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Those who, for the Buddhas,
Have erected images,
Carving all their myriads of marks,
Have realized the Buddha Way.
They may have used the seven gems,
Or bronze or copper, white or red,
Wax, lead, or tin,
Iron, wood, or clay,
Or, perhaps, lacquered cloth,
In making Buddha images;
Persons such as these
Have realized the Buddha Way.
N4. Explaining opening and revealing with regard to construction of Buddha images.
Those who, for the Buddhas have erected images. Those who, as an offering to the Buddhas, have made images, by carving all their myriads of marks, all of the fine characteristics of the Buddhas of the ten directions, have realized the Buddha Way. They have become Buddhas.
They may have used the seven gems; gold, silver, lapis lazuli, crystal, mother-of-pearl, red pearls, or carnelian, or bronze or copper, white, or red, wax lead, or tin, iron, wood, or clay, or, perhaps, lacquered cloth in making Buddha images. Persons such as these have realized the Buddha Way. There are eleven kinds of meritorious virtues derived from making Buddha images:
1. In every life you will have clear vision.
2. You will not be born in evil places. Your friends and neighbors will all be good people. You will not meet up with evil people or evil beasts.
3. You will always be born in a noble family. You will be born into a household, which is wealthy and honored.
4. Your body will be purple-golden in color.
5. You will possess an abundance of wealth.
6. You will be born in a worthy and good family.
7. You can be born a king. Now, there is no Emperor, but you could be the President. It amounts to the same thing. Or, if you insist on being an Emperor, you can find a country with a monarchy and be born there.
8. You can be a Wheel-turning sage king. That is even higher than being President. As a Wheel-turning sage king, if you cultivate, you can become a Buddha.
9. You can be born in the Brahma heavens and live for an eon. You can be a king among the gods.
10. You will not fall into the evil paths. Those who make Buddha images will not fall into the hells, the animal realm, or the realm of hungry ghosts.
11. In future incarnations you will still be able to revere the Triple Jewel. You will be able to take refuge with the Triple Jewel. You will not fall.
Hearing these eleven meritorious virtues, if we have the strength, we should make more Buddha images. If you make Buddha images, your appearance will be perfect and full. Why is the Buddha’s appearance so perfect? It is because during the three great asankhyeya eons he cultivated the Way. He made countless Buddha images.
During the first asankhyeya eon, he encountered 75,000 Buddhas. During the second, 76,000 and during the third, 77,000. If he met with that many Buddhas, of course he made more Buddha images than that. Who knows how many he made? That is why his appearance is so full and perfect. But, in making images, we should not think, “I will make a Buddha image and then I will be very handsome, and people will fall in love with me.” That is not a proper motive. We should cultivate blessings and wisdom so that in the future we can realize Buddhahood.
Persons who have made such images have all realized Buddhahood.
Those who painted bright Buddha images,
Adorned with the marks of their hundreds of blessings,
Whether they did it themselves or employed others,
Have realized the Buddha Way.
Even children who, at play,
Who with a straw, a stick, or pen,
Or even with their fingernails,
Drew images of the Buddha,
People such as these,
Gradually accumulated merit and virtue,
Perfected the heart of great compassion,
And have realized the Buddha Way.
They teach only Bodhisattvas,
And rescue countless multitudes.
N5. Explaining opening and revealing with regard to painting of Buddha images.
Although previously the text said that one might make Buddha images out of lacquered cloth, the precepts discourage the use of lacquer, as it has an unpleasant odor.
The precepts also say that one is not allowed to sit in front of a standing Buddha image, or recline in front of a sitting Buddha image.
Those who painted bright Buddha images, adorned with the marks of their hundreds of blessings. The Buddha images are adorned with the many blessed marks of the Buddhas. Whether they did it themselves or employed others, have realized the Buddha Way. They have all become Buddhas.
Even children who, at play, who with a straw, a stick, or pen. Perhaps they draw a Buddha image with a straw, or with a stick of wood, or perhaps they draw one with a color crayon, or even with their fingernails, or perhaps, playing in the mud, they traced out a Buddha image with their fingernails. Drew images of the Buddha. Long ago, in Si Chuan, there was a person who recited The Vajra Sutra. As he recited it, he would write it out in empty space with his hand. He stood in the same place everyday and recited and “wrote it out” in this way.
Later, when it rained, the rain did not fall in the spot where he had written out the Sutra. This happened every time it rained. Those who had opened their Buddha Eyes saw that, even though the man had written out the Sutra in empty space, the gods and dragons and the eightfold division were there protecting the Sutra and not allowing the rain to fall on that spot. Later a temple was built there. So you see, all he did was write it out in the air with his hand and he received such a great response. This really happened. It is recorded in a work entitled The Efficacious Events of the Vajra Sutra.
People such as these, mentioned above gradually accumulated merit and virtue, perfected the heart of great compassion and have realized the Buddha Way. They have realized supreme enlightenment. They teach only Bodhisattvas and rescue countless multitudes. The Buddha guides Bodhisattvas and Hearers to turn from the small towards the great and seek the Bodhisattva Dharma, and then to turn towards the Buddha Vehicle, liberating limitless and boundless living beings.
Should persons, in stupas or in temples,
Make offerings with a reverent heart,
To jeweled or painted images,
With flowers, incense, banners, or canopies,
Or should they cause others to make music,
With drums, horns, or conches,
Pan-pipes, flutes, lutes or bamboo lyres,
Guitars, cymbals, or brass gongs,
With many wondrous sounds as these,
Played solely as offerings…
N6. Explaining opening and revealing with regard to offerings to the stupas and images.
Should persons, in stupas or in temples, make offerings with a reverent heart to jeweled or painted images, with flowers, incense, banners, or canopies, if holding thoughts of respect, they make offerings to Buddha images. Of incense, banners, canopies, or other articles such as beads, clothing, food and drink, or merely place their palms together.
Or should they cause others to make music. Perhaps they invite other people to make music with drums, horns, or conches, pan-pipes, flutes, lutes or bamboo lyres, guitars, cymbals, or brass gongs; all different kinds of musical instruments. Brass gongs are rather large. Perhaps you have never seen any.
When you are making music before the Buddha you should make proper music. You must not sing love songs, songs about men and women. Your music must be in praise of the Triple Jewel. Hitting the wooden fish and ringing small bells is a kind of music-making. Reciting Sutras and mantras is also a kind of musical offering.
With many wondrous sounds as these, played solely as offerings. All these subtle and wonderful sounds are offered to the Buddha.
Or if, with happy hearts, with songs
And chants they praised the Buddha’s virtues,
With even just one small sound,
They have realized the Buddha Way.
If people with scattered minds
Have given but a single flower
As an offering to a painted image,
They shall gradually see numberless Buddhas.
If they bowed in worship,
Or merely placed their palms together,
Or even raised a single hand,
Or gave a slight nod of the head,
As an offering to the images,
They shall gradually see countless Buddhas,
And have, themselves, realized the Buddha Way.
They will rescue countless multitudes,
And enter Nirvana without residue,
As a fire goes out when the fuel has been consumed.
Or if, with happy hearts, with songs and chants they praised the Buddha’s virtues. Chants are “Brahma” or pure sounds, like odes. They laud the virtues of the Buddha, praising his virtue in the Way. With even just one small sound, maybe they make only a tiny melody. They have realized the Buddha way. If, by means of a very small sound they accomplish the Buddha Path, they will accomplish the Path even quicker with more and bigger sounds!
If people with scattered minds, if there are people who have no samadhi power, and who are confused; have given but a single flower as an offering to a painted image, they shall gradually see numberless Buddhas. Because of the merit and virtue obtained by making such offerings, they will get to meet with an uncountable number of Buddhas.
If they bowed in worship or merely placed their palms together as a gesture of respect. Or even raised a single hand, or gave a slight nod of the head as an offering to the images, they shall gradually see countless Buddhas. From that first thought of respect, which inspires them to make even these very small gestures of worship, they will acquire merit and virtue and have, themselves, realized the Buddha Way. They will rescue countless multitudes. Not only will they accomplish the Buddha Path, they will save countless living beings. And enter Nirvana without residue as a fire goes out when the fuel has been consumed. When the firewood has all been burned, the fire goes out. The living beings with potential to be taught are like the fuel. The Response Body of the Buddha, which appears to rescue living beings, is like the fire. When the living beings have all been crossed over, the “response” fire goes out.
If people with scattered minds,
Enter stupas or temples,
And say but once, “Namo Buddha,”
They have realized the Buddha Way.
N7. Explaining opening and revealing with regard to recitation of the Buddhas’ names.
If people with scattered minds, “scattered” means that they have no samadhi power, they are not at all concentrated. These lines describe a situation such as when the tourists come here to visit the temple and gaze around at the Buddha images. They do not have sincere hearts. What is more, they may look at the images but they do not know anything at all about the Buddha. You could say they were the scattered ones among the scattered ones.
Enter stupas or temples. If they go into Buddhist stupas or Buddhist temples, and say but once, “Namo Buddha” they have realized the Buddha Way. All they have to do is say one sentence, “Homage to the Buddha.” From that one recitation, they will ultimately realize Buddhahood.
Why is this? It is because “a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” If you want to travel a thousand miles, where do you begin? You begin with the first step. Having taken that first step, you can travel a thousand miles. “The perfect interpenetration of the myriad virtues begins with the first thought.” If you wish to become a Buddha, it begins with that very first thought. In that first thought, you plant the Buddha seed; in the future, you reap the fruit of Buddhahood.
Reciting “Namo Buddha,” “Namo Amitabha Buddha,” or “Namo Shakyamuni Buddha,” or “Namo Medicine Master Buddha Who Dispels Calamities and Lengthens Life,” may seem very easy to do, but such an opportunity is not easy to meet up with. All of you know how to recite the Buddha’s name, but think it over. Of all the people in the world, are those who do not know how to recite the Buddha’s name in the majority or are those who do? You might say that those who know how to recite are as few as the moon and those who do not know how to recite are as many as the stars. Are there more stars or more moons? Those who can recite the Buddha’s name are able to do so because the good roots from their former lives have matured enabling them to encounter the Dharma-door of Buddha Recitation.
When the Buddha was in the world, he had a cousin named Devadatta. Devadatta was the Buddha’s enemy. He did nothing but oppose the Buddha. The Buddha taught his disciples to eat one meal a day, in the middle of the day, but Devadatta was determined to out-do him. “So you eat one meal a day?” he said, “I teach my disciples to eat one meal every hundred days!” Shakyamuni Buddha taught his disciples to be vegetarians and not to eat meat. Devadatta said, “Not only do I teach my disciples to refrain from eating meat, they do not even consume salt.” This was done merely to prove that no matter what Buddha did, Devadatta was always higher than the Buddha.
But no matter how hard he tried, he never could recite the Buddha’s name. If you tried to teach him to recite, he would refuse to do it. All his life, all he ever did was commit offenses, continually opposing the Buddha. When his evil karma had finally reached the point of overflowing, he went to hell, alive. Going to hell alive means that, in his very body of flesh he went to hell. Just as he was about to go to hell; just as he was at the gates of hell; he thought of to recite the Buddha’s name. He wanted to recite it, but he could not get a sound out. All he could scream was “Namo!” He could not say the word “Buddha.” His karmic obstacles bound him up so tightly that he could not say the Buddha’s name. Shakyamuni Buddha saw him and said, “He is really pitiful, but do not look on him lightly. When he is finished with his punishment in the hells, he will become a Pratyekabuddha. His Buddha name will be simply “Namo.” It is because he recited “Namo” as he fell into hell. As a Pratyekabuddha, he will be called “Namo.”
So do not look on it as all so easy and think, “I can recite the Buddha’s name whenever I feel like it.” Right now, you are not block by your karmic obstacles. When they obstruct you, if you tried to recite it, you would not be able to do so.
There is another story about reciting the Buddha’s name: When the Buddha was in the world, there was a very poor, old man. He saw Shakyamuni Buddha, accompanied by his 1250 disciples going out every day to beg for food, and he thought it was not bad. Every day they went out with their bowls, begged for food, came back and ate, and that was all there was to it. “Very well,” he thought, “I will leave home.” He thought the Bhikshus were very comfortable and did not have to do any work, no bitterness and no bother, very pure and free. So he decided to leave home and went to the Jeta Grove to ask for permission to do so. But that day the Buddha had gone out to accept offerings of food for lunch.
As for the Buddha’s disciples, some had opened their Buddha Eyes, some had opened their Wisdom Eyes, some had opened their Dharma Eyes and some had the Five Eyes, and the Six Spiritual Penetrations. Others had certified to the first, second, third, and fourth stages of Arhatship.
Now, to “open” the eyes is not to certify to the fruit. When people have opened their Buddha Eye, this is called “the penetration obtained from virtue.” This happens because in previous lives, one has cultivated the Forty-Two Hands and the Shurangama Mantra a great deal. These Dharma-doors bring about that reward. But this is definitely not the same as certifying to the first fruit, the second, third, or fourth fruit. Arhats who have certified to the fruit can see the operation of cause and effect throughout eighty thousand great eons. Those who have opened their Buddha Eye or their Wisdom Eye may be able to see as far as one life, two lives, three lives, five lives, ten lives, one hundred lives, a thousand lives, or ten thousand lives, but they cannot see as far as eighty thousand great eons.
Certified Arhats, however, can see all the causes and effects of eighty thousand great eons. When the poverty-stricken old man came to leave the home-life, the disciples, the Great Arhats, contemplated and observed his potential to see if he was fit to leave home. They saw that this person, in the last eighty thousand great eons, had never made an offering to the Buddha. He had never bowed to the Buddha, had never recited the Buddha’s name or uttered even a tiny sound of praise as an offering to the Buddha or a single flower, or even put his hands together, or waved his hand, or even nodded his head! Since he had no merit and virtue, how could he leave home? It is said:
Don’t say that leaving home is easy to do,
It is the result of planting the causes of Bodhi throughout many lives.
Those who leave home must have planted good roots in many lives and have brought forth the Bodhi-heart. It is not just a matter of thinking, “I would like to leave home,” and doing it. If you do not have the good roots, you might want to leave home, but obstacles will arise. You might leave home for one or two days and then return to lay life. You might leave home for one or two years, for three, five, or ten years, and then return to lay life and not leave home again. Such things do happen. So, do not think leaving home is very simple.
So that Arhats saw that he had not planted good roots in the last eighty great eons and therefore would not be able to leave home. They told him, “You cannot leave home. You are too old. You cannot cultivate. It would be best for you to go back to wherever you came from. Do not stay here.”
Hearing this, the old man was overcome with grief. On the one hand he walked, and on the other he thought, “I thought leaving home would be very simple. I never would have guessed that the Buddha’s disciples would refuse me. Probably they will not accept me because I am old and poor. Well, if they will not accept me, I will just go jump in the sea and drown and end it all!” Then, still walking and weeping, he made his way for the sea and suicide. But, just as he was about to jump, along came Shakyamuni Buddha, who said, “Old man, why are you throwing yourself in the sea?”
“I wanted to leave home,” the old man replied. “I went to the Jeta Grove to do so, but the Buddha was not there, and the Buddha’s disciples would not accept me. As far as I am concerned, there is really nothing joyful in human existence; I would rather just hurry up and end my life. My life is meaningless.”
Shakyamuni Buddha said, “So you want to leave home? That is no problem. Come back with me. I will allow you to leave home.”
The old man returned with the Buddha, left home, cultivated, and after just a few days, certified to the fruit of Arhatship. The Buddha’s disciples did not understand this at all. “How strange!” they thought. “This person has no good roots; how could he certify to Arhatship? He has not done a single good deed throughout the last eighty thousand great eons. How could the Buddha permit him to leave home?” They questioned the Buddha and the Buddha gave them this explanation:
“You Arhats can only see the causes and effects of the last eighty thousand great eons. What happened outside of that, you do not know. This old man, over eighty thousand eons ago, was a poor firewood gatherer in the mountains. One day, he met up with a tiger. Just as the tiger was about to bite him, in his great fear he screamed, “Namo Buddha!” That one recitation scared the tiger away, and so he was not eaten. The seed planted by his single recitation of “Namo Buddha” has now matured as the good roots, which have enabled him to leave home and certify to the fruit of Arhatship.
From the looks of this we can tell that it is not easy to leave home.
Also, in India there was a certain outside Way sect whose members made offerings to the image of a heavenly spirit. The heavenly spirit’s body was made of wood or clay, but the head was made of gold. Once a thief wanted to steal the head, but when he went to take it, the awesome virtue of the heavenly spirit made him afraid. In his fear, he thought to recite, “Namo Buddha!” The recitation dispelled his fears because it had stripped the heavenly spirit of its awesome virtue. Fearlessly, then, he stole off with the golden head.
Later on everyone said, “Take a look at that heavenly spirit everyone believes in.” They said, “It is not the least bit efficacious. If it were, how could it have had its head stolen? It is useless to believe in it.” When they said this, the heavenly spirit came alone and took possession of a person’s body. Sometimes spirits give off an efficacious energy, and if it takes possession of someone, the victim will become senseless, as if they were drunk.
The spirit began to speak through the medium and said, “It is not that I am not efficacious. When the thief came, he was afraid to take my head. But when he recited “Namo Buddha” the whole area was flooded with Buddha-light and I could not even open my eyes. I was unable to protect my head. That is how he managed to steal it. It is certainly not the case that I am not efficacious, but the awesome virtue of the Buddha is even greater than mine, and so I had no way to protect my head.”
Hearing this, one may wonder, “Did the Buddha assist the thief in stealing the golden head of the heavenly spirit? Did he aid him in doing this evil karma?” No. The thief recited the Buddha’s name. The merit and virtue that comes from reciting the Buddha’s name is inconceivable. Whether a good person or an evil person recites, it has the same effect. It is not the case that when an evil person recites it, there is no merit and virtue, but when a good person recites, there is. The merit and virtue is the same. So even though he was a thief, he still called on the Buddha and his recitation enabled him to steal the heavenly spirit’s gold head. The Buddha certainly was not helping him be a thief. Rather, he was helping him perfect his good roots.
You say, “If he steals, how can he have good roots?”
Take a look at this line of The Dharma Flower Sutra:
“…and say but once, ‘Namo Buddha,’
They have realized the Buddha Way.”
Even though, at that time, he was a thief, he planted good roots through his recitation and so in the future he can certainly become a Buddha. This is called “vigor in opposition and in accord.” Even though he was a thief, he still recited the Buddha’s name. The Buddha did not help him steal the heavenly spirit’s head, but the Buddha does treat everyone equally. Those who recite be they good or evil obtain the same efficacious response.
Hearing this, you should not make the mistake of thinking, “If the thief recited the Buddha’s name and stole the heavenly spirit’s head, I will go recite the Buddha’s name and steal perhaps the earth spirit’s silver head, or maybe some valuable human head!” You cannot get away with this. The thief who stole the heavenly spirit’s head knew nothing about the Buddhadharma. Perhaps he had heard someone say in passing, “It is good to recite the Buddha’s name,” and so, when he was afraid, it occurred to him to recite it. He had certainly never studied the Buddhadharma.
Students of the Buddhadharma should take care not to use the awesome virtue of Buddha-recitation or lean on the Buddha’s light to help them steal with impunity. You cannot do that. Once you have studied the Buddhadharma and know that stealing is against the law, if you go ahead and do it, your offense is doubled. This is something you should all understand clearly. Why do I bring this up? It is because there was once a monk, who, before leaving home had been in the army.
Later, he studied the Buddhadharma and had great faith in Buddha-recitation. Before he left home he, himself, recited, and he led others in recitation. Five or six years after he left home he ran off to Dao Feng Mountain in Hong Kong, where they specialize in convincing those who have left home to return to lay life.
When the monk got there he took a job as a cook. Those who left home always went off their vegetarian diet when they went there. As cook, the monk thought that because he recited the Buddha’s name, he could save the living beings as he killed them. So, as he cut off chickens’ heads he would recite “Namo Amitabha Buddha.” He thought that by reciting he could cross the chickens over as he killed them, but in the end, when he had been there for a little over half a year, he went insane and died. So you cannot do this kind of thing.
Everyone should be particularly clear about it. If you deliberately violate a precept, the offense is tripled. He had no authority to do such a thing. It is true that reciting the Buddha’s name will save living beings. If you have the power to see that, as you kill them, they are for sure being reborn in the Land of Ultimate Bliss, that is one thing. But, if you cannot actually see it happen, if you do not have the power, you cannot. You cannot just say, “I am hoping that they will be reborn in the Land of Ultimate Bliss.” That is not good enough. Hearing this account, do not misunderstand it and think that as long as you recite the Buddha’s name, you can create offenses. Those who recite the Buddha’s name should not commit the smallest offense or make the slightest mistake.
I knew that monk personally. Later, he went insane. When he went insane, he wanted to see me. He knew that if he could see me, perhaps he would have some hope of eradicating his offense-karma. But he never did get to see me. He was called Hong Hui, and was a grand-disciple of the Venerable Hsu Yun.
Be it from Buddhas of the past,
While existent, or after their extinction,
Those who have heard this Dharma,
Have realized the Buddha Way.
The World Honored Ones of the future,
Are limitless in number;
All of these Thus Come Ones,
Will also speak the Dharma of expedient devices.
All of the Thus Come Ones,
By means of limitless expedients,
Help all living beings
To enter the Buddha’s non-outflow wisdom.
Of those who have heard the Dharma,
None will fail to become Buddhas.
M2. Showing the virtues of the ultimate cause gained by hearing the Sutra.
J3. The Buddhas of the future.
K1. Dispensing the provisional.
K2. Revealing the actual.
L1. The singularity of the cultivators.
Be it from Buddhas of the past, while existent or after their extinction. Perhaps they were in the world or perhaps they had entered Nirvana. Those who have heard this Dharma. If there are those who have heard The Wonderful Dharma Lotus Flower Sutra, they have already realized the Buddha Way. Because all Buddhas of the past have spoken this Sutra, all Buddhas of the present are speaking this Sutra. And all Buddhas of the future will speak this Sutra. All those who have heard its wonderful Dharma have already accomplished the Buddha Path. They have all become Buddhas.
The World Honored Ones of the future, are limitless in number. They cannot be counted. All of these Thus Come Ones will also speak the Dharma of expedient devices. They will first speak the provisional teaching and later return to the real teaching. All of the Thus Come Ones in the ten directions by means of limitless expedients, employing countless Dharma-doors help all living beings to enter the Buddha’s non-outflow wisdom. They cause all living beings to obtain the non-outflow wisdom of the Buddha.
Of those who have heard the Dharma. “Hearing this Dharma” simply means hearing The Wonderful Dharma Lotus Flower Sutra. None will fail to become Buddhas. Of those who have heard The Wonderful Dharma Lotus Flower Sutra, not one of them in the future, will not become a Buddha. So we are now able to hear this Sutra, and in the future each of us will have the opportunity to become Buddhas. Several thousand years ago Shakyamuni Buddha gave us all predictions of future Buddhahood.
Therefore, we who had the opportunity to hear this Sutra should not take ourselves lightly. In the future you can become a Buddha. You should not think that reciting the Buddha’s name is such a simple thing to do. We recite the Buddha’s name once and do not find it difficult. And why is it not difficult? It is because out karmic offenses are not all that deep. People with karmic obstacles may want to recite the Buddha’s name, but they are unable to do so. They are obstructed by their karmic obstacles, so they cannot recite even if they want to. Take Devadatta, for example. He could only recite “Namo.” His karmic obstacles were so heavy he could not say the word “Buddha.”
An event in China also took place, which proves that those with heavy karmic obstacles are unable to recite the Buddha’s name. In China, during the Southern Song Dynasty, there was a great minister by the name of Qin Gui. He had a few good roots, and so he was very intelligent and placed first as a zhuang yuan, or a top scholar in the Imperial Examinations.
But after he became an official, he grew envious of the worthy and jealous of the talented. In this way, he created a great deal of offense karma. One of his worst deeds was to have Yue Fei murdered. The offense karma he had created was extremely heavy. Because Earth Store Bodhisattva had a close affinity with him, he came to take him across. He made a plan in advance, “I will go there and if I can just get him to recite the word ‘Buddha’ I will release him of all of his offenses. Then Earth Store Bodhisattva turned himself into a Bhikshu and went to see Qin Gui.
Qin Gui was at the height of his political career, a Prime Minister to the Emperor. When he saw the monk approaching, he called to him and engaged him in a conversation. The monk exhorted him to recite the Buddha’s name, but he would not do it. He said, “You really should recite the Buddha’s name, a man in your high position…” but he refused to recite it.
“What use is recitation?” he said. He simply would not say the world “Buddha.” All Earth Store Bodhisattva wanted him to do was to say the word “Buddha” once and then he could free Qin Gui of his offenses, but Qin Gui refused to say it. Then Earth Store Bodhisattva manifested spiritual penetrations. He used his “whisk,”—in the forty-two hands there is one called the White Whisk Hand, isn’t there? Those who have left home carry them to brush away the mosquitoes—Anyway, Earth Store Bodhisattva brushed him with his whisk and Qin Gui was forced to kneel in front of him. He wanted to get up, but try as he might; he could not do it.
Then Earth Store Bodhisattva held out his palm and said, “Tell me what word it is that I am writing on my palm,” as he wrote the word “Buddha.” All Qin Gui had to do was to say, “That is the word Buddha,” in order to be freed of all his offense karma. But what do you think Qin Gui did? His heavenly eloquence burst forth and he said, “When young, I was a top scholar. Now I am number one Imperial Scholar. Every piece of literature in the country must first be shown to me. If I could not even read that word, how could I have become the Prime Minister? I can read that word, all right, but I will not say it for you!” All he had to do was read it, but he would not do it. Seeing this, Earth Store Bodhisattva realized, “Ah, his offense karma is indeed heavy. There is really no way I can save him.” Later, Qin Gui fell into hell.
This proves that recitation of the Buddha’s name is no simple mater. Why should we ordinarily recite the Buddha’s name? In preparation for the time when our lives come to an end, and we will need to do so.
“If we will need to recite when out lives are coming to an end, why not just wait until then? Why do we have to recite now?” you ask.
Everything is a question of habits. If you do not do something as a rule, then when your life is drawing to a close, you will not remember how to recite the Buddha’s name. That is why, now, in ordinary times, we should learn how to recite and cultivate the Pure Land Dharma-door. Then, when our lives are over, we can be reborn in the Land of Ultimate Bliss.
“Why should we be reborn in the Land of Ultimate Bliss?” you ask.
It is because of the vows made by Amitabha Buddha in the causal ground when he was a Bhikshu named Fa Zang, “Dharma Treasury.” He made forty-eight vows and said, “After I have become a Buddha, of all the living beings in the ten directions, if there is one who calls my name, who recites my name as Amitabha Buddha, I shall certainly guide them to my land. They can come to my land and eventually realize Buddhahood. In my land the people will be transformationally born from lotus flowers and their bodies will be clear and pure.” Because of the vows made by Amitabha Buddha, all living beings now who cultivate the Dharma-door of Buddha recitation will find it the easiest of the Dharma-doors.
In the Sutras it is said, “Of those beings in the Dharma-Ending Age, not one in a million who cultivates will obtain the Way. Only through the practice of the recitation of the Buddha’s name will they be reborn in the Land of Ultimate Bliss and thereby be saved. Now it is the Dharma-Ending Age, and it is appropriate for all of us to recite the Buddha’s name. In the West, however, it is not the Dharma-Ending Age. You could say it is the Proper-Dharma Age. This is because the Buddhadharma has just been transmitted to the West and is just beginning to flourish. Many Americans like to sit in dhyana meditation. This is a sign of the Proper Dharma Age.
But the Dharma-door of Buddha recitation can be cultivated in the Proper-Dharma Age, and it can be also be cultivated in the Dharma-Ending Age. The Dharma-door of Buddha recitation can be cultivated during any period at all. So, if you are not making progress with other methods of work, you can cultivate the Dharma-door of Buddha recitation.
Dhyana Master Yung Ming Shou said, “With dhyana and with the Pure Land, one is like a tiger with horns,” That is, if you investigate dhyana and recite the Buddha’s name, you are like a tiger with a pair of horns. “In this life, you are a teacher of people, and in the future you can be a Buddhist patriarch.” Therefore, genuine investigation of dhyana is the same as genuine investigation of the Pure Land. Those who genuinely recite the Buddha’s name are just genuine cultivators of dhyana.
To explain it at an even more basic level: Those who genuinely uphold the precepts are just genuine cultivators of dhyana. Those who genuinely investigate dhyana are just genuine upholders of the precepts. Those who genuinely lecture on Sutras and speak the Dharma may do nothing else, but they are nonetheless genuine investigators of dhyana. A few days ago I said,
“Penetration of the sect,
Penetration of speech,
Samadhi and wisdom are perfect and clear,
And there is no attachment to emptiness.”
To be able to investigate dhyana and also to lecture on the Sutras is called penetration of both the sect and speech, for one understands both the practice of meditation and the method of lecturing on the Sutras. To speak even more deeply: Those who genuinely investigate dhyana are just genuine holders of mantras. Those who are genuine holders of mantras, true cultivators of the Secret School, are just genuine cultivators of dhyana.
The Five Schools of Buddhism, Dhyana, the Teachings, the Vinaya, the Secret, and the Pure land Schools, although they are said to be five, are fundamentally the same, ultimately one, non-dual. Not only are they one, but there is not even the “one.” If there is not even the “one” how could there be five? Those who truly study the Buddhadharma should understand this point. Some people say, “The Dharma-door of Buddha recitation is the highest and the Dharma-door of investigation dhyana is incorrect.” Others say the opposite. This shows that they do not understand the Buddhadharma. For those who truly understand the Buddhadharma, “all Dharmas are the Buddhadharma and none of them can be obtained.” There is not any Dharma that can be obtained.
Therefore, why add a head on top of your head? Why look for trouble when there is not any? If you really understand the Dharma, there is no Dharma that can be obtained. But, if you tell people who do not understand the Buddhadharma, “There is not anything at all—nothing,” they will feel disappointed. That is why the Buddha spoke the provisional wisdom for the sake of the real wisdom, the provisional dharma for the sake of the real Dharma. But in the end, what is the real wisdom like? It is just “non-attachment;” it returns to the unobtainable. The Real Mark is unmarked, and yet there is nothing not marked by it. That is the true, real wisdom.