indicates the attitude and method of almsgiving that a king should hold.
These phrases of the sutras are excellent guide for Buddhist path seekers, particularly for executives and officers. These are guidelines for us to serve the people and to deal with all matters.
“Gratify other’s desire before they ask”: put yourself in other people’s shoes, reach their heart and understand their desire before they ask; also take the initiative to inquire about their needs, solve their problems, and fulfill their wishes.
Smiling is the most beautiful language in the world, and is the best bridge of communication between people. Those who always greet people with a smiling face must be the most popular person. I hope that all executives and officers are proactive and enthusiastic in serving people, and “maintain an agreeable countenance and pleasant speech, and smile from the bottom of our heart”.
“Maintain an agreeable countenance and pleasant speech”: gentle facial expression and thoughtful words—wish that we can pay more attention to: whether our countenance is agreeable or not? Whether our words do hurt other people, or make them happy?
“Smile from the bottom of your heart”: bottom of your heart means being modest and humble. With this mindset, we present to others a fully amiable and friendly smile.
“Think compassionately of sentient beings” - to treat all people with compassionate heart, and think in the other’s perspective.
“Treat people generously” – to fulfil other’s wish with kind and forgiving heart. Ordinary people, whether intentionally or not, always hurt others. We always upset others because we are iniquitous ordinary beings full of greed, hatred and delusion, so it is inevitable.
We should always keep our mind in humility. We hope other people can forgive us, not we forgive others.
Those who follow the Fundamental Vow should know that they are iniquitous sentient beings, should feel ashamed and regretted, should be soft and humble, and should think of practicing good and abandoning evil—just like Master Shandao says, “Always repent with every recitation of Amitabha’s name.”
We should also understand the deliverance with great compassion of Amitabha, receive and accept His grace, be thankful and repay his grace—just like Master Shandao says, “Learn the compassionate mind of the Buddha”. We then feel sympathy for all sentient beings and render happiness to them.
Do all matters with a true heart. Looking back all actions or practices in the past, one can succeed and achieve just because of, even a bit, a true heart. Sincerity can impress people, as well as animals, even heavenly beings and ghosts who may be moved to cry if sincerity is expressed to the extreme.
A person who sets forth the Bodhi Mind and wishes to benefit others will present himself as what the Worldly Truths describe – “be considerate in all matters”; “willing to suffer losses without bargain”; “be compassionate and understanding to other people in all matters"; “be humble in success and share blames in failure” in all matters; do not argue with others, or hate them; do not feel ill-treated or dissatisfied; and do not blame others or make complains.
‘Be grateful under any circumstance’ – it is precious to be grateful. If we get assistance from a good person when we are in trouble, we must be thankful from the bottom of our hearts. If we receive helping hands when our life is critically in danger, what do we feel? We must be thankful and grateful. We’ll reward them with money if we have. If we haven’t, we may sacrifice our life to repay them because our life is revitalized because of his grace.
A thankful person will always feel satisfied with no dispute with others, help and forgive others. So, thankfulness is priceless temperament that can render people warmth, render communities harmony and render ourselves fortune, blessings and happiness.
As we have received helps from others, we must prepare to help others. Why? It is because he experiences the warmth of helping others, and the precious rareness of being helped. So, he has the same mind with the same rationale, so he will naturally help others.
At the same time, he is the one being helped, so he must be humble. He has been the one who was rescued when he was desperate and almost died. He thinks his life is a bonus. Apart from being humble and satisfied without dispute, he is soft in mind, and repay others, help others. He will be more receptive and tolerable. For people with thankfulness, this group or community must be warm and harmonious.
From the Buddhist point of view, harmony can be regarded as the highest kind of realm. A Buddha is in the realm of harmony, so called ‘nirvana and stillness’. So, the Buddha stipulates all monastic order to follow the Six Harmonious Respects. If there has no harmony, it cannot be said to be a monastic order, because it will bring the order, as well as others, vexations - a monastic order like that cannot be harmonious and cannot be stable.
So, it is very important to have harmony in human relationship. Let’s set one step back; appreciate, tolerate and forgive each other. Don’t be emotional. Don’t blame others. Don’t criticize others. Don’t scold others. Don’t pre-judge or make any judgement to others.
It is said that, for all matters, by giving away in minor conflicts, our mind should be level and peaceful; by setting one step back, our mind should be open in sky high. So, for all matters, try our best to forgive and give away. Turn great matter to small one, and turn small matter to nothing. If we have no dispute with others, and do not fight against others, we will naturally have no worry.
We should be thankful to all buddhas and bodhisattvas, and even all sentient beings, because buddhas and bodhisattvas guide us with compassion. All favorable and adverse circumstances that we come across facilitate us to be born in the form of human beings, and to hear the Buddhist teachings, and enter the door of [Amitabha’s] Fundamental Vow – whether they are our favorable augmentative conditions and/or adverse augmentative conditions. So, we should always be thankful for all matters around us.
An Amitabha-reciter has a principle in dealing with the worldly matters, which concludes in two phrases – to consider the interests of all parties, and to be moderate. Considering the interests of all parties and asking ourselves: Should I say that? Should I do this matter? Should I get in contact with this person? If not, I should not think about it, talk about it and take any action on it. If I should do it, how far should I go? How should I do that? For moderation, where is the optimum point? It is called ‘to consider the interests of all parties, and to be moderate.’
Under all circumstances, we should consider the interests of all parties, and be moderate, including the relationship between husband and wife, father and son, siblings, lotus friends and social friends …. In between each other, we have our own consideration in moderation, so we should consider other’s interests and be moderate under all circumstances. If not, it will be in chaos, and all of us are annoyed with afflictions.
Since ordinary beings have no genuine mind, how can they “treat others the way Amitabha treats them”?
To learn our teaching, it is important to deeply realize the two kinds of determinant deep faith - in aptitude, and in teaching. We know we are iniquitous ordinary beings, inferior and incapable. If we understand that our minds are like this, we will try to be modest and amiable.
At the same time; because we accept and receive Amitabha’s deliverance, compassion, and understanding, we should try to be compassionate and understanding to other people.
We realize Amitabha’s great compassionate heart, and want to repay grace through the virtues of “treating others in the way that Amitabha treats us”. In this way, we naturally move forward bit by bit.
The content of the Worldly Truths (in the Attributes of our school) is derived from the two kinds of determinant deep faith - of aptitude and teachings. Although it is impossible to follow the guiding rules perfectly, it is important, despite our limitations, that we try our best. Each being has its own natural aptitudes: an elephant can suck more water from the sea than a horse, and a horse can take more water than a deer. If it is a mosquito, the water it sucks will be far less.
“Learn from Amitabha Buddha’s great compassion and treat others the way Amitabha treats you.” This guidance for daily life, sets the bar very high. As far as we ordinary people are concerned, the extent we to which we can fulfill it depends on how much we have learned.
If this is the case, our ability to realize Amitabha’s compassionate mind and share that with others, is based on how deeply we feel and are grateful for Amitabha’s love. We are happy to give freely with no worry of running out. We can even sacrifice to give all that we can.
“Learning Amitabha Buddha’s great compassion” is learning to be a Buddha. We should treat all sentient beings with the great compassionate mind, and accept them, forgive them, appreciate them, understand them, so-called “to be kind in understanding others”. If we can kindly understand each other, we will deal with all matters positively, avoid any negative thinking, or not express it out if we cannot stop thinking in a negative way, or not argue and fight with others to the least extent.
To practice Pure Land teaching, we have to “learn Amitabha Buddha’s great compassionate mind”, just as taught by Master Shandao, the de facto founder. When we learn Amitabha’s great compassionate mind – “We treat others the way Amitabha treats us.”
So, I hope all the lotus friends in different places can keep this in mind - “peace in poverty, and joy in truth,” do all things for the sake of compassion for sentient beings, and do not keep anything for ourselves. We are to serve sentient beings and sacrifice all for them.
If we are touched by Amitabha Buddha’s great kindness, compassion, and love, we will naturally forgive and tolerate others. (just like Amitabha forgives and tolerates us) At the same time, we will not be as stubborn as before, or wish for anything in return. We try our best to emulate Amitabha’s non- discriminatory boundless compassion.
Due to Amitabha’s Infinite Generosity, we are rich in roots of virtues and blessings. However, we can continue to share kindness humbly, seeking no notice at all. In our hearts we know, it is all Amitabha’s doing. It is the fermentation of the Buddha’s virtues – a chemical reaction that can transform our mind-nature naturally, and elevate our temperament. It can transform us into the best example of a true Buddhist.
Your gold is gone and your silver dispersed. Can you still grasp them in the realm of death? Your wife is gone and your son departed. You will never meet them again, even on the path to darkness.
When death comes, we know we are in a dream. We can bring nothing with us but our karma. If we ponder these truths deep in our hearts, we will be less caught up in worldly matters. All of our emotions will be pacified and we will be less upset when we are unfairly treated.
If we know we can take nothing with us at the end of our lives, and only karma accompanies us to see King Yama, we should not be so calculating. We can leave some merits to others, and bring some for ourselves. Ordinary people speak that way; but, as Pure Land practitioners, we should deal with all matters with hearts and practices that are like Amitabha’s. As the saying goes, “Treat others the way Amitabha treats you.”
Learning to become a Buddha is to learn Buddha’s compassionate mind. It also returns us to our original state as human beings. The truly original state of a human being is one who selflessly serves sentient beings. In this respect, we will treat other people in a kind and considerate manner.
Being kind and considerate means to render to all people selfless love, grace, and benefits. We should let them feel our kindness, compassion, warmth, and caring. So, we should have an open mind and be kind and considerate to all.
If our heart contains Amitabha’s life, we will naturally view our mind as Buddha’s mind, and our practices as Buddha’s practices. We are happy to practice virtuous deeds, and we enjoy forgiving others. Because we feel Amitabha’s caring, we will care for other people. Because Amitabha forgives us, we will forgive others. We should do these things because Amitabha gives us the splendid Land of Bliss and pays our karmic debts, accumulated over many eons. Though a person may not care and forgive other people, he can still acquire Amitabha’s caring and forgiveness. However, once he feels Amitabha’s caring and forgiveness, he will also care and forgive others. If he cannot care and forgive others, he has not realized Amitabha’s caring and forgiveness.
Amitabha Buddha’s compassionate mind is unlimited. His acceptance is equal. His inclusivity is thorough, and his forgiveness is absolute. His deliverance is completely unconditional.
If we feel that Amitabha Buddha’s love for us is unlimited, and his inclusivity is thorough, our hatred and stubbornness will be changed. We will soften those states and feel a sense of regret. We shall render love and forgiveness to all beings.
The Worldly Truths discussed in the attributes says, “Bearing (in behavior) – calm and measured”. Being calm and measured, it includes both the internal mind and the external behavior. It includes bodily, verbal, and mental actions. If a person’s mind is calm and measured, he will be peaceful and harmonious. His internal mind must be level, calm, non - confrontational, stable, and blissful. (a kind of bliss in tranquility)
We leave home for the purpose of cultivation, so our minds can be kind, with a tendency to be progressive and pure. As we have determined to leave home, we should be clear in our minds that we come here for cultivation. To pursue cultivation, we must have, to a certain extent, self-motivation to drive us on. We do not need any external strict rules and systems to bind us, or any bonuses or penalties to govern us.
So, for a person who is truly determined to leave home, it is natural to have self-discipline, in order to behave himself in a calm and measured way, not careless or rude.
Some people say we are too modest in bearing. As a monastic, we should regret. As we are dressed in the form for leaving home, our internal mind should be level, calm, and not aggressive. Our behavior and appearance should also be calm, steady and even. I hope you all can have this self- discipline.
Whether he is a monastic or householder, a Buddhist should try to be calm and measured. All of his actions while walking, standing, sitting and lying down should be aligned with his internal mind. Each morning he can realize a spirit of serenity and a state of resonance during the practice of sitting Amitabha-recitation. (either at home or in the Buddhist center)
With this realization, he should try to keep this temperament in dealing with people and matters. Under this circumstance, his speech will be more sincere and harmonious, and he will not argue, or suspect ulterior motives. The calmness in behavior is a manifestation of the serenity in mind.
A passage from the I Ching can be taken as our “mirror” to reflect on the cultivation of morality – Scoundrels shift blame and snatch credit. Ordinary people cover up mistakes and flaunt their achievements. Superior persons decline acclaim and reward for their accomplishments. Those of surpassing virtue share the bitterness and blame from others' errors.
Generally, people would like to shift shame, or even cover it up when something happens. They won’t honestly tell others about their mistakes. A lay person should confess mistakes, and review their behaviors to seek improvement, not to mention a Buddhist practitioner.
A practitioner who makes mistakes should disclose them and repent for them in an assembly. In this way, the karmic offenses can be cleared. Making use of the power of repentance before an assembly, one will not commit the offense again. The karma has a root that has to be exposed to sunlight. If the root is not exposed to sunlight, and only the branches and leaves are exposed, the tree will continue to grow in the same way. Thus we see that, among genuine Buddhist practitioners, repentance and disclosure of karmic offenses are emphasized.
A practitioner should remain quiet about his achievements and flaunt his mistakes. Why? If we reveal our wrongdoings and mistakes to others, our karmic obstructions will be cleared. If we cover them up, the karmic obstructions will become even heavier. If we have reached certain goals or received credit for our accomplishments, we should keep them to ourselves as much as possible, and do not flaunt them. This is a good way to enhance our blessings and clear our karmic obstructions.
Above all, though we can certainly clear our karmic offenses through Amitabha-recitation, we should also sincerely review and reveal our wrongdoings. Otherwise, it is like sweeping the floor with your right hand; but, sprinkling the dust with your left. It is unwise to do that.
A practitioner who sets forth the Mind of Mahayana in practicing the Bodhisattva path should always offer people the best, render them peace, joy, and success, etc., leaving the worst loss and frustration for himself. He should even quietly bless a person and give him benefits. If that person feels more comfortable and happy, we will feel comfortable and happy too.
Being modest and patient, humble and amiable are very important traits for any person; but, particularly for a Buddhist learner.
The I Ching Says, “A person is benefitted because of his humility; he will lose if he is complacent. “ It also says, “The way of heaven diminishes the prideful and augments the modest. The way of earth undermines the prideful and replenishes the modest. Spirits and deities inflict calamity on the prideful and bring fortune to the modest. The way of men despises the prideful and favors the modest.”
A humble person is welcomed by others wherever he goes, because all beings in the Six Realms bless him. All beings will cherish him. He will not experience jeopardies; but, reach safety if he encounters danger. A humble person can easily believe and accept Amitabha’s deliverance. In so doing, he gains benefits in this life, as well as in the next.
“A person loses, but he will be compensated by the heavenly god.” Loss means being taken advantage of by others. If we are willing to be taken advantage of by others, and lose one part, the heavenly god will compensate us ten or even a hundred parts. So, when we read this statement in the attributes of our school, it is teaching us that we should be tolerant and not argue, and have no negative or ill feelings. In so doing, we won’t feel that life is unfair or unsatisfactory, and our ability to endure will improve.
Whether it is the teaching of the Buddha or it is generally accepted societal behavior, changing one’s destiny starts with giving. For monastics, giving refers to giving the Dharma through preaching. What are the pre-requisites of Dharma giving? An ancient sage says, “Being a bit humble costs nothing.”
When giving the Dharma - if we don’t understand the Dharma and its profound meaning, and our eloquence is poor, what should we do? Be humble. Whether we are eloquent or not, we can do that. So, it says, “Being a bit humble costs nothing.”
Amitabha-reciters are dependents of Amitabha Buddha in the Pure Land (just like children with the same blood line as their parents). Thus it is said, “We are originally Amitabha-reciters, and we grow from the same root.” We should love each other and be as close as siblings.
As we are Amitabha’s dependents in the Pure Land, and siblings of the same school, we should respect, and not slight each other, should get close to and not distance each other, should forgive and not criticize each other, should help and care about each other.
Within a family, a group, or even a society, we should respect and forgive each other. Just as within a tree, it is not possible to find two identical leaves. The personality of each individual is different, and the working style of each individual is not consistent; but, we live within the same family, the same group, and the same workplace, in cooperation among different divisions of work. So, we should learn the Buddha’s compassionate mind - tolerate, forgive, and offer sympathy to each other.
Seeking truth, a Buddhist is thus convinced by truth. He should be rational first, with his eye of wisdom clear and bright. He should not be overly emotional, deluded, and confused. A Buddhist should be kind and simple. A straightforward mind is the Buddhist Way. One is one and two is two. There is no exaggeration and no fraudulence.
When a true Buddhist comes across adverse circumstances under unfavorable conditions, such as being hurt by others, he is not angry; but, transfers merits and virtues to him with great compassion. He may not have a truly compassionate mind; but, he at least, does not produce any hatred.
All human thinking and behavior is motivated and led by mind. What sort of mind will determine our respective speech and action, produce the respective fate, and become the respective results in life.
The mindset of an Amitabha-reciter should be: knowing all success and failure, happiness and sadness, fortune and misfortune in this lifetime, is related to the karma of his past lives.
Because of our karma from past lives: we are born in this country, as a son or daughter, husband or wife. It determines the number of children we have, whether their health is strong or weak, if they are intelligent or slow-witted, have success or failure in their career, favorable or adverse circumstances. All of these bits and pieces of this life are the results of our karma from past lives, not because of other people.
As a Buddhist, we must first understand the principle of cause and effect - in the three periods of time, and the retribution of good and evil karma. We should be self-disciplined, and seek safety under all circumstances. We should accept adverse conditions, and not take credit. We will feel happy and relaxed in reciting Amitabha’s Name while behaving in this manner.
If an Amitabha-reciter does not understand the principles of good and evil karma, cause and effect in the three periods of time, and retribution due to personal karma, he will be dissatisfied and feel unfairly treated, become jealous, quarrel, and blame. Though he recites Amitabha’s Name, he is always annoyed, may behave in extreme ways, or even commit suicide.
In that case, how can he blame Amitabha Buddha? He thinks, I have recited your Name, why do I step on the path of suicide? How can an Amitabha-reciter have a fate like this? If he condemns Amitabha Buddha for not protecting him and giving him blessings, he is not correct.
It is stated that “circumstantial rewards change with the direct reward.” This means that with a certain kind of direct reward, there comes the corresponding circumstantial reward. With that kind of circumstantial reward, we know what kind of direct reward one has.
The circumstantial reward is the environment in which we live, such as: the country of our birth, the pure lands in the ten directions, the wretched land of Saha, a civilized rich country, an uncivilized poor country, what kind of family, all human relationships, and our fate after we are born. All of the above environments belong to circumstantial rewards.
Circumstantial rewards are not created by God, nor by a divine order. They are determined by ourselves, our direct reward!
Simply speaking, our status, power, wealth, husband, wife, children, siblings, and relatives all belong to our circumstantial rewards. Drawing an analogy with a bee and flowers. Wherever there are flowers, there are bees. More flowers, more bees; less flowers, less bees. If there is no flower, there will be no bee. Flowers mean the direct reward and bees mean the circumstantial reward. Flowers do not need to ask bees to come, and vice versa. Wherever there are flowers with fragrance, bees come automatically. If a flower has no leaf, bees still come. However, if the flowers are fake, there will be no bees flying around, even if the flowers are very beautiful.
So, there is a saying, Flowers attract butterflies unintentionally and butterflies seek flowers unintentionally. Butterflies come when the flowers blossom and flowers blossom when the butterflies come. I also do not know other people, and other people do not know me. Most of us don’t know that all phenomena originate from natural law. It is a kind of cause and effect. The direct reward is the cause, and the circumstantial reward is the effect that will naturally come.
So, if we find we have no blessings, no good human relationships, and no smooth circumstances, we should take a look at ourselves, and not blame others. If we don’t examine our behaviors and blame others, we are not practicing correctly, and may face even worse circumstances. Conversely, if we examine and improve ourselves, we will have a better and smoother future. Why? It is because, when we look at ourselves and do not blame others, the direct reward is improved. Once the direct reward is improved, the circumstantial reward is changed and improved accordingly.
Whatever the cause will produce the respective effect. In between cause and effect, there must be a condition for occurrence. If a person strives to avoid evil and do good, with the idea of “building his life”, it is a favorable condition under which a good cause can produce a good effect. In contrast, an adverse cause, because of the absence of an adverse condition, will not produce any adverse effect. General Buddhist practices are nothing more than reflecting upon and contemplating the mind. As all phenomena are created by mind, or the Alaya Consciousness (the manifestation of mind-consciousness in the past), it is thus called contemplating the mind.
I have introduced a verse as follows: May I always contemplate my mind. When an affliction is about to arise in my mind, that may hurt myself and others, I should forcefully cut it off immediately.
From the point of view of our Pure Land teaching, contemplating our mind means always holding this one single Name in our mind. However, it is inevitable to have false thoughts. When false thoughts arise, we simply take note of them, and return to recitation of Amitabha’s Name.
There is a saying, illness arises from emotion. The illness of our body is generally caused by our emotions. In dealing with karma from past lives, if we strive to be: calm, humble, soft, less emotional, rational, compassionate, less angry, less dissatisfied, less placing blame, and less hatred, we shall have less illness.
Most of you here are female. Females are susceptible to breast and uterine cancer. If they have fewer of the above negative emotions, they will have a reduced chance of developing these diseases. If a person worries, and his “chi” gets stuck or reverses, he will more easily get sick.
Moreover, if a person works overnight, or sleeps late, he will easily suffer from miscellaneous “unknown” diseases. So, we should keep ourselves healthy, avoid illness, and make adjustment in diet, life style, and especially our emotions.
Furthermore, if a person is very filial in loving his parents, is caring and obedient, and makes them happy, he will have great blessings. If he is not kind to his parents, and always confronts them, he will not have good outcomes, and will suffer from various kinds of “unknown” diseases.
We should tend to think positively in all matters, because what we think will produce its respective outcome. So, however we think, act, speak, and behave, the retributive effect will eventually return to us.
The universe is round, and our mind prevails throughout the entire universe. What we think and how we act will match, and be connected with the respective realm. A good thought will match and be connected with a good realm; a bad thought will match and be connected with a bad realm.
If our thoughts are good, good responses will come to us in due time; if our thoughts are not good, misfortune will come to us. So, we must always practice positive thinking with a loving heart. We should: benefit others, accept losses without argument, be considerate and kind to others, and be humble and soft. Pass all merit and blessings to others; but, share the suffering due to other people’s faults and mistakes.
We have had boundless immeasurable karmic obstructions accumulate during countless past lives. The Buddha says, “If you wish to know the causes from past lives, look at where you are now.” He also says, “Provided that our past karma does not disappear even after hundreds and thousands of eons, we will eventually suffer the retributive effects when conditions have ripened.”
Thus, whatever we encounter in this life, whether it is favorable or unfavorable, we should be grateful. However, if someone doesn’t treat us well, or when someone fails to repay a debt, how can we be grateful? Actually, we should still be grateful.
It is because we have a chance to repay our debts to them and clear our karmic obstructions. In that way, our blessings will increase. Under adverse circumstances, we have a chance to practice patience or forgiveness, (which is a kind of adornment in Buddhist cultivation). Thus, the Buddha says, “When we are unreasonably and badly treated, it is our greatest source of grace.”
We know all matters are governed by causal conditions; so, as a Buddhist, we should accept, accommodate, and forgive others. We understand that it is because of ignorance and delusion that we and others have still reincarnated within the Six Realms life after life. If we had no ignorance and delusion, we would have already been liberated. Why are we still here?
During many lives, all sentient beings have played the role of parent, son, daughter, spouse, relative, and dependent; so, we should not treat other sentient beings as if they have no relationship with us.
We should treat them as if they are our close relatives. We Buddhists should think in this way, and treat them as the Buddhas would.
If a Buddhist has this kind of thinking, he is truly a Buddhist. Moreover, in dealing with human relationships, he is less likely to feel they are unfair and become dissatisfied, jealous, or angry.
Being a Buddhist learner, we should admire the purity, peace and joy of the Western Land of Bliss, and renounce the dirtiness and defilements of the Land of Saha. Hence, when a dirty and defiled thought arises in our mind, we should not be delighted, but should feel regret. How can a Buddhist learner have that kind of thought? Though we regret, we must not doubt Amitabha’s deliverance.
As Master Shandao says, “repentance is in every single recitation of Amitabha’s name.” Because we are imperfect sentient beings, it is unexpected for us to be delivered by Amitabha without any conditions. So, we should be joyful and thankful on one side, and regretful on the other. Because of repentance, we have a softened and forgiving mind.
As a practitioner, we must discipline ourselves to: silently observe the precepts, avoid all evil, perform various wholesome deeds, and purify one’s own mind. We should periodically review whether we are doing so. The object is to evaluate ourselves, not use the precepts to set a framework for other people.
How should we Amitabha-reciters understand filial love? To practice filial love in our daily lives, we should first be thankful for the grace of the Buddha. We should follow and abide by the Buddha’s mind naturally. It is practiced not for ourselves, not for rebirth in the celestial realm. No, not for these!
It is known as “teaching the body to act as if not acting, as a reflex action.” This is realizing the Buddha’s mind and allowing his mind to perform the action. The character of being sincere and scrupulous in human relationships is “to act as if not acting.” In this way we don’t feel it is us performing the action.
We should learn how to appreciate and realize the great compassionate mind of Amitabha Buddha. Though we may not reach his state of mind in this world, we can look forward to having it. So, we should take up any responsibilities, resolve any matter or adverse circumstances with this attitude, as much as we can. In particular, when we receive criticism from any person, we should humbly review our fault, and joyfully accept their comments. We should treat it as the augmentative cause to strengthen our patience and improve our personality. These people are actually our good advisors!
The ancient people said, “We are delighted upon hearing criticism from others, and we rejoice and bow upon hearing of virtuous acts.” In other words, we should joyfully accept any good advice and sincerely thank those who teach us the virtuous practices, because we cannot accomplish virtuous conduct without them. The ancient people also said, “It is an emancipation if we don’t argue with others in cases of dispute, and it is a prosperity if there is no business in the Buddhist order.”
We are Buddhist practitioners. As a practitioner, we have to train our minds under all circumstances. We are not overly delighted by being praised. We are not angered by impolite slander. Actually, these impolite people are our good advisors, who help us to practice perseverance, clear our karmic obstructions, and enrich our blessings.
If we are unable to overcome these circumstances, we will not make progress. If we never encounter challenges, we will stay in the same state forever. This is why we have to be thankful for them.
As we are beginning students of Buddhism, we should always think: Am I behaving like a Buddhist learner? When we have a hot temper or argue with others, we should think: I am a Buddhist, a person who wishes to become a Buddha, should I speak like that? Should I behave like that? If we think in this way, our behavior and speech will improve.
We reincarnate within the Six Realms life after life; so, it can be said that we have committed all kinds of offensive karma. Thus, we have these seeds of evil karma stored inside our Alaya Consciousness, waiting for the effect to come under appropriate conditions. When the conditions change, such as reincarnating to another realm in another life, it is possible for us to do anything!
Thus, we should always bear in mind that we are also wicked people. Then we can accept, accommodate, offer sympathy, and comfort each other. In so doing, we become humble and soft, and we will not be arrogant and look down upon others.
The path of birth-and-death is dangerous, and reincarnation is frightening. It is inevitable for us to fall into hell if we haven’t left the Six Realms. For many past lives, what kind of karmic offenses have we not committed? All of us are more or less the same in the ways we’ve offended others. So, we should be sympathetic, accommodating, and encourage each other.
We always hear someone says, “Dear old ‘bodhisatttva’, you are so compassionate!” These words are spoken to please people. Actually, only Buddha is truly compassionate. How can we imperfect beings be truly compassionate?
However, if we can appreciate and realize Amitabha’s deliverance, our mind-nature will be sublimed and elevated. Though we do not have the ability to offer true compassion, our minds can be soft and tender. As long as we are soft and not stubborn, we become sympathetic. If we are sympathetic, we always think of the other person’s interests, and are willing to sacrifice. Our love and compassion are thus unfolded little by little.
As a Buddhist, we are thankful to repay other people’s grace through practicing virtues. However, we should know that this is our responsibility and does not count as a dedication toward rebirth, or the adornment of the Buddha-land.
We should understand that the Land of Bliss, accomplished by Amitabha Buddha for us, is already perfect and complete. It does not need any additional adornment.
In our School we pay a great deal of attention to giving thanks. The more we know about our School, the more naturally thankful we become. This includes being thankful under favorable conditions and being thankful under adverse conditions.
We thank our teachers, our lotus friends, our family, and all people around us. Without them, we are immobilized, like a machine missing a component or a part.
Whether we agree or object, under favorable or adverse conditions, these are expedient means to lead us to return to Amitabha’s Great Vow. Clearly, we should always be thankful, whether we are happy or sad, and whether we encounter favorable or adverse conditions.
If a person has Amitabha’s life in his heart, he can accept the Buddha’s heart as his own heart, and accept the Buddha’s conduct as his own conduct. He enjoys practicing virtues and forgiving others. All of this is because he feels the love and caring of Amitabha. Amitabha can forgive us, so we can forgive others. Moreover, it is because of Amitabha that we attain the splendid Land of Bliss, and our karmic debts accumulated in past eons are repaid.
Though we may love, care for, and forgive others; we should never forget that we acquire that love, caring, and forgiveness from Amitabha. Once we feel the love and forgiveness of Amitabha, we simply must love and forgive others. If we can’t, we do not truly know and realize Amitabha’s love and forgiveness.
“Becoming soft through contact with light” is a natural law. So, a person who commits offenses throughout his entire life can also be embraced by Amitabha’s light.( if he can believe in and accept Amitabha’s deliverance) It is natural to change a person from being evil to being kind.
(Strictly speaking, among iniquitous and delusive sentient beings, who hasn’t committed offenses in the past countless eons? The debts we owe others are immeasurable. So, it is not that we forgive others; but, ask others to forgive us.)
Who dares say he hasn’t committed any offenses in his entire life? Perhaps, one may say, “Though I do commit offenses, I practice many more meritorious deeds.” Actually, if we add and subtract all of these, we find that we commit more offenses than good deeds. This is because we live in the world of turbidity, where we are born to have turbid views and afflictions.
Because of the turbidity of this world, our thoughts and behaviors are produced from deeply-rooted afflictions due to greed, anger and delusion. Thus, we cannot help but commit more offenses than good deeds. The more we review, the more we regret. In this way, our hearts become softened. We won’t be arrogant, and claim that we are practitioners accumulating merits and virtues. With our heads down we will regretfully say, “as a foolish and evil person, apart from Amitabha-recitation in accordance with the Fundamental Vow, what other teaching can deliver me, so that I can avoid the judgement of King Yama and the suffering of the fires of hell?”
When three persons gather together, one of them must be my teacher. When any of them acts with greed, hatred, delusion, and arrogance, he is acting as my reflection.
It is not easy to discover one’s true face; so, we have to be thankful for others who let us know what we can improve.
All matters in the world and in me are as one entity. All friends and enemies are equal. There is no difference between you and me. We learn to treat all people as our parents and children, so that we can accept, respect, accommodate, love, and cherish each other. We shouldn’t compare or argue with them. There is no dissatisfaction, no complaint, no hatred, no negligence, no anger, and no opposition.
If a group of people is not harmonious, all of them should examine themselves. A non-harmonious group results from the non-harmonious mind of each individual.
Moreover, if our mind is harmonious, the group will be harmonious as well. So, there is a saying from Elder Mang – if it doesn’t work, search for the reasons in yourself. When you say or do something, if you cannot get the expected results, you should examine yourself. Don’t just blame others’ faults, or others’ non-cooperation. If we do, we will not improve ourselves.
A Buddhist learner must understand the basic concept that past karma is cleared according to conditions. How is past karma cleared according to conditions?
If possible, we should not argue under any circumstances. This is because they are our own karmic obstructions and we should voluntarily accept them, even under adverse conditions. We should never react with the attitude of a tooth for a tooth.
However, if we don’t share our feelings and views in a constructive manner; but, suppress them, we may cause psychological disorders. If possible, it is better not to allow anger and resentment to accumulate.
All phenomena in the universe are one entity. One entity means no relativity between the surrounding environment and the self. The spiritual nature of all beings is the same, no different from us, as their self-nature and our Buddha-nature are the same. It is only because of karmic retribution that they become beasts. When our retribution as human beings comes to end, we may reincarnate and become beasts as well.
This is because our karmic retribution in this life is the effect of the accumulated karma carried from past lives. We may instead fall into the Three Wretched Realms (hell, hungry ghosts, or animals) once we lose our physical body.
Thus, Master Shandao says in his discourse, “We are iniquitous, ordinary beings, subject to endless rebirth. Since time immemorial, we have died and been reincarnated, without the causal conditions necessary to leave the cycle of rebirth.”
All of us have this kind of karma, so we should be considerate, caring, accommodating, and forgiving of each other. We do this in order to clear this karma, i.e. “to clear past karma according to conditions, and to cease making new karma.”
We should not just strive to clear past karma according to conditions, we should cease making new negative karma. That is to say, we should clear our karmic obstructions on one hand, and cease committing the further offenses of violating the Five Precepts and the Ten Wholesome Deeds. This is known as “clearing past karma according to conditions, and cease making new karma”.
We are, of course, ordinary beings; so, we are incapable of doing that. How do we deal with this? We should maintain the mind of repentance, and always recite Amitabha’s Name. As all of us are ordinary beings, and always know that we cannot do the things we should. Therefore, we should be compassionate and accepting of each other.
An ancient scholar said, “100% of the skills that are in a static mode are equivalent to 10% of the skills in a dynamic mode. 100% of the skills in dynamic mode are equivalent to 10% of the skills in sleeping mode.”
If we can master ourselves in a dream, we can also master ourselves near the end-of-life. With respect to the attributes of our school, we may recite very proficiently when we are alone and in a static state. However, once we move around, only a portion of our proficiency remains. This is natural.
If we wish to go further in practice, we must listen more [about Pure Land teaching] and practice for a longer period of time, particularly in “adjusting” our habitual mind. It is best to practice in that way.
If an Amitabha-reciter realizes the Buddha’s mind, his personality, his temperament, his temper, his facial appearance, and his fate change. If he has recited Amitabha’s Name and his personality, his temper, his facial appearance, and his fate do not change, It means that he hasn’t realized Amitabha’s compassionate mind. It can be said that he has not really believed in the Buddha while he recited the Buddha’s Name.
Learning to become Buddhas, we encounter the golden words spoken by the Historical Buddha, the Great Sacred Being. If we can always think of the Buddha’s words and nurture ourselves with them, our habitual behaviors can be changed and our characters may be softened. Thus, our temperament, appearance, motion and speech are improved. We should take these words as our lives, and practice them in every day.
We should memorize and ponder the scriptures and the short teachings deeply. They can sprout and blossom in the fields of our Eightfold Consciousness, and we can harvest the fruits. That means, they can ferment in our mind field, and clear our karmic obstructions, awaken our wisdom, inspire our mind of enlightenment, and strengthen our faith.
So, it is important to always diligently memorize and recite the scriptures, and the mottos of the ancient sages, so that they can purify our mind-nature.
It is said, “The meaning will be naturally revealed if we read the book a hundred times”. The meanings of the book will naturally brighten our minds. To say a hundred times doesn’t mean a hundred times exactly, it means to read more. We can understand more if we read more.
When I studied in a private school, the teacher seldom explained; but, asked us to memorize passages in the books. Though I didn’t understand the meanings of them at that time, I understood naturally the entire meanings of what I memorized through the experiences in my daily life.
The Alaya Consciousness is like a field on a farm, and our thoughts are like seeds falling on the field. Once seeds fall on a field, they will germinate, then flowers and fruit follow.
Beginning in our past lives, our Alaya Consciousness has become filled with greed, hatred, delusion, false and miscellaneous thoughts. If we recite the Buddha’s and patriarchs’ words, we can replace the old thoughts with new ones. In this way, the Buddha’s and patriarchs’ words become our lives. Thus, our perceptions, speech, and actions become full of the connotation and temperament of the Buddha’s and the patriarchs’ words.
The teaching should be received into the bottom of our hearts in accordance with the aptitudes of different individuals. However, we must nourish ourselves with extensive study through listening, then they will naturally and gradually enter deeply into our Alaya Consciousness. So, nourishing ourselves with extensive study through listening is emphasized in Buddhism.
Confucius also says, “Always practice learning”, “Receiving new knowledge through revision”, “Though a person can do it in one trial, he shouldn’t mind doing it after a hundred trials; though a person can do it by 10 trials, he shouldn’t mind doing it after a thousand trials.” Just study again and again. Continue repeatedly for a long period of time. In that way we can understand it thoroughly in one day.
The education we receive, the scriptures we read, and the teachings we hear reside in the shallow layer within the scope of the Sixth Consciousness. These include: matter, sound, smell, taste, touch, dharma, eye, ear, nose, tongue, skin and brain.
So, when we read and ponder the meaning of a scripture, extract quotations, or prepare to make a speech on the stage, all are included within the scope of knowledge. Any corrections can only change the structure of knowledge, or slightly change our appearance and spirit. However, it won’t change our karmic retribution and character at a deep level.
Cultivation is not an academic matter. That is to say, learning Buddhism is not a matter of Buddhist doctrines nor a matter of Buddhist philosophy; but, a matter of observation of our minds, going deep in our 7th Consciousness, and transforming the karmic obstructions and retributions in our 8th Consciousness.
Memorizing the phrases and talking about their meanings is under the scope of our 6th Consciousness. If we can perceive their meanings and implement them within the circumstances in our daily lives, our personalities can be changed. Once they become part of our lives, we can enter the 7th and 8th Consciousness.
We all carry the karma accumulated over many lives spanning many eons. We form another life here and now depending on causal conditions. Where are all of these karmas accumulated? In Buddhist terms, in the area of our minds called the Store or 8th Consciousness.
The karma inside the Store Consciousness is generally in a static state. However, the karma can be activated upon encountering certain circumstances. This function is known as the 7th Consciousness.
What we learn through education in this life is within the scope of the 6th Consciousness. With respect to the self-attachment in the 7th Consciousness and the karma in the 8th Consciousness, they are not affected. Their changes and effects are within the scope of cultivation. It is not just a matter of seeking knowledge.
Thus, we must always perceive, review, and observe our minds. This is known as “perceiving while reading”, and “to train our minds through experience in all circumstances”. If we don’t do this, the more knowledge we accumulate, the more karmic obstructions we have.
If our objective is changing our internal lives and personalities on a deeper level through knowledge, or even to change our karma, we must always perceive, review, and observe our minds.
Habitual behaviour is the 7th Consciousness (also known as the Mano Consciousness). The unwholesome seeds stored in the Alaya Consciousness are attached to the 7th Consciousness, which commands the 6th Consciousness to push the first five kinds of consciousness to act.
We must make use of the 6th Consciousness in order to learn Buddhism, because it has the ability to differentiate, memorize, and judge. Through these functions, we can understand when we hear Sutras, listen to Dharma, and study the ancient sayings. In this way, they can ferment in our hearts and enter the Alaya Consciousness bit by bit.
What happens after they enter the Alaya Consciousness? If the good seeds are plentiful, the bad ones are less able to germinate. Whichever seeds germinate, the germinated seeds may expedite other seeds of the same nature.
Moreover, if we make use of the 6th Consciousness to learn, perceive, and evaluate ourselves; then, what we think, how we speak and act are wholesome and kind. Thus, the bad seeds will remain dormant for a long period of time and they will naturally be unable to grow.
Regarding the change in habitual behavior, depending on its original inertia, the change may be slow if its inertia is great; while it may be fast if its inertia is weaker.
Some people are moderate and mild; some people may be stubborn and reluctant to change, even when they are given valuable advice.
So, in order to change our habitual behavior, we should begin with perceiving the principle of the two kinds of deep faith – in aptitude and in teaching. Second, if a person can realize the pure mind through Amitabha-recitation, he must live that realization from the bottom of his heart, and maintain this pure mind through all favorable and unfavorable circumstances.
Moreover, we can also evaluate ourselves by reading articles about cultivation of mind and body. As Master Mang said, there are four origins of morality in the human mind: the origin of kindness (which is the heart of mercy), the origin of righteousness (which is the heart of remorse), the origin of respect ( which is the heart of humility), and the origin of wisdom, which is the heart of judgement. Thus, we can nourish our morality through kindness, righteousness, humility, and wisdom.
Master Mang also asks, “What is the difference between animals and humans?” It is our state of mind. What is the difference between a gentleman and a villain? It’s also the state of mind. What is the state of mind of a gentleman? It is kindness and respect.
There are many words of wisdom in the Analects of Confucius, such as, “Those who love others will always be loved. Those who respect others are always respected”. If we always read these short teachings and ponder their meanings, our personality will change without our even noticing.
The Four Lessons of Lefan consist of four chapters: The first is called the Study about the settlement of Life; the second is called the Method of Rehabilitation; the third is called the Way to Accumulate Virtues; the fourth chapter is called the Effect of Morality on Humility.
Every chapter is of high quality, concise and precise. Those who really wish to nourish their minds and bodies through virtues, advancement, and purity should pay attention to this book.
The leaders of any organization, apart from having leadership skills, must influence people through sincerity, and convince people through virtuous behavior. We must be sincere with all people in all matters. Our minds must always be sincere whenever we speak, and behave without any discriminating thoughts. It is said that, if we are sincere in our hearts, it will naturally be expressed through our behavior.
To convince people through virtuous behavior means to give people benefits based on their life’s situation. If we are not sincere and do not consider the situations of other people, particularly in relation to the Ultimate Truth and the Worldly Truth, the benefits in the present life and in future lives, it is easy to arouse people’s emotions and opinions against the organization.
We are an organization of Amitabha-recitation, wholly focused on the Pure Land teaching. Pure Land teaching is Buddhism for laymen. Therefore, what we offer must be geared to the needs of laypeople. That is to say, all executive members or group leaders are recruited for servicing the general public. Thus, all volunteers must have the mentality to service and contribute.
Moreover, as the Pure Land teaching is centered on Amitabha Buddha, we must strive to practice great compassion like the Buddha. The expression of great compassion is stated in the Infinite Life Sutra, which is “to love and respect parents, and practice pure filial love.”
Because of the “endowment of real benefits” of “the uninvited teachings”, Amitabha Buddha gives his Buddha’s merits and virtues to us unconditionally. He treats us, the iniquitous (ignorant and evil) mortal beings, as a son offers pure filial piety to his parents, and gives them deep love and respect.
Generally, we have no love and no respect for others. Even if we sometimes respect others, we don’t love them. With family members, we love them; but, we may not respect them. In contrast, Amitabha Buddha always loves and respects us.
Moreover, his love and respect are pure, genuine, and forever. We hope that we can treat other people with the same spirit, particularly fellow Buddhist devotees and learners. We should deeply believe that they were our parents in past lives and they will be Buddhas in the future. In addition, we deeply believe they are assured of rebirth, to become Buddhas through the practice of Amitabha-recitation.
Though we are a Buddhist organization, it is not our purpose to own an organization and to study the Buddhist teachings. As Buddhists, whether we learn in the Sacred Path or in the Pure Land Path, our aim should be: to pursue Bodhi (to become Buddhas) above, and to deliver sentient beings below. The purpose of pursuing Bodhi is to attain the power to deliver sentient beings.
All sentient beings are immersed in the boundless sea of suffering. Some of them are ignorant, without any knowledge of it, and some of them are frightened and anxious. So, they all need to be called to awake, and need the comfort of Amitabha.
Our organization is a Pure Land Order centered on Amitabha. As such, all executive members should strive to emulate the great compassion of Amitabha. We should be considerate of the suffering and afflictions of sentient beings, and try to see things from their point of view.
The Sutra says, “What concerns bodhisattvas? Easing the suffering of sentient beings.” All buddhas and bodhisattvas are always mindful of the suffering and afflictions of sentient beings.
Our life is short. During the several decades of our lives, if we are ready for karmic effect, we may encounter the Buddhist teachings, especially the teaching of Amitabha’s proactive, universal, and unconditional deliverance. Furthermore, if we believe, we can teach others to believe, and become Amitabha’s messengers. We can propagate Amitabha’s great vow, how rare and precious it is – difficult to encounter in hundreds and thousands of eons.
So, we must be grateful and cherish this difficult-to-meet Buddhist condition. We should make good use of it in our short lives and become dedicated to the teaching of Amitabha’s universal deliverance. We must always be mindful of this, anywhere and anytime. We must always ask ourselves, “What is the bodhisattva’s primary concern? It is the suffering of sentient beings.”
A Buddhist should have a spirit of dedication and sacrifice, and should not take advantage of others, whether they wish to: clear karmic offenses, enrich blessings, build longevity for themselves, or work in a Buddhist organization for benefitting sentient beings. Thus, they must cultivate a mind of “hard work with no complaints or regrets”.
Working hard and not caring about praise or complaints is supposed to be a characteristic of a Buddhist practitioner. This is because enduring hardship helps to end suffering, and perseverance increases blessings. As an executive member of a Buddhist organization, we should behave in these ways. The Buddha says, “We should make good connections with people first, before we can become a Buddha”.
He also says, “We must first be a cow and a horse to serve sentient beings, if we wish to pursue the unsurpassed Buddhist Way.”
To serve others, we have to be wholehearted, without blaming and having no regrets. We should strive to realize great compassion and the wisdom of “emptiness.” We are one entity, and there is no differentiation between you and me.
We benefit ourselves by benefitting others. If we realize that, we can serve others with diligence, without any complaints or regrets. We should behave like a kind mother bringing up her kids, or welcoming an uninvited friend.
Moreover, we are unconditionally endowed by Amitabha Buddha, and are equally forgiven by Amitabha. We are also equally nourished by Amitabha’s love. We deeply feel Amitabha’s undifferentiated grace. So, though we may be slandered by others or criticized for no reason, we have the courage to deal with it and bear it.
If a person serves sentient beings with the mind of no-self and the mind of equality, his blessed virtues are immeasurable. I hope that all of our executives can deeply realize Amitabha’s great compassionate mind, and serve people with the mind of no-self and no attachment. We should work hard without any complaints or regrets.
If we do something for others, even though it is well done, perfect and complete, some people are satisfied, but some are not; some praise, but some criticize. This is inevitable, because all of us are ordinary beings dwelling in the world of fivefold turbidity.
Nevertheless, once we decide to do something, we should think it through and strive to do our best to complete it. If people praise us, we can feel good; but, if people criticize us, we shouldn’t be upset, because we have tried our best. We should understand that those responses were simply due to causal conditions.
As a person in charge, we should do our best, act in accord with the causal conditions, and remain even minded. All matters should be approached with the attitude of staying calm and rational, respectful and harmonious. It is not wise to lose our temper and react emotionally.
Generally, it’s easy to work hard, but not easy to deal with blame from others. If we can do both, the merits and virtues of our work will be perfect and complete. So, no matter what, we always emphasize being rational, not overly emotional.
In a group all posts are arranged to fit the abilities and interests of individuals. With these job divisions, they cooperate and perform their duties and responsibilities at different levels. So, if they can pursue their jobs wholeheartedly to complete the work assigned, they will work together like a machine running smoothly in every process.
No matter what we are responsible for at a particular level, we should simplify it rather than complicate it; make it easier, rather than more difficult; and make it lighter, rather than heavier. In this way, we can deal with all matters in a relaxed manner. If we are relaxed, others will also be relaxed.
Although we are Pure Land practitioners with the aim of attaining rebirth through Amitabha-recitation, and attaining the enlightenment of unsurpassed Buddhahood in the Pure Land, we should strive to work for sentient beings like horses and cows, according to our conditions, without any hesitation, and as much as we can. We do this because our purpose in studying Buddhism is to become a Buddha who serves sentient beings.
Our monastery is jointly managed by the Four Assemblies of monastics and householders. In this way, the Sangha does not just focus on matters related to the monastics; but, is also a home for all practitioners. Thus, within the Sangha, no matter whether monastics or householders, we are like a family. We should strive to understand, forgive, care for, and help each other in our endeavors.
We are not an ordinary group in society, but a group which has been formed to practice the Buddhist teachings. Each of us comes here for practice.
Conceptually, we must adopt the Buddha’s teachings first. As it is said, “the Way is produced once the roots have been planted.” If we adopt this concept as our root, the branches will naturally develop. That is to say, as we are Buddhist practitioners, we should check whether our thoughts and conduct (expressed via the three karmas of body, mouth, and mind) comply with the standards of a true practitioner. If not, we should feel ashamed and try to improve.
If we practice wholesome deeds, our virtues will be enriched. If we don’t practice them, our virtues will remain the same.
There is a saying, “In the “yin” world, there is an assessment every three years.” It means that we accumulate virtues through good practices, even though it may seem nothing special has transpired, and we haven’t received any reward. Actually, it may simply take time (three years) to “ripen”. In this way it is very much like planting a crop. It may take a half year, a year, or three years to receive the harvest.
A master or a teacher can most impress and inspire others, not by his knowledge, his eloquence, or his tactics, but all by his moral conduct. Only their moral conduct can truly impress others, so that people never forget them. That which most impresses others is moral conduct, and moral conduct is derived from and revealed through compassion.
People influence each other; however, what influences others most is not eloquence, but moral conduct. Moral conduct is a kind of intangible magnetic field, which can convert others once it is produced.
A person who has faith and the joy of the Dharma is naturally radiant, like the light of the sun. His behaviour reflects that he knows he is always embraced by Amitabha’s compassionate deliverance. It is an implicit way to inspire others to also believe and accept Amitabha’s deliverance.
A practitioner should gently nourish a peaceful and serene mind. The method is: sit quietly and recite Amitabha’s Name when we get up in the morning; keep silent or talk as little as we can for whatever time we can afterward. We do this because we cannot experience the “taste” of the world if we don’t have a serene mind. Just as in tasting food, we must eat slowly. The truths of the universe are very fine and delicate. In order to TOUCH them, we must quiet our minds.
As an Amitabha-reciter, we should know in our mind, first of all, that our karmic obstructions do not hinder us from being delivered by Amitabha, otherwise we look down upon the power of Amitabha Buddha. No matter how many karmic offenses we have, they cannot prevent Amitabha Buddha from delivering us. If we understand it, we should cry because of the gratitude of Amitabha Buddha, and our mind becomes softened and humble. If a person has regrets, humility and softness, our threefold karma, temperament, appearance, fate and personalities will change.
“Performing one’s daily tasks according to circumstances, and reciting Amitabha’s Name according to circumstances. Not arguing with others or showing anger on one’s face.” These sentences do not just apply to monastics; but, also to householders. So please, always bear them in mind, and practice them in our daily lives.
So, pursue your daily activities and recite Amitabha’s Name according to circumstances. Furthermore, do not argue with others or show anger on your face. In all matters, try to be accommodating, appreciative, and forgiving. Christians say, “In all matters, be forgiving, trusting, and patient,” They also say, “Love is forever unceasing.”
We should try our best to not argue with others or display anger on our faces.
The greatest karmic reward of a person is “no business”. It is just like a fairy tale if there is no business in a day. In an organization, if a person has no opportunity to become an executive, and he has nothing to do, he is actually a person with the greatest karmic reward. He should eat well, sleep well, recite Namo Amituofo well, not argue with others, and not ask for anything. Don’t you think he is living a fairy tale every day?
If everyone is like him, the Buddhist center will be stable, and all of the members will be at peace. If everyone minds their own business and practices with ease, the center will be prosperous. Thus, an ancient scholar says, “No business is the cause of prosperity for a Dharma organization.”
If a person asks for something to do, or creates something to do, even though he doesn’t need to do it, he will expose himself as a show off in order to attract attention. This means he is pushing for a karmic reward for himself.
If he competes with or blames others, the Dharma organization will be troubled. Members will not be at peace or stable, everyone will become unhappy, and some may leave. There is a saying, “The world originally has no business. It is created by ignorant people.” Only ignorant people ask for something to do, even when they don’t need to. When we have disputes with others, both sides suffer. If we are hurt, others are hurt as well. Both are losers.
In any organization we should try to be understanding. Better understanding will avoid wrong understanding, and reduce misunderstanding. In dealing with people, we must be co-operative. If we can’t, we will suffer and make others suffer as well.
The organization will become unstable. We should strive to accept each other, accommodate each other, forgive, and care for each other.
In the Chapter of Yanyuan in the Analects of Confucius, it says, “a kind person’s words are ‘conservative’. He does not speak for temporary joy and he cannot bear to do so.”
If a person is sympathetic, he cannot bear to gossip or comment about others. He accepts loss as a normal part of life. A person who is able to accept loss possesses great wisdom and blessings.
The Buddha says, “We should have the greatest gratitude for someone who slanders us.” This idea really turns people’s minds upside down! If someone slanders us, or hurts us mentally or physically, why should we feel gratitude?
Yes, these things hurt ordinary beings; but, as practitioners, what should be our attitude towards slandering? Being slandered is an opportunity clear our karma, accumulate blessings, and help us to practice calmness and patience. Shouldn’t we feel the greatest gratitude for this?
A Buddhist should be straightforward, and not disguised or pretentious. They should behave like the monk who routinely hits the bell daily, or speak like a person who is comfortable in his position. In the case of a person who is incapable or disinterested, he can still be developed if possible. If it’s not possible, he can just continue in his present status without any set back, in order to avoid confusion or annoyance.
As a Buddhist, it is our first priority to learn Buddhism. Whatever hinders us from learning Buddhism, we should just let it go (even if it is good), whatever helps us to learn Buddhism, even if it is bad, we should try to learn from it.
As ordinary beings, we always have false and varied thoughts. Our minds always attach to external circumstances and this makes it difficult for us to do a job alone, quietly, and patiently.
If we cannot tolerate aloneness and quietness, we will always be looking for something to do, such as watching TV, reading a newspaper or magazine, or chatting with others. When this becomes our mindset, we cannot accomplish the karma of the Buddhist Way.
Conversely, if a person does not mind being alone, he will not feel lonely when he is alone; but, feel the joy of the Dharma. In this case, it is easier for him to accomplish the Buddhist Way.
A householder does not need to live as a monastic. However, if he is a dedicated practitioner, he will tend to practice in ways similar to a monastic. A gentleman seeks the Way rather than food, and he worries about the Way, rather than poverty.
So, a true practitioner is fine living in poverty and rejoices in pursuing the Way. For example, some people have a habit of cleaning their mouths with a tissue after each meal. If their lips are greasy, it is alright to clean them. However, we should adopt the habit of eating without the food touching our lips. In this way, we would not need to clean our mouths after meals, and we could save a tissue. Otherwise, we use 3 tissues after 3 meals in a day, and use a thousand tissues after a year.
For learning to become a Buddha, we should let our family members feel happy, and have good impression on the Buddhist teachings, so that they may change to affirm the Buddhist teachings.
If we can do so, we will not have any obstruction from our family members, but also bring them blessing reward. It is comparatively better in learning the Buddhist teachings. Otherwise, though we recite Amitabha’s Name and aspire to be reborn in the Land of Bliss, we will continue to suffer in the world, because we still live with our physical body.
A Buddhist, especially an Amitabha-reciter, should not attach to birth, and not be afraid of death. When our body is cremated, the bones can be crushed to powder and there is no need to keep it in an urn or a pagoda. It can be distributed on earth and shared with other living beings (plants, insects, and animals).
A true practitioner is able to be conscious that he is all wrong. This understanding nourishes his virtuous conduct of the three karmas with a good knowledge of the Buddhist teachings. Whatever he says, people will believe. Even he doesn’t say anything, people can feel his understanding of the Buddhist Way through his being.
The Infinite Life Sutra says, “When a person believes in and accepts Amitabha’s deliverance, what should his mentality be? It should be humility and reverence. We should be humble because we commit offenses, and we are ashamed because we are weak, inferior, ignorant, poor, timid, and feeble. At the same time, we should respect and revere Amitabha Buddha because he is the king of all buddhas in the ten directions. Only Amitabha Buddha is capable of delivering us!
So, those who are humble and reverent, and practice correctly upon hearing these teachings, will be delighted and filled with great excitement. Why? It is because, without them, they would be doomed to fall into hell, there to see King Yama for judgement and sentencing. Examples of these sentences are: chopping off one’s head, slashing bellies, and ripping out internal organs. Now they are delivered by Amitabha Buddha, who gives them a perfect life, a life where they will attain Buddhahood and infinite life. This will be enable them to deliver sentient beings comprehensively. Let’s think about it. Shouldn’t we be filled with joy and delight?
“Humility” is determinant deep faith - We are iniquitous, ordinary beings subject to endless rebirth. Since time immemorial, we have died and been reincarnated, without any causal conditions to leave the cycle of rebirth. So, we were iniquitous in the past, we are at present, and will be in future, We have no way to escape reincarnation within the Six Realms through our own power. Understanding these truths should give us a sense of humility and inferiority.
Actually, we don’t need to cultivate humility, because it is a matter of fact that we are iniquitous ordinary beings. Humility usually refers to virtuous conduct by those in a superior position. However, we have never been in that position or possessed that level of virtue.
“Respect” is also part of determinant faith. Amitabha Buddha has accomplished his 48 vows; so, he has the full capacity to deliver sentient beings in the ten directions.
As long as we don’t doubt Amitabha Buddha and don’t worry about relying on his vow power, we are assured of rebirth in the present and attaining rebirth immediately upon our passing.
Regardless whether they are monastics or householders, Buddhists must keep humility in mind. Our practice is “being humble and respectful upon hearing the teachings”. Regarding Amitabha’s merit and virtues, it is better for us to keep respect, faith and obedience in mind. In this way, we can always attain blessings, and do not commit the offense of slandering the Dharma.
In an organization, if you find your relationship with others is not good, and feel left out, you shouldn’t blame or criticize others. Why? It is like a mirror’s reflection showing us the reality of ourselves. The image is not deliberately produced; but, provides us an important opportunity for us to review our actions and look deeply at ourselves.
At the same time, we have to think positively in all matters. Don’t think in negative ways in any situation. If we think positively, it will produce a positive effect in response. If we think negatively under any circumstance, it will produce a negative effect in response.
A practitioner never blames others, asking such questions as “Oh, why does he treat me this way? Why doesn’t he treat me fairly?” ...
Actually, nothing is unfair. All matters in the world are fair. What we encounter is exactly as it should be. This is because they are present results with past karma as their cause. It is natural to have these effects in retribution. So, we should be delighted upon hearing of virtuous matters, and bow in gratitude upon hearing comments and criticisms from others.
The Buddha Dharma is like a mirror. We see our faces with a mirror, and we see our minds by hearing the Dharma. With our backs facing the mirror, we think we are benevolent and kind; but, this is a kind of arrogance that leads to looking down upon others. By facing the mirror, we know our evil karma is unfathomable, and we deeply feel our inability to free ourselves.
Though the evil within my mind is unfathomable, Amitabha’s power is boundless. This understanding prepares us for the two kinds of deep faith (in aptitude and in teaching). Although we learn them as separate ideas, the two are really one entity.
Through accepting our lack of aptitude, we feel regret. However, upon learning about Amitabha’s boundless compassion, we feel joy and gratefulness, and can’t help but recite Namo Amituofo, Namo Amituofo!
No matter how deep and heavy my karmic offenses, Amitabha Buddha’s merit and virtues can easily remove them. Through understanding these truths, our minds naturally become settled and we gently relax.
Our true state and the state of others is meanness and shamelessness. Knowing we are the same, we should see others with compassionate eyes. The more we accept our abundant evil karma, the more our minds will become softened, and we will realize the mistake of judging and hating others.
The more we know the virtues of Amitabha’s teachings, the more we realize his thorough accommodation and his limitless love. With Amitabha as our example, we can forgive and care for others in all matters. Within the two kinds of deep faith (in aptitude and teaching), we begin to see and appreciate the virtues in the world.
If our sensual desires and afflictions were not heavy, we would not have been born in the world of the fivefold turbidities. Understanding this, we should accommodate and forgive each other, because all of us are almost the same - equally evil in this evil world. For this reason, we should have sympathy for each other. One is all and all is one.
That means all of our behaviors are very much the same. If others exhibit certain behaviors, so can I. We don’t behave a certain way only because we haven’t encountered the necessary conditions.
Understanding these truths should cause us to be more sympathetic to our fellow sentient beings. There is a saying: Being forced by karma, none of us acts intentionally. A wise man realizes this and is sympathetic to others. Ordinary people blame each other. This statement teaches us an important lesson.
A Pure Land practitioner should not overly enjoy peculiar things or seek the mysterious. He should be ordinary, normal, simple, and plain; and recite Amitabha’s Name with singleness of mind, peace of mind, and ceasing mind. Be scrupulous in reciting. Be like a fool, without any pressure or attachment. Just recite while walking, standing, sitting, or lying down, in any place and at any time. Recite without forsaking. Recite when you are delighted, and recite when you are afflicted. Above all, we should always exclusively recite Amitabha’s Name!
Those who live in this wicked world of Fivefold Turbidity are ordinary beings, with all kinds of greed, hatred and delusions. Because of this, how can we deal with all matters with a sincere mind? It is impossible! For these reasons the Infinite Life Sutra says, “What we say is different from what we think. Both our speech and our thought are unreal.”
As ordinary beings, our minds are often different from our speech. Living in this world, we know we shouldn’t use false speech; however, it is often inevitable that we speak with “courtesy” under these circumstances. If we speak the truth, we may spoil the atmosphere or even the relationship with others. Sometimes these situations are unavoidable。
In this respect, Buddhists should always examine and review their motives and actions. If we have fallen short, we should repent and resolve to do better in future.Master Shandao, the de facto founder of Pure Land Buddhism says, “We also repent with every single name-recitation.”
We ordinary beings live in this wicked world with five kinds of turbidity. When dealing with wicked people, we cannot say what’s really in our minds. However, what we can do is recite Amitabha’s Name, which has the functional capacity of repentance, regret, and eradicating our offenses with every single recitation.
We are Buddhists and Amitabha-reciters; so, all of our speech, behavior and work should be in accord with the Buddha Dharma. In terms of Dharma, our School is called the Pure Land School, which practices the Easy Path. The definition of the Easy Path is: the practice is very simple, very easy, and very expedient; but, the results are fast, splendid, perfect and complete.
We simply hold and recite Amitabha’s Name without forsaking. In that way we are able to merge the practice of Amitabha recitation into our daily lives. We recite it while walking, standing, sitting and lying down, under any circumstances. We recite Amitabha’s Name in our daily life, and our daily life is Amitabha-recitation. As a result, it matches the Dharma.
With respect to its dogma, it can be deep or shallow. If you are old, or your education level is not high, it is fine that you only know “assured rebirth through Amitabha-recitation by sentient beings”, and then exclusively recite Amitabha’s Name.
Amitabha-reciters share the same faith, aspiration, practice, aim, and purpose. Our mission and the form of our practice are the same, even though we are in different places [in the world]. For this reason, our patriarch says, “All are the same in practicing Amitabha-recitation. As there is no other way [to the Land of Bliss], they are siblings no matter where they are in the world.”
Do not look down upon each other, but treat each other with respect. Do not drift apart, but get close to each other and. Do not criticize each other, but understand and appreciate each other. Do not be under-handed, but offer help.
In our School a Dharma name is given as evidence of taking refuge in the Three Jewels, and of departing the Three Wretched Realms. The first character of our Dharma Name is “pure”. The Pure Land is Amitabha’s homeland and also the homeland of lotus friends. The Pure Land is the place where Amitabha and other Buddhas live. It is also the birthplace of Amitabha-reciters, the home of all Buddhas, and the Dharma realm where all Buddhas sit together (as said in the Contemplation Sutra).
All Amitabha-reciters are the residents of the Pure Land and they are part of the assembly of the Tathagata’s pure lotus flowers. Because it bears such a meaning, it is better for all lotus friends to call each other by their Dharma Names.
“A greeting is a bridge between hearts.” When we meet fellow Buddhists, we should greet them by saying Namo Amituofo with love and gentleness on our faces.
Amitabha Buddha is our golden brand name. With this brand name, we are blessed with fortune and radiance while travelling anywhere. It brings us joy and peace wherever we go.
For Buddhists, the objects in which we take refuge are the Three Jewels. The Three Jewels then become our teachers, as much as our Dharma masters and Sangha family. However, Pure Land learners should try to become close with Pure Land Dharma places, Dharma masters, and Dharma companions. They should respect other Dharma places, etc.; but, they should not pursue those teachings. This is to prevent being diverted to the path of miscellaneous practices.
Those who take refuge are Buddhist believers and learners. How do they serve people? They have faith in the Buddha and treat people with respect, love, and forgiveness. They are conscientious and humble.
Be sincere and scrupulous in your relationships. Avoid evil and cherish good. Be an upstanding citizen by showing civic-mindedness and respecting the law.
Practice kindheartedness and kindness in speech and actions. Do good things. No killing. Eat less meat and work toward being a complete vegetarian.
Being an Amitabha-reciter doesn’t mean we need not learn, or propagate other teachings. For instance, we have to try our best to be sincere and scrupulous in our relationships, avoid evil and cherish good, be an upstanding citizen by showing civic-mindedness, respecting the law, and understanding other Buddhist theories.
However, we must prioritize. We must mainly understand the Pure Land teaching and keep the Name in our minds. We must solve the great matter of birth-and-death, then we should do other things according to our capacities and conditions.
If we can do it in this way and we feel good when we do other things, fine. There is no reason to feel regret if we can’t practice those teachings well. It is because our ability to remember those teachings declines as we age and approach the near end of this life.
It is a great offense to obstruct other people in their practice and cultivation, as they will suffer in the wretched realms for a long period of time. It is unlikely that they have no wisdom when they are reborn as a human being. So, if we come across those who want to practice cultivation, we should rejoice, praise them, and assist them in their practice.
Among afflicted sentient beings who come across the teaching of Amitabha’s deliverance, if they can rouse the pure mind of aspiration despite their afflicted minds (as said by Master Shandao), they can stay relaxed, calm, and peaceful no matter how afflicted they are. They also enjoy ordinary, simple, level, plain, and steady living.
Ordinary – living like ordinary beings. As a householder, live as a householder; as a monastic, live as a monastic. Simply do whatever you should do, and always recite Amitabha’s Name as a slow-witted being.
Simple and level - don’t seek for mystery, profundity, or sophistication. Don’t aim for a sagely realm, or try to inflate ordinary matters to a sacred level.
Plain – Don’t pursue a magnificent, brilliant, noisy, excited, and passionate life. Just keep it simple and common.
Steady – Maintain steadiness, reality, stability, calmness, harmony, and joy in your ordinary daily life.
The text about the exclusion of, “those who commit the five Gravest Transgressions and slander the Dharma”, reveals the inclusion of all sentient beings with different aptitudes. It also reminds people to have filial piety for their parents, to love their siblings, and be kind to relatives and neighbors. As Buddhists trying to lead moral lives, we strive to avoid doing evil and to practice good deeds.
The passage about the Five Kinds of Evil, in the lower fascicle of the Great Sutra, explains this teaching: It teaches us that the 18th Vow and the entire Great Sutra fully cover both ultimate and worldly truth.
Pure Land is a “difficult-to-speak teaching.” If we cannot speak appropriately to “skeptical’ people, there may be misunderstandings. They may think there is no need to practice the precepts, or cultivate to accumulate merit and virtues. So, if we are on the frontline to preach the Pure Land teaching, we should note: firstly, our conduct in the threefold Karma must be accredited by others; secondly, our understanding of the doctrinal teaching must be clear and thorough; and thirdly, we should have at least some general knowledge about other teachings.
As Buddhists, we should support and sponsor in accordance with our conditions and capacities. However, there is a principle – don’t feel stressed or annoyed about those actions. If you feel tense and afflicted after doing them, it is not appropriate. In such a case, it is better not to do them. If you do them, be joyful, feel worthy and needed; otherwise, you may feel afflicted and unhappy. You may even make unfavorable karmic connections with others, which is certainly not appropriate.
A Buddhist practitioner should be able to feel good when he’s alone, and be comfortable with simplicity, and a lack of excitement. When other people feel lonely and bored, we should feel quite comfortable with an uncomplicated life, and feel joyful, safe, and stable. In circumstances like these it is easier for us to focus on practicing the Buddhist teachings.
It is difficult to attain a human body, and it is also difficult to hear the Buddha Dharma. The Dharma of the Fundamental Vow is the most difficult one among all to hear. It is most fortunate for us to encounter it in the present life. It indicates that our roots of virtues and our karmic relationship with Amitabha Buddha are very deep. For those reasons, I hope all of you can grasp this teaching nicely.
If we encounter those who hold different views, we should show respect, rejoice with joining palms, and avoid any arguments.
Whether you are a monastic or a householder, a Buddhist must learn to be compassionate, and view compassion as a precious gem, on both the worldly and other worldly levels. The object of compassion is sentient beings, both those we can and cannot see. So, a true practitioner considers sentient beings to be gems, and hopes to bring them joy and benefits from the bottom of his heart, never to bring them trouble and loss.
If we have rewards and accomplishments, we should pro-actively and quietly dedicate them to other people. If other people have done wrong, and incur losses and troubles, we should pro-actively and quietly accept and bear them. This means that, if another person has made mistakes, we should accept them as our mistakes. If they are successful, it is only due to their effort. All good matters go towards the other, and bad matters go towards me. One who can maintain this attitude is a true practitioner.
Encountering the Pure Land teaching, we should on one side, exclusively recite Amitabha’s Name with singleness of mind and rely on Amitabha’s deliverance all the way to rebirth; and, on the other side, we should try our best to do good and refrain from doing evil in our daily lives. We should strive to be sincere and scrupulous in our relationships, avoid evil and cherish good.
If an Amitabha-reciter is unable to perform his duties well, he may be looked down upon by others, particularly those who do not understand our teaching. They may lose faith in Amitabha Buddha. However, if he can do these things well, his acts become the grace of Amitabha Buddha.
So, an Amitabha-reciter who has learned how to become a Buddha should serve as a role model. In so doing, Amitabha Buddha and all Buddhas in the ten directions rejoice; and all devas, guardians and dragons praise him. If he does not, even though he can be reborn through Amitabha-recitation, Amitabha Buddha may feel disappointed in him because he doesn’t try his best to fulfill these duties.
In order to truly repay the Buddha’s grace, we should universally spread the teaching of Buddha’s great compassion. To accomplish that, we must be disciplined in our behavior within the three karmas.
Faith in, and acceptance of, Amitabha’s deliverance
Single-minded recitation of Amitabha’s name
Aspiration to rebirth in Amitabha’s Pure Land
Comprehensive deliverance of all sentient beings