THE SAGELY CITY OF TEN THOUSAND BUDDHAS
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Volume 5

N7 Great Strength Bodhisattva: the element of perception.
O1 He tells how he was transmitted the dharma by a Buddha of old.


Sutra:

Dharma prince, Great Strength, together with fifty-two Bodhisattvas of similar rank, arose from his seat, bowed at the Buddha's feet, and said to the Buddha:

Commentary:

Dharma prince, Great Strength, and Guan Yin Bodhisattva were sons of Amitabha Buddha when he was a wheel-turning king in a past life. Once Amitabha Buddha accomplished Buddhahood, these two Bodhisattvas served him. They are his daily companions, one on his left, one on his right. When Amitabha Buddha retires as teaching host of the Western Land of Ultimate Bliss, in the first half of the night, the dharma will become extinct, and in the second half of the same night, Guan Yin Bodhisattva will accomplish Buddhahood there in the Land of Ultimate Bliss. When Guan Yin Bodhisattva retires as the resident Buddha of the Western Land, Great Strength Bodhisattva will become a Buddha in the same way that Guan Yin Bodhisattva did, there in the Land of Ultimate Bliss. Great Strength Bodhisattva is also known as "Attained Great Strength" (de da shi). He is so powerful that if he raises his hand, moves his foot, or moves his head, the great earth quakes and trembles. When he walks about, the earth shakes. "Dharma prince" means Bodhisattva.

Together with fifty-two Bodhisattvas of similar rank, he arose from his seat, bowed at the Buddha's feet, and said to the Buddha. These fifty-two Bodhisattvas represent the ten faiths, the ten dwellings, the ten practices, the ten transferences, the ten grounds, and the levels of equal enlightenment and wonderful enlightenment, the fifty-two stages of Bodhisattva practice.

Sutra:

I remember when, as many aeons ago as there are sands in the Ganges, a Buddha called Limitless Light appeared in the world. In that same aeon there were twelve successive Thus Come Ones; the last was called Light Surpassing the Sun and Moon. That Buddha taught me the Buddha-recitation Samadhi.

Commentary:


I remember when, as many aeons ago as there are sands in the Ganges, a Buddha called Limitless Light appeared in the world. In that same aeon there were twelve successive Thus Come Ones; the last was called Light Surpassing the Sun and Moon. During that one aeon, twelve Buddhas appeared in the world; the twelfth was named Light Surpassing the Sun and Moon. That Buddha taught me the Buddha-recitation Samadhi. He taught me to recite "Namo Amitabha Buddha."

"Amitabha" means "limitless light" and "limitless life." The first Buddha of that aeon was named Limitless Light; was it the same Amitabha Buddha we know? Probably not, because the recent Amitabha Buddha accomplished Buddhahood ten kalpas ago. But their names were the same. A lot of Buddhas have the same name, just as we people often have first or last names that are the same.

O2 He brings up an analogy to show the intertwining of the response and the way.
P1 First he uses the analogy of two people.


Sutra:

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

Commentary:


Suppose there were a person who always remembers someone else, but the someone else he remembers has entirely forgotten about him. This is an analogy. There are two people, one of whom is always recollecting the other, while the other never remembers the former. Perhaps they are relatives or friends. These two people represent the Buddhas and living beings. The Buddhas are always thinking about us; they are mindful of us living beings, but we living beings never remember the Buddhas. We may happen to study a little of the Buddhadharma, but we're not very clear about what's being said. So we exclaim, "The Buddhadharma is really wonderful!" But we don't know how wonderful it actually is, and that is even more wonderful.

Why are the Buddhas mindful of living beings? It is because they see that all living beings are of the same substance. The Buddhas regard all living beings as their past fathers and mothers and as future Buddhas. So the Buddha said, "All living beings on the great earth have the Buddha nature. All can become Buddhas." There's not a single living being who cannot become a Buddha. It is this very point that makes doctrines of Buddhism the most lofty and all-encompassing. That is why the Buddhas advocate not killing, not stealing, not committing sexual misconduct, not lying, and not taking intoxicants. Maintaining these five precepts is a way of showing one's regard for all living creatures. Because the Buddha sees that all living beings are one in substance with himself, he wants to teach and transform them, to take all living beings across to the accomplishment of Buddhahood.

We living beings come into this world and renounce the roots while we grasp at the branches. We forget the fundamental matters, turn our backs on enlightenment and unite with the "dust" the wearisome mundane world. That is why we forget the Buddhas and never remember to be mindful of them.

There are several methods in the dharma door of reciting the Buddha's name:

1) Mindfulness of the Buddha by holding his name. You can recite the name of whichever Buddha you like. For instance, if you like Amitabha Buddha, you can recite "Namo Amitabha Buddha." Or perhaps you like to recite "Namo our original teacher, Shakyamuni Buddha." Maybe you want to recite "Namo Medicine Master Buddha who dispels calamities and lengthens life." It's the same with any Buddha throughout the ten directions, you can recite any name you wish. The object of being mindful of the Buddha is to consolidate your thoughts into the one thought of mindfulness of the Buddha, to dispense with all other false thoughts. If you don't have extraneous thoughts, you will not give rise to evil thoughts, and when you don't give rise to evil, you are on the road to good.

2) Mindfulness of the Buddha by contemplating. You consider how Amitabha Buddha has a white ray of light that shines between his brows. A line of a verse in his praise says, "His white ray of light curls as high as five Mount Sumerus." The verse goes on, "His violet eyes are as large as the four seas." Can you imagine that!? If you are small minded, then your idea of the Buddha will be fairly small when you consider him. If you have a vast state of mind, then your conception of him can be monumental.

3) Mindfulness of the Buddha by contemplating an image. In this method you look upon an image of Amitabha Buddha while you recite. And as you are mindful of the Buddha, you reflect on his adorned appearance and characteristics.

But, I'll tell you: it can even happen that you become possessed by a demon when being mindful of the Buddha. In general, no matter what practice you do, you must have some virtuous conduct, some virtue in the Way. When I was in Hong Kong at Da Yu mountain at Ze Xing temple, a bhikshu wanted to do a Standing Buddha session. In this practice one stays in one room and walks continually, and so it is called the "continuous walking samadhi" and also the "Standing Buddha samadhi." For ninety days one walks in a room without sitting, lying down, or going to sleep. This is a dharma door of particular vigor. That bhikshu was being mindful of the Buddha while he practiced this dharma-door of continuous walking. One day I noticed that the more he recited the louder he became, until he was bellowing, "Namo Amitabha Buddha! Namo Amitabha Buddha!" When I heard him reciting that way, I knew he had entered some state, so I went to take a look. He was running around the room reciting like mad. What had happened? In a past life this bhikshu had been an ox. Since he had performed some merit at a temple by plowing the fields, he had become a monk in this life. However, although he was a monk, his ox-like habits hadn't changed yet. He had a terrific temper. The reason he was running around the room when I found him was that he had seen Amitabha Buddha come, and he was chasing him. What was actually going on? He'd gotten into a demonic state. It wasn't really Amitabha Buddha who had come, it was a water buffalo that had come up out of the sea. This weird water-buffalo had transformed itself into an appearance of Amitabha Buddha in order to dupe the monk. The monk thought it was Amitabha Buddha who had come, and so he went running after him. When I got there I made use of a dharma and broke up his demonic state. So sometimes you can even be possessed by demons when reciting the Buddha's name.

4) Mindfulness of the Buddha in his actual appearance. This means investigating dhyana. We sit and pursue the topic, "Who is mindful of the Buddha?"

Now in this passage of text, the person who always remembers is the Buddha, and the person who never remembers is we living beings. If two such people were to meet, even if they were to see each other, they would not take notice. Even if they should encounter each other, it would be just as if they hadn't met. Maybe they see each other at some place or other, but their "lights don't unite," their energies don't interact, because one person remembers but the other one doesn't. They can't get together. Even if they were face to face, it would be as if they were not.

Sutra:

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

Commentary:


If two people remember each other until the memory of each is deep, if they remember each other very well, then in life after life they will be together like a form and its shadow, and they will never be at odds. Your shadow follows you everywhere and never leaves you. These two people will be that way and will never be at odds. They will never fail to recognize each other or have a falling out.

P2 Then he uses the analogy of a mother and her child.

Sutra:

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

Commentary:


Out of pity for living beings, the Thus Come Ones of the ten directions are mindful of them as a mother remembers her child. The Buddhas of the ten directions have sympathetic regard for living beings in the same way that a mother has regard for her child. If the child runs away, of what use is the mother's regard? Although the mother thinks about him all the time, it's of no benefit. But if the child remembers his mother in the same way that the mother remembers the child, then in life after life the mother and child will not be far apart. If they remember each other in the same way, then the mother and child will be together life after life. They won't be separated from each other. That is to say, if the Buddhas are mindful of us living beings, and if we living beings are also mindful of the Buddhas, then for life after life we will not be separated from them. We will be together.

P3 He connects it with the dharma to show the profound benefit.

Sutra:

If living beings remember the Buddha and are mindful of the Buddha, certainly they will see the Buddha now or in the future.

Commentary:

If they have a memory of the Buddha and they recite the Buddha's name, it's for sure they can see the Buddha either in this life or in a future life.

Sutra:

They will never be far from the Buddha, and their minds will awaken by themselves, without the aid of expedients.

Commentary:


They will become enlightened.

Sutra:

A person who has been near incense will carry a fragrance on his person; it is the same in this case. It is called an adornment of fragrant light.

Commentary:

A person who has been near incense will carry a fragrance on his person. If someone is permeated with the fragrance of incense, a fragrance will linger around his body. It is the same in this case. It is called an adornment of fragrant light.

P4 He recollects how he benefited himself and benefited others.

Sutra:

On the causal ground I used mindfulness of the Buddha to enter into patience with the non-production of dharmas. Now in this world I gather in all those who are mindful of the Buddha and bring them back to the Pure Land.

Commentary:

On the causal ground I used mindfulness of the Buddha to enter into patience with the non-production of dharmas. Great Strength Bodhisattva says that on the causal ground, that is, when he had first brought forth the resolve to cultivate the Way as a bhikshu, he obtained the patience with the non-production of dharmas by reciting the Buddha's name. Now in this world, the Saha world, I gather in all those who are mindful of the Buddha. Just as a magnet collects iron filings, Great Strength Bodhisattva receives and gathers in all beings who practice mindfulness of the Buddha and brings them back to the Pure Land. He takes them to the Land of Ultimate Bliss.

P5 He concludes his answer by telling how he was certified to perfect penetration.


Sutra:

The Buddha asks about perfect penetration. I would selectnone other than gathering in the six organs through continuous pure mindfulness to obtain samadhi. This is the foremost method.

Commentary:

Now the Buddha asks about the dharma door of perfect penetration. I would select none other than gathering in the six organs through continuous pure mindfulness. I have no other choice; I have only the dharma door of mindfulness of the Buddha. I used this dharma door to gather in the six sense-organs and the false thinking that arises from them. I controlled the six senseorgans so they did not create false thinking. I recited so the pure mindfulness of the Buddha continued uninterrupted, until I obtained that kind of samadhi. This is the foremost method. This is the best dharma door.

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